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Tuesday, August 30

John Updike Considers Salman Rushdie: "Rushdie as a literary performer suffers, I think, from being not just an author but a cause célèbre and a free-speech martyr, thanks to the fatwa issued by Ayatollah Khomeini in the wake of “The Satanic Verses” (1988), a playful work that precipitated riots in India and Pakistan, and gave American and English publishers and booksellers an early taste of heightened security. The fatwa, which invited any good Muslim to kill Rushdie, was withdrawn in 1998, but a decade of living in hiding deepened this previously gregarious author’s expertise on two subjects: celebrity and human cruelty. His fascination with fame and theatricality, movies and rock music predated the fatwa, and gives his fiction a distracting glitter, like shaken tinsel." The New Yorker 08/29/05

Amazon - Unlocking The Words Inside Amazon's new "search inside" feature unlocks a wealth of analysis about the texts of books. "Thanks to a sensational subsection called Fun Stats, you will know just how many words you are getting per dollar and per ounce with each book. For instance, "War & Peace" by Leo Tolstoy gives you 51,707 words per dollar, while "Obliviously On He Sails: The Bush Administration in Rhyme" by Calvin Trillin delivers only 1,106 words per dollar." Washington Post 08/30/05

Shakespeare - A Whole Lot Of Guessing Going On There's a big industry of "who was Shakespeare" theories and books, and most of it is just conjecture and guessing. "The traditional theory that Shakespeare was Shakespeare has the passive to active acceptance of the vast majority of English professors and scholars, but it also has had its skeptics, including major authors, independent scholars, lawyers, Supreme Court justices, academics and even prominent Shakespearean actors." The New York Times 08/30/05

Where Are The African-American Idea Magazines? "There's the feel-good, middle-class black mirror most vividly embodied by Ebony and Jet, and the post-modern, hyper-acquisitive "bling" aesthetic found in hip-hop magazines such as Vibe and XXL. But there's no idea-driven publication aimed at black Americans -- at least none that has achieved equivalent success. Why?" Washington Post 08/29/05

Monday, August 29

The Best Scottish Book Of All Time? Lewis Grassic Gibbon's 1932 novel Sunset Song has been picked - after a six-month exercise - as the best Scottish book ever. But was this public contest worth anything? "Is there any point in the exercise in the first place? Does it lead to a debate or is it just another example of a dumbed down culture unable to discuss any topic unless it has been reduced to a list?" The Scotsman 08/29/05

Publishing's Lost Summer Ho hum. This summer was a snooze in the publishing world. "Maybe it was the heat, the lack of a juicy controversy or an exciting book, for that matter, that made the past few months unmemorable for most readers." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 08/28/05

Sunday, August 28

What Becomes (A Complete) Classic? There are 1082 books in Peguin's Classics collection. "The Penguin Collection raises a number of issues, not least being what exactly is a classic? A book few have read, but which remains in print centuries after it was issued? Does a classic have to have had a social impact, say, Sun Tzu's The Art of War or Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass? Must it sell a zillion copies - Judith Krantz's Scruples and Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code would qualify, though neither are in this package - or is a classic defined by the amount of joy it brings to any reader, like the Hi-Lights constituency? Or should a classic be a book that changes the way we read?" Rocky Mountain News 08/28/05

The Publishing Conspiracy - You Have To Publish Something People Want To Read It's a well-peddled myth that the publishing industry is a cartel. "Curiously unsatisfied with the idea that being a successful novelist requires the ability to write books that a consistently large number of people are prepared to buy, jaded scribblers search instead for an explanation that will permit them to retreat with their pride and delusions intact." The Guardian (UK) 08/28/05

Don't Books Need A Jolt Of Contest Popularity? Some in the book industry are grumbling that the rich Quills Prize is just a reward for popularit. "But worried publishers, and the Quills organizers, say that show biz is just what publishing needs. Book sales have been in the dumps for several years, and with newspaper review space dropping, publishers are desperate to get public attention. The Quills appear after a year in which the National Book Award, funded largely by the publishing industry, drew sneers and grumbles for nominating five poor-selling novels by relatively unknown writers. The Quills idea is that if consumers participate in naming the best books and get to see the winners announced on national television, they'll have a heightened interest in books." Boston Globe 08/27/05

