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Thursday November 30

  • UNCERTAIN TIMES IN CANADA: Canada's two book superstore-chains are locked in battle as Indigo makes a hostile bid to buy Chapters. Both the chains are losing money. And with the threat of US booksellers trying to get in the Canadian market, the book industry in Canada is entering the all-important holiday season with much intrepidation. Globe & Mail (Toronto) 11/30/00
  • BOOK SALES UP: Total revenues for America's four largest bookstore chains rose 6.3%, to $1.59 billion, for the third quarter ended October 28, 2000. Publishers Weekly 11/27/00

Wednesday November 29

  • CANADA'S OVER-ACHIEVING WRITERS: The Canada Council spends $18 million a year subsidizing Canadian writers. Despite average sales of a fiction title of 2,500-3,000, Canada has produced a long list of important writers, led most recently by Margaret Atwood and Michael Ondaatje "If you look at the Canadian track record in supporting publishing and literature, it is an incredible investment, and we have wonderful success stories that are recognizable and undeniable." The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 11/29/00
  • OVER WHO CONTROLS BOOKS IN CANADA: A rival bookseller has initiated a hostile takeover offer for Chapters, Canada's largest bookseller. Chapters' CEO rejects the bid. Chapters is said to have been in financial difficulty in the past year. National Post 11/29/00

    • FLAWED PREMISE: Why did Chapters get into trouble? "The kind of vertical integration that has allowed one company in Canada - even after a government investigation - to become the major books retailer, wholesaler and e-business just would not, and was not, allowed in the United States. And here, ironically, it is bringing the company down." National Post (Canada) 11/29/00

Tuesday November 28

  • KING PULLS THE PLUG: Stephen King says he'll discontinue publishing his serialized on-line novel "The Plant." King said when he began the book that he would add additional chapters only if 50 percent of those downloading it paid $1 per chapter. By chapter four, only 46 percent were paying.Wrote one bothered fan: "It bothers me that readers might well think twice about buying installments from any other authors who might go this route because of what King has done. To do this to loyal fans is inexcusable." Wired 11/28/00
  • YOUR STANDARD E-BOOK: A proposal by the Association of American Publishers to standardize e-books was released this week. The plan is intended to avoid the mess in the digital music industry. "Today, ebooks are considered to represent less than 1% of business. If the standards are accepted, the group predicts the ebook market will grow to $2.3 billion by 2005. Variety 11/28/00

Monday November 27

  • THE PROBLEM WITH PUBLISHING: "The real problem is not books but publishing, or publishing as we have known it. Free trade, globalization and the Internet are having their disruptive way with what once was a profession that operated like a gentleman's intellectual club. Ironically, the country that appears to be suffering the most from consolidation of the publishing industry is the United States. Even more ironic, the country best equipped to withstand the global behemoths may be Canada." The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 11/27/00
  • GIVING AWAY THE BEST: Canada's venerable publisher McClelland & Stewart boasts such stars as Margaret Atwood, Alice Munro, Michael Ondaatje, Rohinton Mistry and Mordecai Richler. But when it came time for the company's head to retire, he found no obvious buyers. To keep the company intact he was forced to give away the business. The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 11/27/00
  • CART BEFORE THE HORSE? It’s somewhat surprising the publishing industry is still betting millions on the future market for e-books, given the dismal performance of the CD-ROM and the fact that reliable e-book technology is still in development. Nevertheless, authors, publishers, online distributors, and e-book middlemen are feverishly trying to stake their claims in the new digital landscape. "Everyone at the table has an eye on someone else's plate, even before the food has arrived." New York Times 11/27/00 (one-time registration required for access)
  • TRASHING SUSAN SONTAG: Was the selection of Susan Sontag's "In America" as the winner of this year's National Book Award a mistake? Daniel Halpern thinks so. " 'In America' is such a bad book that it seems possible that even its nomination - to say nothing of its victory - is the result of some sort of conspiracy, or at least of a mistake resulting from the particularly baffling handwriting of someone at the National Book Foundation." The New Republic 11/21/00
    • WIN THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD AND SELL...233 COPIES? Susan Sontag's "In America" sold only 233 copies for the week ending Nov. 19, "which would reflect only a few days of award buzz. 'In America' - which has received mixed reviews - has sold only 3,972 copies since being published in January. Chances are, the award will raise that number, but to judge by the halfhearted reception Sontag got at the ceremony, the book inspires mixed feelings." Inside.com 11/27/00

