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All stories relating to ebooks

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The Man with the Violin wins ebook award in NYC

Annick Press took home the award for best children’s ebook at this year’s Digital Book Awards gala in New York City.

The Man with the Violin, written by Kathy Stinson and illustrated by Dušan Petričić, is a book about celebrated violinist Joshua Bell and the free concert he gave in the Washington D.C. subway in 2007. Bell performed anonymously as an experiment for the Washington Post and the few spectators who stopped were children. Stinson tells this story from the perspective of a young boy urging his mother to stop and listen.

The ebook, produced by Aptara for the iPad, Kindle, and Kobo, features interactive elements including music by Joshua Bell. A hardcover picture book is also available.

Now in its 39th year, Annick publishes original ebooks and is in the process of digitizing its catalogue, including books by Robert Munsch.

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Maclean’s publishes “inside story” on Chris Hadfield mission

If you’re experiencing withdrawal since Chris Hadfield parachuted back to Earth last night, Maclean’s has you covered.

The weekly news magazine has launched its latest ebook, Chris Hadfield: #Good Morning, Earth, by reporter Kate Lunau. The book combines Lunau’s original reporting from NASA’s Johnson Space Center with Hadfield’s Twitter diary, photos, and space experiments.

Rumours are circulating that Hadfield has also signed a book deal, but there’s no word as to which publisher landed the deal.

Since February 2012, Maclean’s has published more than 20 digital titles, including most recently Maclean’s on Justin Trudeau and Maclean’s Portraits.


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Is Amazon preparing to sell used ebooks?

Amazon Technologies has been awarded a U.S. patent for a “used digital content marketplace” that would include the ability for consumers to buy and sell ebooks and audio downloads.

According to the Washington Post, the patent was filed in 2009 and awarded on Jan. 29.

In 2012, a U.S. company called ReDigi, billing itself as “the world’s first pre-owned digital marketplace,” became embroiled in a copyright infringement lawsuit with Capital Records over its sale of used digital music. ReDigi has made clear its plans to expand into the ebook market once the lawsuit has been settled, responding to the Amazon news with its own statement: “the Amazon patent is further proof that the secondary market is the future of the digital space and that there is no turning back.”




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Amazon declares ebooks “multi-billion-dollar category”

While Amazon yesterday reported lower-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings and a decrease in sales for physical books, the company also announced that sales for ebooks have been steadily climbing.

In a press release, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos says, “We’re now seeing the transition we’ve been expecting. After five years, ebooks is a multi-billion-dollar category for us and growing fast – up approximately 70 per cent last year. In contrast, our physical book sales experienced the lowest December growth rate in our 17 years as a bookseller, up just 5 per cent.”



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Nova Scotia university libraries test ebook sharing

A consortium of Nova Scotian universities is testing a pilot inter-library ebook lending service that is being touted as a “breakthrough for academic libraries in North America,”according to the Halifax website

Novanet – a diverse group of 10 universities that includes Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia Community College, and Université Sainte-Anne – paid a $100,000 deposit to ebook vendor EBL, which in turn allows all library patrons to access a centralized pool of 16,000 ebooks.

In an interview with, Novanet manager Bill Slauenwhite says, “Publishers, especially academic publishers … they’re not happy about losing any of their market share. So this was a hard slog and a hard negotiation.”

The program, which will be evaluated for its success after a year, does have limitations: only 28 publishers are participating with a limited number of new titles.


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Harrowsmith’s Truly Canadian Almanac returns under new publisher

Harrowsmith’s Truly Canadian Almanac has returned under the direction of a new publisher, Toronto-based Moongate Publishing.

Moongate, a communications company that specializes in custom content, branding, and strategic communication, was formed by former Harrowsmith employees Yolanda Thornton and James Morris.

Before succumbing to financial collapse last year, Harrowsmith published six annual issues and the 300-page Canadian Almanac. Tom Cruikshank, Harrowsmith Country Life‘s veteran editor has returned to edit the almanac:

In an email to Masthead Thorton said:

We have great plans for the Harrowsmith Almanac brand…

There is an appetite in the market to revive the [Harrowsmith Country Life] magazine and it’s something we are exploring.

