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Monday, June 30

Neighbors Save Bookstore When a small neighborhood bookstore in San Francisco announced it was closing, neighbors banded together, pledging to buy a book a month and raising money to keep the store open. "This is probably not the sort of investment your accountant would suggest as a sure thing or, for that matter, even a longshot. Even if the store gets back on its feet, the investors won't make money. Instead of interest, they get a 25 percent discount on all books they buy there. The loans will be repaid over six years." San Francisco Chronicle 06/30/03

In Search Of LA Why has it been so difficult for writers to capture the identity of Los Angeles? "Although it is the second-largest city in America, in the literary imagination it is still a colony. Instead of speaking for itself, the city is spoken about. Our classic descriptions of Los Angeles were written by visitors who spent only a few weeks or months in the city; or by imported slaves of Hollywood, who act out their rebellion against the city at large; or even by natives writing mainly for an audience somewhere else. What is missing, with a few notable exceptions, is a Los Angeles literature unconcerned with the outside world, intent on explaining the city to itself—as Dickens did with London, or Balzac with Paris." Slate 06/30/03

Ask Me If I'm An Idiot Why do so many interviews with authors seem so stupid? "Part of the problem," writes Gene Weingarten, "is caused by the publishing industry itself, which caters to the laziness of the media. Here at The Washington Post, we constantly get promotional packets for new books in which the publicity departments declare that their authors are available for interviews, and then actually suggest questions to ask. As you might guess, these are not Mike Wallace-type questions..." Washington Post 06/30/03

Book City Opens With Throngs An experiment in bookselling is a stunning success in Blaenavon as nine new bookstores open and crowds throng to this formerly blighted industrial town. "The new shopkeepers, many standing behind counters for the first time in their lives, struggled to cope. Visitors were rattling the doors of the new bookshops while they were still closed for the official opening. Once the doors opened change ran out within half an hour, paper bags within an hour, the piles of maps showing the new bookshops by mid-afternoon. By evening yawning gaps were opening up on the brand new shelves." The Guardian (UK) 06/30/03

  • Reinventing As A City Of Books "Today, Blaenavon relaunches itself as Booktown Blaenavon. Nine new bookshops will open simultaneously, specialising in subjects from cookery to psychic healing, six more shops are in the pipeline, and the Castle Inn has put up a shelf of 50p books. The small town in South Wales launches its greatest experiment since 1787, when three businessmen leased seven square miles of rough, heathery land to build an ironworks equipped with dazzlingly modern steam technology." The Guardian (UK) 06/28/03

Record Book Sales - At Discount Prices This is turning into a record sales summer for the book business. "The impressive sales totals partly reflect the growing power of big discounters like Wal-Mart and price clubs like Costco. In a sea change for the publishing business, those outlets accounted for as much as half of the early sales of the three books and can claim as large a share as traditional bookstores and online outlets, according to the publishers and an analysis of sales of figures. The power of the price clubs and discounters to move huge numbers of certain books is giddily unnerving for book publishers. The good news is that millions of consumers bought books last month. The bad news is that a lot of them skipped a trip to the bookstore, where they may have bought even more books. For a growing number of consumers, however, the nontraditional outlets simply mean cheaper books." The New York Times 06/30/03

Sunday, June 29

Harry Goes Back For Another Printing The launch of the new Harry Potter last week broke all publishing records. "To help keep stores supplied, Scholastic announced last Tuesday that it was going back for a third printing of 800,000 copies, which will bring the in-print figure up to 9.3 million copies." Publishers Weekly 06/30/03

Saturday, June 28

Asian-American Writers - The Next Wave Amy Tan's 1989 novel, The Joy Luck Club, "presented a heartwarming picture of Chinese American life that enjoyed wide mainstream acclaim, but that many younger Asians felt was overly romanticized, even 'whitewashed.' Now, whether a result of that legacy or the nuisance of persisting stereotypes that insist Asians are quiet, studious and obedient, the bulwark of "immigrant fiction" has burst. A flood of vital, angry, sometimes violent and even sardonic new fiction from young Asian American novelists is being released this year." Los Angeles Times 06/29/03

Rap With Andy And Will (Or Not) Britain's poet laureate Andrew Motion last weeke wrote some rap for Prince William's birthday. What a mistake. "The poet laureate going hip-hop is like Mel C going punk - except without quite so many flying bottles. Even so, within hours of the rap being published, an online petition was launched demanding, with a rather sinister turn of phrase, that Motion 'be removed'. The factor which will prevent MC Motion being sprayed in 20ft letters across the Buck House gates is not that he attempted the rap, but that it is so toe-curlingly off-the-mark, that instead of putting William - and the royal family - in some sort of modern context, it's more like a trap door beneath William on the gallows of cool, with Motion being forced to yank the lever." The Guardian (UK) 06/28/03

