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Monday, February 28

Churchill's Epic History, A Sequel Winston Churchill's "A History of the English-Speaking Peoples" told an epic tale of 2,200 years of history. Now "historian Andrew Roberts has taken on the daunting task of picking up where Churchill's narrative left off, at the dawn of the 20th century. Roberts is writing a fifth volume to add to the four Churchill wrote. It will trace the main events of the 20th century chronologically, with the wartime leader himself a dominant figure." The Guardian (UK) 02/28/05

Hemingway House To Become Museum Ernest Hemingway's house in Idaho will stay where it is and become a museum. "The board of The Nature Conservancy's Idaho chapter voted Friday to move ahead with a plan to turn the 13-acre property near Sun Valley into a literary library and museum. The Nobel Prize-winning author fatally shot himself at the home in 1961. Neighbors had agreed to pay market value for the property — which could fetch an estimated $5 million — on the condition the house be moved. Neighbors fear the nonprofit group's plans will disrupt the residential character of the upscale Ketchum community." Yahoo! (AP) 02/27/05

Actors Trade Fake Da Vinci Code For Real In China Actors dressed as characters from The Da Vinci Code spent a day at Shanghai's Book City exchanging pirated copies of the best-selling thriller for legal editions. "Customers looking to turn their fake copy in for a legitimate edition had to tell the actors where and when they bought the pirated book. Since the Chinese version was published last year, 500,000 legal copies of the book have been sold, but pirated versions are still readily available throughout the country. The real book sells for about 28 yuan (US$3.38), while pirated versions sell for between 5 yuan and 10 yuan." China View (Xinhua) 02/28/05

Sunday, February 27

Adopting The Cuban Librarians "Almost two years ago, about 11 independent librarians in Cuba were among 75 dissidents, journalists and others arrested and given prison sentences of up to 28 years for essentially collaborating with enemies of the state. Most are still in jail, despite an international outcry. Although New York is home to magnificent libraries, world-class publishers and fierce champions of free expression, the Cuban Cultural Center is the only group in the city so far to adopt an independent library. They hope their action will send a dual message. 'It's not just about sending whatever books we can, but we want the people in Cuba to know they are not alone and that someone here recognizes what they are going through'." The New York Times 02/27/05

The Lucky Few Getting a first book published is a monumental undertaking for most authors, particularly if their tome is not a new-age self-help book or a shrill political diatribe. So for those writers who manage to get a publisher interested in their work and make it to press, the anticipation of publication is a heavy time, and every wannabe's road to success is unique. The Observer (UK) 02/27/05

Thursday, February 24

Tell-All Book Riles Mormon Church "The daughter of one of Mormonism's most prominent religious scholars has accused her father of sexually abusing her as a child in a forthcoming memoir that is shining an unwelcome spotlight on the practices and beliefs of the much-scrutinized but protectively private Mormon religious community... The Mormon Church issued a statement condemning the book, calling it 'seriously flawed in the way it depicts the church, its members and teachings.' [The author] and her publisher have said she has received e-mail messages containing death threats. In addition, Mormons around the country have participated in an e-mail campaign against the book." The New York Times 02/24/05

Wednesday, February 23

Random House To Offer Mobile Phone Content Random House has invested in a company that distributes content to wireless phones. So will books be offered? "This is the first step, and we will probably see a lot of other content from Random House and Bertelsmann being offered to mobile users. One hurdle, however, is the confining nature of the mobile interface, which does not lend itself to reading books, for example. But this will probably be a lot more compelling when they start offering content from the Bertelsmann channels." Yahoo! (Newsfactor) 02/22/05

Lost Shelley Letters To Be Sold "A newly discovered set of letters written by the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley are to go on sale after being found in a trunk at a house in London. The correspondence, written by Shelley and his friend and biographer Thomas Jefferson Hogg, was destined for a car boot sale before being identified." BBC 02/23/05

OED To Embrace 'Wife-Beater'? "Coming soon to a dictionary near you: 'wife-beater.' Not the abusive husband, mind you -- but the sleeveless, white undershirt. The 'wife-beater' -- frequently spotted on Kid Rock, available at your neighborhood Gap -- is soon to be immortalized in the Oxford English Dictionary. It'll likely be added, somewhere between 'whip' and 'women's lib,' next month." Fort Worth Star-Telegram 02/23/05

