Today in books and publishing: Science fiction author Harry Harrison dies; the fight over DRM; a look inside the Zeitoun Foundation's books; Google allowed to challenge authors' group status.
RIP Harry Harrison. The author of science fiction novels like Make Room! Make Room!, a harrowing tale of food shortage which became the hit film Soylent Green in 1973, has died at 87. Born in Connecticut, he was drafted into the Army in 1943. He learned Esperanto during downtime in the military, and he would advocate for the universal language and insert it into his novels for the rest of his life. He began editing and writing for science fiction magazines in the 1950s. He began his Deathworld series in 1960, and launched the humorous Stainless Steel Rat books a year later. His work become more serious, dwelling on weightier and more topical themes starting in the late '60s. Harrison is survived by his two children, Todd and Moira. [The Guardian]
Investigating the Zeitoun Foundation. "All author proceeds from this book go to the Zeitoun Foundation," readers were informed at the end of Dave Eggers' Zeitoun. But has the Zeitoun Foundation been getting that money to people who need it? The Louisiana Secretary of State lists the Zeitoun Foundation as "Not In Good Standing." For the last three years, the charity has failed to file an annual report with the state, meaning that the Foundation's $250,000 in grants can't be traced. Edward Champion followed the paper trail, and found that the Zeitoun Foundation's money is being funneled through some strange channels. Add to that the fact that Abdulrahman Zeitoun hasn't turned out to be the saint Eggers portrayed him to be, and this Zeitoun story isn't turning out too well. [Reluctant Habits]
The deal with DRM. Tor Books, the world's largest publisher of science fiction, intends to release all its e-books DRM-free. But now, Hachette UK has been pressing authors to demand that Tor reintroduce DRM. "It's hard to say what's more shocking to me: the temerity of Hachette to attempt to dictate terms to its rivals on the use of anti-customer technology, or the evidence-free insistence that DRM has some nexus with improving the commercial fortunes of writers and their publishers," says author Cory Doctorow. [Ars Technica]
Google allowed to contest class-action. Thousands of authors have hopped on board the Authors Guild's lawsuit against Google Books, which calls for Google to pay $750 for each title they've scanned and uploaded without express permission from copyright holders. In May, U.S. Circuit Judge Denny Chin permitted the authors involved to sue as a group, but now, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York has allowed the company to contest the authors' class status. If Google's appeal is successful, authors will have to sue the company individually. Google originally gained access to the over 20 million scanned books through a deal with university and public libraries. [Reuters]
With all this talk of copyright violation... Tim Parks meditates on the nature of copyright law: "Do I, as an author, have the right to prevent people copying my books for free? Should I have it? Does it matter?" [The New York Review of Books]
Ten million Goodreads users. In a milestone for literary social networking, Goodreads has reached 10 million users after five years online. That's nothing to scoff at, but just for comparison's sake, let's note that Facebook's user base totals over 900 million. [Los Angeles Times]
Songs to writing to. Brad Listi compiles a mix for specific literary situations. "Song To Listen To While Birdwatching With Jonathan Franzen: 'Songbird' —Kenny G." [Electric Literature]