Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Year-end roundup

Winnie the PoohWinnie the Pooh sale sets record

And on a more upbeat note, a BBC report says that a collection of EH Shepard's original drawings for the Winnie-the-Pooh children's books has fetched GBP1.26m at an auction in London.

"He went on tracking, and Piglet... ran after him" was sold for GBP115,250.00 while another drawing, "Bump, bump, bump - going up the stairs", sold for GBP97,250.00 at Sotheby's auction house. Also auctioned were limited edition and signed books by author AA Milne and a first US edition presentation copy of Winnie the Pooh, dated 1926, inscribed by the author to Shepard and including an eight-line verse.

The Man Booker sponsor exposed to rogue trader

The financial services company that sponsors The Man Booker Prize is reported to have about US$360 million in funds linked to Bernard L. Madoff, the rogue Wall Street executive accused of defrauding clients of more than US$50 billion.

Man Group, a publicly traded investment company and hedge fund has been sponsoring the Booker since 2002. But a spokesman for the company has said, "There's absolutely no reason to suggest that there would be any difference to the sponsorship deal we have at the moment."

Suppliers to Borders lose trading cover

As the financial crisis deepens, a leading credit insurer, Euler Hermes, is withdrawing cover for suppliers to Borders UK, Borders Eire, The Book People and Books etc.

Credit insurance in the UK protects suppliers against losses if a company they supply to collapses. Euler Hermes UK says they are taking this line of action due to "challenging" economic conditions in the UK. Following this withdrawal of credit insurance, suppliers could expect better terms from the affected retailers, such as up-front cash payments.

A spokeswoman for Borders in the UK said the move had "absolutely no implications", while The Book People suggested Euler's move was a reflection of the difficulties facing the industry as a whole rather than an indication of problems at the retailer.

Meanwhile, Woolworths, the oldest chain, is expected to close its 600 stores early 2009. Zavvi, the former Virgin Megastore, has gone into administration, as has Whittard of Chelsea and Officers Club, the menswear chain. Another report suggests that as many as 15 retail chains in the UK could go under by the middle of next month due to poor December sales. Analysts expect a profit warning from Marks & Spencer due to a poor Christmas, and advised selling of shares in Carpetright, Debenhams, Topps Tiles, Findel, and Home Retail Group that owns Homebase and Argos.

So what happens to the book industry? Here is something from Shelf Awarness: '... we can only hope that publishers will return to their roots and work with booksellers to enhance backlist opportunities and develop new authors. If that could happen, it would be the best present our industry could wish for during this challenging holiday season.'

Meanwhile in Malaysia, we continue to whistle in the dark. Happy New Year.

Plans to hit books by criminals

MandelaFrom a Guardian report.

The plan is, apparently, pretty simple: commit a massively heinous crime, go through a highly publicised trial, and then write a book about it and sell it for a huge advance from an international publisher. Or so it seemed with the government in the UK planning to introduce a new legislation to prevent criminals from profiting from their crimes.

Publishers' response have been that the plan is unfeasible and that it is an attack on free speech. There are no details on the form the said legislation would take, except that it would be an "introduction of a UK-wide civil scheme for the recovery of profits from criminal memoirs."

Reportedly this would not affect serial hostage-taker, Charlie Bronson, convicted Northern Ireland terrorist 'Mad Dog' Jonny Adair, (reformed) armed robber, John McVicar, and (former) drug smuggler Howard Marks, with the last two becoming respected authors, because Ministry of Justice has said 'that the scheme would be unlikely to attempt to retrieve profits retrospectively'.

Publishers have accused the government of imposing "... another squeeze on freedom of expression" adding that, "... the truth is that many people who have committed a crime have been rehabilitated by being able to write" and that it would "set a highly dangerous precedent for state control of publishing..."

Simon Juden, chief executive of the Publisher's Association, says "Clearly no one wants really bad people to make lots of money from their crimes, but equally it is helpful for society to understand criminality and criminal behaviour. The second point is that some of the most potentially offensive stuff wouldn't come from people convicted of something. For example, Nelson Mandela couldn't publish stuff because he was convicted of a crime, but OJ Simpson could, because he wasn't. It's possibly targeting the wrong people."

The Guardian

Monday, December 15, 2008

Books make great gifts

Frank McCourt says 'Books make great gifts because after you make love you can reach for one, it's always there.' Ahem.

And Elmo says that books are the only gifts that keep on giving. I can relate to that. I have a copy of Robinson Crusoe which I won as a prize in school when I was 7 or 8 years old, which is somewhat battle-worn from entertaining scores of young people who have come to my family home in Johor, and which is still exciting any young person who comes by. Thats fifty years of entertainment for half the price of coffee at one of those swanky places these days!

A new online advertising campaign that aims at getting people to give books this holiday season says just that,
Books Are Great Gifts, repeatedly. In a video produced by Random House features several authors (if you didn't know what they looked like, here is your chance) explaining why books make great holiday presents. You can watch the video at the BooksAreGreatGifts website, or right here (below).

"There is a book for every special person in your life. An adventure, a romance, a mystery, a comedy. Wish it, and it will come true within the pages of a book. Share the love of books with your friends and loved ones throughout the entire year! Explore our videos and other resources to learn more about giving the gift of a good book," says the site.

Worried about a serious dip in holiday sales that could be devastating to bookstores. The Authors Guild has sent a message from the president Roy Blount, Jr. to its members urging them and their friends to organize book-buying splurges. Blount suggests that customers make the rest of their holiday purchases books. Readers could also stock up on books to give as gifts later in the year, he says. "Hold off on the flat-screen TV and the GPS (they'll be cheaper after Christmas) and buy many, many books," Blount urges.

As Jon Lithgow concludes (in the video), give your friends a whole new world between two covers.

Publishers Weekly

Garcia Marquez is writing new novel

garcia marquezA report in The Guardian says that "...Fears that Colombia's Nobel prizewinning author, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, had put down his pen forever were allayed today when a close friend confirmed that the master of magical realism was working on a new novel."

According to him the next book will be a love story. Apparently Garcia Marquez has four versions of it, and is working on the final version by getting the best from each.

Two years ago, Garcia Marquez, 81, said that he had laid his pen down for good. 2005 was the first year in his life that I didn't write a line. And the world moaned.

From his own admission, the problem was one of enthusiasm not inspiration. "With all the practice I've got, I'd have no problems writing a new novel ... But people notice if you haven't put your heart into it."

Rumours that Gabriel Garcia marquez was writing a new novel has been circulating for almost a year. This is the first confirmation.

His last novel, Memories of my Melancholy Whores, was published in 2004. the report also says he is preparing a second volume of memoirs to follow Living to Tell the Tale, published in 2002.

The Guardian

He saw 'the coming'

The Black PresidentA long-forgotten Brazilian sci-fi novel novel saw 'the coming', and now it has shot up the bestsellers list and is making a lot of money for the publisher, but not the author who has already passed on. What surprises me is that there is only one such book reported.

The novel written by Monteiro Lobato, a Brazilian children's author who died in 1948, was called The Black President (O Presidente Negro). In the story, Jim Roy, a black politician becomes the 88th President of the USA in the year 2228 that pits him against a feminist called Evelyn Astor -- Hillary Clinton or Sarah Palin? It was originally serialised in 1926, with a narrative revolving around a crystal ball-like machine capable of predicting the future.

