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Some interesting articles about the
In a world Dickens would not have recognised,
artist Adam Bateman has used more than 50,000 books to create a series of
"sculptures" like the one in this picture.
Incredible though it may seem, in 1905 there were a host of
critics who condemned the automobile as a passing fad. Yet this single
invention revolutionised the twentieth century. It so redefined how people
worked, lived and learned, that between 1900 and 1920 England left behind its
agrarian way of life forever and embraced the Industrial Age instead. One
machine thus brought about an avalanche of social, financial and educational
changes by its indirect creation of factories, suburbs and unified school
One hundred years later another innovation - the Internet - is changing the way
we work, live and learn. The articles below demonstrate the seismic
shift in the literary landscape which twenty-first century authors are
The Hidden Price
of a Christmas Bestseller.
"Every day thousands of shoppers decide to buy a new book because
Waterstone’s prominently displays or recommends it. The reader may imagine
that merit alone has inspired the country’s largest book chain to champion the
volume now resting in their hands. The truth is a little less romantic.
In a confidential letter to publishers seen by The Times, Waterstone’s has set
out what it expects them to pay if they want their books to be well promoted in
its network of more than 300 stores this Christmas.
The most expensive package, available for only six books and designed to
“maximise the potential of the biggest titles for Christmas”, costs £45,000 per
title. The next category down offers prominent display spots at the front of
each branch to about 45 new books for £25,000. Inclusion on the Paperbacks of
the Year list costs up to £7,000 for each book, while an entry in Waterstone’s
Gift Guide, with a book review, is a relative snip at £500. "
to read the full article in The Times by
be damned: a defender of free speech. John Calder's retirement
ends the career of a man who championed controversial writers. "I only
took on things I believed in," said Calder.
Click here to read the full story in Britain's
England's leading environmentalist authors, Dr. David Reay of the School of
Geosciences at Edinburgh University, published a thought-provoking article in
the London Times Higher Education Supplement wherein he
expressed concerns about the environmental impact of publishing his latest
ecology book using traditional methods.
"Even in the shadow of the environmental studies shelves - which groan under
the weight of titles giving the expert synthesis on everything from arsenic
pollution to climate change - I shudder to think of the potential for harm.
For, like Christmas, this first-time feeding frenzy at the bookshop will be
short-lived. Soon the returns will begin flowing back to the publishers,
vanload after vanload of unwanted stock hauled off to become a vast reservoir
of fodder for the pulping machines," he wrote.
Click here to read the full article
reproduced courtesy of the author and The Times Higher.
The information revolution has forced creatives of every
stripe into a to-the-death battle with media owners
writers, most creative producers of every stripe, are engaged in a to-the-death
battle with media owners. One reason is digitalisation; another is the
increasing stranglehold of rights contracts; a third, connected to the previous
two, is simply how long media owners can keep selling what we produce."
Typical media contracts now demand the author hand over his rights
"in any and all media and by any and all means now known or hereafter invented,
throughout the world and all parts of the universe, in any and all languages."
to read the full article by Giles Foden in The Guardian, 24th June 2005.
Why the Writer is the last to know
It’s an old worry of writers, frequently mentioned by many of them, that their
publishers don’t tell them everything there is to know about the publishing of
their work. Are these authors simply paranoid, unhinged by the monastic nature
of the creative process? And if they are, does that mean they are wrong?
Anyway, I shall lay out some authors’ complaints and also some things that
indeed publishers don’t tell their writers.
Click here to read the full article by Martin
Arnold in The New York Times, July 25, 2002.
Too posh to publish?
leveller, the internet, dictates that the publishing game, as we knew it in the
20th century, is over. Copyright protection, like it or not, will eventually go,
just as the Net Book Agreement did. Second-hand
books will sell in increasing quantities and the buyers on eBay and Amazon won't
give a damn whether or not the publisher and author lose out. It's goodbye to
all that. The web appeals to the many who question why publishing houses should
be the gatekeepers of information. We're all publishers now, or at least we can
Click here to read the article by Colin
Walsh in The Author, the magazine of the Society of Authors.
