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Arthur Frommer buys Frommer’s back from Google

On March 25, Quillblog reported that Google is discontinuing print production of Frommer’s travel guides.

Today, The Washington Post has good news for travellers lamenting the line’s demise. Company founder Arthur Frommer has reacquired the imprint with plans to resume publishing print and ebook versions of the popular budget guides.

According to the article, Google confirmed the company has been returned to its 83-year-old founder, but some Frommer’s content has already been integrated into various Google offerings.

In 1977, Frommer sold the imprint to Simon & Schuster; it was subsequently purchased by John Wiley & Sons in 2001. In August 2012, Google acquired the company from Wiley for $22 million. Financial details of the latest deal have not been disclosed.

 

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Google ceases printing Frommer’s travel guides

According to the travel website Skift, Google is discontinuing print production of Frommer’s travel guides.

In August, Google, which has not commented on the story, purchased Frommer’s for $22 million from John Wiley & Son, less than a year after buying Zagat and its popular series of international restaurant guidebooks. Print titles are no longer available for sale in the Frommer’s online store, although ebooks for select destinations are promoted.

After contacting 29 writers of forthcoming Frommer’s titles, Skift reported that the authors had been “informed by editors now working at Google that the books would not publish. Some authors were told that the books would merely be delayed before new contracts were signed. None of the authors contacted reported that their titles would appear in print.”

Jeff Axler, owner of Toronto’s Open Air Books & Maps, says he has not heard directly from Frommer’s but was not surprised by the rumours. He says the travel guide business has become a “bit of an endangered species,” in particular titles focusing on accommodations or restaurants, subjects well served by websites and digital apps.

Frommer’s started in 1957, with the publication of U.S. Army G.I. Arthur Frommer’s Europe on 5 Dollars a Day, a civilian remake of his popular guide for soldiers. In 1977, the imprint was sold to Simon & Schuster; John Wiley purchased it in 2001.

News of the print series’ demise follows a March 19 story that BBC-owned travel publisher Lonely Planet has been sold at a “significant loss” to NC2 Media, a Nashville-based digital company run by billionaire Brad Kelley.

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

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Google settles eight-year court fight with U.S. publishers

After an eight-year legal dispute, Google has settled with U.S. publishers over its book-scanning Library Project.

In a joint statement, Google and the Association of American Publishers report that “U.S. publishers can choose to make available or choose to remove their books and journals digitized by Google for its Library Project. Those deciding not to remove their works will have the option to receive a digital copy for their use.”

Under the agreement, Library Project titles will now be included in Google Books, which allows readers to view up 20 per cent of a book’s contents before purchasing digital versions through the Google Play media shop.

Although settlement details have not been made public, an unnamed Google representative told Paid Content the company “has very robust plans to increase analytics” with publishers, significant because “publishers have long been frustrated by Amazon’s unwillingness to share valuable data such as customer profiles or buying habits.”

Since the Library Project’s inception, over 20 million books have been scanned. A lawsuit filed by the Authors Guild, which argues that the project is in violation of copyright laws, is still active.

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Google to buy Frommer’s brand from Wiley

Google has announced it will acquire Frommer’s series of travel guidebooks from current publisher John Wiley & Sons. The deal will expand Google’s investment in local hospitality reviews and ratings, reports The Wall Street Journal. (Google purchased the Zagat brand in September.)

According to Publisher’s Lunch, the sale includes “all travel assets.” The deal comes after Wiley’s March announcement that it was looking to divest various professional and trade brands “that no longer align with the company’s long-term strategies.”

From PL:

Wiley said recently that the entire collection of trade/professional assets up for sale drove approximately $80 million in annual revenues. The announcement indicates that other sales “may arise from the sale of other consumer assets,” and all proceeds “will be redeployed to support growth opportunities in Professional/Trade; Scientific, Technical, Medical, and Scholarly; and Global Education businesses.”

No word yet on whether Google will continue to publish Frommer’s as print guidebooks.

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Google reaches book-scanning detente in France

France has become the first country in which Google has reached an industry-wide deal to scan out-of-print works still under copyright.

