Wednesday, December 16, 2009

It's a topsy-turvy book world

Borders UK is under administration; rumours have it that Borders US have not paid their distributors for two months; Barnes and Noble is losing money, so is Waterstones in UK; and publishers are terrified of returns if any more of the big boys go bust. Then there is another story (currently denied) that Amazon wants to set up a brick-and-mortar shop!

In another story French President Nicolas Sarkozy says that he would not let his country's literary heritage be taken away by a "friendly" large American company, namely Google, and is looking to create its own national digital organisation. The project is expected to be financed by a national loan.

In yet another development, five of the biggest publishers of newspapers and magazines in the US (Time Inc., News Corp., Conde Nast, Hearst Corp., and Meredith Corp., whose magazines include Time, Cosmopolitan and Better Homes and Gardens) have announced a plan to challenge Amazon's Kindle with their own digital solution that would display in colour, and work on a variety of devices. Things get even more complicated with the announcement that Simon & Schuster is delaying its e-book editions of about 35 leading titles, taking a stand against the cut-rate US$9.99 pricing of e-books imposed by Amazon. A second publisher, the Hachette Book Group, said it has similar plans.

And then there is this potential 800 pound gorilla in the room (still in vapour form, but which no one dares to ignore), Apple's alleged Kindle-crusher, rumoured to be set for a spring of 2010 release -- okay, start the drum roll now -- the-e MacTablet ... or-rr the TabletMac ... or (is it) the iPad? Well, whatever. Apparently, Apple has been talking to several media companies about their phantom device (which has also been touted as a full-fledged computer, a gaming machine and a portable DVD player), which many think will redefine the rules of the game. Anyway, quite a few fingernails are being chewed in anticipation; there is much nervousness in the industry.

WSJ Online

Chicago Tribune

The Register


Neruda, the shell collector

Anita Brooks writes in The Independent about Chilean poet Pablo Neruda (1904-1973) who was a career diplomat, a member of the Communist party and was made a Nobel literary laureate in 1971. (The Chilean writer and politician was born NeftalĂ­ Ricardo Reyes Basoalto; Neruda was his pen name that he assumed as a teenager, partly to hide his poetry from his father who wanted his son to have a proper occupation. He took his pen name from Czech writer and poet Jan Neruda.)

Neruda wrote erotic love poems, surrealist poems, historical epics, and political manifestos. While he was not doing any of these, the author was a passionate collector of shells, which he acquired from markets and beaches around the world. He collected over 9000 shells (one from Mao Zedong) in a period of 20 years. 400 of these are now (for the first time) on exhibition in Madrid at the Instituto de Cervantes. (He donated his collection to the University of Chile in 1954.)

"The best thing I have collected in my life are my shells," the poet once wrote. "They gave me the pleasure of their prodigious structure, the lunar purity of their mysterious porcelain."

The Independent