Monday, December 28, 2009

Interesting Publishing Development

I find it important, Google's plans to digitize as much of the written word as it can. So here's an interesting development: Author Set To Sue Google Over Web Book Scan. An excerpt:

Chinese author Mian Mian, who shot to fame with lurid tales of sex, drugs and alcohol in the underworld, will sue Internet giant Google this week for copyright infringement, her lawyer said Monday.

Sun Jingwei told Agence France-Presse that the case -- the first civil lawsuit against Google in China over the scanning of books into its controversial web library -- would open at a Beijing court on Tuesday.

On a lighter note, the actor Hugh Grant dreams of a literary career.

Ruin And Resolve Is GO

Ruin And Resolve (whose TOC and cover is here) is now up! Here's the post from the publisher, Rocket Kapre. An excerpt:

Ruin and Resolve is now up for sale on Smashwords.

Up and at ‘em everyone! For charity!

If you’ve never purchased a book on Smashwords before, or even made an internet purchase, don’t worry it’s easy. We’ll walk you through the steps after the cut.

Click here to read more.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Could This Be The Gadget?

I'm on record in one of my New Worlds entries for saying that, in my humble (and hopefully correct) opinion, "We are one well-made reading gadget away from seeing a rapid change. Look at what the iPod has done for music -- there were mp3 players before the iPod, but its popularity and eventual price drop made it as ubiquitous as TV's. If e-readers ever hit a regular price of, say, P5,000, or even perhaps P10,000, we just might see something as revolutionary for reading."

I really do feel that we are just generations away from this, and I'm talking "generations" in a gadget's lifespan, so we know how fast this is going to be. We all know the speed at which technology evolves.

Apple is rumored to be coming out with a tablet "as soon as a month from now". Could this be that gadget?

Globe Books' Book Of The Decade

Click here to see Globe Books' Book Of The Decade. A "slightly altered" excerpt to keep you in suspense as to the book's title:

Millions of children, especially boys, for whom reading had been something remote, intimidating, uninteresting, took to the book. You couldn't walk through a mall, an airport, a park without seeing one or another of the series in the hands of a young person. And not young people alone; adults devoured the book as well. The book may have created a generation of readers, and, if we're lucky, it may not be the last such generation.

A Lovecraft Christmas

Ah, this Grinch found something Christmassy to enjoy: A Lovecraft Christmas. :D

Friday, December 25, 2009


Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Man Behind Tintin

As seen on The New York Times: The Man Behind Boy, Dog, And Their Adventures. An excerpt:

For some reason, the comic-book character Tintin, beloved just about everywhere else, has never quite caught on in America. This may change in 2011, when Steven Spielberg brings the first of three planned Tintin adventures to the movie screen, but for now he remains underappreciated — a little too odd and earnest, perhaps, in a landscape ruled by superheroes.

Tintin, a virginal, 15-year-old journalist with a perpetually upswept quiff of reddish-blond hair and a wire-haired fox terrier named Snowy, is the hero of 23 book-length adventures — what we now call graphic novels — completed by the Belgian artist Hergé, who died in 1983 at the age of 75. Most of them are little masterpieces of the form, combining inventive and suspenseful comic storytelling with drawings that are clear, precise and as thrilling as movie stills. Andy Warhol was a big fan, and so was Roy Lichtenstein.

Regrettably, though Pierre Assouline summarizes the books in great detail, his biography of their creator, “Hergé: The Man Who Created Tintin,” is unillustrated, so if you don’t already know the work, this is not the place to start. And even if you do, the story is a little depressing. Hergé here is frequently reminiscent of the Charles Schulz depicted in David Michaelis’s recent biography: an artist far happier and more interesting in his work than he ever was in life.

R.I.P. "Olivia"

Sesame Street star Alaina Reed Amini Dies Aged 63. An excerpt:

Alaina Reed Amini, best known for playing Olivia Robinson on long-running children's show Sesame Street, has died aged 63, her publicist has confirmed.

The star - previously known as Alaina Reed Hall - died Thursday at a hospital in Santa Monica after a two-year battle with breast cancer.

Her stage credits included Chicago and Hair. She also appeared in several movies, including Cruel Intentions.

I wrote a short entry about Sesame Street here.

Wanted: More Literary Translators

Sir Butch Dalisay blogs about the need for more literary translators. An excerpt:

A READER named Monching Romano—who runs and—wrote in to ask for some help in looking for new Philippine fiction in Filipino for libraries in the United States. “We've been selling Philippine books online since 2000,” Monching says. “Aside from our overseas Pinoy customers, we also have US libraries ordering from us for their Asian/Philippine sections. Our latest inquiry is an order for 50 titles of Philippine Fiction in Tagalog published from 2005 and above. We've contacted the usual suppliers—National Bookstore and University presses—but we can't seem to fill-up the list for 50 titles. We also have an inquiry for 30 titles of Children's Fiction also in Tagalog. Would you be able to suggest other publishers/suppliers where we can probably get more titles? Maraming salamat po.”

