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 Digital Nero Wolfe? 
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[Below is an edited copy of a private email message I sent earlier today.]


whoever you are, who's not afraid to put his/her life and liberty at stake! ;-)

The website is complete and running.

I've noticed that. It does show your highly developed ability to digitize classic literature. ;-)

There are a few details that might need fixing. For example, in Fer-de-Lance, I notice that the apostrophe sign (') is displayed correctly towards the beginning of the text, while it is shown as an empty box towards the end.

Also, perhaps a thoroughly unified formatting (identical font and size, etc.) for all texts might be something Nero Wolfe himself would favourably look upon? ;-) (Hercule Poirot even more, considering his penchant for perfect regularity.) ;-)

Anyway, hope you're not offended by my pointing out technical details. They're simply meant as suggestions for improving the quality of digitized literature in general.

As far as I know both Rex Stout and the first-degree relatives are no longer alive

In this, you're mistaken... As far as I know, both of Rex Stout's daughters are still alive. In fact, the attorney of Mr. Stout's Estate explicitly wrote me that Mr. Stout's daughter was angered by my online intentions on behalf of Rex Stout. :-( (Those intentions were not realized, of course, following the Estate's protest.) And it would be too bad to make her angry, as she seems to be a nice person, willing to meet Wolfe Pack members during their gatherings, etc.

Anyway, you've managed to create the English equivalent of the Russian full collection of Rex Stout stories. These texts have been available online for many years, without anyone objecting to them, apparently. Perhaps if Mr. Stout's Estate knew of the existence of the Russian site, they would take action against it as well. (Although is, in fact, Russia's largest and most reputable online digital library. Russians simply don't put as much emphasis on digital copyrights as Americans do.)

As to your site, expect that as soon as your provider notices what it is you're putting online, your site will be deleted without warning. There's no question about that... Nowadays, the preferred mode of distributing texts is P2P, for example BitTorrent. In fact, there's a BitTorrent collection (albeit incomplete) of Rex Stout digital texts floating around. Is that your doing? If not, it looks like 2 people needlessly took the pain and wasted their time in digitizing the same books... How much better would it be if the Rex Stout Estate simply decided to make the digitization of all of Rex Stout's writings official, and decided to put a modest charge on every digital volume?

You know, I'd like to read everything Rex Stout has ever written; the Nero Wolfe volumes represent only some of his output. Being located in Central Europe, it's practically a hopeless situation for me trying to read Rex Stout's non-Wolfe writings... I have an English and American literature master's degree and would love to perform standard scholarly research of all of Rex Stout's writings, as I believe these do not get enough credit from main-stream literary criticism...

But, Mr. Stout's non-Wolfe writings are next to impossible to get hold of for someone located in Central Europe. And by “get hold of” I mean simply accessing (for example, borrowing) the writings. For research purposes, I don't need to possess any of the writings in physical form – I'm a literary scholar, not a book collector.

In such a dire situation, it would be ideal if the Rex Stout Estate decided: “OK, we're now going to make Rex Stout's writings widely available for anyone wishing to perform research on them, or simply wishing to have fun reading them – by digitizing them all, and putting a modest charge on every digital Rex Stout volume.”

That would be an approach befitting the 21st century. In a way, it's the same dilemma as that facing Hollywood right now, with the writers' strike. This is the digital age, and just as Hollywood can no longer afford to ignore the digital distribution (both legal and illegal) of its output, neither should writers and their estates ignore the opportunities brought by the digital age. Yes, digitization should be perceived as an opportunity, not as a danger.

I for one, if given the opportunity to purchase the Complete Digital Works of Rex Stout (including all of Mr. Stout's written output, not only Nero Wolfe, and not only fictional) for, say, $100, or $50 (or whatever Rex Stout's Estate would think would be a reasonable price) – I'd certainly give the purchase a serious thought. (In fact, I'm pretty certain I'd purchase such a complete Rex Stout digital collection.)

See, the problem with online piracy is that pirates are terribly unfair in what content they choose to pirate. They mostly only choose to pirate the popular content. If something is more obscure – like, say, Rex Stout's “serious” novels (How Like a God, etc.) – pirates won't bother to copy that content, making it unobtainable via P2P.

Therefore, piracy is no solution! They say that Rex Stout's “serious” novel How Like a God is an excellent literary achievement... It received positive reviews, among others from New York Times, I believe... Who knows – maybe Rex Stout's How Like a God is in fact his greatest literary achievement of all time, surpassing all of his Nero Wolfe stories? How are we ever supposed to find out, if the novel is completely unavailable, maybe not for those living in America, but certainly for those located in non-English-speaking Central Europe and other locations around the globe? A legal, digital edition of How Like a God, purchasable for a modest price, as well as digital editions of all the other Wolfe and non-Wolfe Rex Stout writings, would solve these uncomfortable concerns once and for all, in a legal and fair manner.

