Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Most Disturbing Library

Prep School Gives Away 20k-Volume Library to Build All-Electronic Learning Center(

I saw this eye-catching headline on Publisher's Lunch today and had to share it in all its upsetting glory.

Unfortunately, my commentary will be at a minimum since I badly cut my finger this morning and am having trouble typing, but I am simply stunned over here. And all I can say right now is, "A library without books? Are you freaking kidding me?"

This is perhaps the most disturbing electronic vs. physical book issues I've come across yet. I hope it means absolutely nothing for the future of our libraries.

Oh, and be sure to note the $12,000 cappuchino machine they're putting in this "library" instead of books.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Future of Publishing

The future of publishing is something that's on all of our minds--or at least it is if we're avid readers. E-books versus hardcopies. Chains versus independents. There are debates going on left and right. 

To be perfectly honest, I try not to think about this topic at all. Basically because it scares the crap out of me. Books are my livelihood. Thinking of my industry dying is just not something I like to consider. But I have to. We all have to be aware of the situation as it is and think about the possibilities. I know some people that believe the point we're at now is an exciting one. It's an opportunity for our generation to reinvent the book, to make the industry our own. I like the sound of that myself, but I have a hard time imagining what we can do it make it all better.

Patrick over at the Vroman's Bookstore blog has some interesting things to say regarding the subject, things I hadn't really thought about before, and he's pointed his readers toward a manifesto written by Ben Stein of Patrick and Ben both focus on the future of the bookstore and of publishing houses, discussing ways for publishers to make themselves more prominent through branding. 

This isn't something I've really given much thought to before. Publishing houses to me serve two purposes: to create the books, both externally and internally, and to distribute the books. I don't like thinking of a house as a brand name. I feel like it would pigeonhole each company too much. Certain imprints certainly have the ability to brand themselves, if small and specialized enough. But it still doesn't feel right to me. 

Specifically, I'd like to comment on Stein's suggestion that bookstores follow the style of shelving books by publisher rather than genre. For me, this just doesn't work. Maybe someday, if publishers were more consistent and if people even associated books with their publishers. But even so, frankly, I don't care who published the book I want to read. I care about the book itself--its content. Yes, it's good to trust a publisher, to know that the books they put out are worthy of your time. But books are such a personal experience and everyone feels differently about them. I'd never go around saying, "ah yes, my favorite book is anything published by St. Martin's Press." That idea is ludicrous to me. I would have a hell of a time in a bookstore that shelved by publisher. I wouldn't find anything. I want to be able to wander around, having a vague idea of what I want and find it. I would be lost--even as someone who actually knows the industry--searching for a random title in a particular publisher's section. 

It's terrifying to think of all the scenarios that could happen. I hate that independent bookstores are closely weekly, that people aren't reading as much as they once did, that I likely won't ever get to open my own bookstore, my dream bookstore. I'm not sure what we can all do about it. It makes me feel ignorant to say that, but it's true. But somehow, despite not knowing how, we have to figure it out. 

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Book Review: Life of Pi **Spoiler Alert**

Life of Pi by Yann Martel is one of those books that I'd heard a ton about without really hearing anything. Everyone told me I had to read it, and its critics bolstered those calls of encouragement. To this day, I haven't seen a single bad review. So, naturally, I went out and bought a copy.

Four years ago.

Like I said, despite all the buzz, I couldn't muster the motivation to read it. I didn't really know what to expect from it, and I was wary, especially because of the religious under-(and over)-tones that were so prominent in all I had heard. Even one of the characters claims that this is "a story that will make you believe in God." That line alone made me not want to read it--I wasn't about to be preached to.

But I was pleasantly surprised to find that I didn't view Life of Pi as a religious novel myself. Part I has some points that are a little heavy on the God-talk for my taste, but it was in such a way that it was humorous and sweet. How can it not be when a young boy trying to find his beliefs tricks three different religious figures into thinking he's devout in their particular religion, when really, he's running around Pondicherry, India practicing all three? I found Pi's religious curiosity endearing, and Part I did a thorough job all around of making me feel for the clever boy and by the end of the section, I was invested in Pi's story.

