Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Clearly Meyer still feels the need to tell the story through someone else’s eyes. On her Web site today, Meyer announces that she’s written a novella from the perspective of Bree Tanner, one of the newborn vampires who appears in Eclipse and dies ten pages later.
The book, called The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner, will be published on June 5th (no ordering information is available yet) and will also be free on the Web from June 7th through July 5th at www.breetanner.com (Meyer says this is a thank you to her fans).
The burst on the cover declares that one dollar from the sale of each physical book will go to the American Red Cross. According to USA Today, the first printing will be 1.5 million copies and will sell for $13.99.
What about Midnight Sun? Meyer acknowledged to USA Today that fans are waiting for it, but that she’s “not writing about vampires right now.”
Monday, March 29, 2010
Harvard University today launched its own content on iTunes U, a dedicated area within iTunes that allows students, faculty, alumni, and visitors to tap into the University’s wealth of public lectures and educational materials on video and audio.
“At Harvard, we’re committed to providing the highest-caliber digital experience to showcase our excellence in teaching and research. iTunes U provides a robust way to help us meet this standard,” said Perry Hewitt, Harvard’s director of digital communications and communications services. “Our audiences have a strong interest in accessing all that Harvard has to offer online. Making Harvard University available on iTunes U is a logical step toward expanding our outreach.”
The University’s content features the sights and sounds of Harvard, including educational material such as Professor Michael Sandel’s renowned “Justice” course, which is an introduction to moral and political philosophy, and is one of the most popular courses at Harvard. Visitors also will be able to learn about the science of the brain’s “black box,” the secrets of aging, and other health-related topics from Harvard Medical School’s “labcasts,” and will have the opportunity to view public lectures by many of the University’s distinguished professors and guests.
“Knowledge quickly becomes inert without a means of easy and open access. The new iTunes channel is yet another fantastic way of allowing everyone from the curious amateur to the professional scholar to explore the amazing intellectual breadth of Harvard,” said Cherry A. Murray, dean of the Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and John A. and Elizabeth S. Armstrong Professor of Engineering and Applied Sciences. “It’s really cool to have courses and talks right at your fingertips. I will encourage our own community members at SEAS to contribute content and, of course, I plan to check in often myself.”
iTunes U is the latest effort to make the University’s world-class learning more accessible through strategic relationships with organizations that provide expertise in content delivery.
Harvard on iTunes U distributes free, downloadable material, created by a wide range of Harvard’s Schools and professors. Harvard offers users more options to stay connected to their interests at the University, while enhancing opportunities for learning beyond the classroom. iTunes U offers free educational content, including lectures, lab demonstrations, and campus tours, all available for download in the same way that individuals access music and movies using iTunes.
Launching on iTunes U is part of an overall digital-dissemination strategy for the University, which is committed to providing access to innovative content platforms and devices.
To access Harvard on iTunes U, start at http://itunes.harvard.edu/.
from: Harvard Gazette
Sunday, March 28, 2010
Among the archival material from Salman Rushdie currently on display at Emory University in Atlanta are inked book covers, handwritten journals and four Apple computers (one ruined by a spilled Coke). The 18 gigabytes of data they contain seemed to promise future biographers and literary scholars a digital wonderland: comprehensive, organized and searchable files, quickly accessible with a few clicks.
But like most Rushdian paradises, this digital idyll has its own set of problems. As research libraries and archives are discovering, “born-digital” materials — those initially created in electronic form — are much more complicated and costly to preserve than anticipated.
Electronically produced drafts, correspondence and editorial comments, sweated over by contemporary poets, novelists and nonfiction authors, are ultimately just a series of digits — 0’s and 1’s — written on floppy disks, CDs and hard drives, all of which degrade much faster than old-fashioned acid-free paper. Even if those storage media do survive, the relentless march of technology can mean that the older equipment and software that can make sense of all those 0’s and 1’s simply don’t exist anymore.
Imagine having a record but no record player.
All of which means that archivists are finding themselves trying to fend off digital extinction at the same time that they are puzzling through questions about what to save, how to save it and how to make that material accessible.
“It’s certainly one of those issues that keeps a lot of people awake at night,” said Anne Van Camp, the director of the Smithsonian Institution Archives and a member of a task force on the economics of digital preservation formed by the National Science Foundation, among others.
Though computers have been commonly used for more than two decades, archives from writers who used them are just beginning to make their way into collections. Last week, for instance, the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas, Austin, announced that it had bought the archive of David Foster Wallace, who committed suicide in 2008. Emory opened an exhibition of its Rushdie collection in February, and last year, not long before his death, John Updike sent 50 5 ¼-inch floppy disks to the Houghton Library at Harvard.
Leslie Morris, a curator at the Houghton Library, said, “We don’t really have any methodology as of yet” to process born-digital material. “We just store the disks in our climate-controlled stacks, and we’re hoping for some kind of universal Harvard guidelines,” she added.
Among the challenges facing libraries: hiring computer-savvy archivists to catalog material; acquiring the equipment and expertise to decipher, transfer and gain access to data stored on obsolete technologies like floppy disks; guarding against accidental alterations or deletions of digital files; and figuring out how to organize access in a way that’s useful.
At Emory, Mr. Rushdie’s outdated computers presented archivists with a choice: simply save the contents of files or try to also salvage the look and organization of those early files. Because of Emory’s particular interest in the impact of technology on the creative process, Naomi Nelson, the university’s interim director of Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, said that the archivists decided to try to recreate Mr. Rushdie’s writing experience and the original computer environment.
Mr. Rushdie started using a computer only when the Ayatollah Khomeini’s 1989 fatwa drove him underground. “My writing has got tighter and more concise because I no longer have to perform the mechanical act of re-typing endlessly,” he explained during an interview while in hiding. “And all the time that was taken up by that mechanical act is freed to think.”
He added: “I had this kind of fetish about presenting clean copy. I don’t like presenting my publisher with pages with lots of crossings-out and scribbling. So I would be manic at the end of typing a page where actually I didn’t want to change anything, not at all.”
Some of the early files chronicle Mr. Rushdie’s self-conscious analysis of how computers affected his work. In an imaginary dialogue with himself that he composed in 1992 when he was writing “The Moor’s Last Sigh,” he wrote about choosing formatting, fonts and spacing: “I am doing this so that I can see how a whole page looks when it’s typed at this size and spacing.
“Oh, my God, suppose it looks terrible?”
“Oh, my God, yeah. And doesn’t this look wrong?”
“Where’s the paragraph indent thing?”
“I don’t know. I will look.”
“How about this? Is this good for you?”
“A lot better. How about fixing the part above?”
At the Emory exhibition, visitors can log onto a computer and see the screen that Mr. Rushdie saw, search his file folders as he did, and find out what applications he used. (Mac Stickies were a favorite.) They can call up an early draft of Mr. Rushdie’s 1999 novel, “The Ground Beneath Her Feet,” and edit a sentence or post an editorial comment.
“I know of no other place in the world that is providing access through emulation to a born-digital archive,” said Erika Farr, the director of born-digital initiatives at the Robert W. Woodruff Library at Emory. (The original draft is preserved.)
To the Emory team, simulating the author’s electronic universe is equivalent to making a reproduction of the desk, chair, fountain pen and paper that, say, Charles Dickens used, and then allowing visitors to sit and scribble notes on a copy of an early version of “Bleak House.”
“If you’re interested in primary materials, you’re interested in the context as well as the content, the authentic artifact,” Ms. Farr said. “Fifty years from now, people may be researching how the impact of word processing affected literary output,” she added, which would require seeing the original computer images.
It may even be possible in the future to examine literary influences by matching which Web sites a writer visited on a particular day with the manuscript he or she was working on at the time.
Michael Olson, the digital collections project manager at Stanford University, said that the only people who really had experience with excavating digital information were in law enforcement. “There aren’t a lot of archives out there capturing born-digital material,” he said, referring to the process of extracting all data accurately from a device.
Located in Silicon Valley, Stanford has received a lot of born-digital collections, which has pushed it to become a pioneer in the field. This past summer the library opened a digital forensics laboratory — the first in the nation.
The heart of the lab is the Forensic Recovery of Evidence Device, nicknamed FRED, which enables archivists to dig out data, bit by bit, from current and antiquated floppies, CDs, DVDs, hard drives, computer tapes and flash memories, while protecting the files from corruption. (Emory is giving the Woodruff library $500,000 to create a computer forensics lab like the one at Stanford, Ms. Farr said.)
