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Sunday, February 29

SF Public Library To Convert To RFIDs The San Francisco Public Library intends to change its book tracking system from bar codes to RFIDs. "Several consumer and public interest groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, oppose the widespread introduction of RFID without careful limitations on how and where it is used." San Francisco Bay Guardian (UK) 02/26/04

Some Rights Reserved A few years ago it was rare to hear authors and publishers talking about alternative copyrights. But thanks to success stories and the efforts of copyright reform groups like the Creative Commons organization, the publishing industry is beginning to warm to the idea of some rights reserved." San Francisco Bay Guardian 02/26/04

That Difficult Second Book - It's Stacked Against You "Apart from the justly renowned big guns, there are two kinds of writer at work in the English-speaking world today. First, there is the 'writer', who enjoys wide media coverage and is an expert manipulator of soundbite culture. The 'writer' has virtually no readership and keeps him or herself in play by the constant massaging of the literary media. Then there is that almost-forgotten figure: the writer, who stays at home, keeps regular hours, does the work, accumulates a readership and is virtually invisible." The Observer (UK) 02/29/04

Land Of The Free - US Government Warns Publishers About Books From Iran Iran has a rich tradition of literature, yet Americans see little of it. If the American government has its way, they'll see even less. The US government has "warned publishers they may face grave legal consequences for editing manuscripts from Iran and other disfavored nations, on the ground that such tinkering amounts to trading with the enemy." The New York Times 02/28/04

Friday, February 27

The Da Vinci Blockbuster (uh...Shouldn't That Be Leonardo?) "The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown, has been on sale for nearly a year now, and—assuming no unexpected plot twists—it should become the fastest-selling adult fiction title ever by March 18, when its publication anniversary rolls around. Apologies to all the religious-thriller, art-history-driven reading groups out there, but, uh, how the hell did an unknown author writing on an obscure subject make publishing history?" Fortune 02/27/04

Thursday, February 26

Omnivore - A New Magazine For/Of Culture Former New Yorker Magazine staffer Lawrence Weschler is trying to launch a new magazine called Omnivore: A Journal of Writing & Visual Culture. Weschler is "dissatisfied with current newsstand choices, contending that extended nonfiction reportage intended for general-interest magazines has atrophied amid 'the increasingly peg-driven, niche-slotted, attention-squeezed, sound-bit media environment of recent years.' In short, writers such as A.J. Liebling, John Hersey, and Joseph Mitchell would feel crunched for space today." New York Sun 02/26/04

Found In The Age Of Writing There are very real differences between "being a 'young writer' and an 'older writer' and even an 'old writer'. My conclusion is that old writers have the greatest advantage in that they can offend people at will without consideration to consequences. After all, it's not like they're in this business for a long career." And younger writers? they have an advantage "because if there is one thing publishing takes to be successful it is TIME, usually just a bit more than you're willing to give." BookNinja 02/04

Of Writers And Politics (When It Mattered) A new biography of James Farrell harkens back to a time in American history "when an author's political convictions genuinely mattered. Nowadays, far from changing anybody else's mind, the typical writer is too apolitical even to think of changing his own." San Francisco Chronicle 02/26/04

Wednesday, February 25

Did Disney Rip Off Nemo From French Book? "A French children's book author told a Paris court yesterday that the main fish character in the Disney film Finding Nemo, which has so far grossed $850m (£457m), was a direct copy of his own creation, a cheerful orange and white clown fish named Pierrot." The Guardian (UK) 02/25/04

Monday, February 23

Harry Potter For Adults An 800-page novel about magicians looks to be a blockbuster. First0time writer Susanna Clarke has written "Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, which has already been sold to a dozen countries and attracted interest from Hollywood, looks set to make her a millionaire and has enabled her to quit the day job to become a full-time writer." The Guardian (UK) 02/22/04

The Writer's Ego Revealed (Thanks To Amazon) Amazon's technical glitch that revealed the real names of reviewers on the website last week confirmed the behavior of ego-driven writers. "Those less inclined to fume about unethical behaviour point to the long history of literary fakery, which takes in everything from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion to the Hitler Diaries. In the rabidly competitive and cliquey world of American publishing, they say, Amazon is not just a website that sells books - it is a well known battleground of the backbiting literati." The Guardian (UK) 02/23/04

Sunday, February 22

Books - Growing On Internet Time What accounts for the enormous explosion of book publishing in recent years? "There are many possible explanations for the Triffid-like growth of the book trade. You might blame the quest for the fool's gold of turnover. You could point to the global expansion of the English language and the consequent search for new markets. Follow this logic and you could also cite the opening up of new independent markets in Ireland, Scotland, India and China, indeed virtually anywhere in the known world. Beyond the hectic traffic of the marketplace, the IT revolution has liberated the business from the restrictive practices associated with hot metal. The new technology has accelerated book production. It has also speeded up the editorial side." The Observer (UK) 02/22/04