Friday November 24

  • A QUIET PLACE TO WRITE: "The New York Society Library, a subscription library established in 1754 is a place that is little known outside New York City, but one that has played a role in the creation of literature coming out of that city for nearly 250 years." National Post (Canada) 11/23/00
  • THE FUTURE OF LIBRARIES: With all these commercial online reference services, will librarians become obsolete? 'We know that libraries can provide authoritative information, both online and offline.' And we feel that the only thing stopping us is the fact that patrons aren't coming to the library much anymore.' A new project is attempting to make the library an even more vital research source than ever before." Wired 11/24/00
  • A MATTER OF CREDIT: A Montreal novelist has come forward to charge that she co-wrote the book that won this year's Governor General award for non-fiction and was promised recognition she didn't receive. Nega Mezlekia, author of Notes From the Hyena's Belly, denies the claim. "I hired her because I was worried about the formal aspects of my work. She would try and change things, but I don't think she was doing it out of spite, but because she didn't understand the book. She didn't have a sense of humour. She was always telling me that the book will never see the light of day." National Post (Canada) 11/24/00

Thursday November 23

  • THE BEAT GOES ON: Online publisher LiveREADS has purchased "Orpheus Emerged," a novella written by Jack Kerouac at age 23, which it will release to the public for the first time this week - over the internet. The Kerouac estate has been gradually selling off his last unpublished works over the last decade. The Guardian (London) 11/23/00
  • TIS THE SEASON TO SLANDER: It seems everyone has a hero to debunk these days, as biographies of famous figures pour out of publishing houses this fall. "Most of the personages currently exposed have little in common except the compulsion or determination of their biographers to manhandle or mishandle them." New York Times 11/23/00 (one-time registration required for access)

Tuesday November 21

  • THE UNPREPOSSESSING NOBEL WRITER: Just who is Gao Xingjian, the Chinese writer who won the 2000 Nobel for literature? "Mr. Gao has 18 plays, 4 works of literary criticism and 5 books of fiction to his name, but his entire oeuvre has been banned on the Chinese mainland since 1985, while his best-known novel, 'Soul Mountain,' a lyrical account of a long journey through the Chinese backlands, has so far been published only in Taiwan, Sweden, France and Australia." New York Times 11/20/00 (one-time registration required for access)
  • ART OF EDITING: "Robert Gottlieb's near-legendary status in the publishing world owes much to sheer anomaly. Running Simon & Schuster, and then Knopf, he had just two interests: the books he edited and the books he balanced (''What people forget about Bob,' says Charles McGrath, editor of The New York Times Book Review and Gottlieb's deputy at the New Yorker, 'he was a terrific businessman'). Boston Globe 11/21/00
  • SEE YOU IN THE FUNNY PAGES...ER, GRAPHIC NOVELS: Comic books (or "graphic novels" as they're now being called) are hot. "More than a few of these works not only tap into a burgeoning post-20th-century self-referential nostalgia, they also manage brilliantly to bridge the ever-widening chasm between visual and print generations. Thus, the ascendancy of the graphic novel becomes less about economics and more about the intertwined abstractions of demographics and esthetics. A fusion of styles and fascinations has facilitated the maturation of the comic book into a smart, funny, haunting work of literature with effects." The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 11/21/00

Monday November 20

  • WORDS AND MEANING: "Though the enterprise of literary criticism is a vast and infinitely complicated one, it all begins in a very familiar and basic experience. I read a text, perhaps Shakespeare's Sonnet 94 ("They that have power to hurt and will do none"), find a deep pleasure in doing so, and want to explain my experience to others, sometimes enabling one of them to find the same kind of experience. I believe that I understand Shakespeare's poem, and I want to test my understanding against other people's views, perhaps even to enrich it as I deepen my insights in response to theirs." Philosophy and Literature 10/00

