Scottish prize goes to book rejected 44 times

1 July 2015

From TeleRead:

Here’s heartening news for writers still battling on through a blizzard of rejection slips from publishers: English historical author John Spurling “has won the sixth Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction for his novel set in imperial China, The Ten Thousand Things,” despite being rejected 44 times by publishers. According to Spurling’s own statement, “I always thought that I would like success to be in my seventies, and I’m seventy-nine this year, so have just made it!” The award to Spurling was worth £25,000 ($38,888).

. . . .

Spurling received his prize at the Brewin Dolphin Borders Book Festival in the beautiful Scottish Borders town of Melrose., near to Walter Scott’s historic home at Abbotsford. He reportedly spent 15 years working on The Ten Thousand Things, “set in 14th-century China, during the final years of the Mongol-ruled Yuan Dynasty, and is the story of Wang Meng, one of the era’s four great masters of painting.”

Link to the rest at TeleRead

Amazon launches one-hour London delivery

30 June 2015

From The Bookseller:

Amazon UK has launched Prime Now in London, which will allow customers in the capital to receive purchases within one hour of ordering them.

Only Amazon Prime members are eligible for the service, in a further move to encourage customers to sign up to the £79-a-year membership.

Prime members will have to download the Prime Now mobile app for one-hour delivery, which can be used on over 10,000 items from Customers will have to pay £6.99 for the less-than 60-minute service, but can also elect a free two-hour delivery slot, running from 8am until midnight, seven days a week.

. . . .

Amazon said the one-hour delivery service is powered by its “growing network of fulfillment centres that utilize high-end technology to speed up order delivery times” and for now will be fulfilled by Amazon Logistics’ delivery station in East London. Among the orders Amazon suggested customers might need within an hour are “daily essentials such as coffee, batteries and nappies, as well as other popular items like games consoles, toys and sports equipment,” which will be delivered “right to their door in an hour or less.”

. . . .

While the company will not reveal exactly how many Prime members it has in the UK, it has said it is in the “millions”. Worldwide, the membership [grew] 53% last year, with “tens of millions” of members.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Trends in Russia’s reading culture

29 June 2015

From Russia Beyond the Headlines:

According to survey carried out by Public Opinion Foundation this year, despite a rise the popularity of their electronic counterparts, most Russian readers still prefer printed books: 49 percent, as opposed to only 9 percent. However, this is only based on individuals who read at least once a month, and perhaps a more telling statistic is that 37 percent of those surveyed said that they do not read books at all.

29-year-old Anna Yudina loves to read and always buys books, even though she lacks the space to store them in her apartment. “I really love going to bookstores or just rummaging through bookstands on the streets,” she says. “I guess it’s the best way to relax. I then have to take them to my grandmother’s because my rented apartment is too small to keep them.” She explains that despite her passion for printed books, she is being forced to download more and more electronic books in order to take them on her business trips.

Vadim Mescheryakov, the director of the Mescheryakov Publishing House, explains that the percentage of people who read books has not changed for several generations. “Some of these people buy electronic books, but this does not prevent them from reading printed ones,” says Mescheryakov. According to the publisher, readers today are characterised by their solidarity.

“People who read books exchange opinions and buy after a careful selection process. They have become better connoisseurs of literature. Literary tastes are formed in childhood and are unrelated to trends. If parents have good taste, they’ll pass it down to their children. Hence, a new generation of readers is formed and the percentage holds steady. It is also interesting that it is usually individuals on average and below average salaries who buy and read books, rather than wealthier members of society.”

. . . .

Mescheryakov believes that people are buying less books now than in the 1990s. “The prices are far higher these days,” he notes. “Russia has never had a particularly large reading public in relation to other countries. You will that find bookstores in Germany or France are far busier than in Russia, for example.”

Mescheryakov feels that bookstores should be supported through subsidies in order to change the situation for the better.

Link to the rest at Russia Beyond the Headlines

The crisis in non-fiction publishing

27 June 2015

From The Guardian:

Amid the ambient wails of doom about the publishing industry, I’d like to enter a note of encouragement. The mainstream may be getting dumber by the day, but we are living in what looks like a golden age of publishing for, of all people, the university presses.

At the moment, I don’t think there’s a trade publishing house producing high-calibre, serious non-fiction of the quality and variety of Yale University Press; and snapping at its heels are Harvard, Oxford, Princeton, Cambridge and Chicago. As the literary editor of a middlebrow news magazine I’m finding ever more of the reviews I commission are from such presses.

