She’s a charming middle age lady

29 August 2015

She’s a charming middle age lady with a face like a bucket of mud and if she’s washed her hair since Coolidge’s second term, I’ll eat my spare tire, rim and all.

Raymond Chandler

Why Do So Many of This Year’s Book Covers Have the Same Design Style?

29 August 2015

From Slate:

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Among the many challenges book cover designers face is trying to represent a book’s premise or main character without getting so specific that readers are left with little to imagine.

. . . .

But lately, another cover design trend has been popping up on this summer’s crop of beach reads: the flat woman. Inspired by the “flat design” that’s become standard on the Web, these covers take on a minimalist style characterized by bright colors, simple layouts, and lots of white space. Several different designers and publishers have used this approach on hardcovers and paperbacks alike, especially those aiming for the upmarket-but-still-commercial-fiction-for-ladies sweet spot.

. . . .

Keith Hayes, who designed the Bernadette cover for publisher Little, Brown, told me via email that he didn’t have any intention of using the flat design style or starting a trend when he conceptualized this cover; he was just working “out of the inability to actually draw,” he said.

“Finding an appropriate enough photograph and placing some type on it just didn’t seem special enough,” he said. “It needed a lighthearted cover that would appeal to both women and men and also feel original.” Hayes says he wanted to do an illustrative approach but didn’t have specialty training in that area. “I like to try to solve my design problems on my own. I thought I could do this in a somewhat simplistic way using basic shapes,” he says.

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

Amazon Shoppers Not Swayed by Workplace Horror Stories

29 August 2015

From Advertising Age:

Consumers are well aware of the negative chatter surrounding Amazon’s high-stakes workplace culture, but they still plan to shop there.

Amazon’s brand perception plummeted 60% this week, after a New York Times expose spotlighted a troubling workplace environment, according to YouGov BrandIndex, which tracks the “buzz” consumers are hearing about brands. In this instance, the research firm asked shoppers: “If you’ve heard anything about the brand in the last two weeks, through advertising, news or word of mouth, was it positive or negative?”

As of Monday, Aug. 24, Amazon’s “Buzz” score dropped to 23 out of 100, its lowest score since last October when a book about the company called “The Everything Store” was released. The last time it fell below that score was in July 2013 when it announced it was cutting back on free delivery.

However, the bad press didn’t rock the way shoppers planned to buy, according to the survey. Seventy percent of consumers surveyed said they would consider shopping at Amazon next time they wanted to make a purchase from a retail store, down from 72% before the story was broke.

. . . .

“This story will probably run its course and the perception, which is the buzz, will rebound relatively quickly within 30 days,” said Mr. Marzilli. That could change if new developments surface that cast Amazon in a negative light, he cautioned.

Link to the rest at Advertising Age and thanks to Steven for the tip.

Stephen King: Can a Novelist Be Too Productive?

29 August 2015

From The New York Times:

There are many unspoken postulates in literary criticism, one being that the more one writes, the less remarkable one’s work is apt to be. Joyce Carol Oates, the author of more than 50 novels (not counting the 11 written under the pseudonyms Rosamond Smith and Lauren Kelly), understands perfectly how little use critics have for prolific writers. In one of her journals she wrote that she seemed to create “more, certainly, than the literary world allows for a ‘serious’ writer.”

As with most postulates dealing with subjective perceptions, the idea that prolific writing equals bad writing must be treated with caution. Mostly, it seems to be true. Certainly no one is going to induct the mystery novelist John Creasey, author of 564 novels under 21 different pseudonyms, into the Literary Hall of Heroes; both he and his creations (the Toff, Inspector Roger West, Sexton Blake, etc.) have largely been forgotten.

The same is true of the British novelist Ursula Bloom (over 500 published works, under many pseudonyms), Barbara Cartland (over 700) and a host of others. One is reminded of Truman Capote’s famous bon mot about Jack Kerouac: “That’s not writing, that’s typing.”

Yet some prolific writers have made a deep impression on the public consciousness. Consider Agatha Christie, arguably the most popular writer of the 20th century, whose entire oeuvre remains in print. She wrote 91 novels, 82 under her own name and nine under a nom de plume — Mary Westmacott — or her married name, Agatha Christie Mallowan.

. . . .

 No one in his or her right mind would argue that quantity guarantees quality, but to suggest that quantity never produces quality strikes me as snobbish, inane and demonstrably untrue.

. . . .

The long gaps between books from such gifted writers make me similarly crazy. I understand that each one of us works at a different speed, and has a slightly different process. I understand that these writers are painstaking, wanting each sentence — each word — to carry weight (or, to borrow the title of one of Jonathan Franzen’s finest novels, to have strong motion). I know it’s not laziness, but respect for the work, and I understand from my own work that haste makes waste.

But I also understand that life is short, and that in the end, none of us is prolific. The creative spark dims, and then death puts it out. William Shakespeare, for instance, hasn’t produced a new play for 400 years. That, my friends, is a long dry spell.

Link to the rest at The New York Times and thanks to Kyle and others for the tip.

The Public Collection: Indianapolis’s own ‘Big Free Libraries’

28 August 2015

From Chris Meadows via TeleRead:

I don’t often run across TeleRead stories in person, though it does happen from time to time. Oddly enough, the story I came across lately actually happened in the very same spot as that one, Monument Circle in downtown Indianapolis. Or at least part of it did. I stumbled onto a brilliant new art installation program in downtown Indianapolis called The Public Collection, designed to make books freely available to the general pubic, modeled after the “Little Free Library” project but on a much larger scale.

