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

Friday, October 31, 2008

Whitecap Launches New Website

Wow, the new Whitecap Books website is awesome. I am bias because I’ve worked with Paschal on Trading in Memories. But this is a really cool redesign. I think his specialty is Drupal sites that don’t look like Drupal sites. Love it. Looks very yummy and friendly. I want to spend time looking around.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Google Pays $125 Million to Settle Copyright Lawsuits

Latest News

April 29, 2009: Justice Dept. Opens Antitrust Inquiry Into Google Books Deal

The inquiry does not necessarily mean that the department will oppose the settlement, which is subject to a court review. But it suggests that some of the concerns raised by critics, who say the settlement would unfairly give Google an exclusive license to profit from millions of books, have resonated with the Justice Department.

October 29, 2008: Google Settles Suit Over Book-Scanning by MIGUEL HELFT, New York Times

Google said Tuesday that it had agreed to pay $125 million to settle two copyright lawsuits brought by book authors and publishers over the company’s plan to digitize and show snippets of in-copyright books and to share digital copies with libraries without the explicit permission.

Well that has taken a long time! The lawsuits were originally launched in September and October 2005.

According to the NYT article, the money will be used for a book registry and to resolve existing claims. The settlement still has to be approved but if it goes ahead then, I think, it means all those books will be available online and the money just goes to settling claims.

The lawsuits were brought about because Google worked with libraries to scan millions of copyright and non-copyright books. The scanning became an issue for the copyright-protected material, in particular material that the publishers or authors did not want digitized and made available.

Background as per the NYT article:
The settlement agreement resolves a class-action suit filed on Sept. 20, 2005, by the Authors Guild and certain authors, and a suit filed on Oct. 19, 2005, by five major publisher-members of the Association of American Publishers: the McGraw-Hill Companies, Pearson Education, Penguin Group, John Wiley & Sons and Simon & Schuster. It is subject to approval by the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.

In the long run $125 million is probably worth it. Steep and dear now, but to have digitized and to have available for in perpetuity all that content ... woah!

BC Achievement Award for Early Literacy

While I was away, award season started.

The BC Achievement Foundation’s 2008 Award for Early Literacy went to author Bill Richardson and illustrator Cynthia Nugent for The Aunts Come Marching (Raincoast Books), a singalong story about a procession of musical aunts who drop in on a family for an unexpected visit. This is a very fun book and I even had the pleasure of listening to Bill read/sing it.

The Time to Read Award is a national book award honouring the author and the illustrator of a children’s book suitable for kindergarten students. The winning book is distributed to all kindergarten children in British Columbia by the Ministry of Education.

Way to go Aunts!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Book Review: The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

“All morning I struggled with the sensation of stray wisps of one world seeping through the cracks of another. Do you know the feeling when you start reading a new book before the membrane of the last one has had time to close behind you? You leave the previous book with ideas and themes—characters even—caught on the fibres of your clothes, and when you open the new book they are still with you. Well, it was like that. All day I had been put to distractions. Thoughts, memories, feelings, irrelevant fragments of my own life, playing havoc with my concentration.”

The Thirteenth Tale is one of those wildly popular books that I failed to read when it was first published. I wanted to but I also wanted to wait until I had only the vaguest recollections of what reviewers said. And what I recall is only that the book was considered a success in North America but not so in Britain. It was too British for the British, or some such rubbish.

It is a fine novel. Margaret Lea, book shop clerk and amateur biographer, is commissioned by Vida Winter, famous British novelist, to write her biography. Why? It’s all unclear until the end so I won’t spoil it for you.

I was pulled into the plot twists of the biography Winter was detailing for Lea, who insisted on only writing the truth. The truth is always fascinating, especially when given in autobiography.

The setting is Angelfield, a small town where twins are born to Isabelle, who’s not quite right. It’s a story of abandonment: the abandonment of children by parents who are unable to care for them, it is the abandonment of children by carefree parents who don’t understand children, and it’s the separation and reunification of the twins and their caregivers.

Lots of interesting loops and very much like a fairy tale.

As Vida Winter says, “my gripe is not with lovers of the truth but with truth herself. What succour, what consolation is there in truth, compared to a story? What good is truth, at midnight, in the dark, when the wind is roaring like a bear in the chimney? What you need are the plump comforts of a story. The soothing, rocking safety of a lie.”

Outlander Wins Amazon.ca/Books in Canada First Novel Award

The Outlander by Gil Adamson has won this year’s Amazon.ca/Books in Canada First Novel Award.