Where 15 or 20 years ago the big trade publishers were, oddly, swamping the market with sort-of-scholarly micro-histories of salt or longitude, they now seem, with exceptions of course, to be tiptoeing away from specific, knotty, deeply researched and nuanced books about things. The sorts of book on which they tend now to rely are investigations of “big ideas”. Their lodestars or exemplars are the Malcolm Gladwells and Daniel Kahnemans and Nicholas Carrs. I do not mean to denigrate those individual authors, rather to say that they produce a particular type of work.

These are talking-point books. They are easily imitated; their headline conclusions tend towards the categorical, and can be summed up in a dinner party one-liner or a 900-word newspaper op-ed; they lean on a vogueish but vague pop-theoretical or neuroscientific framework. They often have in their titles, or imply, a big question answered; or they have a flavour of self-help or how-to. They like to offer us things in the forms of lists. And – did I say this before? – they are easily imitated. Because imitated they are. From William Carlos Williams’ notion of “no ideas but in things”, we’re moving towards “no things but in ideas”.

The imitation books are, unsurprisingly, not as good as the originals. Their argument often seems appropriate to a compelling 10,000-word magazine article, but has been expanded to fill a full-length study. We have a flock of books arguing that the internet is either the answer to all our problems or the cause of them; we have scads of books telling us about the importance of mindfulness, or forgetfulness, or distraction, or stress. We have any number about what one recent press release called the “always topical” debate between science and religion. We have a whole subcategory that concern themselves with “what it means to be human”.

Link to the rest at The Guardian and thanks to Dave for the tip.

Reader analytics as a self-editing tool

26 June 2015

From Futurebook:

Comma Press is working on a research project, in collaboration with Manchester Metropolitan University and, to explore disruptive (forgive me) approaches to three key issues facing the publishing industry: audiobooks, content-discovery and open-analytics.

To this end, we’re about to launch a digital self-publishing platform called MacGuffin [in pre-launch beta]. Free to use for readers and writers, it’s designed to help authors target a sample of their writing — particularly short stories and poetry — to a specific readership.


We want to learn whether self-publishing authors can be encouraged to follow the lead of amateur podcasters, who’ve shown in recent years that technological barriers to entry have fallen away. So MacGuffin hosts text and audio. Writers must upload a reading of their work along with the text, in order to publish it; end-users can read, listen, and toggle between the two (MacGuffin will be available as a website and an app for iOS and Android).

But this kind of DIY approach to audiobooks is about reader expectations, too. Does recording have to be done in a professional studio, by an actor, to be enjoyable? Lots of authors who’ve tried the MacGuffin beta have uploaded beautifully-performed readings with flawless audio. But on some of my favourites, you can hear birdsong in the background, or a dog barking in the distance, or the sound of kids playing in an adjacent room. Will readers feel the same way? We don’t yet know.

. . . .

We’re experimenting with a “broad-folksonomy” model of content curation.

In layman’s terms, this means that any user can add hashtags to anyone else’s work. Tagging is something of a blunt tool when only a few people do it, but as more content is added and tagged, we hope it’ll accrue into a huge database of really searchable literature. This opens up all kinds of functionality for users: searching for multiple tags means readers can quickly narrow down what they’re looking for, so a crime fiction fan with a 25-minute commute might search for #crime #25minutelisten.

Publishers or spoken-word nights can upload samples of content, grouped together under a tag. Readers can create lists to share (e.g. #sundaysonnets #jimsslipstreamstories). Kind of like in the old days, when you’d make mix-tapes for your friends — on MacGuffin, you can do this with poetry and stories.

. . . .

Perhaps most controversially, MacGuffin has open-analytics. Anyone can see the “drop-out points” — where (anonymised) readers quit a story or poem before the end — plotted onto a graph. While I expect that many writers will find this unnerving, it undoubtedly has some potential as a self-editing tool – you can identify that weak scene in your story where you’re losing readers, then republish it.

It doesn’t give the whole picture, of course (the readers dropping out might have poor taste!), but at the same time, ushering readers from the start to the finish of a text is undeniably something a writer ought to be interested in.

During the beta test, we found that most stories and poems typically have a lot of drop-outs right at the start of the text or audio (sometimes over 50% during the first 10% of a story or poem). It seemed readers were scanning the first few lines of text, or listening to a few seconds of audio, then deciding it wasn’t for them. I panicked a bit at first, until I took a look at some of the public domain classics we’d uploaded, for comparison. It seems this simply reflects the way we browse literature, whether digitally, or picking up a book in a bookstore: scanning the first few lines, then deciding it’s not for us, and moving on to something else. The really useful drop-out stats for authors seem to come after that initial bedding-in phase, where you’ve won the reader’s confidence, only to loose it again with a miss-step in plotting or pacing or tone.

