Today in books and publishing: E-book buyers notified about refunds; de Sade ban struck down in South Korea; California high school bans Stephen King; Ian McEwan likes his books short and sweet.
A tale of two emails. If you bought e-books from Hachette, HarperCollins, or Simon & Schuster over the last few years, check your inbox. Amazon and Apple notified their e-book customers this morning about impending refunds they may receive as part of the settlement the DoJ made with three of the industry's major publishers over e-book price fixing. E-books priced under the agency model were artificially inflated according to the settlement, and customers are likely to receive refunds of anywhere between $0.30 to $1.32 per e-book, according to Ars Technica. The three publishers involved in the settlement have pooled together a $69 million fund for the pay-outs. Customers will receive very different emails depending on whether they bought e-books through iTunes or the Kindle store. While Apple's email feels obligatory—getting straight to the point with the most formal prose possible—Amazon's email is positively gloating. "We have good news," it opens cheerfully, and closes, "Thank you for being a Kindle customer." Penguin and Macmillan will soon join Apple to fight the DoJ in court, hoping to avoid such refunds. [GalleyCat]
South Koreans now free to read The 120 Days of Sodom. A Korean translation of the Marquis de Sade's brutally explicit 18th century novel The 120 Days of Sodom didn't stay on shelves long before it was promptly banned. In September, South Korea's Publication Ethics Commission outlawed the book—notorious for its graphic orgy scenes, fixation on rape, and other graphic content—believing it stoked "violent excitement." But the authorities now realize that they may have been too hasty. Upon re-reading the book, official Jang Tag-Hwan found that the book contained literary merit for trying "to delve into the inner side of human greed." The monthlong ban has now been lifted, so Koreans who wished Fifty Shades were more twisted, aristocratic, and French have something to sink their teeth into. [The Washington Post]
Speaking of book banning... South Korea might be moving toward a more enlightened stance on book censorship, but one California high school is moving backward. Rocklin High School, located just outside the capital of Sacramento, is waffling back and forth about whether to ban Stephen King's short story collection Different Seasons over the story "Art Pupil," which contains a rape scene. School officials received a complaint about the book and removed it from the library. But student Amanda Wong, the only member of the committee in charge of the banning decision to have read the book, fought to have the ban overturned by taking her case to the local school board. Different Seasons is back on shelves for now, but Rocklin High School officials are still deliberating on how to address complaints about the book. [New York Daily News]
Ian McEwan prefers novellas. "TL; DR," just about sums up Booker Prize-winning author Ian McEwan's attitude toward sprawling, doorstop-sized novels. In a talk at the Cheltenham Literary Festival, he professed an admiration for brevity in fiction. "If I could write the perfect novella I would die happy," he said. But he's noticed a weird gendering of the novella, a bias that assumes short books are "unmanly." He says, "Whenever I've handed in a novella there's always someone to give you a kick in the shins, as if you've made a mistake." Length is one of those variables critics often pretend doesn't matter (great books can come in any shape or size), but one has to wonder how much of the awe over writers like William T. Vollmann and David Foster Wallace stems not just from what they write, but for the physical heft of their writing. McEwan's latest book clocks in at 320 pages, which isn't extremely long, but isn't exactly slim either. [The Telegraph]
Kafka archives to be published. Franz Kafka would be horrified to see how much of his writing has been published. On his deathbed, he asked his friend Max Brod to burn all his manuscripts, letters, and other writing. But Brod couldn't deprive readers of Kafka's fiction, so he published the author's novels and short stories against his will. However, he didn't release a suitcase full of notebooks and correspondence to the public. The ownership of these documents, which Brod smuggled out of Prague in 1939, has been in dispute for decades. Brod's secretary held onto the documents after his death, later selling some of it and leaving the rest to her daughters. The writing is currently languishing in safes in Israel and Switzerland. But now, a judge in Tel Aviv has ruled that the documents belong to Israeli National Library in Jerusalem, as Brod's will stipulates. Israeli National Library director Oren Weinberg says the works will be published online, "thus fulfilling Brod's wish of publishing Kafka's writings for all literature lovers in Israel and the world." [The Guardian]