Unlike George orwell who chose 1984 (a reverse of the year 1948), Lobato chose a date much further along. He was writing science fiction, of course.

A quote from the Observer says: 'Apart from the fact that the President is black, his rival is a blonde woman,' says Lucia Machado, from publisher Globo, which bought the rights to Lobato's entire back catalogue. 'It was a huge coincidence,' she says. 'The US was about to have its elections; we took advantage of that and sped up its release.' The book hit Brazilian shelves earlier this year, as Obama and Hillary Clinton battled it out for the Democratic nomination, accompanied by the slogan: 'Any resemblance to actual events is pure coincidence.'

The Guardian

Monday, December 01, 2008

Is Farish Noor banned?

MajapahitEarly last week a customer asked if Farish Noor's From Majapahit to Putrajaya was banned. We told him that not as far as we knew. But he went on to tell us that he had been to Kinokuniya at KLCC and, apparently, they told him that officials from the KDN had come in and seized the book and had told the bookstore not to sell them. We asked some friends, who did their own investigations and found it to be true.

According to The Nut Graph, the books were taken from Kinokuniya's shelves on the 15th of August, two and a half month ago, together with other titles (mostly on religion). The report says that the book is under 'investigation'. We notice that all titles by Farish Noor have been removed from Kino's online store as well (except the recent Malay translation.)

Of course, this is totally unacceptable besides being absurd. This is not because Farish Noor is the country's leading public intellectual whose non-partisan views are well known, not because the book is almost four years old and everyone who wants to read it already has, but because we have a rule of law that presumes innocence until guilt is proven.

Kinokuniya is a business concern. True, they have probably already written off this loss as one of the costs of doing business in Malaysia. But they should not have too. They should not have to operate under a constant threat, not knowing if they have violated some vague rule, not knowing when they will be raided, and not knowing what for. The rules must be clear and fair for everybody, and KDN have an obligation to explain why they take certain actions.

It is almost seems a waste of time asking the Minister for an explanation. He (or she) probably doesn't know what is going on. But, ask we must.

So Minister, can you please tell us if all books by Farish Noor have been banned?

The Nut Graph

Book sales in Kerala

MTVNI was in Kerala some years ago, going through bookshops, as usual, and what struck me was the way Malayalam books filled the space. I have been to, practically, all the major the bookshops in Chennai and New Delhi, (don't even talk about Malaysia and Singapore) and found shelves stacked from floor to ceiling with imported books. Oh yes, there are plenty of local books too, but not like in Kerala.

So I was not surprised to read a recent report from The Hindu that said that '... The emergence of television as a major medium of news and entertainment has failed to dent the reading habit of Keralites where the sale of books continues to keep up growth trend.'

'The sale of Malayalam books have been growing by at least 30 per cent a year and the response to book fairs in all parts of the state have been quite encouraging, according to Ravi Deecee, CEO of a leading publishing house DC Books.'

30 percent a year? Wow! (Among the favourites being MT Vasudevan Nair -- picture.)

"It has become a cliche to wail that reading habit is dying. In fact, printed word is still in great demand even among young generation", Ravi told PTI here.

According to the report the total sales at a recent book fair increased by 50% over last year's figures. The fair had one million books on display. Another positive trend is the way books are penetrating rural areas with the concept that "books should go to people instead of people coming to bookhouses ..." I wonder how that works. But then in India they sell books on the streets like we sell pirated DVDs.

The Hindu

A most expensive and beautiful book

MichaelangeloI am, like you, sick of hearing all the negative news about the economy and how nobody reads anymore and so on. Let's face it, reading is a minority activity and it has become sort of cool to be stupid. (How did that happen?) We are a proud minority and, no matter what the idiot brigade might say, if it were not for people like us civilisation could not have risen to this height and man will still be living in caves.

So let us celebrate the book. Let us celebrate what is being billed as the world's most expensive and beautiful book.

It is valued at over US$100,000, is 62-pound and is handmade. It depicts the life and works of Michelangelo and has just been published in Italy. According to the AP report, it takes six months to make each book, using Italian artisan skills dating to the Renaissance, and more than 20 books have been sold.

"Today, things last so little before they disappear, " says Marilena Ferrari, its Italian publisher.

The title of the book is Michelangelo. La Dotta Mano. It has a front cover of white marble bound in red silk velvet. The book is filled with photographs of Michelangelo's sculptures and plates of his drawings, plus images of other creations, from the Sistine Chapel ceiling and his personal poetry.

I am already drooling.

Google News

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Three things

Firstly, you might have noticed the littleFacebook logo below all the posts. This is a little script that will allow you to share any article that interests you with your own community with just two clicks (if you are logged in to yourFacebook account.) This should save you some cutting and pasting. I have not figured out the script for other social networks, but thenFacebook is the most popular.

Secondly, if you visited had our online bookshop lately, you might have noticed that we acceptPaypal. At the moment this facility is only for International buyers who are a little squeamish about revealing their credit card details to a Malaysian (ie 'unknown') payment gateway (though we have had many international buyers in the past). All transactions forPaypal users will be in USD. We are not offering this option to Malaysian buyers becausePaypal does not have the option for transactions in MYR yet. Maybe in future.

BookmarksThirdly, we have discovered Arch Collections that produces souvenir item made of wood. They have their own range of cheesy items and designs (we have decided not to stock the KL Twin Towers designs and all that sort) but we have discovered that they also have a range of reasonably priced, pretty neat looking bookmarks and other stationery gift items. With Christmas and the year end just around the corner, we thought that these might make some nice office gifts. Do come and check them out.

Milan Kundera -- a spy?

KunderaAlison Flood writes in The Guardian saying, "Prestigious writers issue statement defending Milan Kundera against charges of betraying dissident."And we thought we had left James Bonds of the world to the silver screens for good.

Eleven authors -- Nadine Gordimer, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Orhan Pamuk, Philip Roth, Salman Rushie, JM Coetzee, Jean Daniel, Carlos Fuentes, Juan Goytisolo, Pierre Mertens and Jorge Semprun -- have issued a statement denouncing this "orchestrated campaign of calumny" saying that the honour of one of the greatest living novelists has been tarnished on dubious grounds, to say the least".

Wow, talk about illustrious company.

A Czech magazine, Respekt, alleged last month that Kundera had informed police about the whereabouts of Miroslav Dvoracek, who was then spying for the US, in 1950. Dvoracek spent 14 years in jail.

Kundera, 79, who is known to be a critic of communism, has categorically denied the accusations and issued a stout denial. He is quoted: "I am totally astonished by something that I did not expect, about which I knew nothing only yesterday, and that did not happen. I did not know the man at all."

The Guardian

Judging the book by the cover

A Tale of Two CitiesAnother interesting Guardian report: "... following the lead of a Canadian website,, we asked you to redesign classic books for a dumbed-down era ..." Here is the shortlist. See if you agree with the winner, a cover design for A Tale of Two Cities by Norman Smith. I don't find it very exciting. It looks like one of those travel guides

My favourite is the Illiad by Homer, that is by Homer Simpson. Okay, call me philistine, but that book will sell in truckloads just for the cover, never mind if people don't read it. Pride and prejudice has a flag of the US on the cover. I didn't think that was very inspired. Too predictable. People are not buying George Bush books anymore. The Tom Sawyer cover says, "Please don't Auntie," and "An orphan's story that will both shock and inspire." I can hear the bookshop browser going, "Waaah! Sure go incest and sodomy, one!" The design is sufficiently prurient but not colourful enough.

