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On-screen proofing comes of age

This is a guest post from John Pettigrew, CEO of FutureProofs.

At Futureproofs we’ve spent the past year creating a solution to a problem that most editors and proofreaders recognise. Handling book proofs on paper works very nicely, but it’s a bit slow and cumbersome, it’s often hard to read, and it’s surprisingly expensive. Many companies have moved to PDF proofing to save money, but the available tools are laughably poorly designed for this job and make the process take longer. The reason for this, of course, is that they weren’t designed for this job at all but just for basic annotation!

So, at the Frankfurt Book Fair on 8 October, we’re launching Futureproofs. This is our solution to these problems, designed by editors for editors. We hope that it will help publishing teams create quality books more cheaply and quickly. A browser-based platform, it addresses the problems I mentioned above by providing three key advantages over the current options.

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Amazon brings Kindle Unlimited to UK

In what’s turning out to be quite the week for internet-based publishing innovations, Amazon has brought its Kindle Unlimited service to British shores. The subscription service, billed as a literary equivalent to Netflix and Spotify, allows users unlimited access (as the name implies) to over 650,000 Kindle books and an extensive library of Audible audiobooks for £7.99 a month (at current exchange rates nearly £2 more, incidentally, than the $9.99 a month charged by the American service, which launched earlier this summer). Amazon is offering a free 30 day trial of the service to all those who sign up.

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Advance Editions puts final draft in readers’ hands

This week sees the launch of Advance Editions, a platform for crowdsourced editing allowing readers early access to soon-to-be-published books in the hope that they’ll spot any previously missed errors – factual, linguistic or otherwise – or be able to provide any other suggestions on how to improve. The idea is that, having already been professionally edited, books will be uploaded to the site for three months ahead of their official release, with the site’s users able to download either the first half for free or the complete book for a 60% discount on the RRP. Readers can then suggest changes through the site for the authors to make prior to final publication.

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Man Booker Prize reveals 2014 shortlist

Having unveiled its 13-strong longlist in July, the Man Booker Prize today revealed the six books that survived the cut and made this year’s shortlist for one of the literary world’s most prestigious awards. They are: Joshua Ferris’ To Rise Again at a Decent Hour, Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North, Karen Joy Fowler’s We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, Howard Jacobson’s J, Neel Mukherjee’s The Lives of Others and Ali Smith’s How to be Both. This is the first year of the prize in which the Americans Ferris and Fowler have been eligible to be nominated, being the first in which the prize has opened up its field of potential nominees to any book written in English and published in the UK.

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Get ready for Maya Angelou’s hip-hop album

Continuing in the grand tradition of posthumous work by 2Pac, Notorious B.I.G., Big Pun, Big L and Pimp C, the late author and poet Maya Angelou – who died in May of this year aged 86 – is set to release a hip-hop album in November. Caged Bird Songs – named for Angelou’s first volume of memoir, 1969’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – sees thirteen recordings of Angelou reading her work laid over beats produced by Shawn Rivera and RoccStarr, and was undertaken with Angelou’s blessing, mixing previously existing audio with vocals recorded shortly before her death.

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Robin Williams biography forthcoming

Little over a fortnight following Robin Williams’ death at the age of 63, author and journalist Dave Itzkoff has revealed plans to write a biography of the late comedian. Itzkoff – by day a culture reporter for the New York Times – is not quite the crass opportunist that such timing might suggest, haven written several features on Williams for the Times in the past, including a celebrated 2009 profile written in the months following Williams’ aortic valve replacement surgery, which itself followed a divorce and time spent in rehab for alcoholism.

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HarperVoyager publishing 15 novels discovered via open submission

As revealed earlier in the month, later this week HarperCollins launches Killer Reads – its new digital crime imprint – with a week of open submission. Any aspiring authors who need one final nudge to submit their manuscripts may be heartened by the news that this week also brings details of the result of an earlier call for submissions from the publisher: HarperCollins’ sci-fi and horror imprint Harper Voyager accepted unagented submissions for a fortnight in October 2012 – the first time it had done so in nearly a decade – and has now announced plans to publish 15 novels discovered as part of that initiative.

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Barnes & Noble teams with Samsung for new Nook tablet

Earlier in the summer Barnes & Noble announced that its oft-troubled Nook division was to partner with Samsung to release a line of tablets carrying Nook software. Now, the first fruit of that partnership has seen release in the form of the Galaxy Tab 4 Nook, a rebranded version of one of Samsung’s entry-level tablets, the Galaxy Tab 4. Currently only available in the USA, it’s priced at $179 with a seven inch, 1280 x 800 display, and is set apart from the previous model by the $200 worth of Nook-compatible books, magazines and TV shows with which it is pre-loaded. It is the first new Nook tablet since Barnes & Noble revealed last year that it would cease exclusive production of new tablets and instead move to a partnership model.

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2014 Hugo Awards presented to Ann Leckie, Tor.com

This year’s Hugo Awards – the annual prizes recognising achievement in science fiction and fantasy – were presented last night at Loncon 3, the 72nd World Science Fiction Convention in London’s ExCel, with a majority of the categories focusing on the genres’ literary representation. The ceremony’s headline award – Best Novel – went to Ann Leckie for her debut, Ancillary Justice, the first book in a planned space opera trilogy published by Orbit.

It was a big night for Tor.com, the online sci-fi magazine and imprint of Tor Books, which laid claim to three winners: Charles Stross’ “Equoid”, Mary Robinette Kowal’s “The Lady Astronaut of Mars” and John Chu’s “The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere” were named respectively Best Novella, Best Novelette and Best Short Story.

Doing almost as well was Aidan Moher’s sci-fi and fantasy blog A Dribble of Ink, which took two awards: Best Fanzine and Best Related Work for Kameron Hurley’s essay “We Have Always Fought: Challenging the Women, Cattle and Slaves Narrative”. Hurley also won Best Fan Writer.

Best Graphic Story went to Randall Munro for “Time”, a particularly innovative instalment of his long-running webcomic xkcd. Ellen Datlow and Ginjer Buchanan were named Best Editor for, respectively, short-form and long-form work. Lightspeed Magazine won Best Semiprozine.

Away from literary matters, Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity took Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form, whilst the Short Form prize in the same category went to the Game of Thrones episode “The Rains of Castamere”. Julie Dillon was named Best Professional Artist, Sarah Webb Best Fan Artist and Best Fancast was presented to Patrick Hester’s Sf Signal Podcast.

The ceremony also saw the presentation of a non-Hugo award – the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, sponsored by Dell Magazines and given to the best new professional science fiction or fantasy writer of 2012 or 2013 – to Sofia Samatar, author of A Stranger in Olondria.

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Amazon goes IRL with campus pick-up points

Of all the threats Amazon has posed to brick and mortar bookshops to date, real-world competition – that is, a branch of Amazon that book buyers can actually walk into – has been fairly low on the radar. Whilst an Amazon shop that allows customers to browse its lovingly-curated shelves physically still seems improbable, there is nevertheless bound to be a lot of nervous collar tugging in bookshops around the world at the news that the übercorporation is manifesting itself in an offline form on the campus of Indiana’s Purdue University as of next year.

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