Slashdot: Literature Teeters on the Edge of a 'Gr8 Fall'.
Both Yahoo! and Slashdot seem to think this is an awful idea, but I see it as another step in the right direction. I don't like the text slang, but with mobile devices becoming the next thing in communication, it makes sense for phone companies to begin competition outside of ringtones and wireless. Why not books? Books as PDF are taking off--I know quite a few people who read them on the Palms. I hope Dot Mobile sees the greater value of these summaries and eventually pairs them with the full books.
The New York Times: 1,082 Penguin Books story has the tale of one family who bought.
Can you imagine if all publishers released their collection this way? Granted, Penguin's collection lends itself the most easily to this, but wouldn't it be cool for bibliophiles to own the collections of their favorite publishers in one bulk purchase.
In case you're curious of what to get me for the holidays, it's on my wishlist.
Thanks to Shane for the update.
Rising Support Cited for Limits On Patriot Act
Campaign For Reader Privacy
Now, sometimes, these small houses are one-man-bands. The self-published author. This is generally a person who has invested his or her own money into making the book a reality. Sometimes, albeit rarely, self-publishing works. There's a great book out there that, for whatever reason, mainstream publishing companies aren't picking up. These people have even fewer shots of getting reviews for their books, and even less of a chance of distribution and sold copies. These are the books I want to champion.
My interest in publishing has always been wide. The publishing companies are working hard to keep their doors open. The authors often don't make enough on a book to quit their day jobs. Not a lot of people are getting rich. Yet, it's an industry that is flooded with books. It's overwhelming to readers. I originally created this blog for people interested in both reading and the business of books. I've posted the occasional negative review about a book from a large house. My reasoning: there is so much press about the books from big houses that another commentary is just that: another voice in the mix.
But, to this point, I haven't posted a bad review of a book from a small press. I have read some books that were lacking, and written a few negative reviews. But, after doing some Internet searches on the books in question and finding no information, I decided not to post the reviews. The reason? Why should the only mention of a book be negative? Perhaps nobody is buying it in the first place, why bother to post reviews of something not being read? I don't want to hurt a small house that is struggling just to meet its overhead. Yet, at the same time, the publisher has sent their book to me, a reviewer, to critique. Perhaps authors are wondering what happened to their books? (For the record, the process is like this: books come in, are logged and then put in line to be read, critiqued, then at the end of each calendar year, given to the reviewers or donated to the local library.) Why is this blog, one that strives to devote itself to the small press, lacking in book reviews about the small press?
The answer is two fold: 1) some of the books sent to me from small presses have received negative reviews that I chose not to post; 2)I give reviewers the freedom to choose the book they want to discuss.
But, I have a responsibility to readers. If someone sends a book, they do it in good faith. If the book was good, I'd post it in a heartbeat. If the book deserves a negative review, it also should be posted. The first negative review is being posted today. Give me your feedback. Based on that, I'll decide whether or not to post others.
By the way, if you're a publisher who wants your book reviewed, or a reviewer looking for a home for your reviews, address queries to me: Brandi Larsen-- bookaday at gmail.com.
The New Yorker.
Devil in a White City.
That Was Yesterday. I'll keep notes this morning.
New reviews will be posted on Friday.
This morning's train readings:
A T-Mobile Sidekick.
Jewels of the Sun.
The Mercy Ruler (a library book!)
The Time Traveler's Wife.
Best Humor: Jon Stewart, America (The Book)
Best Business: Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, Freakonomics
Best Children's Chapter Books, Middle Grade: J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Best Cooking: Rachel Ray, Rachel Ray's 30 Minute Get Real Meals
Best Children's Illustrated Book: Shel Silverstein, Runny Babbit
Best Religion/Spirituality: Deepak Chopra, Peace Is The Way
The full list is at their website: www.quillsliteracy.org. (Shame for posting prior to the full televised cermony.)
Yes, I'm back. I'm sorry for the long delay.
If you haven't read any of her books, start with Written on The Body.
E-books only account for a tiny share of the market ($3.2 million in an entire quarter, $10.6 million less than the newest Harry Potter book sold in the first 24 hours). But, they're trying to grow.
