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  • Google books

    Fri, 12 Dec 2008 06:24

    There is a lot to be said -- both for and against -- about the Google Books project. Basically, I think it is a
  • The Sony Reader

    Fri, 12 Dec 2008 06:24

    Two things seem to scare the living daylights out of publishers: Google Books and the Sony Reader. Yesterday, I briefly wrote about the former, today I'll mention the latter. Before I do, however, I'd like to question why these two dominate publishers' thoughts so much. Neither, it seems to me, need necessarily fundamentally alter the publishing business and before either does totally change the way publishers have to work there is a long road to travel. Before we reach that destination, lots of other changes should and could be made to many publishing businesses to make them leaner and more profitable, not least, as has been mentioned here a number of times, getting themselves a decent web-presence. Anyway, the Sony Reader. Over on Mssv, Adrian Hon has a great wee article entitled The Sony Reader: An Illustrated Primer detailing Adrian's impressions now he has got his lucky mits on one of the devices. sonyreaderviaMssvnet.jpg He is impressed by its size:
    ...the Reader is actually shorter than a standard paperback, and a lot thinner ... when you close the 'cover' of the Reader, it becomes even more svelte and diminutive, more like a Moleskine notebook than an actual novel. This is a device that won't embarrass you if you read it on the tube, and it'll fit into practically any bag.
    But he is unimpressed by the look of the on-screen ink:
    The contrast on the Reader's E-Ink display is just not comparable to any book; it's more like dark grey on light grey than black and white. It's harder to read in low light, and if you have poor eyesight, it probably won't be very comfortable. Despite this, it's still perfectly acceptable for most people. I've shown the Reader to a few friends and they've all declared that it looks fine to them. The issue isn't that text on the Reader is bad - it's that real ink is basically perfect.
    The software doesn't really work for Adrian either, and in the end he remains unconvinced:
    It's a bit of a mess, really. The software is terrible, the store is unpleasant to use and restricted to the US, the design is decidedly average and at $350, it's not worth it ... But after you've struggled through Connect Reader or switched over to third-party software, and after you've spent hours figuring out how it all works and loaded it up with books and newspapers, it's really quite pleasant to use ... I'm an early adopter, someone who's used to messing about with first-generation technology, and even I found it incredibly irritating to use. Most people will be stuck with Connect Reader. Unbelievably, it's not the hardware that's holding the Sony Reader and other eBook readers back, it's the software.
    The whole article is definitely worth reading. And don't forget: its very early days. The e-ink will get better, the weight (of the Reader) will decrease, the software will improve, the price will come down etc. I'm about as book mad as they come, and I'm interested in good technology. The Reader isn't going to change my book reading and book buying habits yet, but it won't have to improve that much before I start getting very interested. I'd want the Reader to be networked (if I'm reading via a computer-thingy I want to be able to look up arcane facts on the interweb without having to start another machine), I'd want it to allow me to "write" on the book (via some kind of electronic post-it technology, and I'd want better software than Adrian describes it as having. But these things, no doubt, will come. Watch this space.
  • Kindle reader

    Fri, 12 Dec 2008 06:24

  • The value of Frankfurt

    Fri, 12 Dec 2008 06:24

    Girl Friday muses on the value of October's up and coming Frankfurt Book Fair and ponders the "actual value in relation to the actual cost - both economic and environmental - of the event":
    Last week The Bookseller ran a feature on the value of Frankfurt to Independent Publishers and it seems that most independents are in favour of it. I was a lone (named) voice in my questioning of its value (there was apparently one publisher in agreement who preferred to remain anonymous) but I don't think my view is particularly controversial. I think the Fair can be great fun and there's no doubt it's a great place to meet people and make contacts, I just get a bit fed up with the perception that it is the place to get deals done. I don't think I can think of one deal in recent years that has *genuinely* been made at Frankfurt. There are plenty that are saved up to announce that week in the name of good press but I can't see many people signing on the dotted line while there. And surely nobody can claim that if the unthinkable happened and Frankfurt was simply cancelled for a year that all rights deals would be put on the back burner until everyone could get together again under one big cavernous roof? I don't think so.
  • The Man Booker Prize for Fiction is an odd phenomenon. Each year, the Booker longlist (just 13-strong this year, previously a list of 20 titles), shortlist and winner casts a long shadow over the UK literary fiction scene, and defines what literary titles get pushed in the country's bookshops. Gaining the prize is guaranteed exposure for the novel concerned and can fully establish the career of the writer who wins. This isn't always the case, of course: when controversial Scottish writer James Kelman won with his (astonishing and quite superb) How Late it Was, How Was he and his publisher simply provided an awful lot of books for the remainder shops! The book sold in its hundreds, not the usual tens of thousands that a Booker winner can expect these days. And Kelman's book seemed to be a turning point for the prize, for a few years after the committee steered clear of "difficult" titles and picked a crop of more populist winners in the subsequent years. The Man Booker committee says the prize "promotes the finest in fiction by rewarding the very best book of the year," but its rules (not least its stricture that any publisher must agree "to contribute
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