I have a feeling that this shouldn’t be a problem—seeing all those new titles coming out of the annual Manila book fair, for example, and knowing how many new young authors in Filipino have been getting published recently—but to speed things up for Monching, let me ask readers and publishers who may have titles to contribute to write Monching Romano directly at

This should be a great break for writers in Filipino, considering that it’s the writers in English who’ve very often gotten all the international exposure, through fellowships, grants, and invitations to writers’ festivals. As one of the latter beneficiaries, I can’t complain, but I point out whenever I can in these international venues that our literature is much more diverse than our offerings in English would seem to suggest, and that we have exciting new writing being done in Filipino and other Philippine languages.

More "Avatar" Commentary

A friend on Facebook said that he found "Avatar" to be the kind of movie that generated the same kind of excitement and wonder as when he watched "Star Wars" and "The Lord of the Rings". Another friend said he found the story trite, the dialogue wooden, the characters two-dimensional, but the film was still one helluva visual feast. After my posting David Dizon's review, here are links to other comments about James Cameron's "Avatar":

Jigsaw Joker Joseph THE 3 J's review.

Does "Avatar" Contain Hidden Messages

"Avatar" and the American Man-Child

"Avatar" and the War of Genres

Well, just interesting comments, these, on a science-fiction movie that's pushing the bar on movie technical production.

Courting With Books

Here's the story of musician Jamie Cullum, and how he wooed his fiance with books. An excerpt:

The “Twentysomething” singer - who is engaged to Sophie Dahl, the author and former model - said he tried to impress her with his knowledge of books when they first met.

He said: "We hit it off immediately. I think we knew emotionally that we would become good friends. We just started talking about books - I was reading David Mitchells 'Cloud Atlas' at the time - and certain other stuff that we were into."

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Ruin And Resolve -- Cover And TOC Reveal

The Ruin And Resolve charity anthology for victims of the typhoons earlier this year that affected so many people, will most likely be up by December 28, 2009. Rocket Kapre has made the formal announcement here, and has put up the table of contents and the cover.

Reminder: Call For Submissions For Demons Of The New Year

This is to remind everyone of the call for submissions made by Estranghero Press for Demons Of The New Year (which I first blogged about here). Deadline is January 15, 2010. Click here for the guidelines.

How Do You See Book Culture Evolving Over The Next Decade?

I received this private message from the National Book Critics Circle:

As we wind down the "aughts" decade, the NBCC seeks the best guest posts about the future of book culture, including essays,interviews and free-range opining.

The topic: How do you see book culture evolving over the next decade? The first response is from Katharine Weber, a former NBCC board member, novelist and short story writer (her new novel True Confections, is due out in January 2010). It's just up on Critical Mass:

Interesting topic. I'm sure everyone sees the change happening right before our eyes. Click on the link above to read the first response to this question. I'll post more as I get them.

Monday, December 21, 2009

David Dizon Reviews James Cameron's "Avatar"

David Dizon of reviews James Cameron's film, "Avatar". An excerpt:

Hear that scraping sound?

That's the sound of eyeballs trying to do a 360-degree turn in cinemas while taking in the vistas of Titanic director James Cameron's wondrous yet irritatingly familiar eco-fable about giant blue monkeys saving the environment.

A decade after proclaiming himself "king of the world", Cameron is back with a blockbuster film, this time trying to draw gold from well-worn tropes like industries destroying ecology, and civilization crumbling under greed.

One thing's for sure, you'd have to credit Cameron for having the moolah to bring his daydreams to thespic life.

An hour into the movie, viewers will forget the actual number of zeroes spent on this monstrosity (reportedly $300 million) and wonder, "Where, oh, where do we book a ticket to this green hell of a planet called Pandora?"

Call For Submissions: Duguang Lupa

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Tweet The Meat December Themes

I blogged about Tweet The Meat last April, and they've released their latest schedule of themes. If you want, give it a try, and if your 140-character story is accepted, you get US$1.00 per story published. Their themes for December 2009:

12-12 theme: Fantasy

12-19 theme: Rebirth

12-26 theme: Sin

Good luck to those who are joining!

The Literary Scandal That Rocked The Czech Republic

A hard-hitting book that deals with racial discrimination, "White Horse, Gold Dragon", has caused a stir in the Czech Republic because its author does not exist. An excerpt:

The story began when a 19-year-old Vietnamese girl who is living in the Czech Republic won a prestigious literary prize for her novel, “White Horse, Gold Dragon”, which was still in manuscript. That was electrifying news for the community of Vietnamese in Europe, and was widely reported in Vietnam and elsewhere.

