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On the Books: Jane Austen fans set new Guinness World Record

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Jane Austen
Mary Evans Picture Library/Everett Collection

Think of it as Comic-Con, 19th-Century Style. This past weekend, hundreds of Jane Austen devotees descended upon the British city of Bath to celebrate the author’s work at the annual Jane Austen Festival—and they set a Guinness World Record in the process. On Saturday, 550 Austenites dressed up in full Regency garb, which Guinness subsequently certified as the largest gathering of people dressed in that type of costume (other than the 19th century itself, one would presume).

British fans of Austen apparently felt the need to reclaim the mark they set for the same record back in 2009, after it was temporarily stolen by Americans at—you guessed it—a stateside Jane Austen festival. [BBC News]

Another 19th-century literary titan is also making headlines. Before people waited for the final episodes of Breaking Bad or George R.R. Martin’s latest installment of A Song of Ice and Fire, they waited for new chunks of Charles Dickens’ serialized novels. To recreate the watercooler banter that started it all, next month digital publisher The Pigeonhole will begin to release one of the author’s tomes, Great Expectations, in the episodic way it originally debuted. Maybe it’s time to temporarily unsubscribe from Netflix. [The Telegraph]

Speaking of subscription services, Oyster—the Netflix of e-books, more or less—is reflecting on its first year of business. Oyster, which offers all-you-can-read access for $9.95 a month, has expanded its library from 100,000 to 500,000 titles since going live, and CEO Eric Stromberg says its subscriber base is also multiplying. Oyster is now available on the web, iOS, and Android, and it has inspired Scribd.com and Amazon to get into the e-book subscription business. [Publishers Weekly]

Physical bookstores, unfortunately, aren’t experiencing the same growth. According to U.S. Census Bureau data, bookstore sales fell 5.1 percent to $707 million in July. A year earlier, they were at $745 million. [Publishers Weekly]

… Maybe that’s because James Patterson, the industry’s top earner, is literally giving away his books for free. But he’s doing so for a good cause. The author and his publisher are giving 180,000 hardcover copies of his books to members of the U.S. military. Patterson has donated to the troops before; this round brings his cumulative total of donations to 680,000 books. [USA Today]

Patterson’s best-selling peer, Stephen King, had some choice words—about words he’d never choose—for aspiring writers. “‘Some people say,’ or ‘Many believe,’ or “The consensus is,'” King told The Atlantic‘s Jessica Lahey. “That kind of lazy attribution makes me want to kick something. Also, IMHO, YOLO, and LOL.” TYVM, Mr. King.

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