Showing posts with label News. Show all posts
Showing posts with label News. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Warwick Prize for Women in Translation!

On this International Women's Day eve, it's wonderful to have some truly good news on the women in translation front!

The newly announced Warwick Prize for Women in Translation - currently accepting submissions - is a wonderful step towards increasing visibility for women writers translated into English, and raising awareness of the startling global imbalance.

Prizes are more than just a monetary reward for a certain author (or in this case, author/translator team). Prizes are more than just ego boosts. Prizes are a brilliant way for many readers to identify high-quality books that might interest them. They provide authors with exposure, something sorely needed in a field as marginalized as that of women writers in translation. Prizes also encourage publishers to produce more of the thing, in this case showing many publishers of literature in translation that there is a market for women writers from around the world. This prize will help raise awareness of the problem, as well as provide many new readers with great recommendations across genres.

I cannot express how thrilled I am that this prize is happening and how happy it makes me. And who knows, maybe there'll be a longlist by next August (WITMonth!) that we can all shadow...!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Women in Translation | Moving forward (a short update)

Previous posts in Women in Translation series:

The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize shortlist is out, ladies and gentlemen, and there's some fantastic news for women writers in translation. Why? Because for only the second time in its history, a full 50% of the shortlisted authors are women. Three out of six. Which is well above the baseline publication rate for women in translation. Fantastic news, right?

I'm not going to lie - this is fantastic news. For several reasons.

The first is the most obvious: three books by women writers are now in the prestigious club of shortlisted titles. They're getting coverage, attention, and respect. This is great news for Yoko Ogawa, Birgit Vanderbeke and Hiromi Kawakami. Three great books (technically I haven't read Kawakami yet, but a lot of other reviewers seemed to quite like the book), well-deserving of their place in this coveted list.

The second is a bit broader: the topic of women in translation - that thing I've been writing and ranting about, trying to raise awareness - is being discussed. Straight up. Maybe it's convoluted, maybe it's meta, maybe it's political, maybe it's discriminatory correction (which I don't think is true at all, by the way)... but the point is that we're talking about the fact that there is a problem in publishing (and a problem in award recognition). We're discussing exactly what we need to.

The third is that it states - strongly and unequivocally - that books by women are just as good as books by men. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it really isn't. Enough readers subconsciously (and sometimes consciously) weed out books written by women for a multitude of reasons. I used to be one of those readers. Sometimes it's a wildly unrepresentative cover (what the heck is going on with the Kawakami cover?), sometimes it's stereotypes about the "type of books women write" (and a general genre elitism), and sometimes it's outright sexism (the examples I raised in my review of How to Suppress Women's Writing). By including three books in their shortlist, the IFFP is directly challenging the idea that books by women writers are not at the same level as those by men. Which is wonderful.

We're moving forward. And that is, without a doubt, excellent news.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Where in the world are women writers?

A realization: most of the books in translation I've read this year have been written by men. A quick run through my reading list confirmed this suspicion: 21 written by men, 7 written by women.

This is a shockingly disproportionate number (especially since my overall male to female writer ratio is a perfect 50:50). I considered that it might just be my own personal reading tastes or biases, so I decided to run through Three Percent's list of titles in translation for 2013. The list is a bit outdated, but the results are strikingly similar to what I found in my own reading. Based on my rough calculation*, women writers contribute less than 30% of the literature that is translated into English.

The top three languages from which books were translated in 2013 are French, Spanish and German. Out of 59 books translated from French, 17 were written by women. Out of 41 books translated from Spanish, 7 were written by women**. Out of 35 books translated from German, 12 were written by women. Even here we see statistics that heavily favor male writers. Meanwhile, my (very brief) survey of French and German bestseller lists seemed to show a fairly balanced playing field - certainly there wasn't as wide a gap as what I found in the translations.

