All the latest from Ligature and the world of electronic publishing.

Einstein’s Heroes: Imagining the World through the Language of Mathematics

Einstein s Heroes Cover NewThis month we take a fascinating diversion into science non-fiction with Robyn Arianrhod’s first book, Einstein’s Heroes: Imagining the World through the Language of Mathematicswhich explores the language of mathematics and the laws of electromagnetism through the lives of Albert Einstein’s three heroes: Sir Isaac Newton (1643–1727), James Clerk Maxwell (1831–1879) and Michael Faraday (1791–1867). Einstein’s Heroes was first published in 2003 in Australia and later in the United Kingdom, the United States, Japan, France and Turkey. It was shortlisted for the 2004 Age Non-Fiction Book of the Year and the 2004 Victorian Premier’s Prize for a First Book of History.  

Robyn is an Adjunct Research Fellow in the School of Mathematical Sciences at Monash University and has since written Seduced by Logic: Émilie Du Châtelet, Mary Somerville and the Newtonian Revolution—about two self-taught mathematicians who became world authorities on Newtonian mechanics a century apart—and Young Einstein: and the story of E=mc², which has become one of the best-selling Kindle Singles in the science category. Einstein’s Heroes established Robyn as a masterful writer and researcher who effortlessly weaves history and personality with scientific theory and practice. It combines diagrams and poetry, formulas and anecdotes, and a deep understanding of both mathematics and storytelling. 

A tantalising précis of Einstein’s Heroes appears in Robyn’s recent article for The Conversation, “Let there be light! Celebrating the theory of electromagnetism”, which marks January 2015 as the 150th anniversary of the theory of electromagnetism. You can also listen to Robyn’s recent conversation with Richard Fidler for the ABC, and watch her twilight lecture on “Mathematical Love Stories: Writing popular scientific biography and history” for the Melbourne University graduate union. 

Rising Water: a play by Tim Winton

Rising Water CoverIt’s been a minute since our last release, but this is worth the wait – introducing Rising Water, the first play by one of Australia’s most popular and awarded writers, Tim Winton

Rising Water takes place on a boozy Australia Day in a Fremantle marina, where it winds through the lives and histories of three “live-aboards”—Baxter, Col and Jackie, the residents of the permanently moored Shirley, Goodness and Mercy respectively. Jackie is—among other things—a refugee of Tim’s story “Boner McPharlin’s Moll” from his collection The Turning, itself now also a play and a movie; and the other characters also feel like they belong in the same Winton universe: they’re full of life and secrets, capable of great vulgarity and lyricism, irrepressible and unforgettable. 

The play combines the wit and tenderness of Tim’s novels with the rhythm and texture that the theatre allows, soaring and diving between the Australian vernacular and language heightened to poetry. It was first performed in 2011 by the Black Swan Theatre Company and has toured nationally. The electronic edition includes stills from the original production and is a must-read for any fan of Tim Winton or Australian theatre. It’s on sale now from all the usual outlets, DRM-free as always. 

Dorothy Porter’s Crete

Crete-CoverEvery book is a privilege to publish, but we are particularly proud to present a new hand-crafted electronic edition of Dorothy Porter’s poetry collection Crete.

Dorothy is, of course, one of our most important poets and verse novelists. She is perhaps best known for her international best-selling The Monkey’s Mask (1994), which—unusually for a novel in verse—was also made into a movie. Crete is the follow-up to that phenomenally successful work: it’s both more personal and more allusive; its layers of classical and historical imagery barely contain the great tides and currents of passion that run through it. On its release it was described as “breathtaking”, and that is its enduring characteristic.

Dorothy’s death in 2008 was a terrible loss to Australian literature and Australian culture. Her influence remains enormous. I am hugely grateful to Dorothy’s partner, Andrea Goldsmith, for her generosity in helping to shape this e-book and sharing the handwritten drafts that are reproduced within this edition and underpin its design; and to her agent, Jenny Darling.

We are now working on an earlier poetry collection, Driving Too Fast, and hope to bring out more editions of Dorothy’s works in the future. In the meantime, you can buy Crete from the Ligature bookshop or from your favourite e-book retailer.

