Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Why buy when you can mooch

BookmoochThe Bookmooch website offers the following definition: 'dictionary.co.uk 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 Amazon.com 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 Amazon.com ...'

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.


Why women like chick lit

Jill MansellI have always found the term chick lit somewhat demeaning. (One reader said that a major bookshop chain in the city has classified Kiran Desai's The Inheritance of Loss as chick-lit. Go figure. But they had also classified Gone with the Wind as geography.) Kate Monahan quotes UK chick lit author Jill Mansell in the Waikato Times: "Chick lit is like chocolate. It is lovely."

Jill Mansell has published 19 books and has sold more than three million copies of her books 'full of feisty women going through family dramas and life issues, from unwanted pregnancy to adultery to getting older ... Yet, some critics would call the genre lightweight at best, and romantic mind-rotting claptrap at worst.'

Mansell, not surprisingly, says that snobbery is not fair. 'Chick lit probably doesn't get the respect that more literary books get, but we get paid more.'

Jill Mansell worked in a hospital as an electro-encephalographic technician measuring brain waves when she started writing for Mills & Boon. But they said her stories were too funny. 'Apparently humour in the bedroom was not what Mills & Boon readers wanted.'

Chick lit has spawned a whole lot of sub genres. There is 'lad lit' (also called 'dick lit' for blokes), 'yummy mummy lit' (for 30-something mums), 'hen lit' (for older women in their 40s or 50s), 'teen chick lit', 'vampire chick lit', 'mystical chick lit', 'Indian chick lit' with less sex. 'English chick lit has more of a sense of humour, and US chick lit is more racy. Scandinavian chick lit is darker ...'

So, now you know.

Waikato Times http://www.stuff.co.nz/4493969a4501.html

The obsession with Harry Potter

Joanna TrollopeIt was bound to happen, but one wonders why it took so long. The Daily Telegraph reports that Joanna Trollope is defecting to Transworld.

Several other authors are also said to be unhappy with Bloomsbury and its apparent obsession with the JK Rowlings books. The Harry Potter books have sold more than 400 million copies, and authors feel that it has been at the expense of their own work.

Trollope is reported to have said that Bloomsbury is not interested in fully promoting any author except JK Rowling. She is reported to be impressed with the way Transworld has absorbed Dan Brown and The Da Vinci Code, and was still able to market adequately its other authors.

The Daily Telegraph says that some famous Bloomsbury authors are William Boyd, Susan Hill, Peter Carey and Will Self. And Jorge Amado. (Peter Carey has us a little confused, all the books we have by him are from Faber and Faber.)

One agent is quoted as saying: "(Bloomsbury has) ... lost their way a bit ... When you have such
an overwhelming success as Harry Potter it does sort of derail other things ... There is a definite feeling that the Harry Potter phenomenon has led to other authors being neglected somewhat."

The Daily Telegraph

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Superfast internet

Jonathan Leake, Science Editor writes in The Sunday Times that '... The internet could soon be made obsolete.'

As a person who spends several hours a day on the internet, that, surely, caught my attention.

'The scientists ... have now built a lightning-fast replacement capable of downloading entire feature films within seconds.' Wahhh! Suddenly I am thinking of all sorts of possibilities. I was once asked, during one of my 'publishing' talks (at a Rotary Club meeting) on the future of reading and shopping online. This was a couple of years ago. 'The main problem,' I remember saying, 'is one of technology. Mainly it is the speed of the internet, which is horribly slow even at its fastest at present.' (I was not even thinking about Streamyx).

'Turning pages is excruciatingly slow,' I said. 'I can browse through an entire medium sized bookshop in a few hours, and go through a few hundred books. But try doing that on the internet. You will want to kill someone by the third book.' Okay, I exaggerate. But I also said that I was not a pessimist. I said that we would get there sooner than most of us think.

Well, it looks like it is here already. It is expected to be in operation in August this year.

It is '...The latest spin-off from Cern, the particle physics centre that created the web, the grid could also provide the kind of power needed to transmit holographic images; allow instant online gaming with hundreds of thousands of players; and offer high-definition video telephony for the price of a local call.'

'At speeds about 10,000 times faster than a typical broadband connection, "the grid" will be able to send the entire Rolling Stones back catalogue from Britain to Japan in less than two seconds,' the report says.

This present internet operates by linking together a spaghetti of cables and equipment originally designed for telephone calls. Despite all the technological advances, its limitations are obvious and it lacks the capacity for high-speed data transmission. Its like driving a Ferrari through kampong roads.

'By contrast, the grid has been built with dedicated fibre optic cables and modern routing centres, meaning there are no outdated components to slow the deluge of data. The 55,000 servers already installed are expected to rise to 200,000 within the next two years.'

I am drooling already, though I should know better than to hold my breath considering where I live.

Times online

Love and literature

PushkinI think I have mentioned before about this friend who uses books as chick magnets. He would chose a book carefully before going out for any meal (his books are all nicely wrapped in plastic so they don't get soiled by coffee, tea or gravy) and place it on one corner on the 'mamak' shop table in full view while he is having his meal. I have no idea what his success rate is but, at least according to a recent story, he has the right idea.

Rachael Donadio writes in The New York Times Sunday Book Review in a story called It's not you, it's your books that '... Some years ago, I was awakened early one morning by a phone call from a friend. She had just broken up with a boyfriend she still loved and was desperate to justify her decision. "Can you believe it!" she shouted into the phone. He hadn’t even heard of Pushkin!"'

In choosing a mate we have heard that the most important things are money, looks, chemistry and so on. But reading tastes?

"... this may be a gender issue,' Donadio says. 'Brainy women are probably more sensitive to literary deal breakers than are brainy men. (Rare is the guy who’d throw a pretty girl out of bed for revealing her imperfect taste in books.)'

Well, at least, that is clear. Supermodels need not worry. Guys are simply horny bastards.

Then she says: '... These days, thanks to social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace listing your favorite books and authors is a crucial, if risky, part of self-branding ... Naming a favorite book or author can be fraught. Go too low, and you risk looking dumb. Go too high, and you risk looking like a bore -- or a phony.'

So be careful there, all those of you trying to impress, or to be cute. Life is very complicated.

New York Times

Brick and mortar losing ground to e-tailers

Jim Milliot writes in Publishers Weekly, that '... online booksellers could become the largest channel for book sales by 2009 ...' according to a new survey of consumer book-buying habits. But this was an online survey of 2,924 adults. So while it does indicate the buying habits of Internet users, how about those who do not? In any case, if it does not take place next year, it will soon.

2007 figures showed that chain stores had 34% of the market share, while the online share was 30% (up from 23% in 2006). Interestingly, '... online's growth does not appear to be coming at the expense of independent booksellers.' The independents' market share is hovering around 8% but is expected to rise slightly.

One curious part of the report is that the '... segment of Internet buying that is projected to decrease in 2008 is purchases made directly from publishers' Websites, which the survey found will fall from 3% to just under 2% ...' because of this report from The Times that says 'Amazon furious after publishers undercut its book prices online ...' by Dalya Alberge.

'An online price war for books has broken out, pitching Amazon against some of Britain's biggest publishers' she says. 'Amazon is angry that Penguin, Bloomsbury and others are discounting titles on their websites, encouraging customers to buy direct instead of using the online retailer.'

Amazon is apparently planning retaliation -- amongst them removing 'buy new' buttons, forcing publishers to increase their price, and squeezing out additional discounts 'or else'. But the giant online retailer's strong-arm unilateral super-power type behaviour is not new. Remember Microsoft? Guess they could argue that the freedom to bully is also a human right.

Publishers Weekly

The Times