Closer to home for me, the four books that were translated from Hebrew were all written by men, despite the fact that I can firmly attest that Israeli literature tends to be very balanced in terms of men-women writers. The fact of the matter is that nobody has yet translated one of 2011's most highly regarded Israeli novels Rose of Lebanon, nor any of Gail Hareven's other novels (despite the fact that her one translated title won the Best Translated Book Award!), nor dozens of other highly respected novels and bestsellers written by Israeli women. And this is clearly something that is happening across the board, across the world.

What does this mean? For starters, it doesn't seem as though the source of the problem is in various countries around the world. Rather, it seems that the problem lies in the process of translation. It isn't that women aren't writing books, or that they aren't getting published in their own countries***. The problem is on the English-speaking world's receiving end. With us.

These are only preliminary findings. Without more information about Spanish, French, German and any other language bestsellers and without more understanding about the selection process for translation, there is little more to be said. Only this: readers of literature in translation, take note. If we were looking at a ratio of 40% to 60%, I would be able to accept it as a minor bias. But we're not talking about a small preference for male writers. We're talking about a preference for men that is over 70%... and that is a problem.

So readers: share your own stats. Let's find out where the problem starts - whether I'm missing something in France and Germany and Latin America, or whether something is getting stuck in the publisher's offices in the Anglo publishing world. Let's be aware that this problem even exists. Maybe then we can start to fix it.

* My calculation was generally based on first names (easily recognizable male-female names like Paul or Charlotte didn't get double-checked, names I was uncertain about I attempted to track down)
** One of these happens to be one of my favorite books of the year
*** Though I'm certain that this is the case for certain countries in which women do not have much freedom, it does not appear to be true for the major sources of literature in translation, nor would it make much sense given which countries we're talking about...

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A predictable Goodreads/Amazon post

You've all probably heard by now that Amazon has bought out Goodreads. This is turning out to be a pretty big deal in both the book blogging world and the external business-y world, which seems to find the acquisition either amusing or bemusing. Goodreads users are, for the most part, not in either of those camps. Most seem thoroughly unhappy about the move - some on a level that they have publicly and loudly deleted their Goodreads accounts - while the rest seem cautiously optimistic. With the exception of a few Goodreads members who commented that Amazon's acquisition will hopefully mean a better integration between Kindle devices and Goodreads, nobody was really excited or happy about this move.

"Cautious optimism" is the key here. The best case scenario, as many members have pointed out, is that Amazon only takes advantage of Goodreads' vast data store and doesn't interfere with the actual community behind this information. There might be an increase in certain types of advertisements, and more syncing with Amazon owned products or Amazon affiliates (for example, in giveaways, in compatibility with Kindles, in ads, etc.), but this best case scenario assumes that the basic functionality of Goodreads won't change.

The worst case scenario is that Amazon's policy of "your reviews belong to us" (which I didn't really realize until now, and am suddenly thoroughly uncomfortable by just how much I've given them over the years) will extend to Goodreads. That the functionality will go from a bookish social networking site that aims to build a community to another extension of Amazon's dominance in the book industry. That Goodreads' recommendation algorithm will be replaced by Amazon's significantly more commercial one. That the ease of finding old, indie or little-known books will evaporate. That the option of buying a book through an independent provider will disappear. The worst case scenario? Goodreads loses everything that made it the site that it is.

Personally, I believe in the middle ground. Obviously Amazon will be mining our personal collections now in order to better understand its customers, but is that necessarily a bad thing? I've complained for years about Amazon's stupidity when it comes to book recommendations, and the clumsy way it tries to throw the bestseller-of-the-moment at readers. With this new (and significantly improved) pile of data behind it, maybe Amazon will actually improve. Maybe it'll adopt Goodreads' book recommendation algorithm, and not the other way around. Maybe it will learn

