A Canadian book blog: Publishing, marketing, books and technology from a Canadian perspective

Saturday, April 30, 2005

Geeks, Glory and Gadgets

I bought a PSP this week. Mmmmmm. It is a handsome little machine. Unfortunately for me I have to give it to someone else. Regardless, portable entertainment has arrived. It is a very sweet looking package, slim, great screen, and you can play games, music and movies. Also good for photos. I fear the thing will get easily scratch, but what’s a little wear and tear. Love nips really.

If only it could offer wireless phone and internet ... I looked at the Fido Hiptop2. Blech. It looks big and ugly.

I’m waiting for the sexy little machine that will solve all my wireless work/play needs.

James sent me this peek at things to come, check out Jason Kottke’s post:

The Sony Librie.

The thing that blew me away was the Sony Librie, the first commerically available electronic ink e-book reader. Here’s a photo I took:

What you can’t see from the photo is how insanely crisp and clear the text on the “screen” is. It was book-text quality…it looked like a decal until you pushed the next button and the whole screen changed. It was *really* mind-boggling and you could instantly see how most books are going to be distributed in the very near future.

Ah, books and the future, a subject close to my heart.

I think there’s a separate post in me regarding future distribution models for books. Stay tuned, the life of the mind isn’t exactly reliable or timely. I find lately I’ve been reflecting on the book industry and where it should be going. These are fleeting moments of brilliance that have yet to make it onto paper.

Not associating myself with genius, just an interesting segway, Albert Einstein apparently felt like an underachiever.

In my case, I’m testing Newton’s theory of relative motion. A body at rest will remain at rest. I’ve noticed in my house this does not apply, “oh, are you having a nap?”

What gave it away? The pillow? The horizontal position? The closed eyes?

Friday, April 29, 2005

The Literary Tour

Last night I went on a guided literary tour with host and author Michael V. Smith. As one friend put it, “I’d follow Michael V. Smith anywhere.” The Literary Tour was part of BC’s Book and Magazine Week.

Fun and prizes were involved.

Destination 1 was Pulp Fiction. Talon Books presented bill bissett, Jamie Reid and George Bowering.

Destination 2 was Lark. Raincoast Books presented Karen X. Tulchinsky. Whitecap Books presented Julie Van Rosendaal. And apparently delectable finger foods were provided. I joined the tour a little late.

Destination 3 was Burcus’s Angels. Event Magazine presented a reading.

Destination 4. Enter Monique. Soma Coffee House. Anvil Press and Nightwood Editions presented Fiona Tinwei Lam—I liked her poems, Matt Rader—he was good too, but the music from Monsoon was rattling off the window I was sitting against and I got distracted, but his new book looks beautiful, and last was Lyle Neff whose son was in the audience. Lyle read a poem about his son’s death. He did, of course, make a joke about the darkness of his work, “there are happy poems in the book.”

Destination 5. I got my second event punch, one more and I was on my way to winning prizes. Our Town Cafe, my most favourite haunt and home of Henry’s Americano. Dance International Magazine presented a dance and a dance critic introduced the soloist. It was a modern piece that moved around the room. And I won a prize for knowing that Bournonville worked with the National Ballet of Denmark. Oh it was my good fortune to have a copy of the Spring 2005 issue on my table, with the headline “Bournonville’s Legacy—Danish Dance and Beyond.” Denmark was fed to me.

Destination 6 was in THE most interesting building, home of FRONT Magazine. There was a sign on the stairwell that said “denouement” and at one point everyone at my table upstairs passed around a sign “Climax.” I had a Lager and another chance at prizes. There was also a stack of Tylenol on my table.

It was pretty fun, essentially we followed Michael V. Smith around. He was dressed as a ringleader with pink and red knee high socks, black suit and top hat. Under the top hat was a frog.

And people think the arts are unaccessible?

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Book News Round-up

Here’s a random round-up of book news:

Grumpy Old Bookman is talking about the UK publishing industry’s support or denunciation of Google Print. The comments can be extended to the North American publishing industry. Are we for or against? It depends what day it is and who’s asking. Here’s the post.

On The Tyee, Lisa Richardson comments on “The Art of Book Dropping.” In particular she talks about BookCrossing.com. Let your books wander. Read the article.

Paul Kennedy of CBC fame is quoted in John Mullan’s column in the Guardian, regarding a movement to make Leonard Cohen the next recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature.

“Now one of the best-known radio broadcasters on the CBC, the Canadian equivalent of the BBC, is leading a campaign to have Montréal’s own bard given this year’s Nobel prize for literature.”