I am, right now, at the point where I'll be launching a re-read of the entire Nero Wolfe Corpus. For the first time, I'll be re-reading the Corpus chronologically – it's supposed to increase the reader's delight, so I'm really looking forward to this!

But, that won't be the only novelty for me this time around: I've decided to read the entire Corpus digitally this time around. Yes, by now I have managed to obtain all Nero Wolfe volumes in print – but, I'll make sure to read only the Corpus's digital version this time around.

And, I'm willing to donate all of my Nero Wolfe print volumes to someone else who'd like to possess them. I really am a literary scholar and not a book collector; should I only possess a digital version of the Nero Wolfe Corpus, that would be perfectly fine for me. I'm a lot more troubled by the unavailability – on paper or otherwise – of How Like a God and all the other Rex Stout's non-Wolfe writings.

Anyway, I received many of the Wolfe books I currently possess on paper as donations from Nero Wolfe fans from around the world, after they heard of my many years of struggle to find those books. It took over 15 years for me until I managed to locate all Nero Wolfe stories... It will probably take a lifetime (or longer than that!) for someone to locate all of Rex Stout's non-Wolfe writings, unless he/she is aided by digitization, as is appropriate for the 21st century. Thanks to digitization, all of Rex Stout's writings might become legally obtainable at the press of a button. Whether that press should be worth $100 or $50 or any other price would be a question to be decided by the Estate.

So, just as I received many of my paper Wolfe volumes as donations, I'm now willing to donate all the paper Wolfe volumes I possess to anyone else interested. That would only be fair. Anyway, by now I've grown perfectly fond of reading books on my cell-phone. Yea! Here's what reading a novel looks like on my cell-phone (click the picture below to view it in full size):


This has by now become my favourite mode of reading novels. 8-) I use the superb Mobipocket Reader software (developed by, available both for the cell-phone and the regular PC. So, when reading a book, you may switch between the PC and the cell-phone version of the same novel, with the content being seamlessly synchronized by Mobipocket Reader. For example, all the highlighted passages and notes you make while reading a book on your cell-phone, are subsequently also available on your regular desktop PC or notebook – and vice versa!

One of the features offered by Mobipocket Reader is correction of typos. So, when I'll be re-reading the Nero Wolfe Corpus the next time around, in digital versions exclusively, I'll make sure to correct each and every typo I'll notice along the way. I can't guarantee I'll notice and correct every typo, but that will be my goal. I'll be performing this work free of charge – in the hope and faith that it may one day become useful, for example after it is decided by the Estate to make all of Mr. Stout's writings available for digital purchase. Such corrections of typos may become extremely useful if that decision is reached.

By the way, a handful of Nero Wolfe volumes already are available in a legal digital format. It's a small beginning, but definitely commendable. (On the other hand, the four volumes are definitely overpriced.)

I've noticed you keep your person strictly anonymous. Considering what you're doing, that's not surprising. In contrast, I'm perfectly open about who I am, and all my activities related to Rex Stout are fully disclosed, as I want to make sure they are 100% legal. So, I can't afford to be as adventurous as you are. ;-) By the way, pay good attention to who you are corresponding with via email. Back in 2002, I was approached by online agents who sent me emails masquerading as fellow Nero Wolfe fans. Later I was faced with “evidence” provided by those “Nero Wolfe fans” (to whom I had replied in good faith), in the unpleasant letters sent to me (more details here).

PS: I'm posting an edited version of this message in my Rex Stout discussion forum. Feel free to post your feedback right here (the forum allows contributors to remain perfectly anonymous). I'm also sending an edited version of this message to the Nero Wolfe mailing list at YahooGroups, in the hope the message may contribute to considering the legal and official digitization of Rex Stout's works in the future, and not only the most popular volumes featuring Nero Wolfe.
AdonisGuilfoyle wrote:
so here it is, to add to the list:
Thanks for the Dance

Thanks a lot :!: After much delay, I've just indeed added your latest piece to the two lists: one for Nero Wolfe pastiche & fan fiction, and the other for recommended short stories. 8)

So, although I haven't managed to read any of these tidbits yet, I've by no means forgotten about them; the very lists guarantee they will eventually get read and mercilessly rated by me! :twisted: I mean, I've only recently rated short stories by the likes of Charles Dickens and Joseph Conrad with a C+, so what rating can Adonis Guilfoyle aspire for? :wink:

AdonisGuilfoyle wrote:
I'm an old romantic, and believe that they [Archie & Lily] were in love in their own way! :wink:

Well, it all depends on how you define “love”. Some time ago, I read how a famous writer ranted about these two words: God and love – that they've become practically meaningless; anyone may define them in any way they like (and they do, in fact), and the rest of us may only shrug and move on. :? So, when it's frequently claimed that God is love, that is definitely true: both terms have become so hazy and indeterminate that they're practically synonymous. :wink: I don't think the complaint about God and love was made by Rex Stout, but I'm pretty sure he (and/or Wolfe) would agree that words such as God and love have, in many contexts, through extreme overuse, become next to meaningless. :roll:

So, were Archie and Lily in “love” :?: The best answer may be: we don't know, and we really don't care! :P

PS: Earlier today, I've finally managed to add yet another, fundamental improvement to this site, the quotations section thereof:

Sun, 27 Jan 2008, 16:54
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[From another post sent to the Nero Wolfe mailing list at YahooGroups earlier today...]

As to the Mobipocket site and the 4 digital Nero Wolfe volumes priced $9 each – you don't need an account there to download free samples from the books. I donwnloaded the free Some Buried Caesar sample, and the text does appear to be carefully formatted and proofread; plus, the digital edition apparently contains an in-depth afterword by a Rex Stout expert. Still, that does not seem enough to warrant a $9 price, compared to the recent $5 or $6 paperbacks.

I for one think that Amazon's new MP3 store will shake things up quite a bit in the digital world. I've never been a fan of Apple (none of iMac/iPod/iTunes/iPhone), and their DMR-ridden, proprietary software- and hardware-bound music store suddenly becomes obsolete and slightly ridiculous compared to Amazon's MP3 store. That's the genuine article, if you ask me. (OK, I'm no musical purist and realize MP3 is no loss-free format, but I don't mind.)

As to Amazon's Kindle e-book reader, I'd predict it won't be a hit. Too ugly and bulky for my taste, and there's no backlight to the device.

But, when you visit Amazon's Kindle bookstore... what's that? The same four digital Nero Wolfe volumes, with the price slashed down to $6.50! That's understandable, considering that Amazon sells the most recent bestsellers at no more than $9.99 per Kindle volume. Still, $6.50 per digital Wolfe seems excessive to me, as it is comparable to the price of a paperback, new or second-hand. Digital prices should be considerably lower than the prices for hard-copy books, I'd say – just as Amazon's MP3 store now offers albums at considerably lower prices than the corresponding CDs.

Also, it's a lot cheaper to produce CDs than books, so there seems to be even less justification to refuse substantial discounts for digital literature, if such discounts can be offered for digital music. Publishers appear to be saving a lot more money by not having to print books on paper than they save by not having to burn CDs – or am I missing something? ;-)

All in all, Amazon may have started a price revolution just now. Let's see where all of this will take us, including Wolfe and Archie. For me, the current main troublesome aspect continues to be that most of Rex Stout's non-Wolfe writings (especially non-mystery ones) continue to be totally unavailable. There are no hard copies and no legal digital copies (and as the content is not wildly popular, don't count on finding any illegal digital copies either!) for people living outside of America / in non-English-speaking countries. This is where a comprehensive edition of Complete Digital Works of Rex Stout would make perfect sense, as stated in my previous post.

Tue, 29 Jan 2008, 3:17
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[Yet another post sent to the Nero Wolfe mailing list at YahooGroups...]

The e-books offered for sale at the Mobipocket site are generally overpriced, to the point where you must assume some e-books will only be purchased by an unitiated reading public... Take the mystery category. These are very high prices, practically equivalent to the prices of paperbacks. That business model is unlikely to thrive...

Particularly interesting are cases like The Complete Father Brown. You're supposed to pay $8 (advertized as a discount from $15) for something you can get for free from Project Gutenberg. The paid e-book is probably (?) better formatted and proofread, but $8 seems rather steep nevertheless, compared to the alternative and fully legal price of $0.

It gets increasingly ironic if you consider that the Mobipocket Reader software is truly outstanding in allowing you to display any text format (such as TXT, HTML, PDF, RTF, DOC, PDB, and even CHM) in a uniform fashion.

So, should you decide to read your Father Brown using Mobipocket Reader, there would be virtually no difference between reading the $8 and the $0 version, maybe apart from the occasional typo or two! The text would always look like this (clicking the picture below will enlarge it):


Or whatever your own preferred format is; I prefer white on black, justified, full-screen, Tahoma font, both in the cell-phone and the PC version of Mobipocket Reader. You may choose completely different preferences for reading e-books using Mobipocket Reader, though, overriding the original e-book publisher's format if you wish – and I do wish to override it. ;-) It's just great to know that whatever the content of an e-book is, Mobipocket Reader will always display it for me in my preferred design, as photographed above.