At some point in my trip, I read, and loved this book, wrote a lovely review, then carried on with my day. I cannot for the life of me find that review so let me tell you, there is no doubt in my mind that this book deserves the Amazon.ca/Books in Canada First Novel Award. The writing is brilliant and very smart. I love books that craft images so clearly that it’s as if you are there. Gil’s writing is really tight and smart. It’s rare that I get the sense that the author is smart, clever maybe, entertaining always, but smart, wow. Gil is smart, her choice of words is wonderful.

The Outlander is the story of a young widow desperate to flee her brother-in-laws, who are out to revenge the death of their brother—the death of their brother by her hand.

It’s 1903 and not easy for a woman to travel alone. She is definitely saved by the generosity of others, but her fate is always in question. Gil Adamson’s novel is heart-pounding, gripping, and full of grief, love and wild characters.

Perhaps my favourite book this year.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Idea of Beauty (Spoke Itself)

Thank you to John MacKenzie and Selina Rajani—John for saying go ahead and Selina for packaging it up so nicely.

The Idea of Beauty is one of my most favourite poems (and it’s featured in Sledgehammer, published by Polestar). I heard John read this in the hallway at Raincoast Books and it has stuck with me.

The Idea of Beauty (Spoke Itself) by John MacKenzie

I have been waiting here for you since
the stars first leapt into the sky
since before there was water sprung from fresh rock
(its first & longest music a metronome—
beat after unvaried beat falling like hammers of zombied blacksmiths)

I have been waiting here where
there were no flowers & the rocks were sharp
the soil odorless & dense,
no air pockets, no tunnels of worms winding
under roots of grass

I have waited here as minerals & salts turned to algae & coral
in the factory din of water & wind
as the assembly-line sun flung super-cooled windsurfing dimetrodons
among giant treeferns & monochrome blossoms,
as prototype blood shifted towards red & DNA began its fall
from beautiful flux into fixity and self-replication

I have waited here glacially for you
as the whispery respiration of trees built air
while whole forests fell into peat bogs, became stones
while the beaded sweat of ancient lives accreted into diamonds
& the idea of beauty spoke itself in the lush green syllables of your eyes

Friday, October 24, 2008

New Website Design: Brick Books

Kitty Lewis is one of the publishing folks that I love talking with and following online. She is the phenom behind the Brick Books Facebook page and a tireless promoter of the press’ titles.

And, now they have a new website:

Good work Kitty!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Pyramids of Giza

Disclaimer: I’m in a hurry so this is a bit of a brain dump for prosperity.

Although the internet is cheaper in Egypt (6 LE per hour, $1.20 per hour), I have been running around trying to see as much as I can. The first day, I walked all around Zamalek, I like this neighbourhood very much. It’s like an expensive version of Commercial Drive. Lots of coffee shops, restaurants, colourful characters and strange stores.

SphinxDay two, we went to the Khan Khalili bazzar and spent too much money. We were caught up in lovely things. That night we went on a night trip to the pyramids of Giza. These are the 3 famous pyramids of Egypt because they are in good condition and close to Cairo. There are 110-133 pyramids in Egypt, in fact there are 9 at Giza, but aside from the 3 big ones, the others are smaller queen pyramids. The sound and light show was ok, a quick history of Egypt with the pyramids lit up. There are 3 million blocks, the pyramids are at a 52 degree angle, they are aligned with the sun, all interesting things. Then we had dinner at a restaurant across the street (thankfully not the KFC—lots of development around the pyramids).

Moheb and RabbitDay three, we hired a guide from the hotel to take us to the pyramids during the day. Moheb was great. His name means beloved and his was lovely explaining hieroglyphics and the tombs. I crawled all the way down a tunnel into one of the tombs. There are vertical hieroglyphics and horizontal. The horizontal can be read left to right or right to left depending on the way the figures are facing.The tomb was really cool. This was at Saqqara, which is the oldest site. First we went to Memphis to see the huge status of Ramses II, then to Saqqara, next to the Pyramids of Giza.

I learned about Upper and Lower Egypt, and upper was the lotus flower, the top of the Nile, lower was the delta and the marshes with papyrus. These symbols are everywhere. I love the stories of daily life in the hieroglyphics.You can see the humour, there are fisherman, with the fish jumping out of the basket. There are hippos, lions, crocodiles.

TuntournaAt the end of this very long day, we went on a Nile cruise for dinner. I think we circled this one block, nothing changed outside the windows, but the food was ok, and the 2nd entertainers were excellent dancers. I danced with the belly dancer and was complemented but most I loved the tuntoura, who is a guy that spins like the dirvishes but makes designs with these drums that he holds in different patterns and with his layered skirt. That was by far the best.