Tuesday, February 22

The New Generation Of Teen Lit Author Francesca Lia Block "writes in a style that she says is influenced by Greek myth, the magical realism of Gabriel García Márquez and the modernist poetry of T. S. Eliot and H. D. Her stories abound with sudden transformations, fairies, genies and ghosts." But her novels, aimed at a young adult audience, also contain plenty of frank discussion of drugs, sex, and the other temptations confronted by teens and college students. As might be expected, not everyone is happy with Block's subject matter, but her books are flying off the shelves, and winning awards on their way to the cash register. The New York Times 02/23/05

Monday, February 21

No Laughing At The Narrators (Until They Leave The Room) "As a researcher at Recorded Books, the audiobook publisher, Paul Topping hunts for precise pronunciations of foreign expressions, medical maladies and obscure geographical and biological names." His job also requires that he keep from laughing when narrators ask him how to pronounce much simpler words. "Proper pronunciation is serious business among audiobook publishers, who are enjoying double-digit sales growth in an otherwise stagnant publishing industry. When reviewers hear gaffes, they let it rip." The New York Times 02/21/05

Sunday, February 20

Snob Appeal - The Power Of Books "No one ever went broke overestimating snob appeal. It's one of the most marketable vicarious pleasures. And it colors writing well beyond Cinderella fiction. Biographers are often drawn to elite subjects. Chick-lit heroines are perennially obsessed with status. The coming-of-age memoir gets more attention if its narrator learned about life at a socially prestigious school. And a diet book has more cachet if it cautions against too many tartes aux pommes rather than too many Twinkies." The New York Times 02/21/05

Finalists For Booker's First International Lifetime Prize "Nobel laureates Saul Bellow, Gunter Grass and Gabriel Garcia Marquez were among 18 finalists announced Friday for the first ever Man International Booker Prize, a lifetime achievement award worth around $115,000." Yahoo! (AP) 02/20/05

It Does Say "Novel" On The Cover, Right? "Art experts and conservative clerics are holding an unusual 'trial' in Leonardo da Vinci's hometown aimed at sorting out fact from fiction in the book The Da Vinci Code after many readers took the smash hit novel as gospel truth... The novel's contentious allegations -- namely, that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and sired a bloodline -- have provoked unprecedented protest among Roman Catholic and Protestant conservatives." The trial is being organized by the director of a Leonardo da Vinci museum, and is being backed by several Catholic officials, Minneapolis Star Tribune (AP) 02/19/05

Friday, February 18

Cahners In Decline Time was when Cahners Publishing was the king of trade publications, owning such titles as Publishers Weekly and Variety. No more. The company has been piecemealed to death into a shadow of its former self. Boston Globe 02/18/05

Thursday, February 17

Bigger Type Syndrome Book sales are down? Maybe books are too small? Or at least the type (think of the oldsters)? "The answer is obvious: publishers are to make books bigger, thereby making space for larger print on the page and solving the malaise affecting literature. Penguin launches its Premium range in the US in the northern summer. 'We think it will be a more comfortable reading experience, but still at an affordable price'." Sydney Morning Herald 02/18/05

Books As A Contact Sport "The First Annual TMN Tournament of Books, presented by The Morning News (TMN), a daily online magazine (themorningnews.org/tob), and Powells.com, an online bookstore, is under way. The writers aren't hacks and they aren't in a stadium. The fans don't roar and they don't judge. But the Web tournament is set up exactly like an N.C.A.A. basketball tournament, with ladders, seeds and head-to-head contests. Round after round, novels from 2004 are pitted against each other until only one of the original 16 is standing. The champion will be announced on Feb. 28. At that point its author may receive a live rooster, which has a cryptic connection to the brother of the writer David Sedaris." The New York Times 02/17/05