What I'd be interested to learn is if there would be any interest on the part of Rex Stout's Estate and a digital book publisher to release the Complete Digital Works of Rex Stout, uniting all of Rex Stout's voluminous writings, both Wolfean and non-Wolfean, mystery and non-mystery, fiction and non-fiction. Even if such a comprehensive electronic collection were overpriced ($100? $50? $200?), I'd definitely give the purchase a thought, because it would probably be the only opportunity to access some of Rex Stout's less widely distributed texts. Among the members of this mailing list is James A. Rock, the publisher of John McAleer's Rex Stout biography. I wonder if a traditional publisher like him would also take on an electronic project like the Complete Digital Works of Rex Stout (assuming the Estate would approve the project), or whether e-books are generally perceived as a threat and would more likely be ignored by traditional publishers.

Tue, 29 Jan 2008, 8:37
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as you know, Wolfe and Archie used to call Cramer The Man About the Chair when they wanted to escape others’ notice; I think I’ll be calling you The Person With the Scanner, as I can’t even be sure of your gender! :o

On Tuesday, 29th January 2008 at 20:21:02 (GMT -0500 EST), you wrote:

Yes, I was aware of the torrent, it contains most of the files (unproofed) available on eMule, in Sony reader format, which consists of unformatted text. As a reader of his books - in printed book format - you should be aware that RS used italics, not only for the name of newspapers or the text of some messages, but also in order to emphasise the meaning or intonation of words within dialogue. Any removal of this formatting is, one may say, a deliberate distorsion, a betrayal of his work.

In this, you’re absolutely right. I hate it when formatting, indicating the writer’s emphasis, is removed in a digital version of a text. Such a text can no longer be considered a proper version of the work in question and should be corrected, or discarded entirely.

On the other hand, it’s very well possible to preserve emphasis in plain-text files, too! We see that in plain-text email discussions; emphasis can be achieved like *this* or like _this_. A cruder, but still acceptable way of converting italics to plain text is THIS, yet I never employ it, as *this* and _this_ may later on be converted to formatted text automatically, while THIS cannot – at least not as easily and not unambiguously. (Because there may very well be some legitimate passages in the original text that the writer composed in ALL CAPS.)

You may notice that the files uploaded do use an unified format (font, size, etc). If I missed that on any of them, please let me know and I'll fix it.

Nope, they don’t. For an example, click on this screenshot:


However, as far as webpages go, I’d consider it a faulty practice trying to set a specific font and font size for one’s readers. The best practice for webpages seems to be to specify no more than the variety of font to be used, if that at all; for example, one might want to specify a serif font (such as Georgia, without naming Georgia) rather than a non-serif font (such as Arial, without naming Arial). However, many web designers prefer not trying to specify even the serif and non-serif font variety...

In contrast, your files demanded specific fonts (in the above instance, Book Antiqua and Georgia, respectively). Of course, there may be many readers whose computers lack these specific fonts, so how the texts would look on their computers would be uncertain. And, there may be a lot more readers who may have the fonts installed, but who simply don’t enjoy reading texts in these particular fonts. I for one believe Georgia is the ideal font for reading texts on a PC, as this is a font specifically developed for the PC environment – but other readers may have other preferences. That’s why Web usability experts advise webpage authors not to require specific fonts to be used for the display of texts.

Faterson wrote:
There are a few details that might need fixing. For example, in Fer-de-Lance, I notice that the apostrophe sign (') is displayed correctly towards the beginning of the text, while it is shown as an empty box towards the end.

I re-checked 'Fer-de-lance'; I didn't find that occurence you mentioned.

It’s definitely there... For example, in the paragraph towards the end:

Rex Stout wrote:
No, you. Dont quibble. You killed him."

... only the final quotation mark is correctly displayed, while the introductory quotation mark and the apostrophe in Don’t are displayed as empty boxes (when viewed in Opera 9.25). This is not Opera’s fault. Rather, your file is inconsistent in using both curly (, and ) and straight/non-curly (" and ') quotation marks and apostrophes. However, these are totally different characters in the computer environment, even though both the curly and the non-curly quotation marks/apostrophes serve the same ultimate purpose. See an overview of this and related HTML formatting.

Whenever your file uses curly (= formatted) quotation marks or apostrophes instead of non-curly (= unformatted) quotation marks or apostrophes, these are displayed as empty boxes in my browser. Again, it’s not the browser’s fault, but it’s because your files lack the specification of an encoding in the pages’ headers.