Lit Fiction - Struggling To Be Serious Is serious fiction in danger? There does seem to be less of an audience. "It's not that serious fiction no longer has a mass audience. It never did. Most readers prefer storytelling of the John Grisham and Stephen King variety because they want to be entertained, not challenged. Literary fiction is more demanding and complex." The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 02/22/04

A Publishing Best-seller Miracle Rick Warren's "The Purpose-Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For?" sold 11.3 million copies in 2003, making it one of the biggest best-sellers of all timke. "Unabashedly religious, the book is being read and studied by millions of people in and out of churches across the country. Readers are buying extra copies at churches and in bookstores and passing them along to friends. As a crossover bestseller, flying off the shelves in both the Christian and mainstream markets, it is a modern marketing miracle." Washington Post 02/22/04

Friday, February 20

Magazines Suffer Big Sales Drop Magazine newstand sales are down substantially in the past year. In the last six months, "according to official figures released Monday by the Audit Bureau of Circulations, out of the 472 magazines it tracks, 319 reported newsstand declines and their combined newsstand sales fell 5.9 percent (3.3 million copies), not counting new titles reporting sales for the first time." Women's Wear Daily 02/20/04

When Roddy Dissed James... Last month Irish writer Roddy Doyle dismissed James Joyce's Ulysses as overlong and over-rated. "Not everyone leaped on Mr. Doyle, however, or leaped to Joyce's defense. A number of writers in more serious papers defended Mr. Doyle's right to bash an icon, and some Irish newspaper writers even conceded that they had always found Joyce rather a hard slog." As an admirer of both James and Doyle, John Rockwell is conflicted... The New York Times 02/20/04

Wednesday, February 18

Pasternak To Be Published In Russia Again The works of Boris Pasternak were banned from publication for 30 years by the Soviet government. Now the writer's complete works will be published in Russia. "All 11 volumes are set to be published by February 2005 to mark the 115th anniversary of Pasternak's birth. The first two volumes, including poems written between 1912 and 1959, have already been printed by Slovo publishers. The nine others will also be published before February next year." BBC 02/18/04

When Biographers Over-Identify With Their Subjects A biography of Alcoholics Anonymous founder Bill Wilson leaves Daniel Asa Rose distrustful of biographer Susan Cheever. "Can a biographer be said to have so much understanding that she overidentifies with her subject? Is the biographer’s function to plead her subject’s case ("he was not a perfect man, but he was the perfect man for the job," his "humanness does not diminish him, it makes him a writer, guide, and teacher," etc.), or to let the unvarnished facts speak for themselves? When does discretion become a veil? Is there such a thing, in a biographer, as too much heart?" New York Observer 02/18/04

Book Groups Petition To Get Rid Of Patriot Act Provision The American Booksellers Association, the American Library Association, and the writer's group PEN American Center are mounting a signature drive to petition lawmakers to remove the section of the Patriot Act that allows law enforcement officials to see records of what library and bookstore patrons read. Boston Globe` 02/18/04

Tuesday, February 17

Powerhouse Aussie Lit Time was that Australian literature was considered lesser than the Englis variety. But "in the last 50 years, Australian literature has become a force to be reckoned with; now it is the motherland's turn to feel insecure. Australian novelists are outwriting us, they tweak the Booker prize out of our hands (Peter Carey has won it twice, Thomas Keneally once, Tim Winton has been shortlisted twice and 2003's winner, DBC Pierre, is Australian by birth). And there is a flotilla of younger Antipodean writers coming on stream." Prospect 02/04

Descriptive Mode - The Lowly Adjective Pity the poor adjective. "Writers frequently pull out the adjectives when they either haven't, or are afraid they haven't, provided sufficient data - specific nouns and active verbs - to get their ideas across."ut adjectives are key to the best sort of writing... Chronicle of Higher Education 02/20/04

Grammar Book Boosts Small Publisher Lynne Truss' surprise grammar bestseller Eats, Shoots and Leaves has revived the financial fortunes of its small publisher, earning £5 million. "The book has now sold more than 480,000 copies after an initial print run of just 15,000. It seems there are more sticklers for grammar than we first thought." BBC 02/17/04

A New Scottish Poet Laureate Edwin Morgan, 83, has been named Scotlan's new "Scots Makar", the equivalent of a poet laureate. " 'The Scots Makar' is a term dating back to the Scots poets of the 15th and 16th century. The unpaid position lasts for a three-year term and his task will be to represent and promote Scots poetry." BBC 02/17/04

