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Sunday, July 31

What Becomes A (Canadian) Classic? Penguin is embarking on a new series of classics featuring Canadian writers. Choosing great Canadian literature is problematic. Who gets in? What is a classic? "The irony is that while Penguin Classics attempts to show that some of our authors, torn and bleeding, have indeed climbed up the rocks where excellence dwells, academic critics have been in a lather over the very notion of "classics." How is it, they ask for one thing, that almost all the writers who, up to this time, have climbed up on the rocks have been Dead White European Males?" Toronto Star 07/31/05

Do Used Books Help New Books? Does a strong online used-book market lessen the sales demand for new books? A new study says not: "When used books are substituted for new ones, the seller faces competition from the secondhand market, reducing the price it can set for new books. But there's another effect: the presence of a market for used books makes consumers more willing to buy new books, because they can easily dispose of them later." The New York Times 07/28/05

Friday, July 29

9/11 Report Publisher Donates Some Profits Last year's 9/11 Commission report was an unexpected bestseller. Now the report's publisher is donating some of the profits to anti-terror causes. "When we undertook the report's publication. we did so in a spirit of public service, fully aware that we would shoulder a financial commitment unprecedented for this firm and were unlikely to recover all our expenses. Donations amounted to about 10 percent of the company's gross proceeds from sales of the book to wholesalers and bookstores." Rocky Mountain News 07/29/05

The Slush Pile Rediscovered? "Publishers are increasingly alert to sources of undiscovered gems that in the past might have slipped through the net. The slush pile is one, word of mouth another, as well as books being launched by risk-taking small or independent publishers. Some of these titles are successful in their own right, while others are taken up by mainstream publishers." The Telegraph (UK) 07/27/05

Thursday, July 28

Italian Prime Minister Sues Author Over Crime Book Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has sued the author of a book about crime in Italy. "Penguin, which published the book in English, has promoted it as an exploration of the dark underside of Italy today. The book looks at Mafia, organised crime and corruption in Italy, and it also looks at Silvio Berlusconi ... the principal actor of the Italian political stage since the early 1990s," The Guardian (UK) 07/29/05

Wednesday, July 27

Harry Potter & The Language Barrier The unusual level of security surrounding the release of the latest Harry Potter book has led to an unusual problem in the international marketplace: translators didn't get to begin working on foreign versions of the text until mid-June, and at 672 pages, there's a lot to work through. The Spanish language edition, for instance, won't be on shelves until next spring. The first translations (German and Mandarin Chinese) are expected to be available this fall. The Globe & Mail (AP) 07/27/05

Tuesday, July 26

Do Not Question Harry, Worthless Muggle! Book critic David Kipen expected to hear from a few disgruntled readers when he gave the latest Harry Potter book a lukewarm review. What he didn't expect was the death threat. "When somebody e-mails to say, 'Seriously bitch u need to watch what teh f -- you say,' it certainly commandeers a critic's attention. Add to that the dozens of correspondents who took the trouble to call me dork, idiot, schmuck or worse, and it's all occasioned some serious soul-searching here on the literature desk." San Francisco Chronicle 07/26/05

Monday, July 25

Albania's Underdog In a field crowded with literary heavyweights, Albanian author Ismail Kadare didn't exactly stand out on the shortlist for the Man Booker Prize. But while his win several weeks back was a surprise to many in the publishing world (and to the author himself,) there can be no doubt as to Kadare's significance. "At 69, Kadare is Albania's most beloved literary export and one of the central cultural figures in the recently troubled Balkan region -- but unlike many other Eastern Europeans writing under socialist regimes, he was no dissident. His early writings earned him wide acclaim in official (and tightly controlled) literary circles, and he was particularly well received by Albania's then-ruler, Enver Hoxha." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 07/25/05

The Publishing Strategy That Changed the World How do you insure that your new book will be a slam-bang bestseller? Well, you could write a really good book. A solid marketing push never heards. You could charm a few critics. Or, if you just don't want to work that hard, you could give your book a subtitle that contains the phrase, "The whatever That Changed The World." As it turns out, those words are pure publishing gold, and few authors seem to be too proud to take advantage of it. Boston Globe 07/25/05

Sunday, July 24

Catholic Church's Anti-Da Vinci Website The Catholic Church is launching a new website to dispute The Da Vinci Code. "The Catholic Church's website includes biographies of the saint and contains numerous links to sites disputing The Da Vinci Code's assertions." The Scotsman 07/22/05