Tell the Running Water

Tell the Running Water CoverWe’re thrilled to announce the launch of a new edition of Abbas El-Zein’s first novel, Tell the Running Water. It’s a remarkable story of Beirut during the civil war, of three young people whose fates become entangled on either side of the Green Line.

Tell the Running Water was first published in 2001 by Hodder Headline to widespread acclaim:

“In El-Zein’s elegy for Lebanon’s lost youth, dispassion and stylistic poise keep the horror of civil war at a just bearable distance. A remarkable first novel.” — Felicity Bloch, The Age.

“…in his ambitious and highly charged novel… Abbas El-Zein evokes the madness that gripped his country of birth from 1975 until 1990.” — Tony Maniaty, The Weekend Australian

“Documentary realism gives way to poetical grace in this first novel of destruction and self-discovery.” — Debra Adelaide, The Sydney Morning Herald.

“As timely as today’s headline, and as timeless as a Levantine love song, Abbas El-Zein draws on his own experience of Beirut’s bitter war to create a novel that is elegant and elegiac. This writer has the rarest combination of gifts: a scientist’s precision and a poet’s eloquence.” — Geraldine Brooks, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of People of the Book and March. 

Abbas has updated the book slightly and it is now better than ever. We are privileged to be publishing the e-book versions of a novel, a memoir and a collection of short stories by such a talented and versatile writer. All three are connected in intricate ways—the Lebanon of Abbas’s memoir runs together with the riven city of the novel; his own life catches reflections of Kareem’s, Raawya’s and Tony’s—and one of the most striking of his celebrated short stories has its origin in Tell the Running Water. You really have to read all three.

Tumblr of basically forever

NewImageLigature’s Tumblr of basically forever is, inescapably, I Love Ligatures (dot tumblr dot com), which since 2011 has been collecting examples of typographic ligatures (and some associated letterforms, like swashes and, basically, cursive). There are some inspired selections, like this disappearing RSVP, this elegant logo and this admirable tattoo, and some that have been under our noses forever, like the venerable Star Wars logo. Check out the archive for some more ligaterrific designs. 

Although this is our Tumblr of basically forever, we can’t say that Tumblr itself is our social network of any significant period. For obvious reasons, our social network of however long social networks last is Pinterest

Garry Disher’s shorter fiction

Collection CoverA real treat for the weekend: not one but two collections of Garry Disher’s shorter fiction, plus a special collection of those two collections.

Garry first made his name as a short-story writer (The Age described him as the best in the country) and is probably best known now for his series and standalone crime novels. These two collections intriguingly capture his transition between the two.

Flamingo Gate  comprises a novella and six short stories that circle the Flamingo Gate apartment complex in a distinctly hard-boiled inner-city Melbourne, full of corruption and drifting souls. These are human stories, snatches of conversation and cross-purpose—tied together by a killer stalking the city. It’s a real page-swiper! It was first published as a collection in 1991—the same year that Garry’s first Wyatt novel, Kickback, was released.   

Straight, Bent & Barbara Vine came out fifteen years later, in 2006. By then Garry had six Wyatt books under his belt, as well as three of the Challis and Destry novels—not to mention his young adult books and the literary fiction we’ve been privileged to publish. The new collection sees him examining the crime genre from every angle—the inside, the outside, and the inside-out side. To call the stories post-modern doesn’t convey the fun; to call them playful doesn’t do justice to the punch they pack. Highly recommended for fans of the genre—or of genre itself.

Two of the stories appear in both collections, though in different contexts. If you’re worried about paying twice for the same stories—or you just like a bargain—you can buy both collections in one volume for a discounted price.  

Put them on your phone, read them on the bus—or the tram, for authenticity. Do yourself a favour.

Two excellent reviews of The Secret Maker of the World

AbbasIt’s great to see two new reviews of Abbas El-Zein’s collection of short stories, The Secret Maker of the World. First up is Portia Lindsay in The Australian:

Abbas El-Zein’s acclaimed 2009 memoir Leave to Remain details his life in Beirut and beyond, and the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards judges at the time said it “captures the complexities of identity and politics, history and religion across time and space”.