Part I, however, also made me almost put down the book and not pick it back up. The story started off very slowly, with the alternating narratives of young Pi and a reporter visiting Pi in his old age taking me out of the story I enjoyed (young Pi's) and transplanting me into the present day where the writing and action both felt stagnant and staid. Just as I'd be really engaging with the story, it would pull me out. It was frustrating and I almost gave up on Pi as a result.

Part II, however, was surprisingly redeeming, and not so much about religion as it was about having faith and persevering . I was amazed at how compelled I could be by almost complete narration and almost no dialogue. Martel's writing in this part was skillful--albeit a little too graphic at times--and his storytelling profoundly engaging. The interaction between Pi and Richard Parker--the Bengel Tiger stranded on a lifeboat with his 16-year-old self after their cargo ship, the Tsimtsum, sinks--is intriguing. Pi's ability to prevail, to train Richard Parker, to just survive and not give up is immensely powerful. I felt a tremendous amount of admiration for him and his journey. Part II did drag at times given the repetitive nature of being lost at sea, but for the most part, Pi held me in rapt attention.

Part III was a nice change of pace, with Pi back on land and some hysterical and entertaining dialogue with representatives of the Japanese shipping company who owned the Tsimtsum. I had a fantastic time reading this bit and it contained perhaps the most thought-provoking moment for me with the novel when Pi asks tells and alternate story to explain what happened to him on the lifeboat and asks the businessmen which story they like best and which they believe. I had never for a second imagined that Pi's story wasn't real, despite it's fantastical elements. It left me with a nice "hmmm" when I read the last page.

The Last Word: A compelling and unique tale of adventure, faith, and perseverence through the most hopeless of circumstances. Just watch out for such graphic descriptions that yo might want to vomit.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Sweet Valley v. Stonybrook...The Saga Continues

In the eyes of my generation, Francine Pascal's Sweet Valley High series was second only to Ann M. Martin's The Baby-sitters Club in popularity.
With over 152 books in its repertoire, SVH eventually decided to expand into a television show--just as BSC adapated itself and later released episodes on VHS ("Dawn Saves the Trees" was my personal fav). And now, the SVH series is following in BSC footsteps once again with a feature film. announced yesterday that Universal has scooped up the rights to the film after a bidding war with Fox. Who knew SVH was such a coveted movie opp?

Expected producer and writer Diablo Cody did, for one. Best known for her quirky and honest coming-of-age comedy "Juno," Cody is sure to bring something fresh to SVH, a francise so dated I even forgot about it for a while. Universal also is trying to buy the book rights from Random House, with sights most likely set on reissuing the once beloved books.

The SVH book series continued for twenty years, a surprising six more than our dear BSC. And with 88 episodes to BSC's 13, it only begs the question-- will Cody's skillful screenwriting help the SVH movie outshine BSC yet again?

The saga continues...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Polling the Public for a National Book Award

For the first time, the prestigious National Book Award will be chosen by more than just a five-member judging panel. Anyone can vote.

According to the AP wire, The National Book Foundation has opened its polls to the public, letting readers all over the country vote. But only for one special category: The Best of the National Book Awards Fiction. As part of the NBA's 60th anniversary celebration, this special category has been created to honor one of six past NBA winners, chosen by a NBF panel:

The Stories of John Cheever

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

The Collected Short Stories of William Faulkner

The Complete Stories of Flannery O'Connor

Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon

The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty

Personally, I haven't read any of these. Maybe that makes me a bad former Lit. major, but I haven't. So, I, for one, do not plan to participate. But even if I had a strong opinion on the matter, I'm not sure I'd want to take part.

Contests of this kind peeve me a little bit, with voters having no restriction in number of votes (Ok, you caught me, I just voted to see if it would let me vote twice--it does), and with voters being able to see the current standings, and therefore, push their favorite up in the polls by voting again and again. Something like this happened recently to a family member of mine, with his band being a finalist in a very important, nationwide competition that would ensure them a spot playing at a concert with some very, very big names. Winning such a contest would have launched their career, something they absolutely deserve to have happen. However, the contest was run so poorly, e-mail addresses not verified, etc. that some of the other bands in the running were having fans vote 100+ times each, swaying the scales unfairly. As a result, the competition no longer really represented the best band, but instead just the band who could cheat the most.