Then The Lord of the Rings looks like a cookbook. There are 21 cover designs in all. Take a look at all of them at the website below. You will find more books by Charles Dickens, Graham Green, Ernest Hemingway, William Golding and many more. James Joyce's The Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man -- "a coming-of-age prose-poem" -- cover will not look out of place in the bodice-splitting romance section.

See them all.

The Guardian

Friday, October 31, 2008

For the chic intellectual

Brideshead In the past, I have written about people buying books to impress friends and look intelligent, and also about someone who uses books as a chick-magnet. They do cost a little less than a BMWs and you don't have to leave it in the parking lot when meeting friends at the coffee house.

A Vogue report, Designer Novels, says, "... luxury leather goods designer Bill Amberg has teamed up with Penguin Books to makeover a series of six favourite Penguin Classics including Brideshead Revisited, The Great Gatsby and Breakfast at Tiffany's."

The books will be produced in soft leather and pliable bindings, more like paperbacks than hardbacks, and promises to be 'stylish and chic'. Each book will retail for GBP 50.00 (RM 350.00) to give you that intelligent-cool-rich look (reading it is optional) to distinguish you from those who buy the normal-price books at a fraction of the cost and who merely look intelligent and cool, but not rich.

While you are at it you can also shop at the Bill Amberg's (online and brick-and-mortar) for luxury leather notebooks for GBP 60.00 to GBP 80.00 (RM 420.00 to RM 560.00), pen not included.

Eat dirt, Moleskine.


The Sarkozy voodoo doll

KozyA Reuters report says, "French President Nicolas Sarkozy has threatened to sue a publishing company unless it withdraws a Sarkozy doll that comes with a "voodoo manual" instructing readers to plant pins in it ..." The publisher has released 20,000 dolls and copies of the manual.

The doll, nicknamed Kozy, is said to be emblazoned with Sarkozy's most famous quotes, including "Get lost you pathetic arsehole" -- his words to a bystander who refused to shake his hand at a farm show.

According to the report, Sarkozy's lawyer, Thierry Herzog, wrote to publishers K&B in a letter published by newspaper Le Monde, "Nicolas Sarkozy has instructed me to remind you that, whatever his status and fame, he has exclusive and absolute rights over his own image ... "

Yes, that's about right. Sarkozy has every right to his image. He has every right to be an arsehole if he wants to, including calling someone else a 'pathetic arsehole' for not shaking his hand.

Readers are encouraged to plant pins in the quotes.


Writers, now on CD

SpokenWordHow would you like to listen to the actual voices of 57 great writers from both sides of the Atlantic? A Guardian report says, "Rare recordings of some of the last century's greatest writers are to be released for the first time - from F Scott Fitzgerald reciting Othello to Tennessee Williams lambasting critics and Raymond Chandler drunkenly slurring his way through an interview with Ian Fleming."

This British Library CD release records 30 British and 27 American writers, purportedly, for the first time since they last sat in front of a microphone. According to the report, the CD, The Spoken Word: British Writers and American Writers, retails for GBP 19.95 (RM140.00) each, and is a priceless collection for book buffs and is available at the British Library Online Bookshop

It comes with 3 CDs, a booklet and runs for approximately 210 minutes. Here are some excerpts from The Guardian story.

  • "Perhaps then one reason why we have no great poet, novelist or critic writing today is that we refuse to allow words their liberty. We pin them down to one meaning, their useful meaning. A meaning which makes us catch the train, the meaning which makes us pass the examination." Virginia Woolf, 1937
  • "Obscenity is something that I abhor. I don't think there's anybody more squeamish than I am about what is obscene. I cannot stand anything scatalogical, anything physically disgusting ... my plays are extremely moral in my opinion. I'm almost an old puritan." Tennessee Williams, 1959

The Guardian

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Apple digital book reader

StanzaThe Apple digital book reader, also known as the iPhone has beaten the Kindle in sales in just three months. I remember having this conversation with a good friend some months ago. Why would anyone want to buy a kindle when you can buy a handheld computer that can do a host of other things as well, like watching a DVD, send emails, listen to music and (for some people) make a phone call, I said? I remember the time when they introduced these wordprocessors and how it was all the rage. Then the PC came in and wiped the market clean.

The iPhone was never meant to be only a phone. It is a fully-fledged computer that happens to make phone calls. (Apple is pretty subversive. I wonder if AT&T has caught on yet or they are just in it for the ride.)

Stanza, by Lexcycle, is the book reading software available for the iPhone and the iPod touch, and it is a free download from the Apple store. Reports say that there have already been 395,000 downloads in the first three months (it was launched in July this year) thereby outselling the Kindle which is estimated to sell 380,000 units in the whole of 2008. Stanza is reportedly being downloaded 5000 copies a day and there are already more than10 million iPhones our there. Talk about eating dirt!

Currently, though, only a few thousand of public domain books are available for the Stanza. But wheels are reportedly in motion to make available copyrighted material at a fee. Amazon has 180,000 books for the Kindle at USD10.00 each, that is, after buying the Kindle for USD399.00. The iPod touch starts at USD229.00 for 8-gigs, it is way prettier and does a whole bunch of other things.


The PM is a great manga freak

Taro AsoA Guardian report says that the new prime minister, Taro Aso, of Japan is a great fan of manga and anime. And, he is no youngster. The 68-year-old apparently has a voluminous manga and anime collection and reads about 10-20 comics a week and 'has become an instant hero among Japan's subculture of manga-obsessives (or otaku ...)' He is, also, reported to have caused a surge in the comic market.

The report adds: '... Aso is a self-assured, rich, wisecracking aristocrat who believes his fellow otaku and their manga and anime related obsessions can lift Japan out of its current economic hole. It's what's being called "soft power" - the diplomatic and economic clout of a nation's pop culture. In this case it is Japan's formidable comic-based culture that has conquered the youth of the west in spectacular fashion, starting with Pokemon.'

We know that George W doesn't like broccoli. Does he read comics? That would be great. It will be a real comic summit.

The Guardian

The internet improves the mind

InternetThat's it. I'm giving up. That's all is needed to deal a deathblow to reading. Just when we thought it couldn't get worse ... grumble ... grumble ... grumble.

Or so will say some. But on the other hand we are not going to let a few facts get in the way, are we? We are book fanatics, we love books, we breath books, and we have them for breakfast lunch and dinner. We read to our pets, for goodness sake. We live on fantasy island.

According to a report in The Telegraph, neuroscientists say that, 'The internet beats books for improving the mature mind.' And that 'Browsing the internet is better than reading books for boosting the brain power of middle-aged and older adults, new research has found.'

Phew. It only helps older adults. The report adds, 'Scientists discovered that searching the world wide web exercised the mind far more than reading and was similar to completing crosswords and puzzles. Brain scans showed that going online stimulated larger parts of the brain than the relatively passive activity of reading a novel or non-fiction book. It was so stimulating that the authors of the study believe it could actually help people maintain healthier brains into their old age.'

I can agree with that. My mum is in her mid-seventies. She took up the internet recently. She has, so far, published at least three books on the computer using a page-layout and Tamil software, she plays checkers online with absolute strangers from all over the world, reads magazines, chats, Skypes, emails and, downloads and listens to music. But I am not sure if her mind is sharp because she does these things or she does these things because her mind is sharp.