Who are you writing for?
the most searching questions you can ask of any writer is: who are you writing
for? There are various answers to this inquiry, which can be summarised as
ranging from my bank manager to my muse to, the best of all possible audiences,
myself. Robert Louis Stevenson gave another good reply to this question when he
observed, in Travels With a Donkey: 'Every book is, in an intimate sense, a
circular letter to the friends of him who writes it. They alone take his
meaning; they find private messages, assurances of love, and expressions of
gratitude, dropped at every corner. The public is but a generous patron who
defrays the postage.' Click on link to read the whole article by
Robert McCrum in The Observer, 20th March 2005
** NEW ** Life, but not as we know it - the celebrity book invasion.
Autobiographies by those who don't write for those who don't read have become a
wrote Ben Macintyre in The Times
on May 6th 2006. "As one British
literary agent puts it: “The celebrity memoir is the jackpot. Everyone is
looking for the right combination, and by Christmas there will be half a dozen
television celebrities slugging it out at the top of the bestseller lists.”
** NEW ** "He writes for the people, not the critics."
You don't get many writers like Alaa Al Aswany in the West any more - writers
whose references are Chekhov and the nouveau roman rather than the latest
sales figures and Richard and Judy's current picks; writers who labour
long and hard for no financial reward (and no hope of any).
Please click here to read an article in The Times
on September 16th 2006 by Robert Twigger and Samia Hosny.
** NEW ** "Here's looking
at you, for ever, in e-world."
"...we're constantly seeing new products in new
ways and by new methods. And the pace of it is so fast we are as aware of
living on the brink of the future as we have ever been."
Please click here to read an article in The Times
published on 11th June 2006 by Andrew Sullivan.
The Long Tail
Forget squeezing millions from a few megahits at the top of the
charts. The future of entertainment is in the millions of niche markets at the
shallow end of the bitstream.
Unlimited selection is
revealing truths about what consumers want and how they want to get it in
service after service, from DVDs at Netflix to music videos on Yahoo! Launch to
songs in the iTunes Music Store and Rhapsody. People are going deep into the
catalog, down the long, long list of available titles, far past what's available
at Blockbuster Video, Tower Records, and Barnes & Noble. And the more they find,
the more they like. As they wander further from the beaten path, they discover
their taste is not as mainstream as they thought (or as they had been led to
believe by marketing, a lack of alternatives, and a hit-driven culture). Click
here to read the
entire article by
Chris Anderson, editor-in-chief of Wired magazine.
A miss hit
Companies should wake up to the new economics of the internet,
and think abundance, not shortage.
The internet is changing
the entertainment business from one that is driven by hits to one that will make
most of its money from misses. This is good news for consumers, because it means
more choice, and we all like things that will never make the best-seller lists
for CDs, books or movies. And although it might sound strange, this "new
economics of abundance" is already the basis of the net's most successful
companies, such as Amazon, eBay and Google. Click
link to read the story by Jack Schofield in The Guardian, 24th
Writing Well Isn’t Enough
If you read Publishers Weekly you’ll see book revenues
rising in the double digits and publishers enjoying brisk sales despite the best
efforts of our video culture. In the U.S. today, more different books are
published, and more copies of them sold, than ever before. However, if this
doesn’t gibe with your experiences submitting your work, there’s good reason for
it. The reason is these booming unit sales are fueled by a tiny minority of big
authors, and the large numbers of books published are becoming more homogenous
all the time. Click
this link to read the full story by
Jim Hornfischer in September
Booker winners into the reject pile
They can’t judge a
book without its cover. Publishers and agents have rejected two Booker
prize-winning novels submitted as works by aspiring authors.
One of the books considered unworthy by the publishing
industry was by V S Naipaul, one of Britain’s greatest living writers, who won
the Nobel prize for literature. Click
on this link
to read the full article by
Books aren't just for reading
Books aren’t just for reading, according to artist Adam
Bateman, who is winning acclaim for his innovative book sculptures. He
currently has a solo exhibition in Brooklyn featuring book structures that
include cubes, oblongs, spirals and one huge column three-feet thick, eight-feet
tall and weighing over 4000 pounds. Click on link to
read more on Abebooks.com.
M6 Toll Road built with pulped fiction
copies of novels are being used to help prolong the life
of the UK's newest
road. It has emerged that about 2,500,000 of the books were acquired
during construction of the M6
Toll. The novels were pulped at a recycling firm in south Wales and used
in the preparation of the top
layer of the West Midlands motorway, according to building materials suppliers
Tarmac. Click on link to read more:
18th December 2003.