Goodreads is probably going to change. It's going to feel different, if only because everyone will expect it to change, and be on alert for any suspicious behavior on Amazon's part. Like most Goodreads users, I'm uncomfortable and nervous and a little upset by how brazenly Amazon has been going about creating a true monopoly in the book world. But I'm not about to delete my Goodreads account. Unlike most readers, I don't really need Goodreads to catalog my books (I have a significantly better Excel document that has much more information than I'll ever give the site...). I don't even use it for the social/community aspect very well, though recently I've made a bit more of an effort. I don't really like reviewing on Goodreads, and I don't necessarily love their recommendations algorithm. But all together, it's a convenient site. The ability to access simpler, more sincere reviews than Amazon is pleasant. Seeing the different methods by which people tag and label their books is fascinating. It's less severe than LibraryThing (which I also don't like because of its price tag), and it's less commercial than Amazon. Goodreads filled a certain niche in the literary world. Hopefully this will not change, even if other details do.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Who says we don't read?

This is from a few weeks ago, but still: Told. You. So. Little is as frustrating as constantly being told that my generation doesn't read. Little is as delightful as finding further proof that this claim is wrong.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Death of the dedicated eReader? I think not...

This is an interesting and vaguely weird article about the potential death of the eReader. Yes, you read that correctly - now we speculate as to when eInk technology will become obsolete because of tablets and alternative eReading devices. To which I say the same thing I say every time someone freaks about the impending death of the book: um... no? Or rather, I suppose: probably not?

The reason I am fairly confident that dedicated eReaders will survive (in some form) is similar enough to the reason I think that print books will survive. While there are relatively few people in the world who are considered dedicated readers, there is still a fairly large global market for people who read enough to justify buying an eReader. Some will prefer the shift to digital, true, but not all digital is made equal. I cannot see someone like my aunt - who now reads exclusively off her Kindle - making the move towards an iPad or any other tablet computer. It's just not the same. Every time I've tried to read off tablets, I've found that it's a little more distracting than my Sony Reader. The reason I like my Reader is because it mimics the traditional reading experience incredibly well (while also giving me a few bonuses, like internet access). A device as glossy as my laptop? Not quite as appealing.

What I find especially interesting about this article, though, is that it establishes eInk devices as part of our general reading history. By attempting to spell its doom, Jeremy Wagstaff is essentially acknowledging eInk's position as a legitimate reading form. And like with the case of critics crying about the demise of the printed word, I get the feeling that this article will only emphasize just how wrong it's assessment is...

Monday, October 1, 2012

Links for the new month

"For a book publisher, a novella is too small to charge full price for, even though the costs of setting up a production run aren’t that much less. The wise choice, especially among the mass-market publishers, was to print something a little bit longer that you could charge full price for."

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Review policies reviewed

The recent furor regarding Amazon book reviews being paid for frustrates me for a few reasons. Obviously there's my deep objection to the fact that people are so morally compromised that it doesn't bother them to write fraudulent reviews. There's also the fact that publishers and authors enact this practice. Deeper than that, though, I keep having this unavoidable, furious, selfish feeling that I've been cheated out of something. After writing reviews on Amazon.com literally since my childhood (I wrote my first reviews when I was nine years old and began to review consistently at the age of thirteen), I feel as though every minute I've spent on those reviews, every ounce of effort that went into writing a thoughtful and honest appraisal of a book I'd read... I suddenly feel as though all of this has gone to waste. My reviews have become meaningless.

My love affair with Amazon ended quite a while ago. I've felt a growing discomfort with the site for many years, these days avoiding it in favor of independent (or more forthcoming) bookstores. I continued to review on the site - indeed, I continue to receive Vine books for review (my only source for ARCs of any kind, incidentally) - but the frequency of my reviews dropped significantly. For a short time, I thought Goodreads might replace Amazon as my destination for online reviews, however it did not - Goodreads' style and approach differs so distinctly from my own that I usually feel uncomfortable truly reviewing there.

So the situation has been bad for a while. But now everyone is hesitant about the effectiveness of Amazon reviews. Now doubt has been cast about the legitimacy of every single book review that I have ever written for that site. It is obvious from my reviewing history that no publisher has ever paid for my opinion, or demanded that it be particularly positive (in fact, one of the reasons I still use the Amazon Vine program is because it is through an external dealer and not directly through the publishers). And yet it is done - my reviews will not be reaching the hoped-for audiences. The feeling that I - a simple reader sitting in front of my computer screen - can help another reader reach a particularly good book (or avoid a particularly bad one) has now been tainted.

