Since I’m late getting this post up, I found a short statement from an Improvement Era article that I haven’t seen elsewhere. Where most of the statements we find from General Authorities and in Church magazines focus on the morality of the content of literature, urging Church members to select only the good, and writers and artists to create only the moral, this statement instead talks about the morality of how we use literature—specifically respect for the author’s rights. Fortunately, it is also a statement about something that is very relevant to today’s conversations about literature.
A couple of recent articles got me thinking again about the current revolution in ebooks and related subjects.
First, the New York Times in The Bookstore’s Last Stand took a look at Barnes and Noble’s attempts to stay competitive in the current environment, focusing on B&N’s creation of the Nook and on its current CEO, William J. Lynch Jr., who joined the company three years ago after working at IAC/InterActiveCorp, the parent company of the Home Shopping Network. Lynch ran both hsn.com and gifts.com there. Surprisingly, Lynch, who considers himself a technology guy and even claims that Barnes and Noble is a “technology company” told the Times that “the idea that devices like the Nook, Kindle and Apple iPad will make bookstores obsolete is nonsense.”
Or, Mashing Up MoLit Redux: Redux
This past September, in response to Ken’s post about mashing up Mormon literature and the purposes behind the repurposing of language and literature, in general, Ardis asked a question that turned my wheels a-spinnin’. Asked she, “[W]hat’s the point of being deliberately, unrelentingly unoriginal” by taking others’ work, repurposing it, and sending it out into the world? “Why is suppressing the urge toward originality,” as she assumes mash-up arists do, “more conducive to self-expression than the effort to, you know, actually be self-expressive?”
Seuss-style, I respond to Ardis’ question with three things (I was going to add my comment to the post itself, but my response grew beyond comment-length; hence, this):
Thing One: I don’t think it’s productive to argue that all mash-ups or remixes suppress the urge toward originality and self-expression. I’m thinking here of seven instances—four specific and three more general, though even as I think I stir up more instances—in which artists/creators have, to various degrees, remixed different aspects of culture or other preexisting materials in order to create something new: more
Earlier this month Time magazine used the popularity of Harry Potter to look at fan fiction. I was a little surprised to find that not only is the fan fiction universe much larger than I supposed (fanfiction.net alone has more than half a million Harry Potter works and more than 2 million total), but that two LDS authors are in the forefront of some controversy surrounding the genre.
On the face of it, LDS Archive Publishers may not seem of much interest. Because it publishes mainly reprints, its not interested in new works–what LDS authors are usually selling. And because demand for reprints is relatively small, booksellers often aren’t willing to think too much about them. But in fact, publishing reprints is important, because it allows readers access to the basic works that helped create a market for LDS books in the first place. And, LDS Archive Publishers is also interesting for its involvement in a segment of the LDS market most of us never see: the homeschool market.
The LDS Church formally announced yesterday that it is publishing an LDS version of the Bible in Spanish. Formally called the Reina-Valera 2009 edition, this version not only brings the footnotes, chapter headings, cross-references and other material that English-speaking members take for granted, it also provides a “conservative” LDS-oriented update to the well-regarded 1909 version of the Reina-Valera translation of the Bible first published in 1602.
The LDS version will be available in September, 2009, and will also appear on the Church’s website at the same time.
When the LDS Church published its own edition of the King James version of the Bible in 1980, Church leaders claimed that it was a significant achievement. The edition included extensive and better organized footnotes than those in other editions of the Bible. It also featured a lengthy Bible Dictionary and a Topical Guide (originally published as a standalone volume). At least LDS Church members (and other, non-members, if my memory is correct) hailed its publication as a valuable study tool. [Obviously, its inclusion of citations to other LDS scriptural works and the LDS concepts included in the Bible Dictionary and Topical guide prevented others from adopting this edition or showing much interest.]
At the time, it seemed obvious, at least to me, that similar LDS editions of the Bible in other languages would eventually follow. But more than 25 years later, we still have yet to see an LDS edition of the Bible in any other language.
To the casual observer, an LDS edition of the Bible in Spanish and in Portuguese would seem like a no brainer. The Church uses old, well-known protestant translations simiar to the King James translation used in English. By their age, both should be in the public domain (the Reina Valera translation, used in Spanish, was completed in 1602, while the João Ferreira de Almeida translation, the Portuguese version used in the Church, was complete by 1711, but only published in 1748). Theoretically, the Church could take these translations, add its footnotes and translate the Bible Dictionary and Topical Guide.
Its a big project, but less complex than the original LDS edition in English because most of the footnotes and topical selections have been made already in English. And such an edition makes sense when you realize that the current number of LDS Church members in Spanish-speaking countries exceeds the number of English-speaking Church members on the rolls in 1980, when the LDS edition was released, by at least 35%, or more than 1 million members.
So why hasn’t the Church produced its own editions?
I was caught by surprise recently on a book I tried to bring back into print. I thought I had done everything right. I tracked down the author, signed a contract on the book, which had previously been published by two different publishers. The author claimed (and legally claimed in the contract) that he had the rights back to the book and could allow me to publish the new edition.
But it was only after I had completed all the layout and design work for the book and began to promote the book that I was contacted by the first publisher. They said they still had the rights to the book, and asked why I thought I could legally publish it. more