Friday November 17

  • BURSTING THE DOTCOM BUBBLE: The struggling Chapters, Canada's largest bookseller, announces it will lay off 18 percent of its online workforce and that it hopes to become profitable by Christmas of 2001. National Post (Canada) 11/17/00
  • BOOK TURF WAR: Sales of books over the internet in Korea have taken off. But "threatened by the booming e-sales performance and its increased recognition as a reliable retail source, some of the largest book stores are accusing their new rivals of destroying the existing status quo built around the mandatory fixed retail price system. Late last month, the Association of Comprehensive Bookstores (ACB), an industry group of 11 largest bookstores in Seoul, announced that they will not carry books published by companies that also have deals with online book retailers." Korea Herald 11/17/00
  • THE BIG DEAL ABOUT LIT PRIZES: "A shiny medallion-shaped sticker, stamped with the word 'winner,' affixed to the otherwise enigmatic cover of a new novel, has a formidable power to sell books - sometimes thousands of them. But what do these prizes really mean? How are they chosen, and which of them, if any, is the most reliable?" A look at the prizes and their processes. Salon 11/16/00
  • IS PRINT REALLY DEAD? Last week's E-book publishing conference in New York had everyone pondering the future of printed books. "Microsoft's vice president in charge of electronic books and 'tablet' computing devices, reiterated the company's prediction that the last print edition of The New York Times would appear in 2018, and you could feel the thought-wave slither through the room like an eel. 2018? Hey, I was planning to be around in 2018 - and with some time to look at the paper finally, too." The Atlantic 11/00

Thursday November 16

  • SUSAN SONTAG WINS NATIONAL BOOK AWARD for her novel "In America." The nonfiction award went to Nathaniel Philbrick for "In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex;" the poetry prize went to Lucille Clifton. New York Times 11/16/00 (one-time registration required for entry)
  • LOOKING BACK, AT A MINIMUM: In the mid-80s minimalism was a force one had to contend with - fer or a'gin. "By now, of course, 1988 seems like old times; and while these sorts of aesthetic wars are never actually won, so to speak, it's safe to say that the bells have indeed tolled for minimalism's reign over American fiction." Salon 11/16/00
  • RABBIT, HIDE: He’s already won two Pulitzer Prizes, but John Updike may soon have another, altogether stranger, honor to his name: the 2000 award for the worst sex in fiction. "To make the shortlist, an author must be deemed to have written the worst or the most embarrassing sex scene in a book published this year." CBC 11/15/00
  • CANADIAN PUBLISHING'S NEW STAR: She is 34, the youngest ever to be appointed to such a senior position in the Canadian publishing industry. Maya Mavjee is the lead editor behind the Giller Prize-winning "Mercy Among the Children" by David Adams Richards and the newly appointed publisher of Doubleday Canada, which makes her a star just beginning her ascent. Globe & Mail (Toronto) 11/16/00

Wednesday November 15

  • ROWLING ROUTED: The shortlist for the Whitbread Book of the Year Award (which, unlike the more revered Booker, proudly honors what’s popular, not just literary) was announced yesterday, and J K Rowling was noticeably absent. "The judges have thought the almost unthinkable by overlooking J K Rowling, author of the Harry Potter children's books, while including the former drug addict and ‘gonzo’ journalist Will Self, who has declared: ‘My books are crap.’" The Telegraph (London) 11/15/00
  • GET TO KNOW OUR AUTHORS: In an attempt to increase traffic to its site, Barnesandnoble.com introduces a new series of video author interviews available by streaming media. Publishers benefit with lots of free promotion. Inside.com 11/15/00
  • E-BOOKS: MORE QUESTIONS THAN ANSWERS: Is the electronic book really going to democratize publishing, as its proponents hope? Or simply flood the market with content, without a filter for quality or a universal format for downloading and reading? "Last week's e-Book World Conference showed an industry riven by as much schizophrenia as the presidential elections. For now, anyway, the e-book industry is more rumpus than reality." Village Voice 11/21/00
  • OPPRESSION OF EXPRESSION: A group of Chinese poets was arrested and charged with "illegal assembly" at a literary symposium on the future of Chinese poetry - the first such event in the country since exiled writer Gao Xingjian (whose work is banned in China) won the Nobel Prize for literature last month. China Times (Taiwan) 11/15/00

Tuesday November 14

  • JOYCE FOR SALE: "The manuscript of a key chapter of James Joyce's novel Ulysses, expected to fetch up to £1 million ($2.7 million) at auction next month, reveals how the author agonised over the epic work." Sydney Morning Herald (Telegraph) 11/14/00
  • HONORING OURSELVES: What's the point of literary awards? They're such an exercise in self-pleasuring. "Good evening. We are here to honour writers who have already been honoured yet must be honoured and will need honouring again, shortly. We do so because they are our ghastly, yet glorious, companions from the legion of Toronto Lit-Elite." Globe and Mail (Toronto) 11/14/00