Harrowsmith launched a new Facebook page and website for the almanac this past summer. The 2013 edition is now available at newsstands across Canada, with 92,000 copies in circulation. The first ever spring edition is planned for April.





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Apple adds social-media sharing to iBooks

Although most of the social-media buzz around Apple’s product launch today focused on the new iPad Mini, the tech giant’s ebooks program received a facelift, too.

The new version of iBooks supports 40 languages, continuous page scrolling, and improved synchronization across devices. Thanks to a feature similar to Kobo’s Reading Life, readers can now highlight quotes from an ebook and share them on Facebook and Twitter.

Aimed at textbook publishers, the latest version of iBooks Author includes embedded and custom fonts, fixed layouts, mathematical equations, new templates, and multi-touch widgets.

Both iBooks and iBooks Author will be available for download later today.


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Shelagh Rogers’ multimedia Northwords project brings city-dwelling authors out of their comfort zone

Led by CBC Radio’s Shelagh Rogers, five urban Canadian authors spent a week writing and observing life in Northern Labrador. Northwords, a documentary that captures their experiences, is screening at IFOA, Oct. 20 at 2 p.m. The film will make its television debut Oct. 25, 10 p.m. ET on CBC’s documentary channel, and the radio documentary is available here.

This article appears in the November issue of Q&Q.

Rabindranath Maharaj (Photo: Joel McConvey)

Many authors find the familiarity of daily rituals a necessary part of their practice. Take away the comforts of home, and the writing process can become even more of a challenge.

“I think that writers can be quite obsessive about their routines,” says Toronto’s Alissa York, author of three novels including 2010’s Fauna (Random House Canada). “Sometimes [with] travel that you don’t necessarily plan for, or that’s outside of what you normally do, you think, ‘How am I going to fit that with my life?’”

York posed herself that question when she was approached to participate in Northwords, a multimedia project instigated by CBC Radio’s Shelagh Rogers, host of The Next Chapter.

In August 2011, Rogers invited five writers – York, Sarah Leavitt, Noah Richler, Joseph Boyden, and Rabindranath Maharaj – to join her on an expedition to Torngat Mountains National Park in Northern Labrador. For one week, the authors traded the coziness of their homes and offices for tents and vast, rugged landscapes lashed by inclement weather. They participated in helicopter rides, interacted with Inuit elders, and witnessed caribou hunts and polar bears.

Adding to the sense of disruption was the fact that Rogers brought along a film crew, which captured the writers’ reactions to their unfamiliar surroundings. The resulting Northwords documentary, which airs Oct. 25 on CBC TV and had its premiere screening at the Eden Mills Literary Festival, won the best documentary prize at the Banff International Pilots Competition. Accompanying the film is an interactive website, an ebook published by House of Anansi Press, and an episode of The Next Chapter.

Noah Richler (Photo: Joel McConvey)

For York, the Northwords project changed the way she looks at Canada’s North.

“I’m looking at it as wilderness, and right beside me there’s someone looking at it thinking, ‘I grew up here,’” says York, referring to an Inuit elder who guided the writers through an ancestral village from which her people had been forcibly evacuated. “It’s just a question of shifting away from where we’re told the centre of life is and understanding that there [are] as many centres as there are lives.”

Maharaj, who lives in the Toronto suburb of Ajax, Ontario, was likewise moved by his Northern experience. The Trinidad-born author of the Trillium Book Award–winning novel The Amazing Absorbing Boy (Knopf Canada) recalls studying the geography of Northern Canada in his youth and being motivated to visit a place he’d only encountered in books.

“There was that kind of romantic idea of seeing things that I’d heard about or read about in the distant past,” says Maharaj. “There are some places that are so different from your own experience in every single way that it takes a while to process that, and sometimes the true significance and importance [comes] gradually, rather than some grand moment of clarity while you’re at the place.”

Leavitt, an artist and author of the graphic novel Tangles: A Story About Alzheimer’s, My Mother and Me (Freehand Books), felt a sense of reverence not just for the landscape and its people, but for the seasoned, well-known writers whose company she kept.

