Monthly Archives: September 2012

Moby Dick – Live on the Web

29 September 2012

One chapter per day read by a different person and accompanied by an original work of art.

Moby Dick Big Read

Librarian Patience Has Run out on E-Book Lending Issues

28 September 2012

From Digital Book World:

Patience has run out for librarians around the unsolved issue of e-book lending at libraries, according to American Library Association president Maureen Sullivan.

Speaking at a private gathering of publishers organized by the Association of American Publishers, Sullivan was explaining why earlier this week the ALA sent a strongly worded open letter to publishers about the need to figure out way for publishers to sell libraries e-books for “equitable use at a reasonable price.”

Later in the week, the AAP sent its own letter in response to the ALA letter, citing anti-trust concerns and other reasons for a lack of collective publisher action and criticizing the ALA’s letter in light of the private audience the association would have the AAP’s New York offices on 5th Avenue later that week.

. . . .

An executive from Perseus Book Group who did not identify herself said, “our executives are confused as to what is a library?” She cited concerns that the free and wide availability of e-books to library patrons could undercut publisher business.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

PG is deeply impressed by the commitment of Big Publishing to scrupulously observing antitrust law. He is less dazzled by executive confusion about libraries.

There’s always something new to learn in the fast-moving world of publishing.

Jess drew the way some people drank whiskey

28 September 2012

Jess drew the way some people drank whiskey. The peace would start at the top of his muddled brain and seep down through his tired and tensed-up body. Lord, he loved to draw. Animals, mostly. Not regular animals like Miss Bessie and the chickens, but crazy animals with problems—for some reason he liked to put his beasts into impossible fixes…

He would like to show his drawings to his dad, but he didn’t dare. When he was in first grade, he told his father than he wanted to be an artist when he grew up. He’d thought he would be pleased. He wasn’t. ‘What are they teaching in that damn school?’ he had asked. ‘Bunch of old ladies turning my son into some kind of a—’ He had stopped on the word, but Jess had gotten the message. It was one you didn’t forget, even after four years.

Katherine Paterson, Bridge to Terabithia

Big Book Publishers Not Innovating Fast Enough

28 September 2012

From PBS MediaShift:

When I saw Jason Ashlock take part in a panel on the future of book publishing at the Aspen Summer Words conference a few months ago, I immediately noticed something different about him: He lacked that black cloud of doom floating over his head that many people involved in the book industry tend to cower under these days.

Ashlock, who makes his living as a literary agent and multimedia book packager, was downright chipper even as he discussed the demise of bookstores, book reviews, and the traditional publishing model. Why is he so upbeat? Instead of worrying about what’s been lost, he focuses on capitalizing on the new enthusiasm among readers that the advent of e-books has created.

. . . .

Many publishers and bookstores have suffered financial losses in recent years, but on the other hand, readers have embraced e-books and some studies show that people who own e-readers are reading more than ever before. Are you optimistic that readers’ enthusiasm for e-books will translate into new sources of revenue?

Jason Ashlock: I have the luxury of being optimistic because my position in publishing is as close as you can get to the author, and that’s the best place to be. The anxiety that big publishers, bookstores, and other traditional players in the value chain feel is due to myriad factors, economic and cultural, but the truth is, the farther you stand from the author, the more danger you’re in. The author’s all that matters now — the author and the reader. Everybody in the middle is in a period of redefinition.

My job is to lock arms with the author, help them craft outstanding stories, and help them find their way to the readers who right now are craving those stories — even if they don’t know it yet. It’s a great time to be an author and a reader. It’s not as great a time to be anyone else. If you’re a reader, there’s more great content than ever, it’s more accessible than ever, it’s better priced than ever. If you’re an author, you have more venues than ever, more control than ever, more access to powerful technology, more direct relationships with readers.

. . . .

You said the author’s “biggest enemy today is not piracy, but obscurity.” Is anyone stepping up to fulfill the curatorial role that book reviews and booksellers used to play?