Link to the rest at Futurebook

Estelle Maskame: how social media made me a publishing sensation

25 June 2015

From The Guardian:

I’ve always loved the satisfaction of having people read a story I wrote. All throughout school, there was nothing I enjoyed more than my teachers reading stories I’d scribbled down on scraps of paper, but by the age of 11, I was writing full-length novels alone in my room, storing them on my laptop, where no one else ever laid eyes on them. Yet I felt I was missing out on that excitement of hearing someone’s feedback, of finding out that someone had enjoyed what I’d written. It didn’t feel the same without sharing.

Eventually I decided that I needed a way to show my work to people. I’d left primary school and wasn’t comfortable enough to show it to any teachers at my new academy yet, and I was too embarrassed to show my parents and friends. One night, I did some research online and came across some writing websites where people could post their work and give each other feedback. At first, I was slightly apprehensive. There were a lot of people on these websites, of all different ages and nationalities, and I wasn’t sure if these strangers would like my writing or not. I was worried any negative comments would discourage me, but I thought I’d give it a shot anyway, and at the age of thirteen, back in 2010, I started posting my writing online.

. . . .

When I finished the first novel I’d ever written, I started posting DIMILY (which stands for Did I Mention I Love You), and these same readers started reading my new work.

At the same time, I started to become really active on Twitter @EstelleMaskamebecause for a lot of teenagers the internet can be a safe haven, and I probably spent more time talking to people online than I did talking to people in real life. And so during 2012, a year after DIMILY had been online, I decided to ask some of these Twitter friends to read my work. I’d never synced Twitter and my writing until then, but I gradually began to realise that using social media to promote my work could potentially be extremely beneficial.

These couple of friends agreed to read my work, and they loved it. All it took was for them to tweet about DIMILY a few times, and then I had people asking, “What’s DIMILY? Where can I read it?” I jumped at the chance to send these curious people the link, and they’d read it and tweet about it too.

. . . .

Around the same time, I discovered Wattpad. It’s the largest online writing community by far and it was absolutely daunting at first, but I posted what was written of DIMILY so far. I let my readers on Twitter know that I’d moved websites, so I instantly had readers who bumped up the read count from the moment I posted it. Wattpad has millions of users and the hits started racking up quickly. I posted my work on Wattpad but promoted it on Twitter, directing people back to Wattpad.

Before I knew it, I had people tweeting me asking when I’d be posting the next chapter, people discussing the latest chapter with each other and others simply freaking out. I’d let people know what date and time the next chapter would be posted, and in the lead-up to it I’d post sneak peeks and hints about the chapter to get them excited. The hour before I was due to post a chapter, my mentions on Twitter were always full of people waiting and counting down, so the moment a chapter went up, everyone was reading it at the exact same time. Everyone would live-tweet their reactions while reading and would often discuss the chapter for hours after it was posted.

This grew into what we called “update nights”, which really helped to motivate and inspire me to keep going.

. . . .

Using social media to promote my work means that I’ve got a close connection with my readers, especially now, because they’ve been with me since the early days. In a way, we’re all in this together, and ever since the start, I’ve always loved going on Twitter to interact with them. They love the books so much that they even help me promote it. Twitter also has an amazing community of other aspiring writers and book bloggers. It’s incredible the way people across social media can interact simply because of our love for writing and reading.

So I ended up with four million hits on Wattpad.

Link to the rest at The Guardian and thanks to Meryl for the tip.

Here’s a link to Estelle Maskame’s book

Paris’ Disappearing Booksellers

24 June 2015

From the BBC:

One of Paris’ most iconic sights are the famous bouquinistes: the booksellers who sell their wares day in and day out along the river Seine. With the trade dating back to the 1400s, the bouquinistes have been known for centuries as a go-to source for out-of-print or rare reading material, with both locals and travellers flocking here to find titles such as La Vagabonde, by the racy and controversial author Colette, or the first edition of the French comic book L’espiègle Lili, which dates from the early 1900s and was never reissued. Growing from around 20 sellers at the turn of the 17th Century, today there are about 240 bouquinistes in Paris. Their traditional green wooden boxes dot both banks of the Seine, reaching from the Musee d’Orsay to the Institut de Monde Arabe, with the largest concentration found at the entrance to the Latin Quarter, home to the famed Sorbonne University.

. . . .