Friday, August 26

FBI Demands Library Records The FBI has demanded records from a library in Connecticut under authority of the Patriot Act as part of an investigation. "Because of federal secrecy requirements, the ACLU said it was barred from disclosing the identity of the institution or other details of the FBI's demand, but court papers indicate the target is a library in the Bridgeport, Conn., area." San Francisco Chronicle 08/26/05

Comics Publisher Rebounds With The Classics Fantagraphics Comics was almost broke two years ago, but a project to publish the complete Peanuts cartoons was a big hit and turned the company around. Now it's made a deal to publish the complete Dennis the Menace in 25 columes ove 11 years... Los Angeles Times 08/26/05

Thursday, August 25

Oh, We All Love A Great Pirate Yarn (Don't We?) Readers have been served a double helping of pirate books in the last couple of months, for reasons that defy analysis. The cowboy and the gangster, twin pillars of America's self-image, continue to inspire screenwriters and novelists, although the cowboy, these days, seems to be limping as badly as Walter Brennan. But what can explain the allure of pirates? The New York Times 08/26/05

Libraries Offer Audio Downloads More and more American public libraries are offering audiobook downloads to be "borrowed". "A patron with a valid library card visits a library Web site to borrow a title for, say, three weeks. When the audiobook is due, the patron must renew it or find it automatically 'returned' in a virtual sense: The file still sits on the patron's computer, but encryption makes it unplayable beyond the borrowing period. The patron doesn't have to do anything after the lending period. The file expires. It checks itself back into the collection. There's no parts to lose. It's never damaged. It can never be late." Yahoo! (AP) 08/25/05

Read My Book (Through Cell Phones) Publishers are experimenting with marketing books through cell phones. Just around the corner? Delivering mobile text books... USAToday 08/25/05

The Clothing Lady, The Shopping Network, And 34,534 Books Sold Jeanne Bice, a clothing entrepreneur, wrote a book. Instead of hyping it the conventional way, she went on the TV shopping network QVC. She sold 15,000 books in 8 minutes. "Then she sold roughly 9,000 and 10,000 more books this month during two more sessions on the channel, for a total of 34,534 books ordered in less than half an hour of accumulated air time." The New York Times 08/25/05

LA Times Names New Book Review Editor The Los Angeles Times has a new books editor. He's David Ulin, 44, a longtime champion of West Coast writers. He's "written for numerous publications, including The Times, and served for three years as book editor of the Los Angeles Reader. John Montorio, the top editor of The Times' feature sections, said that Ulin would be empowered to accomplish a complete makeover of book coverage when he starts in October. "I think that the review will remain urbane and sophisticated, but we want it to be far more accessible and far more attuned to what is really hot in the book world." Los Angeles Times 08/25/05

Book Critic Kipen Joins NEA San Francisco Chronicle book critic David Kipen has been named the National Endowment for the Arts' new director of Literature. "Among his new responsibilities, Kipen will design and lead national leadership initiatives, develop partnerships to advance the literature field, and recommend panelists and manage the review process for literature applications." NEA 08/24/05

Tuesday, August 23

Borrow This, Pass It On The first online library is an enormous chain letter of books. "After choosing a book, each reader sends a stamped addressed envelope to whoever owns the volume. The owner posts the book and the reader is allowed to keep it for up to five weeks before passing it on to the next person in the chain. After beginning its journey from reader to reader, each book is destined to remain in circulation indefinitely. Anyone failing to keep the chain in motion will have membership frozen, although there are no plans to introduce library fines." The Guardian (UK) 08/24/05

Monday, August 22

Newsweeklies Fade At The Newsstand America's newsweeklies are losing single-copy newstand sales at an alarming rate. "The decreases again raise the question of how general-interest publications can hold on to their audiences in a 24-hour cable news and Internet environment while competing against increasingly popular entertainment, pop culture and specialized magazines." USAToday 08/22/05

Library Closure = A Disturbing Turn For Culture Norman Lebrecht decries the closing of London's Whitechapel Library. "It illuminates the glaring failures of English education and integration over the past generation, and its transferral to an 'ideas store', half a mile away beside a Sainsbury's supermarket, says all you dreaded to know about the confusion of culture with consumerism that has overtaken the governing classes of this country with such devastating social consequences. Need to know cause and effect for street crime and drink culture? Start with the wrecking of our library system." La Scena Musicale 08/22/05