The short stories of The Secret Maker of the World pick up this thread, beginning with a story set in war-torn Beirut and spinning outwards through the personal and political conflicts of a diverse cast of characters…

El-Zein’s tales have a global sensibility, sweeping through cultural clashes with stark revelation and flashes of humour.

Then we have David Sornig for The Melbourne Review, who compares the collection to his favourite classic rock albums, which are:

more-or-less no bullshit rock’n’roll, of the kind that’s kinked with a storytelling style that’s sometimes swaggering, sometimes sharp-witted, but mostly just straight from the heart. There’s ventriloquism there, but it seems to come from a place that its makers think is true.

Sornig singles out one of my favourite stories from the collection, “Bird’s Eye”, which tracks the medieval geographer Yaqut Al Hamaoui through the doomed city of Merv:

Its style recalls the novels of Orhan Pamuk, particularly in its close following of its central character’s deliberations, the sweeping back and forth between imagination, memory, dream and reality. Borges is there too, in the moment Yaqut loses himself while writing in a confusion, a sudden realisation that he might not be himself, but rather ‘the tool of some divine science; a poor go-between in the service of a bigger and better intelligence.’

The UQP edition of The Secret Maker of the World is now available as an e-book in Australia and New Zealand through the Kindle Store, the iBookstore and other outlets. Everywhere else in the world, you can buy the Ligature e-book direct from us or from your preferred e-bookstore.

Judge rules for HarperCollins over Open Road in e-book rights case

Julie of the WolvesThis is Open Road’s cover of Jean Craighead George’s classic Julie of the Wolves, first published by Harper & Row (now HarperCollins) in 1972 and reprinted many times since then. It won the Newbery Medal and also the Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis—which was won in 2004 by our own Lian Hearn, to give you some indication. The e-book was published in August 2011; it’s a handsome electronic edition with a bonus author biography and many old and recent photos of George, who died in May 2012 at the fine age of 92. George had licensed the electronic rights to Open Road after they offered her double the HarperCollins e-book royalty, and she participated fully in the e-book’s production.

Unfortunately HarperCollins felt that the contract they signed with George in 1971 gave them the exclusive right to publish the book in electronic format, and on 23 December 2011 they filed against Open Road in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. The very knowledgeable Passive Guy has written extensively on the merits of HarperCollins’s position, arguing that back in 1971 e-books as we now know them not only hadn’t been imagined, but pretty much couldn’t be imagined: computers had only recently shrunk to the size of refrigerators and hardly any of them even had screens; the Internet didn’t exist and neither did any reasonable way for an ordinary civilian to transfer computer data. 

Nevertheless, yesterday Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald found for HarperCollins, deciding that the terms of the 1971 contract were wide enough to grant them exclusive e-book rights.

To reach this decision, Judge Buchwald had to distinguish the current case from the 2001 case of Random House v Rosetta Inc. In the Rosetta case, each of the relevant contracts (with William Styron in 1961, Kurt Vonnegut in 1967 and Robert Parker in 1982) had granted Random House the right to “print, publish and sell the work in book form”. The court held that, on the ordinary interpretation and common usage of the language, that right was limited to physical books and did not extend to electronic books. 

In the present case, Judge Buchwald noted that although the corresponding clause still referred to publication “in book form”, it left out the word “print”, which had “a limiting effect and a strong connotation of paper copy”. This omission was enough to distinguish Rosetta. That seems a bit tough to me, as the Rosetta case didn’t rely at all on the word “print” and decided that the phrase “in book form” was limiting enough. I would think that, in that context, you’d need to do more than remove the word “print” if you wanted to expand a right to encompass a format that wouldn’t even be plausible for another 30 years.

