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

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Amazon.ca Launches Search Inside the Book in Canada

Big news out of Seattle today. Amazon.ca has finally launched Search Inside the Book. SITB has been available on the .com site since Oct. 2003, but it took much longer to launch the program in Canada.

Search Inside the Book lets customers search for keywords inside a book. For example, if I want a book on Turkey, I can select the Search Inside results tab, then see 2-3 pages of the book.

Helpful for sorting out Turkey vs. poultry. Nice for fiction if you want to read a couple of pages to see the writing style. And, of course, an interesting opportunity for readers and publishers.

GooglePrint is also available but I’m not sure how many Canadian publishers are on board.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Vancouver Symphony in the Park

Bramwell Tovey is the music director for the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. He joined the VSO in 2000 but before that he was artistic director of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. He is a bit of a card, which I remember from my Winnipeg symphony-going days. The thing I like about Bramwell is that he hams it up with the audience, especially those of us attending a free concert in the park. He still gives you the colour commentary between pieces, but there is an acknowledgement that we’re all outside, that a dog might have pooped in the front row and that’s why there’s a large gap in the audience.

The “playlist” yesterday was also an acknowledgement of the audience. All the pieces had elements that we’ve heard in other places, like advertisements. It was a bit like the Bugs Bunny repetoire.

Rossini’s William Tell: Overature (apparently the ring tone is available)
Lehar’s Gold & Silver Waltz
Dvorak’s Slavonic Dance No. 8 in G minor (played in stores last Christmas season according to Tovey)
Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries
Borodin’s Prince Igor: Polovtsian Dances
Elgar’s Enigma Variations, Op. 36: Nimrod (who doesn’t like something serious called Nimrod)
Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, Op. 49 (with no less than 16 cannon shots)

The top of the night though was Saint-Saens’s Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, fronted by violinist Christel Lee. Now Christel is no ordinary violinist. She is 14 years old, originally from Vancouver, and studying with world-acclaimed violinist Kyung Wha Chung.

I am in awe of anyone who can play an instrument, in particular these child prodigies. Young Christel came on stage in a flame red gown to accompany the white-tux orchestra. Ms. Lee blew my mind away, and we gave her a standing O so I’m not overstating how awesome she was.

Then I rode my bike home. A very civilized evening indeed.

Friday, August 05, 2005

You’re It—Let’s Play Literary Tag

Two weeks ago, James Sherrett tagged me in a game of literary tag. Although I hate to be left out, I’m also not a joiner. Like a fish on the line, I’ve resisted long enough. I am IT.

1. How many books do I own?
I suspect that I own more than 1,000 books. I have a large number of them stored in my mother’s apartment. She keeps the less loved books in boxes but the first editions and antiquarian books on display (as if they are hers).

2. Last Book I Bought:
June: Malcolm Gladwell’s BLINK in BookCity in Toronto in The Beaches.

3. Last Book I Read:
This weekend: The Great Stink by Clare Clarke.

4. Five Books That Mean A Lot To Me:
1. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
2. A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
3. The Lost Salt Gift of Blood by Alastair MacLeod
4. You Went Away by Timothy Findley
5. The Canadian Oxford English Dictionary

5. Tag Five More:
Patricia at BookLust
Laila Lalami at Moorish Girl
Kevin Smokler
Dynamo duo Susie and Travis at Hop Studios et al.
Stowe Boyd and Stowe Boyd of Corante. I proudly display my Get Real sticker.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

The State of Publishing: Traditional Book Publishing vs. Online Publishing

I was asked today why I thought online publishing won’t takeover traditional publishing. My answer was that humans have been reading off paper for hundreds of years, and I don’t believe that books are fungible.

Music formats—from vinyl to 8-track to cassette to CD to MP3—are much more fungible. The delivery mechanism has a history of fairly rapid change. One format has acceptably replaced another. It is foreseeable that this is an infinite process. For literature—text on stone, animal skin and papyrus to parchment to codexes and bound pages to ebooks—the cycles of change have been much longer and the adoption of new technology has been slower.

