Monthly Archives: March 2012

Don DeLillo’s ‘Underworld’ in Pie Chart Form

Gabe Habash -- March 30th, 2012

A bit of Friday fun: a pie chart!

Underworld is the story of Kate Beckinsale battling vampires and werewolves in black leather. If you ask me, Rise of the Lycans was sorely lacking

Whoops, sorry about that. Let’s start over.

Don DeLillo’s Underworld is 827 pages, with intersecting voices, the weight of half a century’s history, and baseball. It can be hard to keep track of. That’s why we’ve made this handy chart to keep close by as you wade through. Percentages are exact, and are the product of three months’ experiments in the PWxyz bunker, far below ground in a place no one’s ever heard of.

Happy weekend, everyone!

What Do The Pale King’s Four New Scenes Add?

Gabe Habash -- March 28th, 2012

On April 10th, The Pale King will come out in paperback with four previously unpublished scenes. The details: three scenes of three pages each, and one scene that runs 14 pages. The book states that they’re “four of the most complete pieces” that don’t fit with the rest of the novel, whether because of inconsistencies or because there just wasn’t a logical place to fit them in.

The question of whether these scenes are worth reading seems beside the point, because you probably already know if 23 pages of unfinished, vagrant David Foster Wallace writing is something you’ll be interested in reading. The scenes, like the rest of The Pale King, primarily function as texts to be examined and parsed. But Wallace fans (and this goes double for the Wallace fans who’ve already read through The Pale King) will enjoy contemplating their spot in the book’s grand design. And, yes, to answer your question: there are moments of wonderful Wallace prose.

A brief overview of the four scenes is provided below.

Scene #1: Reminiscent of “A Radically Condensed History of Postindustrial Life,” this scene offers a glimpse of seeing ourselves clearly, a moment of self-awareness and our true place in the world.

Best Line: “I have, every so often, come briefly awake. I awoke nearly in mid-stride once on 5 October 1975, my junior year at PCB.”

Scene #2: The antithesis of the previous scene, narrated by a thoughtless, self-described “thug” (“I don’t reflect much: reflection is paralyzing”).

Best Line: “You do not think. You do not stand there trying to reach an accommodation with the fact that you just got hit. You hit back. Or first. Between the impulse and the action are only spinal nerves and fast-twisted fasciae. It is not a life of the mind.”

Scene #3: The most immediately rewarding and complete of the four. A brief overview of Charles Lehrl’s childhood upbringing in Decatur, related by Lehrl to his friend Claude Sylvanshine. The friendship between Lehrl and Sylvanshine is also covered.

Best Line: “…Lehrl, his brother, and his tiny sister negotiating the ditches and fences and crossing Self-Storage Parkway to climb a Big Boy restaurant’s billboard’s support and peer through the hole that was the Big Boy icon’s (a big smiling boy in a fast food cup bearing a tray’s) left incisor to watch the rendering plant’s lone cow or swine, standing chained in the crabgrass…”

Scene #4: A scene set in the lunchroom revolving around a project in which employee Hovatter will take a year to watch every single moment of cable television broadcast in the month of May 1986. The bulk of the scene is roughly 10 pages of fastidious, hyper-attentive dialogue spoken by other characters trying to account for all of the specifics and potential pitfalls of the plan.

Best Line: “Singh would be falling asleep in the back seat and his parents’ conversation would get rushed and roary and disconnected in his ears and this was one way he knew he was starting to really fall asleep instead of lying in the back seat and listening to his parents talk as his father drove.”

Doing It for Themselves: Libraries and E-books

Peter Brantley -- March 26th, 2012

Lurking in the midst of the discussions of libraries trying to obtain ebooks from publishers is  a larger issue concerning not just control over ebook ownership, but the control over the delivery platform. If libraries rely on Overdrive, for example, to supply them ebook lending services, they’ve outsourced a critical piece of library infrastructure to an outside party. While this strategy is commonplace for electronic journals and databases, it’s still new enough in digital books that it draws speculation about alternative models.