Write Canadian (Whatever That Means) "Of all the elements of Canadian culture, literature may be the most definitive. Canadians are voracious readers of their own writers - from the founding 'CanLit' boom featuring Margaret Atwood and Mordecai Richler to, more recently, Barbara Gowdy, Rohinton Mistry and Yann Martel - and Canadian writing tops bestseller lists and wins awards internationally. How is the next generation carrying on this legacy and how is their work affected by such factors as Canada's racial diversity, media saturation and changing values?" The Globe & Mail (Canada) 06/28/03

ALA: A Controversy Over Cuban Colleagues The American Library Association has become embroiled in a controversy over small independent libraries in Cuba. "Small lending libraries run out of people's homes, they circulate materials that the librarians say are banned by the government. To some members, the [American Library] association has been ignoring the repression of their colleagues and the cause of intellectual freedom; to others, a small group has been trying to hijack the organization to pursue an anti-Castro agenda." The New York Times 06/28/03

Friday, June 27

The Right Of The People To Sell Books... Last year two 20-somethings decided to sell books on the streets of New Orleans. But the city said they needed a permit. But it wasn't possible to get a permit. "It turned out New Orleans had permits for street vendors selling food, flowers, razor blades, shoelaces, candles, and pencils—but not books. And anything that wasn't explicitly permitted was forbidden." So the pair fought the ban and ended up in the state Supreme Court - where they won... Reason 06/20/03

What Canadian Publishing Looks Like A new comprehensive study on the state of Canadian publishing reports that there are more Canadian books being published and demand for them is increasing... Toronto Star 06/27/03

Embargo Theatre Hillary Clinton and JK Rowling are suing publications for breaking embargoes on their books. But should a publisher be able to sue a newspaper for reporting what's in a book? "Clinton and Rowling may honestly believe the press violated their copyrights by quoting from and discussing the contents of their books prior to the official pub date. But neither author has much of a legal case, and I'm sure their lawyers would confess over drinks that the noise and litigation is mostly theater." Slate 06/26/03

Should Steinbeck Fear The Oprah Treatment? So Oprah thought retreating to the classics would rid her book club of controversy? "John Steinbeck's selection by Oprah is likely to confirm the suspicions of those critics who look down their noses at him as a simplistic writer not worthy of inclusion in the American pantheon. For starters, if East of Eden is a classic, it's a disputed one. A handful of Steinbeck partisans defend it as one of Steinbeck's great books, to be placed alongside works like Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath. Others argue that it's flawed but still worthwhile, even a masterpiece. But an equally large—if not larger—group thinks that hardly anything good can be said about it." Slate 06/27/03

Thursday, June 26

Money And The Literary House A wealthy California woman "paid £1.25 million for a crumbling English country house and spent a further £10 million converting it into a library and study centre, equipped with all her beautiful, arcane books. Chawton House, Hampshire, once owned by Jane Austen's brother and set in 275 acres, is about to open to the public after 11 years of toil, sweat and village politics." The Telegraph (UK) 06/27/03

The Might Bird Penguin is flexing its muscles to get itself more prominence in bookstores. "If a store commits to stocking a 'good amount' of Penguin titles and agrees to ten displays per year 'in prime selling space,' it receives an extra 1% discount on all titles published within the last year. Stores have to make a three-year commitment and must agree to promote both adult and children's titles. To some small publishers, the move, coming from the country's second-largest publisher, seems like yet another sales obstacle on a road already scattered with them. 'The net effect is going to be less exposure for small houses'." Publishers Weekly 06/24/03

Wednesday, June 25

Misunderstanding Orwell "In the 53 years since his death George Orwell has become a secular saint, acclaimed by the political left and right and many in between, revered as a seer and truth-teller, honored for his moral courage, his razor-sharp intellect and his diamond-hard prose. Somewhere along the way, however, amid all of the hero worship, the real man - the idiosyncratic, squeaky-voiced, tubercular Englishman who dressed like a pauper, rolled his own cigarettes, chased after women and practiced a wobbly but sincere brand of socialism - seems to have gotten lost, and perhaps the real writer has as well. Orwell has suffered the famous author's ultimate fate: He is revered and invoked more than he is read." Washington Post 06/25/03

Tuesday, June 24

Some Librarians Still Refuse Computer Filters Many libraries say they'll give up federal funding rather than install content filters on their computers, as the US Supreme Court ruled earlier this week. "We just don't feel we as librarians need to be in the position of telling people what they should read, see or hear. When you put filters on computers, that's what you're doing." San Jose Mercury-News 06/24/03

Monday, June 23

Supreme Court Sanctions Porn Filters On Library Computers The US Supreme Court has ruled that Congress can force public libraries to install and use porn filters on library computers. "Congress passed the law, the Children's Internet Protection Act, in 2000, but it did not take effect pending the legal challenge by public libraries and civil liberties groups, which argued that any filter also inadvertently blocks access to other, noncontroversial sites, as some studies have shown. But in a 6-3 ruling, the court said the law did not violate the First Amendment guaranteeing free speech because libraries will have the capability to disable the filters for any adult patron who may ask." The New York Times 06/23/03

