The Fall of E-Books & the Rise of the Dark Web: Your Weekly Lit News Roundup by Emily Ramser

One of the biggest pieces of news to know this week is that printed book sales are on the rise for the first time in four years and e-book sales are falling.

According to the Publishers Association, UK e-book sales fell by 1.6% in 2015, while printed books sales grew by 0.4%. It might not seem like much, but these small percentage points are a pretty big deal. It suggests that there could be a bigger shift on the horizon. What’s even more exciting is that the Publishers Association said that UK book sales overall rose 1.3%.

On the note of digital publications, both the Dark Web and Google Brain are now writing poetry.

Google AI Writes Poetry

Well, it’s not exactly poetry, but it reads like it. It actually is Google Brain being taught how to understand and adapt to how people actually speak. A team of linguists and computer scientists put the manuscripts of around 11,000 unpublished books (3,000 of those being romance novels and 1,500 being fantasy novels) into a neural network model. The neural network model mimics how the human brain actually works. After putting these texts into the neural network model, the team provided the system with two sentences from the books they had imputed and then asked the system to generate a meaningful progression between the two. Here is some of what the AI turned out: (the bolded lines are the lines from the novels)


it made me want to cry.

no one had seen him since.

it made me feel uneasy.

no one had seen him.

the thought made me smile.

the pain was unbearable.

the crowd was silent.

the man called out.

the old man said.

the man asked.


he was silent for a long moment.

he was silent for a moment.

it was quiet for a moment.

it was dark and cold.

there was a pause.

it was my turn.


there is no one else in the world.

there is no one else in sight.

they were the only ones who mattered.

they were the only ones left.

he had to be with me.

she had to be with him.

i had to do this.

i wanted to kill him.

i started to cry.

i turned to him.


The Dark Web Publishes a Literary Magazine

First off, it’s important to know what the Dark Web is. It refers specifically to a collection of websites that are publicly visible but the IP addresses of the servers that run them are hidden. It’s only accessible via the privacy-enhancing tool Tor. It’s not super well known by the average person, but a lot of people have begun using it.

The Dark Web has published its first literary magazine The Torist. In an email to Wired, G.H.M., the anonymous co-founder of The Torist, said that they see the magazine as introducing encryption to a broader entry, while also giving people another entry point to the Dark Web.

G.H. M. sought submissions through GlobaLeaks, an open source software designed for whistleblowing. His co-founder, University of Utah communications professor Robert W. Gehl, solicited submissions through the clear web at the same time.

Some of the works in the first issue of The Torist include:

  • Poems by Alissa Quart and Vance Osterhout that touch on Edward Snowden’s leaks
  • An article by artists Linda Kronman and Andreas Zingerle about their work turning internet scams into art
  • An essay by Nathanael Bassett on the freedoms of technology
  • An excerpt from a science fiction work by Peter Conlin dealing with issues of class on the internet and in social media

Outside of the digital world, there’s also some fun things going on.

The 11th Annual Women’s Literary Festival in Santa Barbara Saturday, May 14

The Women’s Literary Festival highlights female writers, both established and up-coming. This year, the festival hosted a variety of presentations on the writing process, literacy promotion, social justice and racial and cultural inclusion with speakers such as Kathryn Otoshi, Angela Peñaredondo, and Kelli Stanley.

Fourth Grade Essayists Honored at UM-Flint Writing Adventure

The top essayists from eight Flint elementary schools were honored this week. The students wrote on everything from riding roller coasters to living with the Flint water crisis.

Emily Ramser is an undergraduate studying English, Creative Writing, and Religion at Salem College in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Arts in English and Creative Writing, and is expected to graduate in May of 2017. Some of her inspirations include Thornton Wilder, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Bhanu Kapil, Andrea Gibson, Gabriel Gudding, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Gail Simone, and Alfred Lord Tennyson. Check out her black out poetry collection I Forgot How to Write When They Diagnosed Me. You can find more of her work at her blog.


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