Monday November 13

  • THE ERRANT E-MAIL: Canada's Governor General prize for literature was set to be announced this week. But late last week an e-mail with the names of the winners mistakenly went out to media outlets, and reporters being who reporters are... Anyway, here are the winners. CBC 11/12/00

Sunday November 12

  • UPDIKE AT 68: John Updike is 68 and contemplating his life's profession. "There is a dumbing down of fiction, don't you think? In so many other areas there is dumbing down. People are impatient with any attempt of the novel to pry apart their expectations or surprise them, challenge them. Make them look up a word, think over a prejudice. I think, yes, by and large people read less and maybe they read less intelligently, because they read less and there are more alternatives." Baltimore Sun 11/12/00

Friday November 10

  • A CRY ABOUT BELLOW: James Atlas' new biography of Saul Bellow has been winning critical praise everywhere. Well, almost everywhere: "Errors and confusions abound, as do misreadings of passages from Bellow's correspondence, even while passages from his novels never receive the benefit of close interpretation or stylistic commentary. Atlas's characterisations of Bellow are peculiarly static. From beginning to end he is framed in an unchanging posture, and defined by a very limited and limiting repertory of psychological labels and clichés." London Review of Books 11/00
  • WRITING ABOUT WRITING AIN'T WHAT IT USED TO BE: The modern literary biography is wrapped in a paradox. "Only famous writers attract biographies, writers who are famous because their writings are. But the more space a literary biographer devotes to discussing an author's writing, the less commercial the biography will seem to be, to those who decide which books to publish and push. It looks as though the word is out that readers will happily read about famous writers as long as they don't have to be troubled much about what they wrote." London Review of Books 11/00
  • BUT E-PUBLISHING WAS SUPPOSED TO CHANGE ALL THIS: E-publisher MightyWords sent notices to the 5000 authors whose work it carries. Half of them are to be kicked off the site and the other half will have their royalties reduced. "MightyWords' decision fits neatly in the trend of downsizing dot-coms. In other words, e-business stinks as usual. But it's significant in the world of bookselling, where self-published authors are getting a wake-up call. If they didn't realize it already, they're largely out there on their own." Wired 11/10/00
  • PUBLISHER'S CLEARING HOUSE: Publisher Random House says it will now share all revenue from e-books 50-50 with authors. Some predict this may become the industry standard. Other e-publishers are not so sure: ''They've laid tracks that are very unwise. I think it's a huge mistake on their part.'' Inside.com 11/10/00

Thursday November 9

  • MARGARET ATWOOD ON HER BOOKER WIN: "You know when you get to a certain age and stage, you do feel you go through a period where you're unawardable, just as politicians go through a period when they're unelectable," Atwood said in an interview yesterday, the day after being awarded the Booker Prize for her 10th novel, The Blind Assassin. "I think they're relieved they did this before I toppled into the grave." Globe and Mail (Toronto) 11/09/00

Wednesday November 8

  • MARGARET ATWOOD WINS BOOKER PRIZE for her tenth novel, "The Blind Assassin." Toronto’s Atwood had been shortlisted for the award three times previously. BBC 11/07/00
    • CHOOSING THE WINNER: The decision was not unanimous, but was a 'consensus' among the judges. New York Times 11/08/00 (one-time registration required for entry)
    • ATWOOD ON THE BETTING THAT SURROUNDS THE BOOKER: This is a betting country and this prize really took off when some genius put together the three words: Booker, book and bookie. I think there's something deeply whimsical and appealing about the fact that the bookies get together and read all of the books; I mean, I love to think of them reading away, and then I love to think of them making the odds." National Post (Canada) 11/08/00

Tuesday November 7

  • BOOKER FAILS TO EXCITE: Tonight the Booker Prize for literature is announced. "Baffled by such a mixed bag, Britain has shown less Booker spirit than usual this year. The shortlisted novels have failed to take over the nation's bookshops, and sales are modest. "The list is slightly odd, and people aren't quite sure what to make of it." National Post (Canada) 11/07/00
  • SETTING STANDARDS: Everyone agrees that e-books are the road to the future. But "the industry is nowhere near establishing a common e-book format that will permit consumers to read any e-book on whatever device they happen to own." Until that happens, it's likely to be rocky time for e-publishing. Publishers Weekly 11/07/00
  • A NEW MEDIA FIGURE OF STAGGERING PROPORTIONS: Dave Eggers has become a hero of the New Media, he and his friends publishing books and the literary magazine McSweeney's pretty much on their own terms. Is this how the New Media world was supposed to happen or is Eggers a passing flash? New York Magazine 11/07/00