Ashlock: The void is being filled in an ad hoc manner by a mixture of online community recommendations, such as book clubs and newsletters and social media, and the ever-inaccurate online reviews. But these aren’t sufficient for most readers. The transition out of the bookstore and review tradition is a difficult one, and curation and discovery is still in a state of disorientation.

I’m glad you ask that question in that way, because it’s for this very reason we’re launching this fall. In short, The Rogue Reader is a digital publishing channel for outstanding suspense fiction. We select only the very best new voices in the category and introduce only one author a month to our readers. That’s it. We call it precision-curation. We help that one author produce elegant e-books, beautifully designed and carefully edited, and we position their novels in the market in very strategic ways.

We believe there is exceptional value in quality curation. The signal-to-noise ratio on the web is immense. How do we know what to pay attention to? What’s of value? What’s worth my time?

Theoretically, what publishers do is up the signal strength by their brand. For authors, publishers offer the sense of being selected. Authors know when they’re published by, say, Random House, that they have been chosen from among thousands of prospects. And readers know when they pick up a Random House book that professional book people have selected these as the works that should be attended to.

But increasingly, the self-publishing community is producing works of arguably equal quality that are just as popular and appealing. Last week, 27 out of the top 100 books on Amazon were independently published. But among the millions of self-published books –which were not curated, and went through no filtering — how do we know what to read? We rely upon trusted voices: recommendations of friends, buzz on social media, even very impersonal and regularly useless systems like how many stars a given book averages in a retail channel.

Link to the rest at PBS MediaShift and thanks to James for the tip.

An Interview with William Gibson

28 September 2012

From io9:

What is the novel for? How do we deal with living in such a futuristic time, without getting future shock? Do novelists have a duty to provide optimism about science and the future? We sat down with William Gibson, for a half-hour discussion about writing and the role of science fiction in society. And here’s what he told us.

. . . .

One of the things that a number of science fiction writers have been thinking about lately – partly, I think, spurred by Neal Stephenson’s ideas about writing optimistic science fiction – has been trying to create works that are self-consciously encouraging people to think about the future in constructive or positive ways, and I can tell from your eye rolling that you’re like, “How could you?” Do you ever think about that?

Well actually, in spite of my eye rolling, I always thought — I thought when I wrote Neuromancer — that I was doing this ludicrously optimistic science fictional thing, because when I wrote Neuromancer, anyone with half a brain woke up every day with consciousness that they could be humanity’s last day. Everybody you knew was going on in the world, and just took that for granted. Because the US and the USSR were sitting there with umpty-billion nukes pointed at each other, and actual live humans with the controllers watching radar screens, I mean, Tiptree’s (11:58) last couple of years, her letters are filled with this terrible grinding resignation she and all of her friends in the CIA felt at the impending end of the world.

So, my childhood was very colored by that stuff, and it was still going on in 1981 when I started publishing fiction, and there didn’t really seem to be any end in sight. The drying up and blowing away of the Soviet Union wasn’t in sight yet, and so the world of the future of Neuromancer was, in those early short stories, was to some very real extent created to depict a world that had a little bit of a nuclear war, and something had happened, probably the corporations probably just said “No wait, we’re not making any money, you can’t do that anymore.”

. . . .

So, it sounds like you feel that writing about a future where humans are still around is itself a kind of optimism, basically.

Yeah. Well, I think it is. I really think, yeah, I really think it is. I don’t know, I’m a little uncomfortable the idea of the novelist as a vehicle for boosterism. Or the novel as a vehicle for boosterism, because my idea of what good novels do is to kinda go out and read the signs, and come back and make something in their image, and the idea is, the signs aren’t always very good, and lately they’re kind of wildly un-good. But we never know. I mean, the nuclear wasteland of my childhood never happened, in spite of it having been this terribly real emotional place.

Link to the rest at io9

Formatting problems with J.K. Rowling’s latest novel

28 September 2012

From TeleRead:

J.K. Rowling’s first adult novel hit stores (and e-book readers) today, and almost immediately, the lukewarm reviews trickled in—not for the content of the book itself, but for the Kindle formatting: a glitch on the tech end . . .  made it impossible for Kindle readers to adjust the font size to their preference. You had to read it in either Really Big or Teeny Tiny, with no in between.

