Archives for the month of: February, 2014

I’m all for innovation, but I don’t think I’ll be an early adopter of this technology. I really don’t want  “to physically experience the sensations that the characters are feeling” with this wearable book. It sounds creepy. Plus the kit looks rather uncomfortable — and a hassle to put on every time you pick up your book. Still it’s always good to experiment. I think it might be more appropriate if it could be applied to movies.

This link to GalleyCat’s 27 January story includes a video.

IMG_0046These have been springing up all over for the last couple of years. You drop off a book and pick up another, on a totally informal basis.  Here are a two in our neighborhood. The first is just outside our local Starbucks. The second in a nearby park, just opposite the subway entrance. They both seem to be pretty well patronized, which is more than I can say for a nice one I observed in Philadelphia a few weeks ago, in a blizzard — completely empty with no sign of anyone’s ever having visited it. But then it was in an unlikely location — far away from any foot-traffic in the middle of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway mall.

Here’s a more recent post from Book Patrol.


cn_image_0.size.sandcompanyFor those willing to read in French, here’s a story from the French Vanity Fair about this famous bookshop which almost every tourist has at least walked past. I have no idea what will happen if you try Google Translate.

Even if you don’t read it the photos are worth looking at.

This link takes you to an (English) account of being a tumbleweed at Shakespeare and Co.

Rizzoli Bookstore Faces Wrecking Ball Again

Rizzoli Bookstore in Manhattan is confronting the prospect of having to relocate 29 years after it “fled Fifth Avenue two steps ahead of the wrecking ball,” and for a similar reason. The New York Times reported that the owners of the building at 31 West 57th Street that houses Rizzoli “recently gave the bookstore the bad news: They plan to demolish the six-story, 109-year-old building, as well as two small, adjoining buildings.” (Office space above the store includes the U.S. headquarters of Quercus Publishing.)

Although the LeFrak real estate family and Vornado Realty Trust declined to comment, “one executive who has been briefed on the plans said the owners hoped to find Rizzoli a new home. The executive said the developers had not decided whether to build a commercial or residential tower,” the Times wrote. Pam Sommers, a spokeswoman for Rizzoli New York, noted that the company is still gathering information.

“We’re losing yet another literary landmark in Midtown,” said Michael Signorelli, senior editor at Henry Holt. “Rizzoli has three magnificent floors of books.”

Peg Breen, president of the New York Landmarks Conservancy, added: “It’s sad if we also lose those three limestone mansions, which were converted to commercial uses decades ago. There will be very little left on 57th that shows how it used to be. I think bookstores in New York City need to be protected at all costs.”

I wonder if this means Peg Breen’s going to be able to do anything about it other than expressing regret. Of course New York City expresses its vigor by redeveloping its past with no more than passing regret. Land on 57th Street is just too valuable too be allowed to have a mere six floors on it.

(Story from Shelf Awareness 15 January 2014)

This link will take you to a petition to save the bookstore.

Later: Here’s news of it’s reappearance in a new location.

When I was last involved in buying composition, in the last century, footnotes were still more expensive than endnotes. Computerization had reduced the gap, and has now to all intents and purposes eliminated it. So now the decision on whether to have footnotes or endnotes can be an editorial decision, not infected by cost considerations.

However, the arrival of the e-book has changed things. Are footnotes endangered, or have we just failed to work out (or failed to make the effort to do it) how to code for them in an e-book file? The Digital Reader sends us to  Scott Berkun’s blog post where we get a discussion of Alexandra Horowitz’s article “Will the E-book kill the footnote?” in the New York Times in October 2011. (There’s a little link in the top right hand corner of the screen inviting you to skip the ad.)

When I’m reading a digital book I certainly find myself reluctant to click on note links. It’s often hard to get back to where you were, and if the first one or two are merely bibliographical references, I quickly decide it’s not worth the effort. If they were there on the page though, I could see that footnote 5, say, was a discussion of some substance, and have the option to follow it up. I hope that academic publishers (at least) will make the effort to “rescue” the footnotes from oblivion at the back, and have them display on the same “page” as the text reference. Ms Horowitz points out neatly that digitization has not killed the book, but looks likely to kill the page.

I wondered what Anthony Grafton’s book The Footnote: A Curious History might look like in e-book format: but of course it’s not available in the Kindle store. So I went to the New York Public Library and got it out.  It’s one of the delights of living in New York that patrons of the library are often much smarter than you are. Someone reading this book before me has made a silent protest about the referencing system used in this book, as can be seen in this photo. (Click on the picture to enlarge it, and then use the back arrow to return.)IMG_0047Careful reader, his comments have been made on those tab-style Post-it stickers which can be removed without defacing the book. Given that the case binding, perfect bound, is cracking apart with the result that it won’t be long till pages start falling out, this concern may be misplaced.

