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Archives: June 2006

It’s LibraryThing; Would You Understand?

WSJ reporter Aaron Rutkoff discovers, a website that’s like filesharing for your book collection…except that you can’t really share the actual books online, just the knowledge that you own them. So in that sense it’s kinda like a bibliophile’s MySpace…except that you can get algorithmically-derived reading recommendations based on your holdings, especially when you use category tagging to develop an increasingly granular description of your books’ subject matter.

Another way the site isn’t like MySpace: “The object,” Rutkoff observes, “is always to find more books, not to kindle online relationships or cliques.” Creator Tim Spalding has parlayed the site into an investment from, which counts among its initial plans an intense round of data mining which should, says one exec, speed along the transformation of bookselling into “a demand-driven business.”

More deaths for Potter VII

Truthfully, that J.K. Rowling‘s “reveal” of more deaths in the final installment of the Harry Potter series (as reported by Reuters) is more indicative of a slow news day than anything else, but she does at least get into why writers have an urge to kill their darlings – especially beloved characters.

“I’ve never been tempted to kill him [Harry] off before the end of book seven, because I always planned seven books and that’s where I want to go,” Rowling said. “I can completely understand, however, the mentality of an author who thinks, ‘Well, I’m going to kill them off because that means there can be no non-author-written sequels … so it will end with me, and after I’m dead and gone they won’t be able to bring back the character.”

But looking for cluse in that answer? Don’t bother. It’s not worth it.

WHSmith deregulates

Reuters reports that WH Smith confirmed plans to Tuesday to split in two, saying existing shareholders would receive one share in a separately listed retail business and another in a news distribution business. The new name? The easy-to-remember WH Smith, natch!

Kate Swann and Alan Stewart would be chief executive and finance director respectively of the new retail business, while Mark Cashmore and Alan Humphrey will be chief executive and finance director respectively of the new Smiths News distribution business.

Univ Presses Face the Future in New Orleans

It took me a while to work through the GalleyCat inbox to get to a recommendation for Jennifer Howard’s dispatch from the Association of American University Presses conference for the Chronicle of Higher Education, but I’m glad I did. Howard reports on how attendees dealt with the theme of “Transformational Publishing: Lessons, Tools, and Strategies for Scholarly Publishing in the 21st Century,” which inspired a mindset one summed up gloomily: “The lessons I seem to be taking from all of this is that we’re screwed. But the old model wasn’t working anyway.” But not all the panels engaged in handwringing and/or wide-eyed optimism; it sounds like quite a few speakers had some pragmatic experience to bring to the table.

Slesinger to keep Winnie the Pooh rights

The US Supreme Court has handed down a decision about who has the right to license A.A. Milne’s beloved characters, which have become a cash cow for Disney, among others. Milne’s granddaughter, together with Disney, wanted to strip rights to the popular children’s books from the estate of long-time Pooh licensee Stephen Slesinger, but they have failed to do so, as the new ruling indicates.

The Supreme Court declined to hear the case and let stand decisions by two lower courts that Clare Milne could not void a 1983 agreement renewing the Slesingers’ licence. In a statement, the Slesingers said they were “gratified” by the court’s decision, which “has effectively ended Disney’s cynical attempt to do a legal end-run around its legal and financial obligations to the Slesinger family.”

A Disney spokeswoman declined comment on the litigation.

Nebraska Joins the UP Blog Lineup

The University of Nebraska Press has started a blog, with staff members and other grad students posting short items and essays about Nebraska’s new releases and the historical/cultural issues they address. Actually, although they’re just sending out the announcement now, it looks like the press has been planning its entry into the blogosphere since last fall, with the earliest entries dating back to last October.