Contests like the NBA have panels of judges for a reason. They have a criteria they follow and are (hopefully) made up of a variety of different people with different tastes and outlooks, to get a well-rounded and fair judging scale. I think this is especially important when the stakes are as high as they were for the aforementioned band and for the NBA, which dotes prestige and $10,000 on its winners (though I can't say what the award is for this special category, since I frankly, don't know).

So, while I like the concept of the public having a say, I can't help but think these contests aren't really fair--or accurate--and maybe they really are better left to the professionals.

Friday, September 18, 2009

A Pop-Thoughts Book Review: Best Friends Forever **Spoiler Alert**

The #1 New York Times bestseller Best Friends Forever by Jennifer Weiner has been hanging around on bestseller lists for a couple months now. Reviewers have been giving it the thumbs up all over the country. I haven't read this one yet myself, but LG over at Pop-Thoughts just finished it up. Let's see what she thinks:
I generally spend my summers reading light, airy novels, and I enjoy that. As one of the few people in the world who doesn’t actually like summer, it gets me through fully entertained. Even when the books are practically unbearable (exhibit A: last summer’s Chasing Harry Winston by Lauren Weisberger), they always have some redeeming entertainment qualities. As a fan of Jennifer Weiner’s predictable chick lit, I was tremendously disappointed by her latest book Best Friends Forever, a novel billed as more-of-the-same, but struggles to break out of the Weiner Mold...and fails.
Read the rest of LG's review HERE

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Speaking of publicity, let's try some unwanted endorsements...

The New York Times reported this week that Osama bin Laden released a new audiotape to the American people two days after the 8th anniversary of 9/11. In his speech, he gives Americans a "reading list": The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, and Confessions of an Economic Hit Man.

I would not want to be one of the authors of one of those books or the publisher. Despite the phrase "all publicity is good publicity," I don't think it applies here. Bin Laden is not an endorsement anyone wants.

NYTimes bloggers Sharon Otterman and Robert Mackey discuss:

While Oprah’s seal of approval on a book cover is sought after in America, Osama Bin Laden’s is, to put it mildly, not. On Monday, the authors of three books apparently recommended to American readers by the leader of Al Qaeda in his latest communique might be wondering how one goes about returning an unsolicited endorsement to a shadowy militant who has been in hiding for eight years.

As our colleague Mark McDonald reported on Sunday, Mr. Bin Laden apparently released a new audiotape, entitled “An Address to the American People.” According to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist Web sites, on the tape, a voice claiming to be that of the Qaeda leader described three books that he says support his analysis of global politics and the systematic maltreatment of Muslims at the hands of America and her allies.

Read more HERE

Hogwarts Moves to Florida

There's been word floating around about a Harry Potter theme park joining Orlando's family of parks in Florida for years, but now it's finally official. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter will open its gates in Spring 2010.

The New York Times' Brooks Barnes reports:

LOS ANGELES — The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, the keenly anticipated Florida theme park, will open in the spring and allow visitors to tour Hogwarts, buy quidditch gear and drink butterbeer.

Universal Orlando unveiled some details about the park, a 20-acre addition to its Islands of Adventure property, on Tuesday in a Web presentation. The resort, co-owned by NBC Universal and the Blackstone Group, secured the theme park rights to J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books in May 2007, but has been silent about specific plans until now.

The so-called theme park within a theme park will be faithful to the visual landscapes of the Harry Potter films produced by Warner Brothers, which licensed the rights to Universal after a flirtation with the Walt Disney Company. “We’ve tried to include something from every book,” Alan Gilmore, an art director for the films who is helping to oversee the park designs, said in an interview.

Read the rest of the story HERE

The Wizarding World will feature three main rides--Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, Flight of the Hippogriff, and Dragon Challenge--as well as numerous stores where unique HP merchandise--like extendable ears--can be purchased. A complete replica of Ollivander's Wand Shop, complete with mantra "the wand chooses the wizard," will also provide for interactive shopping.

Cast members from the HP films have already gotten an exclusive early look at the park. Tom Felton, who plays Draco Malfoy told Barnes his opinion of the theme park:

“We always say on set, ‘If this place was real, it would be absolutely fantastic' [...] To actually walk into this world and be able to touch it and taste it and smell it — well, it’s just going to be fantastic.”

