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JUNE 2000

Friday June 30

  • VIRTUAL LENDING: If digital e-books do one day move from the curious to the commonplace, what will become of libraries? “For instance, is it possible to "lend" a digital book? Will Internet piracy and digital libraries prompt publishing houses to move to radical new business models such as subscription-based online reading rooms or advertising-sponsored e-books?” A new Australian Copyright Amendment currently before the Senate would allow libraries to distribute copyrighted books without paying royalties to authors. Authors, of course, are opposed. Sydney Morning Herald 06/30/00
  • HARRY POTTER'S LITTLE SECRET: There has been a good deal of secrecy surrounding the impending release of the next Harry Potter novel. No one can get an advance copy, no one knows what the plot is, and booksellers kept getting mixed messages on what the title would be. An elaborate marketing plan?  Nothing so clever. Up until very recently, the book wasn't finished - author J.K. Rowling was scrambling to meet her deadline. New York Observer 07/03/00

Thursday June 29

  • UP THE AMAZON: Is Amazon.com in trouble? Some analysts think so. "Can you really imagine a world without Amazon? No purchase circles, an Amazon invention where you can learn that folks in Shepherdstown are reading 'Magical Mushrooms, Mischievous Molds' and readers in Upper Marlboro prefer 'A Setback Is a Setup for a Comeback'? What would life be like for obsessive authors without hourly updates on bestseller lists? And collaborative filtering software telling us that customers who ordered 'Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire' are also clamoring for Seamus Heaney's translation of 'Beowulf'?" Washington Post 06/29/00

Wednesday June 28

  • WHO’S REALLY READING? “Now sprouting at every portal, community forum and chat room near you, online book discussions have been lauded as the ''stickiest'' thing since grape Bubble Yum.” But, are they really any more popular than the old coffee-klatch variety? Are they really getting people to read more? And, most importantly to publishers, is all the marketing of online book clubs doing anything to boost sales? Inside.com 06/27/00

Tuesday June 27

  • UNIVERSITY PRESS: The president of McClelland & Stewart, donates 75 percent of the company's shares to the University of Toronto. He says he made the extraordinary donation in order to avoid a sale that would see the legendary publishing house - one of Canada's largest publishers - broken up into smaller pieces. CBC 06/26/00 
    • AN ASTONISHING THING TO DO: Gift has "astonished, befuddled and ultimately impressed the Canadian publishing community." National Post 06/27/00
    • MANEUVERING BEHIND THE GIFT: For years, regulations have made it legally impossible for a foreign firm to buy majority control of a Canadian-owned publishing company. The theory is that Canadian culture flourishes best in institutions owned by Canadians, and M&S has been the spectacular proof: Many foreign firms operate here, but not one of them has ever approached the contribution of M&S to Canadian literature. The new arrangement does not violate the rules, but it uniquely allows Random House to play a part in the company's future. That opens the deal to criticism that it violates the spirit though not the letter of the regulations. National Post 06/27/00
  • EPIC, PART II: By the time he died in 1992, author Alex Haley had amassed boxes of research for another novel in the tradition of his "Roots" epic. His estate went searching for a writer to take over the project, and came up with a novelist who writes in the supernatural suspense genre and is a former Miami Herald feature writer. Chicago Tribune 06/27/00

Friday June 23

  • SOMETIMES IT'S NOT ABOUT THE WORK: Canadian bookseller Chapters has yanked this year's Robertson Davies Prize for books. The man who won, believing the judges wanted a woman to win, submitted his entry under a pseudonym. When the Chapters people found out, they pulled the prize because they say they were "elaborately and deliberately misled by the author." CBC 06/23/00
  • EXPLOITING YOUR FAMILY: Simon & Schuster has an idea about how to get into the digital world in a big way - find articles, novellas and speeches of between 15,000 and 40,000 words by its writers and authors to be e-published on the web. One catch, though - the giant book publisher wants to pay $1,000 a piece. ''I'm trying not to be outraged,'' says one well-known S&S author who was invited to e-publish. But, this writer admits, the $1,000 offer is insulting, and far less than most established authors get for magazine articles that are usually much shorter. Inside.com 06/23/00
  • LAWRENCE FERLINGHETTI LAMENTS POETRY: "Today in the United States, the poet has no real place or status. In Latin America and in some European and Middle Eastern countries, poets are still honored in society, but in North America what other city except San Francisco appoints a poet laureate every year?" Exquisite Corpse 06/00

