Wednesday, June 30, 2010

This book video is awesome

This has to be the best video to promote reading I have seen. Commissioned by the New Zealand Book Council (a not-for-profit organization that serves to promote more reading, foster a love of books and promote New Zealand authors) and produced by Anderson M Studio, this two-minute animation has won two Film Craft Lions awards at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival.

This is not computer generated work. It uses paper cutting -- cutouts and pop-ups -- and stop-motion animation. It is superb. Just watch it. The video is called Going West by New Zealand author Maurice Gee.

The New Zealand Book Ccoincils’s mission statement reads: “Bringing books and people together. Like no other human activity, reading opens up our imagination. It enables us to understand those around us. It allows us to project the future and reach back into the past. Readingcan entertain, challenge and educate. We believe that reading can transform people’s lives.”

Doing a darn good job, I must say. Congratulations.

Publishing Perspectives

Stephen Hawking’s new book

When Stephen Hawkings’ first book on popular science, A Brief History of Time, was published on 1988, I remember I acquired it by mail order from the Good Book Guide. No apologies given, I am a nerd and I love mathematics and physics. (Call me names if you want). It was an idiot’s guide to stuff like black holes, the Big Bang and light cones. Still, it was for very clever idiots who already had some grounding on some of the theory. It reportedly sold nine million copies, though it is questionable if all those who bought it read the book from cover to cover. It also made it to several best seller lists. Nice way to impress chicks, though. (I think it was after that that science books became popular, including Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything.)

A new book by Hawking (coauthored by Leonard Mlodinow), The Grand Design, is scheduled for release in September by Bantam Dell, and is reported to be on the "the ultimate mysteries of the universe." I will probably preorder it. The authors say, 'we are very close to understanding not just of the workings of our universe, but of its very beginnings’ as they work their way toward the unified theory, the one theory that explains it all, the holy grail of all science.

As for the battle between religion and science, Hawkings had this to say in an interview with ABC News' Diane Sawyer in June of this year, "There is a fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority, [and] science, which is based on observation and reason. Science will win because it works."

Media Bistro

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Independent bookshops celebrate

Mega bookstores are reeling in the economic downturn, but independents are celebrating with increased sales and more outlets. A Morning Star Online report says, “Around 100 new outlets have opened in the past two years, with the sector reporting a one percent rise in sales even though consumer spending on books is down.” Yesss!

A quote: Meryl Halls from the Bookseller Association said: "Successful independent booksellers are bucking the trends on the high street by offering their local communities the sort of service that sets these shops apart and making their position in their local village, town, city or suburb integral to that community.”

UK has 1200 independent bookstores, but they are “Holding their own,” says a Guardian report on the Independent Booksellers Week

Interesting things are happening in the Klang Valley, too. I've heard of two new independents opening for business -- Bookalicious at The Summit in USJ and another called the Book Warehouse in Subang Jaya. Both appear to be set up to give Book Xcess a run for the money. I have only been to the former. The shop is quite pleasantly laid out (without hundreds of copies of the same title on several shelves) selling a mixture of remainders and current titles. Their focus, currently, appears to be on bestsellers and children’s, with some books in  Chinese. I am sure more independents will be opening soon. The remainder business is easy to get into and does not require much book knowledge, although if one has some it will be a boost, but with major publishers re-looking at their business models, this might not last very long.

(Book publishers and distributors appear to be the only major business people who are intent on slitting their own throats. Ten years ago, books not sold would be pulped so as not to ‘spoil’ the market. Now, they kill their own golden goose by ‘remaindering’, selling them cheaply to third parties, who then flood the market with them, destroying it.)

I heard a rumour recently that Borders (Malaysia) is up for sale. Any truth in that?

Morning Star
The Guardian

Foyles’ new bookshop

I don’t believe there is another bookshop in the world with customers like those of Foyles. A Mecca for book lovers from all over the world, the 107 year old bookstore on Charing Cross Road is Europe’s largest, with over 200,000 titles over five floors.

I still remember my first visit -- pilgrimage? -- in the early eighties (after having listened to its glories for decades). I remember this humungous bookstore (by the standard of those days) with rows and rows of dusty shelves packed to the ceiling with books. How will they find anything here, I thought? Still, I asked, “Do you have a copy of The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross by John ...” “Yep,” the salesperson said before I could finish, and disappeared behind the wooden shelves, for a moment, and re-emerged with the book I wanted. I was impressed. (Foyles underwent a full refurbishment following the death of Christina Foyle in 1999. This was completed in 2004, and re-established it as London’s leading bookshop.)

Foyles is currently celebrating record sales figures. The company, which is still owned independently by the Foyle family, opened its first branch in 2005 at the Royal Festival Hall. Selfridges followed in 2007 and 2008 with the opening of two stores at St Pancras International and Westfield White City. It is now looking for a new site.

Foyles claim to employ more than 80 expert booksellers ‘who will be happy to offer any help or advice ...’

This is London.

David Davidar quits Penguin Canada

The book world is abuzz with the news of David Davidar quitting Penguin Canada. This former poster boy of Indian publishing -- he founded and developed Penguin India from a basement office in South Delhi to the top of the country’s publishing in English -- plans to returned to India to focus on his writing, the Times of India says. The author of bestselling novels The House of Blue Mangoes ( that I tossed aside after reading 50 pages) and The Solitude of Emperors (which I did not bother to read) was appointed president of Penguin Canada in 2004.

News emerging from Canada, however, gives the story a slightly different spin. Publisher’s Weekly says of the ‘surprise resignation’: “... the company issued a statement Friday afternoon announcing that Penguin’s former rights and contracts director Lisa Rundle charged Davidar with sexual harassment in an action yesterday. The statement added that Davidar was asked to leave the company last month, and while it had been unclear just when Davidar’s resignation, announced Tuesday, would become effective, Penguin said he will have no further involvement with the company.”