Monday November 6

  • PARSE THIS: A Ph.D student from the UK goes to Yale for courses in literary criticism and reports from the front lines: "I am struck by the thought that literary criticism - at least as it is practised here - is a hoax. And the universities that offer it, and the professors who in America earn large salaries teaching it, are fraudulent, wittingly or not." New Statesman 11/06/00
  • A TURNING TIED: Last week's Giller Prize in Canada ended up in a tie between "Mercy Among the Children" by David Adams Richards and "Anil's Ghost" by Michael Ondaatje. "Nobody likes a tie, except the co-winners; half a prize has got to be better than no prize at all. For the rest of us though, a tie is unsettling. Why can't the judges make up their minds? Are they cowards, in thrall to their friends, or just plain lazy?" The Globe and Mail 11/06/00
  • THE RACE FOR THE BOOKER: The Booker Prize for literature is to be announced Tuesday night. "London bookmaker Ladbroke's gives the shortest odds (11 to 8) on Margaret Atwood's 'The Blind Assassin' getting the £21,000 prize." Toronto Star 11/06/00

Sunday November 5

  • HISTORY YOU CAN HOLD IN YOUR HANDS: As libraries become more and more electronic, they've been dumping some of their paper archives. "When the British Library decided to dump a historic archive of American newspapers, the best-selling novelist Nicholson Baker was so horrified he decided to buy it for himself. He is now engaged in a one-man campaign to rescue 'the raw store of history' that microfilm and the internet promise to destroy." The Telegraph (London) 11/04/00

Friday Novermber 3

  • THE RIPPLES OF BIGNESS: Think consolidation of the publishing industry won't affect what you read? "Science and technical journals have become a case study in the publishing industry's growing consolidation. Until the 1960's, scores of smaller companies and nonprofit organizations published the vast majority of journals. Since then, a handful of companies led by Reed Elsevier have acquired the bulk of them and have aggressively raised subscription prices. The average price of a subscription to a scholarly journal has more than tripled in the last 14 years. To keep up, libraries now buy fewer new books than they did a decade ago, diminishing the market for books of all kinds and frustrating professors desperate to publish." New York Times 11/03/00 (one-time registration required for entry)
  • THE NEW READING: "Hypertext literature is a wonderful subject for discourse, theory, and intellectual hobnobbing; but in the final analysis, there's really not that much to it. Insofar as hypertext binds the Web together, it's wonderful. Insofar as hypertext allows multimedia Web art to function, it's great glue. Insofar as hypertext comprises a new literary genre, it's about as riveting as those "write your own story" books that came out when I was a kid. *spark-online 11/00
  • GILLER WINNERS: For the first time, Canada's Giller prize has been awarded to two writers - "David Adams Richards and Michael Ondaatje both won the $25,000 Giller Prize. The judges, Margaret Atwood, Jane Urquhart and Alistair MacLeod, all senior deans of Canadian literature, huddled for just a few hours before announcing their decision." Ottawa Citizen 11/03/00

Thursday November 2

  • THE 'OTHER' ONLINE PUBLISHING: Negotiating book rights is "a time- and labor-consuming, long winded, costly and inefficient business; heavy manuscripts have to be expensively shipped often over long distances, and there is a huge amount of copying, and faxing and phoning at international rates, with often only a comparatively small reward. Why not, indeed, work it all out online: post catalogues, properties, partial manuscripts on the Web, e-mail pitch letters and offers, conduct auctions? Publishers Weekly 10/30/00

Wednesday November 1

  • JUST THE RIGHT SIZE: Novellas are this fall’s literary sensation, with one after another short work of fiction hitting the bookshelves. An easy way out for stymied writers? A concession to readers’ dwindling attention spans? "When push comes to shove, perhaps the word represents a state of mind rather than a specific number of pages. There is something dangerous about the narrative choices the writer takes. If Steve Martin's novella had been a page longer, it would have been mawkish; a page shorter, dismissible." Village Voice 11/07/00

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