Thursday June 22

  • SHORTCUT TO A BOOK: Several recent magazine articles get converted into lucrative book contracts. There is, of course, nothing new about turning articles into books. But "the question really is whether these concepts would have as quickly and as lucratively become books had they not been prominent magazine articles and instead were peddled only through the traditional method of authors' agents submitting written, often lengthily, book proposals to editors and publishers." New York Times 06/22/00 (one-time registration required for entry)
  • THE WRITING BIZ: It's estimated that only about one percent of the graduates of creative writing programs go on to have successful writing careers. This despite a thriving business to educate writers. "Writers have become dependent on academies for the peace and funds with which to pursue their art. Once in the university, they have had to do something in return for the funds, and what they have done is to set up programs in creative writing. At last count there were more than 300 such programs granting more than 1,000 degrees a year. "Together they’ve probably turned out 75,000 official ‘writers.' " The Idler 06/22/00
  • META-HYPERTEXT: What is a text? How does your understanding of the author's intent and references change your experience of the text? And where does hypertext take you? "Consider the possibility that every written work is a hypertext, a fabric of many works woven together. Despite how original, unique or authoritative any text might appear to be, it's really a hypertext with links into hundreds or thousands of other works." *spark-online 06/00

Wednesday June 21

  • NEW YORKER STILL RULES: Even before the issue is off the newsstands, two of the four debut short story writers published in the current New Yorker fiction issue have signed book deals. Inside.com 06/20/00

Tuesday June 20

  • VOICE OF A NON-GENERATION: Dave Eggers has been anointed the new new thing for his debut book. And certainly the attention is well deserved. But many of the glowing tributes miss the point of his "anti" memoir. In fact, it's more like an "ultra" memoir, "almost confessional in its eagerness to put virtually every question of substance, memory, and motive plainly before the reader. And the habits that mark Eggers's writing - the suspicion of all that purports to be authentic, the constant urge to peer behind the curtain - seem less like examples of "the latest postmodern hardware," than characteristics of a certain generational vernacular, whose sources are widely recognized (six hours of television a day, advertising metastasized to every cranny of life, and the conventions of post-Watergate journalism, to name a few), but whose real purpose is just as widely misunderstood. American Prospect 06/00

Monday June 19

  • OLD THINKING IN NEW CLOTHES: Retro glue attaches old thinking, old values, and old habits to new technologies. Retro glue can be a comfort, allowing the best elements of the old to adhere to the new so that we can see how similar the new thing is to our old standbys. It's what drove Model T's to look like buggies, what prompted early movies to be staged like theater. The e-book devices all strive to present a page of text exactly like a familiar printed page, and the button that turns each "page" doesn't even require you to consult a user's manual. But retro glue can also attach things that don't belong. And the retro glue dripping off the e-book may, I fear, attach the worst of the last century's paradigm of intellectual property to the new century's publishing models. Chronicle of Higher Education 06/19/00
  • CHASING ELECTRONS: M.J. Rose, the "Postergirl of E-Publishing" e-xplains the world of publishing your work online. The Idler 06/19/00 

Sunday June 18

  • EXPERTS FROM AFAR: Canada has turned out some first-rate writers, writers whose talent has been recognized internationally. But "Canadian society is incapable of making a book a 'classic'; we cannot 'elect,' as it were, books of significance. As a society we are still excited by Anne of Green Gables." So we let the Americans do it for us. National Post (Canada) 06/18/00

Friday June 16

  • SAVING JOYCE: "Weary of the Dublin authorities' failure to save the setting for Joyce's short story The Dead, Brendan Kilty has decided to do it himself. He has bought 15 Ushers Island, a derelict Liffey quayside house, and intends returning it to the way it was in the writer's day." The Times (London) 06/16/00
  • FEAR NOT THE BIGS: After seven months of study, a Canadian government  commission studying the publishing industry concludes "that bookstore giant Chapters and its wholesale outlet Pegasus are not the problem that some of the small bookstores and publishers have alleged." CBC 06/16/00