While I agree with Felton that this will certainly be an amazing site to see and experience, I'm not quite sure it's coming at the right time. In the midst of a recession, theme parks have already seen a sizeable decline in attendence, and a park this specialized, while it will certainly bring in the HP crowd, will exclude a different audience and narrow the potential a little bit. I feel like this idea will either make it huge or crash and burn hard.

The Harry Potter wave has significantly died down, with the series complete for nearly a year and a half now, and Universal may have missed its moment. The films are obviously still going strong, grossing an average of $900 million worldwide (The Numbers box office stats), but more than $600 million of that comes from outside the U.S. Books and films are one thing, but a theme park in a single location, where much travel would be involved for many, is a horse of a different color.

I'm extremely interested to see what happens with the theme park, how it profits and how the Harry Potter franchise in general profits. I have a hard time imagining that it will foster many more book sales, as all visitors interested in such a park would likely have already read the series, but you never know.

Publicity is publicity after all.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Book Review: The Graveyard Book

New York Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman is solid once more in The Graveyard Book.

Gaiman's most recent "YA" novel clearly show his versatility as an author, as he charms audiences of all ages. While The Graveyard Book is most certainly written for a much younger, children's audience but was still quite an enjoyable read, even for me.

Nobody Owens, the sweet, kind, lovable boy known to his friends (and enemies) as Bod, is growing up in the most unusual of circumstances. After his family is brutally murdered by a man named Jack, toddler Bod narrowly escapes by crawling his way to a nearby graveyard. In a unique re-telling of The Jungle Book, Bod is taken in by the ghosts of the graveyard and taught all matters of things, from how to read to how to Fade to how to open a ghoul-gate.

While Bod's adventures are highly entertaining and painted by Gaiman with descriptive and palpable verve, I found the stringing together of his experiences to be a little loose. The story felt fragmented to me with not quite enough glue to hold the various storylines together. Certain parts that seemed to hold a lot of weight to me ended up not being mentioned again much to my disappointment. The plots that did tie back in were more satisfying ultimately, but I still felt like there was too much going on, too many stories and too much time to cover, for the story to really be as cohesive as I would have liked. I still don't even quite understand what happened with the main story.

The main message, however, and Bod's growth and development was strong enough to overshadow the flaws I found in the storyline itself, so I still kept turning the pages. The supporting cast of characters was also quirky and engaging, holding my interest. I loved the young witch, Liza (who seems to me to be crushing on our dear Bod just a tad!); Bod's mysterious Guardian, Silas; his trusting and vulnerable friend, Scarlett; and all the crazy characters resting not so peacefully in the graveyard's hallowed ground.

I must also say that I give Gaiman props for writing a children's book with such dark and morbid topics and making it seem light and understated. And the illustrations by Dave McKean were a nice addition to a book so wrought with imagery.

The Last Word: An entertainingly unique telling of an age-old story, full of unfamiliar and imaginative characters and adventures.

The Gagosian Births a Bookstore

Up in New York's Upper East Side, there's a refereshing turn of events. A specialty bookstore at the Gagosian Gallery is opening, not closing, its doors.

My friend Linnea over at Art Ravels tells us more:

The Gagosian empire has spread across Chelsea and the rest of the world, most recently to Rome, Italy. But this incredibly successful venture is taking on a new aspect--retail. Coolhunting reports that the store "focuses primarily on the publications, posters and accessible artist editions that the powerhouse gallery creates from its many shows at its galleries around the world."

Read the rest from Art Ravels HERE

Also, check out the article on for additional information about the store.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A New Life for Graphic Novels

Graphic novels are taking a surprising new turn: biographies.

Alison Flood of the reports that publisher Bluewater Productions will be launching a series of biographies of well-known female authors in the form of comic books. The first two publications--expected in November and December of this year--will feature Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling and Twilight's Stephanie Meyer, respectively. Flood writes:

The latest in comic book warfare pits two unlikely heroines against each other: JK Rowling and Stephenie Meyer. The bestselling authors are set to go head-to-head at the end of the year, when graphic novel biographies of each writer are lined up for publication.

Dressed in a purple off-the-shoulder dress and a golden necklace, Rowling's comic persona is somewhat more glamorous than that of Meyer, who sports a grey v-neck jumper. Whether this will prove more enticing to readers of the comics, which are scheduled for release in December and November respectively by US publisher Bluewater Productions, remains to be seen.

