As leaves begin to shed their green coats in favor of warm reds, yellows and oranges, the weather cools and the days grow shorter, publishers too are feeling a shift in the season. Fall has traditionally been the most important time of the year, when publishers release some of their biggest and most-anticipated books by authors well-loved and brand new.
This past year and a half has been a difficult time across all sectors, and publishing’s ever-changing landscape has felt oftentimes brutal shifts, from mass layoffs to the closure of publishing and printing houses, the continuing fight over the Google settlement and the struggles of bookstores big and small. Interspersed within this is the consistent re-examination of the industry itself, changing ever-more quickly due to technology, and leaving us wondering how today and tomorrow’s readers will find and share and read their books.
Yet the excitement of fall prevails. And this year, some are even calling it a “storybook season.” Joseph Kahn of the Boston Globe notes that “the number of quality novels and story collections coming out this fall compared with last is striking,” reflecting upon this season’s major focus on fictional tomes from big names such as Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol and Stephen King’s Under the Dome. At latest counts, The Lost Symbol has already sold over 2 million copies in under two weeks. The focus is not just fictional, however, and popular nonfiction authors and works will be represented in force. But, as happens, fiction garners a more vocal fanbase.
Publishers are counting on this particular fall to help buoy the slumps we’ve all felt. And their efforts are already showing promise: aside from Dan Brown’s record-breaking numbers, bookstores are pre-ordering books in larger quantities in anticipation of readers hungry for something new.
Below are some of the season’s more notable and anticipated titles:
Notables of the season:
- Catching Fire by Susanne Collins (9/1)
- The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks (9/8)
- The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown (9/15)
- Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger (9/29)
- The Wild Things by Dave Eggers (10/1)
- A Touch of Dead by Charlaine Harris (10/6)
- What the Dog Saw by Malcom Gladwell (10/20)
- Ford County by John Grisham (11/3)
- Under the Dome by Stephen King (11/10)
- Too Much Happiness (11/17) by Alice Munro
- Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton (11/24)
Do you have any books being released this fall that you are excited for—either as a reader, author or publisher? Let us know!
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This week from September 14 - 18 marks the second year of Book Blogger Appreciation Week, an initiative started by passionate reader and twentysomething blogger Amy Riley, proprietor of the blog My Friend Amy. BBAW is a week devoted to the appreciation of bloggers of all things books, from reviewers to cultural commentators to writers to those blessed with loquacious or taciturn writing style. The winners are chosen by a group of panelists who represent a spectrum of bloggers, readers, and authors.
I have closely followed the awards as they have been announced, and am extremely excited to have discovered a wealth of new blogs devoted to my favorite pastime. Whether a winner or shortlisted, these blogs and sites represent the best of the best in the online publishing world.
If you are an author looking to start or improve your blog, or an enthusiastic reader of books who wants to share your thoughts, or a member of the publishing industry wanting to represent yourself or your company digitally, explore the blogs who were nominated for inspiration and ideas.
To see the complete shortlist for the 2009 BBAW Awards, visit http://bookbloggerappreciationweek.com/index.php/awards/comments/the_2009_bbaw_awards_shortlists/
Wondering about the past blogs who were given awards? For a taste of the variety of blogs that captured attention last year (and in many cases continue to do so this year), look below for the list of last year’s winners by category:
- Best General Book Blog: Bookgasm
- Best Kidlit Blog: Jen Robinson's Book Page
- Best Romance Blog: Smart Bitches, Trashy Books
- Best Christian/Inspiration Fiction Blog: Free Spirit Blogs
- Best Literary Fiction Blog: Caribou's Mom
- Best Book Club Blog: Reading Group Guides
- Best Thrillers/Mystery/Suspense Blog: Bookgasm
- Best Non-fiction Blog: A Striped Armchair
- Best Young Adult Lit Blog: Bookshelves of Doom
- Best Book/Publishing Industry Blog: Galley Cat
- Best Community Builder: My Friend Amy
- Best Challenge Host: The Hidden Side of a Leaf
- Best History/Historical Fiction Blog: Medieval Bookworm
- Best Design: Bookgasm
- Most Chatty: Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin?