Bush Stars As 'Idiot' In Faulkner Parody "A scathing parody that likens President Bush to the 'idiot' in William Faulkner's novel 'The Sound and the Fury' has won this year's Faulkner write-alike contest and touched off a literary spat. Organizers of the Faux Faulkner competition are accusing Hemispheres, the United Airlines magazine that has sponsored the contest for six years, of playing politics by not putting Sam Apple's 'The Administration and the Fury' in its print edition only on its Web site." Hemispheres' editor says politics had nothing to do with the decision. Yahoo! (AP) 07/23/05

Thursday, July 21

Harry Potter & The Vengeful Nerds The new Harry Potter book is available in dozens of languages, but J.K. Rowling and her publisher appear to have forgotten to market to one key demographic: technogeeks. The lack of an officially sanctioned eBook version of Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince infuriated some readers, and a pirated version of the book sprang up within hours on BitTorrent, thanks to an impressively coordinated effort by hundreds of readers. Wired 07/21/05

Get Ready To Pay For Your Surfing At the moment, the internet is a consumer's paradise, with endless mountains of information and entertainment available to anyone with a connection, absolutely free of charge. But will all that content really stay free? Not likely, say some observers. "The only thing slowing down the move away from free content is the sorry state of micro-transactional software. Once all the bugs are worked out, the free internet gateway in which publications generate revenue from ads will slowly morph into another, more-lucrative business model: gated content." Wired 07/21/05

Wednesday, July 20

Why Reading Aloud Is So Compelling What I notice as I sit listening with children is how much harder they concentrate on a heard story than a seen one. They can't cheat and follow the pictures to make sense of it, so they listen acutely. They ask questions, too: always relevant, though sometimes tangential. You can almost see their brains working. The Telegraph (UK) 07/21/05

Are Libraries Without Books A Good Idea? "Where will the library ghosts go when all the books have been made immaterial and antiseptic through digitization? What is the message of this new medium? What does it mean when the University of Texas at Austin removes nearly all of the books from its undergraduate library to make room for coffee bars, computer terminals, and lounge chairs? What are students in those "learning commons" being taught that is qualitatively better than what they learned in traditional libraries?" Chronicle of Higher Education 07/20/05

Prison Inmates Raise Money To Keep Public Library Open When the town of Salinas, California threatened to close its public libraries to save money, residents rallied. So did inmates at a local prison. "Prisoners in San Quentin's inmate-to-inmate tutoring program sponsored something of a bake sale for literacy, selling doughnuts, pizza and fried chicken to other prisoners. Today, they will present a $1,000 check to the ailing Salinas Free Library, plus another $500 for literacy services in Marin County. Those sums are nothing to sniff at, given that an inmate with a high- paying prison job makes $56 a month." San Francisco Chronicle 07/20/05

Now Write Your Way Out Of This One! The former heads of the Colombian drug cartel are in US prison, where a the government won't let them pay for their defense with drug money. What to do? Write a book. "Such a book could contain explosive revelations about past connections between the political establishment and the drug trade in Colombia. Former Colombian president Ernesto Samper's time in office was tainted by claims that the Cali cartel contributed six million dollars to his 1994 electoral campaign, though the congress eventually cleared him of the charges. During its heyday in the 1980s, the Cali cartel controlled 80 percent of the cocaine smuggled into the United States, according to US authorities." Yahoo! (AFP) 07/20/05

Tuesday, July 19

How The Post Office Threatens To Kill Rural Canadian Libraries "Since 1939, Canada Post has offered libraries across the country a subsidized shipping rate of less than $1 per book when sending books back and forth for inter-library loan programs. Under a new plan proposed to take effect April 1, 2006, libraries will be charged commercial rates, which can be as much as $14 per book. If this change goes ahead, many rural libraries won't be able to afford to take part in the service and many Canadian readers will have access to fewer books." CBC 07/19/05

80 Years After Mein Kampf This week marks the 80th anniversary of the publishing of Mein Kampf. But discussion of the book is still complicated. "It remains a unique artifact - loathed yet collected, mocked yet feared, ignored by many but a best-seller in some Muslim societies." Philadelphia Inquirer 07/19/05