“I had one book and some shorter publications, but those guys all have multiple books and they have much higher profiles than I do,” says Leavitt, who credits the experience with boosting her confidence as a writer. “It was intimidating, but they’re all just really, really nice people. Just meeting people who are so dedicated to their writing and working on their craft was inspiring.”

While in Torngat, the five authors were required to write original stories and read them out loud to the group. Leavitt produced a series of illustrated, one-page vignettes. Maharaj’s short story followed his Absorbing Boy protagonist on a new adventure, while  York’s story was spurred by thoughts of her brother. Richler riffed on the daunting waiver the writers were asked to sign before embarking on the trip, and Boyden wrote from the point of view of a polar bear.

Saglek Bay inukshuk (Photo: Joel McConvey)

The stories are included in the Northwords ebook, the first publication produced by Anansi’s new digital division. According to president and publisher Sarah Mac­Lachlan, the stories, available as a collection or as digital singles, put an exclamation point on the project.

“I think if you go to the interactive [website] or you watch the movie, you get an idea of each of these writers and their response to the North, but the fun is in reading what they actually wrote all the way through,” she says.

Though he thinks the stories are all unique, Maharaj identifies a common element throughout his fellow travellers’ work. “What we wrote reflected that sense of uncertainty,” he says. “That sense of awe, that sense … of being in a place that may possess secrets or answers.”

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HathiTrust ruling bodes well for Google Books, the beef against women readers, and more

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Random House of Canada launches online magazine as part of digital overhaul

What does a major publishing house look like in the digital age?

Random House of Canada has offered one answer with today’s launch of a multifaceted digital strategy that includes an online magazine (known as Hazlitt), an ebook imprint (Hazlitt Originals), and a website redesign.

The centrepiece of the campaign is the online magazine, the subject of some industry speculation ever since Random House of Canada hired Christopher Frey, a founder of Outpost magazine and Toronto Standard, earlier this year. While Hazlitt, which takes its name from a 19th-century literary critic and essayist, will be hosted on the Random House of Canada website, the company says it will maintain editorial independence, relying on freelance journalists to provide much of the content.

“As the idea evolved, there was an understanding at several levels of the company that for this, as a magazine, to succeed and build an audience and have credibility, it will have to have its own editorial identity,” Frey told Q&Q, following a media launch earlier this week. “Many of the people writing for it will have to be non–Random House authors or working journalists. We will need to be able to write about everything in the culture, and not just Random House books.”

Contributing writers will include Lynn Crosbie, Kaitlin Fontana, Billie Livingston, Jason McBride, Drew Nelles, and Carl Wilson, as well as filmmaker Scott Cudmore (who will provide multimedia content). Frey says he views the magazine as “competing with any other Web-based magazine out there, like Slate or Salon or The Awl, or the Web versions of other print magazines.”

Hazlitt stories can be read online for free. At launch, the magazine features limited advertising, and cross-promotions for Random House titles appear low-key.

“This is an opportunity for us directly to engage with readers, and to bring the writers we represent close to readers,” says Robert Wheaton, vice-president and director of strategic digital business development. “Learning from readers is of tremendous importance to us across the entirety of our business.”

As for the other key facet of Random House of Canada’s online push, the digital department will work with the company’s book publishing division to produce ebooks under the Hazlitt Originals imprimatur. The first title in the series, which will focus on non-fiction and essays, is journalist Patrick Graham’s The Man Who Went to War: A Reporter’s Memoir from Libya and the Arab Uprising. It will be followed by U.K. journalist Steven Poole’s “anti-foodie polemic” You Aren’t What You Eat and Ivor Tossell’s The Gift of Ford, about Toronto’s mayor.

The digital-only publishing initiative takes a page from and the Canadian Writers’ Group, the writers’ organization behind the ebook Finding Karla: How I Tracked Down an Elusive Serial Child Killer and Discovered a Mother of Three by journalist Paula Todd. Likewise, the Organization of Book Publishers of Ontario’s Open Book project and the Association of Canadian Publishers’ 49th Shelf are both attempts to create an online hub serving the dual role of marketing tool and source for compelling content.

But the scope of Random House’s digital ambitions are unprecedented in Canadian publishing. “Ultimately, we view this as a platform for future innovations in publishing,” Frey says.

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