They're offering 30% off normal textbook prices, which is a lot to cash-strapped college students, who on average spend $800 a year on books. This could be great news, but it's really more of the same. There's a catch: The books are only available for download to a single computer and expire after five months.
Personally, I think that's a big catch. With students having multiple devices (palm, several computers, phones with e-book readers), they should be able to read how they like. The expiration date is ridiculous.
This kind of business model begs for some angry inventive student to begin file sharing or hack into the system as a whole, leaving the e-book industry to whine like the MPAA. I propose a better idea: borrow the I-tunes model. The whole point of the Internet is flexibility. Let students download their textbooks by chapter at a less expensive price point. Allow a certain number of copies to their own devices. Put it in a format that's clean, but a pain to copy. Place it in a nice looking easy-to-use interface. Hyperlink to other things that could be of help, like Wikipedia. Ditch the idea of expiration dates.
This builds a loyal audience who will come back to you. It grows the e-book market. And, it's fair.
BookADay, who does not have connections to John Irving, plans to review Until I Find You.
This situation begs the question: how close it too close? Irving was a friend of Wiggins' ex-husband. Could it be that she didn't like the book, no matter to her relationship with him? Probably. Was she wrong in not telling The Washington Post. Definitely. Writers bump into reviewers all the time. Some reviewers, present company included, also write. I believe you always need to be honest about who you know and if it's really questionable, don't review it. That said, I also believe that you can read your best friend's book and if it's a bomb, you need to call it a bomb. Your thoughts?
An ironic view on what America really needs to read right now. A juror on the Michael Jackson trial is writing a book called Guilty as Sin and Free as a Bird.
I've been reading indie book seller Robert Gray's blog, Fresh Eyes. The posting on 7.22 describes a dream job: Professor of Books.
What it means for readers:
Prior written approval of the Director or Deputy Director of the FBI for any application for a FISA Court order to compel production of:
-library circulation records,
-library patron lists,
-book sales records,
-and book customer lists containing personally identifiable information.
The Justice Department must publicly reveal each year the number of orders issued to bookstores and libraries.
Basically, this means they can still do what they want, but now they have to do some paperwork and now they're traceable. It seems more fair.
The full article from The Campaign For Reader Privacy.
Book: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Year Published: 2005.
Grade That Means Nothing Coming From Me: C-.
Another year of Harry's life, his sixteenth. The war is in full swing, with Voldemort's Dark Eaters gaining strength and killing both wizards and muggles on a daily basis. Security has tightened at Hogwarts. As 6th years, Harry, Hermoine and Ron are now studying harder than ever, each of them passing the appropriate tests to get them into the classes they want. Dumbledore is teaching Harry private lessons to help him fight Voldemort, giving him history lessons on Voldemort's past. Harry excels in potions after receiving a used potion book that has notations from the mysterious Half-Blood Prince. In between studies, love is in the air at Hogwarts, with some of the favorites getting together. The war continues to get closer and closer to Hogwarts, with parents getting worried after students keep getting cursed, even on school grounds. Harry believes Snape, the new teacher of Defense of the Dark Arts, is working with Draco Malfoy as Dark Eaters. Dumbledore asks Harry to accompany him on a mission to weaken Voldemort. When they return, they find that the Death Eaters have taken over the castle. A grisly fight and tragic real-tears death follow.
Disappointment. Rowling struggles throughout this one to maintain her audience. It seems as though she is not sure whom she is talking to. The characters and action are no longer age appropriate for the 12 and under crowd, due to the amount of swearing (the characters all seem to be swearing, even though very few are actually written out), snogging (their word for some serious horizontal lip-locking) and violence. Yet, Rowling writes in a voice that is condescending to both children and adults. She wrestles with the voice of the book, even going as far as having the characters say in their dialogue what is important to remember.
In addition, she spends the first 135 pages of the book in a massive recap of what has already happened, as if she cannot fathom her readers could possible remember. She liberally sprinkles reminders from her other books throughout the rest of the text, which are so gratuitous that it feels like she's either being paid by the word or doing heavy self-promotion. I almost expect Harry to begin reading a Harry Potter book.