According to The New York Times, Google has struck a deal with the French Publishers’ Association and the authors’ group Société des Gens de Lettres, putting a stop to lawsuits claiming that the Internet giant violated copyright by scanning out-of-print titles for inclusion in its database. From the Times:

The deal is modeled on agreements that Google struck separately with two leading French publishers, Hachette and La Martinière. Under all of these agreements, the publishers retain control over many conditions of the book-scanning project, including which titles are made available.

“What we are saying is that this agreement respects our copyright law in France,” said Christine de Mazières, managing director of the French Publishers’ Association. “That is very important.”

The Times also quoted the head of Google France, Philippe Colombet, as saying that the agreement is “innovative” and that the company hopes to use it as a model in other jurisdictions.

One area of contention is the U.S., where an ongoing lawsuit remains unsettled:

In those talks, the court last year dismissed a $125 million settlement proposal, under which any book that had been scanned would automatically be included in Google’s database unless the rights holder specifically opted out.

The parties to the U.S. talks have been unable to reach a new agreement. This month, a judge granted authors class-action status in the dispute.

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Book links roundup: Mad Men’s literary leanings, Pottermore opens its ebook shop, and more

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Amazon, the iPad, and the culture of reading in an age of distraction

“It’s like trying to cook when there are little children around.” That’s the assessment of one David Myers, a 53-year-old system administrator in Atlanta, regarding the experience of reading a book on the Kindle Fire. Myers is quoted in a New York Times article about the qualitative aspects of reading on multimedia, Internet-enabled devices. The article finds, unsurprisingly, that devices such as the iPad or the Kindle Fire, which are capable of surfing the Internet or streaming video, promote heightened distractibility among readers.

People who read ebooks on tablets like the iPad are realizing that while a book in print or on a black-and-white Kindle is straightforward and immersive, a tablet offers a menu of distractions that can fragment the reading experience, or stop it in its tracks.

Email lurks tantalizingly within reach. Looking up a tricky word or unknown fact in the book is easily accomplished through a quick Google search. And if a book starts to drag, giving up on it to stream a movie over Netflix or scroll through your Twitter feed is only a few taps away.

The argument is not a new one, having been well rehearsed in volumes such as Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows and William Powers’s Hamlet’s Blackberry. Nor is it likely to gain much traction with technophiles who envision a not-so-distant future in which even dedicated e-readers will feature enhanced books that link to external multimedia content.

And there is something to be said for the devices’ insistence that a book hold a reader’s attention. As Erin Faulk says in the NYT piece: “Recently, I gravitate to books that make me forget I have a world of entertainment at my fingertips. If the book’s not good enough to do that, I guess my time is better spent.”

Still, what Cory Doctorow referred to as an “ecosystem of interruption technologies” embedded in devices such as the iPad may be partly to blame for the reason Carr is able to quote Clay Shirky as writing, “No one reads War and Peace.… It’s too long and not so interesting.” Or maybe the lure of YouTube is just too great.

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Spring preview 2012: international books

In the January/February issue, Q&Q looks ahead at the spring season’s new books.

FICTION

Two prolific American literary novelists are set to publish new titles this spring. Nobel Prize and Pulitzer Prize winner Toni Morrison is back with her 10th novel, Home (Knopf Canada, $25.95 cl., May). Exploring themes of masculinity and belonging, the short novel follows a self-loathing Korean War veteran as he surmounts defeat and finds a place to call home. • Also in May, part-time Toronto resident John Irving returns with his 13th novel, In One Person (Knopf Canada, $34.95 cl.), a tragicomedy narrated by a bisexual protagonist who reflects on life as a boy, a young man, and an adult.

Jack Kerouac’s first novel, The Sea Is My Brother (Da Capo Press/Raincoast, $26.50 cl., March), was written in the 1940s but never published. One of several Kerouac manuscripts that has recently resurfaced, the story follows the divergent fortunes of two sailors and explores an important theme in Kerouac’s later work: rebellion. • A book of little-known stories written by Anton Chekhov at the end of his career is forthcoming from Biblioasis. About Love ($12.95 pa., May), the Russian writer’s only linked collection, is translated by David Helwig and contains illustrations by Seth.