Day four, Sherif was our excellent guide for the Citadel, Egyptian Museum and the mosque. It was a fantastic day visiting different churches, the synagogue, the mosque (all in the same block), the crypt where Mary hid, the citadel, ...

LotusThe museum is huge and thank goodness Sherif was able to show us the highlights and most important things otherwise I would have been overwhelmed and missed the best parts. The mummies were also creepy and excellent. I understand why there are depicted in horror movies now. I can’t imagine going and discovering a tomb and finding a mummy. They are ok in the museum but really, to see the bottom of someone’s foot and see their facial expression in death—willies.

Falafel shop: Rabbit and SherifDay five, bookshop, coffee and trying to pack. My bag ripped so I have to find a luggage shop. Weird day to come.

Tomorrow London, then eventually back to Vancouver. I can’t remember my office phone number so it’s been a good holiday.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Hello Cairo

I can’t wait to load photos and show you the soup of smog that we came through when landing. Wow!

Zamalek is the neighbourhood where Chris lived in Cairo and that is where the Rabbit and I are staying. I love, love, love it here. Cairo feels like a city I could live in, soup aside. I walked for 3 hours around Zamalek and there is a vibe here that I totally dig. I feel at home. The architecture reminds me a bit of some of the rotting buildings in Havana. There are Christians and Muslims a plenty, lots of mosques. The minarets look beautiful.

I went to the Cairo Opera House, and there is a ballet from Spain there tonight but I’m feeling rather cheap and don’t want to spend my money on ballet when I’ve yet to spend it on pyramids. We saw the ones in Giza when we flew in. What a thing to see. They look really small compared to the encroaching cityscape. Apparently there is a KFC right across from the Pyramids.

I am also wishing that we had more time here and could visit Luxor and Alexandria. Our trip originally was to Egypt, then we switched to Jordan, and it’s only because Chris was here that I was bound and determined to visit. You can’t be that close in the world and not pay a visit. But, alas, he is in Dubai, last I heard. Chris are you still out there in the world? I hope you’re well.

So tomorrow is a Saturday and I have no idea if the things/places I want to see are going to be open. Travel is such a crapshoot.

Here’s to loving this city.

(Wish you were here buddy.)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Last Day in Amman

Today is my last day in Jordan, tomorrow we leave at 6 am. Booooo.

Here’s my list of things I love about Jordan:

  • The people of Jordan are amazing. I love them a lot. Really friendly and welcoming.
  • The rooftop terrace at Movenpick in Petra.
  • Petra. Totally gorgeous place. Tea at the top of the mountain.
  • Wadi Rum. Incredible landscape. I will have dust in my shoes forever.
  • Aqaba snorkelling the coral reef. 200 different kinds of amazing coral.
  • Floating in the Dead Sea. Weird and wonderful feeling.
  • Sweets that are so sweet they make you sick.
  • Hummus from Hassem restaurant.

There are lots and lots of things to list. Too many to list.

Things I Hate About Jordan.

  • Leaving.
  • Leaving anywhere, you are either 10 minutes early or 3 hours late.

Here’s my “Left and Leaving” playlist from the Aqaba airport. I had 3 hours to go through my iphone from A to Z creating a playlist. These are some of the songs that I was able to listen to all the way through. I was incredibly impatient clicking through songs.

Diego Torres - Color Esperanza

Emily Jordan - Track 1, Start of Something New

Flannel Jimmy (band broke up) - Ricegirl

Frou Frou - Let Go

Gnarls Barkley - Crazy

Groove Armada - Shake That Thing

Jackson 5 - I Want You Back

Jay Z and Mary J. Blige - Can’t Knock the Hustle

K-OS - Crabbuckit

Kanye West - Touch the Sky

Kuba Oms - Wonderful

Maroon 5 - She Will Be Loved

Martin Sexton - Things You Do to Me

Nelly - Hot in Here

New Meanies - Scenic Anomaly

Outkast - Hey Ya

Patrick Brealey - Collisions

The Salteens - Let Go

Tool - Schism
(because at this point I really needed to scream)

Weakerthans - Aside

Weezer - Island Sun

Wolf Parade - Grounds for Divorce
(More like grounds for filing a complaint. Why, why, why is this airplane late? Why is the airport chair so uncomfortable? Why can’t I be in Amman hanging out with my friends? Why is there nothing but candy to eat? Why can’t I instantly understand every language in the world so that travel is always easy? Why is it hot, why is it cold, why can’t we leave yet? Come on .........)

Trees, trees, trees: take me to the mall.