Sadly, Pham Thi Lan is not the author of that book.

Czech journalists had doubted that she was the author of the above book and they made great efforts to find out the truth.

The first to express doubts was a reporter for the Pravo newspaper, Zdenko Pavelka. Pavelka argued this book couldn’t possibly be written by a 19-year-old girl. Since then they started searching for ‘Pham Thi Lan.’

However, Lan never met any reporters in the Czech Republic. She communicated through emails, reasoning that she was studying at the University of Malaysia.

Based on information that Lan provided via email and on her blog, as well the website, newspaper researchers determined that there was no girl named Lan who was born in 1990 in Sokolov, no Pham Thi Lan who studied at the Pisek high school, and no Vietnamese family with a daughter named Pham Thi Lan in the town of Frantiskoe Lazne, as Lan wrote in her email or blog.

Meanwhile, the book was selling well in the Czech Republic. Readers were attracted by its criticism of current Czech society – particularly racial discrimination – and it partly unveils the life of the 70 thousand-member Vietnamese emigrant community in that country.

Make A Science Fiction Youtube Video, Get A Hollywood Contract

That's what Uruguayan producer Fede Alvarez did, and now he has a US$30M budget to make the movie he wants. Check out the video, "Panic Attack", here

Giant, alien-looking robots attack Montevideo, that's all the video is about. Cool stuff. I've read comments comparing it to alien invasion stories like War Of The Worlds and Independence Day, but what I'm thinking of is what most guys who grew up in the Philippines in the 80's would think of: Mazinger Z and Voltes V. Maybe Fede Alvarez will come up with his own hero-robot to save the day. :)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Sex And Creativity: Is There A Connection?

As seen on Innovation PlaygroundSex And Creativity: Is There A Connection? A study shows that the number of sexual partners corresponds to creative output. An excerpt:

Psychologists at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne and the Open University found that professional artists and poets have about twice as many sexual partners as other people. The study also shows that the average number of sexual partners increased as creative output went up. So the more creative you are, the more sexual partners you should have.

I believe our creative motivations are often based on some of our most primal passions, such as joy, fear, anger, love and lust. In an article Creative Juice – A Dozen Key Lessons for Creative Dreamers, Suzanne Falter-Barns quotes Deepak Chopra: “Creativity is ultimately sexual – I’m sorry — but it is!” I am not a Chopra fan, but he may be right this time. Love and lust make us think differently in that it triggers global processing, which in turn promotes creative thinking. Love and lust are good for creativity.

Ahem, ahem. So who has been particularly prolific (creatively, which may imply also reproductively) this past 2009? Off the top of my head, I can think of one young lady, but I'm sure if I were to think harder I could come up with some more writerly types. Maybe this one? Or this one? We might also wish to consider who did not produce much this past year. We might also want to consider the output of writers from other years. 

Just being naughty. All in jest. Hwe hwe hwe. :D

The Unspeakable Vault (Of Doom)

How about a Lovecraftian inspired comic strip? Here's The Unspeakable Vault (Of Doom), or Weird Tales From The Old Ones. It's a humorous take on H.P. Lovecraft's evil gods mythology by Francois Launet. She has an interview here at Innsmouth Press. Have fun, and a good laugh, at pure evil's expense. 

Stories From Mars

I received this Facebook message from Sergio Gaut Vel Hartman

Stories From Mars--Mars Special

“Químicamente impuro” ( http://www.quimicamenteimp ) and “Breves no tan breves” ( ) blogs call writers for a series of special publications on those blogs, which will be called MARS SPECIAL. The condition is that texts should describe situations occurring on Mars, or situations in which Martian people are somehow protagonists. Texts should not be shorter than 100 words, no lengthier than 500 words. Please submit them to mi private e-mail address (sergiogvh(at)gmail(dot)com) from now to December 31, 2009.

Sergio Gaut vel Hartman

Consider This Research For Your Science Fiction Stories Set In Outer Space

These two links may help with your hard science research for your science fiction stories set in outer space, especially if it involves interstellar travel:

Yeah, nothing about "tesseracts", "the spice must flow", or "hyper/warp drives", but did you ever wonder why whenever something blows up in space in the movies, there's a huge roar, and then you realize there's no air in space for sound to travel? 

But is this really an "Oops" moment? The roar sounds good, doesn't it? It just doesn't have the same impact if there's no sound to go with the light show. :D

Author (And Teacher) Seth Harwood Talks Craft

Here's an interview of author (and teacher) Seth Harwood which I chanced upon over at Publetariat--People Who Publish. Here're the interesting questions he was asked:

What's the most common problem or weakness you find in the work of your students?

Many writers struggle with crafting realistic dialogue. Do you have any tips for dealing with this problem?