Monday, July 18

Judges: A Golden Year For Poetry This year's Forward Prize for poetry attracted more than 11,000 entries. It has been, say the judges, an excellent year for poetry. "The judges add that several long-established poets on the 5,000 best collection shortlist are "producing work that was not just the best in the year, but the best work of their poetic careers". They single out the poet and librettist David Harsent, 63, and Alan Jenkins, 55, the deputy editor of the Times Literary Supplement." The Guardian (UK) 07/18/05

Harry At A Dozen Per Second Seven million copies of the new Harry Potter were sold in the first 24 hours it was on sale. How many is that? A little perspective: "Retailers said that Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince had sold more copies in a day than The Da Vinci Code sold in one year. WH Smith said it sold 13 copies a second on Saturday. This breaks the book chain's previous record of eight copies a second, which was held by the last tale by JK Rowling: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix." The Guardian (UK) 07/18/05

The Agony Of Writing A Book "'How's your book going?' has become my least favourite question. I used to think writers didn't like talking about their works-in-progress because they were afraid people would steal their brilliant ideas. Now I know the truth. Writers hate talking about their books because they're sick to death of them. That and the fact that, on any given day, they secretly suspect that their books might stink. And let's face it, most books do stink..." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 07/16/06

Sunday, July 17

Potter Smashes Book Sales Records In First 24 Hours The new Harry Potter book sold an astonishing 6.9 million copies in its first 24 hours, smashing the record held by the previous Potter release. "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" averaged better than 250,000 sales per hour, more than the vast majority of books sell in a lifetime. Yahoo! (AP) 07/17/05

Harry Potter & the Midnight Madness So, as it turns out, all the hype and overwrought speculation that preceded the unveiling of the latest book in the Harry Potter series turned off kids around the world, who collectively yawned at the carefully orchestrated release. [...pause for effect...] Hah. We kid. The durn thing's already sold several million copies, and that's only the beginning. Bookstores were crammed full, and the midnight release parties were as swinging as ever. Basically, it's Harry's world, and we're just living in it. The New York Times 07/16/05

  • Is Harry A Threat To Christianity? The debate over the morality of Harry Potter continues unabated in religious circles. Last week, the Pope made headlines when a letter he wrote as Cardinal Ratzinger was released, including a passage in which he called the books a series of "subtle seductions [that] erode Christianity in the soul before it can even grow properly." Still, other Christian authorities insist that the books are morally upstanding, and reinforce religious tenets in much the way that the works of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien did. "The magic jump-starts your interest, but what the books are really about is values." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 07/16/05

Friday, July 15

Children's Book Writers In Poverty With the mega-success of JK Rowling and her Harry Potter series, many believe children's book writers are raking in the dough. "Waterstone's had reported that 10 times more new children's books were being released every month now compared with 2000, and it found that publishers were spending much more on marketing the genre." But a new survey says that children's book writers earn barely subsistance wages - a full third of them earn less than the national minimum wage of 8,827 a year. The Guardian (UK) 07/14/05

Thursday, July 14

Harry Potter & The Unprecedented Marketing Blitz How popular is Harry Potter? The sixth book in the series is expected to sell more than 2 million copies in Britain alone in the first 24 hours it is on sale. Ten million copies have been earmarked for the U.S. market, and eventual sales numbers could eclipse even those of previous volumes in the series. In order to achieve all this, of course, the marketers are working overtime, as they have before the release of each of the books. The Herald (Glasgow) 07/15/05

But Isn't It Supposed To Be Fantasy? Harry Potter has seemingly become one of those cultural touchstones that is immune to criticism. Not that there aren't Harry-haters - there are, but they generally get chalked up as curmudgeons out to ruin everyone else's innocent good time. But Robert Winder has serious concerns about the craze, and they aren't just literary. For one thing, the "crass commercialism" of the series has become suffocating. For another, is it really wise to be giving kids one more portrait of the modern world as a place where good and evil are clearly defined, when all our energies are engaged in trying to make sense of a world dominated by gray areas? BBC 07/14/05

Pope's Not Wild About Harry "As the sixth issue of Rowling's Harry Potter series - Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - is about to be released, the news that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger expressed serious reservations about the novels is now finally being revealed to the English-speaking world still under the impression the Vatican approves the Potter novels." Lifesite News 07/13/05

Wednesday, July 13

Freedom Of Speech Vs. Respect For Religion? "Last month a judge in the northern Italian city of Bergamo said that the 76-year-old author Orianna Fallaci should answer to claims of abusing Islam in her book The Strength of Reason. Since then, her cause has become a rallying point for mainly rightwing intellectuals and politicians in Italy and the US, where Ms Fallaci lives." The Guardian (UK) 07/13/05

