July 15, 2013 Last Updated 3:41 pm

The Nation releases its second eBookNation selection: ‘Molly Ivins: Letters to The Nation’

I must admit that I really miss Molly Ivins, the Texas journalist known for her sharp, biting pen, and her strong stances against political corruption, the war in Iraq, and the domination of Texas by the Republicans. Ivins was a name caller, a provocateur, and all together funny and spot on. Wikipedia, for instance, wisely includes this quote from Ivins about Bill Clinton: “If left to my own devices, I’d spend all my time pointing out that he’s weaker than bus-station chili. But the man is so constantly subjected to such hideous and unfair abuse that I wind up standing up for him on the general principle that some fairness should be applied. Besides, no one but a fool or a Republican ever took him for a liberal.”

MI-eBook-cover-smSadly, breast cancer took Molly Ivins away from us too young, at only 62.

Ivins was born in Monterey, California, but that was an accident of birth. Ivins was a Texan through and through – except for that Republican part. She attended Smith and Columbia, and began her career at the Minneapolis Tribune, and eventually made her way back to Texas to write for the Texas Observer and then McClatchy’s Fort Worth Star-Telegraph. In between she worked at The New York Times where her style and abrasiveness was sorely needed, but not really appreciated, I fear. It was the opportunity to write her own columns that drew her away from the Grey Lady and back to Texas where for ten years she wrote for the Dallas Times-Herald.

With the freedom to write columns rather than news stories, Ivins could freelance and let it all hang out. Not surprisingly, her words started to appear in the pages of The Nation. Starting in 1982 with a letter to the editor, Ivins started writing in the political weekly.

“Nothing like a Republican convention to drive you screaming back into the arms of the Democrats. Especially this convention. The elders of the press corps kept muttering they hadn’t seen anything like it since the Goldwater convention in ’64. True, the Republicans spent much of their time peddling fear and loathing, but it was more silly than scary, like watching people dressed in bad Halloween werewolf costumes. During the buildup to the convention, the most cockeyed optimists among the Democrats were in hopes the Republicans would tear themselves apart over abortion. No need. The party was dead meat on arrival.”
– Notes from Another Country (1992)

Along the way Ivins tore into the Bushs, the Texas legislature, and just about anything she felt was phony, undemocratic and corrupt.

Now Molly Ivins’ words for The Nation can live on thanks to the recently launched eBookNation series. Molly Ivins: Letters to The Nation is the second eBook released by the political weekly, and it certainly won’t be the last.

Priced at $9.99, the eBook is available directly from the publisher on its website where they maintain a new bookstore. (The first of their eBook releases Gore Vidal’s State of the Union, also priced at $9.99.)

“What we have,” Art Stupar VP, Circulation at The Nation, told me last week, “is this unbelievable stable of historic writers that have written for us. It’s hard to miss when you have people like H.L. Mencken, or Martin Luther King Jr. or James Baldwin writing for you.”

To take advantage of this content the publisher has created an eBook series that wisely attempts to reach as large an audience as possible by making sure readers can access the material no matter what digital reading device they own, or in whatever environment they wish to read.

Both new eBooks can bought in PDF or ePub form from The Nation’s website, but they are also loading into Apple’s iBookstore, Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, and through Kobo.

“I would say this is an outgrowth of our success with digital editions of the magazine,” Stupar said.

“We started back… about three or four years ago. We started first with the Kindle, then the Barnes & Noble Nook, then Sony and the various devices, Apple and so forth.”

“We have our own direct to publisher digital edition and that’s pretty popular. Then when we reached out to all the other devices we hit it pretty big with the Kindle – Nook, as well – now with Apple on the iPad., iPhone, and other devices through Zinio. The success of selling out content digitally was really step one.”

Step two was clearly creating an online bookstore and stocking it with wonderful material, which for a magazine that was launched in the summer of 1865 shouldn’t be too hard.

Like the Boston Globe which has also launched its own eBook series, The Nation will be able to access its own archives for material for new publications. The next book to be released involves Kurt Vonnegut, for instance. But the magazine can also take specific topics or historical events and create interesting new eBooks.

As Bush Brothers go, Shrub—George the Younger—is not bad. He’s less mean and less right wing than his brother Jeb and smarter than his brother Neil. Of course he’s a know-nothing little pipsqueak compared with Ann Richards, but then, Richards is pretty special.
– Shrubwacked (1994)

“We’re not simply going to reprint material developed by some of our great writers but there will also be two other things we’re going to do: topics over time covered or specific historical events,” Stupar said. “We have 15 or 16 of what we call Theme Packs, our own PDFs we can turn into eBooks. Things like the Brown v. Board of Education decision. We had unbelievable coverage of that… the Scopes trial, the Scottsboro case, and so forth.”

The Nation, being a text oriented magazine, means that the words are paramount. So Molly Ivins: Letters to The Nation comes as a PDF or ePub. But The Nation is moving more and more into native platforms. Its iPad edition, The Nation Magazine, for instance, is built using the Mag+ platform – though its older app from PixelMags is still in the App Store, as well, and has been renamed to The Nation Magazine – PixelMags Replica to differentiate it from the newer app. Eventually this native tablet edition will makes its way to the Android platform.

The new eBook, like the Gore Vidal book before it, was edited by Richard Lingeman, who writes the introduction.

If there can be a criticism of the latest eBook release, it would be that it is fairly short at 70 pages (the Vidal eBook is three times as long). One wants more, but knowing that there will be no more columns from Molly Ivins is still too painful a thought to contemplate for many admirers.

On the other side of the political spectrum, even Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who Ivins called “Governor Goodhair” wrote at the time of her death – possibly with his teeth clenched:
Molly Ivins’ clever and colorful perspectives on people and politics gained her national acclaim and admiration that crossed party lines.

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