With the new archive from David Foster Wallace, the Ransom Center now has 40 collections with born-digital material, including Norman Mailer’s. Gabriela Redwine, an archivist at Ransom, is impressed by Emory’s digital emulation, but said the center was not pursuing that kind of reproduction at the moment.
“Our focus is preservation and storage now,” she said. “Over the last couple of years, we’ve been learning about computer forensics.”
The center is trying to raise endowment money to hire a digital collections coordinator while Ms. Redwine works on preservation and processing. In the meantime, most of the digital material is off limits to researchers.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: March 24, 2010 An article on March 16 about digital archives from Salman Rushdie on display at Emory University misstated part of the name of the Emory library that has the archives. It is the Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library — not the Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book Collection.
from: NY Times
Saturday, March 27, 2010
The venerable PBS program went through several changes in ownership over the years as it struggled to survive. In January 2007, Burton said that he’d taped his last episode of Reading Rainbow and indicated that he wasn’t pleased with the direction that the newest owners were taking it.
The program’s last original episode aired on November 10, 2006 and reruns of Reading Rainbow left the airwaves in 2009 because PBS couldn’t afford the broadcast rights, in part because of the licensing of the featured books.
In February 2009, Burton wrote, “Want y’all to know that I’m seriously moving forward with an idea for a new version of a Reading Rainbow like show. Webisodes for adults.”
Many have forgotten his tease but this week, Burton wrote about reviving the show again, saying, “You heard it here first… Reading Rainbow 2.0 is in the works! Stay tuned for more info. But, you don’t have to…”
It’s not clear if Reading Rainbow will return aimed at children or adults but, based on Burton’s growing social presence on the Web, the Internet will surely figure heavily in the equation.
from: TV Series Finale
Friday, March 26, 2010
A year ago The New York Times presented a multimedia, packaged gift to school librarians everywhere. With its profile of Brooklyn, N.Y., school librarian Stephanie Rosalia, at long last, a major newspaper had chronicled the 21st century school librarian’s role as Web curator and information literacy specialist.
The article made the Times’ "most e-mailed" list for days and was featured on more than 100 blogs, as educators and parents everywhere recognized the need for media specialists to guide students. In a School Library Journal article that deemed Rosalia "The New Poster Girl for School Libraries," Rosalia said she was "awestruck at how this article has struck a nerve all over the country with people who are not librarians." Yet she was also surprised by a school board director who was "absolutely clueless" about how important school librarians are to student success.
Cut to the present, and librarian blogs tell a different story. Many absolutely clueless administrators still believe that a search engine is an adequate substitute for a trained research teacher. With the nation's schools budget-strapped, librarians--and even libraries--are being cut from coast to coast. Even President Obama, whose creation of a National Information Literacy Awareness Month suggests he should know better, left additional funding for school libraries out of his FY 2011 budget proposal.
In the libraries of old, the Dewey Decimal System got you started on research. But there is no card catalog 2.0. To use the Internet as a library you need new research skills: the ability to pick out reliable sources from an overwhelming heap of misinformation, to find relevant material amid an infinite array of options, to navigate the shifting ethics of creative commons and intellectual property rights and to present conclusions in a manner that engages modern audiences.
As a former corporate lawyer, I owe much of my success to effective research skills that evolved, with the help of skilled trainers, as new tools came along. As a former executive officer at a company that had 1,200 employees in 29 countries worldwide, I know that without adequate media literacy training, kids will not succeed in a 21st-century workplace. The "old school" ways of communicating won’t cut it; I’ve mastered those, and yet now spend each day re-learning how to communicate effectively in this new world order. And as the founder of a company whose mission is to teach the effective use of the Internet, I have pored through dozens of studies, and recently oversaw one myself, that all came to the same conclusion: Students do not know how to find or evaluate the information they need on the Internet.
In a recent study of fifth grade students in the Netherlands, most never questioned the credibility of a Web site, even though they had just completed a course on information literacy. When my company asked 300 school students how they searched, nearly half answered: "I type a question." When we asked how students knew if a site was credible, the most common answers were "if it sounds good" or "if it has the information I need." Equally dismal was their widespread failure to check a source’s date, author or citations.
The issue extends beyond homework. The Internet defines the way that young people learn, communicate, and create. A recent report by the Youth and Media Policy Working Group Initiative at Harvard’s Berkman Center stated that "[m]edia literacy skills overlap with safety skills." In addition to learning how to phrase a search query, students need to learn how to protect themselves online, and how to share their work through wikis, videos, and other interactive media. Without a dedicated guide, they end up, in the words of professor Henry Jenkins, as "feral children of the Internet raised by the Web 2.0 wolves."
While not every school librarian is yet adapting to the new reality of what is demanded of the role, thousands of other dedicated librarians I have met are turning their school media centers into "learning commons" where students seamlessly use state-of-the-art Web tools to consume and produce content. Students at many elite schools are learning critical 21st century skills while librarians are eliminated from budget-stressed school districts. The result? What a University College of London study called a "new divide," with students who have access to librarians "taking the prize of better grades" while those who don’t have access to school librarians showing up at college beyond hope, having "already developed an ingrained coping behaviour: they have learned to 'get by' with Google." This new divide is only going to widen and leave many students hopelessly lost in the past, while others fully embrace the future. Already Tufts University has begun to accept student-produced Web videos as a supplement to admissions applications.
Some officials have started to catch on. Kentucky, in becoming the first state to adopt the Common Core State Standards Initiative, recognized the importance of new technology and research expectations, and it cited school librarians as a key part of its future initiatives.
Before parents accept the wisdom of a school board to cut school librarians, they should ask: Will my child graduate with a 21st century resume, or a 19th century transcript? Can he use collaborative technology, such as wikis? When a search engine returns 105 million results, can the student find the five that will set her paper apart? With the Web evolving by the minute, can classroom teachers alone, stressed by assessment testing and ever-growing paperwork burdens, help students figure this all out? As the information landscape becomes ever more complex, why does a school district want to abandon its professional guides to it?
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Make room, Holden Caulfield and Huck Finn, Sonic the Hedgehog is moving in.
The Toronto Public Library is searching for close to $300,000 to start a circulating video game collection, as well as to set up gaming programs at eight branches across the city.
There’s method in what sounds like madness for a library: Players can learn literacy and problem-solving skills through the games themselves, while the gaming programs will convert the library into a hub for youths who would otherwise never consider entering one.
“It may be the only time a young person comes in. It can act as a magnet to attract people,” said city Councillor Adam Vaughan, who sits on the library’s board.
“Once we get them in there, you can be darn sure that our librarians will be hard at work to introduce them to everything else the library can offer.”
As video games are embraced at some libraries across North America, traditionalists are cocking eyebrows, wondering whether books are getting shafted.
Among the gaming supporters, there is a debate about what kind to offer. Should libraries limit themselves to family games, where participants can go head-to-head in dance competitions and Pokemon battles?
Or should they appeal to all ages and offer the likes of Grand Theft Auto, where the player can run down police officers in a stolen car?
“The libraries have to really consider the social implications of what they’re offering,” said Bruce Ballon, who heads a clinic at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health that treats adolescents addicted to the Internet and video games.
“It could be great ... It’s just making sure it’s done in a healthy way.”
The Toronto library has been auditioning gaming programs at two branches for some time, said chief librarian Jane Pyper. Younger staff at East York’s S. Walter Stewart branch, as well as at the Bloor/Gladstone branch, pitched the idea as a way to draw new people through the doors.
The libraries host occasional events where youth and parents alike play Guitar Hero or a Nintendo racing game.
However, the Toronto library is just beginning to catch up with library systems across the continent, from New York City to Pickering — whose library has offered game loans for about five years.
The central library in Ann Arbour, Mich., began hosting gaming events in 2004. Now, upwards of 100 people turn out several times a month to play.
“The events turn non-library users into library users. It’s not so important how they use the library, it’s that they use it,” said Eli Neiburger, an associate director for the library’s IT department who organizes the events.
There is a growing body of research that says some video games promote literacy. Not only do players have to read the text to pass the level, but they learn to quickly decode abstract meaning from symbols, Neiburger said.
“Pokemon has more texts in it than your some grade school curriculums,” he said. “The games aren’t at the expense of traditional literacy; it’s in addition to traditional literacy.”
Meanwhile, games grounded in history can turn children onto books on the subject, says Cheryl Olson, co-author of Grand Theft Childhood: The Surprising Truth about Violent Video Games.
In Guilderland, N.Y., the number of books borrowed by teens jumped 20 per cent after the libraries launched their video game collection.
