They are some of the most famous lines of poetry in the English language: ‘Shall I compare thee to an iPhone 4? / Thou art more lovely and less breakable.’ Yes, as that startlingly prophetic piece of poesy makes abundantly clear (I will accept my prize either as a cheque or in coupon form, Costa), this week brings word via The Bookseller that Faber is preparing to release a complete digital edition of Shakespeare’s sonnets.
There’s been a lot of bad shit going on in publishing of late. Stuff that genuinely makes me worried, and I think rightfully so, about the future of the industry. But hell, if the Frankfurt Book Fair is the Glastonbury of the publishing industry, then surely London Book Fair is Reading, where a bunch of publishing people get together and share some ideas – though not app sales figures – and rock out to some cool conference sessions, and, from what I understand, share the love for authors and books. Which is why I think it’s the perfect time to take some advice from The Singing Detective (yes, that’s a thing) and accentuate the positives.
There are two ways we can deal with the news that two of the ‘Big Six’ US publishers have reportedly refused to sign new contracts with Amazon, with Amazon consequently pulling promotional support for their titles. We can tell you straight up, like we just did, and you can go on about your day. Or, we can use it as a prime opportunity to expand the continuing adventures of Amazon, international hitman and underworld kingpin, as detailed in previous posts on the subject. And which do you think sounds more fun? Exactly.
In a seasonally appropriate flare-up of tensions (happy Pesach, fellow goys!), Nobel laureate Günter Grass has been declared unwelcome in Israel following the publication last week in German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung of his poem “Was gesagt werden muss” (translated into English as “What Must Be Said”), which criticises the country’s behaviour towards Iran. How seriously is Israel taking this? Even Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has offered comment upon it, that’s how seriously.
So: Harry Potter, eh? We’re all pretty much done with that, right? I mean, seven of the bestselling books of the last 20 years, the highest grossing film series of all time, terrifying fans on Twitter… it’s all due a tailing off any time now, surely. There’s only so many people left in the world who haven’t read it, after all, and we can only produce new people at a rate of seven per second.
It’s not really any kind of insult to suggest that Grand Central Publishing – the subsidiary of Hachette formerly known as Warner Books – has an eye for a sellable hook. A quick look at their front page finds such self-explanatory titles as Seth Grahame-Smith’s Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter , such sure thing authors as Nicholas Sparks and David Baldacci and such attention-grabbing celeb coups as Shaquille O’Neal and Lady Gaga. They’re crowdpleasers, is the point, unashamed and very good at it to boot, which is why it’s so confounding to hear that they’ve bought the rights to the debut novel by revered screenwriter Charlie Kaufman.
I’m not going to lie – I’ve always thought audio books were lame as hell. The disappointing nephew of the hardback; the ugly duckling of the literary landscape. They bring back memories of long car rides to boring towns when my mum would put on a tape of some Victorian period drama read by an artist’s rendering of Jane Austen. Invariably I would hear half of it and then miss some and then hear some more of it and the leaps in narrative would piss me off and the English accent would clash with the Australian landscape, and the cases for the tapes were ugly and would get under my feet – a car accident waiting to happen.
Michael Grant is a bestselling author of young adult fiction. His Gone series of novels has sold over 150,000 copies in the UK alone. BZRK, his latest novel, has just been released as a hugely ambitious multi-platform behemoth, comprising print, apps, online games and more. We sent him some questions via e-mail about his thoughts on this epic undertaking, and he was good enough to answer them via audio file.