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Bookmarks: Coolio cooks, Anne of Green Gables tweets, and more

A few sundry links from across the Web:

  • “Living in a Gourmet’s Paradise?” Rapper Coolio now has his own cookbook, Cookin’ with Coolio
  • A new audio-book version of the Bible is available, featuring Richard Dreyfuss as Moses, Luke Perry as Judas Iscariot, and — who else? — James Caviezel reprising his role as Jesus Christ. The L.A. Times Jacket Copy reports the audio-book is described as a “verbal cinema” complete with a musical score and sound effects
  • You can now be a follower, or “kindred spirit,” of Canada’s favourite redhead. Anne of Green Gables is using Twitter
  • We’re well aware how prevalent bad sex is in fiction … so how about awards for good sex
  • You are officially invited to attend Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry … with a new iPhone Spells app 
  • Sad but true: Finn Reeder, Flu Fighter is a book for middle-school aged children about the ubiquitous H1N1 virus

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Bookmarks: Duranie lit, fun with Pynchon, and more

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Barnes & Noble launches world’s biggest e-book store

U.S. mega-chain Barnes & Noble announced in a press release yesterday the creation of the world’s biggest e-book store comprising “more than 700,000 titles, including hundreds of new releases and bestsellers at only $9.99.” Unlike Amazon’s Kindle-only e-books, e-books purchased through B&N’s store will be compatible with a number of platforms (aside from the Kindle, of course): iPhone, BlackBerry, and most Windows and Mac computers. Through a partnership with Google Books, the B&N e-book store will also offer more than 500,000 free and downloadable public domain e-books.

B&N als announced an exclusive agreement to provide e-books for the forthcoming Plastic Logic e-reader, a device that is geared toward business professionals. From Fortune:

Plastic Logic vice president of business development Daren Benzi says his device is geared for business travelers, and as such will support the display of PDF files, Microsoft’s MS Word, Powerpoint, and Excel, as well as newspapers and magazines. But e-books are a big part of the game plan. “Will we carry every single one of those 700,000-plus titles? I don’t know. We’ll announce that as we get further along,” said Benzi. “But we will have access to them all.

Elsewhere in the blogosphere, The Book Oven analyzes how B&N’s move will affect the e-book market.

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Amazon: more than just a bookstore

Time magazine book critic and tech columnist Lev Grossman follows up his report earlier this year about the future of literature with a new article, written with reporter Andrea Sachs, examining the impact Amazon is having on the publishing industry. “If Amazon is a bookstore,” the authors write, “it’s supposed to be buying from publishers, not competing with them. Right?” The answer, of course, is that Amazon isn’t just a bookstore anymore:

… Amazon has diversified itself so comprehensively over the past five years that it’s hard to say exactly what it is anymore. Amazon has a presence in almost every niche of the book industry. It runs a print-on-demand service (BookSurge) and a self-publishing service (CreateSpace). It sells e-books and an e-device to read them on (the Kindle, a new version of which, the DX, went on sale June 10). In 2008 alone, Amazon acquired Audible.com, a leading audiobooks company; AbeBooks, a major online used-book retailer; and Shelfari, a Facebook-like social network for readers. In April of this year, it snapped up Lexcycle, which makes an e-reading app for the iPhone called Stanza. And now there’s Amazon Encore, which makes Amazon a print publisher too.

As Grossman and Sachs put it, Amazon is “the most forward-thinking company in the book business.” Whether or not that’s a good thing depends on if you’re a book buyer or a publisher, they argue.

U2 and Madonna don’t have deals with record labels anymore; they did their deals with a concert promoter, LiveNation. That stuff that the labels used to do – production, promotion, distribution – it’s just not that hard to DIY now or buy off the shelf. It’s the same with publishing. Amazon could become the LiveNation of the book world, a literary ecosystem unto itself: agent, editor, publisher, printer and bookstore.