Classic Oprah - Anything Wrong With This Picture? Oprah's back with a book club - this time with classic literature...a little Steinbeck to start. "So what could be wrong with this? Thousands of readers will come to know a good book they might otherwise not have read. And, of course, 'East of Eden,' a best seller in its day, will come out of the experience no worse for wear. Maybe nothing is wrong with this. Maybe taking shots at Oprah for "inviting" Steinbeck to her talk show will, in the end, be exposed as just grumpy elitism. Or maybe something about 'East of Eden,' repackaged in an eye-catching Oprah Edition for the occasion, is in danger of being quietly lost in what could transpire in coming shows." Chicago Tribune 06/23/03

Sunday, June 22

Harry's $100 Million Weekend Harry Potter sells 5 million copies on its first day. "That is nearly twice as many as the estimated sales in 12 months of last year's best-selling novel in hardcover, "The Summons," by John Grisham." The book even outsold the weekend's blockbuster movie. "The five million copies sold, at retail prices from $17 to $30, surpassed the first weekend's box office for the latest blockbuster movie, 'Hulk,' which sold $62.6 million in tickets in its three-day opening weekend." The New York Times 06/23/03

When Marketing Overruns Creativity The Harry Potter books are deserving of attention. But the assault of marketing we've seen is way over the top. "When this level of marketing is applied to books or to sport, then it soon becomes impossible to distinguish between artistic considerations and financial ones. Rowling may say that she is secretive out of concern for her readers, but it is hard to separate this question of 'intellectual property' from concern for the 'marketing campaign'. Then there is the squeeze effect on other books, other authors, other types of story, some of whom might merit a fraction of the Potter treatment, but who cannot get any place in that over-Pottered shop window. Small bookshops already look set to lose out because of the huge discounts being offered by major stores. Worse, hype like this sows the seeds of its own creative destruction." The Observer (UK) 06/22/03

Oppressive Ghosts - The Art Of Invisible Writing "Most ghostwriters are broke, young journalists. They do it once, for the money. Perhaps twice for the show: to see how the rich and famous live. Most never do it again, because celebrities take as much pleasure in sharing the limelight (and the profits) as journalists do in restraining their opinions. Yet as long as there are people with stories to sell and no time or no talent to tell them, the products of such precarious partnerships continue to sell." The Telegraph (UK) 06/16/03

Finally - Harry On Review "A considerably darker, more psychological book than its predecessors, 'Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix' occupies the same emotional and storytelling place in the Potter series as 'The Empire Strikes Back' held in the first 'Star Wars' trilogy. It provides a sort of fulcrum for the series, marking Harry's emergence from boyhood, and his newfound knowledge that an ancient prophecy holds the secret to Voldemort's obsession with him and his family." The New York Times 06/21/03

  • Harry By The Numbers So how popular is the new Harry Potter book? One major bookselling chain has already declared it to be 'the fastest-selling book ever,' outpacing even the frenzied buying that accompanied the release of the previous installment of the Potter series. At W.H. Smith, another chain, managers estimated that they were selling eight copies per second. Amazon has taken orders for 1.3 million copies. The first printing run of the book was for an astounding 13 million copies, and author J.K. Rowling is expected to net £30 million from book sales alone. BBC 06/22/03

The Books That Changed The World J.K. Rowling's books have changed the world. And how many books can you say that about? They're "altering our literary landscape. With more than 200 million copies in print worldwide, the books have been translated into 55 languages and are available in 200 countries. The literary influence is global." Washington Post 06/21/03

Friday, June 20

Judge Prevents Newspaper From Printing Early Harry Review A judge in Canada has ruled that the Montreal Gazette could not publish a review or details of the new Harry Potter book before the book is officially released this weekend. "It is clear to me that the information was confidential ... its inadvertent or surreptitious disclosure does not necessarily remove its confidential nature." Montreal Gazette 06/20/03

Kids' Books - Into A Sea Of Difficulty The odds against the author of a kids' book are enormous. "Those of us who review children’s books jettison books we dislike, unwilling to waste time and limited space on squashing reviews because we know that it’s our recommendations that are most useful. Information about children’s books - genuine, independent, informed and balanced - is hard to find. The job of children’s bookseller may not feature in many careers advisers’ files, but it’s one that benefits from a vast panoply of skills - interpersonal to intellectual - that create the right environment for perfect retailing: a successful sale is of a product that won’t come back to a customer who will." The Scotsman 06/20/03

