Monday, July 09, 2012

MediaWeek (V5, N28): Amazon & Search, British Comic Books, Henning Mankell + More

From The Nation a look at the evolution of search in the bookstore (The Nation):
The glory soon faded, because the high print orders shrank when the returns came in. Only a few of the remaining superstores—alas for the Borders that once graced Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse Square, a monument of civilization—still offer recondite books, as opposed to their 100,000 usual suspects. But Amazon survived, and evolved, and so did our ways of working with it. From the start, it transformed one ancient and tedious task: finding and ordering books for college and university courses. For decades, university teachers had compiled their reading lists from the massive, closely printed volumes of Books in Print. These tools of the teacher’s trade were as infuriating as they were indispensable. Publishers exist—or so every university teacher secretly thinks—mostly to take books out of print immediately after you have cast them to play a central role in your next term’s courses. Printed catalogs necessarily came out with far too long a lead time to keep abreast of these decisions, publisher by publisher. You could check your syllabus as often as you liked against the most recent Books in Print and still find yourself hung out to dry when, two weeks before the term started, the university bookstore sent notice that your most important texts were out of print or out of stock. After the 1979 Thor Power decision, which prevented publishers from writing down the value of their inventories for tax purposes, cancellation notices carpeted the floors of faculty mailrooms every August and January like autumn leaves in Vallombrosa. Amazon, by contrast, provided information about a book’s availability as current as the publishers themselves could keep it. A new distribution system couldn’t solve the underlying problems: publishers still took good books out of print when they stopped selling and ratcheted up the price of serious paperbacks until students couldn’t afford them. Still, by the late 1990s, even if you never bought a single book from Amazon, you found yourself relying on the information that this public-spirited firm made freely available.
The above quote is especially interesting to me since as President of Bowker we had to contend with that "public-spirited firm" as our BooksinPrint business became (almost) collateral damage in the expansion of Amazon.  Competing with 'free' is never fun.

The New Statesman suggests there's a missed opportunity for British comic book publishers (NS):
While it's not completely crazy to argue that UK box-offices show a clear appetite for superheroes that domestic properties could capitalise on, it does make a lot of assumptions that aren't correct. Leaving aside the fact that cinematic popularity rarely translates into periodical sales, even in America, then by Abbott's logic there's a market for domestically-produced transforming robot toys going completely untapped over here as well. But what could we do to make British Transformers compete with the real Transformers, except ghettoise them by making them Brit-specific? British superheroes suffer exactly that problem – their Britishness becomes the defining characteristic, crippling their appeal from the start.
 A Henning Mankell interview from The Telegraph:
Mankell has nothing but praise for Branagh, who asked him for permission to play therole when they met at a Swedish film festival. He is pleased about his friend’s knighthood because it acknowledges Branagh’s place in the pantheon of the great British actors he admires. He ranks Branagh with Sir Alec Guinness for ability to convey emotion and thought while “listening into the silence”.
On top of his already prodigious output, Mankell has written a miniseries for Swedish television about his late father-in-law, Ingmar Bergman. The series, which will be filmed later this year, is not a pious memorial. Although Mankell created Wallander before he married Bergman’s daughter Eva, he sees similar flaws in the two men. “They both refuse to compromise over their work and they both let their families pay the price.”
I wonder how his own family views his adventures. He has been held at gunpoint in Africa and in 2010 was briefly reported dead after Israeli forces stormed a Gaza-bound aid boat he was on. “Maybe I wouldn’t have gone if I’d had small children. But my children are grown up. No, I don’t think I have treated my family as badly as Wallander does.”
You are going to have to go a long way to find a literature related story as inane as this one (Departures):
When searching for a summer read—or a smart approach to dressing this season—look no further than the Great American Novel for inspiration.
From my twitter feed this week:

For Journalists mostly from CJR Copywrong, How well do you know fair use.

Fantastic photos of street life in London in 1876:

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