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

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Literary Round-up

A lot of interesting things happened in the literary sphere this week, but the commentary was relatively quiet or perhaps I was distracted by my birthday celebrations. This post is also lacking commentary because I’m cleaning up the pad for my pending birthday guests.

Raincoast Books launched a literary podcast series.

The Literary Review of Canada listed the 100 most influential Canadian books, which included 6 royal commission reports and the 1863 Geological Survey of Canada. Atwood, Cohen and Findley are listed, as is Dennis Lee’s Alligator Pie.

David Bergen’s book sales have, according to a CBC report on The National, increased by 2000%

Imagine a Day, one of the most beautiful illustrated books I’ve seen in a long time, won the 2005 Governor General’s Literary Award for Children’s Literature, Illustration. Don’t judge it just on the cover, which I think is the weakest part.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire premiered this weekend with apparently 9750 engagements in North America. I attended a 10 pm showing at the Dunbar Theatre in Vancouver. There was full-on audience participation. Wooing when the main characters first appeared on screen. Clapping. Gasps of breath. Snickering and tsk tsking over Ron and Harry’s pissing match. It was great.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Chapters Gives It Away, Well 20% Anyway

Get 20% at Chapters/Indigo this Sunday (Nov 20)—- just print out this coupon (link below)—apparently, you don’t have to be an iRewards member.


Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Being Read to

Patricia my favourite bibliophile blogger has asked whether her readers recall being read to as a child. I definitely do. My mother has a fantastic reading voice. I used to fight with my brother over who would get their story read first. I was even recently relating the story of how my mother used to read “What Was That !?” This is the story of a family of bears, and one by one each of the baby bears hears a bump in the night and comes running to the parents’ bed. “What was that?” they cry. “Why it was just the lady bug down the hall, dropping a shoe.” So one by one there is an explanation of the bumps in the night, until there is a huge crash, and every little bug in the house cries out WHAT WAS THAT. It is of course the legs of the bears’ bed giving way under the weight of all the little bears in the bed.

Just at the moment when the bed cracked, my mom would slam the book closed and scare the heck out of us. I loved it every time.

Many years later, my mother worked as a librarian and my teenage self used to sneak in to listen to her read at storytime. I still love being read to, and I love reading to people.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Blogs, Dogs and Birthdays

My birthday is tomorrow. I was never one to wish for a puppy, but yesterday I got a dog. Not a real dog, but an invite to the phenomenal Blogs n Dogs workshop in Banff. Nice present for sure. I’ve always wanted to go to the Banff Centre.

Raincity Studios in partnership with the Banff New Media Institute is producing a 3 day workshop on blogging and social networking at the Banff Centre, Alberta from December 4th-7th 2005, and I am attending.

Yesterday I received an email from Robert Scales of Raincity Studios announcing that I was the winner of their scholarship (workshop fee, activity fee—DOG SLEDDING—accommodation and meals, and airport transfer fees to and from the airport to Banff). I swivelled around in my office chair many times and the grin has yet to leave my face.

Here’s the post announcing the winner and the 5 other finalists.

Want to come? The registration closes Friday, November 25.
Register. Do it now. Don’t delay.

There’s dog sledding, and I think in my submission I may have promised to bring my tap shoes.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Comicon Comes to Vancouver

Vancouver Comicon is this Sunday from 11 AM to 5 PM at Heritage Hall, 3102 Main Street, Vancouver.

Vancouver Comicon Information Page

I am envious of anyone who gets to go. My dancecard is full that day and I doubt I’ll be able to get down.

Admission is $3, please, someone go on my behalf.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

David Bergen’s The Time in Between Wins the Giller Prize

David Bergen’s novel The Time In Between just won the Scotiabank Giller Prize. He’s got the prize, the glitzy TV spot, a $40,000 cheque, way to go David! The Giller is Canada’s richest fiction award.

David Bergen is a Winnipeg writer whose novel is about an American man who fought in the Vietnam War then returned many years later only to disappear. I’m a huge fan of the book and have made a couple of postings about The Time in Between already:

David Bergen Hits It Big with The Time In Between

Quill and Quire is reporting that Random House U.S. will publish the book on Dec. 6. It will be interesting to compare the McClelland & Stewart marketing campaign with the Random House U.S. campaign.

Congratulations to David Bergen.

Feeling Broke

Paying for my elaborate vacation has left me feeling rather broke. Lucky for me there is a freelance gig in the works, but hey there’s also this interesting find. And those are American dollars. How do you rank?

My blog is worth $3,951.78.
How much is your blog worth?

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Un-Bundling Amazon and Google Print

Google launched the Library Print project on Thursday and Amazon.com announced that it would offer online access to any page or section of a book, as well as the entire book. There is quite a bit of confusion, even in the publishing industry, about what these programs are so here’s my cheatsheet.

Google Print and the Google Print Library Project are two different programs.