Yet, many libraries that carry the games avoid ones with mature subject matter, saying they have no place in the public forum.
Toronto, like Pickering, would provide games for all ages, Pyper said, although youths won’t be allowed to check out adult-rated discs.
There will be upwards of 150 titles and the games will be available at 38 branches.
The game selection, however, is still far away. If the library can’t raise the funds, the games and the consoles won’t be purchased this year.
“Right now, this is a plan, not a reality,” Pyper said.
from: The Star
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Cormorant Books, the independent Toronto-based publisher, announced Tuesday that it is launching a new young adult imprint called Dancing Cat Books.
“Establishing a children’s and YA imprint was a decision we made easily,” said Marc Côté, publisher of Cormorant, in a press release.
Their website is already up-and-running.
Dancing Cat will publish "author-driven" fiction, non-fiction and poetry, as well as illustrated books. The imprint will be headed up by veteran children's publisher Gail Winskill, who has worked at Scholastic Canada, Penguin, and Fitzhenry & Whiteside, where she was Children’s Publisher. Winskill will be aided by freelance editor Ann Featherstone and Barry Jowett, who was most recently at Dundurn Press.
"When Barry Jowett joined Cormorant in the Fall of 2009, he brought with him his commitment to quality YA books and then, in December, Gail Winskill and I began to talk. Her enthusiasm, experience and previous successes made the decision to establish Dancing Cat very easy," says Côté.
“I’m absolutely thrilled,” said Gail Winskill in a statement. “The team at Cormorant has embraced Dancing Cat Books andI’m delighted to find a home with a publisher whose reputation for high literary standards matches my own ambitions for this imprint. Some day, Dancing Cat readers may grow up to become Cormorant Book readers, and wouldn’t that be wonderful?”
Dancing Cat Books has already announced its Fall 2010 line-up, which include a free-verse novel called Burn, and a picture book by Rebecca Bender called Giraffe and Bird. The imprint intends to publish eight titles next year, including new work by Charles Pachter, and 10 in 2012.
This is the second big announcement Cormorant has made in 2010. In January, the small-press unveiled a new line of poetry books, beginning in 2011.
From: National Post
Monday, March 22, 2010
Laying into Ian Fleming because his Bond books "consist entirely of clichés" is hardly revolutionary, but the 007's creator is not the only author to come under attack from a group of US academics asked to describe what constitutes a bad book for the latest issue of the American Book Review.
The Great Gatsby is, apparently, "incredibly smug about its relationship to the traditional realistic novel". Women in Love reads "like someone put a gun to Nietzsche's head and made him write a Harlequin romance". Revolutionary Road fares little better: "I am as illuminated as I am by a college essay decrying drunk driving," says its selector, while All the Pretty Horses gets Cormac McCarthy compared to Jackie Collins. He "wraps his characters in half-truths and idealised anecdotes, much like Jackie Collins does, only his are about the Lone Star state, the border, and its cowboy myths," says Christine Granados from Texas A&M University, adding that "McCarthy uses clichés and derivative characters to sell millions of copies".
This is all a bit say-something-controversial-for-the-hell-of-it for my taste. There's such bad writing out there (do I have the energy to bring up Dan Brown and Stephenie Meyer? No, not really) that it feels mean-spirited, even arrogant, to pick on the classics. I tend to believe McCarthy when he told Oprah, in a rare interview, that he didn't care how many people read his books. "You would like for the people that would appreciate the book to read it, but as far as many, many people reading it, so what?" he said. And anyway, it was only with 1992's All the Pretty Horses that he did actually hit the bestseller lists: his previous books – The Orchard Keeper, Outer Dark, Blood Meridian – only sold a couple of thousand copies apiece, so his "clichés and derivative characters" clearly weren't working from the start.
I much prefer the academics who've picked books which sound genuinely dire. I haven't read Nelson Hayes's Dildo Cay, but Pennsylvania State University's Jonathan P Eburne almost tempts me into giving it a go. "It is so earnestly bad as to call its own existence into question," he writes, calling the novel "the product less of an unsteady hand than of a resoundingly tin ear, [with prose] so categorically graceless as to supersede camp and plunge straight into ontological confusion."
Pondering whether "even the most sober war-era reader would leap to associate the titular islet with the tall Caribbean cactuses that populate it, rather than, say, with artificial phalluses", Eburne quotes a wonderfully bad extract from the novel. "'Father, I want to talk with you!' Adrian had been watching his father walk the dike unsteadily, and suddenly he had seen himself at the age of sixty walking the dike unsteadily, and on top of his restlessness it was too much for him. 'How strong do you think that pickle is?' his father asked, ignoring the tone of Adrian's voice." I want to know more.
And of course someone comes up with William McGonagall, "poet and tragedian". "[Poetic Gems] is great because it cannot but deeply entertain us with its earnest vigour, its invincible belief in its own genius, its merciless craft, its transcendent obliviousness," says Kim Herzinger from the University of Houston-Victoria. Just for fun, I clicked on the "Gem of the Day" at McGonagall Online to remind myself of the poet's glorious badness. It truly is a beauty:
A sad tale of the sea I will relate, which will your hearts appal Concerning the burning of the steamship 'City of Montreal,' Which had on board two hundred and forty-nine souls in all, But, alas! A fearful catastrophe did them befall.
You can sign up to receive a gem a day via email: I think I shall.
Like Carolyn Kellogg at the LA Times, I think respondent Sophia A McClennen's approach is a good one – she teaches "a bad book, an awful, poorly written, sometimes sexist, racist, reactionary book" without telling her students what she thinks of it, and waits to see if they'll notice. "I like to teach my students that they can trash bad books. Too much reverence for the literary can float around graduate programs in literature," she says.
And I love the response of a college professor to Kellogg's blog. "Unfortunately, some of my colleagues judge everything by how close it comes to Joyce's Ulysses, which they reread annually," he reveals. "A friend of mine was at an academic conference session about Ulysses. Someone on the panel referred to an episode where a character in thenovel had coffee at a restaurant. The rest of the panel turned on him, and one of them hissed, 'It was cocoa!' Now do you see why this ridiculous list came about?"
from: The Guardian
Sunday, March 21, 2010
SAN JOSE — Sometime in the near future, a federal judge will decide whether Google can proceed with its plan to create a digital library and bookstore out of millions of old books scanned from libraries around the world.
Google Book Search has already spawned a class-action lawsuit, and now, a surge of opposition from scholars, consumer advocates and business competitors who contend the plan gives Google too much control over a priceless store of information. The legal issues are complex. But the impact and implications of the plan, which would create a copyright framework for old books that would persist into the 22nd century, could be huge, some say.
"It really is the most important copyright dispute we're currently facing," said James Grimmelmann, a professor at New York Law School and a former Microsoft programmer. "I would say this whole controversy has the potential to really affect how we access all kinds of media, not just old ones, but also new ones."
If Google is successful in rewriting a major area of copyright law through its proposed settlement of the lawsuit, someone else could try something similar for music or photographs. "It's a really interesting way to break a lot of logjams in copyright law," Grimmelmann said. "But are we opening a Pandora's box?"
Here's a look at three key issues that have emerged at the center of the controversy.
Copyright holders would be paid under the plan for the right to scan their books, but what about the vast number of out-of-print books whose rights holders can't be found?
Google would not have to share revenues from these "orphan books." Google and its partners in the settlement, the Authors Guild and the American Publishers Association, say less than 15 percent of the estimated 5 million to 8 million out-of-print but copyrighted books covered by the settlement will be orphans. The plan establishes a Book Rights Registry, funded with $34.5 million, to find copyright holders.
"It's not that tricky to locate the author if you have an organization that is devoted to doing it," said Paul Aiken, executive director of the Authors Guild. If a court approves the settlement, Aiken says, cash incentives will attract rights holders.
Opponents don't see it that way. Fastening on court filings that show only about 1 million rights holders have been identified, they say Google could realize a windfall on what will be millions of orphan books.
Privacy advocates argue that Google could track and retain not only the titles people access
through Book Search, but also which pages they view, and the notes they make on the pages.
Cindy Cohn, the San Francisco-based legal director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation who spoke at the court hearing in opposition to the book plan, said the group has repeatedly urged Google to incorporate many of the same privacy standards that public libraries have, such as never turning over library records to police without a warrant.
Google wanted to make such decisions on a case-by-case basis.
