Bookloft's blog

3D Printing Gone Bookish

Who needs a 3D printed tape dispenser? It's not like we haven't already got tape dispensers. We've got LOADS of tape dispensers. Plus, tape dispensers are boring. But you know what isn't boring? A 3D printed book cover! And the first one ever in the history of... well, ever, is coming out in January.

Chang-rae Lee's newest book, a dystopian novel set in a severely socially and culturally stratified America, is being published in two formats come the new year: one the usual hardcover with a paper dust jacket, the other a hardcover in a 3D plastic case. Only 200 of these signed and limited edition books will be produced- and at $150 a pop. But just look how beautiful they are! Lee himself has said, “What I like about this is that it revisits the book as an object rather than only content. Content is what’s most important ultimately of course, but this is a book with a certain movement to it that regular books don’t have.” It can truly be seen as a thoughtful piece of art- the title itself "On Such a Full Sea" seems to be accurately represented in this sculpturally wavy cover. And, much as the novel challenges readers' perspectives on the world in which they live, one's view of the book itself shifts with one's physical perspective. Says Lee: "It’s all about changing the familiar. That’s ultimately what all art is about. That’s what we all do as writers."

Happy Holidays from The Bookloft!


Thanks for a wonderful holiday season! We had a great time these past few busy days helping you all find just the right gift for your loved ones! And now that Christmas is over, we're offering our leftover holiday stock- like Christmas cards and wrapping paper- at 50% off... so you can get ready for next year!! 

Or just stop in to treat yourself (or a loved one) to a great new read to end the year of 2013! And thanks for everything, folks- we wouldn't be here without you!

Alice Munro Awarded Nobel Prize in Literature

Here at The Bookloft, we are in a celebratory mood due to Alice Munro's well-deserved win of the Nobel Prize in Literature!

Alice Munro is a Canadian fiction writer known in particular for her masterful contemorary short stories. Her work has been highly acclaimed for decades, beginning with Dance of the Happy Shades in 1968 which won Canada's highest literary prize, the Governor General's Award.

Munro went on to win the Governor General's Award two more times and in 2009 was awarded the Man Booker International Prize.

But enough about formal awards- the list could (and does) go on and on! Alice's work is not just the kind that wins literary prizes (oh so many). She appeals to all sorts of readers- in fact, we've staff picked her books more than once!

Dear Life Stories, Munro's newest work, was staff picked by Ellyne, who aptly describes Munro's stories as "miniature novels"- so her work isn't just for the short story fans out there. Ellyne continues, "Her prose is simple, lean, and beautiful. Her lives are full of poignant longing; you may recognize yourself in a particular stroke of this writer's pen."

Eric's staff pick, Runaway, is also a Munro masterpiece. Just as Ellyne noted that we may see pieces of ourselves within her stories, Eric believes that "the women in these stories could be our spouses, our sisters, daughters or neighbors". At the end of the day, Alice Munro "gets what it is to be human"

Want to sample some of Munro's work and see if it's for you? We've always got several of her books here at The Bookloft- and some at half off!

Banned Books Week-2013

It's Banned Books Week!

This means the booksellers at the Bookloft have been puzzling their way through long lists of books that have been challenged and banned throughout the United States. Some of our very favorites appear on the list, like our old Staff Picks, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini and Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card.

Sometimes, especially as lovers of all books, it can be hard to tell why a book was challenged to be banned. Often times, the very reason for banning the book is the exact thing the author is trying to warn us against, not encourage.

Take for example The Giver by Lois Lowry, winner of the prestigious Newbery Medal. Some of the most common objections of the book were over infanticide and “sexual awakening”. This classic novel portrays a dystopian society in which one must take pills against sexual feelings so that no natural reproduction takes place becuase every human is assigned a job within the community- one available position is Birthmother. Babies that are born with any problems perceived to be problematic to the society are killed. As is typical of dystopian novels, Lois Lowry presents readers with a society that is obviously getting things wrong. And, in the hopeful end, the main character is able to escape this oppressive society- and save a baby to boot!

At other times, the reason given for banning a given book can seem simply wrong. Ender's Game, for example, was characterized as pornographic- though no sexual scenes whatsoever are written.

Though reasons for banning books may vary, many agree on which books to ban. Some most commonly challenged authors include J.K. Rowling, Judy Blume, John Steinbeck, Stephen King, Suzanne Collins, Aldous Huxley, Maya Angelou, Mark Twain, J.D. Salinger, Harper Lee, Garth Nix, and Lois Lowry.