Parchment, for example, was introduced as a replacement to papyrus sometime after the 3rd century. Documented use of papyrus, however, continued in classical literature until the 7th century, and even until the late 11th century. Not exactly a quick uptake of technology.

I think until we run out of trees and the ability to use 100% post-consumer recycled products, bound pages—or books—will still be used. Etexts, audio books, and whatever digital format we create for the future will of course be acceptable and used by many people, but the historical data on the adoption of ebooks does not suggest any wide scale change in the habits of book readers.

Now newspapers are a different story. The nature, however, of a newspaper—a collection of short articles—translates well online, as do certain types of books, such as reference manuals, recipe books and perhaps even poetry and short fiction. Like the shift from papyrus to paper, change is inevitable, but I’d argue that the phase out period will likely extend well beyond my lifetime.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Might Mouse

Have a look at what the geeks are up to:

“Mighty Mouse” has been one of the top 10 searches for the last couple of days according to Technorati.


I want my mouse to roar!

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Take Me Out to the Blog Game

America is calling.

If I was rich on time and in the pocketbook, here are the upcoming blog conferences I’d like to attend:

Blog Business Summit in San Francisco,  August 17-19. $895. I attended this conference last year and thought it was great. I met Darren Barefoot, whose blog I’d been reading for months. Darren is also a speaker at this year’s conference.

I met Travis and Susie, who I share interesting publishing ideas with, and all the blog gods like Robert Scoble.

Janet Johnson from Marqui is also a speaker—Janet who I recently met at the SFU Future of Publishing session.

There is a very fine list of speakers again this year. But August ... things are gearing up in the publishing world and I’ve just received my security/tracking ankle cuff, the latest chained-to-your-desk innovation. Sadly for me, I will not be able to attend.

Instead my hopes are set high for Number 2, Blogon 2005 in New York City Oct 17-18. $1095. I’m going to start lobbying the powers that be now ... New York here I want to come. I recall at BookExpo America there were all sorts of bloggers who came out of the wood work. Cool people. I want to be there. The campaign starts today.

Any others I should know about?

Thursday, July 28, 2005

SFU Future of Publishing Conference

The world of paper and the web converged for me yesterday. I attended the SFU summer workshop on “The Future of Publishing.” It was an interesting panel discussion moderated by Robert Ouimet, the prinipal in At Large Media, and the founder and president of At Large Media Ltd. Emma Payne.

Janet Johnson of Marqui spoke about how Marqui worked with Marc Canter to find 20 A-list bloggers to write about Marqui and the controversay about that. Eric Karjaluoto from smashLAB talked about ways to build dialogue. He also showed off some rainbow creative. The vomit was my favourite. Arieanna Foley talked about being a professional blogger and consultant. She gave a quick demo of Qumana and talked about writing for Corante and on her blog Blogaholics.ca. Kris Krug, co-author of BitTorrent for Dummies with Susie Gardner, talked about Bryght. My favourite line was “we build the internets.” Kris I’d met before at a couple of blogger meetups and I liked his pot stirring techniques in the session. The panel did fall into a bit of a love fest for a while and Kris diligently persisted in pulling them out of group hugs. And Ben Garfinkel from Industrial Brand Creative was there. My favourite line of Ben’s was, “we’re not wired right.” He has a cool flash intro of a hamster in a wheel, but I can’t seem to find it. Ben?

What did they talk about? Blogs mostly. Citizen journalism and the impact of blogs and cellphones on reports of the London bombings, Live8, etc. The Cluetrain Manifesto was invoked and we talked about talk is cheap, silence is fatal, if you’re not part of the conversation it will continue without you.

I learned that Canada.com is relaunching its portal and Brian from CanWest was in the audience asking for feedback on what bloggers would like to see. Other than that it was mostly a lot of talk, we geeked it up. There were questions from the audience.