Death Of A Salesman (And His Dream) "Its gradual demise lacks the éclat of the Gillette takeover, the disappearance of Fleet Bank, or the offshoring of John Hancock, but Cahners Publishing Company's death by a thousand cuts has had a significant impact on civic life in Boston. The name of Norman Cahners, the hustling young Harvard grad who turned a Navy inventory newsletter called 'The Palletizer' into a trade publishing empire, was quietly removed from the company's signature Newton Corner headquarters a while back. Now the Boston-area staff is leaving the building entirely... The purge of the Cahners name was completed two years ago, when the founder's daughter Nancy was summoned to Newton to remove her father's portrait." Boston Globe 02/17/05

Wednesday, February 16

Plans For Hemingway House Rile Idaho Neighbors Neighbours in the town of Ketchum, Idaho fear that plans to open to the public the house in which Ernest Hemingway killed himself will "bring scores of tourists who will disrupt their peace and clog up their drives. They want to buy the property - which could have a price tag of more than $500,000 - from the conservancy that owns it, and move it down the road. But the plan has run into opposition from the Idaho Hemingway House Foundation, which counts the Hollywood luminary Tom Hanks and the writer's granddaughter Mariel Hemingway as board members." The Guardian (UK) 02/15/05

World Book Day - The Power Of Recommendation Organizers of World Book Day want to harness the power of word of mouth to promote reading. They plan to distribute 8 million postcards which would "enable one in seven people in the British population to recommend a book to a friend, or enemy. The card, due to come tumbling out of virtually every publication in Britain until World Book Day on March 3, are designed by artists ranging from the Guardian's Graham Rawle to Peter Blake and Simon Patterson. The organisers, whose mission is to raise the profile of reading and book buying and borrowing, call this harnessing the power of recommendation, and are focusing it on a single day." The Guardian (UK) 02/16/05

Call To Arms: Help Cuban Librarians Nat Hentoff says jailed Cuban librarians need the help of American libraries. "How inspiring it would be if the world-renowned New York Public Library and its president, Paul Leclerc, would join the small Vermillion Public Library in South Dakota to further circulate stories and songs of freedom by sending books—and encouragement—to the Cuban independent libraries. Many of the multicultural users of New York's library system would be proud of its flagship center and its lions guarding the freedom to read." Village Voice 02/16/05

Super-Size Me - The New Paperbacks "Mass market paperbacks, those pocket-sized best sellers available everywhere from airports to drug stores, are on the decline, apparent victims of increased competition and the squints of baby boomers who value larger print over lower prices." So publishers are experimenting with a larger format. "The new paperbacks will be at least a centimetre taller than mass market books — big enough to make the books more readable, but small enough to fit into pockets and existing store racks. In both size and prize, they will stand midway between mass market books and “trade” paperbacks, which are the same size as hardcovers." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 02/15/05

Publisher Sues P. Diddy For Advance Money Random House is suing P. Diddy to get back a $300,000 advance for an autobiography the rapper never wrote. The book was contracted for in 1999 and no manuscript is yet forthcoming. "Random House has seldom resorted to a legal course of action with its prospective authors who don't write the books we have contracted for, but Mr. Sean Combs has left us no choice." Yahoo! (AP) 02/16/05

Foyles To Expand Worldwide Foyles, London's much-beloved book shop, has announced that it will expand worldwide, in its first expansion since the 1930s. "The privately owned group will target cities where it can establish as authoritative a presence as it has in London, where its business has been based since 1906." The Independent (UK) 02/16/05

Monday, February 14

The Book Club Phenomenon There may be as many as 50,000 book clubs in the UK. "What is clear is that the book club is now a near-ubiquitous feature of bourgeois life. If you are not in one, you will know someone who is. There are reading groups devoted to football, horror, and crime books. There groups in prisons, groups for men, groups who dress up in clothing appropriate to the book, groups who cook for each other, lesbian groups and radical groups." The Guardian (UK) 02/12/05

Where Is The Canadian Literary Sex? Where is the sex in Canadian literature? Even when there is sex, it "is rarely a pleasurable event. Instead, it is often used as a metaphor for politics, identity, globalization, consumerism – almost everything but sex itself." CBC 02/14/05

Sunday, February 13

The Most Romantic Novel Ever? It's Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, published in 1813, which "beat Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre in a survey of members of the 700-strong Romantic Novelists' Association. Gone With the Wind, Wuthering Heights and Rebecca were also in the top five." BBC 02/13/05