Curiously mixed in with these complaints was an outcry over the e-book price: $17.99, based on a discount off the $35 hardcover retail sticker. The book is coming out in that strange little window where agency pricing has been discontinued, but new contracts with the retailers haven’t yet been worked out, so Amazon and all the other usual suspects can’t discount this title as steeply as they might want to.

. . . .

It seemed especially unfair to have to pay so steeply for a book that wasn’t even done right. Even those who may have tolerated the occasional typo in the past were beating the drum of complaint, and the song seemed to be this: For $17.99, publishers, you’dbetter get it right …

Link to the rest at TeleRead

Don’t indie authors check their ebook files before they put them on sale? PG does that for Mrs. PG’s books.

Yesterday, Hachette released the following statement:

Yesterday the eBook file for The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling was released to all U.S. eBook retailers. There were issues with that file, including the adjustability of font color and size and adjustability of margins. As soon as Hachette was made aware of these issues, a replacement file was uploaded to all eBook retailers. Hachette has requested that each retailer contact their customers directly about reloading their eBook. Any consumer who purchased the eBook on Thursday, September 27, before approximately 3:00pm ET, who has not heard from their retailer, should contact them and request that their eBook be reloaded. No consumer should have to repurchase the eBook.


Firefly & Lessons in Contract Law

28 September 2012

From The Legal Geeks:

Firefly was wickedly creative, well-written and had fantastic humor. Spaceships and wardrobe that ranged from Western to Steampunk to Chinese aside, Firefly presented excellent Contract formation issues.

Contract formation consists of 1) Offer; 2) Acceptance; 3) Consideration; and 4) Performance.

In the world of Firefly, it was often 1) Offer 2) Acceptance 3) Gunfight (also known as breach). Let’s review three episodes to examine these contract issues.

. . . .

Malcolm Reynolds formed an oral contract with a crime boss named Adelei Niska to steal medical supplies from a train. Niska made a payment for the work to be performed, which involves extracting cargo from a fast-moving train with Alliance soldiers onboard.

The heist was a success, with the exception the Captain and Zoe were stuck on the train and ultimately needed to be “rescued” by Inara after being detained in town.

However, once Mal and Zoe reached the destination of the cargo, they learned the medicine was vital for the survival of a mining town where everyone was suffering from the effects of mining.

Mal’s following actions are best described as contract rescission, which is the unwinding of an agreement. Mal decided to return the stolen medicine to the town and the money back to Niska. Granted, since this was an action show, there was a gunfight and someone sucked through a jet intake before Niska’s men accepted the rescission (non-traditional contract remedies were later sought by Niska in War Stories).

. . . .

So let me make this abundantly clear. I do the job and then I get paid.

Captain Malcolm Reynolds

Link to the rest at The Legal Geeks

Rare Ernest Hemingway Works Go To University Of South Carolina

28 September 2012

From The Huffington Post:

A love of Ernest Hemingway’s writing and the thrill of tracking down his many works led a Mississippi physician to amass a huge literary collection and donate it to the University of South Carolina so students and scholars could share it, the doctor said Tuesday.

“It’s like an Easter egg hunt. You just don’t know what’s going to pop up,” Edgar Grissom said as he described his 50-year effort to compile all of Hemingway’s English-language publications.

“I have the most complete collection of his primary works in existence,” said Grissom. “There’s no equal to it.”

The 70-year-old Grissom was joined by his wife Julie, 46, at a special showing of the collection in the Ernest F. Hollings Special Collection Library on USC’s Columbia campus. Dozens of books in their original dust jackets, along with pamphlets, magazines, proofs and papers are on display in glass-covered cases.

Teachers will be able to access the collection to help students better understand Hemingway’s creative writing process, university officials said.

Link to the rest at The Huffington Post

JK Rowling: The Casual Vacancy – Reviews

27 September 2012

From The Guardian:

They call it “denial marketing”: the process whereby the contents of JK Rowling’s books are guarded like the crown jewels until publication day. It made sense with Harry Potter, when the world and his dog wanted to know what had happened to the boy wizard and his dastardly foes. But it creates a slight anti-climax in the case of The Casual Vacancy, a novel concerning a parish council election in a small West Country town.