Monday, February 16

Canada Reads More (This Time On TV Too) Canada Reads is a Survivor-style program where books are argued over before one is voted off the list by celebrities at the end of each show. This year's Canada Reads is being played out on TV, radio and in schools. Why? "In 2002, the program's first year, sales for Michael Ondaatje's In the Skin of a Lion, first published in 1988, reached 80,000, pushing it to the top of bestseller lists. Last year's winner, Next Episode, also reappeared on bestseller lists, selling an additional 18,500 copies, while figures for the runner-up ran between 15,000 and 20,000." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 02/16/04

Sunday, February 15

Britain's Most-Popular Library Books What books are the British public checking out of libraries? "On the top 100 titles list, the authors who started their careers most recently are JK Rowling and Kathy Reichs (whose debuts came out in 1997 and 1998 respectively); Rowling is the only author under the age of 40. It seems that book borrowers feel that Marian Keyes, Sophie Kinsella, Cathy Kelly and other voguish bookshop favourites will have to pay their dues, so to speak, for a while longer. Nor are borrowers particularly partial to literary fiction." The Guardian (UK) 02/14/04

Book Sales Up, But Traditional Books Falter American book sales were up 18 percent in December. But "despite the supposed good news, the meat and potatoes of the industry, adult hardcover fiction and nonfiction and their paperback counterparts, continue to stagger. Despite robust increases in December -- 11.9 percent and 27.7 percent, respectively -- sales for both categories were below 2002 marks. What scored the big gains last year were "electronic," "religious" and "juvenile hardcover," that last segment's 28.5 percent rise attributed primarily to "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 02/15/04

Joyce Descendent Threatens To Sue If Dublin Reads Ulysses It's the 100th anniversary of the publication of James Joyce's Ulysses. Dublin "has planned a three-month festival of celebrations costing about £700,000. Unfortunately, the only living direct descendant of Joyce has promised to disrupt the festival by banning any public readings of his work. Stephen Joyce, the writer’s grandson, has informed the Irish government he will sue for breach of copyright if any recitations take place." The Scotsman 02/15/04

Trying To Discern The Australian Mind Through Magazines "Australians, the most enthusiastic magazine buyers in the world, have perhaps become so discriminating that it is difficult to generalise about their tastes." So what to make of "the mood of Australia when we discover that the fastest growing magazines by readership over the past year dealt with movies, pop singers and property, while the biggest declines were in gardening, shares, home repairs, and naked women?" Sydney Morning Herald 02/16/04

Shakespeare In Flesh-And-Blood We don't know very much about Shakespeare the man, do we? "What I think is that literary scholars have played down the historical aspect of Shakespeare. They almost feel his biography doesn't matter, that he's a genius who lived outside time. He had a house and kids and wrote plays and we don't need to know anything else." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 02/15/04

Amazon Outs Its Reviewers Last week, thanks to a technical glitch,Amazon.com's Canadian site revealed the actual names of customers who wrote reviews on the site. "The weeklong glitch, which Amazon fixed after outed reviewers complained, provided a rare glimpse at how writers and readers are wielding the online reviews as a tool to promote or pan a book — when they think no one is watching." The New York Times 02/14/04

We're Being Buried In Books! Each year more and more books are being published. "The most recent figures show that, in 2002, total output of new titles and editions in the United States grew by nearly 6 percent, to 150,000. General adult fiction exceeded 17,000 - the strongest category. Juvenile titles topped 10,000, the highest total ever recorded. And there were more than 10,300 new publishers, mostly small or self-publishers." Washington Post (HC) 02/15/04

Friday, February 13

Walrus Editor Steps Down David Berlin, the founding editor of Walrus magazine, produced in Toronto, is unexpectedly stepping down after only three issues. The magazine of arts and ideas has a circulation of 32,000 subscribers. "They are dropping 29,000 to 30,000 on newstands and a 30 per cent sell-through is the industry average. At that rate they are rivalling or outselling Maclean's on the the newsstand." Toronto Star 01/13/04

UK's Most-Borrowed Author Who's the most-borrowed author in British libraries? Children's writer Jacqueline Wilson. "Her name may not be as famous as JK Rowling but she is hugely popular - her books are "growers" and tend to sell through children's word of mouth." And, she's sold 30 million books. BBC 02/13/04

UK's Most-Borrowed Author Who's the most-borrowed author in British libraries? Children's writer Jacqueline Wilson. "Her name may not be as famous as JK Rowling but she is hugely popular - her books are "growers" and tend to sell through children's word of mouth." And, she's sold 30 million books. BBC 02/13/04

