The print book versus e-book debate has caused some rumbling and grumbling in the Green Mountain State recently. In an article for Seven Days ("Vermont's Independent Voice"), Margot Harrison explored the challenge of being "confronted with the huge waste that paper books can represent.... Wouldn’t it be cleaner and greener just to download all those books in digital format?"
The answer is, of course, complicated, as could be seen from the opinions voiced by several Vermonters in the book trade, including authors, booksellers, a librarian and publisher. In addition, Robin Ingenthron, owner of Good Point Recycling, which processes and recycles discarded electronics, expressed skepticism about claims that e-readers are a better environmental option. "If you buy a book that’s already been read once, then probably your footprint is zero," he said, adding that his best advice for preserving paper was to "buy somebody a library card."
In a subsequent letter to the editor, Harry Bliss, a cartoonist and editor of children's books, took vehement exception to Ingenthron's claim: "The bottom line, in my expert opinion, is that traditional books are worse for the planet than reading devices, and if I hear one more 'book lover' tell me how much they 'love the feel of a book,' I’m going to throw up. On the book lover."
Becky Dayton, owner of the Vermont Book Shop, Middlebury, disagreed with Bliss's "suggestion that we 'book lovers' read paper books so that we can, 'display them all on bookshelves for everyone to see'; I think not. I am a bookseller. I read 2-4 books a week, but in my home I keep only the ones that mean something to me or are awaiting my attention. I prefer to put art on my walls, much of it on paper. Is that destroying the planet, too? And for the record, I only read print. I just love the way a book feels. (Vomit away, you angry SOB.)
"I wonder if the great children's classic Make Way for Ducklings had been published only in e-book form if it would still be read today, generations later. If I didn't have such high regard for the authors of Bliss' books--Doreen Cronin, Kate DiCamillo, Sharon Creech, and Alison McGhee, I'd say let's try it with his books and see how long the luster--and the royalties--last."
The tablet wars heat up again. With its release of the version 1.2 update yesterday, Barnes & Noble added a curated app store to its Nook Color Reader's Tablet as well as built-in email, "enhanced Web experience," and a platform upgrade to Android OS 2.2/Froyo, along with support for Adobe AIR and Adobe Flash Player.
"We are thrilled to add to our robust e-reading ecosystem a differentiated and unique portfolio of high-quality applications," said Jamie Iannone, B&N's president of digital products. "The response from the developer and content communities has been terrific, as many great companies are enthusiastic about bringing their strong brands, products and content to Nook Color and the Nook Bookstore, and taking advantage of the unique benefits of our open platform and merchandising opportunities."
According to Cnet News, "those who've already 'rooted' the $250 Nook Color with custom firmware that's been circulating on the Web for months will be quick to note that this update is still limiting because it doesn't offer access to the Android Market and allow you to run any app you want. However, for the thousands of less tech-savvy customers who purchased the Nook and haven't hacked the device, the official update--dubbed version 1.2--at last turns the Nook Color into a more fully functional Android tablet.
"The update also marks a subtle but important shift in Barnes & Noble's marketing strategy for the device. While it's still calling it the 'Reader's Tablet,' the company has now inserted the adjective 'full-featured' in front of it and says that at $249, the Nook Color 'presents the best value of any tablet on the market.' That's something a lot of 'rooters' have been saying for a while, which one could argue makes the new marketing message slightly ironic."
PC World noted that "maybe these companies aren't so interested in fighting for dedicated e-reader supremacy anymore. Maybe the color touch screen, reading-oriented tablet is the new battleground for companies like Amazon and Barnes & Noble, who sell cheap hardware in hopes of ensnaring readers in the companies' respective ecosystems."
A survey conducted by Sony found that "79% of Americans are most likely to read books in bed. That's more people choosing to read in bed than in the living room (73%), on vacation (37%) or while commuting (8%)," Jacket Copy reported.
Product placement is not new in the book world, but in Harry Hurt III's upcoming e-book, Harry Hits the Road: Adventures in Love, Labor, and Modern Manhood, the "reader has to elbow past an army of other names: energy-drink company PureSport, Maine cruise line Captain Jack Lobster Boat Tours and Hollywood Stunts NYC, a stunt training center, to name just a few," the Wall Street Journal reported, noting that the book features "both advertising accompanying each chapter and significant product placement woven throughout its narrative."
