Book news from all over, not all of it totally depressing:
If you ran a prison library in, say, Erlestoke near Devizes, Wiltshire, England. If you ran that library, would you include books in there on how to escape from prison? Inmates at Her Majesty's Prison can read "Escape" by David McMillan, which describes how the author once broke out of Thailand's so-called 'Bangkok Hilton' prison.
Or they can check out a book about great escapes during World War II. And it's not just escapes. There are plenty of books on famous criminals, including "Pretty Boy" about an armed robber who among other things assaulted prison guards while jailed.
It's the Conservatives in England who have compiled this list of books to keep out of the hands of prisoners, and boy, are the New Labours in power going to get in trouble over this one.
Really, why allow prisoners to have books at all? They just hide blades in them, and learn about Parisian existentialism. It encourages them to think. That can't be good, can it? Luckily, inmates watch a lot of TV, where jail breaks are unknown and all crime is punished.
Same goes for school children and members of Congress. If they read, they won't get their homework done or show up to vote. Better off not reading at all.
In other news, online every-thing seller Amazon is about to release version two of its electronic book reader machine, the Kindle. You didn't know there was a version one? It's the coming thing: books on screens. You can take the Kindle camping, traveling, read it on the subway, at lunch, pretty much anywhere but in the shower and they're working on that. If you have fast Internet access, and who doesn't these days, you also can read newspapers and magazines on your Kindle.
Or you can take a book to all those places, no batteries are required. The Kindle sells for $359, order now. You can hold it in one hand! It's in black and white! One nice thing: It can read the text out loud to you in your choice of male or female voices.
This prediction from a bookselling friend of mine: "Within seven years something big is going to happen on the tech front of Ereaders making them wildly popular and chic. Ebooks will be easy to access and easy to purchase. The (book) chains will dump all of their storefronts and shift completely and exclusively to the Web. The number of brick-n-mortar bookstores will go down to 1/4 or 1/5 of the number of stores that exist today. Either that or the independent stores will no longer resemble bookstores. They'll be boutiques and books will comprise about 1/3 to ½ of the merchandise."
That's if publishers and booksellers survive that long. Retail sales at bookstores in December came in at one thousand fifty-one million dollars. That's huge! People are still buying books! However, that grand sales total reflects almost a five per cent drop in sales from two years ago.
For the year, yearly bookstore sales were down only one half of one percent from two years ago. That is actually very good news in light of recent economic and electronic developments.
The news from publishers is grim: HarperCollins has killed off the Collins part of the company and laid off a lot of people. Canadian booksellers have canceled, probably forever, their annual convention. Oxford University Press laid off 60 people and they all work for Cambridge University Press now, just kidding.
Down the highway in Sebastopol, tech books publisher O'Reilly laid off 30 workers. There's a pay freeze at Penguin, but that's OK, because they're penguins.
And while all this was going on, an early edition of Grimms' Fairy Tales sold for $11,000, and a first edition, probably signed, of "Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban" went for a cool $12,874.
I wonder how much my copy is worth?
Prison chiefs criticized for choice of books
"Escape: The True Story Of The Only Westerner Ever To Break Out Of Thailand's Bangkok Hilton" by David McMillan is available used and out of print in the range of approximately $8 to $67 from various international booksellers. Go to Addall books and search.
"Pretty Boy" by Roy Shaw. John Blake Publisher paperback $14.99. ISBN1857825519. Published in the UK and may not be easy to find in the USA. From the publisher: Roy Shaw is the ultimate hardman. He has cult status and commands a respect that few, even in the violent world he moves in, can equal. To him, violence is simply an accepted part of his profession. He doesn't exaggerate it, he can't excuse it and he refuses to apologize for it. His name may mean nothing to you--he's no actor, no showman, no wannabe celebrity. He does, however, live by a merciless code, and though he may not have cloven hooves and a tail, if he goes after someone, all hell comes with him.