Harry Publisher Sues Newspapers - 1st Amendment Be Damned Harry Potter author JK Rowling and her publisher are suing the New York Daily News for $100 million for printing details of the new Harry Potter story before it hits stores. Simon Houpt writes that other media outlets have been intimidated into not publishing plot details, and then Houpt throws in some plot details of his own to illustrate. Is it not a first amendment issue, he asks? The Globe & Mail (Canada) 06/20/03

Potter - Underneath The Hype, Something Truly Worth Celebrating The clamor over the Harry Potter books may be a little (ok, a lot) over the top. But Norman Lebrecht says that it's important to celebrate a publishing phenomenon that flies in the face of what the conventional wisdom about books - and children's books particularly - insisted was true. "While it is futile to predict the thought processes that will prevail a century hence, when books may have been supplanted by chips and authors by robotic processors, one certainty can be safely asserted. A hundred years from now, millions of people will still be reading Charles Dickens, and they will still be reading Harry Potter, the written word triumphant." London Evening Standard 06/20/03

Thursday, June 19

Oprah's Book Club Is Back With The Classics "Oprah tapped John Steinbeck's East of Eden this morning as the first selection for her revived book club. Within an hour, the $16 trade paperback jumped from #2,356,000 to #113 at Amazon.com, suggesting that readers aren't daunted by her new focus on classic titles." Publishers Weekly 06/18/03

Wednesday, June 18

Newspaper Gets Its Hands On Harry The New York Daily News finds out a local health food store has copies of the new Harry Potter book for sale, sends a reporter out to buy up the last copy and write about it in the paper. "People just didn't believe the book was available in a neighborhood health food store. The astonishment on people's faces was incredible." New York Daily News 06/18/03

  • Rowling Sues NY Newspaper Harry Potter author JK Rowling has filed a lawsuit against the New York Daily News after the tabloid published minor excerpts from her latest book. BBC 06/18/03

Harry Loose On The Streets Police fear that the 7000+ copies of the new Harry Potter book stolen from a trailer earlier this week "will be illicitly distributed throughout the north-west, jeopardising the launch. The books will have a high currency among criminals because Harry Potter fans have had to wait almost three years to read the latest adventures of the boy wizard." The Guardian (UK) 06/18/03

Books, Books, More Books...Does Anybody Read Them? "The bulging bookshelf has become a tradition in most British households - a sort of intellectual trophy cabinet, each spine potentially revealing something about the owner. For some, the bigger the bookshelf, the bigger the brain. Research has shown that few of us ever look at our old books, but at the same time would never dream of throwing them out." The Scotsman 06/17/03

The New Outsiders - Really? "Recently, Central Europe has played host to a new generation of expatriate writers and, some believe, has once again become the displaced kingdom of some of the greatest prose and prose-writers - this time, in English. But outsiders toting backpacks and wielding Platinum Plus cards aren't the right kind of outsiders for literature. They're a Mercedes-length from the edge, and literature needs someone on the precipice. It's dangerous on that precipice, but the danger, well, illuminates the prose. And there's no more of that danger left in this Europe, once again at the edge of Empire." The Forward 06/03

Stealing Harry By The Trailer-load Thousands of copies of the new Harry Potter book were stolen from a trailer in Northern England. "A trailer containing around £1m worth of books was stolen from Newton-le-Willows trading estate on Merseyside at around 10.30pm on Sunday. The trailer was recovered yesterday in Salford, Greater Manchester, minus its load." The Guardian (UK) 06/17/03

  • Why Steal It? Try Wal-Mart. In yet another bizarre story of Potter-mania, a Montreal woman somehow managed to purchase a copy of the new Harry Potter book from her local Wal-Mart this week. The book is scheduled to go on sale Saturday. Since the woman was only planning to read the book, and not, y'know, post it on a web site or something, the publisher just laughed it off as an innocent mistake. HA! No, of course they didn't. In fact, Raincoast Books, the Canadian distributor of the Potter series, offered the woman $5000 if she would return the illicit copy. She said that Raincoast could have her copy back once she's finished reading it. Montreal Gazette 06/18/03

Death Of The Gay Bookstore Gay bookstores were one of the hallmarks of the first twenty years of the Gay Rights movement. So why are so many of them dying off now that homosexuality is more widely accepted in mainstream society? "In the past 10 years, well over half of the GLBT bookstores in the country have closed, leaving about 40 to carry on a tradition that was crucial to gay liberation. There is no gay bookstore in Chicago; only three survive in New York City." The reality may be that such niche stores have become victims of the success of the movement that spawned them. In an era when gay-themed titles are enthusiastically stocked by national chains and mainstream independents alike, it's difficult for the niche stores to hold on to their clientele. City Pages (Minneapolis/St. Paul) 06/18/03

