Lately I’ve been reading a lot about the Espresso Book Machine (EBM) – the print-on-demand machine that, essentially, spits out books in 4 minutes flat. (Says the EBM website: “Espresso: something made to order, one at a time, at point of sale, quickly.”) Owned by On Demand Books, the EBM was one of Time magazine’s “Inventions of the Year” in 2007, and today there are a handful of EBMs in bookstores, universities, libraries and newsstands around the world.
According to the EBM website, books from the machine are identical to factory-made books:
“Put simply, the EBM is an automated book-making machine. The operator selects a title to print, and within a few minutes a book emerges, with a full-color cover, trimmed to an exact size, and indistinguishable from the publisher’s version. As we say, ‘Hot off the press!’”
On Sept. 17, Google gave EBM customers access to 2 million books no longer protected by copyright from its digital library (a.k.a. “public domain” books). On Demand Books may gain access to even more titles from Google, depending on the outcome of the Google books settlement.
And if you're wondering if a vending machine book costs less than the real deal (OK, OK, I should put my snark in check; the machines are really nifty-looking, supposedly they cut down on CO2 emissions, plus it would be great to gain access to out-of-print books)... The Associated Press reported recently that EBM books will have a “recommended sales price of $8 per copy, although the final decision will be left to each retailer.” Google and On Demand Books both get $1 from each book sale. (The EBM also tracks payments to authors, publishers, etc.)
Looks like a few bookstores are hoping the EBM will contribute to sales. A week ago, the bookstore at the University of Missouri-Columbia got a machine.
From Mizzou’s student paper:
“Bookstore spokeswoman Michelle Froese said she sees a great deal of potential in the machine, which cost University Bookstore $75,000. Froese said it would allow the bookstore to reproduce course materials, such as out of print books and course packets at a lower price for students.”
And today, the folks at Harvard Book Store unveiled their own EBM. E.L. Doctorow was a special guest at the event.
What do Book Case readers think about the machine? Has anyone seen the EBM live? (For a video, click here.) Does a “book ATM” represent the future of publishing? Would you buy a made-to-order book?
By now, many of you know that we lost a great lover of language (and an expert on its quirks) on Sunday. William Safire wrote the “On Language” column in The New York Times Magazine from 1979 until earlier this month. Safire was also a speechwriter for President Nixon.
From 1973 until 2005, Safire wrote “his twice-weekly ‘Essay’ for the Op-Ed page of The Times, a forceful conservative voice in the liberal chorus.” In 1978, he won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary.
Throughout his career, Safire gave many wonderful tips for writers and readers.
From “How to Read a Column” in 2005: “Ingest no column (or opinionated reporting labeled ‘analysis’) without asking: Cui bono? And whenever you see the word ‘respected’ in front of a name, narrow your eyes. You have never read ‘According to the disrespected (whomever).’”
And of course, there were Safire’s “rules for writers”: The passive voice should never be used; Don't overuse exclamation marks!!; Take the bull by the hand and avoid mixing metaphors; Last but not least, avoid cliches like the plague…
Many of us will greatly miss Safire's astute and often hilarious Sunday language columns. Most recently, he wrote about the phrase "bending the curve" (as in Obama's remarks: “it’s important for us to bend the cost curve").
Any readers remember a favorite “On Language” column?
We're officially becoming the last literary blog to link to the nifty new Google map that posts when and where every book challenge has taken place over the past two years. As Galleycat noted at the end of August, there's no red/blue state divide when it comes to this issue.
The closest challenge to the BookPage offices was in Murfreesboro, TN, where Peter and Iona Archibald Opie's I Saw Esau: The Schoolchild's Pocket Book was challenged at the Cedar Grove Elementary School in 2007. Someone complained that the book's illustrations were "absolutely offensive in every way," though it sounds pretty harmless to me. According to the site, the book is a collection of schoolyard jokes, riddles, insults and jump-rope rhymes illustrated by Maurice Sendak.
How about your home state?
Attention Dickens fans: after an astounding performance at the Emmys last week (with 7 wins, including best miniseries and outstanding writing), the BBC's adaptation of Little Dorrit, which aired in the United States back in the spring, is now available for online viewing on PBS's website. The book was adapted by Andrew Davies, who is best known for his work on the Colin Firth/Jennifer Ehle version of Pride & Prejudice.