- Most Concise: Bookgasm
- Most Eclectic Taste: Bookgasm
- Best Name for a Blog: Bookgasm
- Best Published Author Blog: Neil Gaiman
- Best Meme/Carnival/Event: Book Blogger Appreciation Week
- Best Cookbook Blog: Books and Cooks
- Best Fantasy/Horror/Sci-Fi/Spec-fic Blog: Fantasy Book Critic
- Most Extravagant Giveaways: Maw Books Blog
- Funniest/Most Humourous Blog: Rip My Bodice
- Best Commenter/Commentator: Musings of a Bookish Kitty
- Best Book Community Site: Good Reads
- Most Altruistic Blog: Maw Books Blog
- Best Book Published in 2008: The Host by Stephenie Meyer
Be sure to check out the big bad book blog's blogroll in the next week or so—we'll be adding new blogs to our list of favorites and recommendations!
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One of the most confusing (and least fun) aspects of publishing a book is making sure your title is in compliance with all the appropriate organizations in order to maximize its searchability. There are so many different factors involved in this process that it’s easy to get bogged down with the amount of information that gets thrown at you. Even though there is no need to learn all the ins and outs of the Library of Congress, the sheer multitude of acronyms alone is enough make you cross-eyed.
For those of you who don’t enjoy hours of web research on a topic that is less than stimulating, here’s a quick breakdown of the basic steps you’ll need to take. (Keep in mind that doing things in this order is important.)
1. Get an ISBN. International Standard Book Numbers are required for every book that is going to be sold in the book trade. These can be obtained through Bowker, also known as Books in Print.
2. Register your book with Books in Print. Once you receive the ISBN you’ll need to make sure that your title data is registered in their system. This is important because a lot of sources (Amazon, Ingram, etc.) receive data feeds from this system—not to mention the fact that this is a resource for bookstores, libraries, and publishers around the world.
3. Create a barcode with the ISBN and price embedded. Most trade stores require this to be on the back of your book before they will place an order.
4. Obtain a LCCN (also know as a PCN). The Library of Congress Control Number (or Pre-Assigned Control Number) is a unique number that differentiates your book in the Library of Congress database. Librarians use this number to access the associated bibliographic record for a given title.
5. Obtain CIP data. Cataloging in Publication data creates a bibliographic record for forthcoming books that are likely to be acquired by librarians (and hopefully, librarians will want your book!). This is to be printed on the copyright page, and this data is only available for works that are not yet published.
1. Send one final copy to the Cataloging in Publication Division of the Library of Congress.
2. Send two final copies to the Copyright Office of the Library of Congress along with Form CO and the registration fee. Alternatively, you are now able to fill out this form and submit payment online with eCO (electronic Copyright Office).
3. Wait to receive your Copyright Confirmation (current wait time is 12–16 months).
While this outline may not seem too arduous, there are many potential roadblocks in this process—so brace yourself, hope for the best, and don’t be afraid to ask questions!
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If you're a fan of Top Chef, you may recall season 5's Fabio Viviani, who didn't win the competition, but made it to the final three and came out as the fan favorite of that season. What you may not have known about this Italian chef is that reality TV was only just the beginning: he's publishing his own book this month.
The Café Firenze Cookbook: Food and Drink from the Tuscan Sons was pitched to several traditional publishing houses prior to Fabio's appearance on Top Chef, but when his publicist couldn't find a taker, they decided to self-publish through BRIO, and later chose to distribute through Greenleaf Book Group.
Here are a few more links:
Fabio's MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/fabioviviani
The Cafe Firenze website: https://www.cafefirenze.net/
The Cafe Firenze Cookbook Amazon.com page: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0981929095?ie=UTF8&tag=eatmedail-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0981929095
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amateur trailer for THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak
The means of advertising books and movies are many: posters in trendy locales, website ads, reviews in papers or blogs, displays at stores, entertainment segments or interviews on popular news and talk shows, and word-of-mouth that becomes increasingly easy to pass along through digital means. There are avenues, no doubt, and lots of them.