"It's tremendously important" for Google to adopt the library standards, Cohn said. "The ability to be able to engage in intellectual inquiry without somebody being tracked — it's an important piece of free expression."
Aiken said, however, that in a public library, privacy for people using Google Book Search would be preserved because Google Book Search would provide terminals that could be used anonymously — unless, Aiken said, a searcher were to enter into the terminal their Gmail address or some other identifier.
If the plan is approved, Google would have exclusive rights to grant access to its millions of digitized books. Opponents and the U.S. Department of Justice say this could give the company a monopoly, able to set prices and control new business models.
The vast amount of information would include the bibliographies to millions of books, as well as their text, which could improve the quality of Google search. That could give Google a huge advantage over competitors, opponents say.
Google, however, says scanning books to bolster the quality of search is "fair use" under copyright law. "Obviously, we think there is value in search," said Dan Clancy, the Google executive in charge of Book Search, "but I think to the extent that any (competitors) feel similarly, they can invest, similarly as we have, in digitizing books."
from: San Jose Mercury News
Saturday, March 20, 2010
by: Alison Flood
More than 100 years, oh Best Beloved, after Rudyard Kipling published his Just So Stories, authors including William Boyd, Hanif Kureishi and Michael Morpurgo are contributing to an anthology inspired by Kipling's classic children's book which will raise money for endangered species.
The Just When Stories, also featuring contributions from award-winning Australian illustrator Shaun Tan and Canadian writer Karen Connelly, winner of the Orange prize for new writers, will see the authors writing a short story about an animal of their choice. Boyd, author of Restless and Ordinary Thunderstorms, has tackled the chimpanzee, Kureishi has taken on the ladybird and former children's laureate Morpurgo has written about a boy who finds a turtle.
Kipling's story collection — including How the Rhinoceros Got His Skin, How the Whale Got His Throat, How the Leopard Got His Spots and The Cat that Walked By Himself — was first published in 1902. "Three to four of the animals which Kipling wrote about are now highly endangered, so it seemed like a really nice fit to look at his stories again," said the Just When project's instigator Tamara Gray, a campaigner against illegal trade in endangered species since 1990. "The first person I approached was William Boyd, and he said it was a great idea and that he'd do it. I thought, if I can get him, I'm going to be able to do this."
The authors, who have donated their stories to the anthology, were not asked to write in the style of Kipling, said Gray. "We haven't asked them to replicate how Kipling wrote - it's just a nod to him, looking again at the animals and letting them choosing what to write about," she said. All profits from the sale of the book will be donated to WildAid and the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation, said Gray. The book will be published by Beautiful Books in August, along with an audiobook read by actors including David Tennant and Romola Garai.
Boyd called the project "a wonderful cause and a wonderful opportunity to help". Author Lauren St John, who contributed the story Tiger Tiger to the anthology, said that she believes "it is the sacred duty of anyone who loves and cares for animals to do whatever they can to help in the fight to save endangered species". Nury Vittachi, who is donating the story The Legend of Earthseasky, said that "while scientists can help endangered species in practical ways, I was thrilled that authors can play a small part too, by capturing some of the magic and wonder of the animal kingdom".
from: The Guardian
Friday, March 19, 2010
by: Rupal Parekh
NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- In India, thousands of consumers are going from tweeting to bubbling.
A hot new social-networking service dubbed Bubbly, which is essentially a voice-based Twitter, is quickly gaining popularity among Indians. And thanks to Bollywood celebs being early adopters, Bubbly is growing virally and with virtually zero marketing spend.
Bubbly is the brainchild of 5-year-old mobile and social app firm Bubble Motion, which is based in Silicon Valley and Singapore. Its first product was BubbleTalk, a person-to-person voice-messaging service that, instead of SMS, sends mobile audio messages and has about 100 million users now.
According to Bubble Motion's CEO Tom Clayton, after devoting time to BubbleTalk and other mobile voice-messaging services, "along came the social-media boom and we started to play with a lot of social-media applications." That led to the idea of audio messages going not just to one person, but to a much larger audience of followers.
In rolling out Bubbly, Mr. Clayton plans to skip North America and Europe and focus on fast-growing, mobile-savvy markets such as India, Japan and Brazil.
Here's how Bubbly works: Anyone can sign up to follow a friend, family member or favorite celebrity or brand. Posting messages and following is free, and once a new message has been recorded and sent out, users get an alert. If they choose to listen, they pay for the airtime.
Most messages are less than 30 seconds long, and there is currently a cap of one minute.
To post on Bubbly, a user dials a short code, like *7, records a message and hangs up. To listen, tap in another code, like *2. It works on any handheld device, and messages can be posted to Bubbly while still withholding phone numbers for privacy.
Bubbly hasn't launched officially, but the service saw an estimated 500,000 users in about four weeks after some of Bollywood's biggest stars started using it, including Aamir Khan and Kareena Kapoor, who were talking about it ahead of the premiere of their hit film "Three Idiots" (which recently swept India's Filmfare Awards). "It's personal and it's easier for a celeb" to connect with their fans using Bubbly rather than a web-based service in which an agent or PR firm might be writing messages, said Mr. Clayton.
Media networks in India are showing signs of interest too; the first major media brand to sign on there is the BBC, which is experimenting with the service as a way of disseminating breaking news (listen to audio clip below, in Hindi). And other networks are in talks to potentially follow suit.
Bubbly's business model is based on its revenue-sharing partnerships with telecoms. In India, that includes two giants, Reliance Communications and Bharti Airtel.
In a country where many have access to cellphones but far fewer to the web, this type of mobile blogging service seems to make sense. By some estimates, India has the fastest-growing population of mobile phone users in the world as cellphone operators add millions of new customers each month. By 2012, India may have 650 million cellphone users.
To use Bubbly for brand engagement and promotion, a celebrity spokesperson could record messages about brands or send a "bubble" from the set of a forthcoming movie to build buzz. Brands themselves can also bubble short radio-like ads over cellphones, although it's up to users to opt in.
Bubbly has been beta-tested in places such as Egypt, where BMW bubbled a promotion to visitors to a retail location, and Citigroup used it to send out ads and Vodafone to deliver the latest ringtone.
But Mr. Clayton said Bubbly is targeting five major global markets -- India, Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia and Brazil -- because they all offer large, mobile-savvy populations whose telecoms and cellphone users are "also open to cool, new innovative stuff." A web component may have a role in the launch of Bubbly in Japan, but in most markets the focus will remain on a mobile-only version of Bubbly for now.
And while the mobile operators Bubbly partners with might tout the service in their own ad campaigns, traditional advertising isn't on Bubble Motion's agenda anytime soon. Part of the company's goal, and the mission of its VP-marketing and product management, David Still, is to "grow to hundreds of millions of users through viral and word-of-mouth marketing with very little, if any, marketing spend," said Mr. Clayton. "In each country we have a different strategy, but a lot of it is around entertainment and sports [celebrities]."
From: Advertising Age
Thursday, March 18, 2010
OTTAWA — The Conservative government is quietly cutting funding to hundreds of community groups and even hospitals that provide free Internet access to Canadians who might not otherwise have a chance to get online.
Organizations that benefit from Industry Canada's 16-year-old Community Access Program began receiving letters last week informing them that sites located within 25 kilometres of a public library would no longer be eligible for cash.
Groups had been receiving between $4,000 and $5,000 a year to buy computers and other hardware, such as printers and wireless routers; to pay for technical support and skills training; and sometimes to pay for the connection bills.
Organizations that have used the program include employment and youth drop-in centres, English-as-a-second-language programs, libraries, and seniors groups.
In rural areas, such organizations are often clustered in the middle of town and near the local library, meaning they are the most likely to be hit by the change in funding criteria.
In Industry Minister Tony Clement's riding, the West Parry Sound Health Centre administers the funds for 46 different community sites that will likely see their funding disappear because they don't fit the new narrow criteria.
Co-ordinator John Lee got involved with the program from its inception in 1994, when it was called SchoolNet.
He says it's a vital resource for organizations in rural communities where people don't always have access to high-speed Internet or sometimes even a computer.
At the health centre where Lee works, the public computer is used by long-term and emergency care patients and their families. The facility went from one computer to 10 over the last decade, and doesn't know if can keep its program alive.
"This is one of the most successful programs and services that Industry Canada has had," said Lee, who has personally appealed to Clement.
"It's really unfortunate, with the small amount of money, when you consider the larger part of the budget."
Karen Deluca of the Arnprior Public Library in eastern Ontario, said $3,000 is a lot for a small library.