If you want the curly (= formatted) quotation marks and apostrophes to be displayed correctly for all viewers of your webpages, you must manually insert the following line in the header of every HTML page:

<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=iso-8859-1">

An even better, absolutely universal and fool-proof solution would be inserting the following line in the header of every HTML page:

<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8">

Both encondings – the Western, older ISO-8859-1 encoding, and the new, universal, world-wide UTF-8 encoding – are capable of handling curly quotation marks and apostrophes. However, only UTF-8 would be capable of also handling Slavic diacritic letters properly; and, if I’m not mistaken, there might well be a few Slavic names or phrases included in the Corpus. In fact, I’m certain that Marko Vukcic’s name, when written properly in Montenegrin/Serbian, contains diacritic signs over at least one of the C letters, and that these diacritic C letters would fail to get displayed correctly in anything other than UTF-8. On the other hand, due to Fritz and the many culinary terms in the Corpus, the proper display of all French diacritic letters is an absolute necessity, and this can only be achieved by specifying ISO-8859-1 or UTF-8 in the headers of all webpages. Taking into account both Fritz and Marko, the proper solution would definitely be the universal encoding, UTF-8.

However, for UTF-8 it’s not enough simply to insert the line:

<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8">

in the header of every page, but also the entire page (file) must be converted into UTF-8. This is a trite affair and can be accomplished simply by opening the file in a reliable plain-text (!) editor, such as EditPlus or PSPad, and re-saving it in UTF-8. So, it might take something like a minute or two to convert the entire Corpus into UTF-8; however, such procedure would definitely be recommended for anyone who is serious about digitizing any literature in the 21st century. All other encondings other than UTF-8 are simply no longer viewed as ideal in this day and age. :-)

Plus, if you’re so strict about preserving all passages emphasized by original writers, another fine similar distinction is that of ensuring that hyphens (-) are not used instead of dashes ( or ). And, in your files, they are; Wolfe, as a pedant par excellence, would definitely frown upon that. ;-) The difference between a hyphen (-) and a dash ( or ) is that dashes are at least twice as long as hyphens. For the respective HTML codes, please again refer to the table mentioned earlier.

Now, if you want to make sure that dashes are displayed correctly on webpages, you first need to check, throughout the files, that dashes, rather than hyphens, are used everywhere where they are appropriate. And this is a chore that can take many hours if you have lots of text to process, as the chore cannot be reliably automated following the scanning of a book. On the other hand, ensuring the proper and unified display of dashes is a must for anyone who’d like to engage in professional-grade digitization. To make the matters worse, beside the ordinary hyphen (-) there are at least two common kinds of dashes: n-dash () and m-dash (), the former usually surrounded by spaces and the latter not; the former preferred by British publishers and the latter by American ones. Again, dashes may be emulated even in plain-text files, as you can see me doing in this email message. My dashes in plain-text emails look like this: -- as opposed to simple hyphens: -.

Now, in order for the dashes also to get displayed on a webpage, you either need to use the code description for a dash: &# 8211; (removing the space prior to the number) or you again need to specify either the ISO-8859-1 or the UTF-8 enconding in the header of every webpage. Since files that include code equivalents of characters instead of characters themselves look ugly when you examine their raw source, making future potential edits of such files less transparent, it would definitely be advisable to insert the UTF-8 or ISO-8859-1 specification into the header of every page. As can be seen, the specific enconding reference would serve at least a double purpose: it would take care both of the proper display of quotation marks and apostrophes and the proper display of dashes. And, from among the two encodings, once again the UTF-8 option would be preferable, as it comprehensively deals with all such formatting worries once and for all.

Unless the UTF-8 or ISO-8859-1 specification is inserted in the header of every webpage, any real dashes (as opposed to hyphens!) within the texts are likely to be displayed as empty boxes for many viewers of the webpages – a re-occurrence and variation of the quotation marks and apostrophes issue examined above.

Anyway... as promised, when I’ll be launching a chronological re-read of the Corpus soon, I’ll be reading it in electronic versions only, despite already having all paper volumes at my disposal, and I’ll be correcting each and every typo or typographical inaccuracy/inconsistency as I go along. I can’t promise I’ll notice and correct each and every error; but that will be my goal.

The only images I included in the books were those of the pencil arrangements in 'The Zero Clue', where they are essential to the story.