But the most ubiquitous is the movie trailer. It is the a popular and effective method of reaching people because we are an extremely visual culture. We want to see. And trailers indulge us in this craving. We are tantalized by the thirty-second or one- or two-minute glimpse a trailer offers us of the movie to come. They can be clever, dark, funny, mysterious, odd. They plant in our minds an excitement, an anticipation of something that might not be available to watch for over a year. And yet we love the trailers and their shorter brethren, the aptly-named teasers.
In recent years the publishing industry has capitalized on this success by producing their own counterpart: the book trailer. The challenges for the book trailer are unique. Those producing book trailers must start from scratch, gathering relevant words and phrases and key ideas and then translating them into images. The trailers come in multiple forms: still images with words, words by themselves, clever image-collages, flash movies, the rare animation, and on rarer-still occasions, live-action actors on sets.
It is the latter ones that I find the most intriguing.
Because they are the most cinematic, they are the most familiar to the widest audience. They could easily be mixed with their movie counterparts on websites, television commercials, even movie theatres. By pursuing cinematic techniques in book trailers and placing them in new promotional avenues, can we generate more audience interest and thus more book readers?
Cinematic book trailers can be a gamble, to be sure. The more elaborate a trailer, the more resources that have to be purchased. You risk alienating certain members of your audience who might see the shift in advertising to more resemble movies as pandering to a dumbed-down, mass-media culture. Readers and authors alike might be upset that your actors or sets don’t conform to their view of what the characters and the locations “should” look like. Many of these are the same issues encountered in book-to-film adaptations (which I wrote a post about a few weeks ago).
But “cinematic” doesn’t necessarily mean just like a movie trailer. What should be encouraged is taking what audiences know and like and finding unique ways to translate this to a book trailer. If more companies and authors see trailers as being a widespread, viable method of advertising their books, the demand for trailer creation will grow, promoting competition, increasing the quality and quantity of the product. And the more of a quality product, the more the prospective audience will see it, and thus the more people will hopefully pick up the book.
Check out the links below for some examples of book trailers who take their cues from their cinematic counterparts:
- The Indigo King by James A. Owen: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nte13CIUAqw
- Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury: http://digitalbooktalk.com/?p=19
- A Great and Terrible Beauty by Gemma Doyle: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L93HOOy-lSc&feature=related
What is the current effectiveness of the book trailer and how can we improve it? Let us know your thoughts.
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Do you want to be on a book page facing Obama without having to make history? Or perhaps politics aren’t your thing and you’d rather have the lead role in a steamy romance novel. Good news! Customizable, one-off books, the product of POD technology, are available and fanning out into all different genres. For all of those of us who have a hard time relating to books about other people, there are now all types of ways to insert yourself into the story.
Hewlett Packard has recently employed POD technology for the customizable book The Obama Time Capsule about the presidential inauguration. You can upload pictures of yourself and add your name to the inauguration invite or to the front cover of the book. Your pictures will appear on various pages like the “celebrity supporters” page, and your children’s artwork can be added to the “Kids for Obama” page. You get your very own album of the historic inauguration, even though you weren’t really there!
Politics not your thing? Voted for the other guy? You can still put yourself in print! I know when I read romance novels, I have a hard time relating to Scarlett, Isabella, and Veronica. But what if I could put my own name in the book? With companies like Romance By You and Torrid Romance, you can customize the character’s names and other parts of the story online. They print one copy for you, and voila! You’re experiencing the steamy romance you’ve only dreamed of.
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It seems everyone needs a little break. Even President Obama, the man with one of the world’s most stressful jobs admits to reading Joseph O’Neill’s Netherland in between briefings. And while few can imagine the strains of life in the White House, all can appreciate wanting a little escape from these harsher times. And despite the rumors, Americans are reading more than just text messages. According to the National Endowment for the Arts study released in earlier this year, literary reading has actually increased 3.5 percent since 2002, the first jump in almost thirty years.