On the way back to the office, I was walking with my colleague and explaining RSS. Boris from Bryght walked past. It was that kind of day.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Incongruous Proverbs

I read somewhere that people make sense of their world through narrative. I find this to be true in my own world. Often during conversations or meditation, I’m struck by the relevance of the proverbs and miscellany that inform my understanding of the world; the running narrative in my head. Here, however, are some of the incongruous proverbs I stumbled over recently.

Many hands make light work ... Too many cooks spoil the broth

No fool like an old fool ... With age comes wisdom

Great minds think alike ... Idiots seldom differ

Sunday, July 24, 2005

James Runs a Triathlon

Lance Armstrong won the Tour de France. No surprise. The big news today is that James did his first triathlon.

Time: 1:19:32

He did a Sprint Distance Triathlon, which is 750 meters swim, 20 km bike and 5 km run. James came in 14th overall.

I’m terribly impressed and to celebrate I took a 20 min bath, put air in my bike tires, and did a quick sprint across the street. I’m going to have a nap now because all the outdoor air and sunshine made me hot.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Paris and the Golden Apple

Paris was one of the fifty sons of King Priam of Troy. Fifty!

According to the Greeks, he was responsible for causing the Trojan War. Perhaps you recall this bit from the horrible movie Troy? In brief, Paris was handsome, wooed Helen so that she left her husband Menelaus, King of Sparta, and then she fled to Troy. Bad mistake.

The thing with Paris is that his handsomeness was a gift from Aphrodite, the goddess of love. Or perhaps Helen, the most beautiful woman in the world, was his gift from Aphrodite? I can’t recall so let’s say he was gifted his looks in return for choosing Aphrodite as the fairest of goddesses.

Quite the gift regardless. But where there is love (lust, passion), there is war.

The story of the gift of handsomeness is the story of the golden apple. In the story a wonderful party was held and everyone was invited. Everyone except Eris, goddess of discord and strife, although you know she arrives at end of the night for the bar fights anyway.

As you can imagine Eris was annoyed and showed up. She brought with her a beautiful golden apple. And it was no party gift. Eris threw the apple into the room amongst Aphrodite (love), Hera (power) and Athena (wisdom). The apple was inscribed “to the fairest.”

Ho hum. All three beauties demanded the apple. It came to blows practically and Paris was hauled over to act as the judge.

Difficult choice wouldn’t you say? All three can wreck havoc on a mortal. Well Aphrodite won, and so did Eris.

I’m reminded of this story because Darren Barefoot has posted a funny note about Chris Pirillo being approached by the producer of “Beauty and the Geek.” The producer’s name is Eve, I thought of apples, you know how it goes ... another example of thought gymnastics.

Read Darren Barefoot on Chris or go straight to Chris’s posting of the voice message.


Who would you have chosen?

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

What Time is it Mr. Bush?

The Americans are looking at extending daylight savings time, in an effort to save energy. I’m not clear on the details, but I assume energy would be saved in terms of less lighting during winter hours.

Who’s to say, but the US Congress is quietly pecking away at the details.

It seems like the plan was a bit of a surprise to the PMO and the Ontario premier’s office. The push of course from the financial sector is to be in step with America. But does Saskatchewan care? Hell no.

The proposal is that daylight savings would start in March and run until the last weekend of November. Currently it is from April through October.

I’d be happier with more light as I drive home at dusk in October. The rain days are most dangerous because pedestrians are difficult to see. Do I honestly think I’d use less lights during that time? Likely no. Is it good to investigate and consider this option? Why not.

Publishing News

Couple of notes from the publishing world:

I read yesterday on quillandquire.com that the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, which has apparently generated $1.3-billion in revenues in North America, is getting into magazines.

The Chicken Soupers tend to be too warm and fuzzy for my cynical soul, but I am curious about how they’ll produce content for the mag. I assume it will be from reader submissions so will the contributors be paid? Are they paid for contributing to the books? I know someone who contributed to Chicken Soup for the Chiropractors Soul. I’ll have to pose those questions to him, unless any of you know.

And is there a Chicken Soup for the Naysayers Soul? There must be an equivalent.

