Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Malaysian government allocation for writers

A Bernama report on 13 December 2011 said, “The government is prepared to provide allocation so that writers will be more active in producing books to help Malaysia achieve developed nation status by 2020 … Second Finance Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah said Malay literature works could illuminate the literary world and mould the people's thinking.”

The report added: "In an effort to improve the country's status as a high income economy, the government is prepared to help Malay literature writers," he said. And guess who wants to put up the paper? Utusan Publications and Distributors Sdn Bhd. I will say, no more.

Then on 17 December 2011, The New Straits Times carried this report, “Local young writers are getting assistance from the government to have their literary works published … This would be possible through a RM5 million allocation announced by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak last night …” This will be handled by National Institute of Translation (ITNM). "It will be involved in publishing original works to help promote the book publishing industry and the nation's literary scene," the PM said, adding that it would be renamed Institut Terjemahan dan Buku Malaysia.

Its unclear if the two initiatives are linked.

The second one announced  by the PM appears similar to the allocation by the National Book Council in Singapore that initially gave money to publishers, but now given to the authors. Or is it the other way round? It doesn’t work in either case. There will be quantity aplenty, but no quality. If one gives it to the publisher, they’ll only want the money regardless of the standard of the work. If the money is given to the writers, there is no incentive for good writing, editing and control by the publisher who will only inflate costs. It will reward mediocrity; the Malaysia Boleh way.

A system that could work would be to have more transparency in book buying by the National Library and other government institutions; to buy and distribute widely the best works. Unfortunately, the buying machinery is so broken and biased, so politicised, with so many vested interests, that it would be impossible to fix.

There will be many who will be quite happy to exploit the situation but for genuine publishers and writers, handouts will be another disaster, another NEP. What they need is fairness and equal opportunity. As it is, we cannot even sell a pencil to a government department without being registered with the Ministry of Finance or going through an ‘approved’ contractor (not that it stops government agencies approaching us for donations for their sports club, hari keluarga or whatever).

Thursday, December 01, 2011

First-class whore book banned

The Malaysian Home Ministry’s ban, with immediate effect, on an explicit sex guide published by the Obedient Wives Club (OWC) has reportedly drawn much amusement in the world media.

Those found in possession of the material will be liable for a fine of up RM5,000, the ministry added, while reproduction or distribution will attract a maximum fine of RM20,000 and a three-year jail sentence.

The OWC says that the book titled, “Seks Islam, perangi Yahudi untuk kembalikan seks Islam kepada dunia (Islamic sex, fighting Jews to return Islamic sex to the world)”, is a guide -- with explicit graphics -- for Muslim brides on how to pleasure their husbands in bed. It says its studies showed women only gave their spouses 10 per cent of what they desired of their wives. (The club’s vice-president, Dr Rohaya Mohamad, advises women to behave like “a first-class whore” if they want their marriages to succeed.)

But according to the ministry’s Al-Quran Text and Publishing Control Division, the book was banned because of its links to the outlawed Al-Arqam movement and for violating the Department of Islamic Development’s (Jakim) censorship rules.

Al-Arqam, an Islamic sect branded as deviationist and banned by the government in 1994 (and their commune in the outskirts of the city Kuala Lumpur shut down) was founded by Ashaari Mohammad who died of illness in May 2010 at the age of 73.

The OWC is seen by some as an attempt to revive Al Arqam, but some say the organisation never died; the ubiquitous black turban, green robes and kohl lined eyes, once visible all over Kuala Lumpur, just gave way to normal clothes so they could blend in, using sundry shops and other businesses as fronts. Although its members have been detained for long periods without trial under the draconian ISA laws, the Al-Arqam have never been linked to terrorism.

Considering how the government is very prickly about anything it considers deviationist, book importers routinely avoid importing books with titles that include the words Qur’an, Islam, Muslim, Sufi, and the like, to prevent harassment. Booksellers, too. (One can import Fanny Hill and sell it to children, but not Islam.) Often, locally published books on Islam manage to remain under the radar for a while but, once they are outed and found to be not in accordance to the ‘official’ version, they are quickly banned.

The Malaysian Insider

The DBP/Dawama marriage - comment

So, Dawama Sdn Bhd is taking government publisher Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP) and its director-general to court for defamation, following claims that the latter suggested on a radio show on 21 April 2011 that the company was being mismanaged.

Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, Malaysia (or literally, the Malaysian Hall for Language and Literature), was established (in 1956) to promote the use of the national language in the country. Somewhere along the way it became a sort of a language police to regulate (and, ostensibly, to protect) the national language. Then, they went into translation and into publishing (not sure which came first) selling books at incredibly low prices ‘for the benefit of the people’. For a long time DBP was the Malaysian publishing industry, period.

Dawama was formed in October 1999 and, in September 2002, it signed a 12-year privatisation contract to print and market DBP’s books and magazines, ostensibly to strengthen DBP marketing. Earlier this year, both parties started accusing the other of breach of contract. Now, the courts will decide.

So, what went wrong?

In the absence of transparency, one can only speculate, and many do. Fact: DBP was set up to promote and facilitate the use of the national language. Fine. Second, it assumed a policing role. Many would argue that no language police anywhere in the world have succeeded in stalling natural evolution and progression. But, never mind. Then translation. It is arguable that the cost of translation would be too prohibitive for the private sector, and some sort of Government intervention would be beneficial, but one has only to visit Jakarta to see how dismally DBP has failed in this respect.  Finally, and most controversially, publishing.
It started with literary journals and magazines, then general books and, eventually, school text books. One could argue that this made books cheap for the public. Yes, so cheap that it killed competition and the industry. It can be speculated (and argued) that with money (and time) being no object, and fuelled by hubris and incompetence, what incentive was there for the inevitable not to happened, for DBP to choke on its own bureaucracy. Rumours ran rife: manuscripts were not read, writers were not paid, retailers could no longer obtain their titles, creative staff was replaced with clerks and managers, and sales disappeared. (At Silverfish, we, have been trying to buy DBP books without success for years.)

So, now there is a lawsuit pending. It will be a soap opera, but will it solve anything? Probably not. Not until a thorough examination of DBP is undertaken, to root out the empire builders and go back to basics. And, stop competing with the private sector in publishing: if you are not going to be help, get out of the way. The Malay publishing industry deserves better.

But then, this is Malaysia. If a private company follows a policy for five years and sees no progress or returns, it makes drastic changes and heads roll. If a government organisation fails in a policy after fifty years, the whining starts: oh, fifty years is too short, its too early to say, let’s do it for another fifty.