And so I'm changing the policy of this site. Until a few months ago, I very explicitly avoided writing reviews - more specifically, the types of reviews I would have wanted to write - on the blog. Recently, I've experimented with significantly more book-oriented posts than usual, attempting to make these more similar to "standard" reviews. Today, I am taking it a few steps further. After almost four years of working on this blog, I will begin writing actual book reviews. I am not certain what the format will look like at first (and I am sure it will change before I find something I truly like), but I will begin to integrate reviews into my standard posting. Hopefully this will not change the shape of the blog too drastically - I still hope for the focus of the blog to be books in general, not book reviews, and especially not book reviews in one specific genre. But it will be changing, hopefully for the better.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

"Not for resale" - ARCs and the publisher-reviewer contract

I only just read this post about ARCs being sold en masse on eBay over at Staffer's Book Review, and I'm seriously annoyed. The whole post is very important, but I think this paragraph is perhaps the most relevant:
Every ARC I've ever received has a few words clearly printed on the back cover, "Uncorrected proofs. Not for sale." When a publisher sends me a title for review, they're entrusting me not to distribute it, not to sell it, and not to spoil it. They're hoping I review, so it's not to say their action is a favor to me, but the unspoken contract between publisher and reviewer does not include the reviewer making a "profit" off the novel itself, only the words the reviewer writes about it. To break that contract (to profit off the book itself), calls into question all other layers of trust between the two parties. Just as I would argue the publisher requiring a review or influencing the content of the review does the same.
I'm really bothered by this.

First of all, Justin is absolutely right in that first sentence: any galley edition or ARC will always come with the words "Not for sale" on them. It's difficult to miss. This means that anyone selling a galley copy is knowingly making money off something that was given to them for free and for a specific purpose. That in itself is blatantly unethical.

I struggled at first to understand why, but I think I've figured it out. It's not just the publisher-reviewer contract. It's also an unfair way to profit off the author's loss. True, I can resell all of my physical books, but those books were paid for originally, one way or another. Even if I won the book from a giveaway or got it as a gift, someone paid for that book. It could have been another buyer, it could have been the publisher willing writing off a small loss in order to increase buzz. But the author got money for it. When someone sells an ARC, they are cheating the author. This is a copy that was never meant to be profitable (therefore did not contribute to the author's income), yet now this lucky seller - who received the book through a publisher's (typically) honest hope for a review - is making money off that. It stinks.

I won't deny that there are many problems with ARCs, ethical and practical. How to get rid of them is high on that list. A standard galley edition or pre-publication draft is in no condition to be donated to a library, nor should it be resold*, nor does it necessarily deserve to be recycled**. So what can be done? I've seen many blogs host giveaways for exactly this purpose. Rather than profiting off the ARC, reviewers will pass the book along to further reviewers. Though this too could be seen as a prevention of further purchases of legitimately paid-for books, it is well accepted that reviewers may receive free books. This is the best approach, in my opinion (aside from holding onto the book yourself, of course).

I wanted to share this story because I think we should be more aware of it. The vast, vast, vast majority of reviewers and bloggers and magazines and publishing-involved-people are honest and treat their ARCs with integrity. The vast, vast majority get rid of their ARCs and galleys in perfectly legal and ethical ways. But the fact that there is this one tiny sliver of the population that does not understand why this is wrong is extremely frustrating. I only wish I knew what could be done to stop it.

* In this regard I differ from Justin, who suggests that selling an ARC after the book's publication date should be fine.
** Unsurprisingly, the notion of recycling a book - galley or otherwise - thoroughly disturbs me...