Even Harry Potter Affected By Bombings A London bookseller came up with the perfect place to launch the new Harry Potter book this weekend - the city's central King's Cross train station, where Harry himself catches a train to Hogwarts School. But after the terrorist attacks on the city's subway last week, one of which occurred at King's Cross, the event is being moved out of central London entirely. BBC 07/13/05

Tuesday, July 12

Author: Should I Promote My Novel About A London Terrorist Attack? Chris Cleave's first novel Incendiary was supposed to launch last week in Britain. But the book is about a terrorist attack on London, and the book's cover art depicts the attack. The book was hastily withdrawn from shelved after the real attack. Now Cleave is appealing to readers to tell him whether to continue to promote the book or not. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 07/12/05

The Story Reading Machine Tired of reading to your kid? Now there's a website that will do it for you. "One More Story is a new online library where children can choose a book - complete with narration, highlighted text, and the book's original illustrations - and listen as they read along on the computer." Christian Science Monitor 07/11/05

Judge Orders Readers Not To Talk About Harry A Canadian judge has ordered the 14 people who were mistakenly allowed to buy copies of the new Harry Potter book this week not to divulge anything about the story. "The book was sold to 14 people who snagged a copy of J.K. Rowlings' much anticipated "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," when it landed on shelves last Thursday at a local grocery store. The book, officially set for release this coming Saturday, has been shrouded in secrecy and its debut has been highly orchestrated to enable everyone readers, reviewers, even publishers to crack it open all at once. It's the sixth in Rowling's seven-book fantasy series on the young wizard." Yahoo! (AP) 07/12/05

Google Libray? Time To Ask Questions... There are plenty of big questions to ask about Google's library digitization project, writes Christopher Allen Waldrop. There's the privacy issue for one. "The fight's just beginning and no one can say how long it will go on or how it will end. Google's partners need to get their common sense back and take this opportunity to start asking the hard questions about what the Google Library Project means for libraries, their patrons, and the future. It's the one area where the problem is not too much information but too little." MobyLives 07/11/05

Monday, July 11

Your Odds Of making It As A Writer What are the odds of making it as a successful writer? "1 in 380. Or, if you tweak the numbers to allow for a range of error, 1 in 200 to 1 in 500. You've gotta admit those aren't exactly encouraging. Would a pharmacist go to school if the odds were less than 1 in 100 they would get a job when they get out? Writers have it worse than Division 1 college football players vying for slots in the pros, and "way worse than (the odds) Miss America contestants face. And they get to flaunt cleavage."
Rocky Mountain News 07/11/05

Want To Get Published? Win A Prize Writing prizes are on the increase. "Last week, Kirkus Reviews launched an annual competition for unpublished first novels and short-story collections with the winner receiving a book contract with the prestigious publisher Little, Brown. In May, two arts groups in the United Kingdom announced the New Writing Ventures Awards that, each year, will distribute $104,000 in prize money to unpublished authors. Some $9.8 million in prize money was awarded last year in the U.S., U.K. and Canada, an increase of more than $900,000 from the previous year." Chicago Tribune 07/11/05

Sunday, July 10

Harry's All-Ages Appeal Why are even jaded older teenagers anxiously awaiting the latest installment of Harry Potter? "It's a delicious juxtaposition. They are reading about Harry, who is charged by the Ministry of Magic with underage sorcery, while they are careful not to be caught for underage drinking. Teens whose parents have found beer store receipts and seized their fake ID are asking mom for a ride to the bookstore Friday to be among the first with their own copy of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. They want to engage again in that other world that makes "walking to the cottage at night scarier." Toronto Star 07/10/05

Why Opposing The Patriot Act's Library Provision Is Important "The US government says it's not interested in nosing around libraries, and an expensive study would appear to confirm that claim. So what's the big deal? Why are so many groups, from the American Library Association to a bipartisan collection of members of Congress, so opposed to Section 215? Last month, the U.S. House approved a measure barring the Justice Department from spending money on library and bookstore searches under Section 215. Are these opponents of 215 'soft on terrorism,' as some Bush administration members charge? Do they want to provide a "safe haven in bookstores and libraries"? Well, no." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 07/10/05