In Frankfurt last year, I met a gentleman from the Presses Nationales Haiti who was trying to explain his ‘new’ venture, at a seminar organised by the Invitation Programme: to publish books cheaply and distributor it directly to the people. One of the participants asked, “How will the private publishers and bookshops survive then?” There was some huffing and puffing, but no answers. It sounded very DBP.

I hope he’s reading this. Good luck to you.

Innovative insults

If you are tired of the same old insults, you may try some creative ones we found in, mined from ‘Green’s Dictionary of Slang, a 6,200-page lexicon spanning more than half a millennium’. You probably know and have used the term oxygen thief for someone who is completely useless. How about flaba-flaba? Guess the sound says it all. What do you call these? Onomatopoeias?

There are others in the category like Shabberoon n. A shabby person from 1650-1700 or Gollumpus n. A large, loutish, uncoordinated person from 1750-1800 with are quite easy to guess meanings of, as would Beef-witted adj. Stupid, simple. But, we don’t quite get Chafe-litter n. An impudent, cheeky person (1550-1600); Lerrycometwang n. A fool, a simpleton (1600-1650); or Crow mcgee adj. No good, unreal, false (1900-1950). We love Sir Posthumous Hobby n. An obsessive dandy (1650-1700); and Demi-rep n. A woman of doubtful reputation (1700-1750); though we have no idea of the origins of these term. Does Abrahamer n. A tramp, have anything to do with Abraham, or is Fhawkner n. A thief who steals poultry related to Faulkner or to the word fowl?

An abstractionist n. is a pickpocket. Sounds like an artist. And why is Cakey-pannum fencer n. A street-seller of pastries, an insult? Don’t quite get that.

In Malay, kayu (timber) is a useful word to describe someone who is clueless. What if one comes across a room full of clueless people? We like the term rainforest for that: an entire forest of hardwood timber. One only has to walk into some government offices, banks or call to complain about your broadband to understand what that means. Variations of the term include sawmill and lumber yard. Other useful permutations include blur central or like sotong (cuttlefish).

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Dawama sues DBP

From The Malaysian Insider (TMI): Publishing firm Dawama Sdn Bhd is suing Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP) and its director-general for defamation, following claims that the latter suggested on a radio show on 21 April 2011 that the company was mismanaged.

Dawama currently holds a 12-year contract to print and market DBP’s books and magazines until 2014.

At the end of July 2011, Dawama Sdn Bhd had asked all 400 staff to take no-pay leave before the start of Ramadan due to financial difficulties. It complained that DBP had caused the crisis in July when it took over the publication of textbooks for the 2012 school year without notice, and handed over printing and marketing rights to a third party, and appointed its own printer.

On 4 August, another TMI reported: “Dawama workers no-pay leave letters have been rescinded and they remain employees, said Human Resource Minister Datuk Dr S.Subramaniam today. The minister explained that Dawama after discussion with Manpower Department director-general, Datuk Sheikh Yahya Shaikh has backed down from the no-pay leave enforced since Monday and will pay each worker for 12 days per month until its dispute with Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP) is resolved.

The Malaysian Insider

Frankfurt notes

From Publishing Perspectives

"Start making everything you have as sharable and findable as possible; then people can talk about it. Then, if you are really awesome they may have a conversation with you.” Mitch Joel, keynote speaker at Tools of Change Frankfurt conference. Publishers Need to Engage With the Mobile Consumer.

... the rapidly aging population should present publishers with opportunities to sell to “those book-loving baby boomers who finally have the time to read.” Nielsen Reports Print Book Sales in Decline.

“We found out that the car manufacturers are in a similar situation as us,” explained Frankfurt Book Fair Director Juergen Boos. “As we go from print to digital publishing, the auto industry is experience similar disruption as they move from the petrol to electronic engine. We want to learn from their transformation, from their problem solving processes.” Driving Into the Future.

“There is an increasingly diverse media out there—things like Angry Birds.” Global Ranking: International CEO Panel at Frankfurt.

“Some years back I unthinkingly gave my support to the removal of all restrictions on the retail pricing of books. It was in retrospect a dreadful mistake. At one stroke the British publishing industry delivered itself into the hands of the mass-marketeers—and a death blow to the beleaguered independent bookseller.” Le Carré: Death Blow to Indie Booksellers.

His experience with foreign publishers has taught him that, “it’s better to go with small publishers who are truly dedicated.” Icelandic Author Sjón on Myths and Crackpot Theories.

“Man is a narrative animal.” Icelandic Author Sjón on Myths and Crackpot Theories.

News roundup

Toasters, coffee machines and vacuum cleaners are all perfectly good things to buy on Amazon, the general manager of Toronto-based Kobo told us yesterday when we sat down with him for a product demo of the company’s latest e-reader tablet, but not books. Kobo GM: Why Buy Books From Amazon?

The corner bookstore is supposed to go extinct once Amazon takes over the world. If Borders — and even mighty Barnes & Noble's — couldn't fight off the behemoth, how would the lowly local shop even stand a chance? Used Book Stores Are In A Great Position To Benefit From The E-book Apocalypse.

Self-published authors frequently take the hit for poorly edited and badly formatted e-books. But the truth is, many of them are more careful about proofing their work than traditional publishers seem to be. Why Are E-books Filled With Errors?

Old people read faster than normal on an iPad, even though most claim to prefer 'real books', a study shows. German researchers discovered that people of different ages could read just as well from iPads and Kindles as they do from traditional books. In fact, old people read even faster using the the iPad as it made reading easier than both the Kindle and traditional book. Elderly people 'read iPads three times faster than normal books’.

Every book counts. Malaysia’s Silverfish Books.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Borders closes in Singapore

Bookstore chain Borders closed its Parkway Parade branch, the last remaining outlet in Singapore, at 9pm on Monday, 26th September, according to The Straits Times.

“Borders put their goods on sale over the weekend in order to clear stock, and prices were slashed further on the last day of its operations, with items going for $1 a piece in the final hour.

“Books were not the only items for sale to the hundreds of shoppers who visited the store. Shelves, signs and computers at the cashiers' counters were also available for sale,” said the newspaper.

The Orchard Road store at Wheelock Place closed on the 16th of August. The final nail for the Parkway Parade outlet was driven on 21st September when the US company terminated the right of Borders Singapore to use the brand name and gave it 90 days to cease all activities.

All this brings us back to Malaysia. While the bookstores themselves are not in the same danger of closing, there appears to be no reason why the US company will allow them to continue using the brand name. Maybe the letter has already been sent out. Let’s hold our breath and watch!