This presents a new and exciting opportunity for novels, a somewhat marginalized art form, that has seen a decline in a fast paced world of Blackberry, iPod and video games. Novels can provide escapism of the mind without an actual vacation. With a skilled writer, a novel can give the reader the promise of rich characters, exotic locale, intense plotline, and, possibly, the happy ending that eludes some in reality. Unlike the movies (many of which are based on great novels), an actual novel has the potential to develop a relationship with reader in their home, with much of the enjoyment resting in the anticipation of the ending. The novel becomes a destination for the reader, a place of escape and relaxation; like a beach house on your bedside.
Looking at some of the top novels of all time, it is very hard to pin down a common theme between them; however, I believe that why titles like The Great Gatsby, Are You There God? It's Me Margaret, Gone with the Wind, and The Grapes of Wrath are on the list because they are literary portraits of specific time and place in history and in the human experience that can only be told in the form of a novel. They made the list because those novels allow modern-day readers to go to a place outside of our experience.
And while the news of bookstores struggling is nothing new, one genre has proved that people still buy books—and buy big. Romance novels, the good, the bad and the Fabio-covered, are up 7 percent in sales after a plateau over the past four years. While it might be a guilty pleasure for some, the romance reader is considered to be one of the most loyal of fans (think Yankees fanatic but in Barnes & Noble) and it also helps that they tend to buy higher volume. The escapism that comes with the romance novels is also translated in other genres like science fiction and fantasy (yes, that Harry Potter kid is still around). And while it is interesting to see forty-year-olds cry over Edward Cullen and dress up like a wizard to go see a movie, this all translates into big money.
Of course, you have to get someone to read the book before anything. And the reality is, novels are a hard sell. There have been attempts at changing the game though. The paperback originals model allows literary novels the possibility of a longer shelf life and some publishers have been offering them to lesser known authors in an attempt to gradually build up a following instead of placing them in hard covers and directly against well known writers. Another way to build a gradual following is through social media. Facebook and Twitter are very mainstream sites, but even within them are small, niche communities. With the right content and subject matter the possibility of being a viral, underground sensation is the best online.
While the world has changed, the makeup of a good novel hasn’t: great characters, vivid description and evocative prose. One good thing about the current state of affairs is that our society has now been nudged into a place where we can start to find and appreciate those elements again.
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Children’s classics, like the works of Beatrix Potter and Dr. Seuss, enjoy the privilege of never having to fight for shelf space at bookstores. After the classics, the rest of a book buyer’s budget is usually allocated for the newest, most publicized children’s releases from big names and celebrities. But what about all of those other kids' books we grew up reading? Great books that just didn’t earn the celebrity status of the beloved classics?
May 11–17 is Children’s Book Week, and with all the hubbub over the newest, cutest, most sought-after children’s books, we decided we’d give a few recommendations of great kids' books that are off the beaten path, and close to our hearts. Some of these books are older, some are popular reads from childhood, and some we just couldn’t resist reminding you of.
We Were Tired of Living in A House by Liesel Moak Skorpen
It's about the adventure of running away and the joy of coming home, and has beautiful phrases like "A frog who was a particular friend."
Tales and Fables for Children by Leo Tolstoy
I just loved Tolstoy’s Fables as a kid. My copy was oversized with lots of illustrations. I used to carry it everywhere. The fables are rather surreal and a bit didactic with plenty of talking animals, magic, trickery, and adventures.
—Lisa, Senior Designer
Frederick by Leo Lionni
I couldn’t take my eyes off the illustrations and the story was very calming for me as a kid. It’s similar to the fable of the ant and the grasshopper but with a twist. Frederick promotes the importance of creativity, art, and poetry in the face of conformity and drudgery.
—Katie, Associate Consultant
The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton
It's a story of a house that likes living out of the city, until the city comes to it. It's a charming tale of home, family, and putting back what's right.