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Saturday links

  • I'm not exactly a Lev Grossman fan, but his post about what characters in fantasy novels should do more often is spot-on and quite hilarious (via Tor.com).
  • John Green emphasizes his opinion that books belong to their readers.
  • Reading Rainbow returns, as an iPad app subscription. LeVar Burton on publishing:
    "I'm sure you're aware, there's been a real nervousness in the publishing universe about this necessary conversion from print to digital, and we saw that there was an opportunity for us to be a solution, really, for publishers in terms of conversion - taking their titles and bringing them to a platform that worked - but also discovery."
  • Finally, an interesting article on the cost of eBooks that, while shedding light on publisher expenses, completely fails to understand the real reasons behind consumers' demands regarding eBooks prices (i.e. resale).

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Glamour fades, still amazed - HBW 2012

The greatest week and a half of the year is coming to an end, and this year I visited the main Hebrew Book Week fairground twice. The first time, like last year, I simply collected catalogs and got a feel for the books being pushed. The second time I came with a concrete list and specifically bought the books on it. Even when the best 2-for-1 deals were against me, I stuck to my list - even if I didn't "save" as much money, I saved precious shelf space and time. In the end, I left with 16 books overall - significantly less than last year, but still a very respectable amount of books.

But what struck me most about this year was the fact that I saw through a lot of the glamour. The recent debate in Israel over price-setting by the large bookstore chains (a ridiculously heavy topic in its own right, one I've been struggling to untangle for quite some time) sparked something in me. My love affair with both of the large bookstore chains in Israel ended a long time ago, but now I started to feel a bit of the familiar animosity towards the larger publishers, something that had until that point been limited to the Anglo publishing world.

My solution was to try to keep an open mind, and more importantly, avoid falling into the publisher's traps. I came with specific requests, and made sure to avoid adding additional books to my list just because "they seemed good". If there's one thing I've learned from four years of attending HBW, it's that I tend not to read the books I bought just to fill a specific deal. They sit on the shelf and gather dust. Most publishers were accommodating - even books that hardly sold could be found among their stacks of bestsellers. Others were not - one of the largest publishers in Israel actually laughed at the fact that I expected the books on my list to be available. Needless to say, I did not purchase anything from them this year.

It's not even that I favored smaller publishers. The majority of my purchases came from well-established publishers. Many were actually best-seller type books. But even among the heaps of bestsellers, I discovered a relatively smaller publisher (though by no means tiny) that publishes a respectable amount of world literature of a non-pop variety.* And so I came away from HBW this year with books originally in Hebrew, Spanish, Catalan, French, Russian, Japanese, Polish and German.

But like I said, the glamour is fading. The booksellers this year tried so hard to convince me to buy books I didn't want. Deals changed from day to day (something which actually would have changed which books I was planning on buying, or which books I would have researched). I realized just how few books many of the larger publishers actually bring with them. It wasn't disappointing, exactly, but I realized that I wasn't actually saving as much money as I might have been had I been buying more unnecessary books. Both of my visits did, however, remind me why I wait for this week all year.

It's still a wonderfully diverse experience. It's easy to find most aspects of Israeli society at HBW, all mingling together for one simple, pure purpose. It's great to have a stranger next to me point and say, "That's not as good as his other book", easily assuming that I had read that previous novel. It's fascinating to find those publishers who stand at their own booths (rather than hiring simple booksellers) and share blurbs about the trade with anyone who knows what to ask. It's fun to find smaller publishers, where the time, devotion and care each customer receives is unlike anywhere else. Simply put, there may come a year where I will attend HBW and not purchase a single book. Unlikely, perhaps, but the simple joy of attending far outweighs any of the technical bookselling faults.

*It was also at this booth that I had the loveliest moment of the day, when the bookseller saw the two books I had chosen (thus fulfilling the 1+1 deal). I asked if she had any other recommendations. "No," she said, "you've got two excellent books right there."

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Translation awards

Until a few days ago, I'd never heard of the Tchernichovsky Prize for translation. You probably haven't either - it's an Israeli prize awarded by the Tel-Aviv municipality for "exemplary" translations, both literary and academic. In the Ha'aretz blurb on this year's award winners, the article mentions that Mifal Hapayis (the Israeli national lottery), which sponsors the significantly more prolific Sapir prize, has set aside funds for a similar translation prize to be awarded from next year and on.

