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  • The always-informative Moby Lives blog has an excellent article on the (still) ongoing Google Book Search farrago:

    As Michael Cader aptly put it in his Publisher's Lunch newsletter yesterday, "in the publishing world, this is the closet thing we will have to the Olympics," coming after "years of training, preparation, and negotiation": the final installment in the Google Books Settlement case. According to a CNet News report by Greg Sandoval, the hearing cranked up again yesterday with Judge Denny Chin declaring, "I'm going to say right off, I'm not going to rule today. I'm going to listen to opinions carefully and I'm going to ask a few questions."

    He spent the afternoon listening to testimony from some of the 30 or so parties scheduled to testify, including Microsoft, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Amazon, the National Federation of the Blind, and the Center for Democracy and Technology. Cader's report added: "the only flag flying in the courtroom is America's, but the teams came from all over -- France, Germany, Japan and Connecticut; the National Federation for the Blind, who brought such a large contingent that Judge Chin quipped "many of whom are here this morning apparently" (to which their president replied, "It's very important to us your honor."); the corporate nation states of Sony, Amazon, Microsoft, AT&T; and more." And an Associated Press wire story says there was even "a lawyer for folk singer Arlo Guthrie and Pay it Forward writer Catherine Ryan Hyde," who "claimed the [Google] library would exploit his clients" and that the settlement offers "woefully inadequate compensation" for "unknown and undisclosed uses." (More...)

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    The Guardian blog takes a look at the best books of 2009: the year in which the Man Booker winner -- Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall -- became a surprise, best-selling must-read (and the year in which, with the superb Strangers, Anita Brookner wrote yet another perfect novel that passed everybody by!)

    In fiction, Wolf Hall was the biggie of the year, in every sense. After almost universal adulation from critics, Hilary Mantel's 650-pager was favourite for the Booker from the off, and brought off the rare feat for a favourite of actually carrying off the prize. It could yet "do the double" and win the Costa. Some big names delivered the goods this year -- Coetzee with Summertime [my personal fave -- ed!], Toibin with Brooklyn and Atwood with The Year of the Flood -- and short stories did well, with Petina Gappah taking the Guardian first book award. Sarah Waters's ghostly Little Stranger was a winner for me (though not as much as The Night Watch) while Audrey Niffenegger's eagerly awaited follow-up to The Time-Traveller's Wife, the ghostly Her Fearful Symmetry was a disappointment -- curiously gripping for about three-quarters considering nothing much happens to the vaguely ludicrous characters, then gripping in the last quarter only because one wants to see if she can rescue the frankly ridiculous plot developments she suddenly introduces towards the end (she can't). Kamila Shamsie's Burnt Shadows and David Vann's Legend of a Suicide were both mesmerisingly good.

    Non-fiction highlights were Chris Mullin's excellent political dairies, View from the Foothills, and the continuation of David Kynaston's fascinating social history, this time taking us through the 1950s with Family Britain. 2009 was arguably not a particularly strong year for biography but it did see John Carey's William Golding: The Man Who Wrote Lord of the Flies kick up a minor storm with revelations about the novelist's teenage years.

    In poetry, Don Paterson's Rain was the standout volume while there were excellent offerings from Alice Oswald, Ruth Padel, Hugo Williams and Christopher Reid.

    Children's fiction had a good year. The second part of Patrick Ness's trilogy, which he began with the award-winning The Knife of Never Letting Go, continued strongly with The Ask and The Answer. Margo Lanagan's caused a stir with her marvellous and controversial (you have to love a book the Daily Mail describes as "sordid wretchedness") Tender Morsels. I also loved Charlie Higson's The Enemy, a zombie thriller with a refreshingly positive take on teenagers (more...)

  • Wallace and Gromit are apptastic!

    Tue, 22 Dec 2009 07:16

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    Nice story from GalleyCat about Wallace & Gromit's continuing bid to take over the world!

    The claymation duo of Wallace & Gromit stormed televisions, movie theaters, and bookshelves with their adult and kid-pleasing adventures. Now they've cornered the iPhone market as well, scoring a half million downloads since a publisher featured them in a comic book app. The news caused eBook blogger Mike Cane to wonder: "FIRST eBook best-seller?!"

    Called 'The W Files,' the free app is part of a series of comics. The next issues cost 99-cents apiece in the app store. As of this writing, the free app is ranked number two in the "Top Free Apps" list in the App Store Books category. What do you think?

    Here's more from our digitally obsessed sibling, eBookNewser: "What are England's most popular exports? Well, number one has got to be Marmite, that almost unswallowable, tar-like spread that comes in a tiny jar and scares Americans. And number two might be Wallace & Gromit, that claymation pair... Ned Hartley, the editor of the comic, said, 'We've been amazed at how well our first app has done -- Wallace & Gromit is such a great brand, and iPhone users obviously love them as much as we do!'"

  • Scott Pack's Advent Calendar

    Fri, 04 Dec 2009 06:18

    Our friend Scott Pack is doing a nice series of Advent Calendar posts on his always-excellent blog Me and My Big Mouth.

    Today's advent calendar selection, he tells us, "comes with added video. It is eight minutes long but, trust me, these are eight minutes that any book lover will delight in."

    Pictorial Webster's: Inspiration to Completion from John Carrera on Vimeo.

    Sadly those beautiful handmade editions are a little bit out of my price range but thankfully, just in time for Christmas, Chronicle Books have issued an impressive trade edition which captures much of the intricacy and wonder of the original.

    Inspired by the chance discovery of an old Pictorial Webster's Dictionary, John M. Carrera, a bookbinder and printer, decided to recreate this wonderful old book and embarked upon a ten year odyssey which is outlined in the video above.

    Locating the archive of all the old engraving blocks he catalogued and restored them, eventually getting to the point where he could begin reprinting, by hand, hundreds of pages. Seriously, if you haven't clicked play on the video yet do it now. It is one of the best things you will see this year. I guarantee it.

    I am struggling to think of any book lover I know who wouldn't find this volume a complete delight. Any artist or designer either for that matter. If you do decide to give it to someone this Christmas you should probably include a link to the video as well.

    Pictorial Webster's: A Visual Dictionary of Curiosities by John M. Carrera is out now.

  • The Devil's Paintbrush

    Thu, 13 Aug 2009 07:53

    Nice review of Jake Arnott's The Devil's Paintbrush over on the NextRead website:

    The Devil's Paintbrush is the story of the meeting of Major-General Sir Hector MacDonald, one of the heroes of the British Empire, and the notorious occultist Aleister Crowley. Not a combination you'd expect to find. But meet they did and Jack Arnott breathes life into those events showing both compassion and frankness about his subjects.

    It is a quite an extraordinary tale and from the list of acknowledgements I'm willing to consider that Arnott spend a lot of time on the reconstruction of events but at the same time he has to have injected some narrative compulsion to the proceedings.

    MacDonald meets Crowley as a great scandal is unfolding around the Major-General and the Beast acts as his savour. Even though limited by the order of the events Arnott takes us and the characters on a journey that goes from Paris to battlefields of Sudan via the backstreets of Edinburgh.

    And it's the battlefields of Sudan that has some of the best moments. Not only do they contain the key to the title but the core of self-destruction of MacDonald. It also shows the dark nature of imperialism. As a solider MacDonald commits some brutal and offensive acts and in private his own sexual needs were at the time offensive (more...)

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