Amazon Sells Short Stories Amazon has started selling short stories online for 49 cents. "The new program, called Amazon Shorts, is starting with 59 authors, which include well-known names such as Danielle Steel and Terry Brooks. Their submissions range in length from about 2,000 to 10,000 words, which the company expects to translate into an average about seven pages each. Customers who purchase a piece can read it on the Web, download and print a copy, save it in a digital locker, or send the story to an email address." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 08/22/05

Online Library Swamped With interest The owner of a new online cooperative lending library says interest in the idea is overwhelming, and the website hasn't even started yet. "The website asks its members to add a list of 10 books they own to its online catalogue. The listed books can then be exchanged between members for the cost of postage and packing. Our community of readers can save money, have a bigger library and help the environment by saving a few more trees."
BBC 08/22/05

Sunday, August 21

Print-On-Demand Changing The Book Business Print-on-demand books are becoming a big presence in the book marketplace. "Unlike previous self-published books, PODs are digitally printed, which makes them cheaper and quicker to produce. Since 1997, when the technology became widely available, print-on-demand companies have taken over a big chunk of the book industry. Out of the 195,000 titles printed last year, one of every four was a POD." Dallas Morning News 08/21/05

The Further Adventures Of Peter Pan (A Stronger Wendy, and Peter Becomes Hook?) Geraldine McCaughrean, who won in a worldwide competition to write a sequel to Peter Pan has revealed a few details of her plans. "McCaughrean says she has rewritten the final pages of Peter Pan to help transport readers back to Neverland, to a setting 25 years after the boy who never grew up apparently vanquished his pirate foe. She hints that the character of Wendy will be a stronger, more modern woman, while - in a remarkable twist - the immortal Peter may be transformed into his dastardly nemesis, Captain Hook. While some aficionados may be shocked by the revelations, experts are excited and insist McCaughrean is doing justice to Barrie's modern interests in issues of gender and humanity's struggle with inner demons." Scotland On Sunday 08/21/05

A Short Story Booker? The UK's National Short Story Prize is the world's richest. "In what organisers hope will one day grow to the size and prominence of the Booker Prize, the competition aims to honour the country's finest writers of short stories so is only open to authors with a previous record of publication who are either UK nationals or residents." Scotland On Sunday 08/21/05

For Those Midnight Couscous Emergencies Need a book fix in the middle of the night? If you're in Paris, now you can go to one of five book vending machines. "Stocked with 25 of Maxi-Livres best-selling titles, the machines cover the gamut of literary genres and tastes. Classics like 'The Odyssey' by Homer and Carroll's 'Alice in Wonderland' share the limited shelf space with such practical must-haves as '100 Delicious Couscous' and 'Verb Conjugations'." Yahoo! (AP) 08/21/05

Plain Beauty - From Book To Screen Why do filmmakers cast pretty women for movies of great novels? "Books link readers directly to the interior lives of their heroines, but the camera needs the beauty out on the surface, where the audience can fall in love with it faster. In novels, other characters are wooed by wonderful minds, and infer beauty from what's within. On film, a plain face has to work so much harder to persuade people. It's so much easier to start with the lovely, but it loses so much. The great women novelists of the 19th century had no great interest in the great looking; among the first to trade on their brains rather than their appearance, they created characters who also had greater interior than exterior worth." The Age (Melbourne) 08/20/05

Thursday, August 18

Eagerly Awaited French Novel "Outed" By Critic Who "Found" A Copy The most eagerly awaited book in France this year is by Michel Houellebecq, the enfant terrible of modern French writing. But the book has had an early entry into public by a critic who claims he found a copy of the book on a park bench. "M. Rinaldi's account of how he came by the book was, therefore, treated with some scepticism. The headline above his review read 'A Houellebecq fallen from a lorry'. M. Rinaldi, one of the best-known and most acerbic literary critics in France and an outspoken enemy of Houellebecq's writing, claimed he had found the review copy by pure accident." The Independent (UK) 08/18/05