She also reuses the plot from Book 2. Harry once again finds himself with an object that gives him directions from an unknown hand. You would think that he would be wary of picking up another object, but he just plunges in, even though Hermoine keeps saying how much she disagrees with it.
Character perception is another problem. Even though Harry has been right for everything up until now, even though everyone refers to him as The Chosen One, even though he has no reasons to lie and is acknowledged as seeing things, nobody believes him. This is ridiculous. Rowling is forced to make very smart characters inconceivable unperceptive in order to make her plot work. Overall, it's disappointing.
That being said, it does end well. It seems that Rowling gets out of unnecessary exposition land somewhere around page 510, making the last hundred and fifty or so pages an enjoyable read, with the pace, tone, characters, and voice consistent with what we expect of Harry Potter book.
I will grudgingly read Book 7 because I care about the Potter crew. But it would be great if it would cut to the chase.
(I almost wish that J.K. Rowling would have Harry read some great works of literature.)
Here's another account of writer fraud.
A couple of links to people who can help:
Predators and Editors.
Thanks to Jason for sharing this with me.
This is all over the news today. Thanks to all the BookADay readers who campaigned, wrote their representatives to make this happen.
Here's the press release:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: JUNE 16, 2005
In a vote that sends a clear message to the Bush Administration that Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act needs to be amended to protect Americans' right to privacy, the House yesterday passed Rep. Bernie Sanders's (I-VT) Freedom to Read Amendment to the Commerce, Justice, State (CJS) Appropriations Bill by a vote of 238-187. The Sanders amendment cuts Justice Department funds for bookstore and library searches under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act. On Tuesday, the Bush Administration had warned that it would veto the House Appropriations Bill if it included any amendments that would weaken the PATRIOT Act, as reported by the Washington Post.
Today's vote represents a significant victory for Sanders and the many free-speech groups and civil-liberties advocates, including the Campaign for Reader Privacy, who believe that Section 215 is a dangerous erosion of constitutional rights.
"This victory clearly shows that you can fight city hall and win, and demonstrates the enormous power of booksellers to influence public policy," said American Booksellers Association COO Oren Teicher. "We'd like to congratulate and thank Rep. Sanders, as well as booksellers and all those who participated in the Campaign for Reader Privacy. As was said at ABA's Celebration of Bookselling 10 days ago, America's readers have never had a better friend or stronger supporter than we have in Bernie."
"With this vote, Congress has begun the process of rolling back aspects of post-9/11 legislation that unnecessarily encroach on some of our most basic freedoms," said Larry Siems, director of the Freedom to Write Program at PEN American Center. "Even before 9/11, federal authorities had the power to search personal records of anyone suspected of involvement in terrorism. This is the first step toward restoring checks that prevent the government from seeing the reading records of everyone else."
While the victory was significant, Teicher stressed that today's vote does not mean the fight to amend Section 215 is over. "The battle will continue as Congress looks to reauthorize 215 and the other sunsetting provisions of the PATRIOT Act at the end of this year," he said. "We need to redouble our efforts, and we urge booksellers to continue to collect signatures on reader privacy petitions and to contact their congressional representatives to ask them to support an amendment to Section 215 to protect readers' First Amendment rights."
The debate prior to the vote was an intense one, with those in favor of the amendment emphasizing that civil liberties do not have to be sacrificed for the sake of security and those opposed to the amendment warning that it would give terrorists a safe haven in bookstores and libraries. "This amendment seeks to build a sanctuary for terrorists," declared Tom Feeney (R-FL), "that's all it does."
However, Butch Otter (R-ID) retorted that, like any former prosecutor who worked for the government, "my colleague seems frustrated by the Constitution."
And Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) cautioned, "It's time to remember where wecome from as a nation...a nation that stands up for civil liberties!"
In conclusion, Sanders stressed that, not only are the American Library Association and American Booksellers Association in favor of amending Section 215, but that "seven states in America have gone on record expressing serious concerns" regarding the provision. Furthermore, he continued, hundreds of thousands of citizens have informed their representatives that they are concerned about Section 215, as well.
The US Patriot Act is a dangerous one. In addition to breaking a host of other civil liberties, this act allows federal agents to gain access to anyone's book habits. Through libraries, booksellers, publishers, everything. This in the name of international terrorism, a labeling so broad that it's been applied to anyone the government has been watching, even the good guys.