In other news, I read that one of my favourite publishing houses, Anansi, has just hired Lynn Henry. Anansi has some fantastic books on its list, including The Big Why, which I’ve fawned over before. Well, technically I fawned over Michael Winter because I have yet to read the book.

Anansi has a fantastic website by the way.

I’m off now to Shebeen for a Hemingway evening. Shebeen is a Vancouver whiskey bar, accessible from the Irish Heather. It is only open for private functions, and for those willing to creep out the back door of the Irish Heather into Blood Alley.

In the early days of Vancouver, Blood Alley was the location for a number of butcher shops. Public executions were also held in Blood Alley Square. Your choice on the roots of the name.

Speaking of doors, you go through the alley and look for the red door. Unmarked.

It should be interesting getting into Gastown tonight because the Tour de Gastown is running.

“The bicycle riders drank much wine, and were burned and browned by the sun. They did not take the race seriously except among themselves.”—Ernest Hemingway

“The Tour de France is the greatest sporting event in the world.”—Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises

Hemingway’s grandson will be in attendance tonight, and James is reading from Up in Ontario.

My plan is to not get run over by bicyclists, especially after I’ve been into the whiskey.


Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The Cartographer’s Daughter

I may have mentioned my enjoyment of the BookLust website before, but the post today got me thinking about my own roots in books and my mom.

BookLust entry, “BilblioQueria 7”

My mother was a cartographer when I was growing up. There were maps and books and pens and T-squares everywhere. I didn’t realize that the number of books we had was unusual until I was old enough to have sleepovers and to wonder where the bedtime stories were. Here’s a story I once wrote about my mom.

The Cartographer

She is sitting hunched over and I can see the light of the drafting table reflecting in her glasses.  She pulls a nib out of the circular tray and fastens it to the open end of the holder. The pen tip is wiped across a coarse paper cloth, down, twist, across, back, blotted. The lines are drawn, they give birth to rivers, streams, tributaries. The pen is reassembled with a thicker nib, the cloth scored a second time, black ink bleeding deep into the page. Boundaries are marked. She looks up and adjusts the lamp, leans back from the table, stretches her back and shoulders. She stands and walks to the window. It is dark outside and in the reflection of the glass she sees the drafting table, the lamp, the map. Careful. 

She moves back towards the light. A drawer is pulled open.  She shifts through page after page of Letraset.  One in particular she looks for. The letters are then organized, rubbed out to stick on, marking, naming, displaying rivers, towns. A map. Last is the compass, angling towards the left.  The top lefthand corner. N. North. 

That is how I watched my mother make maps. Slouched, blotting, leaning, rubbing, signing.


Monday, July 18, 2005

Yahoo to you, Mr. Gulliver

I was thinking about Yahoo today and how competitive it is with Google, and how good competition drives creativity. Which led me to think about creativity instead of competition, which in turn started me thinking about Gulliver’s Travels. Gulliver’s Travels, being my first encounter with the word Yahoo ...

Yahoo is not a particularly flattering term. Yahoos are a strange sort of animal. But then again my reminiscence on yahoo was cut short when I remembered that I was once nicknamed Lilliput.

Like Gulliver, there was a time when I was surrounded by little people. I coached grade one soccer. I was rubbish at soccer but I did manage to keep my charges from bloodying each others’ noses. Little boys are strange sorts themselves.

A fellow coach gave me the name when he looked over one day to see me towering above a mass of thigh-high gaffers. Much like Gulliver I was hoping my gentleness and good behaviour would secure me my liberty.

Such was not the case.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Harry Potter Arrives by Owl Post

I just Harry Pottered. Vancouver Kidsbooks fed through hundreds kids. The street was blocked off, there was a parade with stilt walkers and musicians and three white vans rolled down Broadway with Owl Post labels. Mayor Larry Campbell was up on stage making bad jokes, dressed as Dumbledore.

My most favourite part is when the kids get their books and there is this look of awe in their eyes, they’re walking down the street and they’re already cracking the book open, or clutching it to their chests. It is exciting. And the kids are not just little people, I’m including the young at heart. Now I’m going to read a chapter and go to bed.