"It's a vital link for everyone. It puts everyone on the same footing across Canada," said Deluca, who sees people come in to draft resumes, download programs, or do homework.
"There are still many rural communities who still do not have high speed access at home."
Industry Canada did not immediately respond to questions about changes to the program, including the size of the cut.
Details did not appear on Industry Canada's website or in the recent federal budget documents, which had been touting the government's new work on a "digital economy strategy."
The Conservatives are spending $200 million on expanding broadband coverage to underserved households in Canada.
Gary Goodyear, minister of state for science and technology, told the House of Commons on Monday that public libraries and 80 per cent of Canadians now have Internet access.
Liberal MP Anthony Rota, vice-chair of the Commons committee on industry, science and technology, wants to know where that leaves the other 20 per cent of the population.
"What this Conservative party is saying basically is that if you live in a large urban centre, then you're important, but the other 20 per cent of Canada, that's not important to this government," said Rota.
"When you start dismissing people, you create a divide in Canada between the haves and the have nots."
From: Canadian Press
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Isn't it frustrating when you've just started the first few chapters of a new book, one that has you gripped after only several pages, and then all of a sudden you have to put it down? Maybe it's because you were on a First Capital Connect train earlier this week, and you finished reading one of the 32-page free book samples that were handed out to commuters.
This month, First Capital Connect launched a book club and gave away 17,000 samples of its first Book of the Month, Evidence by the US suspense author Jonathan Kellerman, over three days at Kings Cross, St Albans, Luton and Bedford. The train company is partnering with mostra, a marketing agency for publishers, in the hope that reading a small taster of a book will encourage people to buy the whole thing. The club is also being run online, so that those who aren't travelling from major stations can still download the chapters and receive discounts on books.
David Adshead, the managing director of mostra, says: "People are now reading their sample chapters as well as a newspaper on the way home." The next book of the month is This Is How by M J Hyland, which will be handed out between 1-5 April.
From: The Independent
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Weekly on March 15. The book's first chapter was made available for free download on March 13, and the second is set to follow on March 19.
Readers can currently head to Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble.com, and the Sony eBookstore to download the first chapter of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls free of charge to any mobile reading device, including but not limited to the Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, and Sony Reader.
The digital version of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls will be available for purchase and download in its entirety on March 23, 2010, the same day the title is set to appear in print form.
Quirk Books' first title, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith, made US and UK bestseller lists, has been translated into 21 languages, and is now being made into a feature film. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls, by Steve Hockensmith, is a prequel to that title and a continuation of Quirk Books' Quirk Classics series, which combines "popular fanboy characters like ninjas, pirates, zombies and monkeys" with classic public domain book titles.
While offering free chapters of a forthcoming title is not an entirely new publishing trend, Quirk Books may be the first to offer a free portion of a book in electronic, serialized form.
Monday, March 15, 2010
by: Alison Flood
She's won the Man Booker prize for her fiction, been awarded 16 honorary degrees and fights on behalf of authors' rights as vice-president of International PEN. But Margaret Atwood has just completed what could be her toughest challenge yet: singing in a musical about ice hockey.
The author of The Blind Assassin and The Handmaid's Tale revealed last week that she has a singing cameo in the Canadian film Score: A Hockey Musical, the story of a teenage hockey phenomenon whose intellectual mother, played by Olivia Newton-John, is dismayed by his ascent to fame. "Yes, I sang, shameless me," said Atwood on her blog, posting photographs from the film's ice-rink set. "We were all in an arena freezing our feet off [including] the star, Noah Reid, and the director, Mike McGowan, and Jody Colero, who got me into it, and a jolly supporting cast of thousands! Hey, I signed a hockey stick," she added.
Atwood plays herself in the movie. She said on Twitter that her fee for appearing in the musical was going to the Pelee Island Bird Observatory. "Lotsa hockey greats, and then there's me..." the author added. Out in October in Canada, Score's cast features a host of other Canadian celebrities, including singer Nelly Furtado.
Atwood has proved in the past that she isn't afraid of performing in public, appearing in a one-hour show based on her post-apocalyptic novel The Year of the Flood last year. Her enthusiasm for ice hockey also led to the following, rather startling "celebrity tip" on a popular Canadian TV show.
from: The Guardian
Sunday, March 14, 2010
Reading all over the world: The long-list for this year's Independent Foreign Fiction Prize spans the globe
The numbers fell; but not the scope or the quality. A preference for safe bets and low horizons in recession-era publishing did serve to thin the field of translated fiction published in the UK
during 2009. Entries for this year's Independent Foreign Fiction Prize shrank by more than a quarter. That only means, take note, that the total of titles considered by the judges (Tibor Fischer, Kate Griffin, Daniel Hahn, Kirsty Lang and myself) merely returned to its level a few years ago.
And, as a properly global shop-window for the range and depth of fiction in translation available in Britain, the long-list of 15 books that we have selected strikes this judge - at least - as a mixture as robust, alluring and diverse as ever. From Berlin (Julia Franck) and Calcutta (Sankar) to Buenos Aires (Claudia Piñeiro) and Baghdad (Hassan Blasim), and from a Russian historical mystery (Boris Akunin) and a Congolese low-life comedy (Alain Mabanckou) to a French wartime blockbuster (Jonathan Littell) and an Italian trio of coming-of-age novellas (Pietro Grossi), our choice accesses all areas of world fiction in form as well as theme and place.
It contains international literary stars as well as dynamic newcomers, with a third of the books translated from non-European languages. For the first time, three Arabic-language authors (Bahaa Taher from Egypt, Hassan Blasim from Iraq and Elias Khoury from Lebanon) feature on the list, as well as Syrian-born Rafik Schami, who writes in German.
His translator, the recently OBEd Anthea Bell, pops up again with her version of Julia Franck; the other double nominee is Humphrey Davies, with two Arabic titles to his credit. As for the imprints that host this banquet of overseas treats, that nine books out of a 15-strong gathering should come from independent houses (from middleweight Atlantic to tiny Comma Press) tells a story in itself about where to find vision and audacity in UK publishing today.
Once again, the prize owes a huge debt to the support of Arts Council England and Champagne Taittinger. The judges will meet again in mid-April to scrap over the cull that will have to shrink this formidable field into a shortlist of six. I warmly recommend all the books on a list that offers something for everyone and something from (just about) everywhere. It will surprise, delight and sometimes even shock.
The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize long-list
Boris Akunin The Coronation (translated by Andrew Bromfield from the Russian) Weidenfeld & Nicolson
Ketil Bjørnstad To Music (Deborah Dawkin & Erik Skuggevik; Norwegian) Maia Press
Hassan Blasim The Madman of Freedom Square (Jonathan Wright; Arabic) Comma Press
Philippe Claudel Brodeck's Report (John Cullen; French) MacLehose Press
Julia Franck The Blind Side of the Heart (Anthea Bell; German) Harvill Secker
Pietro Grossi Fists (Howard Curtis; Italian) Pushkin Press
Elias Khoury Yalo (Humphrey Davies; Arabic) MacLehose Press
Jonathan Littell The Kindly Ones (Charlotte Mandell; French) Chatto & Windus
Alain Mabanckou Broken Glass (Helen Stevenson; French) Serpent's Tail
Javier Marías Your Face Tomorrow, Volume 3: Poison, Shadow and Farewell (Margaret Jull Costa; Spanish) Chatto & Windus
Yoko Ogawa The Housekeeper and the Professor (Stephen Snyder; Japanese) Harvill Secker
Claudia Piñeiro Thursday Night Widows (Miranda France; Spanish) Bitter Lemon Press
Sankar Chowringhee (Arunava Sinha; Bengali) Atlantic
Rafik Schami The Dark Side of Love (Anthea Bell; German) Arabia Books
Bahaa Taher Sunset Oasis (Humphrey Davies; Arabic) Sceptre
From: The Independent
Saturday, March 13, 2010
by: Andrew Ryan
The decision about which of Boston’s libraries to potentially close will be based on far more than just how many books and DVDs patrons borrow.
Library administrators will rank the 26 neighborhood branches by foot traffic, computer use, and how many Web surfers use laptops to log on to Wi-Fi networks. They will count how many programs are offered at each location and tally the number of people who attend storytime and English classes.
Amy E. Ryan, Boston Public Library president, will outline today the intricate measures the city intends to use to close as many as 10 neighborhood branches as part of a sweeping consolidation plan. Ryan will brief the library’s board of trustees at 3 p.m. at what is expected to be a crowded and contentious public meeting at library headquarters in Copley Square.