Paperback revolution - 70 years since Allen
Lane launched cheap books for the masses.
Penguins I ever saw were Aunt Maud's thrillers. My aunt's mouse-scented,
spinsterish home in Putney seemed to breathe self-denial. The crucifixes, the
umbrella-stand full of walking sticks, the fusty sofa cushions, the
willow-pattern plates on which she served cold tongue and radishes - it all
spelt "No Fun" to my five-year-old eyes. It was an impression confirmed by
her library - a glass-fronted bookcase entirely filled with green-spined
Penguins. Click on link to read more:
Walsh in The Independent, 29th April 2005.
University dumps rare books
In his satire about a library, The Battle of
the Books, Jonathan Swift recounts that "a restless spirit haunts over every
book till dust or worms have seized upon it." More than 300 years later, the
library at a London university is having its own battle with accusations of
"book-burning" and "sacrilege" flying through the air. Click on link
to read more:
Duncan Campbell in The Guardian, 18th June 2005
Google to scan
The libraries of five of the world's most
important academic institutions are to be digitised by Google. Scanned
pages from books in the public domain will then be made available for search and
reading online. The full libraries of Michigan and Stanford
universities, as well as archives at Harvard, Oxford and the New York Public
Library are included. Click on link for more:
BBC News, 14th
Steinbeck’s Birthplace to Close Its Libraries
Central California town of Salinas, birthplace of Nobel prize-winning author
John Steinbeck who wrote “The Grapes of Wrath,” will close its three libraries
next year as a cost-cutting move.
Francisco (Reuters), 16th December 2004. Click
here to read the full story.
Publishers “dumbing down”
It seems the latest trend
in publishing is "accessibility", with examples of this including a new, less
highfallutin’ translation of War and Peace, "gobbet-sized" serial editions of
big books like Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, and a
simplified version of Hawking's most famous work, A Briefer History of Time. The
original, his publishers concede, was "a landmark volume in scientific writing."
"But it is also true," they go on, "that in the years since its publication,
readers have repeatedly told Professor Hawking of their great difficulty in
understanding some of the book's most important concepts." Click
link to read the whole article by Marina Hyde in The Guardian, 13th
makes shift to digital
According to a study commissioned by the British Library, 90%
of newly published work will be available digitally by this time.
Only half of this will also be available in print form, with just 10% of new
titles available only in print. It represents a "seismic shift" in the
world of publishing said British Library chief executive Lynne Brindley.
Click here to read
the full story.
Steal This Book. Or at Least Download It
Talk to Warren Adler, and watch some
favorite clichés crumble. Mr. Adler has published 27 novels. But did he
follow the tried-and-true conventional print route for “Death of a Washington
Madame,” his 28th? No. He’s self-published that one electronically,
and e-mailing it free, a chapter at a time, to anyone who asks. Fogies (like
this reporter) who still want the feel of pages “can always print the chapter
out,” he said. “The main thing is, give readers a new book for free, and they
might go back and buy some of the former books.” The way Mr. Adler, 77,
sees it, portable electronic readers will soon do to paper books what the
Walkman and iPod did to boom-boxes. “Print publishing has had a great
500-year run, but the print book is morphing into the screen book,” he said
during a recent lunch at Pigalle, a French restaurant in Manhattan’s theater
district. By Claudia Deutsch in The New York Times, August 21, 2005.
Click here to read the full article.
Publishers face authors in latest
The music industry has been brawling for
months over who owns the rights to digital tunes. Now it’s the book industry’s
turn. Today in New York, Random House will face e-book publisher
RosettaBooks in a legal battle that pits publishers against authors. At stake
are the rights to publish older books in electronic format – and the legal
standing of the nascent e-book industry.
On Feb. 27, a day after RosettaBooks went live selling 50 titles for download,
Random House sued Rosetta over the rights to eight books by William Styron, Kurt
Vonnegut and Robert Parker. Random House maintains that it owns the electronic
rights to books it published before e-books ever existed.
Click here to read the full story by Janet Kornblum in USA Today, July 2001.
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