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Jul. 29 2010 — 11:59 am | 97 views | 0 recommendations | 1 comment

The Booker Longlist and the Fabulousness of Peter Carey

Parrot and Olivier in America

Image via Wikipedia

Earlier this week the long list for this year’s Man Booker Prize was announced and it was hard to miss the coincidence.

While the list of 13 authors was alphabetical, sitting atop it is also the writer who has quickly become the favorite to win his third Booker Prize — Peter Carey.

Carey, the Australian-born novelist who moved to New York some 20 years ago and now teaches at Hunter College, has already won twice — for Oscar and Lucinda and for True History of the Kelly Gang. He’s also been shortlisted for Illywhacker and longlisted for Theft: A Love Story.

The man can write.

“Next morning the Weasel slung his misbegotten bedroll across his narrow shoulders and headed off into the woods without, it seemed, a word to anyone. Concerning this departure, the printers — arguers and complainers to a man — made not a boo, although the absence of our best pressman would make more work for everyone.”

It’s from Carey’s new book, Parrot and Olivier in America, on the longlist and Carey’s first book set in America.

And it’s wonderful, certainly deserving to be on the list.

As do the others. There’s David Mitchell’s The Thousand Autumns of Jaob de Zoet and Andrew Levy’s The Love Song, a love for which I have already professed.

I have also professed a bit of disdain for prize competitions because I really believe as much as writers might enjoy recognition, they’re not necessarily writing to prove their better than someone.

So, look at the longlist not to wonder who’s better than others but maybe for the name of an author you haven’t heard of.

And pick up a book and enjoy it.



Jul. 27 2010 — 2:50 pm | 64 views | 0 recommendations | 1 comment

Welcome to Wylie World: An Agent’s Bold Move Makes Sense

Image representing Amazon Kindle as depicted i...

Image via CrunchBase

When I originally heard about Andrew Wylie’s announcement last week that he was partnering with Amazon to create “Odyssey Editions” — 20 special e-book versions of modern classics by writers whom he represents that will only be available for Kindle and devices that support Kindle software such as the iPad, I thought:

This is bad news.

After all, at its face it seems to be exclusive deal with one retail outlet.

Here’s the thing, though.

As I like to point out, Kindle’s not just a device, it’s software that works on many devices.

What Wylie has done is take 20 great books that have not been available electronically and made them available to a pretty large audience.

Sure there are some people who are upset.

For instance, I suspect Wylie won’t be getting any holiday cards from Random House this year. And there’s a book store in Mississippi that’s making a big deal of this.

The only ones who seem to be taking a balanced, sensical approach to the whole kerfuffle is The Author’s Guild.

Is there any real difference between what Wylie has done and say, special editions for The Franklin Library or the Library of America?

Well, yes.

Wylie has created a series of affordable editions for a very wide audience.

Good for him.



Jul. 21 2010 — 9:27 am | 409 views | 0 recommendations | 2 comments

Amazon Says Print is Dead, Long Live the Kindle (Not so fast…)

IMG_0096.JPG

Image by Yoshimasa Niwa via Flickr

So, earlier this week Amazon put out a press release singing the glories of the Kindle.

It has been a tough few weeks for the Kindle as things have looked up for the iPad while they’ve been caught in a bit of an e-reader price war.

So, you really can’t blame Amazon for putting out a release that trumpets their device.

“Kindle Device Unit Accelerate Each Month in Second Quarter; New $189 Price Results in Tipping Point for Growth” says the release’s headline.

Well, geez. Wow. That’s great, huh? They must be selling gazillions of Kindles by now. How many? Well, let’s look at the release again. Hmm. It’s not there.

How about in The New York Times story about Amazon’s announcement?

Wait. It’s not there either though the Times does repeat Amazon’s claim that “the growth rate of Kindle sales tripled after Amazon lowered the price of the device in late June.”

The problem is that unlike Apple — which regularly touts how many iPads it’s selling — Amazon has never released exact sales figures for the device. paidContent.org has quoted Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos saying they may never release those figures.

So, when they say that growth has tripled… from one to three? Seven to 21? One million to three million? Who knows?

Now, let’s look at the rest of the release: “Amazon.com Now Selling More Kindle Books Than Hardcover Books.”

Again, wow. The previously mentioned New York Times story refers to this news “as a day for the history books — if those will even exit in the future.”

And reading the release, you can’t blame them.

Amazon claims that “over the past three months, for every 100 hardcover books Amazon.com has sold, it has sold 143 Kindle books. Over the past month, for every 100 hardcover books Amazon.com has sold, it has sold 180 Kindle books.”

Again, wow.

But…

Since they don’t give us actual sales figures (other than the fact that James Patterson has sold 867,881 Kindle books, one of five writers to sell more than 500,000 KIndle books; the others being: Charlaine Harris, Stieg Larsson, Stephanie Meyer and Nora Roberts), we really don’t know what that means.

Yes, it’s a lot — based on those five writers alone — but how much? And what does it really mean?

Is it that — as Bezos claims — “the Kindle format has now overtaken the hardcover format.”

