Monthly Archives: July 2009

  •    Want to find a new book to read? The Book Seer and Flashlight Worthy are both brilliant websites to help you do just that. (thanks, Sharon) #
  •    Here are two free ebooks, out today: Free by Chris Anderson is a book about the new economics of the Internet age, and how businesses and content-creators have to learn to deal with this. If the name sounds familiar it’s because it is: Mr. Anderson’s the same person who wrote about the Long Tail in 2006, and whose ideas are consistently relevant to what we do here at Novelr. There’s a catch however: thus far Free is only available online, at Scribd, or as an unabridged audiobook download at Audible. I’ll update you if he ever makes a pdf file available for free download. The second ebook is The New Liberal Arts, available as a pdf file from Snarkmarket. Take a look at that one, it’s got a pretty interesting business model wrapped around it. #

A Book Buyer Complains About Books-to-Movies

In which I lament the inability to buy movie books during movie season.

You know book-movies, don’t you? Yes, I’m sure you do. Most people don’t care much for them, and neither do I. But if there’s one thing I detest about book-to-movie conversions, it’s that every single time (and I kid you not about this) one such conversion is made, the cover of that particular book changes. And that happens like clockwork, doesn’t it? The publishers will decide – one month before the movie release date – that it would be best to switch the existing book cover into a bloody movie poster. Or a still from the movie. And then suddenly you see your favourite bookstore plastered over with these hideously moviedified books, all covered with a messy porridge of actors and faces and backdrops that can only come from a studio-sponsored photoshop, and it’s all crass and horrible and you wonder at the state of taste in the publishing industry.

What’s worse is that the original book covers are often works of art in their own right. Don’t believe me? Alright. Take Atonement then, by Ian McEwan.

Atonement after the movie

That first one was better, wasn’t it? And when the movie came out I hopped over to the nearest bookstore to find the book, but I came back empty handed. I did not want Keira Knightly’s face on my bookshelf, hot as she was; if I did, she would pop up in my head the instant I sat down to read … and the idea of having my reading experience shaped by a hot girl on the cover; no sir, not my cup of tea.

I have by now lost count of the number of times I have stopped myself from buying a book … because of a movie cover. I own a movie-cover version of The Kite Runner, and a movie-cover version of The Lord of the Flies (think: half naked boy holding spear looking at second half-naked boy on a leafy set that can double as the backdrop to Gilligan’s Island … hell, I should sell the thing as a novelty item on eBay) and they are by far the two most despised covers in my collection. They stick out like sore thumbs. I bought another copy of The Lord of the Flies, and I now keep the second one in a storage drawer, far from prying friends and curious relatives.

Oh and The Kite Runner? That one sits buried under the casing of my external hard disc drive. I think it makes a fine shock dampener.

This is a quirk, sure, just as even the best of us have quirks. But it is a quirk with a reason: I want my books to be as perfect as they can possibly be, and in this day and age where we consume most of our text on the Internet, the book is the last remaining proof that there still is care in this world, and good taste. It is the final bastion of loving typography, and new-paper-smell, and tight binding, and I want my books to be beautiful things I can own, and when I’m done I want to pass them on – to my kids, perhaps, or to friends and family (and yes, by gum – I WILL get them to read).

Just – imagine now, would you? You’re old, and the movie stars of today have passed on the way of Marilyn Monroe and James Mason, and one day you give your kid a movie-copy of Atonement along with all the other books in your collection. And your kid asks: “Who’s that?”

I fear for my book collection. I really do.

  •    Joanne McNeil on why teenagers read better than you.
    A book holds your hand in solitude and says, here you are alone in your room and everything is alright. You don’t need to call a friend or Twitter something. The world is still turning. If you go for a forty minute walk without your mobile, don’t worry, you’re not going to miss anything.
    I need to start reading again. #
  •    Alice Hoffman, author, attacks Roberta Silman on a lukewarm review of her book The Story Sisters:
    Now any idiot can be a critic. Writers used to review writers. My second novel was reviewed by Ann Tyler. So who is Roberta Silman?
    Roberta Silman turns out to have a hell of a literary career. But that’s not all. Entertainment Weekly writes:
    … Hoffman’s next tweet bordered on harassment: “If you want to tell Roberta Silman off her phone is [Silman’s number here]. [Silman’s email here]. Tell her what u think of snarky critics.” Now, Hoffman is free to form her own opinions about her reviewers. But at what point does she go too far? Releasing the email and phone number of a reviewer to her fans? Is it acceptable for novelists to exact revenge on their reviewers, especially considering the fact that Hoffman is already a successful author who hardly needs to rely on good reviews for sales?
    It is not. I find this behaviour disgusting and childish, even if it’s not unknown in digital fiction circles. I do believe, however, that the appropriate response to a negative review is always – always – dignified silence. (via) #
  •    You know how hard it is to get boys to read? Bribing seems to be an answer:
    They say that every man has his price ”“ and now a New Zealand school has discovered that the cost of getting a teenage boy to read is a can of Coke. Rongotai College in Wellington is currently trying out a new scheme to get boys reading, offering them a can of drink if they can prove they’ve read two books, a voucher from Subway if they are able to stretch to five, and a movie voucher if they can make it to 10. The school says the scheme has been so effective that library book borrowing has doubled since it launched.
    This is awesome. (via) #
  •    Mandy Brown from A Working Library on the library and ebooks:
    I wonder, then, if the promise of an ebook isn’t the book but the library. And if, in all our attention to a new device for reading, we’re neglecting methods for shelving. A search engine cannot compete with Warburg’s delicate, personal library. The metadata of a book extends beyond the keywords held between its covers to the many hands the text has passed through; it’s not enough just to scan every page. We need to also scan the conversations, the notes left in the margins, the stains from coffee, tea, and drink. We need to eavesdrop on the readers, without whom every book is mute. That is the promise I seek.
    The one thing I’ll miss about real books if and when the conversion to ebooks are complete: the smell. I love the smell of a new novel, the papers clean and fresh against my fingers, the whiff of the bookstore on the cover (I swear, the ones from second-hand bookstores smell differently from the ones I buy in Borders). I know I’m being unnecessarily nostalgic … no, wait. The one thing I won’t miss about books is the lack of a search engine. Mandy’s assertion about losing the metadata of touch and feel and smell is correct, but it’s a small price to pay for never having to thumb through an index ever again. #
  •    Steampunk Tales is one of those iPhone-based ebook readers that I talked about in my last post, with a catch:
    Emulating the style of the pulp adventure magazines of the 1920s and ’30s, Steampunk Tales contains first-run, original fiction written by an A+ list of award-winning authors. Issue #1 contains 10 stories, each running between 4,300 to 11,000 words, for the unbelievable price of only $1.99.
    I don’t like the font they’re using, nor do I like the parchment texture they use as background for their stories. But I do think that this is good first step for iPhone ebooks – it is, after all, the first indie-original effort I’ve seen on the app store. Kudos to the publishers, next up: a service for non-programming writers to publish to iPhone, perhaps? (thanks, Duane)
    [Update]: Received an email from the developers. The reader does offer multiple fonts and backgrounds, which is a relief – the default curly script is barely readable. #