Actually, You Can Mess With Texas
At least according to U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks, who ruled against the Texas Department of Transportation’s request for restraining the sale of a book it says infringes on its trademarked slogan “Don’t Mess With Texas.”
The Houston Business Journal reports that Federal Judge Sparks cited First Amendment rights in his ruling and concluded that TxDOT’s trademark registration does not apply to books. He also considered the amount of revenue the defendants (Hachette Book Group, Barnes & Noble, and author Christie Craig) would lose if prevented from selling the book.
According to the Houston Press blog Hair Balls, TxDOT initiated the suit because the novel “contains numerous graphic references to sexual acts, states of sexual arousal, etc.” The agency was also worried that selling the book at Barnes & Noble would call “irreparable harm” since the store also sells many TxDOT materials.
Running through my head right now are all kinds of scenarios of people confusing a romance novel with a department of transportation book. It would make defensive driving courses much more interesting. Being bad a spotting cop cars while I speed, I’ve had to take that twice. One of those times was in Texas and the curriculum was uninspiring. Judging from Ms. Craig’s cover, I’d much rather have read her book during the eight hour class.
I’m psyched over how much free publicity this book is getting because a state department of transportation decided morality falls under its jurisdiction. And I’m happy authors can still exercise freedom of speech, even if it involves a governmental slogan.
Maybe you can’t literally mess with that big state down south, but you can do so literarily.
This is the future of... something.
As was widely expected, Barnes & Noble introduced a new version of their nook ereader today. This is a big, big thing, and is either the first in a long line of successful products from B&N, or a last useless stab at a market they’ve been doomed in from the start.
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When I browse independent bookstores, I love exploring the books more prominently displayed than others. Especially the ones on the shelves—as opposed to the “New” or “Clearance” tables—because they are usually staff favorites and include a personal recommendation of the book. When I visit chain stores, I purposely don’t pay attention to books at the entrance of the store or that have anything but their spine turned toward me on the shelves. Call me paranoid, but I figure special displays are part of the mega stores’ evil plan to get me to buy books they want to push of the shelves or allow them larger profit margin. I may have to change this attitude now that I’ve discovered B&N’s Discover Great New Writers program. (It’s been around for twenty years, I’m a little slow on discoveries.)
Through this program, publishers recommend writers making a strong literary debut who have fewer than three previously published books, have not received a major literary award, or whose net sales have not yet reached 10, 000 copies. Literary fiction, short story collections, and non-fiction with strong narrative qualify for submission. B&N in-house volunteers read the books and choose 12-22 the titles each season who receive face out displays in the “Discover bay” in each of B&N’s stores for 12 weeks, including an individual “shelf-talker” with a “teaser line.” They also receive major marketing support for things like book group discussions and through the B&N website. Previous year’s selected titles include The Lovely Bones, The Kite Runner, and The Time Traveler’s Wife.
But wait, there’s more! Each year, a panel of previously “discovered” writers picks the winners for the Discover Awards. The 2009 awards were just announced and the first place fiction and nonfiction cash prices of $10 000 went to Victor Lodato’s “haunting debut” novel Mathilda Savitch and Dave Cullen’s “meticulously researched” Colombine. A short-story collection and a cartographic history received the $5000 second place prices, while another novel and a memoir collected $2500 each for third place.
What do you think? Does this promotion of literary writing dilute some of the hatred we so love to feel for non-independent stores?