Read the rest of this story HERE

Personally, I'm not 100 percent sure what Bluewater is hoping to accomplish here. But it's certainly different.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Breathe: They're Just Books

At least once a week, it comes to my attention in the publishing industry that people just need to calm down. There is always some drama or another--a reviewer put a spoiler in the synopsis, when they promised not to, or a bookseller put a book on-sale early, etc. etc. More often than not, the drama comes from angry authors, not publishers. But every so often, publishers go just as crazy.

For example, when The New York Times leaked bits about Ted Kennedy's upcoming memoir, True Compass, Hachette execs had a cow. They're so mad that they've hired a PI to find out what bookseller sold books early. And Hachette's main concern: that consumers will be confused.

Leon Neyfakh of The New York Observer reports:

All hell broke loose at the Hachette Book Group building last week when The New York Times published a story detailing some of the most newsworthy bits contained in the late Ted Kennedy’s forthcoming memoir, True Compass. A spokeswoman for the paper said Times reporters had purchased multiple copies of the book at a bookstore the day before, and, much to the chagrin of Twelve publisher Jonathan Karp and his publicity director, Cary Goldstein, quickly broke the strict embargo that the imprint had tried to impose on it. The trouble was, of course, that the $8 million memoir wouldn’t be hitting stores for another 11 days, and all the publicity generated by the Times piece—not to mention the glowing review by Michiko Kakutani that ran the following day—was likely to confuse and frustrate customers who went looking for it in the meantime.

Read the rest of the story HERE

Now, everyone just needs to take a deep big breath. These things happen all the time. Embargoes are constantly being broken; books often are put on-sale early. Yes, not always ones of this caliber, and yes, the bookseller should be given a slap on the wrist, but things like this are bound to happen somewhere if a product is delivered to a store prior than an on-sale date. It just so happens that this time, the book fell into the hands of NYT instead of a midwestern father of two. Come on, a PI really isn't necessary. Just as video stores are known to make DVDs available early, it can happen in books too. It's unfortunate that things haven't gone according to plan. It's not as though the books are being leaked online for free, not being reported, or royalties not being fed into. It's just all happening a little sooner than expected.

We all know something like this is not going to negatively affect much--if anything--especially given the leak caused a *gasp* fantastic review to be printed. Besides, consumers expect reviewers and the media to receive early copies of a book. It's protocol. Give people a little bit of credit. And if they're confused, they'll figure it out. Now, if the Times claimed the book was available (which as far as I can tell, it didn't), that's another story. But even so, a retraction can be printed and stories can be pulled from online resources at least. Furthermore, nothing can be done about it now. Instead of hiring PIs and throwing fits, why not use the early publicity to your advantage?

Just repeat after me, folks: It's not the end of the world. THEY'RE JUST BOOKS.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Philip Pullman: Religious controvery in the guise of YA entertainment

Philip Pullman is cooking up religious controversy once again with his upcoming novel, The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ.

Pullman first enlivened readers with the His Dark Materials series: The Golden Compass (Knopf, USA, 1996), The Subtle Knife (Knopf, USA, 1997), and The Amber Spyglass (Knopf, USA, 2000). The coming-of-age fantasy trilogy was marketed as a young adult novel, but also caught the attention of many adults. Hidden just barely beneath the surface of Pullman's trilogy, is a thinly veiled religious challenge, specifically against organized religion and, even more specifically, Christianity.
According to

[Pullman] enraged America's religious right with his portrayal of God as a senile old man in the His Dark Materials trilogy, and now Philip Pullman is set to court more Christian controversy – this time with a novel about "the Scoundrel Christ."

The book will provide a new account of the life of Jesus, challenging the gospels and arguing that the version in the New Testament was shaped by the apostle Paul. By the time the gospels were being written, Paul had already begun to transform the story of Jesus into something altogether new and extraordinary, and some of his version influenced what the gospel writers put in theirs," said Pullman, who last year pronounced himself delighted that the His Dark Materials trilogy was one of the most "challenged" series in America's libraries, boasting the most requests for removal from the shelves because of its "religious viewpoint."

Read more of the story HERE

I was pleasantly surprised when I read this article this morning, having loved the His Dark Materials trilogy myself. Pullman brilliantly crafts his heroine Lyra's tale, not only as an engaging and thought-provoking religious challenge, but as a purely phenomenal fantasy novel with all the delicious elements of adventure, imagination, emotion, and a shocking aura of believability.