Tuesday, June 17

Next In Mags: Bring Out Your Dead! What's the next great idea in magazines, asks Russ Smith? Obituaries. It's a winner, he writes. Everyone's interested in dead people. "It's long been a truism that the most popular features of a daily newspaper are the sports pages, comics and death notices. In many cases, people over 40 turn to the day's obituaries first, not only for morbid fascination, but because they recognize the names of famous men and women or, on a local level, neighbors and friends. Obviously, there wouldn't be a shortage of material for such an enterprise." OpinionJournal.com 06/18/03

New Harry Not Expected To Swamp Publishers Again The last Harry Potter book threw the publishing business into turmoil when a second printing of 3 million copies was ordered within 48 hours of the book's release. "Some publishers were as much as six weeks late taking delivery on their fall lineups because the printers who make their books were too busy producing 'Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.' Even though it has an all-time record first U.S. printing of 8.5 million copies, 'Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix' is not expected to upset the publishing business as its predecessor did. Book sales overall are low so there is more press capacity available, and because the book is overdue, North American printers have had more time to figure out how to handle it." The Star -Tribune (Minneapolis) 06/17/03

What's The Male Version Of Chick Lit? Chick Lit is a big thing. But is there a male equivalent? Not really, writes Steve Almond. "The last time I checked, 70 percent of readers were women, and I'd put the percentage who read relationship fiction (the broader province of Chick/Dick lit) to be in the high 90s. Almost the entire crowd at the panel on Singledom was female. And the vast majority of my own readers — from what I can tell — are women. This is because women are more likely to struggle, in a conscious way, with the problems that beset romantic relationships, to talk about these problems, and to seek out writing that makes them feel less alone with the psychic tumult of affairs of the heart." MobyLives 06/17/03

Monday, June 16

The Super Bowl And World Cup Of Publishing The release of the new Harry Potter installment is as big as publishing gets. "The launch of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, at midnight on Friday, is going to make the launch of an Apollo rocket look like a shamefaced sidling-away. It is the largest such event in bookselling history. Bloomsbury, JK Rowling's publisher, is not saying exactly how big the first print run is going to be, but it has been estimated at two million in this country, 8.5 million in the States." London Evening Standard 06/16/03

Sunday, June 15

The Blogging Professors More and more academics are getting into blogging. The online journals are a great way to trade information, opine on work in progress and interact with colleagues. "What blogging offers is immediacy. Compared to what we're all used to in academia, where you submit something and then maybe when you have grandchildren you'll hear whether it's going to be published, the immediacy is something that we're all unaccustomed to. I think a lot of people feel sort of like kids in a candy store." Chronicle of Higher Education 06/06/03

Kids' Best Book UK children have voted Anthony Horowitz's "Skeleton Key" as the best children's book of the year in the Red House Award. The award is the only publishing prize voted on by kids. "Around 25,000 children from all over the UK took part in judging this year through book groups organised by the Federation of Children's Book Groups and via the award's website. Previous winners of the award, now in its 23rd year, include Quentin Blake, Roald Dahl and JK Rowling." BBC 06/15/03

Your (Literary) Reputation Recedes You Some writers manage to attain reputations that outlive them. "But most of the time, death for poets is what it is for the rest of us - the beginning of that slow, inexorable process of being forgotten. Take the case of Robert Lowell. When he died, in 1977, Lowell was by far the most famous American poet of his era. The only figure of comparable renown was Allen Ginsberg, but Ginsberg was never embraced by the critics the way Lowell was; with his ohm-ing and his finger cymbals, Ginsberg had become a kind of self-caricature. Lowell was cool, but he was also dignified, and his reputation seemed secure and indelible. Within a couple of decades, though, he had all but fallen off the map." New York Times Magazine 06/15/03

Harry's Too Heavy In Scotland, where the new Harry Potter book will hit shelves on Saturday, the postal service is concerned about the health of its carriers, who will be expected to deliver thousands of the books preordered from online booksellers in a single day. At issue is the unusual size of the fifth Potter tome - the UK edition runs 768 pages, and weighs in at a full kilogram. So what's the solution? The Royal Mail may be forced to dispatch a special fleet of vans just to deliver Harry. BBC 06/15/03

Friday, June 13

Indy Bookstore Declines Harry The last time a new Harry Potter book came out, an independent bookstore in Toronto got the jump on the sale date and began selling it early. That led to recriminations from the publisher, the lawyers got involved, and ... tens of thousands of dollars and a few years later, the publisher wants to know if the bookstore wants a piece of the new Harry. Not a chance, says the bookstore owner. "The whole thing was totally ridiculous. You put an embargo on Saddam Hussein, not on children's books." Toronto Star 06/13/03

Joyce In Bloom "There are many puzzles attached to James Joyce's Ulysses, not the least of which is its reputation of being unreadable. It might be the greatest novel in the English language, so it goes, but who can read it? For those who can, there is no puzzle: Joyce's account of one day in the life of his antihero, Leopold Bloom, is as spellbinding as the entire history of Odysseus's journeys during the Trojan wars in Homer's Odyssey, on which it is loosely modelled." Sydney Morning Herald 06/13/03