But even with 240 sellers lining the banks, competition doesn’t often come from nearby stalls. The bouquinistes’ greater challenge over the last 20 years has been the proliferation of e-readers and access to the internet, reducing book sales and making out-of-print materials easier to find. To compensate for the drop in sales, many bouquinistes have turned to supplementing their income with tourist souvenirs, which are technically allowed under the city regulations that permit the selling of commercial wares out of one of the four green boxes each seller is allotted. But the move does not sit well with some of the bouquiniste population, sparking a debate among the sellers about what they can and cannot sell – and what will change a tradition that was once a staple of Parisian culture.

Link to the rest at BBC and thanks to Dave for the tip.

It’s Now Illegal to Sell Adult eBooks Before 10 PM in Germany

24 June 2015

From Ink, Bits & Pixels:

Germany has just given us a graphic example of what can go wrong when one unthinkingly applies decades old legal concepts to modern web tech. and Boersenblatt reported on Friday and Thursday that the Jugendschutzbehörde (Youth Protection Authority) has handed down a new ruling which extended Germany’s Youth Media Protection Law to include ebooks.

As a result of a lawsuit (legal complaint?) over the German erotica ebook Schlauchgelüste (Pantyhose Cravings), the regulators have decided that ebook retailers in Germany can now only sell adult ebooks between 10 pm and 6 am local time (4 pm and midnight, eastern US).

. . . .

According to Wikipedia, the law (JMStV) covers a number of areas, including “the protection of minors in advertising and teleshopping”. In this case it is intended to protect kids from adult ebooks, and it is backed up by fines of up to 500,000 euros.

Given that the law was written in the internet era, I am astounded that regulators would actually apply it in this manner. (I am also astounded that the regulators had not noticed the erotica and other adult content in the ebookstores in the four years since the Kindle Store launched in Germany, but that’s a whole other issue.)

Boersenblatt says that the 10 pm to 6 am window originally came from restrictions on adult cinema (where it made sense), but I still don’t understand what the regulators were thinking in applying that rule to the internet. Do they really believe that the adult internet, including porn sites, pirate sites, video sites, etc, is going to be turned off for 16 hours a day?

. . . .

And apparently that is how they want the ebook retailers to operate. According to my sources, the retailers are going to have to start tracking which titles count as “youth-endangering” under German law. Those ebooks will have to be isolated in a specific section of each ebookstore, which (theoretically) can then be made invisible using filtering software.

Link to the rest at Ink, Bits & Pixels and thanks to Linda for the tip.

PG says it’s always after 10:00 pm somewhere.


E-book prices marked up too high at $85 per copy, libraries protest

23 June 2015

From CBC News:

Why aren’t there more e-books on your library’s virtual shelves? Libraries say it’s because big publishers are charging them up to $85 per copy — and they can’t afford it.

The Kindle edition of Lena Dunham’s bestselling memoir Not that Kind of Girl retails for $14.99 at But the book’s publisher, Random House, charges Canadian libraries $85 per copy of the e-book — five times more, according to the Canadian Library Association.

Despite the premium, only one borrower can access each copy of the book at a time.

. . . .

“We’re very concerned about what this means for mandate of the public library in providing universal access to a diverse collection in a range of formats … we need to be able to provide customers with access to e-content in the same way that we’ve always provided access to other forms of content in books and DVDS and CDs et cetera.”

That’s a big concern because demand for e-books among library users is soaring.

With print books, libraries have traditionally paid less than retail price for copies. With e-books, it’s the opposite.

Link to the rest at CBC News and thanks to Simon for the tip.

Page One bookstore closes in Taipei, targets China

22 June 2015

From Want China Times:

Page One has decided to closes its Taipei 101 outlet, the largest bookstore in Taiwan which opened in 2004, as it has suffered from a continuous decline in sales in recent years. The store will follow in the footsteps of Page One’s Fuxing Road outlet at Sogo Department Store in Taipei, which closed in 2009 not long after opening. The chain has suffered a number of setbacks, including the 2012 closure of its first store in Singapore, which opened in 1983.

“Despite its large scale, Page One’s stores often lack a human touch, especially in comparison with locally based bookstores in Taiwan,” said Wang Tao-wei, the Taiwanese editor-in-chief of the Chinese-language magazine Prime in Singapore.

. . . .

As a result, the bookstore brand has shifted its focus to the mainland China market, where it now boasts five stores, following the opening of the first in Hangzhou in 2010.

. . . .

Zhang Ying, chief of Page One’s marketing department, said English-language books account for 65% of the books on sale at the three Beijing stores, with most patrons being people aged 20-35, who hold at least a college degree and have medium-to-high incomes.

Link to the rest at Want China Times

Next Page »