Is it that e-readers, whether they be Kindles or iPads, are the way things are going?

The second is more likely.

At the same time, as great as the devices are, as I’ve pointed out, e-readers will only really be the future when we figure out how to get them to everyone. Otherwise we need to keep helping libraries and schools make sure they have regular, old, printed books for kids.

Print may not be quite as robust as it used to be but it’s far from dead.



Jul. 20 2010 — 8:56 am | 198 views | 0 recommendations | 0 comments

The New York Times, The Washington Post and Irony

Where would we be without Mondays?

Today’s life lesson in irony comes from The New York Times and The Washington Post. Actually it’s from Politico but it’s thanks to a New York Times story.

(maybe you should buckle up)

The New York Times had a story yesterday, In a World of Online News, Burnout Starts Younger.

The focus is websites like the hyperactive political website Politico and gossip site Gawker and the conclusion:

“Such is the state of the media business these days: frantic and fatigued. Young journalists who once dreamed of trotting the globe in pursuit of a story are instead shackled to their computers, where they try to eke out a fresh thought or be first to report even the smallest nugget of news — anything that will impress Google algorithms and draw readers their way.”

There’s talk of high turnover rates and frantic obsession with page views and that we live “in a media environment crowded with virtual content farms where no detail is too small to report as long as it was reported there first.”

What isn’t there is a lot of talk of long-term projects and in-depth reporting. Not to say that there isn’t in-depth online reporting, it’s just that the emphasis is fast fast fast. It’s as if suddenly everybody’s a wire service reporter.

Except Dana Priest of The Washington Post.

Bless her and her ability to report the hell out of a story.

In the past five years, Priest has won two Pulitzers — for her exposure of the CIA’s secret prisons and for her series on the lousy treatment Americans veterans were receiving at Walter Reed.

Now she’s back with a hell of a story running in installments in her paper.

Top Secret America is the result of more than two years of reporting, breathtaking in its scope and an amazing example of not only why newspapers are important but how effective they can be when embracing changes in technology.

At its heart, the series explores how “the government has built a national security and intelligence system so big, so complex and so hard to manage, no one really knows if it’s fulfilling its most important purpose: keeping its citizens safe.”

Priest, her colleague William Arkin and nearly a dozen other Post staffers have put together what appears to be an astoundingly well-reported, well-written series. And not only have they written some great articles (part two is live today), they’ve created an interactive website with a searchable database, a Facebook page, a Twitter account. There’s going to be a special on Frontline (won’t be airing until the fall, watch the seven-minute teaser video here).

So, on a day that The New York Times reports on how the world of online journalism is leading to burnout, The Washington Post comes out with a great series that reminds people of why newspapers are important — essential — and shows the potential of in-depth reporting on the web.

Brilliant.



Jul. 16 2010 — 9:42 am | 97 views | 0 recommendations | 0 comments

Hey, Janet Evanovich! Spread the Wealth!

Cover of "One for the Money (Stephanie Pl...

Cover via Amazon

It’s summer, which is usually a very good time for Janet Evanovich, whose Stephanie Plum mysteries can be seen at beaches and on airplanes around the country as people devour books they know they can toss when they’re done with them.

I’m not knocking Evanovich’s books — One for the Money, Two for the Dough, Hot Six and so forth — they’re fun and quickly forgettable so there’s no issue with leaving the book wherever you finish them.

This, though, is turning into a Summer of Discontent, to some degree for her.

Deadline New York’s Mike Fleming reported earlier this week that Evanovich — St. Martin’s Press’s “biggest fiction author” — is moving on after 15 years because the publisher refused to pay her request for $50 million for her next four books.

That’s right. $50 million.

Now I’m not saying that Evanovich doesn’t make a lot of money for St. Martin’s — her books regularly sell hundreds of thousands of copies as they camp out on best-seller lists. And it’s not like there’s not a bunch of authors who make even more (let’s not forget JK Rowling, who leaves all others in her wake).

When The New York Times profiled James Patterson earlier this year, they titled the piece: “James Patterson, Inc.

I have no doubt that Evanovich’s agent, her son Peter, will be able to get someone to pay her what she wants. And I certainly am not saying that St. Martin’s should get rich off of her work…

My issue is that when you read stories about small-press publishers that manage to find the occasional Pulitzer-winner or another one getting shut down from lack of funds or a charity working to make sure school kids have enough books (any books!) to read and then you read about someone balking because she can’t $50 million?

Please.

Here’s an idea.

Find a new publisher who is going to give you, say $30 million for the four books and make them use the other $20 million to discover new talent or to help keep a literary magazine afloat or something.

So many people are struggling, so many great artists toil for nothing.

Make your money, Evanovich but spread the wealth.


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    An award winning journalist twice nominated by his editors for a Pulitzer Prize, Miner is the former City Editor of The New York Sun. He has also written for The Washington Post, The New York Post, The New York Times and The Oregonian. His reporting has freed from prison a man wrongfully convicted of murder and another time helped send a corrupt politician to jail

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