This is interesting. The proportion of translated vs. original fiction in Israel is obviously nothing like that of the English speaking world. Whereas foreign literature hardly makes its way into English, Israel collects world literature comfortably and prolifically. Yet I'm still struck by the sheer amount of recognition translators get. When the majority of books published each year are works in translation, it would make sense that translators get a bit of credit. Still, sense does not necessarily translate into action (and certainly not into awards), so these awards are nonetheless surprising. And pleasing.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Getting rid of DRM

Finally, a major publisher is moving in the absolutely right direction: Tor books has decided to go DRM-free, sparking a sudden boom in the eBook DRM discussion. It's about time. Of the slew of articles on the subject, few are as in-depth and on-topic as Cory Doctorow's post at the Guardian:
[Avid] readers are also the ones most likely to run up against the limits of DRM. They're the customers who amass large libraries from lots of suppliers, and who value their books as long-term assets that they expect to access until they die. They may have the chance to change their ebook reading platform every year or two (the most common platform being a mobile phone, and many people get a new phone with each contract renewal). They want to be sure that their books travel with them. When their books don't, they'll be alienated, frustrated and will likely seek out unauthorised ways to get books in future. No one wants to be punished for their honesty.
Tor's move, as well as J.K Rowling's equally excellent recent decision to sell Harry Potter in all formats, DRM-free through her website, show that things are beginning to change. DRM places serious restraints on book-buyers and comes coupled with the publishing industry's backwards approach to the modern era. Hopefully the market will begin to discard the shackles of DRM, finally advancing and not just sticking to a failing status quo...

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Jumbled thoughts on eBook annotations

This at-first unremarkable-seeming Guardian article about the rise of eBook annotations and note-taking immediately reminded me of a conversation I had a couple weeks ago. While speaking with two prolific margin-scribblers, I admitted my own inability to write within the margins of a book. The topic wound its way to the point at which I remarked that I found writing in the margins of an eBook entirely problem-free (perhaps because of how easy it is to hide the notes...?) and the realization that in this regard, for myself, eBooks surpassed print books.

Reading the Guardian's short blurb on the matter, however, I'm struck more by the last paragraph than any of their comments on the nature of eBook annotations:
In response, several publishers have sought to restrict the way their books can be annotated. The Kindle, for example, allows the publisher to limit how much of a book can be shared online, to allay fears of piracy. While it's just about possible to imagine texts being reassembled this way, the more likely result is to frustrate assiduous ebook annotators. Whether the coming years will see a new efflorescence of marginalia – or a readers' revolt over fair use – remains to be seen.
I'm not sure what to make of that. As I do not own a Kindle, I'm not always up-to-speed on the latest shenanigans, however I find it hard to believe that publishers are honestly concerned about how much a reader can annotate a book they paid for. The chutzpah would be astounding. While the background concern is semi-legitimate, if publishers have indeed taken these steps (and I'm not entirely sure that this is a "thing", as no source is mentioned in the article and I don't recall coming across this tidbit anywhere else...) then our situation is worse than I thought... and I've been pretty pessimistic until now.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Britannica's new look

Most of you have probably heard by now about Encyclopaedia Britannica ending its 244-year print run. Many sites and blogs have wondered about the implications of Encyclopaedia Britannica closing its presses, but I find myself surprisingly okay with the new model. To be perfectly honest, I think they're doing the right thing.

The fact is that print encyclopedias are mostly obsolete. Today, when I turn to my personal set of Encyclopaedia Britannic (a 1966 set I inherited from my aunt), I find myself more often than not failing to find what I was originally looking for. The same goes for when I browse through my family's 1986 set. When I need to know something, it's easier to search for it online. Yes, there's the added struggle of ensuring that I'm accessing a reliable source, but it doesn't take long to adjust.