How About A Little Politics With Your Candy? (The Role Of Art) Steve Almond writes a book about candy and throws in a few political opinions for good measure. Then he gets trashed by readers. "What really bummed me out about the Amazon haters wasn't that they disagreed with my politics, but that they immediately summoned such genuine outrage at me for deigning to express a political opinion at all." MobyLives 02/13/05

Friday, February 11

Wilson Was UK Libraries' Most-Borrowed Author Children's book author Jacqueline Wilson had the most books borrowed last year from British libraries. Danielle Steel was runner-up, with Josephine Cox in third place, both for the second year in a row. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was the most borrowed book. Wilson's books were borrowed more than two million times, according to the Public Lending Right (PLR) organisation." BBC 02/11/05

Thursday, February 10

Salon Profitable, Founder Leaving Along with announcing its first profitable quarter ever, Salon.com, the pioneering internet magazine, says David Talbot, who founded Salon magazine in 1995, will step down as the magazine's editor in chief, chief executive and "relentless cheerleader." He will be replaced as editorby Joan Walsh, his longtime deputy. The New York Times 02/10/05

Wednesday, February 9

A Translation Boom? "Increasingly, writers, readers and publishers are turning to literature as a bridge between cultures, particularly Western and Arab societies estranged since Arab extremists attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001. This in turn is driving a boom in translation." CTV (Canada) 02/09/05

Tuesday, February 8

Wolfe's Book Falls Flat At The Cash Register Thomas Wolfe's new book is on the bestseller lists to be sure. But crappy reviews have translated into sales of "only" 250,000, far below the announced first printing of 1.5 million. "Despite its continued tenure on most national best-seller lists, "I Am Charlotte Simmons" is being discounted by 50 percent or more at bookstores and online, a move publishers often make to try to recoup some of their investment in a book that has not met expectations." The New York Times 02/09/05

How A South Dakota Library Stuck Up For Imprisoned Cuban Librarians In March 2003, Castro's State Security police arrested independent librarians who provided access to books excluded from Cuba's censored library system. "These 'subversive' independent public librarians were sent to Castro's foul prisons, along with the other dissenters. During the raids on these independent libraries, the offending books were confiscated, and many of them burned." A tiny library in South Dakota "adopted" a Cuban library, sending books and drawing attention to the plight of the librarians... Village Voice 02/08/05

Wright Starts Poetry Press Charlie Wright is chairman of timber and development company R.D. Merrill is known in art circles for restoring solvency to the New York-based Dia Foundation. Now he's turning to another big interest - poetry - and starting a new publishing house. "We'll be focused on mid-career American poets. There will be some exposure to emerging poets, also reprints and translations - sort of a mixed bag." Seattle Post-Intelligencer (AP) 02/08/05

Kipen: New American Lit Awards Have A Conflict So there's to be an Oscars for the book world - the Quill Awards. Televised on TV too. But David Kipen has a problem with one of the overseers of the awards - Reed Business International, the company that owns Publishers Weekly: "Now, PW is a pleasant and frequently useful publication. Unaccountably -- maybe by mistake? -- it's even hired a gifted and energetic literary journalist, Sara Nelson, to become its new editor. But still, in co- administering an annual awards ceremony honoring the very industry PW covers, the magazine's conflicts of interest are, not to put too fine a point on it, ripe for the plucking." San Francisco Chronicle 02/08/05

Monday, February 7

BBC's New Book Club The BBC is starting a book club after seeing the success of other such clubs. "The shortlist of 24 books, designed to showcase the "best new books" on offer in the UK today, was whittled down from a longlist of over 300 by a panel of book-loving celebrities and literary experts." The Guardian (UK) 02/07/05

LA Schools Computer Program Fails To Teach Reading The Los Angeles School District has spent nearly $50 million on a computer reading program that failed to improve student reading skills and in some cases hindered achievement because schools did not use it properly... Los Angeles Times 02/07/05

Rich Parents = Smarter Kids A new study in the UK says that the wealthier a child's parents are, the more advanced a reader that child will be. "A government-funded study reveals that the gap occurs irrespective of natural ability, parents' education or how often mothers and fathers read to their child." The Observer (UK) 02/06/05