In educational programs on writing there's typically an emphasis on literary fiction. Yet your first novel, Jack Wakes Up, is in the crime/noir genre. Coming out of your MFA program, how did you make that transition?

Mainstream publication of short story collections has been on the decline for years but there seems to be a resurgence of the form in ebooks, and in fact you'll be coming out with Kindle editions of your short story collections on December 27. Are the skills needed to write an effective short story different than those required to write an effective full-length novel? Can working in one form improve one's work in the other form?

Thousands of writers have recently completed draft novels as part of National Novel Writing Month, and many of them are now thinking about next steps, such as workshopping and revision. Do you have any advice on how to approach this stage of the writing process?

In your upcoming Stanford class, The Essential Art: Making Movies in Your Reader's Mind, the focus is primarily on craft but you will also be devoting some time to the current publishing environment and author platform. This is unusual for most creative writing classes and programs. Do you feel these topics should be included in any university-level creative writing program? Why or why not?

Click here to read his answers. 

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A City With No Bookstore!

No kidding. A city in Texas, the second largest state in America, will have no bookstore come mid-January, 2010. An excerpt from the article: 

The final chapter has been written for the lone bookstore on the streets of Laredo.

With a population of nearly a quarter-million people, this city could soon be the largest in the nation without a single bookseller.

The situation is so grim that schoolchildren have pleaded for a reprieve from next month's planned shutdown of the B. Dalton bookstore. After that, the nearest store will be 150 miles away in San Antonio.

The B. Dalton store was never a community destination with comfy couches and an espresso bar, but its closing will create a literary void in a city with a high illiteracy rate. Industry analysts and book associations could not name a larger American city without a single bookseller.

"Without that store, my life would be so sad and boring," wrote a fifth-grader named Bryanna Salinas, who signed her name with a heart.

Some worry that the closing could send a message that books and reading are not priorities in Laredo, a hot, steamy city of 230,000 that is choked by smog from trucks lining up at the border, which is home to the nation's biggest entry point for trucks and trains.

Nearly half of the population of Webb County, which includes Laredo, lacks basic literacy skills, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Fewer than 1 in 5 city residents has a college degree. And about 30 percent of the city lives below the poverty level, according to the 2000 census.

Man. I know you can still order books online, but this is sad.

Typewriter...Uh...For The Win?

Check out these two videos of a student who brought a typewriter to his class. In a sea of laptops, the prankster clacks through the lecture, taking notes all the way. 

Ahem...*prepares irritating, old man voice, full of reminiscing*...back in my day, we used pen and paper to take down notes, and there were designated "typing rooms" in the corners of the library for students to use for making out...I mean...for click-clacking away without disturbing other people. You didn't have to look for a printer to get a hard copy of your report, let me tell you. But then again, one doesn't have to deal with correction tape or fluid anymore nowadays; a good thing, I think.

With quiet laptops everywhere, students have lost one more optional place for sucking writing. :D

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Nisi Shawl On Transracial Writing

As seen on Rocket Kapre: Nisi Shawl On Transracial Writing. An excerpt:

The good folks over at the SFWA site have uploaded a piece by Nisi Shawl entitled “Transracial Writing for the Sincere” which deals with the challenge–and the necessity–of writing characters of a different ethnic background than that of the author. It’s a very well-reasoned and rational approach to a delicate and difficult part of being a good (in every sense of the word) author. While there is a focus on writing characters who belong to a racial minority, I think the advice is equally applicable to writing any character different from ourselves, whether due to social class, profession, gender or age.

Click here to read the whole entry and for the links. 

99 Years Overdue?!

Doesn't that beat all (even this older one, by 48 years to be exact):  A book overdue for 99 years was finally returned. An excerpt:

The book returned to the New Bedford Public Library in Massachusetts this week wasn't overdue by a week, a month or even a year. It was nearly a century overdue, and the fine came to $361.35.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

H.W. Fowler, The King Of English

Again from The New York Times, this essay: H.W. Fowler, The King Of English. An excerpt: 

“To see him fumbling with our rich and delicate language is to experience all the horror of seeing a Sèvres vase in the hands of a chimpanzee,” Eve lyn Waugh once said of a fellow writer. I sometimes feel like that chimp, and perhaps you do too. When it comes to handling the English language, we are all fumblers — with the possible exception of Waugh himself, who, as Gore Vidal once observed, wrote “prose so chaste that at times one longs for a violation of syntax to suggest that its creator is fallible, or at least part American.”

Some care about getting English right; others don’t. For those who do, there is a higher authority, a sacred book, that offers guidance through our grammatical vale of tears. Its full title is “A Dictionary of Modern English Usage,” but among its devotees it is known, reverentially, as “Fowler.”

