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Google Book Search Settlement Demystified

May 5, 2009

Google Book SearchAssuming you haven't had the time, energy, or mental aptitude for legal matters to get to the bottom of what's going on with Google Book Search and the settlement reached last October, we highly recommend this helpful FAQ from Wired. It gets directly to the root issues of the debate sans stuffiness or legalese.

Wired points out (as have others) that the real benefit to Google in all this will probably not come from selling or renting books, but from selling expensive database subscriptions to libraries—meaning that the same libraries criticized by publishers for being in cahoots with Google's purported infringement could be the ones hurting under the new arrangement. Mike Shatzkin points out and discusses this irony in The Shatzkin Files (which, by the way, is a blog worth reading on a regular basis).

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It’s a Big, Bad Book World: This Week In Publishing

May 1, 2009

Happy first of May!


  • IndieBound has declared today, May 1st, to be “Buy Indie Day,” suggesting that people stop by their local or indie bookstore and pick up a title in support of the brick-and-mortar bookstores of our communities. What book will you be grabbing off the shelf?
  • It may have taken 341 years, but Great Britain has finally awarded a woman the honorable title of British Poet Laureate. The lucky lady is fifty-three-year-old Carol Ann Duffy of Glasgow, Scotland.
  • Master of Macabre Edgar Allen Poe is being recognized in his hometown of Boston with a square near the Boston Common. One wonders if it will feature squawking ravens and swinging pendulums.
  • The 2009 Arthur C. Clarke award for a science-fiction novel goes this year to Ian R MacLeod’s Song of Time, which features an old woman contemplating memories of her life as she nears death at the end of the 21st century.
  • Google gets the evil eye. The Justice Department is delving deeper into the antitrust implications of the Google settlement with authors and publishers (which will give Google to right to publish books online unless authors opt-out).
  • Saturday, May 2nd is the annual Free Comic Book Day, in which participating comic book stores across the country give away—you guessed it—free comic books courtesy of major publishers and smaller imprints alike. Check out your local store and grab a few.
  • Joanne Kaufman of the New York Times gives an insightful discussion the impact of Kindle and other e-reader technology. What does having a Kindle say about the reader, anyway?
  • Children’s laureates were asked to pick their favorite children’s stories of all time. On that list includes Snow White, Stuart Little, Little Women, A Little Princess, Sword in the Stone, and other classics. Not gracing the list? Modern bestsellers like Harry Potter, for instance.
  • With the announcement of the winners of the 2009 Nebula Award winners for science-fiction works comes Ursula K Le Guin’s 6th win. Le Guin is perhaps most famous for Earthsea, her series of fantasy novels.
  • In a daring power move, Amazon.com recently purchased Lexycle, the company behind the Stanza Reader application for the iPhone. The writers at BookSquare give an elegant elegy on this innovative independent.
  • The 2009 winners for the Edgar Awards, given to mystery writers, have been announced.
  • Lastly, as a bit of fun, check out The Creative Penn’s 82 Brilliant Links for writers, authors and publishers.

Have a great weekend, all!

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The IndieBound iPhone App

April 30, 2009

IndieBoundOver at a new blog called Follow the Reader, Bookish Dilettante Kat Meyer discusses the new IndieBound iPhone app, which, by the way, is very, very cool. Seems that everyone's been buzzing about it all week, but if you haven't caught Kat's interview with the ABA's Matt Supko, the guy who developed it, we recommend you do. Supko taught himself Objective-C and had the app rolled in nearly four months!

The free app from IndieBound allows users to browse indie bestsellers, search IndieBound's title database, and locate independent retailers—not just of books, but of bikes, coffee, etc.

In other books-on-the-iPhone news this week, Amazon.com bought up Lexcycle, developer of the popular Stanza e-reading app.

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It’s a Big, Bad Book World: This Week in Publishing

April 24, 2009

In addition to your usual weekly publishing and literary updates, we’re trying on a new name for size. Hate it? Love it? Have a brilliant suggestion for a new title altogether? As always, feel free to comment!