One of the most buzzed about debut novels of the season is Karen Thompson Walker’s The Age of Miracles (Bond Street Books/Random House, $29.95 cl., June), a unique coming-of-age story about a young girl who wakes up one morning to discover that the rotation of the earth has begun to slow, upending life as she knows it.

Jodi Picoult’s new novel, Lone Wolf (Atria/Simon & Schuster, $32 cl., Feb.), tells the story of two siblings who disagree over the treatment of their comatose father. • Best known for his 2003 novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, British author Mark Haddon returns with The Red House (Doubleday Canada, $29.95 cl., June). The book is narrated by eight characters, all related, who spend a week together in a countryside vacation home.

From the best-selling (co-)author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies comes another new take on an old story. Seth Grahame-Smith’s Unholy Night (Grand Central Publishing/Hachette, $27.99 cl., April) reimagines the personalities of the three kings of the nativity, injecting the well-known Bible tale with thievery, escape, and intrigue. • The author of 12 previous novels, Christopher Moore continues in the surreal, satirical style of Lamb and Fool in his latest book, Sacré Bleu: A Comedy d’Art (William Morrow/HarperCollins, $34.99 cl., March), which follows friends of Vincent van Gogh as they vow to uncover the truth behind the painter’s death. • Neurosurgeon and medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta, whose non-fiction books Chasing Life and Cheating Death were New York Times bestsellers, makes his first foray into fiction with Monday Mornings (Grand Central/Hachette, $27.99 cl., March). In the vein of TV medical dramas, the novel follows the daily lives of five surgeons.

From Argentinean writer Liliana Heker comes The End of the Story (Biblioasis, $19.95 pa., April), a novel about Argentina’s Dirty War translated by Andrea Labinger. Set in 1976, the book follows a group of women living against a backdrop of state-sponsored violence. • Waiting for the Monsoon (House of Anansi Press, $24.95 pa., Feb.), by Threes Anna and translated from the Dutch by Barbara Fasting, is about a British woman’s relationship with the Indian tailor to whom she rents a room in her crumbling mansion.

Australian author Elliot Perlman’s third novel, The Street Sweeper (Bond Street Books/Random House, $32.95 cl., Jan.), explores the unlikely intersection of two characters’ lives: a history professor whose career and relationship are unravelling, and a black man from the Bronx who struggles to reintegrate after serving a prison term for a crime he didn’t commit.

MYSTERY, CRIME, AND FANTASY

Stephen King’s latest novel, The Wind Through the Keyhole (Scribner/S&S, $29.99 cl.), is set to publish in April. The eighth book in the Dark Tower series – chronologically set between volumes four and five – tells the story of gunslinger Roland Deschain’s first quest.Camilla Läckberg is a household name in her native Sweden. In The Drowning (HarperCollins, $19.99 pa., April), translated by Tiina Nunnally, a man is found murdered and frozen beneath the ice. After discovering a similar incident, police realize the killings are connected and look into each victim’s past for clues. • Best-selling psychological suspense writer Brian Freeman returns with Spilled Blood (Sterling/Canadian Manda Group, $29.95 cl., May), the story of two Minnesota towns locked in a violent feud over the carcinogenic waste one town’s research corporation is releasing into the other community.

U.K. writer Benjamin Wood, who completed a master’s degree in creative writing at the University of British Columbia, is set to publish his debut mystery novel. In The Bellwether Revivals (McClelland & Stewart, $29.99 cl., March), bodies turn up near an elegant Cambridge house, and the young narrator and his lover become entangled in the search for the villain. • The 500 (Little, Brown/Hachette, $28.99 cl., June), a first novel from Matthew Quirk that is in development as a feature film, follows a young lawyer at a powerful Washington, D.C., consulting firm as he is pursued by two of the world’s most dangerous men. • A New York family is involved in a financial scandal in lawyer Cristina Alger’s debut thriller, The Darlings (Penguin, $28.50 cl., Feb.).

In Sara Paretsky’s latest crime thriller, Breakdown (G.P. Putnam and Sons/Penguin, $28.50 cl., Jan.), girls from some of Chicago’s most powerful families stumble upon a corpse in an abandoned cemetery. Detective V.I. Warshawski investigates childhood secrets to get to the bottom of the killing. • In Cloudland (St. Martin’s/Raincoast, $28.99 cl., March), the latest crime novel from Joseph Olshan, a newspaper reporter gets involved with the search for a serial killer after discovering a murder victim’s body. Meanwhile, a failed love affair surfaces and acquaintances emerge as suspects.

