Roused from its afternoon slumber in a fantasia of the southern USA from the days when the air smelled of magnolias and fair use was as alien a concept as civil rights, the estate of William Faulkner has brought a lawsuit against Sony Pictures Classics for what it claims is a copyright infringing line of dialogue in Woody Allen’s Sony-released 2011 film Midnight In Paris.
Last year at Publishing Now, we were intrigued by Anna Lewis and Oliver Brooks, and their plans to launch Valobox, a platform to allow bite-sized purchasing from books. A year later and they have just announced that they are working with O’Reilly in the US and Profile, Guardian Books, Constable & Robinson and SnowBooks in the UK. Exciting times for Valobox. Anna Lewis explains their model and how it works.
Last week I was really happy to announce the official launch of ValoBox.
Like a ‘YouTube for books’, with an iTunes purchase model ValoBox makes books available on demand through your web browser, and lets you buy individual chapters or even pages.
“The two companies have not reached agreement and there is no certainty that the discussions will lead to a transaction.” I think it’s safe to say it is far too early for us to be predicting what colour hair children of a union between Penguin and Random House would lead to, given they themselves haven’t committed to anything more than a date with one another, but when has the lack of a concrete announcement of something stopped media speculation in the past? Still, I feel I’d be remiss to ignore it, given the second most exciting publishing news last week was the appearance of Kindle in bookshops. [Author note: it is not too early. They have finalised the details of the merge this morning, but I'm leaving this paragraph in. News moves fast.]
Parents, lock up your kids: The Guardian brings news of the latest apparent threat to their wellbeing, and this one hasn’t been dead and buried in a golden coffin for nearly a year. Stopping just short of pleading for someone to think of the children, Canadian publisher Pamela McColl has drawn flak from anti-censorship groups for her new edition of Clement Moore’s venerable yule log in rhyming couplets A Visit From St Nicholas (more commonly known as “T’was The Night Before Christmas”), in which two lines referring to dear old Sandy Claws puffing on a pipe have been removed, along with an illustration of same.
Following on the heels of some ostensibly more low-key prize announcements, Britian’s oldest literary award has revealed the shortlist for its ‘best of the best’ award. The James Tait Black Memorial Prize, awarded annually by the University of Edinburgh to the year’s best in the fields of fiction and biography, will celebrate 250 years of the study of literature at the seat of learning by naming the greatest book to have won the prize since its inception in 1919, in a manner similar to the ‘Best of the Booker’ award only with 100% less Salman Rushdie victory guaranteed, so really, everyone’s a winner.
Seemingly confirming that the tyrannical hold of Tim Burton over Johnny Depp works on some kind of Cabinet of Dr. Caligari close-proximity hypnosis basis (Burton’s Frankenweenie, currently in cinemas, is his first film since 2003’s Big Fish not to feature Depp in some capacity), the erstwhile Edward Scissorhands has revealed he is using the time away from his sinister overlord to launch his own publishing imprint with HarperCollins US. Talks are presumably underway on just how much money it would take to 1) retrieve the ashes of Hunter S. Thompson from the atmosphere 2) reconstitute them into some corporeal form that could type, or at least dictate, and 3) lock said ash being into a five book deal.
Yeah, so Mo Yan won the Nobel, and it’s a big deal because he’s the first Chinese citizen to be made a laureate, and it’s all very exciting, but another, usually far more low-key prize has also seen more than its share of thrills, spills and assorted other rhymes over the past few days: Ewan Morrison’s Tales From The Mall took this year’s Guardian-arranged, self-explanatory Not The Booker Prize but, as is inevitable with the ever-provocative author, took it with no small dose of controversy.
(N.B.: in the interests of full disclosure, I am acquainted with several people involved in the publication of the book, and so am going to try to keep this account as straightforward and impartial as I can, but feel free to argue the ins and outs in the comments. Please, do read the source articles linked to above and below for a full picture of exactly what has transpired over the past couple of days.)
Here’s how to alienate a large portion of possible content sources in one go: compare your product to their greatest fear. Perhaps Oyster didn’t call themselves the ‘Spotify for books’ in their pitch to publishers – I wasn’t at Frankfurt – but it’s certainly how they’ve been branded in the aftermath. And it doesn’t, as far as I can see, do them any favours.
As the leaves fall from the trees, autumn descends and the turn of the seasons rolls relentlessly onward, it’s nice to be reminded that some things are, indeed, constant and unchanging, such as the neverending news cycle about the forthcoming film adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey, which still hasn’t been made even though it feels like we’ve been writing about it since some time before the Boer War.
In a coup that bests the makers of any films based on his work to date, Twickenham based indie Honest Publishing have somehow managed to coerce wild man of Northampton, author of Watchmen, V For Vendetta and Lost Girls, and surprisingly non-member of Grinderman Alan Moore into promotional duties for their latest release.
The first Christmas trees are starting to spring horridly in corners of supermarkets everywhere; turkeys all over the world are being fattened for the kill; pubs are instructing everyone to book their office parties NOW to avoid disappointment; there’s a chill in the air and it’s raining in earnest; and mince pies have gone on sale. Yes, Christmas approaches, and with this festive season so, too, to we begin to see the race for top biography (celeb memoir) in the publishing charts. Start your engines…
If you have yet to reclaim your jaw from its position on the floor after last week’s totally unhyped revelation that JK Rowling had a new book coming out, maybe don’t bother making the effort for now – at least, not until you’ve heard that The Casual Vacancy racked up the highest first week UK sales of any book published since Dan Brown’s 2009 effort The Lost Symbol (whose 550,946 copies sold in its first week I’m sure are all still with their original owners).