It’s probably true that drawings do not play an important part in any Rex Stout story. I for one can’t think of any other story apart from ›The Zero Clue‹ where pictures would be essential... In fact, maybe you could even enjoy ›The Zero Clue‹ without the drawings... See, we don’t primarily read Nero Wolfe for the mystery angle, do we? ;-)

Compare that to the famous Sherlock Holmes story ›The Adventure of the Dancing Men‹. Any digital version of this story that would fail to incorporate the (many!) pictures within the story would be woefully inadequate! I suppose the same is true for many Ellery Queen or Agatha Christie stories that hinge on the exact time and location of the murders (the Orient Express comes to mind!). :-)

Faterson wrote:
See, the problem with online piracy is that pirates are terribly unfair in what content they choose to pirate. They mostly only choose to pirate the popular content.

The above statement reminded me of a Radio Erevan joke:

Question: Is it true that academician Kozlov was being given a car as a gift?
Answer: It's true, with some corrections: It's not academician Kozlov but academician Alexandrov, it wasn't a car but a bike, and it wasn't given as a gift but stolen from him.

We are not talking about 'piracy' as there is no financial reward in it (without touching the touchy subject of 'word hijacking' - the deliberate distorsion of the meaning of a word for a specific gain), the people are not 'pirates' but file sharers, and the term 'unfair' is not suitable to the subject - scanning and proofing a book with the intention to share it is a work of love which is, in my personal opinion, more worthy than milking the dead for pecuniary purposes, and it would be unfair to expect somebody to buy a book that doesn't interest him, and to scan, proof and upload it in the uncertain hope that somebody, somewhere, sometime, would like to download and read it.

Well, I used to think similarly, too, but then the big brouhaha started. It’s not just that I received a letter, both in electronic and paper form, from across the ocean from a New York attorney, but a lot of genuine, ordinary fellow Nero Wolfe fans got very angry with me and hurled abuse at me. I, too, thought of what I wanted to do as a labour of love – I’d have nothing to gain by it, only many hours of monotonous work to lose – still I was abused by fellow Wolfe fans as a pirate, virtually a criminal, etc. Just read the feedback samples on the above webpage. If ordinary fellow Wolfe fans can be so vitriolic, you can imagine what a Rex Stout book publisher will think of your “labour of love”. If you’re familiar with Jim Rock’s diction (publisher of Stout’s biography by John McAleer and various fascinating Rex Stout miscellanea), you’ll recognize which of the feedback samples is his. Although we used to correspond in a friendly fashion regularly, also apart from mailing lists, prior to the 2002 uproar, he hasn’t replied to a single message of mine, on-list or private, ever since.

So, don’t expect anyone to thank you. Instead, expect abuse and lots of trouble – especially from those fellow Wolfe fans whose bookcases are well-stocked with all Nero Wolfe volumes (some of them in multiple editions), or if they aren’t, they (living in America) simply need to visit any public library to borrow them, or require them via inter-library loan. These fellow Wolfe fans seem incapable of understanding, emotionally, what it feels like for someone to struggle for over 15 years before they are able to read (not own, simply to read) every Nero Wolfe story. That’s how long it took me to read all Nero Wolfe stories; I purchased the first Wolfe volume in Vienna back in 1989 right after the Iron Curtain fell, and I was donated the final Rex Stout paperback I was still missing in 2006 by a Nero Wolfe fan from overseas. If it hadn’t been for the Internet and generous fellow Wolfe fans around the world, mostly from the US but also from places as unexpected as Taiwan (!), I’m sure I’d still be desperately searching for many Wolfe texts today.

But, you can’t really explain the sense and feeling of hunger to someone who regularly sits down to a table overflowing with delicious food, can you? Either they can feel other folks’ hunger and sympathize with them and do their best to help them, or they cannot. It’s fine and well for those sitting at the full tables to moralize, condemn and abuse those who lack the privilege, for using questionable means to obtain the missing food... but condemnation and persecution won’t effectively help those who are hungry. I must think of the Italian classic movie Bicycle Thieves here; perhaps someone could produce a digital remake of the movie, titled Online Literature/Music/Movie Thieves? :shock:

As to the words pirate, piracy, let’s logomachize for a bit as Wolfe and Archie used to do. When you look at a dictionary definition of the word piracy, the definitions no. 2 & 3 seem to be applicable:

The American Heritage Dictionary wrote:
2. The unauthorized use or reproduction of copyrighted or patented material
3. The operation of an unlicensed, illegal radio or television station.

To radio or televison station, one might add or web site without distorting the intent of the definition.

Would you contend that “word hijacking” has already reached the realm of our dictionaries? The above definition is from The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, 2007 & 2000.