But what I truly admire about this story is how the Encyclopaedia Britannica has come to terms with the modern age. Instead of simply fading away into obscurity, they have turned their focus to the online Britannica.com. Instead of simply forgetting their original mission statement, the Encyclopaedia Britannica has seen the face of the future and has decided to embrace it.

Is this an indicator that all print publishing will one day go digital? I've said it before and I'll say it again: no. Twenty-six volumes of a print encyclopedia (of which the vast majority will never be read) is a notable waste of paper. It provides users with a clumsy interface and is outdated the moment it's published. Literature (fiction, non-fiction, regardless) is of an inherently different nature. Yes, publishers should embrace the digital age similar to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, but that does not mean that all print publishing is on its way out. It just means that it's time for a change.

In the meantime, I will keep my handsome 1966 set. With entries on countries that no longer exist, mysteries humanity has long since solved, and contemporary observations on what I've studied in history class, the volumes provide me with more information than I could ever find online about how the world was in 1966. This, at least, Britannica.com will never be able to emulate.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

More on Amazon's latest dirty scheme

In continuation of what I mentioned yesterday regarding Amazon's dirty trick to snatch business away from brick-and-mortar stores, this is a thorough piece from Moby Lives on the backlash. Like I already said, this ploy by Amazon sinks lower than low and further emphasizes all that I've grown to dislike from the online retailer.

It also turns out I'm not alone in my method of looking books up on Amazon and buying them later in independent bookstores. From Shelf-Awareness:
Author Garth Stein (The Art of Racing in the Rain) tweeted his own strategy: "I like to do the Reverse Amazon: hear about a book, read about it on Amazon, then go buy it at my local bookstore! It's fun! #ReadLocal."

Monday, November 21, 2011

Wolf Hall - now a trilogy

Yes.
Mantel is now planning a Tudor trilogy: a new novel, Bring up the Bodies to be published by 4th Estate in May 2012, will focus on the downfall of Anne Boleyn. A third book will keep the title the author had already announced for the sequel, The Mirror & the Light, and will continue Cromwell's story until his execution in 1540.
I don't think I've wanted a book this badly since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. And even then... I'm not certain it's on the same level. I mean, Wolf Hall was that amazing.

All right, the countdown to May 2012 begins. Who's with me?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

News and views - a short roundup

A few stories and bits of news that have caught my eye this week:

* Goodreads launched its recommendations feature, finally convincing me to try to use the site properly. The functions seem so far only mildly impressive, but certainly better than some of the other sites I've seen. So far, I'm enjoying the organization process and am wondering how best to arrange my books within shelves. The fun of the recommendation feature will come later, perhaps.

* After years of lagging behind competitors on the library front, Amazon has at long last enabled a Kindle library option. Now, if only they could get rid of the DRM...

* A bit of unrelated commentary: over at A Dribble of Ink, Aidan posts about the UK release of the third book in David Anthony Durham's Acacia trilogy - or lack-thereof. It would appear that the series' UK publishers have decided that the earlier books were not strong enough sellers to warrant the release of the third book, leaving fans hanging. I have to wonder: in the case of a clearly planned and designated series (one with an obvious ending, like a trilogy), it seems somewhat unfair of the publishers to decide not to publish the last book. Even if the series has been relatively unsuccessful (something I'm not quite qualified to comment on, having no understanding of marketing or sales), there are people who want to read the rest of the series. Assuming you own exclusive rights, withholding the book seems just... wrong. The book is still available in the US (and can therefore be acquired in the UK, with a bit more effort required), yet this idea that publishers can withhold publication of the final book in a trilogy seems like one of those glitches in our current publishing system that should definitely be smoothed out.