If so many esteemed, classic, popular, and beloved writers and their works are the bulk of the books being banned- what does that say about us as a society? How can we believe that something can be simutaneously great and dangerous? Do we believe that what makes something great is that it contains controversial material? Do we simply love what's bad for us (like twinkies)? Or, is our world really split into two groups: those who love these books, and those who want them banned? If so, who are these people- these "book-banners"?

According to the American Library Association (ALA), the people who most often challenge books are parents. So, not surprisingly, the institutions that challenge books most are schools and school libraries. Most children's books do come with age appropriateness recommendations, but parents' understandable and commendable wish to protect their children sometimes turn into a desire to try to ban books that offend them from all children and adults. The ALA (from whence come the above images and information) believes that "this method of protection contains hazards far greater than exposure to the 'evil' against which it is leveled... Individuals may restrict what they themselves or their children read, but they must not call on governmental or public agencies to prevent others from reading or viewing that material." And, indeed, U.S. Supreme Court Justice William Brennan, in Texas v. Johnson, once said, "If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the Government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable."

Want to give some of these banned books a whirl yourself and see what YOU think? Check out the ALA's Top 100 Banned Books List and pick one out for yourself as you think about these questions: Do you agree that this book should be banned? Do you believe that banning books at all is a good idea?

The Bone Season

Samantha Shannon's novel has been turning so many heads that we here at The Bookloft have decided to see what all the hubbub is about!

The Bone Season takes place in 2059. Nineteen-year-old Paige Mahoney is working in the criminal underworld of Scion London, based at Seven Dials, employed by a man named Jaxon Hall. Her job: to scout for information by breaking into people’s minds. For Paige is a dreamwalker, a clairvoyant and, in the world of Scion, she commits treason simply by breathing.

It is raining the day her life changes for ever. Attacked, drugged and kidnapped, Paige is transported to Oxford – a city kept secret for two hundred years, controlled by a powerful, otherworldly race. Paige is assigned to Warden, a Rephaite with mysterious motives. He is her master. Her trainer. Her natural enemy. But if Paige wants to regain her freedom she must allow herself to be nurtured in this prison where she is meant to die.

In her debut novel Shannon, 21 years old and a recent Oxford grad, introduces a clever and mysterious premise with an original and interesting magic system. Though classified as both dystopian and fantasy, it manages to feel both realistic and fantastical- a gripping mix!

Critics have posited that the planned 7-book series is the next Hunger Games, or even the next Harry Potter. To this, Shannon says, “The J.K. Rowling thing has been a blessing and a curse. It got me some attention, which has been great because more people have found out about the book, but at the same time, I saw people on Twitter reacting: ‘Who does this girl think she is?’ The truth is, I don’t want to be the next somebody. I want to be the next me.”

Interested to see what The Bone Season is really like- and if it's for you? Come check out our stack of beautiful copies!

The Art of the Autobiographical Novel Event!

Hey Guys! Feeling like you should get out of the house more, but unwilling to get your nose out of your books? (We understand!)

The Bookloft is excited to invite you to an after-hours night of fun here among the book stacks! On Saturday, August 17th at 7pm, Alison Larkin and Marshall Messer will be speaking about their respective autobiographical works, The English American and Change at Jamaica! And because book-reading can only be improved by food-eating, we'll all chat about memoir-style writing while munching on delicious refreshments!


Alison Larkin's book garnered much enthusiasm, with The London Times calling it "Hugely entertaining". And we love keeping this fantastically funny local author in stock here, both in print and in audio!

Marshall Messer has been a cab driver, bartender, garbageman, actor, and teacher, and he has played blues harp at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Of Marshall Messer's debut novel, Jaimy Gordon, author of Lord of Misrule, says: "A more replete novel of sporting New York in all its vulgar glory could hardly be imagined."

Why We Love Ajiri Tea

Those of you who frequent our store have likely seen the Ajiri tea and coffee we have at the counter. You have seen the beautiful hand-made boxes and been vaguely aware of its connections with a charity organization, but what exactly does Ajiri do?

The Ajiri Tea Company was founded in the Kisii community in Kenya, taking into account the skills and opinions of the people. The tea is grown by a local cooperative of independent farmers on sustainable land, and the packaging is hand made by local women from banana bark. The paper is even made of plant material from an invasive water hyacinth species!

In addition to employing and empowering women for the future, all net profit goes to purchasing books and clothes for orphans and sending them to school.