“We will still have the libraries that we know and love from childhood, only they are going to be better,’’ Ryan said in an interview yesterday. “What we need to do is think about how we provide services that don’t have to be building-bound in all 26 branches.’’
The library will quantify details about each of its buildings, noting energy efficiency, handicapped accessibility, and whether the wiring could support more computers. Administrators will examine how close each location is to another neighborhood branch and the distance to one of the system’s nine lead libraries, such as the 20,000-plus square-foot facilities in Dudley Square and on Centre Street in West Roxbury. They will scrutinize proximity to buses and subways and take into account other resources in the neighborhood, such as community centers, schools, or Boys and Girls Clubs.
The budget crisis at the Boston Public Library is due in part to a steep drop in state funding. Library supporters have planned an 11 a.m. rally on Beacon Hill today to protest the cuts.
Boston library officials say they will not identify today particular branches that might be shuttered and vow to keep the process open to the public. In the coming weeks, they plan to release a grid comparing each location.
The data will inevitably pit branch against branch, and neighbors across the city have already come together on playgrounds and in coffee shops to try to prevent the closing of their local libraries.
“We’re not going to let it happen,’’ said Paula Luccio, 50, a mother and local businesswoman in the North End who volunteers at the branch on Parmenter Street, watering plants twice a week. “I’m telling you, you have no idea how the North End can rally.’’
Before word spread of the library’s $3.6 million budget shortfall, Luccio helped organize a modest fund-raiser for the North End branch, expecting 50 people for cocktails and a silent auction. The potential cuts unleashed a surge of support, and nearly 200 people came out, 40 of whom had to be turned away because the hotel facility reached capacity. The fund-raiser netted $4,200, Luccio said.
In Jamaica Plain, 25 to 30 supporters of the Connolly branch gathered recently at a local restaurant to discuss its fate. The Connolly library was renovated in 2005 and can accommodate the handicapped, two factors that could prove important. Less than a mile down Centre Street, the Jamaica Plain branch is a year shy of its centennial, a milestone supporters fear it might miss, in part because the city never made it accessible to the disabled.
“Making these decisions in this kind of environment is really pitting neighborhood against neighborhood,’’ said Donald Haber, 49, of the Friends of the Jamaica Plain Branch Library. “I’m not saying there aren’t needs to update and restructure the library system, but to make decisions about closing branches, as much as a third of all the branches - those decisions will affect the neighborhood and the residents for generations.’’
In the Oak Square section of Brighton, a neighborhood nonprofit issued a blast e-mail advocating for the Faneuil branch, a smaller library built in 1931 a short distance from the large Brighton facility on Academy Hill Road. The Faneuil branch “is a community meeting place, and the services it provides help stabilize Brighton as a neighborhood, retaining and attracting families to our community,’’ said the e-mail, sent by the Presentation School Foundation.
In Roslindale, Kelly Young knows her library card number by heart and wrote a letter defending her local branch, which she described as the anchor of Roslindale Square.
“Occasionally, we visit the West Roxbury branch, but every time we do, I feel like we’re cheating on Roslindale,’’ Young wrote in the letter, which she posted on her blog. “I know it’s not the flashiest branch, but I, personally, will be heart-broken if Roslindale loses its neighborhood library.’’
Residents have been particularly vocal in recent weeks about the importance of their local libraries, said Councilor Robert Consalvo, whose district includes Roslindale.
“They want their voice to be heard,’’ Consalvo said. “It’s natural for people to defend resources in their neighborhood.’’
From: Boston Globe
Friday, March 12, 2010
Amazon.com's Top 100 Book List has returned to reality—Kathryn Sockett's novel The Help was back on top; the Wolverine Ominbus was gone—after a data snafu offered hundreds of graphic novel titles at eye-popping discounts. First reported over the past weekend at Rich Johnston's comics news blog Bleeding Cool, the computer glitch led to thousands and perhaps tens of thousands of orders of mispriced titles as fans flocked to Amazon.com to buy in bulk. It is unclear how many of these items were ordered or whether Amazon will honor them.
Calls and messages to Amazon for comment on the pricing gaffe have not been returned.
Many of the mispriced titles were hardcover collections of classic comics selling for more than $100 that were being offered for $14.99 or less. While there are reports that some of the lucky buyers have received their heavily discounted purchases, many other purchasers have not. Bleeding Cool reports that some purchasers have received letters canceling their orders; while some who ordered multiple copies of pricey hardcover editions, for say $8, have been told that Amazon will ship only one copy of the mislabeled book.
While the computing snafu is reported to have been fixed, a source at Diamond Comics Distributors, the dominant distributor in the comics shop market and Amazon's supplier, said Amazon and Diamond were in discussions over resolution of the situation. No doubt, they are also discussing who will take the economic hit if they honor some of these orders, a hit that could amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Johnston's popular comics news blog is part of Amazon's Associates program, which allows Web sites to receive a fee for linking its readers to Amazon to make purchases. The program allows associates to track purchases and according to Johnston, more than 14,000 mispriced items were purchased through the Bleeding Cool associates link. And Bleeding Cool is just one comics site that uses the Associates program. There are many more.
From: Publisher's Weekly
Thursday, March 11, 2010
by: Susan Carpenter
It used to be that the only adults who read young adult literature were those who had a vested interest -- teachers or librarians or parents who either needed or wanted to keep an eye on developing readers' tastes.
But increasingly, adults are reading YA books with no ulterior motives. Attracted by well-written, fast-paced and engaging stories that span the gamut of genres and subjects, such readers have mainstreamed a niche long derided as just for kids.
Thanks to huge crossover hits like Stephenie Meyer's bloodsucking "Twilight" saga, Suzanne Collins' fight-to-the-death "The Hunger Games" trilogy, Rick Riordan's "The Lightning Thief" and Markus Zusak's Nazi-era "The Book Thief," YA is one of the few bright spots in an otherwise bleak publishing market. Where adult hardcover sales were down 17.8% for the first half of 2009 versus the same period in 2008, children's/young adult hardcovers were up 30.7%.
"Even as the recession has dipped publishing in general, young adult has held strong," said David Levithan, editorial director and vice president of Scholastic, publisher of "The Hunger Games," as well as of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books, the series largely credited with jump-starting this juggernaut of a trend.
"You go on the subway and see 40-year-old stockbrokers reading 'Twilight,' " said Levithan, himself a YA author. "That wouldn't have happened five years ago."
Levithan added that passing "the mother test" is an indication that a title could go wide. "If a lot of us on staff are sending a book to our mothers because it's really engaging literature, that's a good sign."
Books that have passed the Scholastic mother test? Judy Blundell's "What I Saw and How I Lied," which won a 2008 National Book Award, and the wolf love story "Shiver" by Maggie Stiefvater.
According to Kris Vreeland, children's department manager for Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena, "You have a lot of different people coming to young adult in a lot of different ways."
Often, word of mouth will bring a teen title to an adult's attention, Vreeland said. Such was the case with the "Twilight" series, which has sold more than 85 million copies worldwide since the first book was published in 2005.
Other times, it's an award. When Sherman Alexie's young adult debut, "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian," won the National Book Award in 2007, it lent credibility to the entire genre.
"One strong writer leads to exploring that area more, so you've got several now who are leading people into all kinds of directions," Vreeland noted. "You can go the whole gamut: sci-fi, fantasy, mystery, historical fiction, romance, realistic fiction, humor. There's a lot of good stuff going on."
Add the growing number of movies made from kids' books, such as "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" and "Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief," as well as all the successful adult authors -- James Patterson, Carl Hiaasen, Francine Prose and Terry Pratchett -- now writing for younger readers, and you've got a phenomenon "that extends beyond the gatekeepers who want to know what their kids are getting into," Vreeland said.
Christel Joy Johnson is one. The 36-year-old actress doesn't have children, but she's an avid reader of young adult science fiction.
"There's something really wonderful about taking the journey with someone of that age. One of the main reasons I'm attracted to YA literature is just the openness of the characters," said Johnson, who recently finished the necromancer tale "Sabriel," by Garth Nix.
"I think part of the reason we're seeing adults reading YA is that often there's no bones made about the fact that a YA book is explicitly intended to entertain," said Lizzie Skurnick, 36, author of "Shelf Discovery," a collection of essays about young adult literature from the 1960s and 1970s.
"YA authors are able to take themselves less seriously. They're able to have a little more fun, and they're less confined by this idea of themselves as Very Important Artists. That paradoxically leads them to create far better work than people who are trying to win awards."