Now, let’s see... I’ll get hold of the dictionary Nero Wolfe burned in Chapter 1 of Gambit, Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged (1961), to see how it defines piracy on page 1723 (oh my, heaving this dictionary off the bookshelf is certainly good for toning your muscles):

Webster’s Third New International Dictionary wrote:
3: an act resembling piracy; esp: an unauthorized appropriation and reproduction of another’s production, invention, or conception esp. in infringement of a copyright

Of course, Nero Wolfe burned the dictionary, so presumably Rex Stout despised the definitions contained therein, but nevertheless this definition is highly interesting.

In 1961, they still defined piracy as appropriation and [!] reproduction of someone else’s work. In 2007, the definition shifted to: use or [!] reproduction of someone else’s work.

There’s a world of difference between and and or, isn’t there? ;-)

Because according to the 1961 definition of piracy, it would be difficult to claim that what you are doing is piracy. You are not appropriating anyone else’s work, right?

Based on the 2007 definition of the same term, you are a pirate, as you definitely are reproducing (electronically) someone else’s work.

Etymologically, the word pirate is derived from Old Greek and is related to the Old Greek words attempt / fear / trial / fare. Considering the letter I received from the New York attorney, I’d say that the 4 Old Greek roots are still very much relevant in the 21st century! :oops:

Let’s leave it at that for now. ;-) Maybe our dictionaries have never been thoroughly reliable; maybe they provide good guidance for us language users, but you ultimately always need to rely on your common sense, your own judgment when putting words to specific use.

All the titles I put on the website were available on P2P in MSWord DOC format. There was a fair amount of hits, but also there were days and weeks when no one seemed to be interested in NW. I can't afford to keep the computer broadcasting P2P non-stop, I have groceries to buy and rent to pay.

As to specific illicit distribution modes, there is something else and new apart from P2P (BitTorrent, eMule) and the “old-fashioned” webpages. I mean what is termed one-click hosting, a huge hit in the last couple of years or so: and the like.

I still claim what I said in my previous message: piracy is no viable, long-term solution. My hope is that the Rex Stout Estate will make the necessary arrangements to allow all of Rex Stout’s works, not only the most popular ones, to be purchasable, at a reasonable price, in a digital edition – The Complete Digital Works of Rex Stout. I trust and hope that this will happen sooner than in 2046 (or whatever the official copyright expiration date is); we may all be dead and buried by 2046. And especially: Rex Stout and his creations may be completely forgotten by 2046. Who can be sure that they won’t?

website[s are shut down] only as a result of a complaint

Yes. It’s a perpetual hide-and-seek game. On the one hand, you cannot promote your digitized files, because as soon as the word spreads around, this will cause your digitized files to vanish and be deleted. On the other hand, if you don’t promote your digitized files, no one even knows that they exist, and in that sense your efforts have been in vain, as they cannot achieve their intended purpose. (Here, getting people to read Rex Stout.)

Of course, the two instances above are extremes; there are various stages in-between the two extremes. I’m afraid this shadowy grey zone is destined to remain the eternal habitat of all “digital pirates”. :-|

As far as I am concerned, sexual psychotics and abnormal obsessions are not my field of interest, but as a professional you may need to read that book. 'How Like a God' is available on Amazon from $25 + international shipping (available).

I’ll be happy to read How Like a God and all the other Rex Stout books, even non-mystery ones. It won’t be a sacrifice on my part; it will be a pleasure. I do intend to write a scholarly treatise examining Rex Stout as a writer, not solely as the Nero Wolfe creator; so, for me it will be unavoidable to read everything Rex Stout ever published (and more). I find this to be a pleasurable chore.

On the other hand, literary scholars shouldn’t be confused with book collectors. If I were supposed to buy every Rex Stout non-Wolfe book at $25 + international shipping (often more expensive than the book itself), I’d go bankrupt soon. Just for your information, I live in a country where I buy a full-menu lunch for about $1.25. So, a single copy of How Like a God would equal to 20 full-menu lunches for me (disregarding the expensive international shipping!). Would any American reader buy a Rex Stout book if its price were equal to that of 20+ full-menu lunches? A book collector, yes; a literary scholar or ordinary reader, definitely not.

So, this is no solution. Scholars are not required to purchase the books they intend to examine and promote through their research. Books, or to be more precise: texts should be made available for scholars, and in the 21st century, it would be perfectly sufficient for scholarly purposes to make them available digitally. If such a digital edition were reasonably priced, even a literary scholar might purchase it, instead of expecting it to be made available for him or her for free. For your information, international inter-library loan in my country is either dysfunctional or so expensive (not to mention inefficient, with you having to wait for weeks or months for a volume to arrive) that borrowing a book via international inter-library loan is frequently as expensive as buying a new regular book. Again, you can’t expect literary scholars to purchase (or borrow at the price of a purchase) every single book they are required to examine; that’s what libraries were founded for, for heaven’s sake. And, if libraries don’t work, as continental European libraries definitely don’t work in terms of Rex Stout, digitization should come to the scholars’ aid in the 21st century.

