The link below is to an article that reports on changes to ebooks published by Harlequin.
The link below is to an article reporting on Google Home and Disney adding sound effects and music to ebooks.
The link below is to an article that takes a look at Harlequin ebook news (its a little dated – sorry).
In the literary world and among those for whom fiction is an interest beyond simply reading books, a great deal of attention will be given to the winner of 2018’s Man Booker Prize, Milkman, by Anna Burns. The chair of the judges, philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah, said Burns’ novel, about a young woman being sexually harassed by a menacing older man and set in Northern Ireland, “is a story of brutality, sexual encroachment and resistance threaded with mordant humour”.
Of course, each year, following the announcement of the longlist in July, the shortlist in September and finally the winner in October, a discussion takes place as to what each announcement might mean. As the Man Booker is the most prestigious, remunerative and talked about literary prize in the UK, this “what does it mean?” can be made to reach into just about every crevice of contemporary culture.
This year has been no exception – discussion of the longlist was dominated by the inclusion of a graphic novel, Nick Drnaso’s Sabrina, and discussion of the shortlist by the presence or absence of millennial writers. Discussion of Milkman will no doubt be dominated by the history of Northern Ireland, by #MeToo and by the fact that Burns is the first UK-born winner for six years.
In these accounts, the significance of the prize is restricted to thinking about those novels that reach the long or shortlist or the one that is declared the final winner. But a range of work from various wings of literary studies over the past few years can help us to answer the question of what winning means in other, perhaps more challenging, ways.
1. It’s a competition
The underlying claim of James F. English’s pioneering 2009 work in the sociology of literature, The Economy of Prestige: Prizes, Awards and the Circulation of Cultural Value, is that both the power of and the problem with prizes consists in the way they equate “the artist with the boxer or discus thrower”. Prizes are competitions.
But while the publicity might go to the winning writers, the real winners are the publishers, who need not just the increased sales and chances of film and TV adaptations that are likely to follow, but also the less tangible boost to their authority and prestige given by a prize. The real winners are also more likely to be not just any publishers, but those that have already been successful. As the novelist Joanna Walsh, among others, has noted, the Man Booker rules make submissions from small publishers very tricky because of the size of the print run required and the amount of money that involves. Because of this, a win can be a drain rather than a boost, and costs can outstrip sales if you don’t win.
2. A competition that maintains a monopoly
It’s not just that the competition is hard for small presses to enter – the big publishers have an near monopoly. In the 50 years that the prize has existed, literary publishing in English has been transformed from being made up of numerous independent companies, often family run, to being almost entirely dominated by the “big five”. These are Penguin Random House, Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan and Simon & Schuster. And, further, each of these is itself owned by a multinational media conglomerate.
As the sociologist John Thompson noted in his book, Merchants of Culture: The Publishing Business in the Twenty-First Century, the economies of scale made possible through mergers and acquisitions have created this almost complete monopoly. But through publishing via supposedly “separate” imprints, the big five have maintained an aura of smallness which is more conducive to the “creativity” on which their profits are ostensibly based.
Over the past 20 years, while 12 different publishers appear to have published the novels which were awarded the Prize, six of these wins were for imprints belonging to Penguin Random House. This monopoly is maintained through the prize’s rules for submissions – the number of novels a publisher can submit is directly tied to the number of longlisted novels they have had over the past few years. An imprint already marked as prestigious is more likely to win again.
3. It maintains a certain model of publishing
In his article about Amazon and its relation to contemporary literary fiction, US literary scholar Mark McGurl suggests the extent to which reading of material normally scorned by the literary critic can deliver new insights.
And close reading of the Man Booker’s rules of eligibility – while perhaps dry in comparison to reading the winner on the bus or with a reading group – is also revealing. It shows that it is not just a competition for a small number of large publishers, but that the prize is largely about the maintenance of a certain idea of publishing, too.
The rules of eligibility are almost entirely now about the publisher, rather than the novel or novelist – and key to them is the exclusion of anything with a whiff of self-publishing about it. In order to be eligible, a publisher has to prove that they are based in the UK or Ireland, but the only way of proving this is by having the accoutrements of the conventional publisher. Eligible submissions must come from publishers with ISBNs and head offices who use retail outlets for print books and who publish at least two literary novels a year. Rule 1g, through its strange, uncomfortable tautology, betrays something of just what is at stake in this: “Self-published novels are not eligible where the author is the publisher.”
What the various methods of literary studies can suggest, then, is that, contrary to nearly everything written elsewhere about the Man Booker Prize, it arguably doesn’t really matter which novel wins. Whichever wins, I’d suggest that the real winner is an intensely conventional notion of publishing. It’s an idea of publishing where sales and prestige are the most important consequences of winning prizes and where a few very large publishers dominate.
And, to continue that domination, the most novel uses of contemporary technology, which can open up spaces for the most innovative aesthetic forms become illegitimate. If you want to see examples of this kind of work, look to the recently published novel, Gaudy Bauble, by Isabel Waidner (published by Dostoyevsky Wannabe) – a book of experimental writing published in an innovative way. Under the current rules, such novels could never gain the coverage and attention offered by the Booker. And that’s a great pity.