The Straits Times

What kind of bookshop do you like?

Says Larry McMurtry in Business Week, “Neatness doesn’t count: Customers prefer stacks on the floor to books on the shelf.” Really? This has made me think of what I’d like in a bookshop.

Piles of books on the floor? No, I’m really not sure. You see, for one thing I would worry about tripping over and getting killed or, worse still, breaking something or, even worse, step on one of the books. (I still have that hang up from childhood, I’m afraid.) Books arranged neatly on the shelf vertically, give me a crick in the neck that can last for days. I prefer them stacked horizontally, which makes it easier to read the spine.

Categorisation and classification helps because I really don’t like to spend hours looking for what I want. So I hate big bookshops: those megastores bore the life out of me, and legs start to hurt. Medium to small is what I like best, say, with 3000 to 5000 titles, several of them, neatly arranged and displayed like the deserts at a deli that you promise yourself even before you order your main meal.

McMurtry says, “Some people don’t like too much order in bookshops and want to feel like they’re finding something. You can have 300,000 books perfectly arranged on the shelf, and every time, people will walk in and want to look at the books stacked up on the floor. So if you really want to sell something, jumble it up and pitch it on the floor.”

I suppose some people do like to pick things off the floor. But for me, the very thought of going through 300,000 books tires me out. I’d prefer to zoom in to the section they have my favourites and skip the rest. I love to browse. Few things give me a high better than book discovery, but I prefer my books to be arranged, though not all in a straight line like policemen on parade. Some creativity would be nice.

The comments are mixed. Some people do like to pick books right out of the boxes, but I prefer some order.

Business Week

How to furnish a room without books

When you walk into a person’s house for the first time and see a plasma TV, you know what the conversation is not going to be about: Milan Kundera’s latest book of essays. When you see a bookshelf in a corner or a stack of books under the glass of the coffee table, you would sneak a peek at the spines before picking a topic, or not. A room full of books, a proper library would establish the class by itself.

But in the age of e-books, you could be in a pickle. A new Harris Interactive survey finds, first, 15% of Americans now use an e-reading device, up from 8% one year ago, and one in six other Americans plan to buy one in the next six months. Second, those with e-readers read more books. Third, those with e-readers buy more books.

All this is bad news for the furnishing industry -- Ikea’s entire range of bookshelves will become redundant -- and we will all need to learn new social skills – when you have a full library all you need to do is to keep the door slightly ajar so your guest can peek into it on the way to the kitchen, or bathroom, or wherever, to take up class positions. “Most of them are my husband’s – he’s such a reader, you know – but many of them, I confess, are mine. I tell him they’re his; he’s got so many he wouldn’t know. Ha ha. But I do love the classics.”

What, if anything,  can you do with a Kindle? How does one brag?

“Denuded of books, all that wall space presents a fresh canvas on which to express yourself,” says Harry de Quetteville in The Telegraph. Wallpapers are making a return. What would one put in the toilet for guests to read? What would one do with the room one uses as a study, the library? Put in a pool table perhaps. If you have the money, why not make it an art gallery? But the most difficult part, I think, will be giving the home the lived-in look. Books can be strewn about on any horizontal surface, even the stairs. What can we toss around to give our home that classy-cluttered look?

The Telegraph

Tuesday, September 06, 2011


OVERVIEW: A workshop to help participants grasp what it takes to write a play, and how dramatic writing can be applied to other uses. It will be interactive and conducted over two days during which participants are expected to take part in writing exercises and discussions. At the end of it, they would have written at least a 10-minute play. They will also experience the sensation of having their plays read out in class. Participants are encouraged to come with an appetite for fun, sharing and learning.

LEARNING OUTCOMES: By the end of this course, you’d be able to:

* Read and understand plays better
* Write short sketches and longer plays
* Employ the techniques of playwriting not just for writing plays but for any other purposes that make use of drama to communicate, e.g. event launches, radio advertisements

TRAINING OBJECTIVES: Gain understanding of what goes into the writing of a play:

* Grasp the basic ingredients of a play
* Appreciate plays through reading them
* Learn that the basis of drama is conflict
* Learn about crisis, complications, rising action, inciting incident, point of attack, climax, resolution, denouement
* Learn how to plot a play
* Learn how to construct characters
* Learn how to write dialogue
* Learn how to write a 10-minute play
* How do you sell your play?
* Find out the uses of drama and its applications in everyday life and work

* Students who want to learn more about plays and playwriting
* Professionals in the creative industry who use drama in the course of their work, e.g. advertising copywriters
* Those who aspire to become professional writers
* Those who have ambitions of becoming playwrights
* Arts lovers

TRAINER’S BIODATA: As a playwright, Kee Thuan Chye is best known for 1984 Here and Now and We Could **** You, Mr Birch. The former is included in the international anthology Postcolonial Plays published by Routledge UK. We Could **** You, Mr Birch is a text studied in Malaysian universities.
Another play, The Big Purge, was featured in Typhoon 4, a playreading festival in London held in 2005. All three plays are published by Marshall Cavendish.
Another play, The Swordfish, Then the Concubine, came out among the top 5 in the International Playwriting Festival 2006, organised by Warehouse Theatre, UK.
It premiered on stage in 2008 as the opening play of the Singapore Theatre Festival, directed by leading Singapore stage director Ivan Heng. In January 2011, it was restaged in Singapore by Young ’n’ Wild.
Kee has also written numerous radio plays many of which were broadcast on RTM in the 1970s.
He has also directed about a dozen plays for the theatre.
As an actor, his acting credits over the last 30 years include speaking roles in the films Entrapment and Anna and the King. Other international productions he has acted in include the Hallmark TV-movie Marco Polo and Secrets of the Forbidden City for the BBC and the History Channel.
He played Tan Cheng Lock in Shuhaimi Baba’s film 1957 Hati Malaya, and was in the main cast of the film Sell Out!, directed by Yeo Joon Han, which won an award at the 2008 Venice Film Festival (Critics’ Week).
On Malaysian TV, he was the regular character Han Lee in the long-running series City of the Rich. He has also appeared in guest roles in the series Kopitiam, Each Other, Impian Ilyana, Realiti, Gol & Gincu II and Bilik No. 13. His latest role is as the villain in the TV series 10 (Sepuluh).
He has also appeared in numerous TV series and TV-movies in Singapore, including Phua Chu Kang, Perceptions and Sense of Home: Kampung Kid.

