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  • Sony Steps Up

    About six months ago, when vook was just a gleam in founder Brad Inman’s eye, I was reporting about the book business and received notice that Sony had a big announcement regarding its e-reader.  Kindle was king at that moment — the second version had just been released — and I, like a lot of other reporters, thought this would finally, finally be Sony’s moment to go wireless, the one thing the company’s e-reader wasn’t yet — and needed to be.

    I was disappointed then that the news was less momentous, if useful (It involved Sony’s arrangement to download public domain titles.)  But yesterday, Sony announced it would indeed launch a new e-reader this fall and — hooray — it is wireless.   Still listed at slightly higher than the Kindle, the new reader boasts a host of traits and partnerships, and if experience is any guide, will surely come down in price within months.   Now. . .when will the announcement about a video-enhanced Sony reader appear?   Hmmmm

    Another Vote for Multi Media

    by Bernhard Schlink

    by Bernhard Schlink

    More proof, if we need it, that there’s more than one way to read a book.

    My fifteen year old son is scrambling to finish his reading list for tenth grade.  One book on the list is The Reader, by Bernard Schlink, which most people probably know as the movie with Kate Winslet that came out last year.  

    Charley and I picked up a copy at the local bookstore last week, and I told him that once he’d read it, he could watch the movie of the same name.  (I can’t help it, I still read first, watch later — call me pre-vook!) I might have mentioned that Kate Winslet was naked through much of the film.  

    Well, it turns out that Charley already knew that:  he’d downloaded the movie without my knowing, months ago.   Ok, well, I said, do you remember anything about the story except that Kate Winslet was naked a lot?   Not much, came his reply.

    As I said, he’s 15.

    The way I see it, putting a film with the book is a way to have something for everyone:  pleasure for media obsessed teenagers and the words that are meant to go along with them.

    Welcome to the neighborhood, Jane Friedman

    Rumors have been flying for months — actually since the much admired Jane Friedman left HarperCollins over a year ago — that she would, indeed, be back.  Today, Paid Content reveals that she is indeed back, with a new publishing venture that has raised at least $3milion.  The specifics are characteristically vague but you can bet it’s not because Jane doesn’t know what she’s going to do, but because she wants to control the flow of information. . . As someone who followed/covered her as a journalist for a number of years, that ability to handle the press was both my favorite and my least favorite thing about Jane.   About her as a publisher, I had no mixed feelings:   she knows what she’s doing, as all who loved and remember such authors as Michael Crichton can attest.

    What Will They Think of Next?

    To those who think the magazine industry just doesn’t get it — and I know who you are, all 20 million of you — I direct your attention to this cool little thing vook’s Joel Burshem turned me on to:     It’s a video ad stuck smack in the middle of an issue of good old fashioned Entertainment Weekly.  As Joel said, it might scare the pants off you if you didn’t know it was there, but if the goal of magazine editors and publishers is to get your attention — and live in the 21st century — it’s a great way to start.

    What are YOU reading on your summer vacation?

    Packing for a trip is always a nightmare for me.  Not only do I usually forget some crucial piece of personal article — one time I went to Europe without any clean underwear! — it’s the books that really hang me up.  What to take on a two week trip to a place where there are virtually no book stores?  What if the novel I’m reading, Pete Dexter’s dexterlatest in this case, turns out to be a dud?  How many extra bags full of books and galleys do I want to lug?

    Thank god there’s a Kindle — which I loaded up before I left Manhattan, and for which, this time, I remembered the plug.   What’s on there:  my newspapers for one thing — so I don’t have to get gouged by the local store every day — and about six novels, from Charlie Haas’s The Enthusiast charliehaas to Jennifer Haigh’s The Condition.    And, worse comes to worse, since I”m still in the US, I can download about a million more.

    Check this space to see what happens next. . ..

    The Collyer Brothers

    doctorowWhat would EL Doctorow, author of Ragtime, The Book of Daniel, and many other great novels have done if electronic books had been invented a century ago?  He wouldn’t have had such a great topic for his latest novel, Homer and Langley, because there wouldn’t have been the great epic iconic story of the Collyer brothers, recluses who — as every baby boomer’s mother told every child — died under an avalanche of books and newspapers.   “Clean up your room, you’re going to end up like the Collyer brothers,” my mother used to tell me regularly:  never mind that this was a woman who’d saved every issue of the New York Times and New Yorker she’d ever received.   I became fascinated by these bibliophile freaks, and now, Doctorow has imagined their story in his new novel.  It’s fascinating, and odd and interesting, just the way I like my books — traditional or otherwise.

    Dan Brown + ebooks. Double duh

    danbrownSo, it was announced today that Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol will be simultaneously released as an ebook.  So says  Suzanne Herz at the Knopf Publishing Groupthis morning, “Now that all of our security and logistical issues surrounding the e-book of THE LOST SYMBOL have been resolved, the e-book will be released simultaneously with the hardcover on September 15th. “   

    Smart move, obviously.  But so secret is all the information regarding The Lost Symbol, that one can’t help but wonder if the reality is going to live up to the hype.     Publishing could really use a break, so whatever the format, we sure hope so. . .

    People like e-readers! Well, Duh

    Another possiblityNot to be mean, but it does seem typical of the mainstream press to now announce that regular people seem to be liking e-readers.   I mean, when I went to a dinner party in New York six months ago with some of the most dyed in the wool print folk and one of them walked in with a Kindle — which I quickly appropriated, to see what he’d bought — they should have been tipped off:  I mean, I know people in their 60s and 70s — yes, I’m old enough to know people like that who are almost my contemporaries! — who say they’d rather read their New York Timeses and Wall Street Journals and whatnots on the Kindle than in print — I mean, how much more info do you need?


    Every week, it seems, there’s a new ereader announced.  Some will carry video, some not.  What I found interesting about this article above is that there was slight mention of the iPhone app, which will, as we Vookers and others well know, change the face of ebooks forever.  But never mind.   Like all good things, when you believe in it, it will come.

    Another possiblity

    The joke’s on whom?

    Have you heard the one about the declining book business, and how nobody read any more?  

    From where I sit, in the middle of BookLand, I hear it all the time —  business is bad, publishers are buying fewer titles for less money, and readers  — whoever they are anyway – are  not going into bookstores  anymore.  Yet, inside all this “common wisdom”  — a term I hate, not because it’s not common but because it’s rarely wisdom — is what I see all around me:  people reading and writing all the time, just not the way we old Methuselahs used to.  The number of self published books is way way up, and while — face it — most of those aren’t so terrific (everybody, and I mean everybody needs an editor) and if you haven’t noticed most people spend more time reading at their computers than even talking on the phone.  (Teenagers very much included) 

    So that’s why when I read something like this story in the magazine I used to run — Publishers Weekly –   I feel sad, but not surprised.  The upshot:  people aren’t using gift cards in brick and mortar book stores because it’s so much easier to use giftcards onlin.  THe association that disseminates those cards is considering discontinuing them.

    But here’s what I want to say, to booksellers and anybody else:  yes, it’s true that reading and book buying habits are changing and that the book world of tomorrow will not resemble the one today.  But narrative, stories, opinion are not going away — they’re just getting elecronified, vookified even.  And that to me can only be a good thing.

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