Reforming Saddam's Literary Reputation Saddam wasn't just a dictator, of course, he was a best-selling author whose books were greeted with rapturous reviews. Of course now that he's out of power, the critics have reformed their judgment of Saddam's literary efforts. "Ali Abdel-Amir, a writer, has pronounced his former leader?s novels 'shallow'. The female characters are 'always unfaithful and were either Kurds or Iranians', he said." The Scotsman 06/13/03

Thursday, June 12

ChiTrib's Top 50 Magazines With 17,500 magazines published in the U.S. across countless genres and directed at dozens of different demographics, is it even possible to select a list of the top examples? The Chicago Tribune thinks so, and is out with a ranking of the top 50 magazines. #1 might surprise you, #2 probably won't, and #3 will probably appreciate the thought, since its editor is currently a bit distracted by some pesky legal problems. Chicago Tribune 06/12/03

Wednesday, June 11

NYer Fiction Issue Is Back The New Yorker is out with its new special fiction issue. "After a year's hiatus the 'Début Fiction' issue is back, and under Deborah Treisman's watch it's a gentler affair. Ms. Treisman has done away with the glammy author photos that were a hallmark of the buzzy Buford era..." New York Observer 06/11/03

Clinton Book Sets Non-Fiction Sales Record Hillary Clinton's book has sold a record number of copies for a non-fiction book in its first day. " Barnes and Noble, one of the US's biggest book retailers, said the record was set after it sent out more than 40,000 copies to its stores and online customers in the first 24 hours. First-day sales for the memoirs, called Living History, were said to be more in keeping with best-selling fiction than a political memoir." BBC 06/11/03

Are Computers Killing The Art Of Handwriting? A growing number of parents, educators and historians fear that computers are speeding the demise of a uniquely American form of expression. Handwriting experts fear that the wild popularity of e-mail, instant messages and other electronic communication, particularly among kids, could erase cursive within a few decades." CBSNews.com 06/09/03

To Catch A Thief Plagiarism seems to be all around us. "Why do they do it? With the Internet making it easy to disseminate and read virtually anything anyone writes, it has become that much easier to catch plagiarists. So why do writers continue to steal the works of others? There are many explanations: gnawing self-doubt, narcissistic self-confidence, haste, pressure from publishers and editors, unrestrained ambition, a self-destructive need to court disaster, and, sometimes, ignorance of what plagiarism is." Boston Globe 06/11/03

Tuesday, June 10

Rowling: Weight Of Expectations Anticipation over the new Harry Potter book is so intense can it help but disappoint fans? "When I think about Rowling, the phrase 'be careful what you wish for' keeps floating unbidden into my brain. All the money in the world (and she is already richer than the Queen) cannot diminish the weight of expectation riding on her slim shoulders. Rowling has increased the dangers of disappointment by leaving a three-year gap before getting Harry's latest adventure into the shops. When the first four volumes appeared, like clockwork, at yearly intervals, she seemed to have come up with a magic formula." The Telegraph (UK) 06/10/03

Used Up - Used Book Sales Rising New book sales may be struggling, but sales of used books are on the rise. According to a new study, "one out of every 10 book buyers bought a used book in the last nine months. One of the few growing areas of the retail book business, used books now account for about $533 million in sales annually — 13% of overall book units sold and 5% of total revenue — and could lead to as much as $1.5 billion lost in new sales." Publishers Weekly 06/10/03

Poetic Hospitality Where's the real action at a literary festival, asks Lynn Coady? In the hospitality suite provided for writers. "The really big writers never let themselves be lured by the corn nuts and beer, but the place is always seething with poets, who understandably live for (and sometimes because of) these events. This makes the hospitality suite one of the more interesting places to be at the festival, countless times more interesting than the ersatz discussion panels promising penetrating accounts into The Writing Life or illuminating and in-depth discussions among Writers in Conversation." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 06/10/03

Monday, June 9

OED: 6000 New Words To Learn The Oxford English Dictionary is about to add 6000 new words to its next edition. "The cosmetic treatment botox is included, as is Viagra. Minging is also honoured with a place among the dictionary's 187,000 definitions. It is defined as 'foul smelling or very bad, unpleasant'. Other slang terms include headcase, khazi and half-inching (pinching, or stealing)." The Independent (UK) 06/08/03

Why Do Publishers Embargo Books? "Most media junkies know that when a book is 'embargoed,' they can expect a Big Gossipy Event. But why embargo a book in the first place? As a publicist who's embargoed everything from magazine articles to political speeches, I'll try to explain why the embargo can be a useful strategy." Slate 06/09/03