It all started Wednesday morning, when I visited the YMCA on Market Street that incorporates a bicycle shop, to check on the status of repairs to my e-bike. As I came out, I noticed that the weekly Farmer’s Market was in full swing—but I noticed something else, too: a big green box with a red crank on it. Looking closer, I discovered it was an art installation that was full of books, on a Ferris-wheel-like rotating shelf system. You turned the crank, and as long as the door was closed, a stepper motor would rotate the assembly so the next shelf came into view. Then you could open the shelf door and grab a book. It was a clever idea, and there was a sign next to it declaring it to be called “Harvesting Knowledge,” part of “The Public Collection.”

A little later that day, I was having lunch at Scotty’s Brewhouse, a few blocks away, and I noticed that some kind of art installation they were installing outside that—something that looked like wicker, only made out of metal—also had shelves with books in it! What was going on here?

The sign next to “Harvesting Knowledge” had mentioned it was being supported by the local public library, so I called their public relations department to find out. I learned that The Public Collection was a two-year program intended to support literacy and art appreciation in the Indianapolis Community through making books freely available to the public at eight art installations all around the downtown area. I also learned they were having a grand opening ceremony the next day on Monument Circle, so I made plans to attend.

. . . .

We talk a lot about the “digital divide” here on TeleRead, but they reminded me that there’s an analog divide, too. In thriving middle-class communities, there are an average of 13 books available per person—but in less well-off communities, there are an average of one age-appropriate book available for every three hundred people. And as The Public Collection’s blog points out, Indiana has an 8% illiteracy rate—nearly one in ten people can’t read. The Public Collection intends to try to remedy that a little.

. . . .

Project creator Rachel Simon and Mindy Taylor Ross of Art Strategies LLC decided to do something about this. They launched The Public Collection, reaching out to local artists to come up with ideas for art installations in the public space that could house books that would be free to everyone. The Indianapolis/Marion County Public Library would curate the collection of books for them.

Each installation was a different art project, and each one was located in a different public space. Some of them were open commons areas, such as the ones I’d seen so far that day. One was in a hospital, and another was in Horizon House, a local homeless shelter. One of the architects mentioned a reception was being held there later that day, so after the event at Monument Circle was over, I headed over that way.

Link to the rest at TeleRead

 

A Book Review

28 August 2015

It was a nice walk if you liked grunting

28 August 2015

I walked back through the arch and started up the steps. It was a nice walk if you liked grunting. There were two hundred and eighty steps up to Cabrillo Street. They were drifted over with windblown sand and the handrail was as cold and wet as a toad’s belly.

Raymond Chandler

Faber records loss in latest financial year

28 August 2015

From The Bookseller:

Faber saw a drop in turnover for the year ending March 2015, with a significant increase in its operating loss from the previous 12 months.

The publisher’s turnover was £15.9m, down 1.8% from £16.2m the year before.

Faber made an operating loss of £813,000, up from £5,000 in the 12 months to March 2014. The operating loss including a “substantial one-off restructuring cost”, said the firm’s business review in its directors’ report and financial statements.

Stephen Page, c.e.o. of Faber, told The Bookseller: “The first half of the year, in terms of changes in the market and the way our list connected, was tough.

“We think real change has happened to some of the structures of the market… [and] maybe our list wasn’t as strong as it might have been in the first part of the year.”

. . . .

Page said: “The reason we restructured was because we felt we understood the balance of the market.

“There are fewer high street specialist bookshops. Waterstones are strong but [their strategy is not one] that can support a broad list from every publisher.

“Our view is that we have to be careful about what we publish and be clear about why we are publishing it.”

. . . .

Page said: “A lot of literary awards help build a writer’s career but there aren’t so many that create hits.”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Does Neuroticism Breed Creativity?

28 August 2015

From Forbes blogs:

Some of the great thinkers of the past and present – Isaac Newton, Michelangelo, Woody Allen – have also been the most neurotic. One can’t help but wonder whether the creativity occurs in spite of their neurotic natures or because of it. There’s evidence to suggest that people who score higher on measures of neuroticism also score higher in creativity. And if there is a causal relationship, the logic behind it might go like this: People who are more neurotic are prone to overthinking, and perhaps even manufacturing threats that aren’t really there – and this overactive imagination might, under the right circumstances, give way to creative, problem-solving breakthroughs rather than nervous breakdowns.

. . . .

“It occurred to me that if you happen to have a preponderance of negatively hued self-generated thoughts,” says Adam Perkins of King’s College London, “due to high levels of spontaneous activity in the parts of the medial prefrontal cortex that govern conscious perception of threat and you also have a tendency to switch to panic sooner than average people, due to possessing especially high reactivity in the basolateral nuclei of the amygdale, then that means you can experience intense negative emotions even when there’s no threat present. This could mean that for specific neural reasons, high scorers on neuroticism have a highly active imagination, which acts as a built-in threat generator.”

In plain English, this means that highly “thinky” people tend to spontaneously generate a lot of worry thoughts, because of activity in the very frontal areas of the brain, even when there isn’t necessarily a reason to be worried. These people (and you probably know whether you are one) also switch on areas related to panic sooner than regular folk. And this is all mediated by the areas that govern fear and emotion, the amygdala. But the capacity to conjure up threats that don’t necessarily exist could also help you conjure up other types of ideas, ones that are insightful and valuable to problem-solving — i.e., creativity.

Link to the rest at Forbes blogs

Maryland university to eliminate textbooks

28 August 2015

From USA Today:

The University of Maryland University College plans to eliminate textbooks this fall to save students money by using resources online.

Kara Van Dam, a vice provost, said Thursday students will be able use a variety of materials like readings and videos online at no cost.

Van Dam says the change will save students thousands of dollars over their academic program. She says other universities are taking similar steps, but UMUC is a front runner in making a transition of this magnitude.

Link to the rest at USA Today and thanks to Joshua for the tip.

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