BIOGRAPHY AND MEMOIR

Sally Bedell Smith’s biography, Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch (Random House, $34 cl., Jan.), chronicles the public persona and private life of the reigning English monarch, offering a close-up view of her routines and relationships. • In Charles Dickens and the Great Theatre of the World (HarperCollins, $24.99 cl., Jan.), biographer Simon Callow explores the Victorian novelist’s status as an early celebrity and his little-known love of the stage.

Iconic American singer-songwriter Carole King is set to publish a memoir, A Natural Woman (Grand Central/Hachette, $29.99 cl., April). Chronicling King’s early years, her musical career, and her present-day activism, the book features behind-the-scenes concert photographs.

Revolution 2.0 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/Thomas Allen & Son, $29.95 cl., Jan.) is former Google executive Wael Ghonim’s first-hand account of his capture and interrogation in Cairo during the Arab Spring protests. The memoir also looks at how social media helped foment revolution. • Norwegian writer Halfdan W. Freihow reflects on his attempts to help his son, who has autism, make sense of the world in Somewhere Over the Sea (Anansi, $14.95 pa., June), translated by Robert Ferguson with a foreword by The Boy in the Moon author Ian Brown.

What Do You Want to Do Before You Die? (Artisan/Thomas Allen, $23.95 cl., April) follows four twentysomethings during their journey to complete a 100-item bucket list. Five years into their quest, Ben Nemtin, Dave Lingwood, Duncan Penn, and Jonnie Penn share what they’ve accomplished.

POETRY

Political activist, writer, and Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo has become a symbol of the struggle for human rights in China. His collection June Fourth Elegies (Graywolf/D&M Publishers, $27.50 cl., April), translated by Jeffrey Yang, honours the memory of fellow protesters in the Tiananmen Square massacre.

GRAPHICA

Following his internationally acclaimed debut, The Wrong Place, Belgian graphic novelist Brecht Evens is back with The Making Of (Drawn & Quarterly, $27.95 pa., May). Using watercolour images and deadpan humour, the book details the misadventures of an honoured guest at a country art festival. • Tom Gauld reimagines a familiar Bible story in Goliath (D&Q, $19.95 cl., Feb.). Focusing on the reluctant fighter, the graphic novel pairs minimalist drawings and witty prose. • In My Friend Dahmer (Abrams/Manda, $27.95 cl., March), cartoonist John “Derf” Backderf creates a haunting, intimate portrait of Jeffrey Dahmer, a high school friend who later became the notorious American serial killer.

POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS

New York Times Washington correspondent Jodi Kantor invites readers on a tour of the White House in The Obamas (Little, Brown/Hachette, $32.99 cl., Jan.), a detailed look at the family’s attempts to lead a normal life while juggling public roles and responsibilities. • The decade-long search for Osama bin Laden is the subject of CNN national security analyst and Holy War, Inc. author Peter L. Bergen’s new book, Manhunt (Doubleday Canada, $29.95 cl., May). • In Newstainment: Why the News Is Bad for You (Picador/Raincoast, $18.50 pa., June), Chase Whiteside and Erick Stoll argue that brief, up-to-the-moment bulletins are revolutionizing news media but failing political discourse.

Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid confronts crucial questions about U.S. foreign policy in Pakistan on the Brink: The Future of America, Pakistan, and Afghanistan (Viking, $28.50 cl., March). A follow-up to the acclaimed Descent into Chaos, Rashid’s latest explores solutions for achieving stability in the war-torn region. • In Heaven on Earth: A Journey Through Shari’a Law from the Deserts of Ancient Arabia to the Streets of the Modern Muslim World (Farrar, Straus and Giroux/D&M Publishers, $31 cl., April), U.K. human rights lawyer Sadakat Kadri takes an historical approach to explaining the evolution and implications of Islamic law.