—Sheila, Senior Designer
Miss Nelson Is Missing by Harry Allard
It was the first children’s book I read that I actually felt I could relate to. Given that the book is about naughty kids running off their teacher and learning the Golden Rule the hard way, this is probably not saying great things about my personal character.
—Tanya, Business Development Manager
The Five Chinese Brothers by Claire Huchet Bishop
The Far East was an exotic place for a pipsqueak smack dab in the middle of North Carolina to consider.
Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton
It's a classic story about the little guys (Mike, and his steam shovel, Mary Anne) struggling to stay relevant in a changing world. It has a happy, quiet ending, which I dug (get it? steam shovel? dug? digging?).
Other Greenleaf favorites:
Sheep in a Jeep
The Jolly Postman and Other People’s Letters
Caps for Sale
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble
Morris's Disappearing Bag
The Ox-cart Man
There's a Nightmare in my Closet
Cars and Trucks and Things That Go
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Vroman's Bookstore, Southern California's oldest and largest independent bookstore and Publishers Weekly Bookseller of the Year in 2008, is a literary institution. Vroman's webmaster Patrick Brown answered the seven questions in our indie bookstore Q&A, touching on—among other things—how altering the returns system would effect Vroman's buys and how they plan to get in the ebook game. (Image via.)
What’s the hottest genre in your store right now? Any surprise best sellers?
Our best-selling sections are typically kids and young adult, as well as literary fiction and non-fiction. I think the biggest surprise best seller this year has been Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. When I first heard the idea, I thought it sounded fun, but I had no idea how big it would be. For a few weeks, it was almost impossible to keep it on the shelves.
What’s the most successful or creative store event you remember hosting? What do you look for in an author or book when setting up an event?
The most creative event that I’ve been a part of is our summer music and author series, where we pair an author with a local band. The author reads and then the band plays on our outdoor stage. It’s a great, low-key event. Perfect for a Saturday afternoon. I think the best one we did was a pairing of Paula Yoo and the Listing Ship. Paula plays violin, so not only did she read, but she also sat in for a few songs with the band. I’m also very excited for this Young Adult event we have coming up called LAYAPalooza. It’s a huge event, with about twenty YA authors. There’s going to be food and a sort of trivia game show for YA fans. It should be a lot of fun.
When I think about successful author events, they usually are something more than just a reading. That’s not to say that a straight-up reading can’t be a great time, but rather that the events that stand out in my memory are often more than that. In the end, if the author has a captivating personality, the event will work. If the author doesn’t enjoy giving readings or talks, or isn’t happy about something about the event, it’s likely the event will fail. Audiences will usually take their cue from the speakers. I also love events with multiple authors. As a bookseller, it’s a great way to sell more books. People show up to hear one author and frequently end up enjoying both or all of the authors. It introduces readers to new writers, which is why we’re in business.
Do you ever bring self-published books into your store? If so, how often and under what circumstances?
We do bring some self-published books into the store. Obviously these books are in the minority, but it does happen on a pretty regular basis. In terms of what we would carry, well, that depends on a lot of subjects. Books with local subject matter or books that are about Pasadena or Southern California will always get a long look from our buyers, as we’re committed to supporting our local literary community and our customers have tremendous pride in the region. We will seriously consider any book if it is well-written, well-designed, and we think it would interest our customers.
What are the benefits of physical distribution when so much is available cheaply on Amazon and other online retailers? Do you see the recent popularity of ebooks or the economic downturn significantly affecting your store?
I think I’ll tackle this question in two parts. The benefits of physical distribution are several, I think. For one thing, instant gratification is very important. We carry a huge inventory of books, and if you come to our store, you can get any of them immediately, rather than waiting a week or four days or whatever for a book to come from Amazon. Another important factor is providing an environment to browse. People greatly underestimate how important browsing is for physical purchases, largely, I think, because it’s lacking in the online world. People come to an ecommerce site already knowing what they want to buy (for the most part). This isn’t so in our store, where people frequently come in for one book and end up leaving with a book that caught their eye on the way to the section or waiting in line at the register. The other thing we provide that I think is invaluable is a physical place for literary culture to happen. We have a coffeeshop in our store that’s always full of people writing or talking about books. We host hundreds of events every year, including readings, performances, panel discussions, workshops, etc. I would argue that we’re the single most important part of Pasadena’s literary culture.