So Ajiri does good things, and the tea and coffee are both delicious. The tea lovers on staff here can't get enough. Keep at it, Ajiri!

More information can be found at their website.

Fanfiction and Kindle Worlds

Hi folks, The Bookloft here. Some of you may have heard of Amazon's new Kindle Worlds program, and its strategy for monetizing fanfiction. We've been getting questions about our thoughts, and here is an overview.

Fanfiction writers from around the world write stories featuring characters and ideas from their favorite media in new context. This can be used to illuminate certain hidden textual clues from the original story, or for flights of fancy about how it could have been, or sometimes purely for titillation. A major demographic of fanfiction is 18-35 year old women, often seeking and writing content that is inherently adult. One particularly popular flavor has become "slash" fiction, in which characters of the same gender become romantically involved despite this not occurring in the original story. Stories are posted online, and people discuss, laud, and critique pieces, often borrowing ideas from each other and expounding on them further. Fan authors and readers can create deep personal bonds through this method - large online communities have developed around this model; one can already see why traditional publishers take some objection to this. Fanfiction, though, is not created for monetary gain, making copyright issues in the fanfiction communities a legal gray area. Publishers are usually content to leave these groups alone, as long as nobody is profitting off of infringed authorial rights.

Opinions about fanfiction vary among authors: George R.R. Martin is opposed to fanfiction in general (and especially without authorial consent); J.K. Rowling supports Harry Potter fanfiction, as long as "it remains a non-commercial activity to ensure fans are not exploited and it is not being published in the strict sense of traditional print publishing;" and the Tolkien estate is notoriously tight with the rights to his legacy.

Now comes Amazon into the picture. Kindle Worlds is a program soon to be actualized that will allow fanfiction writers within certain narrative "worlds" (the books that they piggy-back on) to publish and distribute their pieces electronically through Amazon. At the moment, only three worlds are represented - Pretty Little Liars, The Vampire Diaries, and Gossip Girl - but more are certainly on the way. This works because Alloy Entertainment, who owns the rights to these three franchises, is on board with the project, as are the original authors. The three worlds represented now are not the largest or most rabid fanbases, and it remains to be seen whether Amazon can obtain the rights to what would be some of the more lucrative properties.

What do the fan authors who sign up for this deal get? For works over 10,000 words, they get royalties equal to 35% of the net profit for every month, and 20% for works under 10,000. Note that this is net profits, on items that will cost between $0.99 and $3.99. It is unlikely that any but a lucky few will make a substantial amount of money on this, but will act more as a supplemental income for an activity that is already being done.

What do Amazon and Alloy and any other publishers that jump on board get from it? Both Amazon and Alloy get a cut from the sales. In addition, Amazon gets exclusive copyright and distribution rights to the stories. Author John Scalzi pointed out on his Whatever blog that this means they can assemble anthologies or distribute stories in different languages without paying the writers (found here). Alloy gets rights to mine the stories for any original characters and ideas that they want to take and add into their official franchise entries without recompense to the authors.

This is legal, a contract between consenting parties, so it removes some of the ambiguity from the normal legal state of fanfiction. With this legitimacy, however, comes a price: that of censorship. Fanfiction has a reputation for being, on occasion, pornographic. Amazon will not be allowing graphic sexual acts in the stories published through this method. They will also be monitoring for "offensive content." Obviously, there will be some sort of screening process - whether it will be an actual person or a computer picking out keywords, or a combination of both is yet to be seen. Amazon also holds the right to deny publication based on what they define as a "poor customer experience," which can take many forms. While this may be their way of maintaining quality control, it is also a broad net that could be thrown at many an unsuspecting author. Already a large portion of what attracts people to fanfiction is disqualified, but how will this censorship affect slash fiction, or other topics that can get steamy without being specifically pornographic?

One part of the process that has not been addressed, and is probably easy to overlook on both sides, is protection for the drafts that are barred from being published. Since they do go through a screening process, and are therefore read by an entity (electronic or biological), they have certainly entered Amazon's servers. Are these drafts protected from the idea mining that will take place with the published writings? Can Amazon cite a poor customer experience, and then pass the document to Alloy because it had one good idea among some unacceptable ones? It is unlikely, but something that should be addressed before the program goes live nonetheless.