So Who Needs To Read Books Anyway? Why was everyone so apalled with Posh Spice confessed she'd never read a book? "Since when did a regular quota of suitably serious reading matter become obligatory? And who decides what's worthy anyway? If Victoria Beckham swallowed a regular dose of sugary chick lit or violent slasher chillers, for example (well, they're books too), would it somehow make her reading habits more acceptable than the fact that she happens to "love fashion magazines"?" The Guardian (UK) 08/19/05

2005's Lit Hits: MIA Where are this year's literary hits? "The big books have been thrillers, such as "The Da Vinci Code" and "The Historian," and the fantasy blockbuster "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince." Not only have established literary authors disappointed critics, no major new literary voices have emerged. 'I think a lot of editors will tell you that 2004 and 2005 haven't been very good for fiction acquisitions. There weren't a lot of huge auctions or books that publishers got really excited about'." Yahoo! (AP) 08/18/05

Harry Discounts Hurt B&N Financials Booksellers were expecting a blockbuster summer with a new Harry Potter in play. But Barnes & Noble reports disappointing sales "The company's sales rose just 6 percent, to $1.17 billion. Analysts had been expecting sales of $1.18 billion on a bigger boost from the sixth volume of the Harry Potter saga, "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince." The new book about the boy wizard sold more than 8.9 million copies in the first 24 hours it was on sale in the United States and Britain, becoming the fastest-selling book in history, according to publishers. But retailers cut heavily into their profits on the book, selling it at discounts of more than 50 percent to lure customers into stores." Yahoo! (AP) 08/18/05

A New Thesaurus For "Thinkers" "Peter Meltzer decided the modern thesaurus was so flawed, there was only one way to fix it: He would have to write a new one. Next month, some 10 years and 12,000 entries later, The Thinker's Thesaurus: Sophisticated Alternatives to Common Words (Marion Street Press), will land on bookstore shelves. Instead of following each entry with five or six more-or-less accurate synonyms, The Thinker's Thesaurus offers but one choice - an exact, albeit unusual, synonym." Philadelphia Inquirer 08/18/05

Wednesday, August 17

Going Graphic Comic books... er... graphic novels are hot in the adult market right now. "In the United States, sales of graphic novels have leaped from $75 million in 2001 to $207 million in 2004. Booksellers in America, Britain, Germany, Italy and South Korea cite graphic literature as one of their fastest-growing categories. In Borders, one of America's largest bookstore chains, graphic-novel sales have risen more than 100 percent a year for the past three years. In France, where comics have long been mainstream, sales are reaching record highs, up 13.8 percent to 43.3 million copies in 2004; indeed, five of the 10 best-selling books in France last year were comic books." Newsweek 08/22/05

Textbook Prices Through The Roof The cost of textbooks has gone up twice the rate of inflation each year since the late 80s, says a new report. "The average annual cost of textbooks for a student in 2003-04 was $898 at a four-year college and $886 at a two-year college, the report found. While overall prices have increased 72 percent since 1986, the report said, college tuition and fees have increased 240 percent and textbooks 186 percent." Boston Globe 08/17/05

Deffending Your Life You're writing an autobiography. You're writing about people around you. But some of it might not be flattering. Indeed, some of it might be bizarre. So how much do you have to disguise your descriptions of these people, and will you be sued? These are the issues in a case brought against a best-selling memoir "Running With Scissors." The book world is following it closely... Boston Globe 08/17/05

A Quarter Of Us Never Read Books "For every four Britons with their noses in a bestseller, there's one adult in the UK who does not read books at all. Research by the Office for National Statistics, commissioned by the National Reading Campaign in 2001, found a quarter of adults had not read a book in the previous 12 months. The figure rose to almost half among males aged 16-24. This is despite soaring book sales - up 19% in the UK in the five years to 2004. This rejection of books is not connected to literacy - the number of adults with reading difficulties has decreased by two million in the past decade to about five million." BBC 08/17/05

Tuesday, August 16

Colin Wilson: Optimistically Yours "In books on sex, crime, psychology and the occult, and in more than a dozen novels, Colin Wilson has explored how pessimism can rob ordinary people of their powers. 'If you asked me what is the basis of all my work, it's the feeling there's something basically wrong with human beings. Human beings are like grandfather clocks driven by watch springs. Our powers appear to be taken away from us by something.' The critics, particularly in Britain, have alternately called him a genius and a fool." The New York Times 08/17/05