Literati, Inspired by Vodka, Try Writing Sci-Fi

mblogo.jpgJust before shutting down shop last Friday afternoon, I spotted a story on our sister blog, FishbowlNY, about a partnership between and the distributors of Svedka in which the vodka will become what the NYT describes as “inspiration for a series of articles” that will appear on the sex-culture-news website and then be collected into a book. Writers like Jay McInerney, Rick Moody, Walter Kirn and Will Self will be producing fictional essays imagining the world of 2033. Among the current offerings, Joel Stein’s take on celebrity-driven economics won’t be causing veteran cyberpunks to lose any sleep, while Darcy Crosper’s forecast for widespread swinging crams an awful lot of sexual attitudes into two pages. As to what readers can expect later on: Kirn’s apparently going to put a lesbian in the White House, McInerney may well be recycling the sexy parts of Michael Crichton’s Disclosure with a high-tech sheen.

I know we’ve got some real science-fiction writers/editors/agents sprinkled among the GalleyCat readership: What do you think of these stories?

NYTBR Still Fixated on Updike, Lesbians

Timothy Leary may be gracing the cover of yesterday’s NYTBR, but the Review’s undying support of John Updike‘s legacy continues inside. One month after wedging him into the all-star lineup of late-20th century American fiction, one week after giving his latest novel a front-page review, the Review dips back into the well for a tribute to his bestsellerdom and the text of his BookExpo America lecture—which, in case you were wondering, the Times already covered in a June 5 article on digital publishing and its May 31 interview with Updike himself. Of course, just about anybody who was interested in Updike’s speech could have downloaded it from the BEA podcast series nearly a month ago, but if the Review wants to believe that publishing a month-old speech is newsworthy, whatevs. (In all fairness, though, I should point out that the actual reviews make for one of the most topically relevant issues—with books about energy policy, terrorists online, and neocon prime mover Leo Strauss, among other subjects—I can recall in ages.)

While I was looking through last week’s issue to check up on its Updike content, by the way, I noticed Sean Wilsey’s review of Fun Home, the “graphic novel”-style memoir from cartoonist Alison Bechdel, which introduces the author to readers this way: “She’s a lesbian, and sexuality looms large in her memoir.” I felt a twinge of deja vu when I read that, and I quickly figured out why: Back in January, David Kamp reviewed Norah Vincent and spread the news: “Yes, ladies and gents, the author is a self-proclaimed ‘dyke.’” If this is “news about the culture,” well…I knew they called the Times the Gray Lady, but I didn’t realize she was Queen Victoria! (ba-dum-dum! I’ll be here all week!)

Another SF Store Closes—And That’s OK

Paul Collins provides a sad update to last week’s item on Bay Area bookstore closings: Acorn Books is the latest San Francisco store to close down. An interview with owner Joel Chapman has a couple of anecdotes, including this wacky tale: “One day this huge stretch limo pulled up outside and a young dude came in with a secretary in a three-piece suit. They bought a large number of books and paid in cash—I’m sure it was the Mafia.”

He may be sure, but I’m so sure that’s what it was. As for why he’s closing up shop, the website describes it as simple retirement, with no mention of economic downturns, superchains, or online retailers.

Tuesday Night Book Club, RIP

jennifer-weiner.jpgTwo episodes into its scheduled eight-week run, CBS has shut down the Tuesday Night Book Club. So we contacted Jennifer Weiner (right), the author of the club’s first selection, Good in Bed, to see how she felt about being one of only two writers who got their book mentioned on air. “I am working my way through the five stages of grief,” she told us:

  • Denial: “But…but it just started! Jesus, even Chevy Chase lasted longer than this!”

  • Anger: “How can CBS deny me the chance to watch the women parse meaning and metaphor in Meg Wolitzer’s The Wife?”
  • Bargaining: “Okay. Stay calm. At least it meant that Wal-Mart finally got over its objections to the title and agreed to carry Good in Bed.”
  • Depression: “I’m never going to find out whether that one lady with the big implants stayed with her husband, or whether that other lady with the big implants got lucky with the soccer coach. Life is suddenly leeched of purpose and beauty. I don’t know if I can go on.”
  • Acceptance: “Hey, the New York Times says publishers are sending authors to casinos! I like casinos! They’re jingly!”