Still, as the authors rightly point out, while Amazon has the power to hurt publishers, it’s likely not in a position to mortally wound them. On the contentious issue of e-book pricing, for example, the industry is beginning to fight back against Amazon’s lowball $9.99 price tag on many of its best-selling e-books, an unsustainble price point aimed at fueling Kindle sales. Yesterday, Simon & Schuster announced it was bypassing the Kindle store altogether, making 5,000 titles available through Scribd, a social media platform that allows users to share and sell their own work. The S&S-set price – 20% off the hardcover price – is one that many publishers, not to mention authors, will find more sustainable.

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Bookmarks: Stanza acquired by Amazon, and more

Sundry links from around the Web:

  • It looks like Shortcovers, Indigo’s downloadable e-book application for mobile devices, has some new competition: Lexycycle, the start-up behind the popular iPhone e-book reader Stanza, has been acquired by Amazon
  • U.S. judge orders advertising mogul Peter Arnel to pay back part of a $550,000 advance to HarperCollins
  • David Cronenberg is set to adapt a Robert Ludlum thriller for the silver screen

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Your e-book speculation for the day

It’s a shame Canadians still can’t experience the apparent bliss that is Amazon’s Kindle 2 (despite the release of that iPhone app that would doubtless work perfectly well on Canadian models), but that hasn’t stemmed our interest in all the commentary on e-book readers, like that which came out of a recent publisher’s conference in Britain.

Meanwhile, American author Steven Johnson’s piece from The Wall Street Journal is perhaps the first article this Quillblogger has read that makes an e-book reader sound like something worth owning:

A few weeks after I bought the device, I was sitting alone in a restaurant in Austin, Texas, dutifully working my way through an e-book about business and technology, when I was hit with a sudden desire to read a novel. After a few taps on the Kindle, I was browsing the Amazon store, and within a minute or two I’d bought and downloaded Zadie Smith’s novel On Beauty. By the time the check arrived, I’d finished the first chapter.

This has obvious benefits for publishers, says Johnson:

Amazon’s early data suggest that Kindle users buy significantly more books than they did before owning the device, and it’s not hard to understand why: The bookstore is now following you around wherever you go. A friend mentions a book in passing, and instead of jotting down a reminder to pick it up next time you’re at Barnes & Noble, you take out the Kindle and — voilà! — you own it.

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Notes from BNC’s tech forum

About 225 industry people crowded into a Toronto conference room on Thursday for BookNet Canada’s annual technology forum. The theme of this year’s conference was “evolution or revolution,” though most of the speakers seemed to opt for the less radical of the two options: the event was focused on the brass tacks of adapting to the digital marketplace, with idealistic Web 2.0 barnstorming kept to a minimum.

BookNet has posted slides from the day’s presentations here, and it will also be posting videos of the talks to YouTube in the coming weeks (to be kept up to date, subscribe to BookNet’s mailing list). Below is a recap of some of the key themes addressed at the conference.