Like many of Dickens' works, Little Dorrit deals with family secrets, class issues and of course, debtor's prison. That's where Amy (aka "Little Dorrit") grows up, since her father has been imprisoned at Marshalsea her whole life. She supports the family by sewing until a deathbed confession changes their social status and their fortunes.
Claire Foy, a relative unknown, is said to shine in the role of Amy, and Matthew Macfayden (who played Mr. Darcy in the Keira Knightly P&P) plays her love interest, Arthur.
As a fan of period drama, I might have to check this out over the weekend! The PBS site warns that it will be available for a limited time only, so if you want to watch, don't wait.
On the fence? Check out a preview here:
Whether we loved it or hated it, many of us who grew up in the ’80s and ’90s will never forget Francine Pascal’s perennial middle school soap opera, Sweet Valley High. The series, which began in 1983, included over 150 books about the beautiful Wakefield Twins, Elizabeth and Jessica.
What it lacked in depth, the series made up for in romantic subplots, cat-fights and descriptive gems such as:
“Jessica stared at herself in the full-length mirror and saw a picture of utter heartbreak and despair. But what was actually reflected in the glass was about the most adorable, most dazzling sixteen-year-old girl imaginable.”
SVH fans may soon be able to see their favorite blue-eyed-blonde heroines on the big screen. On Tuesday, Hollywood trade paper Daily Variety reported that Diablo Cody (of Juno fame) has signed on to write a screenplay of the series.
Over the past couple of days, Cody’s Twitter page has been abuzz with reassurances for die-hard SVH fans. A recent tweet reports: “Attn. Sweet Valley residents: I’ll need your guidance in this process, so please keep in touch.” Or a comment that many readers can relate to: “Like most girls, I’m a Jelizabeth.” (Don’t most of us waver between identifying with nerdy Elizabeth or fun-loving Jessica?”)
In any case, Diablo Cody is certain to add a little spunk to a movie that could be (in the words of Jessica) “boring as butter” in the wrong hands.
Any readers have a shoebox full of SVH novels lurking in their closets? Or ideas about who should portray real-life Elizabeth and Jessica?
How about a notable SVH memory? As a flute player in 8th grade band class, I used to get scolded for reading Sweet Valley High (the “Senior Year” shoot-off) during long rests.
While embargoes and strictly enforced publication dates are nothing new in the book world, Stephen King is trying something a little less common to generate excitement about his next novel, Under the Dome (which I gave a sneak preview of here). Note the "cover to be unveiled" notation on the current jacket. They weren't kidding. The actual cover for Under the Dome is going to be revealed in four stages over the next two weeks. The first element was released on Monday by Scribner and can be found here.
Scribner art director Rex Bonomelli says they found just the right designers to bring Chester's Mill to life on the cover: artists who had previously worked in commercial advertising. Watch their page for two more reveals on Sept. 25 and Sept. 28, culminating with the release of the One True Cover on October 5.
Early Word traced the origins of the "cover release" as a publishing event in a post today (the Harry Potter franchise was the first to blaze this particular trail, I think), wondering if the whole thing is just "silly." I suppose the announcement got Under the Dome another blog post or two...but overall it's the inside that counts for me.
Do you think this is a successful strategy for building excitement?
As many book bloggers (and book blog followers) already know, the week of Sept. 14-18 was the second annual Book Blogger Appreciation Week. The week was founded in 2008 by Amy Riley of book blog My Friend Amy.
According to the BBAW website:
"The week spotlights and celebrates the work of active book bloggers through guest posts, awards, giveaways, and community activities."
The site announced many awards at the conclusion of the week on Friday, from "Best Literary Fiction Review Blog" (winner: Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin'?) to "Most Eclectic Taste" (winner: Books on the Nightstand). The judges were a panel of bloggers, readers and authors. During the week, participating bloggers posted on coordinated themes.
As a new contributor to "The Book Case," I'm hoping to use last week's celebration as inspiration for compiling a list of great book blogs. Any readers have a must-visit book blog marked on their toolbar? In your opinion, what makes a great book blog? Commentary on new books? Themed blogs? (Only international authors, only children's books, etc.) Do many of you find your book recommendations from blogs, or do you rely on word-of-mouth or book reviews in print?
I'll report back with my new book blog favorites in a couple of days.
Another fun fact I found on the Book Blogger Appreciation Week site: Their team is in the process of organizing a potential Book Blogger Convention during the week of Book Expo America (May 29-31 in New York City).... anyone tempted to sign up?