She also reads hell of a lot. Always has.

The Telegraph

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Selling fake iPhone with hilarious English

No one thought it would take them very long, but this is quick, even by their standards. Brian X. Chen writes in the Wired magazine that ActFind ( which describes itself as 'The Best China Marketplace For The Global Retailer' has three models of China Mobile phones (HiPhones) with prices ranging from USD114.50 to USD 178.50. There are also two models of unlocked iPhones on the list but out of stock. Interestingly, they are using photographs of the real iPhones to sell the fakes!

The English is hilarious. Here is the description of the first one: 'China HiPhone, Especial function: ditheringge elect song, ditheringge elect motif picture. Unlimited mobile phone, cell phone, Long distance phone, Mobile cheap, Phone cheap, GSM Mobile Phone Unlocked Quad-band i68, Quad-band PDA Cell phone, Bluetooth, A2DP, JAVA,Outlook, Email, MSN control, If you buy now, we will give you 1GB Card for Free. Buy China HiPhone Now. Go ahead.' (I have not edited it.) They sure want to make sure that you understand that they are selling phones!

Here is another one:

'For PDA Cell Phone -- Shaking Control Phone Unlocked Tri-band P168S

PDA Mobile Phone CECT P168s. Select next previous song by shaking the phone 3.5 inch Touch Screen QVGA high clear LCD display screen and 1.3 Mega Pixel Digital Camera. Also, it has MP3 MP4 Player function. Besides, it supports dual SIM cards for calling as well as Unlocked SIM card. If you buy now, we will send you 256M Card Free of charge. Now go ahead!


50 greatest villains in literature

Paradise lostThis is another 'best of' list this time drawn up by critics for The Telegraph. As expected not everyone's favourite villain is there, so many will be disappointed and disagree. But for whatever it is worth, here are some highlights.

1.Satan from Milton's Paradise Lost tops the bill. That is almost predictable, almost a politically correct choice. In Jose Saramago's The Gospel According to Jesus Christ, God is the megalomanic villain who is willing to destroy millions to become God of the world instead of just a few tribes of Jews, and uses Jesus as a pawn. Good fun, but for the broadminded only. (But then, this list appears to be for books originally written in English only.)

2. There is Bram Stoker's Daracula. Now that is one delicious villain. I read the book when I was a teenager, and I still think he is good. Others on the list from my childhood and teenage years that I agree with are Professor Moriarty (Sherlock Holmes' nemesis), Robert Louis Stevenson's Long John Silver (from Treasure Island), and Mr Hyde (Strange Case of Dr Jeykll and Mr Hyde). Moby Dick was a whale for goodness sake, not a villain, and Ahab was a loony. Ian Fleming's Ernst Stavro Blofeld was good, but I thought Auric Goldfinger was creepier (although some might think the former has the cooler name).

3. Shakespeare has three villains on the list: Edmund from King Lear, Claudius from Hamlet, and Iago from Othello. Actually, Lady Macbeth gave me the creeps more than the others and I think she should have been included. (But then, when I was a kid I thought she was one of the witches!)

Read the full list. I am sure you will find more points to talk and bitch about.

The Telegraph

Saving words from extinction

Times Online gave its readers a chance to save their favourite word by voting for it at the Comment Central weblog. (The voting is now closed and the results will be announced shortly, but it is still fun to read about it.)

Apparently, '... dictionary compilers at Collins have decided that the word list for the forthcoming edition of its largest volume is embrangled with words so obscure that they are linguistic recrement. Such words, they say, must be exuviated abstergently to make room for modern additions that will act as a roborant for the book.' (You can read more of that on their website -- below)

These are words they are trying to save:

Abstergent -- Cleansing or scouring

Agrestic -- Rural; rustic; unpolished; uncouth

Apodeictic -- Unquestionably true by virtue of demonstration

Caducity -- Perishableness; senility

Caliginosity -- Dimness; darkness

Compossible -- Possible in coexistence with something else

Embrangle -- To confuse or entangle

Exuviate -- To shed (a skin or similar outer covering)

Fatidical -- Prophetic

Fubsy -- Short and stout; squat

Griseous -- Streaked or mixed with grey; somewhat grey

Malison -- A curse

Mansuetude -- Gentleness or mildness

Muliebrity -- The condition of being a woman

Niddering -- Cowardly

Nitid -- Bright; glistening

Olid -- Foul-smelling

Oppugnant -- Combative, antagonistic or contrary

Periapt -- A charm or amulet

Recrement -- Waste matter; refuse; dross

Roborant -- Tending to fortify or increase strength

Skirr -- A whirring or grating sound, as of the wings of birds in flight

Vaticinate -- To foretell; prophesy

Vilipend -- To treat or regard with contempt

Times Online

Monday, September 15, 2008

The digi-novel?

Michelle Kerns writes in the Book Examiner about the 'answer' -- what else does one call it? -- for the post Harry Potter depression from Dutton (an imprint of Penguin) called the Digi-novel. Huh? Precisely my reaction when I first read it.

Reading is so retro, or it seems. Dutton has signed up Anthony Zuiker, the creator of CSI television, for exclusive worldwide rights to three multimedia books, the world's first Digi-novels because readers will need to read the book, view clips, and participate online in order to complete the story. The books are expected to be released in late 2009.

"The series will have a mystery-type flair and will focus on renegade government investigator Steve Dark. Special codes will be included at the end of each chapter in the book; the reader uses these codes to unlock film footage online that continues the storyline in the book. Readers will also be able to participate in a community portal that features alternative storylines, different characters, and, according to Dutton, "countless ancillary levels of story enrichment." In other words, they promise that it will be very cool.

So will it replace the traditional book? Maybe they can coexist. After all they can also be hardbound and warm and fuzzy and smell nice and can be used to furnish rooms (unlike the stupid Kindle).

The Examiner

Has Saramago reached the end?

SaramagoThat is how it appears, reading Elizabeth Nash of the Independent reporting from Madrid.

Portugal's Nobel Literature laureate is 86 years old, and his health is flagging. But he has just announced the completion of his latest work The Elephant's Journey, based on the real-life journey of an Indian elephant named Solomon that travelled from Lisbon to Vienna in the 16th century.

The tale begins with the real event, but reverts to imagination due to the scarcity of historical details of what actually happened. Saramago suffered from serious respiratory illness for several months, and says there were times when he thought he'd never finish the book.

The Elephant's Journey, which took Saramago ten years to write, amid bouts of ill health, is said to be filled with characters, some of them real historical figures, others anonymous fictional creations: "they are people the members of this travelling caravan encounter on their journey, and with whom they share perplexities, efforts and the harmonious joy of a roof over their heads".

Guess, this could be his last book. He is relieved and pleased to have been able to finish the work. "I wrote my last three books in the most deplorable state of health, not at all favourable for happy feelings. I prefer to say: if you have to write, you will write."

And the opening line in the book is: "However incongruous it may seem ..."

The Independent

Monday, September 01, 2008

Melbourne is City of Literature

MelbourneJason Steger writes in The Age in Australia that UNESCO has named Melbourne as its second City of Literature in response to bid a by the State Government of Victoria. (Edinburgh became the first in 2004.) Melbourne will have as its centrepiece the Centre for Books and Ideas at the State Library of Victoria.