Rundle has also file ‘wrongful termination’ charges against Penguin, claiming damages of $423,000.

However, more sordid details emerge from The Globe and Mail.

Ms. Rundle claimed that she was fired for complaining about Mr. Davidar’s “harassing and vexatious behaviour.”

Mr. Davidar said he intends to fight the charges ‘vigorously’.

Last year, he (Davidar) is said to have written (emails) that he “could do very little except think of [Ms. Rundle],” that she was “utterly gorgeous,” “a vision in pink sipping a champagne cocktail,” and that she should not be “stubborn” or “fight” him.

(According to the claim), Mr. Davidar appeared at Ms. Rundle’s hotel room door (in Frankfurt), “wearing excessive cologne, with buttons on his shirt undone down his waist.”

Ms. Rundle claims she climbed on a windowsill to avoid her boss and again asked him to leave. “He forcibly pulled her off the ledge and grabbed her by the wrists, forcing his tongue into her mouth,” says a source.


The Globe and the Mail

Publisher’s Weekly

Times of India

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

The future of magazines

Is the Wired Magazine’s iPad Edition the way forward for magazines? Editor-in-Chief, Chris Anderson says that it is ironic “that Wired, a magazine founded to chronicle the digital revolution, has traditionally come ... each month on the smooshed atoms of dead trees” and that it “is not lost on us”. Until now, that is. He adds, “We have always made our stories accessible online at, but as successful as the site is, it is not a magazine ... The tablet is our opportunity to make the Wired we always dreamed of.”

While acknowledging the 'wow' factor, many comments on the site balk at the USD4.99 price per issue. But that did not stop the download of 24,000 copies in the first 24 hours, or 17 copies a minute. (The Business Insider had initially estimated that 2500-3000 copies of the e-magazine would be sold.) Wired sells over 87,000 copies at newsstands and 632,000 by subscription. (Incidentally, Apple has announced that 2 million iPads were sold in less than 60 day since the launch.) No subscription model for the digital version has been announced yet.

According to, some of the innovative features include:

1. Every page in the issue is individually designed for optimal viewing on the iPad screen in both portrait or landscape orientation.

2. Content organized in vertical stacks rather than magazine-like spreads.

3. Animated 360° images show readers every side of Iron Man and let them explore the history of Mars landings.

4. Unique slide shows take readers through multiple views using touch for image progression.

5. Four editorial videos including an exclusive clip from Toy Story 3. All video is embedded into the app allowing for automatic load, display in HD and access without a connection.

6. Music to enhance storytelling, including an exclusive listen inside Trent Reznor’s recording studio.

7. Enhanced advertising. Nine advertisers have taken advantage of premium sponsorships in Wired’s June digital edition, allowing them to incorporate interactivity and enhancements including 360ยบ images, slide shows and videos.

Kindle fails college test

Rik Myslewski writes in The Register that, “According to a report by The Seattle Times, the USD489, 18.9 ounce (0.54kg) Kindle DX, with its 9.7-inch monochrome e-ink display, is getting bad grades from college students.”

The survey found that: “80 per cent of MBA students at the University of Viginia said they wouldn't recommend the Kindle DX as a study aid — but 90 per cent enjoyed using it to read for pleasure.”

Amazon distributed Kindle DXs to students at a number of US colleges, and found that the way students use textbooks, traditional hard-copy is more usable because it is easier to thumb through, search, and scribble on it than on an ebook. (Typically, college students will have several books open at the same time when working on a paper, something the Kindle would be woefully inadequate to handle.)

According to he Seattle Times, some students “liked the Kindle DX's long battery life and portability, along with the fact that putting a book on it doesn't require the death of a tree. However, they weren't jazzed by the inability to scribble notes onto or easily highlight snippets, nor did they appreciate the lack of color in an ebook's charts and graphics.”

So, how will the iPad fare on campuses then? Methinks, while research is not what it will be used for, it opens up a whole new possibility in textbooks. Imagine a fully interactive medical or engineering book application. It is mind blowing, though it might take a while to get there. Or, not.

One thing is clear. Future publishing lawsuits will be less about copyrights and more about patents.

The Register

Intellectual thieves

Anna Goodal says in The Independent, “Shoplifting in bookshops is on the rise – and you'd be surprised at how literary the thieves' tastes are.” And a book that's popular with the thieves: Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment.

The report says that most bookshops have to write off thousands every year to account for theft. It does look like book thieves have good taste, and one would imagine they would actually read the book and display it on their shelves after that to impress friends -- not so much what they have stolen, but what they have read.

The most stolen books in New York are Bukowski, Kerouac and Burroughs, which could lead to profiling: anyone who still dresses like a 60s hippy might get frisked at the door. The book most lost in London’s larger stores is the A-Z. Thoroughly understandable, that. It is the first thing one needs on landing in the city, and if one doesn’t have money, one steals it. This is closely followed by trade paperbacks.

“In general, though, it is the smaller, "curated" (hah, that’s a nice word) bookshops where you find the more discerning thieves.” the story says. That is, independents. Top books stolen in a bookshop in Hackney are Penguin and Wordsworth classics. A shop in Brick Lane has lost A-Zs and Dostoyevsky.

All this is, of course, completely understandable. A non-reader wouldn’t know what to look for in the first place besides the ‘latest in thing’, which -- even if he nicks it -- will end up in a bin somewhere. But a discerning thief, a reader, is something else. He knows what he wants, and will do everything he can to get it. They are like art thieves.

Remember the scholar book thief of Bodleian Library? (

The Independent