He tells it like it is. He will point out your mistakes, and suggest remedies. He doesn’t mince his words or try to give you a false sense of security.
He treats everyone the same, be they royalty or peasant. He has no time for titles.
He encourages everyone to speak freely on any subject. And also to challenge him on whatever he says. He only expects you to be honest.

This outline is subject to change according to the trainer’s discretion.
These issues will be addressed, accompanied by writing and other exercises:
Types of plays and staging styles.
What is a play made of?
The basis of drama is Conflict.
The playwright’s vision.
How to write believable characters.
How to write snappy dialogue.
How to tap your imagination for ideas.
The 3-Act Structure.
How to write a 10-minute play.
How to write a sketch.
How to write a 30-second radio advertisement.

Please email Kee Thuan Chye directly for more information and registration.

News: The novel dies again

Neil Cross says in his Soap Box story: what is the point of the novel? He starts, "All the important things I know, I learned from novels. I learned about hate and love, about poverty and wealth, about idleness and about the workplace. I learned about the infinities of space and about ugly, windswept houses on Yorkshire moors. I learned what it was like to work in a blacking factory, to fight in the Korean War, to be part of a race gang in pre-war Brighton and to be a spy in Cold War London. I earned how to trick my friends into whitewashing a fence."

So have we, so have we. But I get confused when he says, "... To a contemporary teenager, a world without Facebook is like a world without running water." What? Is King Lear less relevant because his three daughters didn't have access to Facebook? I don't get it. He says that Jonathan Franzen's Corrections was published before the (now) ubiquitous iPod and how, "... the world has always been in flux, but the rate of change
has become such that novelists are struggling to keep up ..." and "... Suddenly, all novels are historical novels." Is keeping up with technology the only preoccupation of the novelist?

But when he says, "'The only reason for the existence of a novel is that it does attempt to represent life,' said Henry James. I don’t believe he was right; I believe he was talking about what became known as the ‘literary novel’, a tyrannically illustrious genre in the process of becoming redundant." Ah, so that's the beast Neil Cross wants to slay. At this point, I am thinking, 'Yes, that is an unruly monster that one doesn't quite now weather to love or hate, a moster created and nurtured by the Anglophone world and dwells almost entirely in it.' I cannot disagree with what "... Walter Scott called ‘the land of fiction’ – the artistic conventions of storytelling and the creation of myth ..." It is something that has facinates me -- storytelling and the creation of myths, which is the basis of Silverfish publishing. Niel Cross concludes, "Scott’s ‘land of fiction’ may represent both the novel’s deepest, truest form, and the shape of its future ... I kind of hope so."

Read the entire story here:

News: Collateral damage

A Telegraph report says, "Heavy discounting by supermarkets, the rise of internet retailers and the growing popularity of e-readers such as the Kindle have forced nearly 2,000 bookshops to close since 2005 ... There were 2,178 high street bookshops left in Britain in July, according to research carried out by Experian, the data company, compared with 4,000 in 2005. A total of 580 towns do not have a single bookshop."

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Dawama staff on no-pay leave

A story in The Malaysian Insider says, “Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP) printer, Dawama Sdn Bhd, has asked all 400 staff to take no-pay leave starting tomorrow due to financial difficulties.

It is understood that Dawama blames its ongoing school textbooks dispute with DBP, an agency under the Education Minister, for its predicament.”

Ramadan has just started, and Dawama wants its staff to take leave without pay? That's evil.

Dawama Workers Association president, Zainal Awit, is surprised to hear of the printer’s financial woes as the company was supposed to make a profit of up to RM60 million every year. He is quoted: “Dawama prints and distributes textbooks, books and magazines, where it’s not supposed to make a loss. But we understand that it... cannot even buy paper (now).”

DBP signed a 12-year contract with Dawama in 2002 to print and distribute its books, magazines and journals.

In a meeting with a former Director General of DBP (and some board members) a few year ago, I was asked if Silverfish would be willing to carry their titles. I said, we’d be ecstatic, but we couldn’t find any. Who were their distributors? Subsequently, we had a visit from a gentleman who said he was from Dawama, who promised to send us some catalogues. We never heard from him again.

It is not surprising that DBP is mad at Dawama. How many bookshops are there in Klang Valley that carry DBP books (besides the dictionary)? After taking the trouble to publish the books, one would think, DBP would expect to see them out in the market (for whatever it’s worth). Silverfish Books, for one, would be interested in the DBP backlist.

The problem is the lucrative school textbook largesse worth millions, which the rest of us minions are shut out from. Why would any printer, bestowed with such a bountiful concession even bother with any of the (slow moving) other titles, or even turn up for work?

Now, the workers are appealing to the Deputy Prime Minister to help solve the issue. How Malaysian can you get?

Latest -- 4 Aug 2011: According to The Malaysian Insider: "Dawama workers no-pay leave letters have been rescinded and they remain employees, said Human Resource Minister Datuk Dr S.Subramaniam today."

A bookless library

It is a day I have dreaded, and it is here. “At Drexel University's new Library Learning Terrace, which opened just last month, there is nary a bound volume, just rows of computers and plenty of seating, offering access to the Philadelphia University's 170 million electronic items.”

I have not dreaded it because I am a luddite or I am anti-technology. Far from it. Anyone who knows me knows how I embrace the latest in gadgetry. The problem is with technology in the hands of people who have no idea of its limitations who are simply overwhelmed by the slick and shine. (I appreciate what an iPhone does and hugely admire its engineering and design -- my son has it, but I do not own one because I have no use for it.)

I am not mushy and sentimental about the smell of books and its tactile qualities. Those can be easily replaced with an odourant spray. I object to the devaluation of the serendipitous nature of knowledge and the glorious moment when it reveals itself to you from the most unlikely places; from books.

How does one use Google, for instance. Google is a great tool to look for stuff if you know what you are looking for. Same with Amazon. Knowledge and wisdom are far more omnipresent and subtle. We (or, at least, I) absorb through a process almost akin to osmosis -- from the surroundings, from books; in moments of lucidity and semi-consciousness.

I will not be surprised if one of the local universities decide to embark on a similar project. It would look cool, certainly and, besides, the largest roti canai in the world has already been made and eaten. I suppose, one could seek solace in the fact that, at least,  they will no longer be throwing out precious hundred-year-old collections because no one is checking them out as frequently as Da Vinci Code (a major literary canon, no doubt). But then, there is always the delete key.

Qin Shih Huang, roll over in your grave and eat your heart out. Here comes a new generation of book burners.


New independent bookshop in London

It used to be that only the opening of yet another humungous mega book store was news worthy. Maclehose Press reports: “Wonderful news for all devotees of translated fiction: independent publisher Gallic Books is to open a new bookshop on Ebury Street, SW1, that will specialise in translated fiction and stocking the books of fellow independent publishers.”