Your Name Here (As Long As You Pay) "Next month, Stephen King, Amy Tan, Lemony Snicket, Nora Roberts, Michael Chabon and 11 other best-selling writers will sell the right to name characters in their new novels. Profits from the auction (at www.ebay.com/fap) will go to the First Amendment Project, whose lawyers go to court to protect the free speech rights of activists, writers and artists." Chicago Sun-Times 08/16/05

Magazines - What's Hot/Not What's hot in the magazine world? Celebrity magazines. The star-obsessed glossies are seeing huge circulation gains. What's not? News magazines, which are seeing readers peel away to the internet... The New York Times 08/16/05

Monday, August 15

The Subtle Art Of Literary Hoaxes "In recent years, scholars have begun pursuing a more nuanced approach to discussing literary hoaxes than the knee-jerk disgruntlement of a reader scorned. Instead, literary scholars like Ohio State University professor Brian McHale and the Australian critic K.K. Ruthven are concentrating on the productive and beautifully unpredictable effects of hoaxing. Are all hoaxes the same? Should they all be judged by the same ethical standards? Do some hoaxes rise above being trifling pranks or bogus facsimiles to become serious acts of cultural criticism? What of an author's intentions?" Boston Globe 08/14/05

Stereophonic History (Well, That's Two Ways To Look At It) The Society for Historians of the Early American Republic has a decidedly different take on American history than the popular historians. "Whereas popular historians like David McCullough and Richard Brookhiser turn out bios of the old white guys who stare back at us from our money, SHEAR members present papers with titles such as "Self-Help and Self-Determination: Philadelphia's African American Community and the Abolitionist Challenge", and "Hawking Hallowed Ground: Utopianism and its Discontents in Philadelphia's Rural Cemeteries". Is this a happy form of stereo - on one side, the founders, founders and more founders mantra of the media; on the other, the from-the-bottom-up social history of professional scholars? Or is it sheer dysfunctionality in the field of early American history?" Philadelphia Inquirer 08/14/05

Sunday, August 14

Where Are The New Indian Stars? Arundhati Roy's huge success in 1997 sparked a frenzy of anticipation for more Indian writers. "The truth is, however, that since 1997 there has been no new galaxy of stars emerging to match the stature of those of the 1980s and 90s. Many of the Indian novelists who were signed up with such excitement 10 years ago failed to repay even a fraction of their advances. The only Indian-themed book to win the Booker - The Life of Pi - was written by Yann Martel, a white Canadian. In India itself, there is no new internationally acclaimed masterpiece, no new Roy." The Guardian (UK) 08/14/05

Rise Of The Women "Books written by women have doubled their share of sales in the past 20 years and could overtake those written by men in the next 20. British trade magazine, The Bookseller, reports the same trend, with almost half the titles in its top 20 by female authors. And a couple of names in the top sellers are enough to make highbrow literary types tear out their hair - Danielle Steele and Maeve Binchy." The Age (Melbourne) 08/14/05

Conflicted Out - Does It Make A Better Book Review? Why is it desirable to require book reviwers to have no "conflict of interest" regarding the books they review? "To begin with, the world of fiction is pretty small. The number of folks who are any good at writing reviews of fiction is smaller still. By the time you find one willing to review a book, it's inconceivable that he or she not have preconceived notions about the author, the author's work, or the proper way to write a novel. A hundred other conflicts may exist: relationships with literary agents, friends, or friends of friends; workplace affiliations; political sympathies, religious views; and on and on. Also, writers are notoriously petty people: I'd wager that nine out of 10 who receive a bad review can discover some undisclosed conflict or conspiracy that caused the reviewer to slag them." Slate 08/13/05

Google Halts Book-scanning Project (For Now) Google has temporarily suspended its project to scan libraries of books after complaints from publishers. "Google wants publishers to notify the company which copyright books they don't want scanned, effectively requiring the industry to opt out of the program instead of opting in." Wired 08/13/05