One such devotee was Winston Churchill, who cared greatly about language, even in wartime. “Why must you write ‘intensive’ here?” Churchill demanded of his director of military intelligence while looking over plans for the invasion of Normandy. “ ‘Intense’ is the right word. You should read Fowler’s Modern English Usage on the use of the two words.”

Just who is this Fowler, this supreme arbiter of usage, this master of nuance and scruple, He Who Must Be Obeyed? 

France to Digitize Its Own Literary Works

As seen on The New York Times: France to Digitize Its Own Literary Works. An excerpt:

President Nicolas Sarkozy pledged nearly $1.1 billion on Monday toward the computer scanning of French literary works, audiovisual archives and historical documents, an announcement that underscored his government’s desire to maintain control over France’s cultural heritage in an era of digitization.

Want to Stand Out? Sit Down and Read

As seen on Edgewise.phWant to Stand Out? Sit Down and Read. An excerpt:

It is no secret that today’s job market has gotten tougher and more competitive. Talent is easier to come by and managers can quickly find someone who perfectly matches the position on offer. The Philippines is a goldmine for employers who are looking for top-notch additions to their company’s roster. While this is great for the reputation of the Filipino employee in general, it could mean more work for you, the student who has to go the extra mile and possess that special something to impress would-be employers.

What should a diligent student who has good grades, knows their math, HTML and Javascript do to stand out? READ!

Here’s a little something you should know about good hiring managers: They look for well rounded people to work with. These are men and women who are interested even in things that have little to do with what they do for a living. The best managers — and people — are those who are curious about matters that others may find boring. And you can be sure that these managers have a shelf full of books ranging from Donald E. Knuth’s The Art of Computer Programming to Sun Tzu’s The Art of War.

If you want to have the best shot at being hired by these types, or become one of them yourself, here are three books that you may want to pick up to get you started.

The three books the author of the article mentions are Fahrenheit 451, The Outliers, and 100 Years Of Solitude. Click here to read why. 

Shoot To Move The Nation Book Launch

From my email inbox:

The Outlooke Pointe Foundation would like to invite you to the Shoot to Move the Nation: Book Launch

Finally, OPF’s first project culminates in such a fashion—photographs and words made sure to reach a greater audience! Let us all pay tribute to the dignity to every Filipino Worker on the 16th of December, 7pm; Powerbooks Live! Greenbelt 3.


Books will be sold and all proceeds will be put into allowing our future projects the same completion we have managed by the passion and generosity of other like-minded individuals.


Coffee and Desserts will be served!

Monday, December 14, 2009

E-Readers and E-Books: The New Bestsellers

Here's an article I saw over at The Philippine StarE-Readers and E-Books: The New Bestsellers. An excerpt:

E-readers filled with hundreds of downloaded e-books are expected to be one of the bestselling gifts this Christmas, primarily in the United States and other developed countries where these new tech wonders are available.

Unfortunately for serious book lovers from other parts of the world, including the Philippines, e-readers won’t fill their Christmas stockings this year and they have to be contented for now reading e-books on their notebook computers or iPhones.

An e-reader is easy to use just like an MP3 player and a good companion during long travel and commutes. The e-books can be easily transferred to an e-reader using a high-speed USB connection hooked up to a PC or Mac.

As for the e-books, hundreds, if not thousands, can be crammed into an e-reader and they can be downloaded from the websites of leading bookstores at less cost than a real book or for free from selected websites or from local public libraries.

E-readers are still quite pricey at $200+. Market researchers believe it will gain mass appeal if e-readers get to the $50 price range, otherwise it won’t be as ubiquitous as MP3 players. With notebooks and smartphones offering alternative platforms for e-books, industry pundits see only about 10 million people owning e-readers by the end of 2010, or one percent of the 110 million who have MP3 players.

But with color screen e-readers in the pipeline and as the consumer electronics sector sees a bit ofrecovery from the recession, hopefully, the number can still go past 10 million.

Meanwhile, an e-book today sells at an average price of $8.30 versus $14.55 for a hardcover version. In the case of Amazon, e-books have a fixed price of $9.99.

The Association of American Publishers estimates that sales of e-books jumped 68.4 percent in 2008 and further increased to 177 percent to $96.6 million in August 2009.

Looking at the bigger picture, the association noted that e-books account for only 1.5 percent of the $6.8 billion books sales of 2009. However, they don’t discredit the fact that e-books’ growth rate is outpacing hardcover sales.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Random Serves Notice on Would-Be E-Interlopers

Random House makes clear where it stands with regard to its claim on e-books, as Richard Curtis expounds in his column, Publishing In The 21st Century. An excerpt:

Like a wolf marking its territory against rivals, Random House served unequivocal notice today on what it perceives as potential e-poachers seeking a loophole in Random's definition of "book". The warning was embedded in a letter from Random CEO Markus Dohle mailed or emailed to literary agents describing the company's plans and initiatives in the digital world. Authors were also put on notice that they are "precluded from granting publishing rights to third parties that would compromise the rights for which Random House has bargained."