A budget of AUD10.4 million has been allocated this year for the new centre, with AUD3 million for the fit out and AUD7.2 million for the development of a program of events and activities. The centre is expected to open in the middle of next year.

The report says: 'The centre will provide a home for a variety of literature bodies, including the
Melbourne Writers Festival, the Victorian Writers Centre, the Emerging Writers Festival and the Australian Poetry Centre.'

Congratulations, Melbourne.

The Age

Sub-contracted book signing

Writing books is a chore if you are a celebrity author. Not only do they want you to write the book, sometimes with the help of only one ghostwriter, for a measly book advance of a few million dollars, they also expect you to sit in a boring bookshop and sign the books for book buyers when you can be partying somewhere. The unfairness of it all is appalling.

But help is on the way for suffering millionaire authors. One publisher appears to have found the solution. They have posted an advertisement for a team of 14 part-time fake signatories for promotional tours by two authors whose books have also not been named.

The fake signing is supposed to be held in Los Angeles over two days at eight hours a day, with each signing taking 15 seconds or less, and that at that rate the team of 14 could sign up to 53,760 copies. There is no mention if they have to be in disguise. (But how are they going to pull that off, with 14 people disguised as two? Gorilla suits?)

According to Ed Pilkington of The Guardian, the advert says "You will need to be able to copy the look and style of both author's signatures," and that the fake signers will be paid US$25 for 200 books signed. Cheapskates.

Maybe, I should not be too hasty. It is possible that these poor millionaire celebrity authors can't write their own names many times. Poor things. You never know, right?

The Guardian

Apologising to Sir Salman

SalmanRushdieIt looks like people are now lining up to apologise to Salmam Rushdie. Padan muka.

Sir Salman Rushdie has received an unreserved apology from a former policeman, Ron Evans and his ghost writer, for writing a disparaging book about the former, On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Four thousand copies of the book have been pulped. Sir Salman has accepted the apology and expects a swift retraction but has declined to press for damages. He will however be compensated for his legal costs of GBP10,000.00 to BP15,000.00.

Helen Pidd of The Guardian writes: After the declaration of falsity was accepted, Rushdie said he was pleased with the speedy verdict and hoped his victory would spur others on to challenge falsehoods without demanding damages. He had succeeded in finding "a new method by which to establish the fact", he said. "It seems to me to be unconvincing that a huge, large amount of money will improve your reputation. It just means that your lawyers are better than the other person's lawyers. But to have the court stating that certain things are untrue seems to me to be emphatic."

Geoffrey Robertson QC, for Rushdie, said his client had "pioneered a new way of reconciling the right to freedom of speech with the right to reputation: you nail the lie for all time with a court-ordered declaration of falsity and you receive your legal costs, but you decline to chill free speech by putting authors and publishers [through] an expensive trial and making them pay heavy damages."

Evans left the police force in 2005 after being convicted of nine counts of dishonesty.

In another report, also in The Guardian, Stephen Book writes that The Mail on Sunday will apologise to Sir Salman Rushdie for publishing the allegations in a serialisation that then travelled around the world copied by several websites.

The Guardian

Friday, August 15, 2008

Never too old

Dangerous WeaknessMartin Wainwright of The Guardian has a report of a 93-year-old debut novelist, Lorna Page. The book, A Dangerous Weakness, is described as 'a raunchy novel' and 'a feminist thriller set in the Alps' with a heroine who transforms 'the lives of a 93-year-old author and three of her friends who were living in nursing homes'.

The report says, Lorna Page 'wrote A Dangerous Weakness three years ago, but put it in a suitcase and made no attempt to find a publisher'. That was until her daughter-in-law told her that it was a fantastic book and that it was bound to sell.

With her new found prosperity, the author has moved into a big detached country house and has invited one or two of her contemporaries to move in. She says: "I started asking people if they wanted to move out of their care homes and live with me and I've had dozens of offers."

"Care homes can be such miserable places. You sit there all day staring out the window with no one to talk to ... I thought it would be lovely to give a home and family life to one or two people who would otherwise be sitting around there. It's nice for me too because at my age it's handy to have someone to live with ..."

The Guardian

Oddest book title prize

Odd TitlesWe have just had a rather limp Booker of Bookers public vote. Now, get ready for the Diagram of Diagrams. This is from the website: 'In celebration of the 30th anniversary of The Diagram Prize for Oddest Title of the Year, The Bookseller has launched The Diagram of Diagrams -- a public vote to discover the oddest book title of the last 30 years.' The online vote can be located at the Bookseller website. The winner will be announced on Friday, 5thSeptember.

Diagram Group founder Bruce Robertson came up with the idea for the Diagram Prize in 1978 as a way to pass the time at a dreary Frankfurt Book Fair. The inaugural prize was won that year by: Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice.

Last year's prize was won by: If You Want Closure In Your Relationship, Start With Your Legs.

Amongst our favourites:

  1. 1979: The Madam as Entrepreneur: Career Management in House Prostitution

  2. 1980: The Joy of Chickens

  3. 1983: The Theory of Lengthwise Rolling

  4. 1986: Oral Sadism and the Vegetarian Personality

  5. 1989: How to Shit in the Woods: An Environmentally Sound Approach to a Lost Art

  6. 1990: Lesbian Sadomasochism Safety Manual

  7. 1995: Reusing Old Graves

  8. 1996: Greek Rural Postmen and Their Cancellation Numbers

  9. 2002: Living With Crazy Buttocks

  10. 2004: Bombproof Your Horse

Read the whole list at The Bookseller website and vote.

I am a junkie

I creep into my study to be alone. And, I take a whiff. The pungent smell hits the right spot in my brain. The high! The smell of the glue, the leather, the paper, the ink ... the trip, the magical mystery tour, its Lucy in the sky with diamonds ...

I haven't even opened the book yet.

Henrietta Rose-Innes writes 'on the dark side of books' in The Sunday Times of South African: "Reading is, of course, a good and precious thing ... But literacy has a dark side too, doesn't it?"

"... what pleasure centres ignite when you part the pages of a new book and sniff the ink. It seems those neural pathways are laid down young: you're hooked early or not at all. And from that point on, you need to keep feeding the habit with progressively larger doses of word, no matter how cut and contaminated ... Highs and lows, altered states .... in my life, books have often played a pharmaceutical role, either sedative or stimulant ..."

And, I thought I was an addict. This lady is hardcore, man, but she is good.

"... hardcore, compulsive reading can sometimes feel like secret drinking or binge eating ... I can't say I've ever had a crack cocaine book experience ... but I've sure read Valium ... Fortunately, it's a benevolent dependency, most of the time. Expensive, though. (The library fines alone can drive a woman to crime.)"

Read the whole story on the website.

The Sunday Times

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Google launches Knol

KnolNicole Martin writes in The Daily Telegraph that Google has launched an online encyclopaedia to rival Wikipedia.

'Knol, which stands for unit of knowledge, allows internet users to write articles on their own areas of expertise.'

Google says that this free service will be different from Wikipedia. Unlike the latter, Knol will not allow people to make changes or contribute to a person's Knol without their permission. 'Knols written on the same subject will also remain separate and compete for the attention of visitors, who will be able to give online feedback. Pictures of authors will also be displayed on their knol web pages.'