  • The rise of mobile devices. It was less than a year and a half ago that the Kindle first hit the market, but already the notion of a dedicated e-reader – even with e-Ink capabilities – is starting to look dated. Several speakers addressed how the increasing ubiquity of mobile devices – especially the iPhone – is creating what Indigo chief technical officer Michael Serbinis described as “a billion dollar opportunity” to provide digital content on the handheld devices people already have. (Indigo launched its downloadable e-book application Shortcovers two weeks ago, and according to Serbinis it is already being used by readers in 124 countries.) One of the most surprising successes in this emerging market is Stanza, an application that allows users to read e-books on their iPhones, which already has 1.5-million users in 60 countries and has sold over 7-million downloadable e-books since its launch last year. According to Stanza spokesperson Neelan Choksi, “There’s enough technology out there right now to make e-books a good reading experience.” The challenge is to make more content available to readers, and to inform them of what’s already available in digital formats.
  • Collective opportunities for Canadian publishers. One question on the minds of many people in the room was how to make sure that Canadian content, especially from small- and mid-size firms, is easily discoverable on the Web. Several speakers argued that this would require collective action among Canadian publishers, whether it be using the standard EPUB format or, as Craigs Riggs of the consulting firm Turner Riggs Workspace suggested, consolidating distribution in the digital realm. When pressed about including more Canadian content on Shortcovers, Indigo’s Serbinis said it would be working with more publishers in the coming weeks, but that the company would likely deal with smaller firms through a distributor in order to speed up the process. (Indigo’s chief merchant Joel Silver, responding to questions from the crowd, noted that smaller publishers can also upload their content to Shortcovers using the “create” function, and then “hustle” sales through blog posts and other marketing initiatives.)
  • Innovative new products. Several new products were demoed over the course of the day, including an overview of Shortcovers (currently available only to iPhone users), the new Sony e-Reader (which will include search, annotation, and highlighting features, as well as a touch screen, a built-in LED reading light, and the ability to display colour photos), and the new version of Stanza (which will include a built-in dictionary, customizable toolbars, and increased search capabilities). However, one of the most innovative new products on display came from none other than Harlequin Enterprises. The veteran romance publisher, which turns 60 this year, began offering several e-book-only programs in 2007. Since then, the company has also begun offering enriched editions of e-books that include extensive hyperlinks, full-colour photos, authors’ notes, etc. As the day’s closing speaker, Andrew Savikas of O’Reilly Media, noted, publishers need to begin thinking of e-books as more than just digital copies of print content. “E-books should not be print books delivered electronically,” Savikas said, but should actively take advantage of new capabilities offered by the Web.

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Bookmarks: Shopping lists, the iPhone Kindle app, and the $1-million French novel

  • For those who thought the old adage was a joke: William S. Burroughs’s shopping list showed up on eBay (and was purchased for $400).
  • Do female novelists write about sex less skillfully than men? Author Jane Vandenburgh believes so.
  • A French novel that has already divided audiences in Europe (and which was picked up – at a price tag of $1-million – for North American publication) has been reviewed by The New York Times. The Kindly Ones is “a fictionalized memoir of a remorseless former Nazi SS officer, who in addition to taking part in the mass extermination of the Jews, commits incest with his sister, sodomizes himself with a sausage and most likely kills his mother and stepfather.” Oh-la-la?
  • Amazon has released a free app that allows iPhone (or iPod Touch) users to read e-books originally developed for the Kindle. At last, Canadians can experience what they’ve been missing!

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Now playing on an iPhone near you…

Turns out the fastest growing category on Apple’s iTunes app store isn’t games or music, but books.

At least, in terms of “unique applications” (i.e. individual titles). As the O’Reilly Radar points out, “releasing an e-book for the iPhone is a lot easier than writing a gaming application using the iPhone SDK.” However, while 2,065 “unique” e-book applications were sold this week versus 561 three months ago, gaming apps continue to be the most popular:

Games remain the dominant category both in terms of number of apps (24% of all apps), and in terms of sales. During a typical week, two-thirds of all apps on the TOP PAID APPS list are Games, while a lone Book spends time on the list.

If nothing else, this illustrates that while the format might be changing, the market for literary entertainment in some form will continue to exist.

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Bookmarks: reviews of Shortcovers, Mailer’s reviewers, and a new book for uppity editors

Sundry links from around the Web:

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Book Pictures

Do you have great photos from a recent book event in Canada that you'd like to share with us? Submit them to the Quill & Quire Flickr pool and they'll show up here.

Steve Artelle

Chris Jennings

Kaie Kellough

Jenna

Hall of Honourers

Brandon Wint

Eva Stachniak's Empress of the Night

Eva Stachniak poses with a copy of her book, Empress of the Night

Tea and snacks inspired by Eva Stachniak's Empress of the Night

Rimma Burashko with author Eva Stachniak

Eva Stachniak talks to the audience about the best and worst of Catherine the Great's favourites

Eva Stachniak smiles as she signs a copy of Empress of the Night for a fan

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