The economic downturn has hurt every business in our area, large or small, corporate or independent. We’re no different. We’re seeing fewer sales and when people are shopping with us, they’re spending a little bit less per transaction than they were just a year ago. Obviously, these are difficult times, certainly the most difficult retail year since I’ve been in the business, but Vroman’s has been around since 1894, so I’m confident we’ll make it through. Books are definitely more recession-proof than other forms of entertainment. A paperback book costs $12.95 and provides hours, even days or weeks of entertainment. That’s a pretty great deal, when you think about it.
As for ebooks, well, how long do you have? I happen to be intensely interested in ebooks. I’ve read quite a few on my iPhone, and I really enjoy the experience. I’m sort of notoriously bullish on the future of ebooks, and I think the moment for them is happening right now. In two year’s time, I think we’ll see major technological advances, consolidation around a single format (hopefully epub), and huge, huge sales growth of ebooks. They simply make too much sense for too many people NOT to take off. I wouldn’t be surprised to see ebooks take 10% of the book market in two years, and even more in the years after that. I also think we’ll see real advances in enhanced ebooks, ebooks with embedded audio and video, with hyperlinks and interactivity, and even community-authored ebooks. There’s real potential to change how stories are told and consumed . . . but that’s down the road.
The coming ebook boom effects us in several ways. Firstly, we remain committed to providing our customers with the books they want in the formats they want. We carry hardcover, paperback, audio books, and we will have ebooks, too (this summer will see a major rollout on our ecommerce system). It seems logical to me that the entire market for ebooks will exist online, rather than in a brick-and-mortar store. As such, we’re constantly re-evaluating our ecommerce setup, looking for ways to improve experience and profitability online. We hope to be a place to buy ebooks for those among our customers who want them. We also hope to be THE community resource for all technological or curatorial questions regarding ebooks. That means educating ourselves on all the latest technology, helping people find the books they want online, and helping them select the ereader that’s right for them. I really see this as extension of what we already do for our customers with print books.
If you feature staff picks, how are these selected? Does the staff have complete freedom to give face-out placement to any book they like?
We do feature staff picks. Lots of them. In fact, we have a whole wall of them, many pages of our website dedicated to them (sorted both by category and by bookseller), and we’re starting a revolving “Get to know your bookseller” display, featuring picks by a different bookseller each week. With staff picks, booksellers are completely free to choose whatever they like to recommend (provided it’s a book we can easily get). I can’t imagine a store that would do it any other way, to be honest. When we decide to feature a book (meaning put it on the cover of our newsletter, have multiple displays all over the store, etc.), then we will try to give it to as many different kinds of readers as we have on staff. If the overwhelming majority like the book, we will champion it. We’ve done this with David Benioff’s City of Thieves and Any Bitter Thing, by Monica Wood.
If all books were sold on a non-returnable basis, how would this affect your buying? What if all books were printed without a retail price so you could set the price as you saw fit?
Clearly, the current system of returns isn’t working. That being said, I’m not sure I know how to fix it. We would certainly buy fewer books if we couldn’t return any (and I have no idea how we would host events, where often books are left unsold), but I’m not sure how exactly that would play out. My suspicion is that we’d simply buy less unproven books by debut authors. This would be a bad thing. So while I’m in favor of fixing the currently broken cycle of big buys and big returns, I’m not really sure how this would play out.