The Harvard style of referencing, using author name and year of publication in parens in running text, is not used in this book. They have gone more extreme: using a footnote, but sometimes with only the author’s name. In so far as anyone thought this through, this might have worked if the reader could then refer to a bibliography. Unfortunately there’s no bibliography in this book, so it appears that the readers are expected to memorize the titles as they work through the book! This is the silent protest of our reader. His annotations take you back to the point in the book where the referenced book’s title and publication date are given in the earlier footnote identified. To be fair the book appears to have been published originally in German, or was it French (the copyright page is confusing on this point) so the decision we are objecting to may not have been made at Harvard.

Does this matter? I think it does — an edition of Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, even a print edition, with the notes at the back of the book (or even worse in a separate volume) will condemn you to missing all the “jokes” unless you are willing to work at it.

Note: Apparently the most elaborate set of historical footnotes – four layers, footnotes to footnotes to footnotes to footnotes – is to be found in H. Junker: “Über iranische Quellen der hellenistischen Aion-Vorstellung”, Bibliotek Warburg, Vorträge, 1921–22.

I never had a job which required me to do layout. I had people reporting to me who did though, and I thus thought it a good idea to play around with QuarkXPress, Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, so that I could at least visualize what it was they were talking about when there was trouble. I never got good at them, but I did create a little booklet using QuarkXPress many years ago. In my last job I would use InDesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator to make PDF corrections in files for print-on-demand setup. In this simple work I was repeatedly saved from disaster by the helping hand of Dan Earley, without whom I would have failed. My earlier post, on PDF corrections also acknowledges Dan’s help.

This makes me think of another POD correction which went rather differently — down the old analog route. We had PDFs for an old 4-volume set of scientific papers, and I went ahead and set them up. When checking the proof it became obvious that some pages were missing: basically a couple of journal articles. I went to New York Public Library to see if I could get a copy of the original 4-volume set — but they had destroyed their copy, and impressively (and depressingly) were able to tell me that every other library in America which had had a copy had done the same. (Don’t let anyone tell you that books are kept in perpetuity in our libraries.) They were however able to find me copies of the journals in which the missing papers had originally been published. I Xeroxed them, and then sent them off to the POD printer who scanned them, added them to our PDF, returned a corrected PDF for our archive, and sent me a new proof. Now all that remains is for all those libraries to buy a new set of the volumes! (That I was able to do this was because the original 4 volumes had been created in exactly that way: there was no consistency of design in the set, nor actually even a set of folios running throughout each volume. Finding that two papers were missing was purely the result of comparing the contents list with the object in front of me. That this was a wise precaution is shown by the outcome.)

QuarkXPress was never a perfect tool — much better than nothing of course, and able to do a lot, if occasionally rather clunkily. InDesign took over the market surprisingly quickly, mainly because Quark repeatedly failed to adapt to changes in the Macintosh operating system, betting that Windows would take over. Not a winning bet. A good account of the demise of QuarkXPress and its replacement by InDesign is given in Dave Girard’s piece in ArsTechnica on 14 January, coming to us via Publishing Executive. It is interesting to see a similar high-and-mighty attitude to the one that lead to Quark’s downfall now being manifested by Adobe with their widely-hated leasing model for Creative Cloud.

I find that e-books have made me more ready to do this. All my life I have persevered to the end if I started reading a book. I remember one notorious instance when I was a schoolboy and I bought one of these ancient Victorian travel-narratives in a second-hand bookshop in Dent, Yorkshire. We had to have run/walked there on one of those half-holidays at school where you had to be at least three miles away by 3 o’clock (or some such rigamarole — school was an endless sequence of rules which had to be rigorously followed or else.) Here, just because it’s so beautiful, is a photo of the school I went to, Sedbergh School.

Photo: Building Panoramics

Photo: Building Panoramics

The book was terminally dull though handsomely bound in a green cloth with gold and black stamping all over — I guess that reports of tramping through snow in inadequate garb represented powerful stuff to the Victorians, but to someone living that rigorous life day-to-day it took real determination to persevere to the end. There was also the Scotsman’s problem, that having invested my bawbee, full value had to be extracted. My character was no doubt further formed by the experience, though I have little recollection of the content. Now I abandon an e-book at the drop of a hat, and doing so has made me more apt to abandon a print book before the end too. Or is it all just down to the pitter-patter of mortality’s footsteps racing up behind my back, telling me I don’t have time to read stuff I don’t really want to? Maybe a bit of both: digitally facilitated memento mori.

The Huffington Post includes this abandonment problem in its list of 19 conundrums (or should that be conundra, you are inclined to ask? Well, no — it shouldn’t. Although the OED can’t come up with a firm derivation, conundrum is clearly not coming from any Latin root. At most it was a joke based upon a hypothetical Latin original.) I confess it never entered my mind to feel at all ambiguous about switching my reading light on in a plane. Walking and reading at the same time just seems daft — I did an earlier post on the even more dangerous reading while running app. I tend to take off the jacket to keep it safe while I’m reading a hardback. Moving your library is a hassle (and an expense). I once had a mover who said “Well you must be a member of the Book-of the-Week-Club”. Can’t find anything to say about their other points I fear.