If Random's position sounded familiar to some, it's the same one that the company used in 2001 when it sued Rosetta, an e-book startup that offered digital editions of books by Kurt Vonnegut Jr., William Styron and Robert B. Parker, having secured them directly from the authors. Random had published the books before there was such a thing as the Internet, but nevertheless considered a book to be a book no matter what form it took. Random's request for an injunction was denied by the court, and Random then filed an appeal. It too was denied.

Random and Rosetta eventually settled, allowing Rosetta to continue publishing the books but leaving unresolved the issue of who controls e-rights to books where the language defining them is ambiguous.

A Review of The Barnes & Noble Nook

I saw this review of the Barnes & Noble Nook on Cnet. An excerpt:

When Barnes & Noble unveiled the Nook, the first Android-powered e-book reader, a lot of people were excited because it appeared to offer some key competitive advantages over Amazon's Kindle e-reader.

First and foremost, while the Nook features the same 6-inch e-ink screen (600x800 pixels; 16 shades of gray) as the Kindle, it includes a separate color capacitive touch screen (144x480 pixels) that lets you navigate content and use a virtual keyboard for typing searches and annotations. Furthermore, on top of its free AT&T 3G wireless connection, the Nook packs in Wi-Fi connectivity and a memory expansion slot; you get 2GB of internal memory, but can add up to an additional 16GB via the microSD card slot. Finally, Barnes & Noble offers an e-book-lending option (for participating titles) and the capability to browse the full text of e-books on your Nook if you're in a Barnes & Noble brick-and-mortar store (the latter feature is scheduled to launch in early 2010). Unfortunately, both the lending and in-store browsing features come with some significant restrictions, which we'll detail below.

Caveats notwithstanding, those features are nice extras, but the big questions are: how much of a difference do they really make in the overall user experience, and are they enough to push the Nook to the top of the e-book reader heap? Alas, the answer, you'll soon find out, isn't as clear cut as it might seem.

The e-readers that come to mind immediately are the Kindle and the Sony e-reader. Now, we can add the Nook to the list.

Read-Along: How do you read to deaf children?

An article from The Inquirer: Read-Along: How do you read to deaf children? An excerpt:

HOW do you read a story to deaf children? Same as regular kids. Use lots of facial expressions and make loud movements.

The first Inquirer Read-Along session before an audience of deaf children was held on Friday.

Some 30 students of the Philippine School for the Deaf (PSD) in Pasay City were treated to stories of children overcoming the odds. The first was a tale about a mathematically gifted blind boy, the second featured a leukemia-stricken girl with fantastic hair, and the third was all about a boy named Og who refused to blow his nose.

The children, aged 7 to 13 and enrolled in Grades 1 to 3, were especially selected for the session, as they belong to the “star sections” of the PSD.

It looked like a typical Read-Along session. Some of the kids sat quietly on the mat while others ran around. Then one of the teachers stood in front, smiled and gave instructions using her hands.

The children understood that the program was about to begin.

A Word On Taiwanese Children's And Young Adult Literature

As seen on Asia In The Heart, World On The Mind, Critic Interview: Irene Ying-Yu Chen. An excerpt:

How would you define Taiwanese children's literature and young adult literature?

It is not easy to answer this question. I can only say what Taiwanese children used to read was mostly translated works from English and Japanese texts as we are a minority culture/market. But we are making more home-made publications as we are more and more aware of stories around us. Many authors and illustrators are creating exciting works for children in and out of Taiwan to know more about Taiwan, from picture books, fictions, to dramas, animations, and films. If I dare to define Taiwanese children's and YA literature, I would say it is at present a creative process to explore Taiwan, and to define ourselves.

That is so beautiful!

What are the current trends in children's and young adult publishing in Taiwan?

Recent popular genres would include various ways creators try to show the world and Taiwan via abridged biographical works. PBs about ecological concerns are quite popular as well.

For younger children, we encourage them to read good picture books. However, in the most recent decade, parents and teachers notice older children still prefer picture books to fictions as there are fewer words and less trouble to read. Therefore, publishers adapt western chapter books for children to upgrade to the next reading level. There will be a great many pictures, and with different reading levels, there will be a couple more hundreds of words per book. We in Taiwan call them bridging books -- a bridge for children to step from PB to fiction. These publications aim to encourage older children to read more literally than visually.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

A Discussion On FanFic

Rocket Kapre braved the December traffic for Diliman, where he attended a talk on fan-fiction. Videos of the discussion are uploaded on his entry.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Teaching Literature

In light of the change that is happening in the way we access reading content (of which these last two posts are representative), Philippine Star columnist Isagani Cruz writes about "Teaching Literature" today:

I am often asked to lecture on new ways to teach literature.