Sunday, February 6

Milan Bans Leonardo-Inspired Billboard Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code was based on Leonardo's Last Supper fresco. Now "authorities in Milan have banned a billboard featuring an all-female version of the 15th Century fresco, which the fashion house itself says was inspired by the hotly debated book. The campaign has run without controversy in both Paris and New York. But its use of religious symbols could offend Milan, the town hall ruled." BBC 02/06/05

The Words Of Reality "For literary theoreticians, it is axiomatic that language is unequal to the task of encompassing reality. Its failure is inevitable, a given." But this is patently not true, writes Craig Raine. Just look at Kipling... The Guardian (UK) 02/05/05

Thursday, February 3

Comic Books - No More Kids? Comic books have been a big success in the adult market in recent years. "But the new wave has had its costs, chief among them being the near vacuum that’s been left in what was once a thriving market for well-crafted kids’ comics. If you need proof, just take a stroll through your local 7-Eleven. You'd be hard pressed to find any evidence of kids’ comics or the iconic racks they used to call home." CBC 02/03/05

Remote Autograph? We Don't Want It! Margaret Atwood is working on a device that would allow her to sign autographs remotely and cut down on traveling. But autograph collectors reject the idea. "We quite understand the idea behind Margaret Atwood's invention because, as she says in interviews, she is an old-age pensioner [who doesn't want to face the rigours of book tours], but the intriguing thing we found is that it's not so much the signature that fans care about, it's meeting the author in person, that's the real thrill," The Globe & Mail (Canada) 02/03/05

Report: Textbook Price Increases Outpace Inflation A new study says textbook publishers have hiked the prices of their books at a rate much higher than inflation. "Textbook prices have increased at four times the average rate of inflation in their category, finished goods, over the past 10 years, according to figures from the Producer Price Index maintained by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The wholesale price of textbooks increased 62 percent over that decade while the average price for all finished goods increased by just 14 percent. Prices for general books increased 19 percent in the same period." San Jose Mercury-News 02/03/05

Wednesday, February 2

Is Evolution Disappearing From US Classrooms? "Though the teaching of evolution makes the news when officials propose, as they did in Georgia, that evolution disclaimers be affixed to science textbooks, or that creationism be taught along with evolution in biology classes, in districts around the country, even when evolution is in the curriculum it may not be in the classroom, according to researchers who follow the issue." The New York Times 02/02/05

Buy The Book, Hunt The Treasure Michael Stadther's new book includes a treasure hunt. Readers are given clues to a dozen tokens hidden throughout America. "The tokens can be redeemed for $1 million in jewels. So far, none has been found, but there's plenty of time. The hunt won't officially end until Dec. 31, 2007." Yahoo! (USA Today) 02/02/05

Tuesday, February 1

Critics Just Wanna Be Liked? "I often get letters from readers of the Sunday Telegraph literary pages complaining about misleading book reviews. Usually they say that a book they’ve bought on the strength of a favourable review was nothing like as good as our critic had made out. I have some sympathy for this, as reviewers on the whole want to be loved, like everyone else, and are rarely as harsh in print as they could be." The Spectator 02/02/05

A Machine That Learns By Reading "Narrowing that cognitive gap between humans and machines — creating a computer that can read and learn at a sophisticated level — is a big goal of artificial intelligence researchers. The Pentagon has granted a contract worth at least $400,000 last fall to two Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute professors who are trying to build a machine that can learn by reading. The academics hope to create a machine that can read sections of textbooks and answer questions based on the material. Down the road, professor Selmer Bringsjord believes such artificial intelligence, or A.I., machines might be able to read military plans or manuals and adjust on the fly in the heat of battle." Yahoo! (AP) 01/31/05

LA Times Book Editor Leaving? "Could Steve Wasserman soon be leaving the L.A. Times? Buzz is getting louder that the head of the book review at the West Coast's biggest paper could be getting ready for a departure, with sources reporting that over the last few weeks he's had conversations with East Coast editors about other jobs." Publishers Weekly 02/01/05

Suit Happy - Publishing As Entertainment Who says publishing is a genteel business? Numerous lawsuits over publishing projects are currently before the courts. And some of them are pretty amusing... Rocky Mountain News 02/01/05

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