That’s why a recent announcement of Califa – a library cooperative serving the great majority of the public library systems in the State of California – is intriguing. (HT to Gary Price’s InfoDocket). Califa has decided to create and host its own ebook lending platform, much like the Douglas County Library system and the Internet Archive before it, using its own Adobe Content Server to protect the ebook files with DRM. Califa envisions a pay-to-play model in which its member library systems can utilize its ebook hosting and lending platform. Continue reading

‘Hunger Games’ Takes in $20 Million at Midnight

Gabe Habash -- March 23rd, 2012

Credit: The Washington Post


The Hunger Games has already set a record, taking in $19.75 million at midnight showings, making it the highest midnight gross for a non-sequel, and the seventh-highest midnight opening ever. Estimates for the opening weekend are as high as $150 million, with most predictions placing it well over the $100 million dollar mark. Below is a list of the top midnight openings.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011): $43.5 million

Twilight: Eclipse (2010): $30 million

Twilight: Breaking Dawn: Part 1 (2011): $30 million

Twilight: New Moon (2009): $26.2 million

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010): $24 million

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009): $22.2 million

The Hunger Games (2012): $19.75 million

The Dark Knight (2008): $18.5 million

Attention YA Writers: One Story Launches ‘One Teen Story’

Gabe Habash -- March 21st, 2012

In celebration of its 10th anniversary, One Story is publishing One Teen Story, a new literary magazine for readers of young adult fiction. The magazine will publish nine issues–one for each month of the school year, beginning in September.

For writers out there, the magazine is choosing its first year’s worth of stories right now, so if you have a short story fit for the magazine, submit before May 31.

Additionally, if you’re a writer between the ages of 14 and 19, you’re eligible for the One Teen Story Contest, to be judged by Gayle Forman (author of If I Stay). The deadline for the contest is also May 31.

How To: Marketing Books to Libraries

Peter Brantley -- March 20th, 2012

Last weekend I was invited to pull together a library panel at this year’s Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) meeting, the IBPA University, in downtown San Francisco. I quickly enlisted two of my favorite local library friends, Sarah Houghton (aka, the Librarian in Black) of the San Rafael Public Library, and K.G. Schneider (aka, the Free Range Librarian), of Holy Names University’s Cushing Library.

Our panel was “Marketing to Libraries” and amazingly, we had a packed room of engaged and attentive publishers in the first session of the morning. After introductions, I led off with a 10 minute explanation of the issues arising from agency pricing, and then we really got cracking. Questions from the audience on how publishers can better engage with libraries started rolling in even before we could say our opening piece, and they never stopped until we ran out of time.

This is one of the most lively panels I have ever been attended, and for its focus on how publishers can most effectively sell to libraries, I think it is unique. In addition to agency pricing, we cover how library lending works, how to get a library director’s attention, how to get your books noticed, and more.

Despite the difficulties of listening to a recorded open discussion, it’s pretty fun — and sometimes funny (particularly as I attempt to speak clearly with a deficit in both sleep and coffee).

The audio is freely available for streaming, and can also be separately purchased. Thanks to Florrie Binford Kichler, the President of the IBPA, for wrangling me in, and to @TheLiB and @KGS for a morning as bright as the sunny San Francisco day.

What Does Today’s Internship World Look Like?

Natascha Morris -- March 19th, 2012

On Friday, I had the opportunity to attend Verso Books’ Left Forum Party and launch of the Counterblasts series and for Ross Perlin’s paperback edition of Intern Nation. As one of the intern’s at PW, I was super excited to meet Ross Perlin. With the newest intern lawsuit, I was excited to hear his views. We spent fifteen minutes talking about how interns are being used in today’s workplace. It used to be that interns only worked one or two internships, but now it is more common to see several internships on a resume. After talking with Mr. Perlin, I circulated around the party. I soon found myself talking with Kelly Burdick, the executive editor at Melville House. Since I had recently read a blog post from their blog regarding the Department of Justice planning to sue Apple and five of the big six, I was interested to hear his opinions on that subject, as well as Amazon. I learned more than I originally thought I knew just from talking to him for the few minutes.

Verso Books’ party was a success, and the attendees were friendly. Overall, this launch was a blast and I am grateful for the experience.

Libraries as Community Publishers: How to Turn the Tables

Peter Brantley -- March 16th, 2012

This week I gave a talk at the University Michigan for the Library and Press on the changes in publishing, with an analysis of the consequences for libraries and other organizations. And unexpectedly, it got me thinking about how public libraries could turn the tables on publishers who obviously feel that their digital books are too precious to share with libraries.