I'm intrigued to see what Pullman does with this new novel, as its premise doesn't allow for an easy separation from its controversial undertones. But Pullman promises that:

"Parts of it read like a novel, parts like a history, and parts like a fairy tale; I wanted it to be like that because it is, among other things, a story about how stories become stories." (
Now, while Pullman is sure to drudge up even more debate about religion, that concept of storytelling is one I think any reader can get on board with--no matter what his or her faith.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

To Kindle or Not to Kindle. That is the question.

I'm not going to lie. I don't know the stats off the top of my head indicating whether e-readers or books are worse for the environment. I, frankly, haven't even looked into it. But my friend Meghan over at Virescence has:

“Paper or plastic?” is not a question you expect to apply to how you consume reading material. It is a question generally reserved for the grocery store – determining which material will best serve for carrying the bounty of dishwasher detergent and cereal from one place to another. However,with the mass availability of e-readers rivaling the printed word, like Amazon’s Kindle, the paper or plastic dichotomy moves into an entirely new realm. E-readers are marketed as “green”, but are e-readers really better for the environment? What is the right answer to “paper or plastic?”

Click HERE to read more

The Cleantech Group has also done some research of their own, concluding yet again that e-readers win when it comes to the "what gives off less carbon emissions" game.

And while the evidence is staggering here, I don't think this is something everyone will ever be on board with. Not because readers, like myself, who are attached to their physical, tangible books, don't care about the environment, but because books are more than just words strung together. The entire reading experience changes when reading off a screen rather than off a page that you can turn and touch and smell. The only reason I will personally ever purchase an e-reader is when I have so many submissions that it makes logical sense for me AND for the environment. Then I'm not carting around a 50-page or more print out of something I might only read 15 pages of before I cast it aside.

As you all know already, books are my life. I edit them for a living, read them for pleasure, attempt to write them. I, for one, cannot just let that go. Because what am I then left with? I know a lot of people who feel this way and it's not because we don't care. We are all for treating the environment with more care, conserving energy, and emitting less carbon and fewer greenhouse gases. But there is more philosophical issue at stake here. Giving up books for e-readers isn't as easy or as sensible for some as it is for others.

Besides, e-readers are not the answer to our environmental woes. There are bigger, more imminent areas that need our attention--vehicle exhaust and pollution for one. (Some may go so far as to argue that books cause more vehicle exhaust in the process, but please don't go there. Just like e-readers, consumers can purchase books online, and just like e-readers, the object must be delivered on one's door. Yes, you may have fewer purchases, but both methods of reading use resources-just different ones.) I'd much rather spend my time helping in other ways, walking, using mass-transit, recycling, turning my electronics off when I'm not using them, using ceramic and glass pans when cooking, etc. etc.

But books? Books are living, breathing things to a surprising number of people, myself obviously included. Books are part of who I am. They aren't just light bulbs you can switch out for something more energy efficient.

A Little Subway Sustenance

I've always found in fascinating to people watch on the subway. Not because the old man picking his nose and wiping it on the window is, in fact, compelling, but because it's the only place I regularly see people reading.

I like to count how many people in the train car have their noses in books. I sometimes count the number of people listening to iPods (strangely, this number seems to never exceed 15, no matter how packed the car is), but let's face it, books are just more interesting. You can tell a lot about a person by what they're reading. I love to sneak a peak at people as they turn the pages and try to catch a glimpse of the front cover or the running heads to see what they're reading. I've seen some strange and different things (i.e. a very confident young woman was once reading a very blatantly erotic novel next to me on the train, not thinking anything of it. It was uncomfortable and refreshing at the same time).

The City Room, a blog on wrote a little post about this very topic--you can read it HERE.

For a while there, I stopped reading on the train myself, because my commute too and from work was just too short to really make progress. At least that's how I justified it; really, I was just being lazy. I started up again, no matter how short my train ride is, and I'm just powering through book after book. I'm loving it.

This morning I finished Jennifer Weiner's Good in Bed, a chick lit favorite of my friend LG. It was every bit as wonderful as she'd described. A highly recommended read.

Of course, now I have nothing for the ride home....