Google Print is like Amazon’s Search Inside the Book. Publishers sign on to the program and provide a copy of their books so that Google/Amazon can scan and index the work. Google and Amazon offer users limited access to the book based on the user’s search terms—a limited number of pages forward or backward and a limited percentage of the total book. With Google, publishers are able to access site statistics on the number of times the title was viewed, the click-throughs on the Buy the Book links, and other goodies I’m sure. As a publisher you could use that information to optimize your own website pages and the descriptions of the book you provide to Amazon, Indigo, Barnes & Noble, etc. There is no fee to sign on to the program, however, publishers incur the cost of shipping titles to be scanned.

Google Print Library Project is the one caught up in US courtcases. In this program, Google has partnered with key US libraries to scan their entire collections (New York Public Library and the university libraries at Stanford, Harvard, Michigan and Oxford). The portion of the book made available to the user is dependent on the copyright. If the book is in the public domain then the whole book is accessible online. If the book is protected by copyright only the bibliographic data (title, author, publisher, etc.) is accessible plus a small except to provide context to the search term used.

Amazon Pages program allows users to “un-bundle” any of the books in the program. (It’s unclear to me how they determine which books are part of the program or which publishers Amazon is partnering with—maybe they haven’t worked out the details, the services are not yet available.) In the Amazon Pages program the user can choose to buy just the pages or sections needed and read them online.

Amazon Upgrade allows customers buying a physical copy of the book to also have the book available online for reading.

I’m interested in how the Amazon programs pan out because it seems they will run into publishers who have problems with how digital rights were assigned in author contracts and/or publishers who already provide ebook versions, again a rights conflict. The difference in approach will also be interesting to observe. Will Amazon engage with publishers in a different way than Google? For publishers, Amazon is another customer, they are a bookseller and there is an existing financial arrangement in place based on selling books. Not the case with Google. Google is making its money by increasing the number of pages it has indexed so that it can generate revenue off the ads it places on those pages. The unsung point so far in the Google discussions is that publishers in the Google Print program share in the ad revenue.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Love Your Rock

Hello Outdoor Lovers! I am very excited to announce that my buddy Craig’s website LoveYourRock.com is now online.

What is LoveYourRock.com? It is a website about appreciating and understanding the natural world that is humanity’s home.  It’s a site for everyone who wishes they could spend more time outside!

So help Craig out: Have read through the site and comment here on what you think. He’s open to all sorts of feedback.

Congrats Crazy, now you need to get a blog going.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Northern Voice 2006

Are you coming to Northern Voice 2006?

Northern Voice 2006 (http://www.northernvoice.ca) is a two day conference on Friday, February 10 and Saturday, February 11. Location: UBC Robson Square, downtown Vancouver.

Northern Voice is currently accepting speaker submissions, registrations and sponsorship proposals. For all the details, check out the Northern Voice site.

Last year this was the only Canadian conference I attended. It was also the best priced.

The Moose is Loose.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Geist Update

Congrats to Shawna and Patricia who will be receiving a subscription to the best magazine in the world.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Geist Arrives on the Doorstep

I’ve only just stopped drooling. The latest edition of Geist magazine has landed on the doorstep and I love it. Check out the Geist website. Geist is my favourite literary magazine of ideas and culture. Every issue spends a long time in my hands. And recently, the mag has been arriving with a short note from the editor. This is no regular note. This issue it starts “Welcome (again) to the other side of this piece of paper ...”

A couple of issues ago the note went on to explain and apologize for the lateness of the issue. The personal note is very much like a blog post and the humanity of the Geist team is plainly evident.

The note this issue continues with an invitation for readers to think of Geist during the gift-giving season. The Geist Gift Pack included with the issue also includes an opportunity for the gift-giver to receive an archival print from the mag. Here’s the pitch:

“The idea of giving you a gift in exchange for you giving a gift came about after our accountant, whose name is Mindy, demonstrated on a spreadsheet what we had long suspected: that the cost of gaining a new reader for Geist by the conventional methods of direct mail had reached the astronomical proportion of two and even three times the price of a subscription. At the same time, the cost of acquiring gift subscriptions had remained at the level of only a few bucks each.”

Every subscription also draws three times its value in advertising and subsidy revenue. This whole pitch is effective for me because I like when companies explain the cost of their products, the business model; it makes me a better-informed consumer. One of the things I find frustrating is people who think $30-40 hardcover books are too expensive. Someone in publishing should explain the economic factors that contribute to that cost. Maybe I will ... but not today.

So do you love new ideas and new writing made in Canada? Do you enjoy a quirky look at the world? Do you live in Canada? Have you always wanted a Geist subscription?

I want to support Geist, and I want to give you a subscription to the magazine.

I’m offering 2 subscriptions. If you would like to be Geisted, send me an email, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) with the subject line “Geist Me”.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

The War of the Worlds: Publishing vs Search

Vancouver Public Library has a series this week called Speak Up: Who Owns Knowledge. I attended the session last night on copyright.

Andreas Schroeder was a speaker on the panel representing the Writers’ Union of Canada and, in particular, writers who make their living from writing. Some of those writers are concerned about the seeming conflict between their right to earn a living from their creations and users’ ideas about the right to pay little or nothing for works available online.