Thursday, February 12

It's Poetry, Not Flowers For Valentine's What does the love of your life want for Valentine's Day? Nope, not flowers. It's poetry. "In a survey of 1,000 people for the Spoken Word Publishing Association, 19% said they would prefer loving words. The only gift they wanted more than this was one which puts deeds before words - a holiday mini-break." The Guardian (UK) 02/13/04

Wednesday, February 11

Nazi Expose Suddenly Canceled By Publisher "The latest novel of Germany's hot young writer Thor Kunkel exposes the Nazis' previously unknown trade in pornographic films. Sounds like a guaranteed bestseller. So why has the book's publisher cancelled it and kicked up a literary storm?" The Guardian (UK) 02/12/04

NY Nannies Get Tossed By Publisher "Last week that Random House canceled the second novel by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus, the authors of the phenomenally best-selling The Nanny Diaries. As news began filtering out that the newly reconfigured little Random had canceled the reported-to-be $3 million contract, phones all over town started to ring. 'Random House wants its money back,' people said. 'The book is a disaster!' It may come as a shock to those who work in more normal businesses, but this kind of thing doesn’t happen every day." New York Observer 02/11/04

Tuesday, February 10

Doyle: Ulysses Could Have Used A Good Edit Roddy Doyle, Ireland's best-known modern writer has "put literary Dublin in a tizz by confessing that he too can't be bothered with James Joyce's masterpiece Ulysses." The Guardian (UK) 02/10/04

Writing Improves Your Health "Experiments have shown that writing boosts health in myriad ways, including strengthened immune function, a decreased reliance upon pain medication, improved lung function in asthma patients, and reduced symptoms in rheumatoid arthritis patients. Some studies have further demonstrated reduced blood pressure and improved performance at work and school." The Age (Melbourne) 02/10/04

Monday, February 9

Harry In Ancient Greek The first Harry Potter book has been translated into ancient Greek. "Classics teacher Andrew Wilson, from Bedford, says it is the longest text to have been translated into the ancient language in 1,500 years." BBC 02/09/04

Tough "Times" For Fiction, Serious Reviews Jerome Weeks wonders if top editors at the New York Times realize how important the Times Book Review is to readers. "While many newspapers are shrinking every story to the length and mental level of a movie blurb ('best ever!'), the Saturday Times and the Boston Globe's Ideas section take their small stands against our rampant anti-intellectualism. They print essays, intelligent ruminations on topics and trends often prompted by books. Yes, more of these would be welcome. And yes, the Book Review needs a jolt of provocative writing and fresh thinking. But its dullness has had less to do with the nature of the books being covered and more with the genteel backscratching that passes for book criticism these days." Dallas Morning News 02/06/04

Sunday, February 8

If We Bribe You Will You Buy A Book? Can Australian readers be bribed into buying books? "Books Alive began as the Government's antidote to the GST's bite into book industry revenues. From July 31 to August 15, backed by a $1.85 million advertising campaign, booksellers hope to tempt customers with $5 editions of six popular books, available with the purchase of another book." Sydney Morning Herald 02/09/04

Saturday, February 7

Writing After The Kid's Market "It is strange to find that I have joined the swelling ranks of children’s authors, since that was never either an ambition or an intention. But maybe we are all subconsciously influenced by the rags to riches story of Joanne Rowling. Certainly, children’s literature is no longer the poor relation in the publishing world. If you want to be an author, children’s literature is the place to be and agents are certainly on the hunt." The Scotsman 02/07/04

Motion Calls On UK Goverment To Protect Literary Collections British poet laureate Andrew Motion says many important literary papers are being sold outside the country. "Motion says the government should do more to stop important literary papers, often belonging to the country's most distinguished writers, going abroad." BBC 02/07/04

Thursday, February 5

Where Writing Is A Dangerous Profession "Nigeria, Africa's most populous country, has given birth to some of the continent's most remarkable writers - and then proceeded to devour them." From Chinua Achebe to Ken Saro-Wiwa, countless writers who have risen to international acclaim have found themselves beaten down by the country's notoriously repressive government. "By now, the ugly dance between Nigeria's imperious military rulers and its outspoken writers has become predictably ritualized. When the latter dare to dissent, the former lock them up, or worse." Newsday 02/05/04