Saturday, October 11, 2008

Canadian Thanksgiving

Last year James and I were in Malta with Darren, Julie and Gwen for Thanksgiving. It was one of my favourite Thanksgivings ever. Julie managed to order a turkey, which came all the way from France, and she and James cooked it beautifully. Gwen made an amazing roast nut dish that makes me salivate just thinking about it, and Darren and I lit tea lits around the pool. Those lights were a distinct challenge so no mocking, thank you very much.

This Thanksgiving I will be on a plane to Aqaba, which is Jordan’s most important port and trading centre. It is also on the Red Sea and the water never gets below 20 C.

Since Friday, Saturday are the weekend days here, I guess today was my Thanksgiving. I went with my friend Motaz and my mom to Hashem restaurant, which is a famous place in Amman.

This falafel guy is still there.

For breakfast we ate the most amazing hummus. It was creamy in a way that hummus is not creamy in Canada or in this hotel. We had ful (beans—like hummus but with beans), pita bread and tea. Then we walked around through the gold stores looking for jewellery for the Rabbit. Then we walked by the Roman theatre that is in the middle of downtown. Archaeological evidence of human settlements in the Amman area dates back 9,000 years, so a little Roman Odeon is, like, no big deal. We have a Neolitic settlement (6500 BC) over here, early Bronze Age tombs (3300 BC) over there, and this internet cafe.

Not joking. We did go to Books@Cafe, which was Amman’s first internet cafe. It rocks. There are great murals on the wall, an outdoor terrace. The rest of the afternoon was spent hanging out, drinking soda and talking about life and family, politics and religion, typical stuff.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Please have some stuffing for me.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Dead Sea and Jesus

At 7:50 am we left Amman for the Dead Sea. It’s about a 45 minute drive and we arrived at Amman Beach, the public beach at the Dead Sea, with more than enough time to float about before my spa appointment!

The water is incredible. I’m bouyant on my own so with salty salt water, I was even more like a cork. In fact, on my stomach, I couldn’t actually swim. It was like when parents try to teach their kids to swim but hold them too far out of the water. The water felt oily and the salt deposits in the sand looked like epsom salt bath crystals (this is where they come from), and there is a rock that is in all the photos with deposits on it that look like melted wax.

We only bobbed around for an hour because my spa appointment was at 10 am. That would be 10 am to 2 pm!!!! This is the bar at the hotel (one of them) and the spa was equally chic-chic.

Kempinski Hotel and the Anantara Spa. My Thai massage therapist was excellent. I started with a foot bath, then an aromatic bath while sipping on amazing chamomile tea. Then I had the Dead Sea scrub. Exfoliate baby! Next up was a shower, then the mud wrap. The Dead Sea mud is famous and I was rubbed all over with it, then wrapped in plastic, while I had a head massage. I thought I’d died and found my own personal heaven. After my 2nd shower, I had the hour massage. It’s hard to wash off all that mud, and incredibly hard to just lay around all day having people service your skin.

James always feels drunk coming out of a spa treatment and I was falling over my feet. So relaxed, so oiled, so glowy. I loved it.

Then we went to a baptismal site because our guide was pretty keen to take us. Next thing I know we were on some cattle bus being shuttled to the edge of the Jordan river to see where Jesus was baptized. This was not the end of my spa day that I imagined. Suddenly we were being herded like donkeys in the desert to the edge of a river that’s about 6 metres wide, swatting at flies the entire time. Lots and lots of flies.

So yes, today I floated in the Dead Sea (the lowest point in the world), had a lavish spa day, and then walked where Jesus walked, saw where he was baptized, then drove back to Amman.

This is definitely a rich part of the world.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Princess and the Pea

It was a rather short sleep in this morning. The Rabbit was trundling about, and my bed does feel like it’s stuffed with peas. Rather unpleasant. The majority of the day was spent washing my clothes and figuring out how to dry my clothes. It was a strange process, again inspired by the Rabbit’s diligence in laundering.

Thankfully tomorrow I go to the Dead Sea and I have 3 hours of spa treatment. I’m looking forward to being wrapped in mud.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Jerusalem and Back

One should never travel from Jordan to Jerusalem and back in one day. This is incredibly wrong for all sorts of reasons.

I have to get off the computer so below is part of my email to James, minus the cuddles and schmoopy stuff.