Is it fair? Do fanfiction authors have to stoop to what would be considered a terrible deal for standard publication just because of its seeming self-referentialism, or does the craft deserve more consideration, perhaps as a "found object" art more than intellectual property theft? While it is obviously an attempt at further corporate gain, is it also giving a valuable level of legitimacy to the craft that is worth the costs? In some cases it could be, especially considering that fanfiction authors have little in the way of intellectual rights. Perhaps the thrill that they liked your idea and put it into the series (making it canon) will be enough. This is to say nothing about the cultural etiquette found within the fanfiction communities; how will this development affect these communities? Will there be a sense of betrayal inherent in selling fanfiction that splits established communities in two (see 50 Shades of Gray and the fallout from its publication)?

It may end up being a non-issue; the type of censorship used in selection excludes much of what makes these communities unique. Pornographic material rules out an extensive amount of fanfiction and much of its draw. Slash fiction, another popular topic, may not make it past the "offensive content" or "poor experience" clauses because of its (however inaccurate) association with overtly sexual content.

Given all of this, Kindle Worlds may simply become another fanfiction community with its own idiosyncracies and etiquette. On the other hand, there is the possibility of a single author selling works on Amazon, and writing other pieces that would not be acceptable there and sharing these with other communities. Since fanfiction stories are intimately informed by each other, would this encourage Amazon to pursue legal action against other, often nebulous, fanfiction communities where traditional publishers have thusfar lacked the audacity to tread?

Books for Graduates

Millions of students are nearing the end of an educational arc; whether they are finishing high school, receiving a bachelor's degree or a technical degree, or completing their graduate program in obscure fracture dynamics, they'll soon be moving on to new pastures. What better gift than an inspirational book? Here are a few of the things on our shelves now.

Don't forget about gift certificates - usable for online purchases, too!

The Toaster Project - An heroic attempt to make a toaster from scratch. 101 Things I Learned in Film, Business, Fashion, Culinary, and Architecture School.
18 in America - A young man defers college to play 18 holes in the lower 48. The Best Advice Ever Given - A collection of commonsense wisdom and wise advice.
Lean In - Sheryl Sandberg empowers women to achieve their full potential. Grow the Good Life - Why vegetable gardens make you happy, healthy, wealthy, and wise.
On Looking - A startling exploration of how we perceive and discover our world. A Peoples' History of the United States - Zinn's classic text.
100 Diagrams That Changed the World - From the earliest cave paintings to the iPod. There Was a Country - Legendary author Chinua Achebe gives a personal history of Biafra.
Vampires in the Lemon Grove - A magical collection of stories from Karen Russell. The Man of Feeling - A sleek and strange tale of cosmopolitan love.

The Berkshire Festival of Women Writer's has begun!

...and our very own Laura Didyk is leading two workshops!

The festival says it best: "The annual Berkshire Festival of Women Writers is a collaborative, multi-venue event sponsored by Bard College at Simon’s Rock with many local partners, celebrated county-wide in the month of March, Women’s History Month." This month there are over 50 events being held in the Berkshires; workshops, panels, readings, and performances of all kinds. There's something for everyone! See more here.

Our own Laura Didyk is hosting two memoir-themed events. Laura is an accomplished writer, editor, and teacher. Be sure to catch her this month at:

Illumination: Memoir Writing as a Path to Peace

Wednesday, 3/20 from 6:00-8:30 PM at the Stockbridge Congregational Church

Writing about your own life means more than merely reporting on your past. When you bring the perspective of who you are today to bear on stories from your life, not only will the stories shine with new and surprising significance but you, the writer, will be transformed in the process. Approached in the spirit of discovery, memoir writing becomes a vehicle for illumination, insight, and wisdom that can bring the writer a sense of peace while inspiring and changing her readers. Writer and teacher Laura Didyk will lead memoir-writing exercises and give a short reading from her memoir in progress. Following the usual format of Women's Interfaith events, the potluck dinner starts at 6 PM, and the program will begin at 7:00. Please bring a dish to share.

Garbage into Gold

Thursday, 3/21 at the Berkshire South/Jenifer House 6:30-8:30 PM

There's a myth about successful writers: they know what they want to write; they sit down and write it, brilliantly, on the first try. Wrong. Sometimes, most times, we need to write (and write and write) to find our subject matter, to arrive at a turn of phrase, an image, or a piece of dialogue that will bring us to the gold of our own work. In this workshop, writing practice, writing exercises, and on-the-spot assignments will help us quiet our inner editors long enough to surprise even ourselves.
Both sound good, eh? The even better news is that there are 53 events like that, and most of them are free!