Wednesday, April 21, 2010

...that other book

In the last day or two, a new book on sustainability issues and knitting has been released. It is published by a well known company that I've written articles for quite a bit, and even a design or two. The book is written with an anthology approach, with essays by well-known people in the knitting world and top-notch designer contributions.

All of this is ok--because one of my goals in writing a book about conservation, sustainability, and "greener" choices for knitters was to help more people think about their choices. In fact, when I heard about this book--maybe a year ago--I tried to be positive about it. I figured that our books wouldn't be the same...and as best I can tell (I haven't read that other book cover to cover yet) they aren't. My book has more information in it rather than personal essays. My book has a variety of designs from easy to intermediate, and likely has some projects in it that are better for the beginner knitter. So, while famous people contributed to that other book, their contents weren't the same. Things like that made the books look different, as best I could tell.

Except for the titles. You see, book titles don't have to be copyrighted, and they are essentially chosen by committee. For my books, I created a long list of titles I could live with, and in each case, the publisher chose one of those titles with a group consensus. I assume the publisher researched those titles, and I googled every single one of them to be sure I wasn't stepping on anyone's toes. That's fine...I assumed that was just good manners.

A lot of friends have recently discovered this other book because of all the publicity around its release. They immediately email me or call me to complain. Couldn't this other book have chosen a different title? Couldn't they have been a bit more careful? ...and yes, I have wondered these things myself, although I've known about this book for a while.

In fact, back in the "olden days" of publishing, there likely would have been lawyers involved, and a last minute name change, and all sorts of efforts to avoid this situation. However, in today's whirlwind publishing world, with issues of free download piracy and ever more books being released ever faster, maybe that isn't possible. To be clear about confusion, it is the kind of situation where two books are published within 8 months of one another. The only difference in their titles is an "ing." Luckily, the subtitles are different too.

I won't lie. My own personal green monster--the jealous, angry, frustrated one--has come visiting. I feel pretty annoyed, because my book came out first and yet I cannot do a thing to defend its title. I suppose this is only natural, and I'm trying hard to keep my chartreuse buddy under wraps and get her to go back into her lair.

However, I also see two positive end results. First is an unintended one. That other book? The new book? Its title is close enough to mine...Knit Green: 20 Projects and Ideas for Sustainability that it's briefly driving up sales of my book. That is, people look up those words "Knitting" and "Green" online and they find my book, too. Hopefully, they find something of value in it, and they purchase it. So, in that sense, I have to be grateful for the inadvertent free publicity...which I'm sure that other publishing company hadn't planned on. Thank you.

Second though, and most important, is the bigger issue. If more people write appealing books about environmental issues, more readers might buy them. If you own a book about sustainability, you just might read it. Then, you might think about the issues, and do a thing or two about conserving our planet's resources. Although personally I'd love to sell more books (or ebooks) and maybe even make a living, on a bigger level, it's more about learning about the earth. It's about making a difference in the world and keeping our knitting -and our lives- eco-friendly. That's important stuff... Stuff I also care about.

In honor of Earth Day, I've been invited to give a talk tomorrow, April 22nd, in Winnipeg. I'll be speaking at the Millennium Library downtown at 7 pm. The Manitoba Craft Museum and Library is hosting this gig, and artists and crafters will be selling art made from recycled materials before the lecture. The Museum will be selling my books, too, and appreciates any donations you can make to support their mission. After the lecture, I'll hang around to answer questions, sign books, and visit. There will be a trunk show, with samples from the book on display for everyone to touch and see.

If you're local, I hope you can come! I look forward to seeing you there! If not...please feel free to join me in the comments below.

If you're one of those people who contacted me about that other book and its title, I really appreciate your concern and commiseration. I have felt a bit rough round the edges. Still, I think if we can all visit with our personal monsters occasionally--letting them out from under the bed or opening up those closets...we find in the light of day that this is not the scariest thing, or at least not as scary as we'd thought it to be.

Losing glaciers, polar bears, low lying islands? Extinctions or natural disasters? Maybe more of an issue in the long run.

Please join me--wherever you are-- in celebrating and honoring Earth Day 2010.

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Blogger Geek Knitter said...

Oh Joanne, what a strange thing! I can understand why you'd feel a bit rough around the edges, I'd probably feel much the same.

April 21, 2010 at 12:20 PM  
Blogger Wollgut said...

I thought of you when I saw *the other book* and wondered why its publisher didn't do some research before choosing the title... Hopefully you're right and the new release is helping to sell your book!

I'm organzing a bike-to-work ride on Friday. Happy Earth Day!

April 21, 2010 at 12:38 PM  
Blogger evergreenknits said...

Bravo to you for writing about this with such honesty and mindfulness.

I haven't read the other book yet, but I think your book is perfect. Absolutely perfect. I'm glad to hear that other people are discovering it, too.

April 21, 2010 at 1:35 PM  
Blogger foodperson said...

I know I've been out of touch, but I can't figure out whether I forgot about your second book or whether I missed its release altogether. In any case, belated congratulations, and if the other book helps sell yours, all the better.

April 21, 2010 at 2:18 PM  
Blogger Alison said...

Having been plagiarized, I know how awful it feels; my greatest sympathies. And yes, Interweave of all companies should have been more careful.

--AlisonH at

April 21, 2010 at 4:46 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

Unfortunately that company and that particular editor are well known for just what they've done to your book title and more.

April 21, 2010 at 6:47 PM  
Blogger Cathy said...

I saw on the title on the daily blog "Knit Green" & was so happy they were highlighting your book. But then I just got confused...those aren't your projects. I wanted to scream at them: "HEY! Joanne had this first!"

This stinks. We're commiserating with you.

Went to see a documentary on Rachel Carson last night: A Sense of Wonder. Kaiulana Lee did a very good job portraying her & would recommend it.

April 21, 2010 at 7:17 PM  
Blogger Willow said...

Hi Joanne, I wondered about that title and thought something was weird when I read K. Daily this week. I can promise you that if I purchase a 'green knitting' book, it will be yours and not the other one. If the title confusion helps you, good. Hurray for you for weathering this little storm with grace.

April 21, 2010 at 10:05 PM  
Blogger AdrieneJ said...

I was thinking of you when I saw the book title flash across my screen at work. I knew it wasn't your book, and I'm glad so many people are getting behind you regarding the obvious plagiarism of your title and ideas. I now intend to tell everyone I know about your book, and hope that your creativity is rewarded as it should be.

April 22, 2010 at 2:52 PM  
Blogger Bonnie said...

I found out about this a few weeks ago, and have been a mixture of furious since. The title is one thing but I feel like the style of the book is too much.

April 26, 2010 at 7:28 PM  
Blogger annmarie said...

When you were ahead of the crowd with your own book, I thought it probably was only a matter of time before there would be more 'green' knitting books coming out. You can feel proud that yours was first.

May 3, 2010 at 8:54 PM  

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