I usually begin such lectures by distinguishing between Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants, as these terms were first defined by Marc Prensky.

I then quote the late Victor Ordoñez, who said, “We cannot equip the youth of the future with the tools of the past.”

Prensky and Ordoñez set the mood for my showing the YouTube film entitled “Shift Happens,” more popularly known as “Did You Know?” Since the film has several versions, I choose the one that fits the audience, not necessarily the latest one. (I do not particularly care for the October 2009 version of the Media Convergence Forum.)

Then I go into my mantra: “The world has changed, the world is changing, the world will change.” I then surprise my audience by quoting a French saying (translated into Filipino or English, of course): “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

That allows me to point to one thing that has not changed despite changing through the centuries – the teaching of literature.

I then trace the teaching of literature to 2150 BCE (Before the Common Era, the politically correct way of referring to the years before the birth of Jesus of Nazareth), when the Epic of Gilgamesh started to be taught in what were the equivalent of our schools.

I go very quickly through the history of the teaching of literature, through India, China, Greece, and so on, until I reach the Philippines (where the first university was the 1898 Universidad Literaria de Filipinas, though that “literary” university was really a medical school). That history holds at least two lessons: first, that the teaching of literature is a very old specialization, and second, that since all those millions of literature teachers surely tried and tested all imaginable teaching techniques, we should learn from them instead of trying to reinvent the wheel.

There is no reason nowadays to try to think up of a new way of teaching literature, because all the effective ways are now documented in thousands of lesson plans available on the Web. (Digital natives do not ask for web addresses; they just Google.) I show some websites devoted to reprinting lesson plans that have worked. (If the auditorium is not wired, I use PowerPoint slides.) I also show the covers of some books that deal explicitly with the teaching of literature. Between the Web and the school library, a teacher has a wealth of practical and tested lesson plans to use in the classroom.

Expectedly though not modestly, since I wrote and hosted the Literature lessons in the Continuing Studies via Technology (CONSTEC) series of the Foundation for the Upgrading of the Standard of Education (FUSE), which has been showing on Knowledge Channel for a couple of years now, I talk about the “Teaching Literature” lessons now available on DVDs from the FUSE office in Ermita or on television. I list the teaching strategies taught in the series, as well as the literary works used as texts by the demonstration teachers.

I then discuss the two theoretical principles underlying the FUSE series.

First, students in a literature classroom should talk at least half the time, while the author through the text should “talk” at least 40% of the time. That leaves a mere 10% of the time for the teacher to lecture, to give instructions, or to answer questions. One of my advocacies in teaching literature teachers is to bring back the focus on the author. I advocate, instead of teacher-centered teaching techniques, student-centered learning and author-centered lessons.

The second theoretical principle is my sample outline for a literature class, a paradigm that I have christened FREE. First, FEED THE TEXT by talking about the author and the tradition to which the literary text belongs. I then ask teachers to READ THE TEXT in class, either alone or with some or all of the students. The reading is important, because it not only enables the author to “talk” but it also allows students to hear the words (if the text is a poem, to feel the meter and appreciate the rhymes, if any).

Then, the teacher has to ENHANCE THE TEXT, which really means giving students insights into the text that may be derived from Literary Theory, pedagogical experience, or current events. (A good literature teacher always relates a literary text, no matter how old or foreign, to today’s newspaper headlines.) Finally, the students can ENJOY THE TEXT as they reread it with greater understanding.

Then I use film clips as examples of good or bad classroom teaching. I discuss what the fictional teachers do correctly or badly. It’s easier and safer than talking about real-life teachers.

I start off with the large lecture class of Barbra Streisand in The Mirror Has Two Faces, where she gets her students interested in medieval courtly love by delivering a magnificent lecture.

I follow with Dead Poets’ Society, to show that teachers do not have to lecture.

I then use Freedom Writers to show how innovative teaching strategies can work even with an unruly and underachieving class.

Finally, if there is time, I show an entire episode of my FUSE series.

And that’s the way I do a public lecture on how to teach literature.

Publishers Struggle to Wake Up from the E-Book Nightmare

As seen over at Publishers Weekly: Publishers Struggle to Wake Up from the E-Book Nightmare. An excerpt:

Nat Sobel must be thrilled: Simon & Schuster has announced that it won't release e-book editions until four months after hardcover editions, and Hachette (of which SF powerhouse Orbit is an imprint) has said it will create a similar arrangement. Jane at Dear Author, who I generally trust to have her finger on the pulse of e-book reader opinion, says "Readers who shell out $$ for dedicated ebook reader will not buy the hardcover" and adds, "Eh, at this point, who cares if pubs don't want the digital reader money. I'll still spend it. Just not on their books."