Max Schuster and Richard Simon

Max Schuster and Richard Simon

Sorry — I’m a little late to the party. S & S are celebrating their 90th anniversary. Shelf Awareness told me this on 10 January, but I’m sorry to say I only opened the email today. They are having a daily sweepstakes where you can win one of their books.

Because of the bewildering rate at which publishing houses changed hands in those days, I am not quite certain how long I worked for Simon and Schuster (in the shape of one of their subsidiaries, Macmillan Reference USA), but I think it was five years. Whatever it was, I salute them.

3024627-poster-p-changWhen I did a post on 3D printing three years ago, I was puzzled as to how it really could be said to fit into a blog called Making Book. I should have had more confidence — the 3D printed slipcase in this instance, for a On Such a Full Sea by Chang-Rea Lee, is unsurprisingly for a limited edition. We have been hearing calls to make our books more luxurious in order to compete with the digital surge. Here’s an early step in that direction. The 200 copies printed are being sold for $150 each.

This fascinating Makerbot video, from the CoDesign post, actually shows the slipcase being printed. Designer Helen Yentus takes us through her thought-process in coming up with the design. It’s quite an impressive production. A mundane carp is to wonder how the book will fit on a bookshelf, but perhaps you’d want to keep this on permanent display on that coffee table we have all published so much for over the years.

The story from CoDesign was brought to my attention by the Publishing Cambridge e-newsletter. The slipcase was also covered in Time which adds the detail that each slipcase took 15 hours to print — maybe I need to slow down on the enthusiasm for the applicability of this technology. However MakerBot does plan to market a 3-D Replicator Mini printer this spring for $1375, so you’ll be able to print your own slipcases soon.

Here’s Hugh Howey’s report on his second month in charge of “New HarperCollins”.

1. New HarperCollins announces an end to the returns system. “Holy crap”, you think we’ve not thought of this before! In fact, wasn’t a division of HarperCollins, HarperStudio, set up right from the get-go not to take returns? It didn’t work out. In a world where all your competitors do  x, refusing unilaterally to do x, can be painful. We all know that returns are crazy, and everyone would like to get rid of them. Publishers originally accepted returns because the offer to make books returnable removed one of the barriers to a bookstore’s taking lots of stock. We always believed that if there were huge stacks of a book in shops, the customers would be gulled into a belief that it must be good, and would thus buy a copy. No stock on hand, no impulse sale. It’s so entrenched that we even accept returns on print-on-demand books (see my post on Print-on-demand) and, mind-bogglingly, on e-books. There’s room for improvement — many publishers have negotiated no-returns deals with Amazon and other retailers. It’ll get better, but only gradually. Publishers certainly don’t want to be accused of putting the last nail into the bookstore coffin by suddenly stopping returns.

2. In month two, we embrace print on demand. There may be a publisher somewhere who’s not doing POD, but you’d need to look hard. The Espresso machine may or may not be the best answer — it’s certainly filling a need, but mainly (I think) for local self publishing. It can only make a paperback book, of course. I have an earlier post about it.

3. We no longer see our own books as competitors. This is a slightly opaque objective. It seems to involve lowering prices on back list, which is fine I guess.

4. Free books. I think publishers know this — people will glom onto free stuff. Before e-books, this wan’t an option: every book cost something to print and bind, and giving it away was a quick route to queer street. With e-books it can be done, as Neil Gaiman demonstrated. If you offer a book on the Kindle Daily Deal, you may sell thousands at the steeply discounted price. The fascinating thing is however that the next week or so the book will sell way above its average daily sale, the offer (missed by many) nevertheless stirring up demand. Free is extreme — but steep discounting is already being used by publishers. HH’s rotating free offer would work with genre fiction — which is of course what he knows. Other sections of the list might be riskier.

5. Cereal boxes. No objection here: clip ten tokens and get a free book. This sounds very familiar — I think it must have been a retail technique in the 1950s. There is of course a logistical and admin cost.

6. We’re going to start by getting rid of our imprints. They’re gone he says, but they are going to be replaced by genre imprints. Much of the imprint accretion comes as a result of mergers and acquisitions: should the historic Scribner name be abandoned just because it was bought by Simon and Schuster? And if you do abandon it, what do you do with the warehouse-full of books saying Scribners, which came with the sale. No doubt some individual imprints are granted to an editor who threatens to leave, but I would guess that at least in anticipation, most were set up with the intention that they would specialize in something. Time has mussied them up a bit: cleaning house is pretty uncontroversial.

7. Speaking some more about branding, here at New HarperCollins we know that our authors are a brand, not their books. Despite the implication, this  too is uncontroversial, and almost everyone in publishing would agree.

8. More letting the author shine. “Readers love meeting authors.” However not all authors love meeting readers. Getting rid of the book tour will certainly not be helping in achieving this aim.

9. If month one was about letting go of ego, month two is about understanding the long tail of publishing. Less concentration on blockbusters leaves you a long way away from the long tail, but who can argue with bringing back lost works and giving writers a second chance. Almost everyone is in agreement here. In reality this sort of up-beat “let’s go team” rhetoric has little real effect — still everyone would support Hugh Howey’s right to shout it out.