God: No Longer A Niche Market The religious book phenomenon is looking like it has more staying power than many in the publishing industry believed. "The growth of Christian books outpaced the adult trade category in 2004, with sales expected to soar in coming years... Precise reasons for this jump in interest are hard to pin down, although the phenomenon coincides with the rise of evangelical Christianity and general anxiety over terrorism and the economy... Beyond that, Christian bookstores enjoy a special relationship with customers. The stores tend to blend a bit of ministry with retailing." Denver Post 07/10/05

Harry Potter & The Dubious Legacy The Harry Potter craze has been hailed by parents and educators on both sides of the Atlantic as a sign that children of the information age can still be engaged by good, old-fashioned books. But are the books really the classics of children's literature that they are constantly made out to be? Robert McCrum thinks not. "When the current generation of Harry Potter readers has grown up, it will look back on the Harry Potter phenomenon with a mixed thrill of intense nostalgia, embarrassment and dismay. Our children's children will certainly read these books, but as curiosities, bizarre literary relics from a lost world." The Observer (UK) 07/10/05

Saturday, July 9

Really, Really Bad Timing "[UK] bookselling giant Waterstone's yesterday pulled advertising for a new novel about suicide bombers creating mayhem in London. The book, called Incendiary, was published on Thursday, the day all-too real bombs hit London. Pictures promoting the novel show plumes of smoke curling above London's skyline. The wording reads 'a massive terrorist attack ... launches this unique, twisted powerhouse of a novel'. Waterstone's has removed all advertising for the book from today's newspapers - except for the Guardian's Guide, which went to press before the advert could be pulled." The Guardian (UK) 07/09/05

America's Poet It's been 150 years since Walt Whitman published Leaves of Grass, widely considered to be America's greatest contribution to the world of poetry. Over the years, sales of the opus have stayed strong as Whitman's legend has grown, and scholars and public alike have come to view Leaves as something of a definitive poetic statement on American life. Baltimore Sun 07/09/05

Friday, July 8

Selling Harry (Not The Merchandise) While anticipation is high for the new Harry Potter book, there will be less Harry merchandise for sale. The release of "Half-Blood Prince," the sixth of Rowling's seven-book fantasy series, should confirm that Harry Potter mania is essentially a celebration of reading, a phenomenon created by children, not marketers. Demand for the book is higher than ever. Scholastic, Inc., Rowling's American publisher, has announced a first printing of 10.8 million, seven times the first run of Bill Clinton's "My Life" and 4 million more than for "Order of the Phoenix." CNN.com 07/08/05

Thursday, July 7

Afolabi Wins "African Booker" "A Nigerian writer, SA Afolabi, has won the sixth annual Caine prize, known as the African Booker, with his story 'Monday Morning'." The Guardian (UK) 07/06/05

Wednesday, July 6

The Cover With Two Books (Uh-Oh) "Sometimes the photographs on book covers are not just similar, but exact duplicates. Rather than pay photographers' day rates, most book designers turn to stock-photography agencies. Top agencies charge $1,200 to $1,500 a photograph, and twice that for exclusive rights, a premium publishers are loath to pay. That's where the trouble starts." The New York Times 07/07/05

Tuesday, July 5

The Website That Called Fraud On American Poetry Contests "To make a career in American poetry nowadays you must enter poetry contests and work your way up the prestige ladder. The contests are run by university and small press publishers. Thousands of hopefuls enter their manuscripts, paying a fee of around $25. The publisher is guaranteed a profit. Most contestants are guaranteed to lose. It's like boxing - just as bloodily competitive and, Foetry alleged, just as crooked." The Guardian (UK) 07/03/05

Hyping Harry - We're In Full Swing Hype for the launch of the much anticipated next installment of Harry Potter is cranking up. "Bookshops have been equipped with 16-day "count-down clocks", modelled on the Weasleys' clock in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, in the lead-up to the worldwide launch on 16 July. The main event will be a reading by JK Rowling at Edinburgh Castle, to be broadcast on ITV1. It is understood there are plans to project an image of Rowling on to the castle rock." The Scotsman 07/03/05

Sunday, July 3

Now That's A Lot Of Penguins Penguin is offering a collection of every book it has published. "Laid down page by page and end to end, the Penguin Classics Library Complete Collection would stretch about 84 kilometres, or about the same distance as a morning commute to downtown Toronto from Kitchener. And it can all be yours all half a million pages of it for the low price of $7,989.99." Toronto Star 07/03/05


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