Yes, there are terrorists out there. Yes, they might be reading. But to enact a law that grants universal access to our records is heavyhanded, unjust, and reminiscent of the Red Scare and other witch hunts.
America was a free country, with the ability to educate ourselves in whatever method we choose. For many of us, we choose reading.
There's a Campaign for Reader Privacy: www.readerprivacy,org. The first step is to sign the petition. The second step is to get out there and use your voice.
Also, congrats to all who entered.
But, I'm not an academic publisher.
According to DM News, they're freaked out. Read the whole article here.
Here's Google's side of the story.
Top 5 New Books Sold
1. DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY by Erik Larson (Vintage, trade paperback, $14.95)
2. HAUNTED by Chuck Palahniuk(Doubleday, hardback, $24.95)
3. THE CHICAGO WORLD'S FAIR OF 1893: A PHOTOGRAPHIC RECORD. Text by Stanley Appelbaum (Dover Publications, trade paperback, $12.95)
4. HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY by Douglas Adams (Ballantine, mass market, $7.99)
5. NFT: NOT FOR TOURISTS GUIDE TO CHICAGO 2005 edited by Jane Pirone (Not For Tourists, Inc., trade paperback, $16.95).
The winner will be announced June 1 in New York.
In other news, Mariah Carey has announced her decision to join the ranks of children's book authors. Her series will be about a bi-racial orphan and called Automatic Princess. The project has yet to begin, but she says, "It's still something I really want to do, and I'm going to do, and I'm going to start getting that into production soon." Source: RTE Guide.
Now on to your regularly scheduled blog....
New review posted in the Reviews section. Older reviews are in the Archives.
Best Seller Lists
1. True Believer. Nicholas Sparks.
2. The Mermaid Chair. Sue Monk Kidd.
3. Revenge of the Sith. Matthew Stover.
4. No Place Like Home. Mary Higgins Clark.
5. The Da Vinci Code. Dan Brown
1. My Life So Far. Jane Fonda.
2. Blink. Malcolm Gladwell.
3. The World is Flat. Thomas L. Friedman.
4. On Bull----. Harry G. Frankfurt.
5. Freakonomics. Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner.
Trade Paperback Fiction:
1. The Kite Runner. Khaled Hosseini.
2. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Mark Haddon.
3. The Secret Life of Bees. Sue Monk Kidd.
4. The Shadow of the Wind. Carlos Ruiz Zafon.
5. The Time Traveler's Wife. Audrey Niffenegger.
Trade Paperback Nonfiction:
1. The Tipping Point. Malcolm Gladwell.
2. Bad Cat. Jim Edgar.
3. The Devil in the White City. Erik Larson.
4. Reading Lolita in Tehran. Azar Nafisi.
5. Truth & Beauty. Ann Patchett.
If you're writer of fiction (short or long), or interesting nonfiction, and want a solid group of peers to critique your work, this is the place. Test your work on willing readers and celebrate your victories with all of us.
If you're a reader, this is the place to read new work and help shape what will be in print tomorrow.
Flexible meeting dates, currently looking at every other Wednesday (evening).
Writers: e-mail your writing preferences and a writing sample to email@example.com. Readers: e-mail your reading preferences and why you want to be a part of this group to firstname.lastname@example.org.
While this group will physically meet in Chicago, online participants are also welcome. E-mail and we'll work out the details.
If agreed upon by writers and readers, reviews of completed work can be posted in the Reviews section of BookADay.
BookADay is currently living up to its name. I'm currently reading between 2-3 books a day, to wrap up a contest I'm working on.
The deadline is March 15. If I don't go blind from so much reading, I'll be back then.
In the meantime, amuse yourself with this:
The Online Books Page is full of books that have been put online for your reading enjoyment. How many can you read by March 15?
Do you give up on books?
Thanks to Maxwell for sending me this link.
Hunter S. Thompson killed himself and was found at 6pm Feb 20th. The NY Times wrote a nice article. I didn't always agree with or like his writing. I respect him for what he has done for journalism and for writing. Whether or not you agree with the man, he did a lot for all of us as writers. I cut my teeth in journalism and appreciated the path he laid out for all the journalists like myself who came after him.