As for pricing, I don’t see this as being that big of a deal. In fact, if there were no price printed on the book, that might actually hurt us. As it is right now, we’re selling the books for the price the publisher set for them. If there were no perceived price, we’d simply be the guys charging more for the book. Where I think there is room for improvement, however, is with ebook pricing. It doesn’t make any sense that an ebook of something like City of Thieves, which is already out in paperback, still costs $24.95. I would love it if the publishers would lower the price of the ebook so we could compete more fully on that front.
What’s the most embarrassing book in your personal collection?
I try not to read anything I would be embarrassed to own, so this is kind of a tough question for me. For a while, I was reviewing sports books for Publishers Weekly, so I got every nutty book about baseball, basketball, offshore betting, the Duke lacrosse rape scandal, etc. You name it, I reviewed it. A few of those books are pretty embarrassing to own. I’m not going to single anyone out, because I would hate to someday write a book, even a book about, say, offshore gambling, and then have someone say they were embarrassed to own it. Even if it were about offshore gambling.
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When I was in elementary school, I experienced the advent of a life-changing new media as it became widely used by the public for the first time. That phenomenon was the Internet, and at twelve years old I was at an ideal age to become absorbed in this novel method of connecting with the world around me. I was impressed, but believed that this was merely a doorway to the virtual reality full-body immersive video game technology that they swore was just around the corner.
Needless to say, on this front I remain disappointed.
As a fervent book-reader, much of my time spent browsing was on the website of publishers and booksellers, authors and fansites as they sprang up all around me. For the first time there were easily accessible forums to learn about books and authors and connect with other fans. And I loved it.
(A few short anecdotes in no particular order: (a) I was an enthusiastic member of an extremely active website/e-mail fan club for YA author Christopher Pike based on his book The Midnight Club; (b) I played the Animorphs video game on my old-school PC; (c) I browsed the PBS website in search of trivia on my childhood television/book series, like Arthur and The Magic School Bus.)
Digital interconnectedness for today’s twelve-year-olds is as commonplace as any other marvel of the modern world, and today publishers and authors are scrambling to entice the ever-more technologically savvy youth to read an ordinary, paper book. Especially with the advent of electronic book-reading devices, including the Kindle and Sony E-reader, and the increasing popularity of video and computer games, kids and teens today are coming to expect their entertainment on a digital platform.
Rachel Deahl of Publisher’s Weekly discusses the publishing industry’s response to this trend in her article “The New Storytelling: Multimedia Children's Publishing,” which examines the multimedia platforms being developed to add multidimensional layers to the book reading experience. In short, books are developed that have several interlinking elements outside of the paper copy, including websites, forums, media content, cards, and even handheld games. Fourth Story Media’s The Amanda Project is one such example. The company, which focuses on new media content, describes The Amanda Project as an “interactive, collaborative mystery series” targeting teen girls. The intrigue of title alone would certainly have grabbed my attention when I was twelve.
But the challenge of any book that seeks to extend itself beyond its traditional form is in maintaining the integrity of the storytelling. Scholastic’s The 39 Clues, a collaborative book project utilizing a card set and website tie-in, marketed itself as a “built-in bestseller” meant to follow the success of Scholastic’s flagship title, the Harry Potter series, but has so far seen little of the media and public attention that its traditional predecessor received. Reviews of the series have been generally positive, though not enthusiastic, and make frequent reference to the “gimmick” behind the books. Such is my personal fear and trepidation about many of these projects—that story will play a secondary role to technological entertainment.
Rick Joyce of Perseus Book Group, which in 2006 published the highly unique Cathy’s Book, a predecessor of young adult interactive fiction, acknowledges the difficulty of keeping a story focused and characters interesting by asking the essential question: “Do I want to spend time with these characters?”
But publishers and authors alike seem to realize that whether or not they choose to embrace it, the future is already here. While multimedia and multiplatform young adult (and perhaps even adult) fiction are still at an experimental level and do not seem poised to replace the book-reading experience as we know it now, it certainly offers this newest generation a chance to shape for themselves how they choose to consume a story.
Tell us your thoughts on digital content and multimedia in young adult fiction. Intriguing new element to books or publicity stunt that detracts from them?