Don Fehr, Hurt's agent, was not involved in the e-book's publication, but told the Journal "he plans to sell print rights to the work provided it achieves strong sales in its first few months."
Hurt said he doesn't think "these particular things compromise the editorial integrity of what you're reading. I guess I'm asking readers to trust my judgment and trust my integrity on the basis of a career that stretches back almost 40 years. The stuff that is product placement is stuff that I use myself."
Penguin has launched a beta version of Book Country, "an active community of writers, readers and experts" in the field of genre fiction. The New York Times reported that in its initial phase, the website "will allow writers to post their own work--whether it’s an opening chapter or a full manuscript--and receive critiques from other users.... Later this summer the site will generate revenue by allowing users to self-publish their books for a fee by ordering printed copies. (The books will bear the stamp of Book Country, not Penguin, and the site is considered a separate operation from Penguin.)."
"One of the things I remember really clearly from my early editorial experiences was this feeling of guilt," said Molly Barton, director of business development for Penguin and president of Book Country. "I would read submissions and not be able to help the writer because we couldn't find a place for them on the list that I was acquiring for. And I kept feeling that there was something we could do on the Internet to really help writers help each other."
Beginning in May, Boulder Book Store, Boulder, Colo., will charge a $5 to $10 fee for in-store author events. The Daily Camera reported that the "fee system--which is coupled with couponing--is meant to help the bookstore remain competitive, ensure orderliness at the events, and potentially boost sales for the participating authors and the store itself." After purchasing a ticket, the customer receives a $5 coupon that can be used toward the purchase of the author's book or any purchase the day of the event.
"More and more, we compete with other bookstores vying to host popular authors," noted owner David Bolduc in an e-mail to customers. "Publishers place certain expectations on us when we host events, and so in order to continually attract authors, we must fulfill these expectations. Oftentimes, in return for sending an author to a bookstore, publishers expect us to attract a certain number of people and sell a certain number of books."
Stephanie Schindhelm, the bookstore's marketing and promotions manager, added, "We want to encourage people to spend their money locally and to help support the author."
Noting that it "could be one of the saviors of Australia's bookshop industry," the Sydney Morning Herald reported that the latest edition of the King James Version of the Bible, "printed last year to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the tome, is flying off the shelves. Despite a $120 price tag it has sold out in Australia, and the publisher is rushing to print more copies to meet demand."
''We're selling them as fast as we can get them,'' said Christian Hummelshoj, deputy manager at Abbey's Bookshop, Sydney. ''We won't have any to put on the shelf for a few months at least.''
Dubbing them the "Time 4," Book Bench calmly celebrated the fact that this year, "there are four whole professional writers on the Time 100 List, up from zero last year: Jennifer Egan, Jonathan Franzen, George R.R. Martin, and the Chinese investigative journalist Hu Shuli (who obviously belongs in the slightly elevated category of 'professional writers who risk their lives for their work')."
Book Bench also noted that there are people who made the list because of books (Amy Chua for Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother and Rob Bell for Love Wins), "but whose owners have professions other than 'writer' " and those, like Patti Smith, who are famous for reasons other than their books.
Boing Boing featured a video showing "how books used to be made. Before the Dark Times, before the Empire!"
A moment of silence, please, to mark the end of an era. Godrej and Boyce, the last company in the world still manufacturing typewriters, has shut down its production plant in Mumbai, India, with just a few hundred machines left in stock. The Daily Mail reported that even though "typewriters became obsolete years ago in the west, they were still common in India--until recently. Demand for the machines has sunk in the last ten years as consumers switch to computers."
Flavorwire, which put together a literary mixtape for Roald Dahl’s magnificent uber-brat, Veruca Salt, noted that "we don’t credit her with the best musical taste in the world. She’s just a little girl, after all. Can’t blame her for loving the Biebs. Here’s what we think Veruca Salt would stamp her foot, shriek for her Daddy, and get attacked by an army of squirrels to."
Book trailer of the day: Fair Food:
Growing a Healthy, Sustainable Food System For All by Dr. Oran Hesterman (PublicAffairs).
Steve Wasserman has been named executive editor-at-large for general interest books at Yale University Press. Wasserman is a partner at Kneerim and Williams literary agency, where he will continue to work as an agent. In addition to extensive experience in the publishing field, Wasserman was at one point the literary editor for the Los Angeles Times, managing its Sunday Book Review.