We made it to Jerusalem today but holy cow in a hand basket. That was an expensive whim. We left the hotel at 7:30, drove 25 minutes to the border (150 Jordanian Dinar, like 300 bucks). Then we took a bus over the bridge. Getting your passport stamped to go was a 5 step process. We had to find someone who spoke English to explain because we had no idea what to do. Then we waited and waited and waited. The bus left at 9:30. There were about 5 border guards to go through. People coming on the bus and checking passports, stamps, passports, stamps. Then we got to the border and had to get off the bus. I don’t know why. We eventually got to the other side and then had to go through security and immigration. That was a nightmare. Lines of people everywhere. Bags everywhere. Now instead of just not understanding Arabic, I didn’t understand Arabic or Hebrew. We finally left the airport security at 11:30. 7:30 to 11:30 in transit.

After paying 75 sheckles (no idea what that is in Canadian) we were off to Old Jerusalem with about 2 hours to walk about because the bridge was closing at 4 pm. Some days it closes at 8 pm, some days at 2 pm. I figured today at 4 was pretty good considering our strange trip.

We were dropped off at a gate to the old city, no idea which gate but we wandered in. There was zero time to see any of the sites because we had no idea where we were going. We did stumble upon the Western Wall or weeping wall and I went to have a look and took some pictures. I really wanted to see dome of the rock and holy scelpture but I did get mango juice with a smile in an Arab restaurant off the path. They ask you to smile in the Middle East. I think it’s to tell if you are German or American—the only two countries who will grimace first (I understand this from our taxi driver).

More wandering and then we had to catch the taxi, 200 sheckles back to the airport. And there’s an exit fee of 150 sheckles each. This is a lot of money for 1 day. In total I think we spent over 1000 dollars (I have to check the exchange but I’m terrified to know). F-sharp.

Rabbit was really pleased though. She hasn’t been on that kind of trip before. Never crossed a crazy border. It was rather indiana jones of us. We did not get shot at. I was impressed though by all the security guards. No uniforms, just regular Western clothes, jeans, polo shirt, GD-large gun.

I’m glad Rabbit was happy. It was a funny trip all around.

Quick aside, we are paying another 200 JD to go to the Dead Sea. And 160 JD to fly to Aqaba plus 3 nights in a hotel there. I also have no hot water—2 days without. The customer service guy is beside himself and wants to quit the hotel. It’s a weird country.

Everyone is Jordan is really, really welcoming. Embarassingly so. They are affectionate and jokers and give you tea and basically anything. It’s beyond the friendliness of Turkey. Today I walked out of a shop with a bag of cookies because the boy was insistant that I take them.

9th we go to the Dead Sea, 12-15 to Aqaba, then to Egypt.

Thank you to everyone who sent me notes, they made me feel very happy.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Petra and Back

I just got back from a 3 day trip that went to Jerash, Petra, Karak, Mount Nebo and Madaba.

Since I can’t properly upload my photos, here’s some great Flickr pics of where I went.

Jerash is an interesting Hellenistic-Roman ruined city located 80 miles north of Amman. The impressive, beautifully preserved ruins of Jerash include buildings from Byzantine and early Muslim periods as well as classical structures, and the entire setting is quite lovely.

View of the royal tombs.

Petra’s most famous view. This is the first point where you sight the treasury.

The Monastery is at the top of 900 stairs, which takes a fit person on a cool day about 1 hour and another 15 minutes to get up to the Bedoin view points. I, mostly fit in 35 C, made it up in 1.5 hours with lots of rest breaks. By stairs, I really mean goat path, and you have to be very careful of the raging donkeys. The Bedoin guys at the view point are fantastic. And they take visa and text message from their caves. The visa is true, which means text messaging from a cave could also be true, but I know that they have been relocated to a village that no one really likes (bit like aboriginal reserves in Canada).

Al-Karak, Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, crusader castle.

Madaba: This 6th century mosaic map of Jerusalem was found under the floor of Madaba’s St George’s Church. The mosaic was probably made during the reign of the Emperor Justinian (AD 527-65) and hold significant historical value. This is a small section of the mosaic and is the first known map of Jerusalem (where I’m going tomorrow at 7:30 am). We are taking a taxi to the end of the bridge, then going in a shuttle over the bridge and through immigration and hopefully catching a taxi on the other side. God willing all will go well.

Mount Nebo (Alex, if you read this, show Dan this picture of the cross. I want to know what he thinks about the serpent.)
The serpentine cross sculpture (the Brazen Serpent Monument) atop Mount Nebo. The sculpture was created by Italian artist, Giovanni Fantoni, and is symbolic of the bronze serpent created by Moses in the wilderness (Numbers 21:4-9) and the cross upon which Jesus was crucified (John 3:14). But I bet Dan has interesting things to say about the abandonment of ego.

Please send me messages. My mom is fun but I’m missing conversation with people my own age. The girls aren’t chatty and the boys are interested in whether I’m married.