Get the full meal deal, read the Guardian article or just listen to The Man, leonardcohen.com.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Pope or Potter—Joe Ratzinger vs. Jo Rowling

BBC News reported yesterday that the writings of Joseph Ratzinger had ousted Harry Potter from the German book charts.

Seems everyone’s favourite wizard was put in his place on Thursday. The German version of Amazon had three of the Pope’s books in the top spots on the charts, pushing Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (coming July 16) to fourth place.

Fourth place. Outrageous! Well, outrageous really that an unpublished book has sat at #1 since its publication was announced in December.

From Regular Joe to JO. Both JOs have gone from unknown to superstar. Both JOs have a small empires. Both JOs have book deals. It is nice that someone is making money in publishing.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Forest-Friendly Publishing

April 21 is Earth Day. It’s better being green.

My favourite independent US bookstore, Powells, has posted a Green Press Initiative section in recognition of publishers who support the forest-friendly paper initiative. Read about Green Press Initiative.

I was also pleased to see mention of Alice Munro on the wire today. Canadian Press is reporting “The fictional wizard Harry Potter and real-life renowned writer Alice Munro are helping to spearhead a made-in-Canada environmental campaign designed to save the world’s endangered old-growth forests.” Go team!

Markets Initiative is the Vancouver-based environmental group who is working with the Canadian publishing industry to shift from printing on paper that originates from ancient forests to more ecologically sound alternatives, like 100% post-consumer recycled paper.

I’d like to point out that recycled paper is not what it was originally. It is not grey or brown or trashy like newspapers. High-quality recycled paper is out there, and it makes a lot of sense to support the publishers and authors who take a stand—Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje, Farley Mowat, Barbara Gowdy, Alice Munro, McClelland & Stewart, Raincoast Books, 35 Canadian mags including Canadian Geographic, Walrus, Harrowsmith Country Life, Owl and Cottage Life. I know I’m missing people and I apologize. The point is the economies of scale, the more demand for this paper, the more the printers will source it, the less it will cost, the better it will be for the world.

Here are some of the facts from the CP story:
• 80% of the world’s large tracts of old-growth forest have already been logged.

• Canada, Russian and Brazil hold the vast majority of what’s left

• Northern Canada is home to 25% of the world’s remaining frontier ancient forests

• Globally, 71% of the world’s paper comes from ecologically valuable forests, rather than from tree farms.

Check the back cover or the copyright page for the tag line on forest-friendly books. It usually something like “This book is printed on acid-free paper that is 100% recycled, ancient-forest friendly (100% post-consumer recycled).”

It’s Earth Day on Thursday. Love the rock you live on.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Site in Progress

So my learning curve on blogging has been a bit like the silhouette of a hockey stick, I’m still on the straight and narrow, no upward curve yet.

Well, slight upward curve. I discovered today that the comments feature is not working correctly. Why? Because there was an error in the template I downloaded. So part of that is fixed. Also I realize there was no preview comment ... that is sort of fixed. I have a template but it sucks and needs some help. But it does basically what you’d hope it would do. Preview the comment.

My apologies also to my new “members”. I’m glad that you’ve discovered this option. But I have no idea how it works. Welcome to my club. I’d love to tell you what membership entails, but it’s an elusive entity.

At this point, things can only improve. I hope you visit again.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Litblog Co-op

The Litblog Co-op was all over the news this week. I love it. I’ve been following the progress on Bookdwarf and Elegant Variation.

What is it? The Litblog Co-op: “Uniting the leading literary weblogs for the purpose of drawing attention to the best of contemporary fiction, authors and presses that are struggling to be noticed in a flooded marketplace.”

Ya, so what is it? On May 15, the 20 participating litblogs will announce the 5 titles they think everyone should read. Apparently this will happen 4 times a year.

What I like is that the objective is to give little-known books more attention. Like my favourite book, Up In Ontario.

Friday, April 15, 2005

It’s all in the Pig

Perhaps a little pig action? Draw a pig and see what it tells about your personality.

Da Vinci Celebrates Another

Google, the Code, the B-day

Happy 553rd Birthday Da Vinci. Google’s got a Da Vinci illustration today. Yahoo.

Da Vinci was a man after my own heart. He was good at a lot of things but not great. Well, ok, that Mona Lisa was pretty great, but it was only one of six finished paintings. Now I like to complete tasks, but what I admire is that Da Vinci could do a little bit of everything. I aspire to that kind of wide-spread brilliance.

I often engage in conversations about thematic convergence so let me tell you the Da Vinci connection.