Judge Buchwald further examined a pair of extra clauses that (1) provided that HarperCollins had the exclusive right to sell or license “subsidiary rights in which [it] has an interest”, but (2) needed George’s written permission to deal with those rights, particularly in relation to:

use thereof in storage and retrieval and information systems, and/or whether through computer, computer-stored, mechanical or other electronic means now known or hereafter invented and ephemeral screen flashing or reproduction thereof, whether by print-out, phot reproduction or photo copy, including punch cards, microfilm, magnetic tapes or like processes attaining similar results…

Judge Buchwald considered that this last clause was sufficient to grant HarperCollins what we now recognise as modern e-book rights.

There are two issues here—three if you consider that the clause is basically gibberish (what does “and/or whether” mean? What is “phot”?). The first is what exactly “storage and retrieval and information systems” might include—these things have been in book contracts since the 1960s and I’ve never known what they are. I assumed something to do with catalogues—you might allow part or even all of the book to be indexed so that it turns up in searches and helps you find a print version. Even if I’m way off, it’s difficult to find a recognisable e-book in this barely-conjuncted collection of archaic technological terms. 

An equally important issue is that the clauses taken together don’t grant any rights at all—they deal with the disposition of any subsidiary rights that HarperCollins has been granted elsewhere in the contract. But the rest of the contract is silent on these rights. HarperCollins says the grant is implied by this mangled clause, but that seems a dangerous inference. Publishing contracts are full of labyrinthine subclauses that only apply if certain conditions obtain—if certain boxes are ticked or words aren’t crossed out. These clauses shouldn’t be used to infer the very things they depend on.

So I think it’s a surprising decision and I hope that Open Road will appeal it. Naturally it will only be relevant to contracts that are very similar to this one, but publishing contracts echo each other’s language often enough that there may be a quite a large number affected. I’ll be checking extra carefully for “print, publish and sell” and “now known or hereafter invented” until this is all sorted out.

In the meantime you can still buy the Open Road edition of Julie of the Wolves here.

Great review of The Storyteller and his Three Daughters

Storyteller CoverThe Shogun-ki at the Samurai Archives Japanese History Page has a new and in-depth review of Lian Hearn’s The Storyteller and his Three Daughters:

In our opinion, Hearn writes the best researched, most accurate Japanese historical fiction to be had. Her previous book, Blossoms and Shadows, is the last word in historical fiction dealing with Japan (and one of its characters—medical student Itasaki Michi—is a major character in “The Storyteller”). It was a masterpiece of blending fiction and fact. The level of research and her ability to weave it into the threads of her storyline was unsurpassed, and she’s brought the same approach to “The Storyteller”. However, “The Storyteller” is a far more accessible tale… Hearn gives it a light touch, never allowing the historical connections to draw attention from the story.

The Storyteller and His Three Daughters manages to combine a story of intrigue and national issues with a simple tale of a family’s love and the bonds between them. It provides a microcosm of how Japan dealt with the rapidly changing times of the Meiji period… When Sei ends his story with the traditional rakugo ending of “And now I leave you in the capable hands of the next story”, one only wants to hear that next story. We hope that Lian Hearn will oblige.

With ever less space available for book reviews in the traditional media, it’s terrific to see online publications, blogs and forums stepping up with thorough and thoughtful reviews. It’s also gratifying to note that this review is of the electronic edition of the book.

Winery of the week

wither-hills-sav-blanc Ligature’s winery of the week is Wither Hills from the Marlborough region of the South Island of New Zealand. It was established in 1994, but began moving to this typeface for some of its 2008 vintages and now applies it across the board. It’s some kind of Baskerville Italic, which isn’t narrowing it down much; there have been dozens of versions of Baskerville since John Baskerville’s 1757 original, and there are now more than 30 digital fonts that call themselves Baskerville and many more that are, essentially, Baskervilles.

One of the most important of the latter is Zuzana Licko’s Mrs Eaves, named after John Baskerville’s housekeeper and later wife, Sarah Eaves. Mrs Eaves is famous for its ligatures and is one of the fonts we use for our covers (see for example Lian Hearn’s The Storyteller and his Three Daughters). The it ligature is rather rare, though Mrs Eaves has it and so does the serif version of the font we use for the other Ligature covers and for the website: Jos Buivenga’s Calluna.


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