* Finally, Scott McLemee wrote a great piece on Three Percent's published collection of rants and essays about publishing (The Three Percent Problem). Though I have yet to cough up my three dollars to purchase the actual eBook, having read most of Chad Post's essays and rants over the years, I can vouch for the fact that he's always interesting and raising important topics. (article hat tip, Three Percent)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Why I still have hopes for Sony - eReader updates and other things

It's well documented that I like Artemis, my Sony Touch Reader. Certain features - like double-tapping an unfamiliar word - have become so engrained in my mind that I sometimes try to double-tap print words. I love that it's a touch screen, I love that I can take notes, I love that I use it as a notepad when I don't have any pens nearby, and I love that it gives me access to hundreds of free books I might otherwise not be able to get my hands on.

It's also pretty well documented that I don't really like the Kindle. I don't like Amazon's business approach, I don't like DRM, I don't like the sticky-fingers attitude Amazon adopts, and I don't like the bloated eBook prices in relation to paperbacks (a statement against all eBooks, actually, but Amazon is king of the hill in this case so they can suffer my wrath).

Glaring, glare-y Artemis
Since I bought my Artemis, the eReader world has seen a few drastic changes. At the time my model (the PRS-600 Touch Edition) came out, the Kindle 2 already had 3G internet. No wi-fi. The Nook was only a rumor. Tablets weren't being marketed as potential eReaders. And most important of all: they were expensive. My 6", internet-free, somewhat glare-y little device cost $300. Granted, it quickly paid itself off. But compared to the $150 we see today for comparable models... that's one serious price cut. The only eReaders that cost upwards of $200 until now were the tablets (which aren't really eReaders anyways), Sony's high-end 3G model, and the Kindle DX (which is still the most expensive mainstream eReader out there, bizarrely priced at $379, much higher than similar models). Basically, eReaders got a lot cheaper.

New products joined the game. The Nook is a spiffy eReader but perhaps because I'm used to Sony's interface, I couldn't quite get used to it. Particularly noteworthy is the Nook Touch, again - a  worthwhile device, but one that feels to me like a cheaper version of the Sonys (no stylus, less convenient interface, smaller, awkward page-flip buttons...). All the Nook owners I've met have been immensely satisfied (like most eReader owners). The Kobo came out as well, consistently marketed as a small-brand, slightly cheaper alternative to the other eReaders.

Then there's the Kindle 3, and though it's a good product, I personally dislike it. I don't like the structure (the bulky keyboard still seems so out of place) and I don't like Amazon's business approach. But again, technically speaking, it's an almost ideal eReader. Still problematic to share eBooks, still problematic to check eBooks out of the library, still the DRM thing... but if none of these things bother you (and they don't seem to bother most people...) then the Kindle is a satisfactory plug-and-play eReader. Meanwhile, there are the tablets (any of 'em), which aren't actually eReaders, but a lot of people use them for that purpose.

All this time, people laughed at me. "You have a Sony?" a wannabe eReader developer mocked me a year ago (it should be noted that his product never actually materialized in the market... and probably won't). A colleague with a Nook teased me as well: "No internet, glare, and super expensive... boy, were you gypped!" All along, I defended my choice and Sony as well, wondering why they took such a lackluster approach to their marketing. It's lazy marketing, pure and simple - nobody ever even heard about the price cuts or about the new models. Why would they? Kindle! Nook! Kobo! Overpriced and lacking internet, the Sonys just couldn't compete.

The new Sony Reader Wi-Fi - drool-worthy
But holy cow does this new Sony model bring it. I mean, bring it. Glareless touchscreen (but stylus included, unlike the Nook), wi-fi, ePub-friendly, eBookstore access and library check-out access. At the end of the day I bought Artemis for the library option, for the ability to check books out straight to my Reader without having to be in the same county/country as the library. It's been Artemis' most wonderful asset. Being able to check books out directly through the wi-fi--that's a drool-worthy notion in its own right; toss in the ability to use Wikipedia on any word or phrase and I'm halfway to my wallet.

So, I still have hopes for Sony. The Reader Wi-Fi (as it's called) looks awesome and I can't wait to play with it once it comes out. The only real downside is that my Reader is still wonderfully alive and kicking at 2 years of age; I somehow don't think Artemis will be as excited by the Reader Wi-Fi as I am.