According to Skurnick, who also reviews adult fiction for publications including The Times, YA books are "more vibrant" than many adult titles, "with better plots, better characterizations, a more complete creation of a world."
And often, those worlds are steeped in the imagination. In Patterson's "Maximum Ride" series, a 14-year-old girl leads a pack of laboratory-bred, winged teens on various adventures. In "I Am the Messenger," Zusak writes about a teenage cab driver who becomes an inadvertent hero, prompted by anonymous messages that lead him to specific addresses at specific times.
Many of today's young adult authors were born and raised in the 1960s and 1970s, when YA began to move beyond the staid, emotionless tales of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys in favor of more adventurous work from Judy Blume, Madeleine L'Engle and Robert Cormier. Now, they're turning out their own modern masterpieces.
"There's some amazing, vibrant, fantastic literature in the YA venue," said Cecil Castellucci, a young adult author who recently started the Pardon My Youth book club at Skylight Books in Los Feliz to "help people understand that YA literature is not just for young adults."
According to Castellucci, author of "Boy Proof," "Beige" and other titles about misfit teenage girls, we're living in the golden age of young adult literature.
"As a YA author, I get tired of being asked, 'When are you going to write a real book?' " she said. "As if a YA book is not a real book."
Ask any of the genre's growing legion of fans: It is.
from: LA Times
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
The Canadian Booksellers Association is urging the Ministry of Canadian Heritage to reject Amazon.com's application to set-up shop in Canada, which was reported last week, saying that allowing the giant book retailer into Canada "would detrimentally affect the country’s independent businesses and cultural industries."
In a press release distributed on Monday, the association asks those opposed to Amazon.com's entry into the Canadian market to write or e-mail their local MP "to let them know how this would impact your business and your community."
“Individual Canadian booksellers have traditionally played a key role in ensuring the promotion of Canadian authors and Canadian culture," said CBA President Stephen Cribar in a statement. "These are values that no American dot.com retailer could ever purport to understand or promote.”
From the press release:
"CBA contends that allowing Amazon to operate a business within Canada would contravene the Investment Canada Act which requires that foreign investments in the book publishing and distribution sector be compatible with national cultural policies and be of net benefit to Canada and the Canadian-controlled sector.
CBA urges the Canadian government and the Department of Canadian Heritage to continue its support of our unique cultural perspective by placing reasonable limits on American domination of our book market and rejecting Amazon.com’s current application."
From: National Post
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Gadget nerds: Prepare to lose the rest of your day to awesomeness. PopSci, the web-wing of Popular Science magazine, has scanned its entire 137-year archive and put it online for you to read, absolutely free. The archive, made available in partnership with Google Books, even has the original period advertisements.
Head over to the site and you’ll see a simple search box. Of course, the first thing I typed in was “jet pack”. This, naturally enough, returned plenty of results, including a rather dangerous-looking hydrogen peroxide–powered contraption with a belt-mounted controller. The article was printed in the December 1962 issue.
You can’t go directly to an issue to browse, but once you have arrived somewhere by search, there are no restrictions on scrolling around. You’ll also find a properly hyperlinked table of contents in each magazine. The early years are a little dry: I browsed an issue from 1902, and it made the average math textbook look like a Dan Brown novel (only better paced), so I’d recommend starting in the optimistic, tech-loving 1950s.
Oh, and did I mention it works great on an iPhone? Good luck getting any work done today.
Monday, March 8, 2010
by: Jason Burke
In among the slightly decrepit halls and the rubbish strewn grass of New Delhi's Pragati Maidan conference halls is a stand decked in pink and powder blue.
Beneath the posters for Ruthless Magnate, Convenient Wife, and Accidentally Expecting, Manish Singh, Mills & Boon's country manager for India, is doing brisk business.
The popular romantic novels were launched in India exactly two years ago and doubled their sales in the past year. "We are looking to expand still further in 2010," Singh says.
The publisher, Harlequin Mills & Boon, is far from the only beneficiary of a boom in book sales that is sweeping India. Dan Brown's sequel to The Da Vinci Code, The Lost Symbol, has already sold 100,000 in hardback alone.
Aravind Adiga's Man Booker winner The White Tiger has sold more than 200,000 copies since its publication in 2008.
Driving the demand is the country's continuing economic boom – 6.7% growth in 2009 despite the global crisis – and the tastes of the new Indian middle class.
"It is a forward looking generation," said Singh. "The low hanging fruit for us is the single working woman who has money in her hands, the liberty to read, no responsibilities yet, no husband, children and so on."
In the next decade, publishers forecast that India will become the biggest English language book-buying market in the world. New distribution networks and an increasing presence of chains of major bookstores are also fuelling the expansion.
"At the moment the market is probably about 5 million people," said Anantha Padmanabhan, Penguin's director of sales in India. "That is set to increase dramatically."
India has a history of producing internationally successful prize-winning authors who have enjoyed huge popularity at home. Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things in 1997 was a breakthrough, according to Padmanabhan. Since then there have been two more Indian winners of the Man Booker prize. What is on the New York Times bestseller list will be a hit too in India, Padmanabhan said.
However the real popular success is independent of the taste of international readers for the relatively highbrow.
In a recent survey the four most popular books in India were all by Chetan Bhagat, a former investment banker turned author who has sales totalling more than 3m in the last five years and whose most recent work, Two States, has shifted a million copies in under four months.
Writing about the lives of India's aspirant middle class young, Bhagat has "pan-Indian, pan-age group" appeal, said Kapish Mehra, the managing director of his publisher, Rupa. The author himself explained that one key to his success was the "huge aspiration for the English language".
"This is not like the mature English literature market. Instead it needs an English that is highly accessible, simple, and with stories that are still interesting and relevant," Bhagat said.
The sales of both Mills & Boon books and those by Bhagat are helped by the fact that each book costs between 95 and 125 rupees – between £1.25 and £1.80. Though still a lot of money when rickshaw pullers earn 50p a day, they are affordable for the class they are aimed at. And although at 699 rupees (£9.50), The Lost Symbol in hardback is more expensive, it is still affordable among India's middle class.
According to Simon Littlewood, international director of Random House, publishing in India is so fragmented that talking of a single market makes little sense. "There are all sorts of niches and people doing all sorts of different things in different languages," he said.
One emerging trend is local interest and loyalties. The Tehelka survey revealed that authors had strong readerships in their home regions or in the places where their novels are set. Meanwhile, few were reading those once seen as classic of the Indian market: Agatha Christie and PJ Wodehouse.
One booming area is local Indian "chick lit", said Priyanka Malhotra, director of Full Circle Publishing. The surge in sales for Mills & Boon came after they set up printing and marketing operations in India and focused more closely on what local readers wanted.
A recent competition to find Indian writers provoked an "overwhelming response" said Singh, though until the four selected local authors are published later this year, readers will have to make do with Harlequin's A Trip With the Tycoon, the story of a love affair "under the summer of the Indian sun" set at the Taj Mahal.
From: The Guardian
Sunday, March 7, 2010
By: Alison Flood
The latest attempt to get an audience of multimedia-savvy schoolchildren and teens engaged with Shakespeare is an interactive graphic novel version of the play, complete with voiceovers by Derek Jacobi and Juliet Stevenson.
Classical Comics has done well with a series of graphic novels of famous titles (including Jane Eyre, A Christmas Carol and Frankenstein) which it launched two years ago, but the publisher decided that the next step in its quest to make classic stories accessible would be to bring the text alive. Its new version of Macbeth, which it will preview to schools this week before launching in June, takes the artwork of comicbook artist Jon Haward from its original graphic novel and animates it, adding audio from Jacobi and Stevenson.
"That which hath made them drunk hath made me bold: what hath quenched them hath given me fire," proclaims Stevenson as Lady Macbeth, descending a stone staircase framed by gargoyles as two dogs growl over a piece of meat. And later, "I have done the deed," gasps Jacobi as the Thane of Cawdor, gripping two bloody daggers. "Didst thou not hear a noise?"
"It's been in the planning for a while," said Classical Comics managing director Clive Bryant of the Macbeth project. "We thought of it at the beginning of last year and it's taken this long to get it together. Having Derek Jacobi and Juliet Stevenson involved was incredible – we were recording it in a small studio in north London, which had a large contact list, which was how we managed to secure them. It just adds that extra dimension to it: hearing Macbeth with Derek Jacobi in the classroom – you can't get much better than that."