Thursday June 15

  • "GATSBY" REVEALED: A new version of "Great Gatsby" surfaces - this the pre-edit draft that gives some insight into the creation of the man. "This early version is Gatsby before the final fitting: That gorgeous pink rag of a suit is baggy in places; in that soft, rich heap of beautiful shirts, some have collars that are too loose and sleeves a touch too long." New York Observer 06/14/00
  • FEAST FOR THE SENSES: Many have called it the greatest novel of the 20th century - James Joyce's "Ulysses" certainly seems to stir up the passions of some of the world's most intelligent people. June 16th is Bloomsday (the day in which Ulysses takes place), and Australian Joyce-ophiles will celebrate by eating, reading...and breathing heavily.  The Sydney Morning Herald 06/15/00

Wednesday June 14

  • MANAGING UNCERTAINTY: "At some date in the future, the book industry will look back on the middle of the year 2000 as a period in purgatory. From some perspectives, e-books appear to be a golden goose, an innovative medium to attract a new audience of young, hip, computer-savvy readers. But, from other points of view, these digitized 'products' seem to be soulless replacements for the ink-on-paper friends of a lifetime." Chicago Tribune 06/14/00
  • TAKING A BITE OUT OF HISTORY: Jacques Barzun's ambitious new book attempting to contextualize 500 years of history is getting warm reviews everywhere. "In his gigantic tome, Barzun wades willfully into the miasma known as cultural history. Along the way he discovers the swampy depths - and the occasional high ground - of Western life. 'I don't believe that history is cyclical,' he says. 'It's much more mixed up.' His operative metaphor is a kaleidoscope, not a Ferris wheel." Washington Post 06/14/00

Tuesday June 13

  • THE REAL POST-MODERNISM? Is post-modern fiction a fiction itself? After all, it is a "form of writing that defeats readers' expectations of coherence, as experimental narrative that plays with generic conventions, as fiction that dwells on ambiguity and uncertainty." Who's to know what the right answer is? National Post (Canada) 06/13/00

Monday June 12

  • KING OF THE WEB: Stephen King is encouraged by the internet success of the novella he released on the web this spring. So he plans to serialize a story on the web. "King proposes fans pay $1 per installment and suggests everyone be on the honor system. He said he'll cease publication if too many people steal the story. 'But I just don't believe that will happen. I mean, we're talking a buck a pop here, right?' " Wired 06/11/00
  • HOW NOT TO READ: Harold Bloom takes an e-book for a spin, and... well, the results are rather predictable. "For me the Internet is like the Congo. I know it exists, but I will never go there." On e-text: "Intimacy with a [computer] screen is, I suppose, possible, but if there are descriptions of it available, I would rather not see them." Feed 06/11/00
  • "MODERN, IN YOUR FACE AND EROTIC":Two thousand years after they were written, six poems by a woman who lived in ancient Rome are to be published. "Sulpicia's contemporaries were Ovid and Horace, but while their work has been feted in the centuries since they created it, Sulpicia has been largely ignored and marginalised." BBC 06/12/00
  • SELF-PUBLISHING FOR $99: The cost of publishing a book yourself has dropped with the internet and more and more authors are taking advantage of it. "My goal is to see the book read by and understood by a few thousand people. Obviously when you are young you dream of an advance, hardcover sale, foreign rights, movie sales, TV sales, but in my maturity I am being more realistic." Wired 06/12/00

Sunday June 11

  • A COMPLICATED LIFE: Author Martin Amis at age 50 has gotten around to explaining his life in a new memoir. " 'Experience' is an astonishing memoir, and destined to be imitated by self-chroniclers looking to escape the confines of chronology." Cleveland Plain Dealer 06/11/00

Friday June 9

  • WHO'LL HAVE TIME TO READ THEM? New websites that publish books online theoretically give anyone the ability to publish a book. But how many of the hundreds of thousands of new e-books will be read? "How will they be discovered?  Sophisticated search engines? Maybe -- but only if you already know what you are looking for. Word of mouth? PR and promotion? Perhaps, but that takes more time and money than most authors have." *spark-online 06/09/00
  • FROM TOP TO BOTTOM: Earlier this week Linda Grant, a features writer for The Guardian, won the Orange Prize for Fiction for her book "When I Lived in Modern Times." Now she's been accused of lifting passages of her novel from a recent history book about 1940s Palestine. The Times (London) 06/09/00
  • WHO WANTS TO WIN A NATIONAL BOOK AWARD? Herewith a primer on how to get your book dressed for success. Inside.com 06/09/00