What are YOU reading? Let us know!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Biblical Changes in the Works

Some strange and interesting news in the publishing industry today: they're revising...the Bible.

The Associated Press reported late last night that the New International Version (NIV) Bible is going to be updated for the first time since 1984. I didn't even know it was revised back then. Yes, I mean, I was just born that year, but nonetheless, I would think that people set on the Bible as "the word of God" wouldn't dare change a single word. Yet apparently, it needs to be modernized:

The top-selling Bible in North America will undergo its first revision in 25 years — which promises to reopen a contentious debate about changing gender terms in the sacred text.

The New International Version, the Bible of choice for conservative evangelicals, will be revised to reflect changes in English usage and advances in Biblical scholarship, announced Biblica — a Colorado Springs, Colo.-based Christian ministry that holds the NIV copyright — on Tuesday. The revision is scheduled to be completed late next year and published in 2011.

But past attempts to remake the NIV for contemporary audiences in different editions have been plagued by controversies about gender language.

Read the rest of this story HERE...

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Publishing on Television: A Pop-Thoughts Take

LG over at Pop-Thoughts whipped up an interesting piece on the book biz and the entertainment industry:

Last year's series "The Return of Jezebel James," which starred Parker Posey, followed newly single children's book editor Sarah Tompkins on her quest to conceive a baby. Blah, right? It only
lasted a few episodes before Fox yanked it completely.

But check out this news from yesterday's Hollywood Reporter:

"In a competitive situation, CBS has landed a hot multicamera comedy script by "Will & Grace" alumna Gail Lerner.

The project, which will be produced by Warner Bros. TV, has received a ilot commitment. Tentatively titled "Open Books," it revolves around book editor June and her circle of friends."

Click HERE to read more!

Go Ahead. Judge Those Books.

We've all heard the old idiom, "Don't judge a book by its cover." Some of us may even use it ourselves. It's a fantastic little phrase that expresses the reality that things aren't always as they appear, that looks aren't everying. But while I fully support this sentiment in the figuartive sense, when it comes down to a physical book, I can't disagree more.

A book's cover is perhaps its most important marketing tool. It's the reason a consumer picks up a book in the first place. In a room full of hardcovers, trade paperbacks, mass markets, box sets, etc. etc. we only have our eyes to guide us. If it doesn't catch our attention, we aren't picking it up. And if we aren't pricking it up, we aren't reading the cover copy and finding out what the book is about. And then we certainly aren't buying it. The same goes for book buyers, the bigwigs who decide what books the store will even sell. If they don't find a cover appealing--or at least anticipate the public finding it appealing--no way is it going into a store's inventory. Publishers have even been known to change cover art because an important buyer didn't like it. This is serious business.

But what about when a book is so well-known that most people already know what it's about? No one's eye needs catching, they just want the content. Like the Classics, for example.

Most house that publish classics do so en masse. They have a specific classics line full of books with simple, formulaic covers. These covers are more iconic than anything, trying to the get the consumer to buy the same Bloomsbury Classics edition over the Folgers Encriched Classics. Likely they're being forced to buy them anyway by a college or high school, so they are going to buy it one way or the other. The time has past for publishers to try to hook new consumers on these books. Or so we thought.

Penguin Classics Deluxe Editions has recently taken three classic novels, all of which could be construed as chick lit on some level, and redesigned them, giving each title a fresh, new, surrealist look. The books are even being described as "beach reads." Pride and Prejudice, Wuthering Heights, and The Scarlet Letter would not be my personal idea of a beach read, but this new art just might draw in a new audience. Last year, Penguin did something along the same lines, using a cartoonist to draw up some new covers for classic novels like One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Lady Chatterly's Lover, and Frankenstein.

HarperPerrenial Classic Stories also updated its look to grab a new audience. Using brighter, bolder colors and a pop-up type photo of the author (I'm guessing?) give the books a much more modern, though kind of oddball and slightly creepy, feel.

Whether these tactics will work or not is hard to say. But it's clearly working for UK publisher Waterstone with their release of a re-vamped Wuthering Heights. The new edition has been designed to resemble Stephanie Meyers's Twilight series--it even displays a burst reading "Bella and Edward's favorite book--and as a result, WH has hit UK bestseller lists.

Shocking, but true. So, as you can see, the judging continues in full force. Kind of as it should.