Denver Library Pulls Thousands Of Spanish Books The Denver Public Library has pulled thousands of Spanish-language books fromk its shelves after complaints the books might be inappropriate.l "About 6,500 fotonovelas, popular in Mexico and other Latin American countries, have been temporarily recalled from Denver Public Library branches. The review could be completed by next week. The Denver library system, which includes a large Spanish-speaking population, has been offering the fotonovelas for about 15 years but started receiving complaints last week after a local radio host said some books contained 'shocking' illustrations." Yahoo! (AP) 08/13/05

Friday, August 12

Big Publishing Publishes Big "More mass-market paperbacks are still sold each day than any other type of book; last year consumers bought 535 million of them. But that number has steadily declined for a decade and is down 11 percent in the last five years, while the overall number of books sold has fallen just 7 percent." Why the drop? ""We've been losing the foundation of our customer base because their eyesight is getting worse, and the books are getting harder and harder to read." So major publishers are publishing big print editions. The New York Times 08/12/05

Thursday, August 11

Were Clues To London Bombings Found In British Fiction? "Britain's multiculturalism rests on political correctness. This means the mediator becomes more important than the message. Minority writers get a disproportionate amount of space on the bookshelves, but what is being said is seemingly willfully neglected. That partly explains why so many--including their neighbors and much of the British establishment--were surprised to find that three homegrown British Pakistanis became suicide bombers." OpinionJournal.com 08/10/05

Wednesday, August 10

A New Oxford Dictionary Of English "The dictionary contains many more insulting words than compliments. It has 350 ways of insulting someone, but only 40 compliments such as lush [meaning very good]. There are 50 ways to describe attractive women, including eye candy and cutie, but only 20 ways of describing good-looking men; Greek god being an extremely handsome man." The Guardian (UK) 08/10/05

Comics - Not Just For Kids Anymore "Enjoying a quiet mutation for the past 30 years, comic books have morphed into something bigger and more complex than the hulking icons of the mid-century. The phrase 'graphic novel' is now commonly used to distinguish longer and more complex works from the teen travails of Archie et al" and they're finding big adult audiences. The Age (Melbourne) 08/10/05

Booker Longlist Announced Nominees for this year's Booker Man Prize have been chosen. "Four previous winners - Ian McEwan, Kazuo Ishiguro, Salman Rushdie and JM Coetzee - have made the 2005 longlist, as has Julian Barnes They are up against debut author Marina Lewycka's A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, winner of two comic fiction prizes. White Teeth author Zadie Smith has also made the list with an as yet unpublished third novel, On Beauty. The longlist features 17 books chosen from 109 entries." BBC 08/10/05

Tuesday, August 9

Colleges Offer Limited Digital Books Ten US universities are offering digital versions of assigned books this fall. "Alongside the new and used versions of Dante's "Inferno" and "Essentials of Psychology" will be little cards offering 33 percent off if students decide to download a digital version of a text instead of buying a hard copy. That's not a bad deal for a cash-strapped student facing book bills in the hundreds of dollars. But there are trade-offs. The new digital textbook program imposes strict guidelines on how the books can be used, including locking the downloaded books to a single computer and setting a five-month expiration date, after which the book can't be read." CNet News 08/09/05

Monday, August 8

How Schools Are Killing A Taste For Reading High school reading scores haven't improved since 1999. Why? "Faced with declining literacy and the ever-growing distractions of the electronic media, faced with the fact that —Harry Potter fans aside — so few kids curl up with a book and read for pleasure anymore, what do we teachers do? We saddle students with textbooks that would turn off even the most passionate reader." USAToday 08/05/05

Quills - Publishers' Pawns The Quill Awards were supposed to enjoy some populist panache. "Designed as a kind of People's Choice Awards to the National Book Awards' stuffy Oscars, the Quills promise to put readers themselves in charge, 'to reflect the tastes of the group that matters most in publishing - readers.' A closer look at the Quill Awards, however, shows that they are really designed to serve a different constituency: publishers themselves." New York Sun 08/08/05

In Praise Of The Memoir Genres may come an go, but the memoir is an enduring form. "The well-written memoir has continued to promote the not-entirely-outrageous view that a properly interesting life is a worthwhile thing to read about. It also plays with the notion that sometimes (just sometimes) people might want to read about a life whose values are not like theirs. More often than not, innovation comes before a fall, but not so in the memoir game, where some of the best British writing finds its audience." The Telegraph (UK) 08/07/05