So why should anyone contribute to Knol when they can freely write any misinformation they want without permission in Wikipedia? (BTW Kafka is listed as an author from Austria and Czech Republic, and also a German writer. Also take a look at the writers from Malaysia list. Oh, Tash Aw is listed under UK.) 'Contributors will be able to make money from the service by allowing adverts which relate to their articles to appear on their

If you want to contribute to Knol go to

The Daily Telegraph


RushdieSalman Rushdie's new writing success

Maev Kennedy writes in The Guardian that Salman Rushdie has set a new world record when he signed his name in full on 1000 books on his book tour to promote his latest, The Enchantress of Florence, in Nashville in 57 minutes. He is said to have broken the previous record by broken wine writer Malcolm Gluck who is said to have signed 10001 books in 59 minutes.

Gluck is quoted: "Well, if that's true, I'm humbled ... I'm delighted to learn of Salman's achievement. I think it's very funny actually, it's like men boasting about the size of their sexual
equipment ... just such a male thing."

The Guardian

The Claude GlassNo such thing as bad publicity

Tom Bullough books are flying off the shelf, not because he won something but because he didn’t. The writer suffered a "national embarrassment" when his name was wrongly read out as the winner the of Wales Book of the Year 2008 Awards ceremony, and he made his way to the stage to collect the GBP 10,000.00 prize, only to be told the real winner was poet Dannie Abse instead.

Normally no one would hear or remember runners-up. But this gaffe has done Tom Bullough little harm. Yes, he was embarrassed and probably wanted to crawl into a hole and die that night. But his books are selling. Call it sympathy, pity, curiosity or whatever. No one is ignoring him.

Wales Online

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

One-million English words

Russell Jackson writes in The Scotsman: English is spoken by more than 1.35 billion people worldwide, and it will soon celebrate a new milestone -- that is, one million words. The report says that a new word is created every 98 minutes and, currently, stands at 995,844 words. The million-word mark is expected to be passed on 29 April, 2009. One of the latest words added is 'e-Vampire': 'a noun describing electric equipment that consumes energy while in standby mode'.

English is spoken as a first, second or auxiliary language. This has resulted in an unprecedented amount of sources for new words to be developed.

Paul Payack, founding president of the Global Language Monitor, an association of academics, wordsmiths and bibliophiles who analyse trends in word usage and choices and their impact on culture, is quoted: "English is different to most other languages in that it absorbs words like no other language in history. Language boils up from the people and we see this by the assimilation of words from 'hip hop', 'Hollywood' and 'Bollywood' ..."COED

But an average person's vocabulary is 14,000 words. That much?

Meanwhile another story in the BBC says that 'credit crunch' has been recognised as a new word by the Concise Oxford English Ditionary, which records 240,000 words and phrases. Here are some meanings:

credit crunch -- a severe shortage of money or credit
sub-prime -- home loan to those with a poor credit history
boiler room -- an office that is home to high-pressure telephone sales
sleb -- the informal word for a celebrity
leetspeak -- the use of numerals or characters to represent words

There are many more new words. Follow the links.

The Scotsman


Replace a book with a tree

Eco Libris logoThis initiative by Eco Libris aims to replace each book purchased in the United States with a planted tree in Central America and Africa.

The United States uses about 20 million trees per year to produce about 4.15 billion books of which only 5-10 % is recycled material. Although major publishers have pledged to increase the recycled content of their books, there is still a long way to go.

I do not know if the scheme is available to readers outside the US (but I am sure they will not refuse your money), but this is what happens. Readers choose how many books they want to balance out with Eco Libris, pay for it online, and a tree will be planted for each of these books.
A specially designed Eco Libris sticker made from recycled paper, will then be sent to the donor to put on the cover of the books they have balanced out, to show their commitment to sustainability and responsible use of natural resources.

To ensure that donations are not misused, Eco Libris will work with planting partners chosen for their knowledge of local tree species, mixed forest planting, and the flora and fauna of the area. Eco Libris is currently working with: The Alliance for International Reforestation, Ripple Africa, and Sustainable Harvest International.

In order to make sure that trees planted attain maturity, Eco Libris hires local community members trained to tend the planted trees. 13 trees are planted for every 10 trees donated because not all of the trees will make it to maturity. The extra trees balance out the
anticipated loss through drought, disease, or some other malady.

It costs USD 5.00 to plant 5 trees (with discounts for larger numbers.) Eco Libris was formed a year ago on the 1st of July. They celebrated their first birthday having balanced out 50,005 books, with 65,586 new trees.

There is a lot more on their website.

Eco Libris

Monday, June 30, 2008

Adults adore children's books

AliceSo, tell me something I don't know, you must be saying. This report from the Daily Mail says that three-quarters of adult readers in Britain still like to read children's stories like Roald Dahl's Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, The Chronicles Of Narnia and the Harry Potter books. (They missed out The Vicar of Nibbleswick, my favourite, but then that's because I am dyslexic.)

About one quarter like reading 19th century romances and classics such as Little Women, Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre.

Topping the 'secret reads' list is Harry Potter. Others are Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles Of Narnia, Mills and Boon, The Hobbit, Black Beauty, Bridget Jones, Adrian Mole, and The Kama Sutra. (Though I don't understand why it should be secret.)

The survey of 2,000 adults was conducted for by YouGov.

The Daily Mail

Virtual Book Browsing

ZoomiiYou know what a pain it is to browse through a hundred titles on the internet, especially if you live in Malaysia with stone age broadband? Anyway, it is so much more fun to go through the books in a bookshop (despite the risk of permanent nect injury from looking at titles sideways at some). Firstly, you get to go through more books in less time. Then you get to touch and feel (or is it caress?) the books, admire the paper and print quality, the embossed title, the UV laminate, and smell them (I mean, take in the aroma) before you are allowed to be seduced and agree to take them home with you -- for they are such beautiful objects. In contrast buying books on the internet is so cold, so utilitarian, so functional, so unromantic, so blah. Worse than that would be downloading a book digitally. (Okay, textbooks and academic material do deserve to be downloaded digitally, though porn is will probably be the first to get there -- erotica, right! )

At Zoomii, 'You can zoom in and out of bookshelves or pan around to navigate the service. The site design feels just like you're browsing a bookshelf at any bookstore except the books are facing cover-forward instead of spine-out. To keep up with the feel of a bookstore, books are organized by author and you can also compare book sizes to get a feel for how big or small a book is ...' and then buy it at Amazon.

I tried Zoomii. It does all the tings it says it does, but I found it a bit clunky. I guess, you could chance to spot a book you have been looking for all your life while Zoomii-ing about, but it does not beat finding one in your local bookshop, and cheaper too.

But now at comes something in between. Still does not quite beat browsing in a bookshop, but it is quite cool.



Silverfish at Cannes Outdoor Lions


We all know about the Cannes film festivals with the stardust and red carpets, but did you know about the Cannes Lions? The Cannes Lions 2008, 55th International Advertising Festival was held from the 15th to the 21st of June. We have been told that this is generally regarded as the Olympics of the advertising world. So, why are we telling you this? Because the advertisement Saatchi & Saatchi, Petaling Jaya designed for Silverfish Books has just won the Gold in the Outdoor Lion category. Ta-daaa!