There are some superficial excitements here, in that the younger characters get up to things that Harry probably never dreamed of: taking drugs, swearing, self-harming, having grimy casual sex, singing along to Rihanna.

. . . .

Generally, though, The Casual Vacancy is a solid, traditional and determinedly unadventurous English novel. Set in the “pretty little town of Pagford”, it is a study of provincial life, with a large cast and multiple, interlocking plots, drawing inspiration from Elizabeth Gaskell and George Eliot. The only obvious parallel with the Potter books is that, like them, it is animated by a strong dislike of mean, unsympathetic, small-minded folk. The inhabitants of Pagford – shopkeepers, window-twitchers, Daily Mail readers – are mostly hateful Muggles, more realistic versions of the Dursleys, the awful family who keep poor Harry stashed in the cupboard under the stairs. The book seems doomed to be known as Mugglemarch.

. . . .

The Casual Vacancy has all the satisfactions and frustrations of this kind of novel. It immerses the reader in a richly peopled, densely imagined world. Rowling has reportedly drawn on her own mildly unhappy West Country childhood, in a village outside Bristol and then later outside Chepstow. The claustrophobic horror is nicely done: everyone knowing everyone; Howard, scheming from behind his hand-baked biscuits and local cheeses. Rowling is good at teenagers, particularly boys, and unhappy couples. The book has a righteous social message, about responsibility for others, and a great big plot that runs like clockwork; like the Potter novels, it is efficiently organised beneath its busy surface.

On the other hand, the novel is very much the prisoner of its conventions. Rowling’s underclass characters are not bad, considering they were put together by the richest novelist in history, but it’s a pity that they all use a kind of generalised, Dickensian lower-order-speak, that belongs more to literary custom than anything anyone ever says: “I takes Robbie to the nurs’ry”; “Tha’s norra fuckin’ crime”; “No, shurrup, righ’?”. The plot is often predictable; it requires a large helping of artificial contrivance; and it lurches into melodrama in the final act. The rules probably require this, and it all rattles along nicely enough, but it leaves a slight sense of disappointment.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

And from The New York Times:

It’s easy to understand why Ms. Rowling wanted to try something totally different after spending a decade and a half inventing and complicating the fantasy world that Harry and company inhabited, and one can only admire her gumption in facing up to the overwhelming expectations created by the global phenomenon that was Harry Potter. Unfortunately, the real-life world she has limned in these pages is so willfully banal, so depressingly clichéd that “The Casual Vacancy” is not only disappointing — it’s dull. The novel — which takes place in the tiny, fictional English village of Pagford, and chronicles the political and personal fallout created by the sudden death of a member of the parish council named Barry Fairbrother — reads like an odd mash-up of a dark soap opera like “Peyton Place” with one of those very British Barbara Pym novels, depicting small-town, circumscribed lives.

This is definitely not a book for children: suicide, rape, heroin addiction, beatings and thoughts of patricide percolate through its pages; there is a sex scene set in a cemetery, a grotesque description of a used condom (“glistening in the grass beside her feet, like the gossamer cocoon of some huge grub”) and alarming scenes of violent domestic abuse. The novel contains moments of genuine drama and flashes here and there of humor, but it ends on such a disheartening note with two more abrupt, crudely stage-managed deaths that the reader is left stumbling about with whatever is the opposite of the emotions evoked by the end of the “Harry Potter” series.

Link to the rest at The New York Times

Big Jump in Visitors

27 September 2012

The Passive Voice usually chugs along with about 2500-3500 unique visitors each day. If it receives a link from a high-visibility source, it will jump up to 6,000 visitors before settling back down.

Yesterday, we greeted over 17,000 unique visitors and PG can’t figure out why. He hasn’t been able to isolate a huge referring site and is pleased, but puzzled.

If he could figure out what he did right yesterday, he’d do it again sometime.

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