Wednesday, February 4

From Proust To Pornography - Now That's An English Class At England's University of Wolverhampton, an English course has caused an uproar. "Unpopular Texts is the paradoxically popular optional course on the third year of our English degree that has been pilloried in the press. A dark spectrum of material selected from all areas of culture has passed through its seminars. Self-evidently literary and experimental works by James Joyce, William Burroughs and DM Thomas rub shoulders with Enid Blyton's long unavailable The Three Golliwogs. Modernist masterpieces labelled degenerate by the Nazis share exhibition space with a September 11-themed issue of The Amazing Spider-Man." And pornography... The Guardian (UK) 02/04/04

The Dark Side - More Familiar With Darth Than Shakespeare A UK survey reveals that those asked could identify a quote from Star Wars more easily than one from Shakespeare. "When asked to complete the line 'Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your...' from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, some people said swords or money rather than ears." BBC 02/04/04

Canada's Richest Writing Awards Announced "The finalists for the Great Annual Literary Awards - the most lucrative night in Canada's literary awards scene, with $133,000 distributed over nine prizes - were announced yesterday by the Writers' Trust of Canada." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 02/04/04

Tuesday, February 3

Lingua Franca - Suing Freelance Writers For Sport And Money The hearings drag on for freelance writers who are being sued by the trustee for the Lingua Franca bankruptcy. The trustee is going after writers for fees paid to them for stories they wrote in the last three months of the magazine's life. But there are indications that the judge hearing the case isn't taking the claims for payment very seriously... Village Voice 02/03/04

  • Previously: Lingua Franca Debacle A bankruptcy trustee for the erstwhile Lingua Franca magazine puts the screws to freelance writers in an attempt to get them to give back money the magazine paid them before folding. "A dead magazine putting the squeeze on its freelancers? Insiders are lamenting this sad end to the glorious saga of Lingua Franca, which tweaked higher education and popularized what is now known as the journalism of ideas. In chilly apartments around the city, freelancers are freaking out, calling lawyer friends, and wondering how they will come up with the money." Village Voice 01/12/04

Times Flap - What's Up For Book Review? There's been a big uproar about what might be instore for the New York Times Book Review, after an online column last week quoted top editors contemplating fundamental changes in the way the section reviews books. "If people in publishing see the New York Times doing something that is changing the way they handle books, the industry will respond -- because they need to get the coverage." San Francisco Chronicle 02/02/04

  • Previously: Big Changes Afoot At Times Book Review When The New York Times starts to talk about monkeying around with its books section, a large sector of the publishing industry sits up and takes notice. So the rumors currently circulating have to be causing some near-aneurysms, particularly among writers, editors, and readers of fiction. The Times is planning to cut way back on the number of novels it reviews, with arts editor Steven Erlanger saying that, "To be honest, there's so much s---" in the current fiction market. Non-fiction will get the lion's share of the focus in the future, and there will be fewer straight reviews, and more coverage of the publishing industry in general, as well as a new focus on reviewing the type of "popular" books once shunned by high-minded books sections. Poynter Online 01/21/04
Sunday, February 1

The New Urban Lit If 80 percent of Canada can be considered "urban," is there something called "urban literature?" A new publishing imprint aims at defining it. "But urban's presence in literature is still nascent. The form's more characteristic themes -- a sense of bravado, youth, hip-hop culture, a certain hypersexuality, and often some reflection of violence -- are only just creating their own hood in the literary canon." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 01/31/04

The Evolving Book Books always seemed so traditional. And then came the promise of e-books, giving readers more control of how they read. But "after an initial frenzy of attention, neither hypertext nor e-books gets much ink these days. Are readers ceding control back to writers?" Chicago Tribune 02/01/04

Insta-Talk Novel A French writer has written the first novel in shorthand instant messaging language. "Phil Marso has published (on paper) an antismoking novella for teenagers called 'Pa Sage a Taba' (Not Wise to Smoke), composed in the jambalaya of abbreviations, slang, and neologisms that teens worldwide use to send each other text messages online and via cellphone." Boston Globe 02/01/04

Tennyson's Crisis Of Confidence In a recently unearthed trove of writings: "Scribbles by Queen Victoria's poet laureate Alfred Lord Tennyson on a publisher's proof show he planned to cut out the most celebrated sections of The Charge of the Light Brigade." The Guardian (UK) 01/31/04

Backlash On An Opinion Forcefully Expressed Dale Pck was surprised by the furor that erupted over his scathing review of Dale Peck's book last fall. But the backlash has taken its toll, he writes. "God knows the name-calling doesn't bother me (although you'd think a clever writer wouldn't have to resort to homophobia to defend his novel). But it does effectively destroy my ability to be read seriously, by which I mean holistically. I'm the guy who called Moody the worst writer of his generation, and the thousands of words I used to qualify that assertion have disappeared behind it." The Guardian (UK) 01/31/04

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