It's generally agreed that romance e-book sales are among the highest of any area of fiction, and in 2008 e-book sales were about 5.6% of all romance book sales, so even if Jane is right and those 5.6% of purchases were made by people who are e-book addicts and will accept no substitutes, S&S and Hachette don't have much reason to care. In other words, this move is really not about people who are already reading e-books; they'll be annoyed by it, but they don't take up enough market share to matter. Rather, this is about discouraging people who read paper books from switching to e-books.

Internet users tend to have a mentality of "I want it now and for (next to) nothing". We'll call this the NNN philosophy. Businesses that cater to it tend to get lots of users and lose lots of money (cf. Twitter and Facebook). Publishers have fewer readers but often manage to make money, because people are used to actually waiting and paying for books. Now that readers are starting to apply the NNN philosphy to books, publishers are pretty much screwed.

So I'm not going to diss publishers for trying to keep books profitable, because it's better for writers and for readers. I just think that they would do better to find ways to profit from e-books, whether through micropayments (a nice solution to e-book piracy: copies are distributed for free or available for purchase at a very low cost, but every time you open one you're asked to send a few dollars to the publisher, from which a royalty goes to the author) or higher pricing or subscription or content licensing or some other scheme not yet discovered. Huddling around paper and trying to wish the digital realm out of existence will do nothing whatsoever to keep book publishing a viable business.

Continuing Sign Of The Times?

Is this a continuing sign of the times? Editor & Publisher closing after 108 years. An excerpt:

The Nielsen Co. is selling some of its most prominent trade journals — including The Hollywood Reporter and Billboard — and shutting down Editor & Publisher, which has chronicled the newspaper business for 108 years.

Spokesman Gary Holmes said Nielsen is still reviewing its properties to make sure the company is focused on businesses with "the highest potential for growth."

"The highest potential for growth". Telling phrase.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Intense Reading Program Rewires Kids' Brains

Saw this on the Facebook page of a friend, Gilbert Tan: Intense Reading Program Rewires Kids' Brains. An excerpt:

Children who undergo intensive remedial reading programs not only become better readers but can also end up with rewired brains that are better at communicating, a study published Wednesday said.

Carnegie Mellon University scientists Marcel Just and Timothy Keller scanned the brains of 72 children before and after they went through a six-month program to make them better readers.

The scans of the eight- to 10-year-olds' brains showed that the quality of white matter—the brain tissue that carries signals between areas of grey matter, where information is processed—improved substantially after 100 hours of remedial reading training, said the study, which was published online in the journal Neuron.

While the imaging indicated that the white matter had become more efficient at transmitting signals, testing showed that the children could read better.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Rochita Loenen-Ruiz on the Context of Culture

As seen on Rocket Kapre: Rochita Loenen-Ruiz on the Context of Culture. An excerpt:

Filipina writer and 2009 Octavia E. Butler Scholar Rochita Loenen-Ruiz has a guest post up at Jeff Vandermeer’s Ecstatic Days where she speaks about why she attempts to be true to her culture (as a Filipina who grew up in the Mountain Province) in her writing.

Click here to read the entry and to see the links.

Anvil Publishing Christmas Book Sale

Saw this blog entry over at Scratching On The Glass: Christmas Book Sale At Anvil Publishing. The sale is until December 12, 2009. Click here to read the details and to see the photos of the sale.

Cat Rambo On Finding Markets For Stories

Writer Cat Rambo explains how she finds markets for her stories. Her blog entry is quite informative.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Fantasy Vs SF: Who Let The Dogs Out? (Updated)

This earlier post where I linked to Mark Charan Newton's post, Why Science Fiction Is Dying And Fantasy Fiction Is The Future, has garnered a lot of comments and discussion worth reading, I think. Here's a response by another Mark, Chadbourn this time. What follows is an excerpt from his blog entry, Fantasy Vs CF: Who Let The Dogs Out?

Surely there is no finer sport than ramming sharpened stakes into the cages of the SF community!

And yet, there *is* an SF community, with reasonably definable boundaries and consumption patterns. In its natural habitat, the SF reader will graze easily across hard SF, space opera, military SF, literary SF, wherever both science and fiction combine.

There is no fantasy community, and this, I think, is where your initial premise breaks down, Mark.

There is NO connective tissue between what has been branded as urban fantasy and secondary world fantasy, anecdotally little crossover in readership, and generally very little love lost between the two camps. Urban Fantasy has more in common with the romance genre (always a big seller) and the romantic fringes of 80s horror, and is a better fit under the Paranormal Romance banner. Yes, there are fantastic elements, but horror is a sub-genre of fantasy, but we don’t lump that in when we discuss this issue.

Strip out “urban fantasy” and there’s not such a great disparity in sales between fantasy and SF.

Update: Mark Charan Newton has a follow-up post.