I woke up this morning wondering about that damn Da Vinci Code and why it’s so popular. I have read it, and have bought it as a gift, so I’m not slamming the book. I’m just interested in pinpointing its tipping point. As I was mulling over the Code, I turned on the computer and Google popped up with the Da Vinci banner. I look up Da Vinci Code in amazon and saw that the publication date was March 18, 2003. The book has been on bestseller lists for two years. How does this happen? Then I found this article on PopMatters.

Read the article on PopMatters, which, by the way, comments on the many trees “felled to print the billions of pages demanded by hungry readers.”

Why don’t publishers print books on 100% post-consumer recycled paper and stop clearing the world of its old growth forests. Maybe Da Vinci Code is? I don’t know. But wouldn’t it be great to demand that any book being mass produced be printed on old-growth free paper, preferrably something recycled? 18 million copies is a lot of trees.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Jane Jacobs wins the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize

Jane Jacobs’ Dark Age Ahead won the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing. This is the top political writing prize in Canada and worth $15,000. Not bad for one’s evening take home pay.

The Shaughnessy Cohen prize is award annually to the most outstanding political book based on literary merit and enhancement of one’s understanding of political and social issues in Canada.

If you liked Ronald Wright’s A Short History of Progress, you’ll like Jane Jacob’s Dark Age Ahead. It has sat on the bestseller list for awhile, but aside from that the book is described as a grave warning to a society losing its memory. I quite frequently talk about “collective memory” and its fallibility regarding politics. But Jane and Ronald truly outperform in terms of hammering that message home.

Jane’s book is her reflection on society and her lessons on how to avoid decline. And we’re not talking physical body decline (although Jane is 88), we’re talking society’s decline. She looks at North American culture and compares it to European culture before the fall of the Roman Empire. And those who remember history will recall the “Dark Ages” followed.

I’m humming “The Imperial March” from the Empire Strikes Back. I would like to believe civilization continues, but I could do with a little less empire.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Alice Munro on Time magazine’s most influencial people list

Alice Munro, multiple award winner and author of all sorts of good CanLit, is on Time magazine’s list of the world’s most influential people. She’s up there with George W, Oprah and Bill Gates.

What do you think? Who would be on your list? Who are the people who most influenced you? Better yet, who have you influenced?

Read the CBC story

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Managing Expectations ... What do book surveys tell us?

There’s Something about Books ...

I have this little rant going on in my head about book surveys, but try as I might I have not been able to get it down on paper. I also can’t seem to find the “draft” button in ExpressionEngine so I’m going to embrace the non-static nature of the internet and post something that is in progress.

Here’s what I’m thinking. I read this article in the Saturday Globe and Mail by Kate Taylor. It was about a book-spending survey. I can’t find the StatCan survey she is referring to.

That aside, her point is that surveys never really tell you anything. I agree. Kate talks about the 2001 spending on books being an increase from the spending in 1997. Hello StatCan, 2001! A window on what went on 4 years ago ... [I have more to say on this].

And another thing, the numbers are always averages. The book industry looks good, there’s an increase in spending. Hey, I have one foot in boiling water and one foot frozen in ice. On average it looks like I’m in a comfortable position].

Aside from old data, the thing that never really gets dealt with is that there is a supply and demand problem with the publishing industry. There are at least 10 good new books that come out every season (Spring, Fall). Most people can’t read 10 books in 3-6 months and be ready for the next 10. And what about the 10 from a couple of years ago that you just heard about now?

How does a reader keep up? How many books do we really expect people to read in a year?

How many books do you read in a year?

Thursday, April 07, 2005

First Entry

To misquote Gauguin, where do I come from? Who am I? Where are we going? The answer might become clear later. For now, here’s my first post.

Exciting. A first entry. I know I have not been original in my title, but hey, I’m still using the unmodified “Butterfly” template, chosen at random during the install process. I like butterflies but I think that will be the first thing to go.

Starting a blog is a bit like moving into a new house. I like the neighbourhood, it’s the right size for what I’m looking for, and well ... I can change the paint colour.

I’ve been rather busy lately so the reno on the blog is going to be a slow process. For example, how do I change that About section?

Ok, who cares for now. I need to thank
Travis and Susie. They recommended ExpressionEngine, which I like so far. I need to learn how to use it, but that will come. More than that, Travis patiently walked me through the installation process. It wasn’t particularly difficult, but I am less than experienced when it comes to permissions and system preferences. So I asked for help.

Good judgement comes from experience, experience comes from poor judgement.

I made a good decision.