You can see the winning entries at Silverfish Books (some of you already have) or at this website:

The creative director of Saatchi & Saatchi, Petaling Jaya is Adrian Miller. Sounds familiar? It should. He wrote the short story News in Silverfish New Writing 5 and who was the Creative Director behind the cover design for the book. Adrian just came back from Cannes (after a well-deserved week's holiday in Paris) and is bubbling with excitement. You would too if you won a 'gold' at the Olympics, wouldn't you? The Grand Prix next, Adrian?

Interestingly, Malaysian advertising companies won 11 awards, three of them gold, at Cannes this year.

Cannes Lions


Monday, June 16, 2008

July 1-8 is indie week

IBW1-8 July 2008 will be the inaugural Independent Booksellers Week (IBW) in Britain with more than 320 bookshops participating. The IBW is officially sponsored and supported by The Times which will be providing editorial coverage. The scheme was devised by the Small Business Forum (SBF).

This is from the IBW website: 'The inagural Independent Booksellers Week between 1st-8th July. Independent Booksellers Week is a celebration of independent bookselling, and has been organised by the Small Business Forum of the Booksellers Association (BA). Independent Booksellers Week is funded by Bertrams, Gardners Books, National Book Tokens and the BA and is supported by The Times and The Book Partnership, with additional help from Galaxy and Readers' Digest. Jacqueline Wilson, former Childrens' Laureate, and much loved author, is also supporting the campaign.'

Author Kate Mosse, who is also the television presenter of the BBC Four literary chat show, the Readers' and Writers' Roadshow and who, in 1996, co-founded the annual Orange Prize for Fiction by women, says: "It's high time that we celebrate our vibrant independent bookshops. I've always admired and shared independent booksellers' passion for books and reading, and I feel they play a crucial role in local communities. I hope that this initiative will encourage people to visit their local bookshops and discover for themselves what makes them so special."

Celebrations in the shops are expected to include author signing sessions, school visits for storytelling, and holding children’s and reading-group parties.

Publisher's Weekly


Which one are you?

A Publishers Weekly report quoting results from a poll conducted by Random House/Zogby quotes:

  • 11: % of people who enjoy reading books digitally
  • 13: % of people under 30 open to reading books digitally
  • 6: % of people over 65 open to reading books digitally
  • 43: % of people who go into a bookstore looking for a specific book
  • 77: % of people who make additional purchases when looking for a specific book
  • 52: % of people whose book purchases are swayed by cover art
  • 49: % of people whose book purchases are swayed by reviews
  • 60: % of people whose book purchases are swayed by recommendations from friends or family
  • 35: % of people who have been swayed to purchase a book because of a cover quote
  • 86: % of people who seek out books by authors they like
  • 49: % of people who shop at indies as well as at chains and online
  • 9: % of people who usually shop at indies
Publishers Weekly

Borders sale -- going, going, gone

BordersBorders Group, Inc., in a press statement on the 10th of June 2008 said that it has closed on the transaction to sell its Australia/New Zealand/Singapore businesses to A&R Whitcoulls (ARW), the leading Australasian retailer of books and related products owned by private equity firm Pacific Equity Partners (PEP). Borders website says that the final agreement was made on the 5th of June 2004. (One wonders about the effect of this announcement on Borders Malaysia, which we believe is not part of the Borders group but a franchise.)

But some commentators have reacted with 'shock and horror'.

Stephanie Johnston, of Wakefield Press worries about buying patterns or the philosophy change under the new ownership. She worries about greater discounts (from publishers) and 'pushing up prices to maintain margins' though she is 'looking forward to being paid earlier by accounting offices on the ground here in Australia'.

Others are less charitable. Another publisher says, "I'm worried that A&R's degree of aggression
and incompetence will infiltrate Borders' management." Ouch. It appears that A&R has a reputation of 'cut(ting) back its buying enormously, making initially tiny orders even on books that seemed a natural fit.'

But Peter Phillips, the departing sales and marketing director at Pan Macmillan is more pragmatic: "... if they don't do a good job, then someone else will pick up the market."

Meanwhile, in a AP report, 'William Ackerman, the billionaire hedge fund manager who is a major stakeholder in Borders Group Inc., said ... the bookseller should consider approaching online retailer Inc. about a possible acquisition'.

The report quotes him: "Amazon could buy the company for about (US)$400 million to get those
locations that would take more than (UD)$1 billion to build, "he told reporters on the sidelines of a conference in New York. "You have to think of it like how Apple has retail stores across the

So, it looks like the death of 'brick-and-mortar' has been greatly exaggerated.


The Age

Associated Press (at Yahoo)

Friday, May 30, 2008

The book is dead, long live the book

Hay FestivalThree stories concerning books caught my eye this week. Three different sources but related.

The first, Victor Keegan writes in The Guardian: 'Books are one of the oldest industries, yet they have been hardly affected by the digital revolution. Publishers just go on commissioning and editing them in their own sweet time as if nothing had happened. In an age when your blog could be out of date in minutes, publishers seem happy to leave months, even years, between the manuscript being presented and going on sale. The curious thing is that it doesn't seem to be doing them any harm at all.'

Then another story in Publisher's Weekly by Jim Milliot says: 'The production of traditional books (in the US) rose 1% in 2007, to 276,649 new titles and editions, but the output of on-demand, short run and unclassified titles soared from 21,936 in 2006 to 134,773 last year ... a 39% increase in output to 411,422 (titles)(!!).' That is truly astounding. So, far from killing the book industry, the digital revolution (read internet) has actually been a boon. One gets dizzy just thinking of the possibilities. 500,000 titles a year? One million?!

Then in another story, also from The Guardian from the recent Hay-on-Wye Festival, Aleks
Krotoski wonders Why is the book world threatened by gamers? But are they? Why this virulent antipathy towards multimedia? The traditional novel has already been challenged by graphic novels, an evolution of the comics and has made a slight, but if currently insignificant, dent in the order of things in the book world. It is only a little more than a novelty for now, but it is bound to grow. Then there is that cell phone novel. And with ebooks and all, the possibilities are enormous -- imagine moving pictures to accompany novels, with an infinite number of endings depending on reader interaction.

But will all that mean the end of books? I think not. The death of books has been announced before -- with the advent of the movie, then with the radio, then the television, the computer, the internet, the cell phone and the ebook -- and it will continue to be prognosed.

The book is dead, long live the book.

The Guardian

Publishers Weekly

The Guardian

James Bond rides again

Devil may careJill Lawless of the Associated Press reports that the latest 007 novel has be launched simultaneously in 21 languages. I was still in school when his later novels were published, and I read every one of them after watching Ursula Andress emerging from the ocean in that 1962 movie, Dr No, wearing a bikini and a large hunting knife, and watched every movie after that. Nothing could beat that testosterone and adrenaline rush for the horny adolescent I was. I had to hide the books from my mom though, because of the risque covers. And you know the best part? I could buy some of the books for all of ten cents from the ottu kedai down the street.

James Bond is now back, and I can't wait to get my hands on a copy. Will I be disappointed? Probably. Still, I am curious. Are we about to get a somewhat more literary James Bond in the hands of Sebastian Faulks?

Booksellers will be rubbing their hands though, what with Daniel Craig's rippling muscles and that Ursula Andress imitation of his.