Arthur Miller passed away last week. Reuters wrote a good eulogy. He gave voice to the alienation that many Jews, as well as immigrant and second generation Americans, felt. He did it in a way that was heartbreaking and stunning. All My Sons, Death of a Salesman, The Crucible, all works of literature that captured America and took character drama to a new level.
I'll miss them both.
Disappointingly, Random House still doesn't believe the cell phone format is conducive to reading books. More at Wireless News Factor.
In addition, the Russians are teaching book publishing within their business schools.
Jane Friedman is famous within book publishing for inventing the author tour. (The first one took place when she booked Julia Child in department store kitchen demonstrations, in addition to morning tv shows to promote a book.) Now, she's at the top of HarperCollins. Her new plan is to make the brand as identifable as the authors it produces. Novel concpt in publishing, and one that has been getting many whispers lately.
For the generations on students behind me who will pursue the hallowed halls of knowledge, the end may be in sight. Market analysts are predicting the end of the textbook. While I acknowledge that a lot of teachers and professors are finding other objects to supplement their teaching, I'm not sure I'm ready to call the textbook the new dinosaur. I can tell you, though, that the backs of students all across America will be grateful.
In other news, the much beloved Tom Brokaw signed up with Random House to write two more books. Details are sketchy at best.
What do you think? Are you interested? What side do you want to be on? I'm debating about whether a person can be both a writer and a reader... Your thoughts are appreciated.
This got me thinking about the non-heavy hitters. How far down does the list go? Where do independent publishers fit in the mix?
New reviews are up in the BookADay Book Review section.
If you have a story idea that you'd like to see in BookADay, let me know.
Luke Johnson wrote a nice essay for London's The Telegraph. In it, he talks about the virtue and hardship of being in book publishing. He's another one that is worried that the Internet is a biggest challenge to the book publishing industry. I disagree. I think the Internet will only enhance books that are out there. The industry's biggest challenge is to stop living in its dinosaur ways (and there is a movement for change happening right now). As we progress into the future , we will find new ways to sell and new ways to read, although I'll tell you, there will be some hardheads, myself included, that will always love the visceral feeling of turning a book's pages.
In other news, accoridng to the Houston Chronicle, the Book Awards are about to get more fabulous. People are going to vote online and the ceremony will be televised nationally. Think the People's Choice Awards with more reclusive people. Glitz and glammor aside, which sort of chills my bones, I think having an award ceremony that is voted on by the people is a good idea. It gets people more invested in books, possibly starting a national conversation about books in the same way your average reality show is talked about the next day at the office cooler.
It's Sunday, so it's time for the BestSeller List.
Book Sense: Bestsellers From Independent Booksellers
Trade Paperback: Fiction
Week of 1.27.05, Sales For Week Ending 1.23.05
1. Housseini, Khaled. The Kite Runner. Riverhead: 384 pgs. Times on List: 39. Last Position: 1.
2. Haddon, Mark. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Vintage: 240 pgs.
Times on List: 36. Last Position: 2. (Read our book review.)
3. Dunant, Sarah. The Birth of Venus. Random House: 416 pgs. Times on List: 8.
Last Position: 3.
4. Jones, Edward P. The Known World. Amistad: 432 pgs. Times on List:35. Last Position:6.
5. Niffenegger, Audrey. The Time Traveler's Wife. Harcourt/Harvest: 536 pgs.
Times on List: 35. Last Position: 4. (Read our book review.)
6. Eudenides, Jeffrey. Middlesex. Picador: 544 pgs. Times on List:71. Last Position:7.
7. Monk Kidd, Sue. The Secret Life of Bees. Penguin: 320 pgs. Times on List: 103.
Last Position: 5.
8. Lahiri, Jhumpa. The Namesake. Mariner: 304. Times on List:26. Last Position:10.
9. Gregory, Philippa. The Other Boleyn Girl. Scribner: 672 pgs. Times on List:19.
10. Chevalier, Tracy. The Lady and the Unicorn. Plume: 256 pgs. Times on List:3.