There was a certain amount of heated debate, which I’ll refrain from at the moment. But writers and publishers pay attention. It is no longer just Google trying to “get your horse out of the gate.” [I’m quoting a speaker from the session.]

EdinburghNews.Scotsman.com reported today that an alliance has formed between Microsoft and Yahoo! to challenge Google’s project to digitize the world’s books.

The group - the Open Content Alliance (OCA) ..., unveiled earlier this month by a group of digital archivists and also backed by Hewlett-Packard and Adobe, says it has signed up more than a dozen major libraries in North America, the UK and mainland Europe.

Danielle Tiedt, general manager of Microsoft’s MSN Search, said the world’s largest software maker would fund the digital duplication of 150,000 old books over the next year.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Copyright Law and Google Print Library Project

The Association of American Publishers and the US Authors Guild have filed two separate law suits against Google, saying that the Google Print Library Project infringes on their copyrights.

My understanding of the Library Project is that the information displayed about the book is the bibliographic data only. The exact information that publishers spend all sorts of time and energy trying to get out to Amazon, Bowker, BookNet (in Canada) and other data aggregators.

A user searches for book information, maybe using “Battle of Britain” as a keyword, and the Library Print Project screen—for books protected by copyright—will show that search term within a sentence or two to give the user context. The bibliographic information for the book is also shown: title, author, publisher, publication date, number of pages, etc. The full page of the book is never shown.

So why are publishers and authors upset?

In my opinion Google is not doing a good enough job expressing to publishers, authors and the general public that full pages are not shown on books protected by copyright. They are showing less information than what is available on most Amazon listings.

(Google is doing a good job of providing publishers with links to their blogs and newsletters. What I think they need to do in addition is get the traditional media talking about the exact amount of content shown on the Library Project listings. The conversation is drifting into a general debate about copyright and digital copyright and those are confusing issues. Look at the debate about Bill C-60 and the amendments to the Copyright Act in Canada. These topics are less clear than the root issues of the Library Project, which is a user is looking for book on X, Google shows Y.)

On the opposite side of the fence, publishers and authors are not clearly expressing their concerns. I don’t think the issue has anything to do with Google providing users bibliographic information. I think publishers and authors are concerned that a giant corporation will have access to the full text of millions of books. When those books do fall into the public domain, Google will be able to easily profit from having those materials. So the “free” service Google is providing publishers definitely has a labour cost associated with it for Google, who I assume is treating the scanning process as an investment in future knowledge acquisition.

Now why is that wrong? A work in the public domain can be exploited by anyone who wants to repackage it and sell it. In the case of Google they are doing the repackaging (scanning the text) years in advance of when the book falls into the public domain.  But, they are not selling it and they are not distributing the contents in any way that infringes on copyright.

In regards to the Google Library Project, you have a company who is providing a service to book readers and researchers. Google is making books easier to find and buy. The nature of the internet expands the audience so the number of users who might be looking for a book on “Battle of Britain” increases substantially from just the folks in your local library to folks around the world. That’s a good thing. Any sales of the book, while it is protected by copyright, benefit the content creator (the author, publisher). Authors and publishers benefit for the entire lifespan of the book, the entire time the book is protected by copyright, 50-75 years after the death of the copyright holder.

Publishers and authors should really reflect on the root of their fears and clearly express those concerns to Google, then Google will have an opportunity to respond. But saying it is the act of scanning the text and equating it to photocopying an entire book is not the same, and I don’t think any court will think differently.

And authors who want to be included in the Library Project, don’t worry about it. It is better to submit your work to Google Print, which offers a similar service but displays the content of the book differently.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Undeniably Good

James’ novel Up in Ontario is reviewed in Prairie Fire magazine.

Here’s the review:

Sometime about 1996 James and a group of friends (I tagged on the next season) were frustrated by literary magazines of the time. In particular, we were all frustrated that the venues for new authors and new writing seemed to be reserved for already published authors. It seemed to us that already published authors didn’t count as new authors. How did you get published as an author? So Jesse James Press was born, a chapbook press with the mandate to publish good writing from unpublished authors. The authors retained all copyright but granted Jesse James Press the right to publish the work in chapbook form. No royalties were paid and the money the press made went to production and promotion.

James and I worked to get the chapbooks into bookstores, McNally Robinson was amazingly helpful as was the now-defunct Heaven Art and Book Cafe. And we got the works reviewed, Geist and Broken Pencil were the best supporters at the time.

There were 9-12 chapbooks produced over 3 years, 3 of the authors are now published authors, one chapbook won the Chapbook of the Year Award, which was part of the Manitoba Literary Awards, and the whole venture was my introduction to the publishing world.

Now I told you that story so I could tell you this one.

Bloody hell, now we’re reviewed in Prairie Fire. Well, James is. It was Up in Ontario, the chapbook, that won the Chapbook of the Year Award, James was one of the now published authors, and I love everything about the book, which is why I’m so happy others like it too.