The Associated Press

Scrabble is 60 years old

ScrabbleLindsay McIntosh writes in The Scotsman: 'There are no flashing lights,
interactive car chases or shoot 'em ups and although it can now be played online, it has steadfastly refused to be corrupted by the digital revolution ... Yet Scrabble -- the word game consisting solely of a board and some tiles printed with letters -- has endured through the generations to celebrate its 60th birthday this year.'

I am not a great Scabbler but I don't know of anyone who reads who has never heard of the game or played it before. Here is some trivia from the story in The Scotsman:
  • In 1949, Scrabble sold 2,413, and in four years, that is in 1953, it sold almost four million. To date, approximately, 150 million sets have been produced.
  • 30,000 Scrabble games take place in the world every hour. (Multiply that appropriately to determine the number of games and players every day, every week and every month. Grand Theft Auto? Take a number.)
  • Scrabble is available in 29 languages.
  • The highest number of points that can be scored on the first go in
  • English is 128 -- with muzjiks -- which means Russian peasants.
  • The highest score ever was by one Dr Karl Khoshnaw -- 392 points with
  • caziques -- the plural for a West Indian chief.

The Scotsman

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Vote for the best Booker

Booker sixThe first Booker prize was awarded in 1969. The winner that year was Something to Answer For by PH Newby published by Faber & Faber. There have been 40 winners since, and it appears that now is the time to pick the best of the best. Why now? I have absolutely no idea. I thought they would pick the best of the best, say, after 50 years. (They have picked the best of the first twenty-five before.)

Anyway, the forty is now down to six with Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children leading the pack. Personally, I think it is a good list though I have not read JG Farell whose Seige of Krishnapur won the prize in 1973. I can live with the list which also includes JM Coetzee (Disgrace), Peter Carey (Oscar and Lucinda), Pat Barker (Ghost Road), and Nadine Gordimer (The Conservationist).

I must admit I was expecting to cringe a little, particularly after the way some recent prizes have been awarded. Thank God there is no Life of Pi on the list, nor that dreadful book by DBC Pierre. (What's it called, again?) I wish some others were in, but the final list is still good.

If you are looking for a must-read list, there you are. My own choice of winner would be a difficult one -- either Disgrace, an unbelievably succinct assessment of the condition of man (and woman), or Midnight's Children which with a few deft strokes changed completely how literature in English would be viewed and written. (After much deliberation, all of ten minutes, I have decided to cast my vote for Midnight's Children, especially after reading his recent Enchantress of Florence.)

You can vote at the Booker website.

POD classics

Guy Dammann writes in The Guardian about 'the launch on June 2 of a new imprint from Faber & Faber designed to make available a large number of titles which until now have been out of print.' I visited the Faber website but there is nothing about this yet.

The report says that using print-on-demand technology to allow print runs between one to fifty books with the books priced at GBP9.00, and 'will not be stocked in large quantities by booksellers, but will be available to order through most major booksellers and the majority of internet-based book retailers.'

Faber expects to publish up to 20 new titles every month, with 100 ready by the launch date in June. So this is not really POD, that is printed on demand by booksellers, but rather traditional publishing using the reducing cost of POD technology. This could very well be the model for publishing in the future. Currently, POD does cost a lot more than traditional publishing -- the figure of 10-30 times more is quoted. If Faber is able to sell the books for GBP9.00 through online booksellers, and still pay a royalty of 10% to the authors, they must have found a way of bringing down the price.

The one other issue with POD is quality, but let's wait and see what Faber does with that. That might not be such a big issue, though, since UK paperbacks, particularly from Faber, Penguin and Vintage, appeared to have cornered the market for grottiness.

The Guardian


DevilThe devil roams again

Vanessa Thorpe in an article entitled A new lease of life for the Devil writes in the Observer that the stories of Satanism and black magic by Dennis Wheatley are to be re-released. Television serialization is also being planned. The deal is being struck by Dominic Wheatly, who was 18 when his grandfather died, and Chorion Ltd., an entertainment content company that, through a combination of ownership and long term licenses, exploits a portfolio of copyrights. Among the copyrights owned by Chorion include works of Agatha Christie (Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple), Georges Simenon (Inspector Maigret), Raymond Chandler (Philip Marlowe), Enid Blyton (Noddy, Famous Five) and Mr. Men and Little Miss, created by Roger Hargreaves.

I used to read these books as a teenager. Maybe I will wait for the TV show.

The Guardian

Garcia MarquezGarcia Marquez writes again

Graham Keeley writes The Guardian that Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez is rediscovering his muse two years after telling the world he was finished with writing. It is said that the new work, which does not yet have a title and is described as "a novel of love", should appear before the end of this year according to a friend, Darlo Arizmendi, head of news at Radio Caracol in Colombia.

In 2006 Marquez, 81, said that he was finished with writing. "Last year was the first in my life in which I haven't written even a line. With my experience, I could write a new novel without any
problems, but people would realise my heart wasn't in it."

His last novel, Memories of My Melancholy Whores, was released in 2004.

The Guardian

Social networking site for writers

Rachael Hawkes writes in the Social Media Portal that HarperCollins UK has released a new social networking site Authonomy in private beta. Aspiring authors can upload a minimum of 10,000 words of their manuscript for feedback and comments. This is the quote from Victoria Barnsley, chief executive and publisher of HarperCollins UK: 'Very often we hear from budding new authors who tell us their script was loved by their family, book group or wide circle of friends. Authonomy is an opportunity for these authors to ... really test whether their work has got what it takes to make it.'

Authonomy is currently by invitation only, but you can try and get yourself one at the website.

The Social Media Portal

LessingLessing's Nobel prize 'disaster'

Doris Lessing, 88, tells BBC Radio 4 that winning the Nobel Prize in 2007 has been a 'bloody disaster'. She says that she is finding it impossible to write anymore due to unrelenting media interest since she won the award. She says that she would probably give up writing novels altogether. 'All I do is give interviews and spend time being photographed.' And her advice to younger writers: 'Use it while you've got it because it'll go, it's sliding away like water down a plughole.'

Good advice.

BBC Radio 4

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Why buy when you can mooch

BookmoochThe Bookmooch website offers the following definition: ' defines "mooch" as: "to obtain something without paying for it, or to borrow something without intending to return it" as in "You're old enough to get a job and stop mooching off your family." And so, the word fits this project: BookMooch is a way to get books without paying, and without any intention of returning the book ...'

And Wikipedia has this: 'BookMooch is a non-commercial site, not charging any membership or use fees. Some revenue is generated from commission when users purchase a book from through referral by the site, but the founder has stated that there is no need for BookMooch to generate profit, and refers to this income from Amazon as "making money by accident." Running expenses are covered by Amazon commissions ... for approximately every 100 books mooched, one book is purchased from ...'

BookMooch is a service that lets people trade their used books. Though BookMooch is free to members, the site generates an estimated half-million dollars in annual book sales for Amazon because of a browser plug-in called the Moochbar, which matches members' book wish lists to Amazon's retail inventory.

'BookMooch allows its users to exchange books using a points system. Members earn points by adding books to their inventories, by sending books to other members and by providing feedback when they receive books. The points earned can then be used to "buy" books from other members. All books "cost" the same number of points, with a multiple point surcharge for
international mooch.' Wikipedia.

At Silverfish Books we have our own mooching service (had it for more than a year now). Readers can drop off books they no longer want to own, to give them away to others. We call it a book adoption service and encourage those who adopt a book to drop a thank you note to the previous owner.