The World's Smallest Book A book of the New Testament is so small it fits on the tip of an eraser. "According to the latest version of Guinness Book of World Records, the five-millimeter-square tablet is the smallest reproduction yet of a printed book. It was created in 2001 by two scientists in the field of object recognition, who call it a tool for archiving and authentication." The New York Times 06/09/03

Business Noose Tightens Around University Presses University presses are in trouble. They've been pushed into a commercial marketplace in which they're ill-equipped to function. And the returns are killing them. "Because of returns, success can fail. If a book looks promising, stores will order most or all of a first printing; and the publisher will reprint. But there are always more promises made than kept, and not all books fulfill their promise. Then come the returns, and the publisher has all the copies from the new printing and piles from the first one. Last year, an Ivy League press had one month with more than a million dollars in returns. In some months, some presses had more returns than sales. Why are we so involved with returns? How did university presses move so far into the trade marketplace, ever further from their universities?" Chronicle of Higher Education 06/09/03

Sorting Through The Orwell Noise George Orwell has become a symbol for many justifications... "Scholars and public intellectuals use him as a pretext for preening about the clichés of the moment. Self-regarding leftists assail him as a renegade and alleged 'snitch' because he denounced Stalinists. Revisionist historians of the Spanish Civil War, seeking to burnish the reputation of the Stalinists in that conflict, have made him their chief object of hatred. Certain diehard leftists, on the other hand, insist that had he lived Orwell would have remained faithful to socialism, not to capitalist democracy. Feminists use him as a target for their obsessions, projecting on him, decades back in time, their insistence that nobody of traditional masculine habits and prejudices can be considered worthy of respect." New York Sun 06/09/03

Sunday, June 8

City Lights Burns Bright San Francisco's iconic bookstore City Lights turns 50. "Since emerging as a center for the Beat movement, it has become a purveyor of poetry, alternative political views, hard-to-find novels and literature by Third World writers. In a retail landscape dominated by Borders, Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com, City Lights remains an independent bastion of literary possibility. The soft-spoken, grandfatherly Ferlinghetti, 84, is uneasy with words like icon, even though City Lights helped launch the Beat movement by publishing Allen Ginsburg's `Howl' in 1956. The spry, bearded poet and publisher can only guess why the store, which he founded with Peter D. Martin, has endured. 'We survived by creating an intellectual center, a literary meeting place'." San Jose Mercury-News 06/08/03

Iraq - News Explosion Iraq, which formerly had a media tightly controlled by the government, has seen an explosion of new publications. "Dozens of daily and weekly newspapers have sprung up in the capital since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime in April, a raucous rush of unfettered expression that is utterly new to this country, and rare for any part of the Middle East." Washington Post 06/08/03

Poetry-Pushers All Can poetry be hip? Cool? There sure are a lot of people who want to convince that it can be. "We've had Poems on the Underground and the Buses, Poetry in Schools, National Poetry Day, Young Poet competitions and indeed Murray Lachlan Young (remember him, with his Byronic smouldering and his million-pound EMI deal? Ubi sunt...) - all much-needed endeavours, because poetry ought to be seen as lively and relevant. Yet for many people the idea of it remains trapped in shudder-inducing schoolday memories of interminable recitation or forced deconstruction." The Observer (UK) 06/08/03

Friday, June 6

Ondaatje's New Writing Prize Christopher Ondaatje (brother of writer Michael) is endowing a new writing prize to be given annually to the book published in the Commonwealth or Ireland that best evokes a "sense of place." Ondaatje: "These prizes are important if they are unique or innovative and they spur enthusiasm by writers so that they will strive for it," Ondaatje says. "It is also good for the book business and the literary world that there is a new prize that generates interest. Finally, it is good for the Royal Society because they are doing something new for them." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 06/06/03

Thursday, June 5

Will Fans Outgrow Harry? Publishers of the new Harry Potter installment are having 8.5 million pcopies printed in the US. But "as the young wizard enters adolescence in the series' fifth book, will his original fan base follow, now that many of them are teens themselves? That is the question facing Rowling and her U.S. publisher, Scholastic, with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix." Yahoo! (USAToday) 06/05/03

Publishers In A Price-Chopping Mood What were publishers thinking about at last week's annual BookExpo? "Lower prices were on many people's minds at the Los Angeles Convention Center, where BookExpo America, the industry's annual national gathering, ended Sunday. Publishers and booksellers agreed that in a slow economy they needed to find ways to conform to the budgets of their customers. With hardcovers often costing $25 or higher, publishers are cutting the price of some hardcover editions and going straight to paperback." Chicago Tribune (AP) 06/05/03

Wednesday, June 4

"Dark Materials" Unseats Harry On Bestseller List The Harry Potter books no longer dominate British book bestseller lists. The new champ is Philip Pullman's prize-winning "His Dark Materials" trilogy. The set is "outselling any Potter title by more than 25% after years in which JK Rowling has towered over her market." The Guardian (UK) 06/04/03

