Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Discovering Old Books

by Raelene Gorlinsky

A coworker at EC clued me in to a great website, The Public Domain Review:

The site's description of itself:
The public domain is a vast commons of material that everyone is free to enjoy, share and build upon without restriction. All works eventually enter the public domain – from classic works of art, music and literature, to abandoned drafts, tentative plans, and overlooked fragments.

The Public Domain Review aspires to become a bounteous gateway into the whopping plenitude that is the public domain, helping our readers to explore this rich terrain by surfacing unusual and obscure works, and offering fresh reflections and unfamiliar angles on material which is more well known.
By providing a curated collection of exotic scraps and marvellous rarities and linking to freely distributable copies of works in online archives and from far flung corners of the web, we hope to encourage readers to further utilise and explore public domain works by themselves.
The site seems to mainly focus on books, but also covers film and images. Lots of weird and wonderful documents that few of us would likely ever discover on our own. I've already downloaded English as She is Spoke from 1884, and am enjoying browsing leisurely for other items of interest. Hmm, I'm rather tempted by The Criminal Prosecution and Capital Punishment of Animals from 1906 (animals tried for human crimes) and The Danger of Premature Interment from 1816 (make sure someone is really dead before you bury them).

The site encourages submission of articles about public domain works, and is open to suggestions for works to include.

Monday, August 29, 2011

New Words in Webster's

It's always fun to see lists of the new words the major dictionary companies accept each year and add to their dictionaries. The words are a great reflection of our changing world, new trends, new ideas.

Here are a couple of the 150 that got added to Merriam-Webster's College Dictionary this year. Actually, I'm rather surprised they didn't get in sooner.

bromance: a close nonsexual friendship between men.

cougar: a middle-aged woman seeking a romantic relationship with a younger man.

crowdsourcing: the practice of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people and especially from the online community rather than from traditional employees or suppliers.

social media: forms of electronic communication (as Web sites for social networking and microblogging) through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content (as videos).

tweet: a post made on the Twitter online message service.

See the Publishers Weekly blog for a longer article and list:

Friday, August 26, 2011

Happy Anniversary!

By Raelene Gorlinsky

(Based on information from an article in Publishers Weekly, 8/15/11 issue.)

Ah, the books we remember fondly from our childhood - or from reading to our children. The classics are called that for a reason - they are great stories that stay popular. Some of the most popular children's books are celebrating long anniversaries, and most therefore have special editions coming out.

Remember the series about Babar the elephant? I loved those drawings. The first book, The Story of Babar by Jean de Brunhoff, came out in 1931, so is now 80 years old and still beloved by and relevant to children. Coming out this month will be Babar's Celestville Games by Laurent de Brunhoff, Jean's son.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle made a deep impression on me as a preteen. It's celebrating it's 50th with a special commemorative edition. There will also be a graphic novel adaptation out next year.

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster & Jules Feiffer is 50 years old. The special anniversary editioin will be released in October.

James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl is also 50 this year. The publisher, Puffin, is not only putting out an anniversary edition, but having a variety of online activities and contests.

Ezra Jack Keats' The Snowy Day will be 50 next year. It was considered groundbreaking back in 1962, and won the Caldecott Medal, because the young boy was African-American.

Remember the jungle animals coming out of the game in Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg, 30 years ago? It was a 1982 Caldecott Medal winner, and came out as a movie in 1995.

The Magic School Bus series by Joanna Cole is 25. I read these to my son when he was small; I enjoyed them as much as he did. The illustrations by Bruce Degen are wonderfully clever.

I'm likely to succumb and buy some of the special editions, to add to my collection of children's picture books.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Not as E as We Think

by Raelene Gorlinsky

I've got hundreds of unread print books on my TBR shelves, there is no more room left. So I made a conscious decision last month that I would buy only digital books from now on. Well, I tried...

I just assumed all the books I want would be available in digital format. Those of us in the epub industry and those readers who are heavily into digital tend to forget that many publishers are not yet with us. The big publishers still often delay the release of the digital version of new books until later than the print release (especially for hardcover books). And although they talk about digitizing their backlist, they are still nowhere near getting any significant portion actually available in ebook format.

What happened with the twelve books on my "buy" list last month? The list was a mix of new releases and older (but not more than three years old), fiction and nonfiction, well-known and new authors. To my surprise and annoyance, only FOUR of the twelve books were available in e. Those four were all new fiction releases that were also available in mass market paperback. And one of the ebooks was available only on Kindle; sorry, I buy ePub format. So I was able to get only 25% of my buy list as digital. I had to buy print for the rest.

This month looks like it may be almost as dissatisfying. I want to buy four books. One is available only in e, from a digital-first publisher, and I've bought it. Yay! One is a Harlequin category, not yet out, but I'm sure will be available in e. The other two--I don't know. One was a mass market release six months ago from a big NY publisher, but I haven't managed to find it in any digital format except Kindle. Hey, publisher, do you realize how much of the e market you are missing by not offering ePub and PDF? The other is an upcoming fiction hardcover, I don't have high hopes for a same-release-date ePub digital version.

I'll keep trying--when possible, I'll buy an ebook instead of a print book. But looks like I'm going to have to find more space on those TBR shelves.

What's your experience? What percentage of the books you buy are digital versus print? If you can't find it in digital, do you buy print or refuse to buy?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Renaissance in Publishing?

by Raelene Gorlinsky

The July 25, 2011, issue of Publishers Weekly had an insightful opinion article by Ashley Rindsberg, "Renaissance: Are niches the new mass market?" He summarized the changes of the past two decades and explains just how the whole basis of the publishing industry has been shaken. Some excerpts:

< Through all the panic and hysteria that's gripped the publishing world over the past few years, and in spite of academic musings on the fate of the book, we're witnessing an unprecedented flourishing of creativity and innovation in the book business. [...]

Social media has made "the niche" the all-important marketing concept today. Readers now gather around shared passions and interests [...] book production and distribution has finally become advanced enough to deliver titles directly to individual niches in a cost-effective way.

In short, a new publishing industry is emerging. For decades the book business has been dominated by what's become the "big six" corporate publishers and the major bookstore chains. [...] Given the high fixed costs of producing and selling a book, it became critical for big publishers to invest in titles that could nto only bring a return on the investment but subsidize the other titles that didn't sell. Thus, the focus of much of the book industry began to shift away from the kind of magical books that enrich our culture, to those books that could sell big. And how do publishers predict what will sell? By looking at what's already sold, of course.

In this way the book industry began to churn out expensive, generic titles that merely mimicked previous bestsellers. And smaller, niche-oriented titles--books that [...] lacked that "mass market" gloss--went unpublished or, ast best, were left for dead on the backlist.

Then, in the late 1980s, things started to change. Small publishers began using new digital publishing technologies--the era of "desktop publishing". In the mid 1990s, Internet sales, through services like Amazon, emerged. And now, in just the past few years, social networking and social media have changed the game; Google has scanned and made millions of books discoverable; digital print-on-demand has become practical and cost-effective; and most important, the Kindle, Nook and iPad have paved the way for an e-book future.
The current environment has all the makings of a renaissance for books. Even as the major publishing conglomerates contract, and retail chains like Borders flail, small and truly independent publishers are flourishing. >

Yep, I think that explains the success of Ellora's Cave and other indies and epubs like us. We target a specific market niche (such as erotic romance), and we understand that niche. We take chances on new authors and new styles within that niche, because we grasp what our readers may want and we cater to the diversity within that market and we provide value to those readers.

Of your recent reads, how many were those "megasellers for the masses" from major publishers, and how many were niche books from smaller publishers or the targeted genre lines of the big publishers?