In its press release, Belgravia Books (address:51 Ebury Street, London SW1) aims to be a local bookshop with “home and workplace delivery, an interactive website, free teas and coffees and a vigorous events programme with reading groups and involvement with schools a key focus. They also aim to hold book launches, discussions, children’s readings, workshops and author signing evenings. Ironically, one of the opening discussions will be entitled ‘The Death of the Bookshop’.”

They do have a sense of humour. (The promised, interactive website is not online, yet.) Publisher Gallic Books specialises in translations of the best French works into English.

Jane Aitken, Founder and MD of Gallic Books says, "We are so excited to be realising our long-held dream of opening a bookshop. We want Belgravia Books to become an integral and active part of the local community, and the Big Green Bookshop, itself a model of local bookselling, has been more than generous in sharing ideas with us. We also have the benefit of the combined skill and expertise of Operations Director, Alison Savage and Head of Sales, Guy Ramage, both former Borders managers, to help guide our way. Alison Savage, will take on the role of Belgravia Books Manager."

The next time I am in London, I know who I’ll be visiting.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Silverfish Writing Programme - next intake

We last ran this programme in January this year to a full house. To those who have been writing to us to inquire about our next intake (and there have been quite a few of you), please note that the next programme will begin on Saturday, 16th July 2011, at Silverfish Books' new premises at 28-1, Jalan Telawi, Bangsar (a few shops up from where we currently are) and will be limited to 10 participants. 

The proof of a writing programme (or any other) is in the results. The aim is to discover serious writers, not those looking for magic solutions or pills. Not everyone will be interested in getting published (a surprising many aren't) but most are interested in writing well, be it for pleasure, to entertain friends or even  therapy -- fiction or non-fiction. Writing is hard work, but there is a method to the madness. We prefer not to call it a creative writing course for a reason;  we do not believe that's what it’s all about. It is about telling stories in  written form, about engaging your reader and about being relevant. There is absolutely no reason an author living in Malaysia cannot be world class, as Shih-Li Kow (Ripples) and Rozlan Mohd Noor (21 Immortals) have proved.

Registration (with full payment) can be done either in person at the current Silverfish Books premises on Jalan Telawi, Bangsar Baru, Kuala Lumpur, or online at our website. (There is a link on the home page, Fees for the entire ten-week programme will be RM1000.00, but there will be 10% early-bird discount for those who register before the 1st of July 2011. Please bring a laptop if you have one, and if you find it easier to write on it. Otherwise, simply bring a good pen.

Read more about the programme ...

Silverfish Writing Programme

Silverfish titles now available for Kindle, Nook

Checked yesterday, and found that several titles published by Silverfish Books are now available for e-book downloads for the Kindle and the Nook. (We are not handling it, is.) We are starting with ten titles (two of which are yet to be uploaded), but we would like to put our entire catalogue up.

It has been (and continues to be) an interesting learning curve for us. First, in case there is any confusion, we are not anti-technology -- we have always embraced it. We see the e-book as the future, but despite the many Chicken Littles running around (mainly in the media) we don’t think the time of the dead tree edition is over, and is not going to be anytime soon. We believe the two will continue to coexist as the e-book evolves.

Second, the production of the e-book is quite different from the conventional form. In the case of the latter, we go into quite a bit of trouble in choosing the paper, the fonts, the page layout (with attention to spacing, kerning, orphans and widows), print quality and the overall look and feel for a beautiful product. In the case of e-books, conversion starts with a ‘Word’ document, with everything simply slapped on. People are right about that tactile thing. The e-book is closer to a nasi campur (a takeaway meal) that is convenient and does the job, while the dead tree book is like dining in a restaurant. So, I am guessing, both will continue to exist, just as McDonald’s hasn’t killed more sophisticated eateries yet.

Still, we are excited by the brave new world. You will find the following e-books at the Kindle and Nook stores:

1.    News from Home by Chuah Kok Yee, Shih-Li Kow and Rumaizah Abu Bakar (USD 7.99)
2.    Tanah Tujuh: Close Encounters with the Temuan Mythos by Antares (USD 7.99)
3.    Ripples and other stories by Shih-Li Kow (Frank O’Connor shortlist, 2009) (USD7.99)
4.    Tales from the Court and other stories by Matthew Thomas (USD7.99)
5.    21 Immortals by Rozlan Mohd Noor (Commonwealth Prize shortlist, 2011) (USD 8.99)
6.    I am Muslim by Dina Zaman (USD 7.99)
7.    From Inderapura to Darul Makmur: A History of Pahang by Farish A Noor (USD 9.49)
8.    Qur'an and Cricket by Farish A Noor (USD9.99)

These two should be up soon:
9.    Without Anchovies by Chua Kok Yee
10. The Female Cell by Rumaizah Abu Bakar

The prices for the e-book editions are lower than for the print ones due to some savings (mainly from distribution). Also, some pictures have been dropped for technical reasons without reducing the value. Some books have also been re-edited to make it friendlier for international readers. Click here to see the list as it would appear in the US on Amazon. For other regions, go to the Amazon home page, select Kindle eBooks (under Books) and search for Silverfish. For the Nook, for now you will have to search for individual titles (because the ‘Silverfish’ meta tag has yet to be uploaded. It will be soon.

Other formats to be supported soon are: Omnilit, Kobo, Weightless Books, Xin Xii and Google Editions. Currently, the Silverfish e-book titles are available on BookCyclone which features many interesting Asian titles.

Silverfish is moving

Yes, that’s right. After almost four years at the present premises, we are moving to 28-1 Jalan Telawi, just 15 shops up the road from where we are now, because the landlord wants to raise the rent. Unfortunately, it’s a bit too high for us, so we are leaving.

The new shophouse is only two stories, so there is no fear of another dance studio pounding us daily or smoking us out with incense. I think it has a nicer ambience and a little more space.

We will have a party not long after we open, so put yourself on our mailing list (if you are not already on it) and you will be invited. It will coincide with our 12th anniversary. (That’s a scary thought: we have been in business for twelve years; we are almost an institution!)

Look at the photograph with this story. That’s what we looked like when we first opened in 1999 in Taman Seri Hartamas.

200 million people in the US want to publish

This story in Publishing Perspectives by Justine Tal Goldberg says about 200 million Americans (81% of the population) aspire to become published authors. He also says that self-published authors now outnumber traditionally published ones 2:1.