As a new addition to the BookPage staff, I'm trying to familiarize myself with as many new and recent books as I can. One of the books that caught my eye is an advance copy of Robyn Okrant's Living Oprah: My One-Year Experiment to Live as TV's Most Influential Guru Advises (to be released in January 2010). Based on Okrant's blog, Living Oprah, the book chronicles the year she spent trying to "live her best life" as Oprah intends. From reading Oprah's book club selections and cooking Oprah's recipes to trying to love shoes as much as Oprah does, Okrant takes Oprah's instructions to heart, and carefully observes the effects, both positive and negative, her project is having on herself and the people in her life.
A recent book with a similar structure is Colin Beavan's No Impact Man: The Adventures of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save the Planet, and the Discoveries He Makes About Himself and Our Way of Life in the Process (the accompanying documentary is now in theaters). This book also sprang from a blog (No Impact Man) and is about the year that Beavan and his family gave up everything in their lives with a negative environmental impact. Plastic, television, air-conditioning, even toilet paper was forbidden in their household for a year. Although the rules Beavan followed were radically different from Okrant's, it's a fair bet that they both learned something interesting about the way that many of us live our lives today.
And they're not alone. In the last few years, there has been a noticeable rise in the number of books like these. From books about food (Julie & Julia, of course, which according to Amazon is now subtitled My Year of Cooking Dangerously) to books about religion (A.J. Jacobs' The Year of Living Biblically) to books with a social or political agenda (Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping, by Judith Levine), my-year-of memoirs are everywhere these days.
So it should come as no surprise that at least one enterprising blogger has put his own twist on the topic: Dave Holmes (My Year of Everything) plans to read one my-year-of book every week, and then write a book about his experience. As he puts it: "After 12 months of blogging, I’ll have my own book that will teach you how to be a better person, a better cook, a better lover, and literally everything else. How convenient!" I just hope for his sake that this publishing trend lasts long enough for him to land a deal.
Dear reader: if you could get your own book deal, what would you want to spend one year doing?
To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the National Book Awards, the National Book Foundation is asking the public to vote on the best of their fiction award-winners.
Actually, we can vote on the best of six finalists. A panel of 140 past winners, finalists and judges narrowed down the 77 winning titles since 1950. Voting starts today and runs through midnight on Oct. 21.
One voter will win two tickets to the 60th National Book Awards on Nov. 18 (and two nights in the Marriott Hotel Downtown in NYC). Vote here.
The top 6:
The Collected Stories of William Faulkner (1951)
Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison (1953)
The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor (1972)
Gravity’s Rainbow, by Thomas Pynchon (1974)
The Stories of John Cheever (1981)
The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty (1983)
Anyone have a beef with this list? What else should have been on there? You may notice that of the six short-listed titles, four are collections of stories. Also, the most recently-published book on the list came out over 25 years ago.
Like any best-of roundup, the short list will likely inspire controversy. (For example, I know more than one person who’d be happy on a desert island with nothing but Walker Percy’s 1962 winner The Moviegoer.)
Of the 77 fiction winners from 1950 to 2008, 74 are still in print. If you’re interested in some of the past winners (starting with Nelson Algren’s The Man with the Golden Arm in 1950 and running through Peter Matthiessen’s Shadow Country in 2008), check out the National Book Foundation’s book-a-day blog, which features in-depth info and summaries about each book.
And stay tuned, because this year’s finalists will be announced on Oct. 13. Any readers want to speculate in any of the categories (Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry and Young People’s Literature)?
We'll believe it when we see it, but The Washington Post is reporting that Uwem Akpan's 2008 short story collection, Say You're One of Them, will be Queen O's next book club pick. The Post says that Ingram International, a book distribution company, unintentionally leaked the information this morning. Oprah will officially announce this, her 63rd book club selection, to a live audience in New York City's Central Park tomorrow (September 18th).
Published by Little, Brown, Say You're One of Them is Nigerian-born Akpan's first book. The collection features five short stories, one of which was originally published in The New Yorker. Publishers Weekly gave it a starred review, saying:
"Akpan's prose is beautiful and his stories are insightful and revealing, made even more harrowing because all the horror—and there is much—is seen through the eyes of children."
If the Post is right, Akpan's stories are about to gain a much wider audience. Stay tuned.
UPDATE: It's official! Oprah just announced that Say You're One of Them is indeed her latest book club selection. Congratulations to Uwem Akpan and his publishers!