Prison Reading Group Wins Competition, Then Is Disqualified A contest in the UK to find the best reading group had to disqualify the group originally chosen as winner. "The High Down Prison Group from Surrey was judged to be the best in the competition, but its members were prevented from accepting the top prize as it involved spending two days and a night in Edinburgh." The Scotsman 08/07/05

Judge: Da Vinci Code Didn't Steal From Earlier Book An American judge has ruled that "The Da Vinci Code" did not infringe on the copyright of a book published in 2000. "Although both novels at issue are mystery thrillers, 'Daughter of God' is more action-packed, with several gunfights and violent deaths. 'The Da Vinci Code,' on the other hand, is an intellectual, complex treasure hunt, focusing more on the codes, number sequences, cryptexes and hidden messages left behind as clues than on any physical adventure." Yahoo! (AP) 08/07/05

Sunday, August 7

Book By Anonymous Author Sinks Off The Charts At the beginning of the summer John Twelve Hawks' "The Traveler" seemed an obvious summer smash. The author is anonymous, but it has failed to take off and "the novel's disappointing start illustrates the risks and advantages of having an unknown author. With luck and the right story, an anonymously written book can seem like a secret everyone is dying to learn, a book that sells itself. Otherwise, the publisher has to depend on the slow, uncertain process of reviews and word of mouth." Yahoo! (AP) 08/07/05

The End Of Editors? Increasingly, editors are MIA at publishing houses. Many publishers don't even really employ traditional editors anymore. "If editing is in decline, that's bad for literature. History suggests that while some authors work alone, more or less unaided, the majority benefit from editors - and that a few are utterly dependent on them." The Observer (UK) 08/07/05

Why Only Books Will Do (Not Online) "The internet is a library, a reference library, brilliantly adapted to looking something up, creating inventories, updating catalogues, adding new entries in a dictionary or an encyclopaedia, and consulting directories. The web serves magically to store knowledge that would be costly in paper, in volume, to print: references, appendices, original background sources, documentation of a detailed kind, extra apparatus in general. But I don't think that writing and reading as acts of imagination can exist in cyberspace only; words don't become flesh for me unless I print out and read the materialised text; but even so, the uniform, ugly look of the copies does not draw me into the mood of the work and its meaning or imprint its contents on my memory as deeply as reading it in a book." The Observer (UK) 08/07/05

Cowley: A Vintage Year For Fiction Former Booker judge Jason Cowley writes that after a post-9/11 funk, writers have roared back with some of their best work. "I think, perhaps the richest year for contemporary British and Commonwealth fiction since the launch of the Booker Prize in 1969, with most of our best novelists - Ian McEwan (Saturday), Kazuo Ishiguro (Never Let Me Go), Zadie Smith (On Beauty), JM Coetzee (Slow Man), Julian Barnes (Arthur & George), Salman Rushdie (Shalimar the Clown), Hilary Mantel (Beyond Black) - publishing exceptional new works." The Observer (UK) 08/07/05

Friday, August 5

Quills Lit Award Announces Finalists "Authors ranging from Bob Dylan to Stephen King and J.K. Rowling on Thursday made the Quills short-list -- a new American literary award pitched as a populist event with a touch of Hollywood glitz. Readers will vote for the winners in 19 categories that include graphic novels and romance, as well as the more traditional fiction and biography categories from established prizes such as the Pulitzer and the National Book Award." Yahoo! (Reuters) 08/05/05

Brits Hot On Sci-Fi "Science fiction is booming and the British writers are leading the pack. For the first time in its 63-year history, all the writers nominated for the prestigious Hugo award for the best novel are British. The Hugos, named after science-fiction publishing legend Hugo Gernsback, are the genre writing equivalent of the Oscars." BBC 08/05/05

Thursday, August 4

Niche Publishing Gone Wild It seems that no niche is too small to have its own magazine these days. Among titles launched in recent years: "Face Painting International", "Russian Bride of New York", and "Modern Ferret". Of course, launching a mag is comparatively simple. Keeping it afloat for more than a few issues is another matter entirely... Minneapolis Star Tribune 08/04/05