The link below is to an article that takes a look at bookselling.
The link below is to an article that considers bookshops and technology.
The link below is to an article that takes a look at Elm Hill Books, which is part of HarperCollins.
Review: Reading the Landscape, a Celebration of Australian Writing (UQP).
It is actually quite difficult to imagine what Australian literature would look like without the University of Queensland Press (UQP). Since it was established in 1948, it has done as much as any Australian publisher to shape Australian creative writing. The title of this excellent anthology Reading the Landscape refers to this literary landscape rather than any thematic interest in Australia’s land.
Whether writers like David Malouf, Rodney Hall, Peter Carey, Doris Pilkington-Garimara and Alexis Wright would have become the writers they became without UQP is a moot point. One assumes, with the benefit of hindsight and the stratosphere they now inhabit, that they certainly would have. How could we not have Oscar and Lucinda, Remembering Babylon, Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence and Carpentaria? How could they not exist? But the fact is that each of these writers, and dozens of others, were first published by UQP.
Against considerable economic pressures, UQP is one of a handful of Australian university presses that continue to produce quality scholarly publications for academic and general markets. While academic scholarship is considered the natural province of a university press, UQP is distinctive in having developed significant fiction and poetry lists from the late 1960s.
Recently, the University of Western Australia’s UWAP has followed UQP in developing fiction (and creative nonfiction) and poetry lists, and last year UWAP author Josephine Wilson won the Miles Franklin for her novel Extinctions. But UQP’s record of discovering, nurturing and supporting Australian writers, is really without peer in the other Australian university presses, and unique in world terms.
Reading the Landscape is a cross-section of living writers who currently publish with UQP or have in the past. At least three generations feature — those who debuted in the 1970s and 80s, those who appeared for the first time in the 90s and 2000s, and the current range of new writers.
In the first generation, we see not only Malouf, Carey and Hall, but important writers like Nicholas Jose, Peter Skrzynecki and Gabrielle Carey. In the next generation, there are writers like Lily Brett, Melissa Lucashenko, Larissa Behrendt, David Brooks, Venero Armanno and Samuel Wagan Watson. And finally, we have writers only recently to emerge such as Jaya Savige, Julie Koh and Ellen van Neerven.
Those familiar with some of those writers will be reminded, in this anthology, of just why they have been celebrated. Rodney Hall’s Glimpses of Lost Europe, for instance, is a charming reminder of his effortless brilliance. It begins in 1954 like this:
Dr Bródy – philosopher, philologist and metaphysician – was grateful to find work in Brisbane as an umbrella salesman.
And spins outwards from there. Various trends and movements suggest themselves from these contributions. One is the turn towards factual stories in the genre now known as creative non-fiction. Another is the rise of the young-adult genre as a powerful and lucrative publishing phenomenon.
One of the creative non-fiction highlights of this anthology is Patti Miller’s riveting account of her uncle’s hang-gliding accident. Icarus is the spellbinding story of a quiet and meticulous man who becomes, in his 60s, a devoted hang-gliding enthusiast, only to have his spine shattered by an accident while landing.
Spiky and lyrical, smouldering and rueful
I was also taken by the quality of the poetry by younger writers like Savige, van Neerven and Ali Alizadeh. Their respective poems were by turns spiky and lyrical, smouldering and rueful. The way that they mix politics and memory, urgency and metaphysics, affirms the continuing possibilities of poetic expression in what often seems like an increasingly prosaic age.
Perhaps most significant, though, is the rise of Indigenous writing visible in the contributions from acclaimed authors like Lucashenko, Behrendt, Wagan Watson and van Neerven (the last three each won the David Unaipon award).
The appearance of modern Indigenous writing is often dated to the publication by Jacaranda Press, another largely independent Brisbane press, of Kath Walker’s (Oodgeroo Noonuccal’s) We are Going in 1965. UQP published Kevin Gilbert’s People are Legends: Aboriginal Poems in 1978, and as Bernadette Brennan reminds us in her fine introduction to Reading the Landscape, the press contributed very significantly to the emerging study of Indigenous writing with seminal monographs on the subject by J.J. Healy and Adam Shoemaker.
Many of the key Indigenous writers to follow in the wake of Oodgeroo, Kevin Gilbert, and Jack Davis have come through UQP, although the WA presses Fremantle Press and Magabala Books have also been crucial. In van Neerven, in particular, one sees a worthy successor to Oodgeroo, as invidious as that comparison might seem. Oodgeroo’s trademark mixture of acerbic humour and gut-punching honesty shines through van Neerven’s verse, and her poem 18C is a fitting conclusion to the anthology.
Written in answer to the recent controversies that have surrounded the anti-vilification provision of Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act, the poem’s 18 stanzas thread in and out of the complexities of black life. The final stanza, and the book’s last words are these:
Courage is telling them what you think of that play, that script they try and write us in will no longer contain us, bring me a new coat of oppression, this one’s wearing thin.
The link below is to an article that reports on outrage in France over a book award winner – a self-published book winner on Amazon.
The link below is to an article that takes a look at Amazon’s Prime Reading and Kindle Unlimited.