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