Wednesday, August 3

Chrysalis Sheds Staff The publisher Chrysalis is shrinking. "Chrysalis is to cut a quarter of the staff from its unprofitable books division in an attempt to improve its balance sheet. The media company revealed yesterday that 46 of the 160 jobs in its books arm would go as part of a restructuring exercise. Chrysalis employs a total of 700 staff." The Guardian (UK) 08/03/05

Novelists Take On Terror Increasingly, some of the world's more popular authors are embracing the reality of terrorism as a subject ripe with literary potential, and are advancing the way that the world thinks about the impact of specific attacks. "These writers are depicting how the air has changed in cities living with terror: the jittery feeling that comes and goes; characters who think they are adjusting, only to lose their grip on reason." The New York Times 08/03/05

Language No Barrier To Harry Translated versions of the new Harry Potter opus won't be available for months yet, but French bookbuyers apparently see no need to wait. In fact, Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince is currently the fifth-most popular purchase at Paris bookstores, despite being available exclusively in English. Meanwhile, the rest of the world is nuts for Harry, as well: illegal Chinese translations are already popping up for sale in Asia, and German readers have been posting their own translations online. BBC 08/03/05

Tuesday, August 2

Publisher issues "Corrections" As Part Of Biography The heirs of Carl Jung dispute many points in a biography of the psychologist. "Now, in a compromise that is extremely rare in publishing, the German subsidiary of Random House has agreed to insert two pages of the Jung family's version of descriptions and facts into a translation being published this fall by one of its imprints, Knaus Verlag. The family originally approached Little, Brown & Company, the publisher of the original English-language version in 2003, to seek changes in new editions and translations. But so far only the German publisher has agreed to the family's request." The New York Times 08/03/05

Art Of The Interview The secret to giving (and getting) a good interview? "As much as the interviewer must ask questions or provide discussion points that inspire or intrigue his or her subject, it is the subject’s job to be open and generous enough for an original and unpredictable conversation. It’s pretty obvious what an interviewer can do to screw up an interview—fail to read the book (or be unable to fake it), ask questions directly from the press materials, rely on a prepared list of topics and refuse to let a conversation take its natural course. But are there things that an interviewee can do to make sure that an interview goes smoothly, or dreadfully?" The Book Standard 08/02/05

Orwell Home To Be Saved The home in the little town in India where George Orwell was born in 1903 is to be restored. "More than a century after Orwell's birth, his first home - a crumbling, one-storey building near the abandoned indigo warehouse where his father worked - is home to a local English teacher. Now plans are afoot to build a museum and a stadium and put up a statue of the writer in the 10-acre area in Telliapatti." BBC 08/02/05

Monday, August 1

More Authors Going Green "A small and growing number of authors are asking publishers to print their books on environmentally friendly paper..." USAToday 08/01/05

Travelling In Mystery A book titled "The Traveller" has climbed the bestseller lists, but the author is a mystery. "The book, which has just been published in Britain, is written by the improbably named John Twelve Hawks who nobody, not even his New York editors at Random House, has yet met. Billed as a JD Salinger or Thomas Pynchon-style recluse, Twelve Hawks, which his publishers admit is a pseudonym, has refused to appear in public to promote his hugely successful debut work. Even a film offer from Universal has failed to flush him out." The Guardian (UK) 07/31/05

The Virtual Library, Left For You To Find "Bookcrossing started in April 2001 in Missouri, and now has 350,000 members in 90 countries who have liberated more than two million books in dozens of different languages. The concept is finders-keepers meets interactive virtual lending library. The rules are simple. First take a book down from your shelf. It should be one you love. (Ideally, if you ruled the world you would make reading of this book compulsory.) Log onto bookcrossing.com and register. Print out a label and a number for your book. Release it into the wild. The person who finds the book will see the invitation to the website where they can log their find, eventually write a review and then rerelease the book themselves. In theory, as the book travels around, it should build up an online profile of reviews." The Observer (UK) 07/31/05

Chinese Harry Goes On Sale Three Months Early Almost three months before its official publication date, illegal copies of the latest Harry Potter installment translated into Chinese have gone on sale in Beijing. "Impatient Chinese fans also have begun posting their own translations online. One reader was so upset about the ending he wrote his own and posted it on a university Web site." Yahoo! (AP) 08/01/05

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