Getting the book invented

I’ve been travelling and a bit busy with one thing or another. But returning I find this excellent little video. Words from the ever wonderful and far-sighted Douglas Adams (in 1993), animation by competition winner Eleanor Stokes and the whole thing was put together by the people at The Literary Platform.

http://competition.theliteraryplatform.com/embed11

Seems like its been a long couple of weeks.  Much to catch up on.

Harry Potter and the publishing power shift


To the great interest of book industry watchers the Pottermore shop has gone live. This is, like almost anything related to Harry Potter, very big news indeed. Not so much even for the phenomenon of Potter this time but for the effect it may have on the ecosystem. Excellent appraisals from Mike Shatzkin and Eoin Purcell and the Daily Telegraph here. Mike is convincing on the potential for a change in DRM policy to alter again the balance of the marketplace and I think Eoin is absolutely on the money about the increasing importance of community (and by extension therefore branding) in publishing.

Back on deck

I’ve been busy this past few weeks but I’m now coming up for air. I’ve had much to think about this past couple of months and therefore I suspect also that there are some things in the offing which will make for an interesting rest of year. I’ve no doubt I’ll be sharing them here, when they become real. Anyway, I’ve haven’t been entirely idle on the internet which you may have seen if you follow me on twitter (@MrGatsby) and the little feed to right has been quite busy.

Featuring heavily on that was the PANZ conference in Auckland last week (Lisa Buchan’s report on Publishing Perspectives here) which was a hugely useful and enjoyable experience that slotted many things into place for me. Highlights for me were Mark Higginson from HarperCollins Australia on social media, the excellent Elizabeth Weiss from Allen and Unwin on their digital publishing experiences and David Shelley from Little Brown UK on why publishers remain relevant in the digital revolution.

Sadly Shelley didn’t reveal much about his day job as JK Rowling’s new publisher.

The whole thing was smart, upbeat and from my perspective at least, very uplifting about the possibilities for publishers who embrace a more vibrantly creative and innovative approach.

Mind you the antidote to that is possibly to read Mike Shatzkin’s latest, which looks at the seemingly inexorable rise of Amazon’s market dominance by asking two questions:

When will the growth in Amazon’s share of the consumer book business stop?

Who will be left standing when it does?

It’s certainly a must read, and while as a consumer I’m always impressed by Amazon I cannot but find the potential monopolisation of the book industry by them (or anyone for that matter) a concern. Joe Wikert clearly thinks so.

But back to innovation, John Lanchester’s Capital appears to be book with its finger on the pulse of contemporary London (Claire Tomalin’s review here) and while I’ve not yet read, I’m hearing great things from those who have. It seems also that Lanchester’s publisher Faber wanted to capture the book visually in its promotion and have created this (this blog is a big fan of book promos):

And they’ve also put up an interview with John:

It’s a good combination of intriguing and contextual and I’d be interested to see its results in promoting the book.

If you’re in Wellington, you’ll know that the NZ International Arts Festival is in town and its Writers and Readers Week starts this Friday with a keynote from Tim Flannery. I am lucky enough to interviewing author and Dr Who screen writer Robert Shearman on Monday at the Embassy Cinema. Interview comes with a full showing of the Dalek episode. Apparently, a cyberman came along to his appearance in Adelaide. I’m hoping for the Master myself or a Dalek of course.

Drilling for literature

The NZBC’s latest viral made by our friends at Colenso (Warning: a book absolutely was harmed in the making of this video):

Whatever you think about the book, there is no denying the power they have to shape lives both for good and ill. And that’s the point of such dramatic illustration both in the choice of book and the nature of the ad.

Amazing what you can do with a drill and a computer these days.

You can follow the New Zealand Book Council on @nzbookcouncil and you can see our previous gratuitous destruction of books here.

Andrew Sullivan on ebooks

Following on from his response to Jonathan Franzen, Sullivan expounds his views on ebooks:

And his reader’s responses to Franzen here.

Also this piece by Ewan Morrison is a fascinating, and well worth reading, follow-up to his Edinburgh Festival lecture of last year, entitled: Are Books Dead and will the Author Survive?

Flashlight: Strobing the Book World #9

Still busy and thinking through my ‘authors’ post, but there’s a good deal going on that warrants comment albeit by necessity too briefly.

First up, I think this potential alliance between Barnes and Noble and Waterstones to internationalise the Nook is very exciting. Amazon will be tough to beat and Kobo have done some smart work as the insurgent start-up but to make this market work and continue the innovation there’s got to be more players in the game. Elsewhere you can see Eoin Purcell’s take on Barnes and Noble’s corporate culture here (with the NYT article he references here). The American Editor blog volunteers an idea about franchising the B&N brand (and idea I’d be very wary of, brand dilution alert). I suspect B&N (with added Waterstones?) vs Amazon will be a major theme for 2012. Update: even more on B&N. (HT Graham Beattie.)

The ebook reader advance looks to have moved forward substantially again over the Christmas period though perhaps not quite as quickly as was imagined before Christmas. Mike Shatzkin looks at some of the initial data. PW looks at the adoption of ereaders here and the rapid advance of the Kindle Fire here. Six million units sold in the final quarter of 2011. As I said, tough to beat.

Finally, I retweeted this over the holidays, but reading it again there’s much food for thought in an article by Stephen Page on the Guardian that looks at the history of publishing and segues that into a view of the future for 2012. Two money quotes:

There’s a riot of cross-dressing going on; a scramble as roles are redefined by usefulness, not legacy.

And

The demonstrable creation of value and the fair sharing of it. Publishers exist to create value and audience for writers, and this needs to be at the centre of all publishing endeavours.

Which will lead me on nicely to a future post.

Analogue, digital and Franzen

I’m tremendously charmed by this grass roots Little Free Libraries innovation and if nothing else it makes you realise that the digital age can go hand in hand with a much more analogue brand of creativity.

Unless of course, you are Jonathan Franzen. Franzen’s views on the pernicious threat to democracy that is digital reading here, takedown by Andrew Sullivan here.

(Little Free Libraries HT Library Stuff)