He visualises teachers using the interactive graphic novel (which comes in three versions: the original Shakespearean text, a contemporary rendering, and a quick, reduced version for younger viewers) on the whiteboard for a whole class. Alternatively groups of students might discuss the novel around a computer. Readers can choose to view one panel at a time or sit back and watch in "movie mode", with context notes provided explaining the Shakespearean language.
Jacobi called the concept "truly inspirational, creating, as it does so magnificently, an accessible and fascinating mix of visual and audible drama ... The stage and the page brought vividly to life". "The artwork of Jon Haward is both dramatically compelling and beautifully illustrative," he added. "His pictures illuminate the words to perfection and bring these great works leaping to mind and eye. This format is immediate, vital, energetic and engaging."
If the venture proves popular with schools, Classical Comics is planning a whole range of other interactive graphic novels, including Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar and A Midsummer Night's Dream, Bryant said.
Saturday, March 6, 2010
by: Alison Flood
An 18-year-old girl who dies in a car crash, only to relive her final day again and again; a 15-year-old who's aging backwards in another dimension after dying in the real world; a dying teenage girl attempting to experience all life has to offer in the months before her death at 16. Undead vampire teenager Edward Cullen – he of the ivory turtleneck sweaters and sparkly skin – might be propelling Stephenie Meyer to the top of the teen reading charts, but a different furrow – in which the teen hero or heroine is actually dead, or dying – is being quietly ploughed by a growing host of young adult writers.
Since Susie Salmon, the murdered teenager of Alice Sebold's bestselling novel The Lovely Bones, exploded onto the page in 2002 – "My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973" – we've been treated to an abundance of skilfully drawn dead (or dying) teenage protagonists. Jenny Downham wowed critics and readers alike in 2007 with Before I Die, in which 16-year-old Tessa is trying to lose her virginity before she dies of leukaemia. Jay Asher had a word-of-mouth hit the same year with Thirteen Reasons Why, which saw 13 people sent a cassette tape by dead schoolgirl Hannah Baker, detailing the reasons why she committed suicide. Gabrielle Zevin impressed two years earlier with Elsewhere, in which hit-and-run victim Liz Hall, 15, wakes up on a ship to Elsewhere, where inhabitants age in reverse until they return to Earth as babies.
And with The Lovely Bones back in the books charts thanks to the release this month of Peter Jackson's film, the trend looks set to continue. Lauren Oliver makes her authorial debut next week with Before I Fall, a pitch-perfect Groundhog Day/Lovely Bones hybrid in which 18-year-old Sam Kingston dies in a car crash, only to relive her last day again and again. "The thing is, you don't get to know. It's not like you wake up with a bad feeling in your stomach. You don't see any shadows where there shouldn't be any," writes Oliver. "You don't remember to tell your parents that you love them or – in my case – remember to say goodbye to them at all. If you're like me, you wake up seven minutes and 47 seconds before your best friend is supposed to be picking you up. You're too busy worrying about how many roses you're going to get on Cupid Day to do anything more than throw on your clothes, brush your teeth, and pray to God you left your make-up in the bottom of your messenger bag so you can do it in the car. If you're like me, your last day starts like this."
Oliver, 26, a former editorial assistant at Penguin in New York, says she was inspired not by The Lovely Bones, but by "a zeitgeist movement towards darker material". "I was affected by it," she says. "I'm including all the paranormal stuff, and the vampire books. We've come to think of them as a romance but it's a very dark picture of romance, when someone wants to kiss and kill you. There seemed to be pink covers everywhere, and teen stuff was flip and frivolous: a celebration of consumption. But the pendulum had been swinging back from chick lit for a while. Books are a reflection of culture [and] with the financial crash happening, people are feeling darker."
Having her protagonist Sam narrate from beyond the grave was, says Oliver, "there from the beginning". "This character with trouble seeing her life - it seemed to me from the start that one of the only ways for her to see clearly was by seeing her death as intimately linked with other people's lives."
Gayle Forman, who follows the thoughts of 17-year-old Mia as she lies in a coma after a car accident in her novel If I Stay, published last year, links the trend to Downham's Before I Die - "I still haven't been able to bring myself to read [it]; I'm such a wuss" – and to Zevin's Elsewhere. But her own book, she says, stemmed from a very personal experience. "Years ago friends of mine were killed in an accident much like the one that kills Mia's family and one member of that family, a little boy, held on a little longer, and I always wondered: did he know? Did he choose to go with the rest of his family? So it was from years of obsessing over that question that Mia, a totally fictional character, popped into my head and took me on a journey to answer it," she says. "As I was writing the book, it did occur to me that there were similarities to The Lovely Bones (a book I love) in that the narrators were both out of body, but other than that, I see them as quite different: one narrator is dead and in heaven and omniscient; the other is out of body and aware only of what's going on around her, and still has some agency over her life."
Like Forman, Asher says his story stemmed from his own experiences – he hadn't even read The Lovely Bones when he began writing it. "For me, I had a close relative attempt suicide when she was the same age as the girl in my book. So the issue of suicide had been important to me for several years," says Asher. "It was a very happy time in my life when I came up with the idea for my book. I simply stumbled upon a new way to discuss some very common teen issues. In fact, when death is presented in teen novels, it's often as a way to discuss issues and questions many people have at that age."
The popularity of these books, believes Forman, isn't necessarily because teenagers are drawn to the morbid – more that they are attracted to dramatic stories with stark moral choices. "When you're at this age, you tend to be experiencing so much for the first time – first love, first time away from home, first heartbreak – so life is imbued with extra intensity," she says. "I think teens are drawn to books that reflect that drama, or which evoke feelings that match the emotional rollercoasters they're riding in their own lives. So, while I don't think a story necessarily has to be all sturm und drang, it needs to stir something up."
Cate Tiernan isn't so sure: she does perceive a certain yearning towards the macabre among teen readers. "Traditionally, teenagers tend to be fascinated by morbid topics," she says. "The Lovely Bones probably spurred an interest in a dead teenager narrating a compelling story – you know it will be dramatic, because she's already dead. The storyline and impetus are in-built." Her new book, Immortal Beloved, out in September in the US and next January in the UK, follows the life of immortal teenager Nastasya who, says Tiernan, "can look forward neither to the dread nor the release of death: she's forced to continue living in the world day after day, forever".
Teenagers, Tiernan points out, are going through an enormous growth period – the greatest they've experienced since they left infancy for toddlerhood. "I see 'morbid' topics as a way to safely explore extreme, even threatening emotions, to vicariously experience hard, even shocking events from the safety of one's own room," she says. "I remember being intrigued by death, as a teenager. Some of my friends died in high school, either by suicide or from stupidity, and while it was horribly final, it was also surreal. There was definitely a feeling of 'it couldn't happen to me.' Even dangerous situations didn't seem that bad. I look back on dumb stuff I did and wince."
The dead-narrator trope also works because it gives the protagonist almost superhuman powers, Tiernan believes. "The worst thing that can happen to someone is to die – that's what your parents are desperately trying to protect you from all the time. If you're already dead (or dying), the worst has happened. You have nothing worse to fear. It frees you up, in a way," she muses. "If you're dead, you're untouchable. You can't be harmed. And you can step back and observe the world around you (as teens often do), without having to interact with it; without having much responsibility to change anything, without having to make hard choices or take a stand. Nor do you have the typical responsibilities that are the bane of every kid's existence: homework, chores, siblings, parental expectations."
At Hodder & Stoughton, editor Kate Howard is capitalising on the trend. She's publishing Oliver and Tiernan's novels over the next 12 months, as well as bestselling US novelist Ann Brashares's My Name is Memory, in which hero Daniel can recall his past lives, and recognise the souls of people he's previously known, in June. Howard believes that teenagers' fascination with the genre stems from their desire to push the boundaries. "Teenagers are at the stage in life where they feel invincible," she says. "Death seems so far away for them that it is something they can comfortably explore through books. Books offer teenagers a safe way of exploring the world, and many of the questions they have about life in general are confronted and dealt with in books such as these."
Lisa Schroeder, whose 2008 novel I Heart You, You Haunt Me sees a teenage girl's dead boyfriend come back to haunt her, agrees. "I think teens read about the dark stuff because they often feel like their lives are pretty dark. I get notes every week through my website from teens who tell me they are having a hard time," she says. "They tell me they can relate to Ava, the main character in my book. Most haven't experienced the death of a loved one recently, but the more general feelings of pain and isolation, they know well. I think there is something very cathartic in reading about another person's troubles."
From: The Guardian