Why Do Foreigners Keep Winning The Orange Prize? They're Better! "It's becoming an interesting feature of the Orange that only two past winners have been from Britain. The rest have been either from the US or Canada. Why should this be? One answer, advanced at the Hay Festival by Hilary Mantel, a judge of Granta's Best of Young British Novelists, is that the Americans and Canadians are simply more accomplished." The Guardian (UK) 06/04/03

Do Women Still Need Their Own Literary Prize? "The Orange Prize was founded when no female writers made the shortlist for the prestigious Booker Prize in 1991." It was needed then. But things have improved - currently 15 of 25 best-sellers in the UK were written by women. Is the Orange still necessary? BBC 06/04/03

Madonna Book To Set Publishing Record? Madonna's new children's book is being published simultaneously "around the world on 15 September, translated into 42 languages. It is the first of five children's morality tales planned by the singer, based on Hebrew texts she is studying from the Kabbalah religion. US publisher Callaway Editions said it would become the 'widest simultaneous multi-language release in publishing history'." BBC 06/04/03

Tuesday, June 3

Publisher Withdraws Book After Plagiarism Charges Publisher Little, Brown has taken the unusual step of withdrawing a book - a history of the creation of the atomic bomb, after four wurthors complained that the book contained passages drawn from their work, uncredited.The author, Brian VanDeMark, 42, said yesterday that he had no comment. In a telephone interview on Friday he said that he was confident that 'detached readers would find a majority' of the passages in question to be 'reasonable paraphrases.' But he added then that "a minority should and will be reworded or credited in a footnote." The New York Times 06/04/03

Surprise Winner For Orange Prize A longshot has won this year's Orange Fiction Prize. "What was billed as a race between two million-selling authors, the American Donna Tartt and Zadie Smith from England, went instead to the relatively little-known Valerie Martin for Property, a novel of exceptional power about slavery in 19th century Louisiana." The Guardian (UK) 06/04/03

Plagiarism or The Sincerest Form Of Flattery? When it was pointed out to Stephen Howarth that portions of his much-lauded 1988 biography of Admiral Horatio Nelson appeared to have made their way, slightly paraphrased, into a Booker-winning novel published in 1999 by Barry Unsworth, Howarth was understandably upset. But is the use of historical fact in a work of fiction really plagiarism, even if the wording is similar to an excerpt of a previously published work? Unsworth and his publisher think not, and while Unsworth has expressed regret over the incident, he has also suggested to Howarth that "to have exerted an influence on another writer must after all be a source of gratification." Howarth is not in the least gratified. Boston Globe 06/03/03

Monday, June 2

Be-Littling The Big Read Sales of 100 favorite books chosen by the BBC in its Big Read program have soared, as people check out what's on the list. Bookseller "WH Smith, however, has taken a different tack. It has launched a set of 'Little Reads', flimsy little paperbacks priced at £1 apiece, reprinting just the first chapter of a book from the Big Read 100 as a 'sampler'." David Sexton writes that it's a "potty" idea. London Evening Standard 06/02/03

Sunday, June 1

Scholastic Lays Off 400 - Just Before Harry Comes Out The publisher Scholastic is laying off 400 employees on the eve of publishing the new Harry Potter. "Scholastic has been steadily tightening its financial belt since the beginning of the calendar year, following a terrible January when sales were particularly weak in the company's trade and school book club divisions. In March, it announced for the second time in two months that sales and earnings in fiscal 2003 would not meet expectations. Scholastic has been hurt by the sluggish general economy and state budget pressures that have cut back school and library funding." Publishers Weekly 06/02/03

Scholastic Lays Off 400 - Just Before Harry Comes Out The publisher Scholastic is laying off 400 employees on the eve of publishing the new Harry Potter. "Scholastic has been steadily tightening its financial belt since the beginning of the calendar year, following a terrible January when sales were particularly weak in the company's trade and school book club divisions. In March, it announced for the second time in two months that sales and earnings in fiscal 2003 would not meet expectations. Scholastic has been hurt by the sluggish general economy and state budget pressures that have cut back school and library funding." Publishers Weekly 06/02/03

BookExpo: Lookign For The Next Big Thing "During this year's four-day BookExpo America, which ended Sunday at the Los Angeles Convention Center, the hunt was on for the next 'The Lovely Bones,' the debut novel and publishing sensation by Long Beach writer Alice Sebold, who was a breakout star at last year's BookExpo in New York. In Los Angeles, the gathering drew more than 25,000 booksellers, librarians, publishers and others who traded the latest industry news (John Grisham's next novel, about a high school football team in Texas, is due in September) and gathered up the giveaways. (Only supremely disciplined book lovers kept walking past the stacks of free books cluttering the aisles.) Part of the fun was to pluck a jewel from the 20,000 titles being unveiled." Los Angeles Times 06/02/03

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