If, instead of donating your NW collection, you put it on Ebay, you'd earn enough to buy the rest of RS's writings.

That’s highly unlikely! You may not be aware of how much apart from Nero Wolfe was published by Rex Stout. He only released his very first Wolfe novel when he was almost 50 years old! :-o Since these non-Wolfe writings are not popular, and most of them have been out-of-print for decades, their eBay prices would be horrendous.

In contrast, my Nero Wolfe volumes, even though there are dozens of them, are just reading copies, often ragged paperbacks.

So, nope... My entire, mostly paperback, collection of Nero Wolfe volumes would maybe buy me a single copy of How Like a God, perhaps one or two additional Rex Stout non-mystery books. Nothing more!

And, I definitely won’t be selling anything that was given to me as a gift. I received many of these Nero Wolfe volumes as gifts, and I’m willing to pass them on as gifts. (Adding to them the numerous Rex Stout volumes I purchased for my own money, especially in the pre-Internet era and while the now defunct Rex Stout Library paperback edition at Bantam Books, left incomplete, was still alive in the 1990s.) I do as I preach: when I say that electronic editions are perfectly sufficient for scholarly needs, that applies to me as well – I don’t need to possess anything except for the electronic versions of Rex Stout’s works. It’s certainly nice and desirable to possess the hard copies of the writings, but it’s not strictly necessary.

Then you may scan, proof and upload them for other people's use, and donate the books. And nearly everybody's happy!

Again, that would be the illegal route. :-| As I operate online under my real name, anything I do must be 100% legal, no matter how nonsensical the copyright laws may seem to be. So, my hope is that the Rex Stout Estate will agree to publish the comprehensive collection of Complete Digital Works of Rex Stout and put it up for online sale at a reasonable price. That would be a 100% legal solution that might not only make “nearly” everybody, but absolutely everybody happy! :-)

On Friday, 8th February 2008 at 19:31:05 (GMT -0500 EST), you wrote:

Note: forwarded message attached.
It seems that you hadn't received my previous email so I am sending it again.
Please confirm its receipt.

No need to worry, everything’s fine! :-) I received your previous message of 29th January, as can be seen above, and thank you very much for it! I’d been meaning to reply to it but couldn’t get around to doing so. I didn’t think it contained a direct question from you or an urgent concern that needed to be addressed immediately; I take care to reply to such messages right away; if I was wrong in this estimation, please excuse the oversight! I’ve been smothered by work; for a year and a half now, I’ve been trying to emulate Wolfe and Archie – they’re freelance detectives and I’m a freelance translator; I now share many of Wolfe’s concerns, such as which clients to reject and which to accept; much of that is determined by income tax concerns, so whenever I read in a Wolfe book now, “Wolfe wouldn’t take on another client in December, as he’s already had enough income for the year / would welcome just about any client, as our cash balance was rather low at the moment” – well, I can only smile because this definitely sounds familiar and a lot more meaningful to me today. Unlike Wolfe, I don’t have an Archie to prod me to work; I hate earning money every bit as Wolfe hated it (of course, Archie would say that Wolfe simply hated to work); and I love my online quotations collection as much as Wolfe loves his orchids – but, my freelance activity hasn’t been as rewarding to me thus far (I’ve only just started) as to enable me to devote sufficient amounts of time to my online literary concerns. I should be so lucky if I were allowed to explore literature daily from 9 to 11 a.m. and from 4 to 6 p.m.! That may come in later years, should my freelance exploits not turn out to be failures. Funnily enough, I do depart for lunch daily at 1:15 p.m., another quirk I share with Wolfe – and this has naturally come to be arranged like that, instead of me trying to imitate Wolfe consciously. Obviously, I need to depart for lunch instead of simply moving to the dining room, due to there being no Fritz and no dining room in my apartment. :lol: On the other hand, this gives me the opportunity to imitate Wolfe’s mirror image, Archie, and his love of walking down the metropolitan streets; I absolutely love my daily 2x15 minute walks for both lunch and dinner purposes; I wouldn’t trade those walks for a Fritz and a dining room, or I’d intentionally keep them located 15 minutes of walk away from me, so that this most natural of all forms of exercise is preserved for me! Throwing darts is not enough. 8-)

[PS: An edited verison of this message is posted to the Nero Wolfe discussion group at YahooGroups and the Rex Stout forum to generate some discussion now or in years to come.]

Sun, 10 Feb 2008, 15:11
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