An economics historian, British MP, and son of African immigrants, Kwasi Kwarteng explores the global reverberations of colonial history in Ghosts of Empire: Britain’s Legacies in the Modern World (Public Affairs/Raincoast, $34.50 cl., Feb.).

HISTORY

Long before the earthquake that ravaged Haiti in 2010, the country had a history of poverty and corruption. In Haiti: The Aftershocks of History (Henry Holt and Company/Raincoast, $29 cl., Jan.), Laurent Dubois traces the Caribbean nation’s troubles back to the 1804 slave revolt and sheds light on the country’s overlooked successes. • Jenny Balfour-Paul probes the roots of the world’s oldest dye in Indigo: Egyptian Mummies to Blue Jeans (Firefly Books, $39.95 pa., Jan.). Covering the history, science, and cultural significance of indigo dye, the full-colour book also explores its use in sustainable development initiatives.

LIFESTYLE, SCIENCE, AND SELF-HELP

Following his quests to read the Encyclopedia Britannica from cover to cover (The Know-It-All) and live according to a literal interpretation of the Bible (The Year of Living Biblically), A.J. Jacobs is back with another experiment. Drop Dead Healthy: One Man’s Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection (S&S, $29.99 cl., April) follows his efforts to become the healthiest man in the world. • Tae kwon do master Jim Langlas discusses seven principles of the martial art that also build character in Heart of a Warrior: 7 Ancient Secrets to a Great Life (Free Spirit/Georgetown, $17.50 pa., April). • For fans of Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret comes another guide to living a fulfilling life. The Tools (Random House Canada, $29.95 cl., June), by Phil Stutz and Barry Michels, identifies and offers solutions to four common barriers that hold people back.

FOOD AND DRINK

First Lady Michelle Obama argues for the need to improve access to healthy, affordable food in her first book, American Grown: How the White House Kitchen Garden Inspires Families, Schools, and Communities (Crown/Random House, $34 cl., April.). • Food writer (and son of Baskin-Robbins founder) John Robbins goes undercover in No Happy Cows: Dispatches from the Frontlines of the Food Revolution (Conari Press/Georgetown, $18.95 pa., March) to investigate the feedlots and slaughterhouses that satisfy modern appetites. • In The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food from My Frontier (Morrow/HarperCollins, $38.99 cl., March), best-selling author, blogger, and ranch wife Ree Drummond shares easy country cooking recipes.

The fine print: Q&Q’s spring preview covers books published between Jan. 1 and June 30, 2012. All information (titles, prices, publication dates, etc.) was supplied by publishers and may have been tentative at Q&Q’s press time. • Titles that have been listed in previous previews do not appear here.

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“Giller effect” boosts e-book sales of Half-Blood Blues

The so-called “Scotiabank Giller Prize effect”  is already helping e-book numbers for Esi Edugyan’s Half-Blood Blues (Thomas Allen Publishers).

Yesterday, Half-Blood Blues was listed 3,376 on Amazon’s bestsellers list for Kindle e-books. As of noon Wednesday, the book had risen to 360, a significant increase in sales overnight. In the Apple iBookstore, it is the third top-seller, just below the e-book and enhanced e-book versions of Stephen King’s 11/22/63. Patrick deWitt’s The Sisters Brothers (House of Anansi Press) is the only other Giller Prize finalist in the iBookstore’s top 10, at number five.

Giller finalist Michael Ondaatje’s The Cat’s Table (McClelland & Stewart) is the fifth best-selling e-book at Kobo, the only e-commerce site that is prominently merchandising Half-Blood Blues as the Giller winner.

Ondaatje’s book is also the top-seller in the new Canadian Google eBookstore, which launched last week. As part of its roll-out strategy, Google tailored the store for a Canadian audience, dedicating a section on its homepage for the Giller shortlist, however, Half-Blood Blues is conspicuously absent. According to David Glover, Thomas Allen’s marketing manager, the publisher is working with Google, and the title will be available soon.

Prices for the e-books also vary between websites. At the high end, Half-Blood Blues is available in the Apple iBookstore for $20.99. Kobo is carrying the e-book for $15.49, and Amazon, $9.60.

(Photo by Tom Sandler, courtesy of the Writers’ Trust)

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Eva Stachniak's Empress of the Night

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