Unfortunately, most wannabe authors didn’t take their craft seriously enough to attend the Independent Book Publishers Association’s 27th Annual Publishing University, a concurrent event with BookExpo America at New York City’s Javits Center organised to help self-publishers.

“There are so many of us humans who are ready to self-publish or publish with little or no more thought than we would give to having a meal at a fancy restaurant,” says Cynthia Frank, independent press publishing consultant and publisher at Cypress House.

“Self-published books are almost uniformly badly published,” says Deb Werksman, acquiring editor and editorial manager for Sourcebooks, the largest women-owned independent publishing house in the country.

Malaysia, anyone?

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Kulit Manis wins world cookbook award

‘It was the biggest and perhaps most glamorous Gourmand World Cookbook Awards Gala ever: 1,250 guests attended the ceremony in the worldwide known theater of the Folies Bergère in Paris on March 3,’ says the website. And Kulit Manis: a taste of Trengganu’s Heritage was judged the best in the world in the WORLD CUISINE: LOCAL category. (I can feel my mouth watering already.)

Kulit Manis: A Taste of Terengganu's Heritage, is an unusual cookbook in that it is a 252 page literary 'heirloom'. Kulit Manis is a labour of love, a painstaking journey which reconnects the author, To' Puan Rosita, to her beloved state. Indeed, the author discovered many things that she had forgotten or never knew about Terengganu.

Kulit Manis takes a look at Terengganu's heritage from its culinary history. It delights readers with anecdotes and stories on personalities behind the recipes. It is a respectful appreciation of history, culture, places, nature and the citizens of Terengganu. The eighty-eight recipes in the book represent the true flavour of Terengganu; be it Malay, Chinese or Indian, or an amalgamation of all the three cultures. The recipes are unusual in that most of them require the chef to be instinctive: most have no precise measurements -- with a pinch of this and a dash of that. But they are all works of love.

The beautiful and energetic To' Puan Rosita Abdullah is as keen and passionate about cooking, as she is excited about Terengganu's heritage and culture.

Kulit Manis took three years to complete, juggling her roles as a housewife and mother, and interviewing strangers for recipes and history. She made many friends as she discovered new secrets about her home state. And the more she learned, the more she loved Terengganu.

Buy book

Exploding the myths of the information age

Robert Darnton writes in The Chronicle of Higher Education, ‘Confusion about the nature of the so-called information age has led to a state of collective false consciousness. It's no one's fault but everyone's problem ...’

I agree about the false consciousness bit but I’m not sure about that its no one’s fault? I’d blame the combination of a hyperactive ‘chicken little’ media that blows everything out of proportion, even non-news, confusing themselves and everyone else in the process, and a hyper-secretive geekdom that protects its knowledge as witches and wizards would their magic spells. IT has now become the ‘new magic’ in the hands of new high priests and priestesses. Still, Darntons story is worth a read. (Whether you agree is different matter.)

The first myth he explodes is about the book being dead. ‘Wrong,’ he says. ‘More books are produced in print each year than in the previous year. One million new titles will appear worldwide in 2011. In one day in Britain—"Super Thursday," last October 1—800 new works were published.’ One may well ask, how many of those could have been shelved to save some trees?

Second: ‘We have entered the information age. This announcement is usually intoned solemnly, as if information did not exist in other ages.’ I can certainly agree with this one.

Third: ‘All information is now available online.’  Certainly not. I with Durston on this, too.

Fourth: ‘Libraries are obsolete.’ Malaysian ones are, but not because they are redundant.

Fifth: ‘The future is digital.’ Yes, I agree with Durston. It is mostly media hype, it's chicken little all over again. Besides it makes good copies.

Robert Darnton is a professor and university librarian at Harvard University.

The Chronicle of Higher Education

Read More:

Is multitasking harder for seniors?

A story in says, ‘A new comparison of brain activity in young and elderly multitaskers suggests an unexpected explanation for why older people frequently lose their trains of thought, and have more trouble juggling multiple tasks.’

I don’t know if I should feel relieved or insulted. Actually, I have always been this way: unable to multitask. I am normally so focussed on what I am doing that, I can forget the rest of the world exists. So if I try to do two things, I will mess one up. Maybe, I was born with an old brain.

‘In neuroscientific parlance, they (the oldies) experience “an interruption recovery failure, manifest as a deficient ability to dynamically switch between functional brain networks,” wrote the authors of the study, published Apr. 12 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.’

Sorry, catch no ball! All I know is that I don’t multitask. I know many who do, like chat on Yahoo messenger while doing something else. Me, I can’t and I find it annoying. I don’t like to be distracted when I am in full flow. That’s why I don’t even own a mobile telephone (the ringing will make me jump, irritate me and it will take me a while to get back to work) or wear a wristwatch (I like to be unconscious of time when I am working). Maybe, I am an extremist.

You can read all about it by following the link below.

Read More

Monday, April 04, 2011

E-book consumption pattern

When I read this story by Cyndy Aleo in, I laughed out loud. She quotes Marc Parrish of Barnes and Noble who says, " Readers tend toward a favorite author, category, personal recommendations, or flap text."

Duh! He didn't know that? And he is a vice president of Barnes and Noble!

Writes Mike Shatzkin for the Idea Logical Company, "In theory, the more books are sold online the more sales should move to the long tail. Online bookstores have the advantage of “unlimited shelf space”. Nothing has to be left out of the assortment because of constraints on capital to stock inventory or room to hold it ... But it doesn’t seem to be working out that way ... it would appear that e-book sales are even more concentrated across a smaller title band than print."

Why did anyone think that e-book consumption patterns would be any different from print books?

I found another story; more interesting reading: Eric Landes writes in The Digital Reader about the Amazon bestseller list, "In the top 20, there are 9 books priced at $1 or less, and 4 priced over $10." This is brilliant! The 'Big 6' publishers who used to dominate these list should, certainly, be worried. Adds Landes, "If they can’t get their books onto bestseller lists, they’re losing both marketing cred and a tool that might generate further sales. Those lists are also very effective free publicity."

Now, that is a changing pattern of consumption. Are e-book downloads moving towards bestsellers, or are they recreating the bestseller list?

In other news in the Irish Times, Mills and Boons is going into e-books.

And in yet another story in the New York Times, Amanda Hocking, the self-published e-book darling has sold her next two books to St. Martin’s Press, part of Macmillan, for more than USD 2 million for the world English rights to “Watersong” a young adult paranormal series.

Read More

Making books, the way it was

Saw this video on Huffington Post. This is how they used to make books in 1947. Watch it, its great.