Without further adieu, this week in publishing:lookupreader

  • The London Book Fair, known as one of the most prodigious and prestigious publishing events, wrapped up this past week.
  • You remember Dan Brown, yeah? Oh, you know, that guy. Wrote that book about da Vinci. With Tom Hanks, right? He’s got a sequel to The Da Vinci Code in the works to be published this fall, called The Lost Symbol.
  • This weekend, UCLA will be hosting the Los Angeles Time Festival of Books, which is celebrating its 14th year.
  • The shortlist for the Orange Prize for fiction written by a woman has been announced.
  • Strunk and White’s famous (infamous) “little book,” The Elements of Style, has turned fifty this year. Millions of writers are both thankful and grammatically paranoid.
  • JG Ballard, novelist of the bleak and bitter landscape of human imagination, who penned such famous works as Empire of the Sun, Kingdom Come and Crash, passed away at the age of 78.
  • An Espresso machine for books? How tasty. Called one of the most revolutionary technologies since Gutenberg, this giant photocopier can print on demand over 500,000 books. It debuted at the Blackwell’s in London.
  • The publishing industry is booming—overseas. Large US-based publishers such as Random House are looking to international readers and pushing increased printings of titles for a foreign audience.
  • Andrew Brown’s Fishing in Utopia, tales of life in Sweden, has won the 2009 Orwell Prize for political fiction.
  • An important political figurehead is taking on environmental issues by making a film—and a book. No, it’s not Al Gore. It’s Prince Charles.
  • Mark Twain has a new book out. Yep, that’s right. Who cares if he's been dead for ninety-nine years? It’s called Who is Mark Twain? and it’s courtesy of HarperStudio.
  • The shortlists for both the CILIP Carnegie Medal (for children’s and young adult authors) and the Kate Greenaway Award Medal (for children’s book illustrators) have been announced. The winners of both will be named at a London ceremony on June 25th.

Have a wonderful weekend, all!

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Literary Heroes I Thought I Should Have: Finding Your Muse

April 23, 2009

Shakespeares Grave

Shakespeare died today.

I mean, 393 years ago today. You know. I just thought it might have more impact if I started this post on that sort of stark tone. Like Albert Camus in The Stranger. But I think he might have done it better. Well, Matthew Ward did it better, when he translated L’Etranger’s iconic opening sentence as “Maman died today.”

I have a sort of problem with writing, in that I tend to emulate the writer who I’ve most recently read. On the one hand, it gives me an ever-changing tone (both writing and speaking) that is by measures repulsive and refreshing. On the other, I need only read any book by an author in a genre I am trying to write, and I am suddenly and quite magically able to write like them. Doesn’t matter if it’s Stephen King or Shakespeare. I’m not sure if that’s quite how a muse is supposed to work. But it is one of the ways that it has worked for me as an individual and a writer. Would-be writer. Will-be writer.

That being said, this post is on finding your muse. I can’t offer much worldly advice, to be honest. I’m not a published author (other than by virtue of these blog posts). But I’m thoroughly convinced that whether or not you choose to admit or even recognize it, writers have muses—forces behind their work that empower and strengthen their writing. The trick, then, is to discover which one (or ones) do that for you. To that end, I’ve offered a list of ten questions and statements that might inspire you to find a muse of your own, or recognize one that you might unconsciously already have. All in honor of our dear, departed Shakespeare, whose spirit lingers still.


  1. When you want to understand the nature of dying, death, and life beyond death on a cold, rainy night while you’re curled up on the couch, what book do you turn to?

  2. You have one of those days where you wish you were still in school so you could learn something, anything that doesn’t have to do with pop culture and celebrities—so you decide to pick up a book by this author.

  3. The world is a big, bright, beautiful place today. You know just the person to express the  world’s music and art and color and love and peace (and all that jazz).

  4. You’re really into escapism right now, and you’re in the mood for (a) the grim, dystopian future world that our society might become, or (b) a big, fat tome of fantasy in another world altogether, where pointy ears generally means you’re a Fay. Which do you choose, and by what author?

  5. Writing can be inspired by images: landscape photography, fashion sketches, comic book drawings, ancient sculpture or graffiti art. You find a coffee-book table with one of these subjects that’s heavy enough to give any potential attackers a concussion. Whose art does it feature?

  6. When was the last time Hollywood made a scary movie that kept you up late at night, terrified that it was coming to get you if you turned out the lights or opened the closet? You pick up a book by this author instead.

  7. “She Blinded Me with Science!” isn’t just a classic eighties hit by Thomas Dolby. It’s become the mantra you incessantly hum in your head when you dive into a book like this author’s.

  8. Maybe you were never into poetry and a Shakespearean sonnet puts unpleasant thoughts in  your head, but you do remember that one haunting or funny or silly or weird poem that stayed in your head far beyond the first time you read it. Who wrote that poem?

  9. Ah, childhood. It’s so wasted on children! Remember that series you read and re-read and begged your parents to buy for you in its shiny boxed set? The one you’re planning on sharing with your kids or nieces and nephews (once they put down that video game controller…)?

  10. Silence is golden. Sometimes. But sometimes a little music is all you need to get you started. You’re browsing iTunes or Pandora or a good old-fashioned radio station until you find the perfect music by this artist.

Feel free to share with us who your muses are, or give us and our readers a few ideas to help find them. And in honor of Shakespeare, a personal muse of mine:

“The remarkable thing about Shakespeare is that he is really very good—in spite of all the people who say he is very good.” — Robert Graves

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