Wednesday June 7

  • ORANGE CRUSH: London columnist Linda Grant’s first novel, “When I Lived in Modern Times” won the UK’s Orange Prize, beating out Zadie Smith’s much-hyped “White Teeth.” Now in its fifth year, the Orange Prize was set up to celebrate women novelists from around the world, after the Booker Prize repeatedly overlooked women authors in its shortlists. The Independent 06/07/00
  • PRINT MATTERS: The publishing industry is rife with questions about the future of the printed word: Is the book as we know it nearing extinction? Or will downloadable e-books and print-on-demand machines actually reinvigorate the world of reading? Seven industry insiders discuss the future of the printed (or printless) word. Newsweek 06/12/00
  • BOOK-WEIGHT PROSE: Everyone was talking e-books at this year's BookExpo. Well, almost everyone; a few subversives still linger: "I think the book is an amazing bit of technology," Martin Amis asserted with his familiar, welterweight edge. "I like to write on my books, bend the pages, make little marks. I read with a pen in my hand, and I would like to be read with a pen in the reader's hand. Reading a book is communing with the author. I think you need the page in your hand, the weight of it, as part of that process." Philadelphia Inquirer 06/07/00

Tuesday June 6

  • DEATH STAR: Amazon's Jeff Bezos predicts that "the advent of computer e-books would likely spell doom for independent booksellers since customers would not be coming to their stores to download reading material." But Bezos' dire prediction was made at a news conference and was different from the speech he had given earlier to the BookExpo convention reassuring booksellers that their business was safe from the likes of him. Seattle Post-Intelligencer 06/06/00

    • GOOD BOOKS ARE HERE TO STAY: That's the message from this year's BookExpo America (though there's still plenty of worrying about the e-business) Seattle Times 06/06/00

Monday June 5

  • WHAT, ME WORRY? Attendees at this years BookExpo America shrugged off worries about electronic publishing, online bookselling and corporate consolidation of the business. Book publishing is in pretty good shape after all. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 06/05/00
  • RESTORING THOMAS WOLFE'S WORK: It's something of an American publishing legend that back in 1928 book editor Maxwell Perkins cut 60,000 words from Thomas Wolfe's manuscript to sculpt the masterpiece "Look Homeward, Angel." This fall a restored version of Wolfe's work will be published for the first time. "Some Wolfe lovers believe it will prove just how funny and irreverent Wolfe really was and how Perkins, a prim young editor who never used a curse stronger than "My God!," got hold of one of our country's most ambitious novels and cut out its heart." Washington Post 06/05/00

Sunday June 4

  • INDIES TAKE IT TO THE NET: Independent booksellers can't agree on mush beyond who their common enemies are. But they have agreed on a website to help market their books - two websites, actually. But some worry that the indies have entered the fray too late. New York Times 06/05/00 (one-time registration required for entry)

Friday June 2

  • HUMAN CONTACT: Speaking to the Book Expo America convention, Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos "predicted that e-commerce probably would not take over the marketplace. He expects that 10 years from now, only about 15 percent of sales would take place online." Inside.com 06/02/00
  • CYBER CHAMPAGNE & DIGITAL DIP: The book party has taken a decidedly techno turn - from the lobbies of intimate bookstore and chic restaurants onto the internet. Erotic-novelist M.J. Rose recently celebrated the launch of her latest book at an online chatroom, where champagne glasses clinked without a sound. Salon 06/01/00

Thursday June 1

  • WHAT - YOU THOUGHT HE LOVED THE WRITING? Steven Spielberg recently paid $2 million for a first novel by French architect Marc Levy. The book was a bestseller in France as soon as it hit the shelves last winter, yet Spielberg hadn’t even read it when he flew Levy to New York for meetings. “So doesn't anyone object to the fact that literature can now be bought and sold at a colossal price solely on the basis of a minimal plot summary?” The Guardian 06/01/00
  • THE BRAIN TRAIN: What could possibly be gained by having 107 writers from 43 European countries spend six weeks on a train together traveling through 11 countries and 19 cities? “Reclaiming public places for literature and deciding “what Europe means," says the organizer of this summer’s bizarre “lit. express.” Die Welt (Berlin) 06/01/00
  • E-FOCUSING ON BOOKS: This year's Book Expo America is beginning, and prominent among the 10,000 registered to attend is a legion of Dotcoms -  Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is the keynote speaker at a gathering fixed on the future. Wired 06/01/00

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