Read More

Publishing industry in Japan hit by earthquake

In an open letter 'To All International Friends in the Publishing Community', the president of the Japan Book Publishing Association, Masahiro Oga, says, "First of all, I would like to thank you all for deeply-appreciated message of condolence and sympathy to us since the disaster took place on Friday, March 11. According the Meteorological Agency, the earthquake which hit northern part of Honshu Island was magnitude of 9.0 that was the strongest in the Japanese history."

He adds, "The business is almost normal at Japan Book Publishers Association and most of publishers in Tokyo. However it is certain that this Tohoku Kanto Big Earth Quake have caused serious damage in the publishing industry. Firstly, some paper-manufacturing companies in Tohoku area, which produce about 40% of publication paper, have suffered grave damage, so publishing paper is going to be in short supply. Secondly, due to the fuel shortage, the distributors have decided to deliver books and magazines to each books shops all over the country every second day, which is every day on a normal basis. It must have a direct impact on the distribution of books and magazines. This serious distribution problem has occurred for the first time since the Second World War. It will take a long time to re-establish the afflicted area and to resolve the fuel shortage. Thirdly, some book shops off the shore of Tohoku Area have suffered serious damage from a Tsunami. Other many books shops not just in the Tohoku area have also have suffered severe damage whose books have fallen and gotten wet with a running sprinkler. Fourthly, some of land routes in Tohoku area were cut off. And we can not assume anything about when the distribution in Tohoku area will be restored."

Read more

Friday, March 04, 2011

Sleepless nights

Inbali Iserles writes in The Independent: Vampires and their demonic counterparts accounted for a quarter of the top-20 fiction sales for children, and 18 out of 20 for young adults in January 2011, according to The Bookseller.

She quotes Mary Hoffman, the author of the bestselling Stravaganza series: "[The new horror is] the worst kind of Mills & Boon stuff. Especially when it takes the form of disguised propaganda against pre-marital sex." (Stephenie Meyer, the author of Twilight, is a famously abstemious Mormon.) "Males as dangerous, females as victims or prey: what kind of message is that for young women?"

When I was fourteen, I remember being sleepless for weeks after reading Bram Stoker's Dracula and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. (I simply couldn't get into Edgar Alan Poe at that age). Though both were not exactly YA fiction, I was way past the 'furry animals' stage. We had children's fiction then, and adult's fiction. Very few books came into the YA category. So, those of us who read graduated to adult fiction relatively early.

Iserles continues: 'The worldwide popularity of the Twilight series undoubtedly inspired ghoulish copycats to climb out of their coffins and on to the shelves. But is there more to it than that? If books offer a mirror to our world, what does the current popularity of horror and dystopia tell us?'
She quotes Hoffman again: "We are living in a particularly depressing world at present – recession, wars, terrorism, climate change – and teenagers have always been sensitive to the mess the previous generation has made."

Huh? When did ghost stories ever die? Have Iserles and Hoffman never been camping? Teenagers have always liked to scare themselves silly.

The Independent

Boutique bookselling

I have some customers who refuse discounts Silverfish offers on the basis that 'big bookstores don't give any discount, why should you?' These are generally old friends (although some 'old friends' expect special privileges and discounts on account of being our cronies), or the 'self-avowed friends of independents' whom we love. Otherwise, most Silverfish customers -- regardless of income level -- do enjoy our discounts (with some even demanding it). The entire book industry is plagued by discounting, and is one of the main reasons for its imminent collapse.

So, I was more than a little intrigued by the story on Publisher's Weekly, Bookmarc: Bookstore as luxury brand. Are customer's willing to pay more for a book from a luxury outlet? Write Judith Rosen & Wendy Werris for Publisher's Weekly: " Books as lifestyle is evident in the juxtaposition of books and other merchandise at Bookmarc. Nonbook items include hand-embroidered canvas book clutches made by Olympia Le-Tan in Paris, which feature covers of classic American novels like John Steinbeck’s The Pearl and Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls, and MJ-branded journals and notepads titled Huckleberry Finn Is My Homeboy or As I Lay Tanning. There are also paperbacks and hardcovers aplenty, especially by and about rock-and-roll stars, the 1960s cultural revolution, erotica, fashion, art, photography, and history, as well as memoirs, rare books, and even self-published titles from Blurb. Prices also tend to be eclectic, from $1,500 for a book-clutch to $1.50 for an MJ condom."

Ah, so that explains it. So, books become loss leaders once more. Or, in other words, the only way forward for a bookshop is to sell non-book items. Interesting.

Publisher's Weekly

Book piracy in India

Ritwik Mukherjee writes in the Financial Chronicle that, " ... one-fourth of India’s total book market (which is estimated to be between Rs 5000 and Rs 7000 crore, except educational and text books) is dominated by pirated books. That’s what publishers and digital book sellers estimate." (That would be one quarter of between 1.0 and 1.5 billion USD, if my maths is right.)

That is about right, isn't it? India is, probably, the only country in the world where one can find books sold along pavements and bazaars. Though many of them are 'best sellers', I have been surprised at the number of 'serious' titles I have seen by the roadside. Many are books one will not find even on Amazon! One wonders what their production cost is: next to nothing? (A local writer once said that he would be flattered if anyone pirated his book.)

But with the digital age upon us, piracy in India must be even simpler. Online booksellers in the India sell over 10,000 books daily, worth an estimated Rs 100 crores (USD25 million). But even more exciting is the e-book sales, which has been described as phenomenal, growing at a rate of 50 to 70% annually.

Rahul Sethi, president, of e-commerce, ibibo Web, which owns, India’s fastest growing online shopping portal with special focus on books, says: "With piracy swelling up, publishers will be increasingly turning towards the online digital medium for the sale of their books."

That is strange. Wouldn't it be much easier to rip off digital books?

Financial Chronicle

Monday, February 07, 2011

Reality is broken

Jane McGonigal Thinks Reality is Broken, and She Wants to Fix It, according to this story by Michael Anderson in the Wired magazine. He says:

"McGonigal’s new book, Reality is Broken: Why Games Make us Better and How they Can Change the World, hits bookstores (in the US) on Jan. 20, and expands upon the central point of her presentations: reality is broken, because games do a better job of making us happy. Rather than attacking games as an escapist outlet for avoiding real-world troubles, why don’t we subvert those game mechanics to make the world a better place?"