Between several discussions about scholarly publishing with the Library’s Head of Publishing Services, Shana Kimball (@shanakimball), and a lively conversation with Eli Neiburger (@ulotrichous) of the Ann Arbor District Library, I came away thinking about how sharply the barriers to publishing had fallen. Scholars, for example, are increasingly talking about using outlets such as Kindle Singles or The Byliner to publish essays and working papers that just a few years ago would have been short run paperbound manuscripts released by obscure research institutes; now they can reach a global audience.

And that, in turn, made me finally comprehend one big thing. A university is like a community; it draws upon itself to produce insights for a larger world. And as a university library or press is working to find new ways to express the ideas of its community to the broader world, so too can a public library for the community that it serves.

The New York Public Library, the San Francisco Public Library, and every public library system in between now has the capability of starting their own publishing imprint. Imagine “NYPL Press” extended into a series of digital books, stemming out of the rich literary community of New York City. Libraries excel at selection and curation, and to have the stamp of approval of one’s local library as your press could be the most valued signet of the publishing market.

Public libraries are born of their communities. Increasingly with digital tools, libraries are places where people can come together and learn how to write their own stories. There is no reason why libraries can’t be the place where those stories are published. New York Public already has experience in publishing, with a history of putting out print publications, largely derived from its own collections. Extending that into the creation of a digital publishing arm would hardly be insurmountable.

Even for smaller library systems, it would be possible to dedicate staff to support the growth of a publishing series. Using tools like Pressbooks and other easy to use authoring environments, it’s possible for libraries to get community works into the hands of retailers quite easily. A library could offer both general purpose publishing tools and services, as well as establish a house imprint for those materials it felt were worthy of its imprimatur.

Of course, the best thing about libraries becoming presses is that it could bring in needed revenue to support and innovate across all of their services. Network based publishing technologies provide us many opportunities, and one of those is for the institution that is most in touch with the community, in addition to being one of the most loved, to barn raise publishing houses in every city and town across the nation. Libraries are establishing all sorts of citizen platforms; a press could be just one more.

This is just one option among many possibilities available to public libraries. I am not naive about the need for a library publishing imprint to have at least a basic supporting staff at a time when budgets are tight. But it is at least within arms reach, and it provides opportunities for librarians to grow and engage in new services that have a stronger future than those dealing with analog culture. Having one foot in the community and one in the network, libraries can help define a new cultural commons.

[N.B. Since writing, I've learned of "The librarian's guide to micropublishing," by Walt Crawford, which should be helpful. However, the work is focused on library supported patron publications in print, and less on the concept of a library digital imprint, which is the path I find more attractive.]

An Absolutely Beautiful Video Game All Book Lovers Should Play

Gabe Habash -- March 15th, 2012

I realize I’m talking to a book crowd here, and books are, you know, good for your brain etc. But for the 1% of you reading this who own a Playstation 3, I’m going to recommend that you go home and download a beautiful little game called Journey.

Before telling you about why this is a game you have to experience, I’m just going to slip this little trailer in right here. There we are.

Things you should know about Journey:

1. There is no dialogue

2. Your only objective is to get to a distant mountain

3. It’s one of the most emotionally profound experiences you’ll have this year from a book, movie, song, or any other form of entertainment

With all the wordless spirituality of a Tarkovsky or Malick movie, Journey is just that: a journey across a lonely and beautiful landscape of deserts, snowy peaks, and deep caverns. If you want to know what it’s about, all there is to say is you play as a hooded figure (not even the gender can be deciphered) traveling toward a far-off mountain. Along the way, you encounter fairly basic puzzles (there are no enemies), and your only tool is your ability to glide to high places. (For a great review of the game, read this, because it becomes less about explaining the game and instead just reliving the reactions of the people playing it.)

But Journey isn’t about mechanics, it’s about taking your breath away, which it will do, many times, if you have any sort of halfway decent nervous system. Not since Shadow of the Colossus has a video game transcended its medium and plopped itself down in front of you as a capital-e Emotional Experience.

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March Madness for Books!

Gabe Habash -- March 13th, 2012

Over at Out of Print Clothing, the purveyor of chic book clothing, they’re holding Book Madness 2012, a bracket of 64 books set to face off, culminating in the champion being crowned April 3rd. Last year, over 41,000 votes were cast and To Kill a Mockingbird was declared king of the classics. This year, the field is focused on 21st-century fiction. You’ll find the entire list below. Which book(s) are you pulling for? Which books are the favorites (can any book prevent a Harry Potter/Hunger Games final?)? Voting has started, so click the link and cast your ballot!

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