I am not a 'gamer' in the hardcore sense of the word. I play Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja, Bubble Ball on my iPad and iPod Touch for a few minutes daily. I am not obsessed with them, although winning a 'level' does make me feel good. I don't like to tax my brain too much after a long day, nor do I care much for 'bang-bang-bang', 'shoot-shoot-shoot' games. To each his own, I guess. Building cities and farms and what-have-you, don't excite me either. I cannot see the point.

Anderson says: " The book is structured in three sections: The first delves into what makes us happy, the second embraces the notion of entering alternate realities, and the third addresses the challenges and potential embodied in massive collaborative projects."

Fiction makes me happy. It embraces the notion of alternate reality like nothing else does. But I am still grappling with the part about, 'addresses the challenges and potential embodied in massive collaborative projects.' Sometimes I see it, sometimes I don't. For me, fiction is the greatest game of all. I would love get my hands on that book, though.

Wired magazine

Bedtime reading

Read this on Galleycat: Author Sean Cummings has started a Facebook group with a practical way to save publishing. Cummings theorized that the industry could be salvaged if everyone made a habit of reading ten minutes before bedtime.

I have browsed through his Facebook and also his website, and came up with this: "Do you believe in the power of the written word? Human beings have been reading in some form or another for the better part of the last five thousand years. Books are snapshots of our times, they're a window into the world we live in, and they represent a living record of humanity's journey through the ages. Books have the power to give meaning to our life and times, and they endure. Technology has shaped the written word, and it's ironic that while technology gave the power of reading to the masses, it also threatens the viability of an entire industry and the lives who those who eke out a meager living from the solitary pursuit of writing.

Recent years have seen the publishing industry (books, magazines, newspapers) face immense pressures. Independent book stores are closing, advances on royalties for debut authors are declining, publishers are going bankrupt, and at the heart of this is the fact that fewer people are reading."

I don't know about saving the publishing industry (I feel it needs to be saved more from itself by, first, giving it back to people who know and care about it), but it looks pretty cool. Check it out.

The Galleycat

Does anyone read book reviews anymore?

I was a little surprised when I read this story by Anis Shivani in The Huffington Post recently, because I thought I was the only one who didn't. Yes, confession: I seldom read book reviews, and I haven't read one for a while. Why? Well, for one thing I'd rather judge a book by its cover (and its first page). Second, I receive good recommendations from friends. Third, I am sort of adventurous; I like to try out new stuff. And fourth, well-written reviews are a joy to read, but have become increasingly difficult to find.

Still, there are some people who come into Silverfish Books looking for titles, with cutouts of book reviews from the local dailies (many completely out of date).

Anis Shivani asked several American critics, "How can book reviewing be relevant to the new generation of readers?" Here are some responses (extracts only):

Jay Pirani, author: Today the newspapers print badly argued, often showy, and usually brief takes on a book. The quality of a reviewer's prose, and the quality of sympathy brought to the book itself, seems not to matter, to editors or readers.

Ron Charles, Washington Post: Get over it: They (the new generation) don't subscribe to newspapers, and they're not going to.

Steven G. Kellman, book critic: Accuracy and honesty remain urgent.

Kelly Cherry, author: The Internet is commodious but for that very reason tends to collapse into fiefdoms. How much do Internet reviews really affect readers' choices?

Read more

The Huffington Post

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Silverfish: Book Bug Bargains are back

We have acquired about a thousand books in 300 titles which we are selling at 20% to 75% off the publishers RRP. Many you will not find in other bookshops in Klang Valley. You know what warehouse and bargain-book sales are like: garbage dumps. One has to practically pick through trash to find some gems. But not at Silverfish Books because all titles are individually chosen. Click on the image to see the poster. You can also follow the link at the bottom of this post to view a list.

When Silverfish Books opened in Desa Sri Hartamas in 1999, life was simple: we were a bookshop with a selection of titles at friendly prices for the discerning reader that were not available in any other bookshop in KL at the time. (Only Skoob in Brickfields offered a similar range.) We were an independent bookshop, period. Then, things started getting complicated.

MPH Mid-valley opened a humungous store about nine months after we started business. With their deep pockets, they were able to order every title on every publisher’s list, whether they understood what they were buying or not. Other similar megastores mushroomed in every corner of KL and PJ, and every new mall in Klang Valley wanted one of their own. We had more mega bookstores here than in Singapore.

Our sales were seriously affected, but we survived the onslaught, though barely. We had a loyal group of customers who kept us afloat. We also decided to specialise in Malaysian titles. Publishing was a happy distraction, and another source of steady income.

But, the industry is changing again, as it was bound to. One can defy gravity only for so long. It started in UK with Borders going bust. (Borders sold their Australia/Singapore operations before that.) Waterstones is not very healthy either. In the US, Borders is heading towards its final chapters, and the closure of 676 bookstores owned by the chain looks imminent, and last time we heard Barnes and Noble is up for sale, too.

Can the Malaysian book industry remain unaffected by this turmoil? There already appears to be a trend towards smaller bookstores. How many of the ‘big boys’ will survive?

Now, we can go back to what we used to do: sell good books at good prices to readers who like good books.

List price

It says on the homepage of that: Figment is a community where you can share your writing, connect with other readers, and discover new stories and authors. Whatever you're into, from sonnets to mysteries, from sci-fi stories to cell phone novels, you can find it all here.

Jacob Lewis, who helped create the the website with Dana Goodyear of The New Yorker, sees it as a ‘sort of literary Facebook for the teenage set’. ‘We’ll be the social network for young-adult fiction,’ ” he says. “But, it became clear early on that people didn’t want a new Facebook.”

The New York Times report says that, the young people on the site weren’t much interested in “friending” one another. What they did want, he said, “was but to read, write and discover new content."

Interesting. You didn’t know that about teenagers, did you? is an experiment in online literature, a free platform for young people to read and write fiction, on their computers or their cellphones. Users are invited to write novels, short stories and poems, collaborate with other writers and give and receive feedback on works posted on the site.

Read more

New York Times

Fidgetal (or the revenge of the luddites).

Fidgetal - modern technology whose primary purpose is to give people something to do with their fingers.

A BBC magazine report says: “Technology, and the hype that surrounds it, is changing the way we speak. But we don't have to turn into drones, all spouting the latest i-word. Chris Bowlby says it's time for the techno-bullied to fight back with their own subversive speak.”

So, we witness the birth of anti-technological words: Here is a sample:

Wikisqueak - sound emitted by diplomat who realises she's sent confidential telegram without proper encryption

Dreadsheet - spreadsheet containing very bad financial news

Mobile drone - lover of interminable tedious and public phone conversations

Powerpointless - universal feeling in room at end of hi-tech executive presentation of negligible value

Read all about it