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Blockbuster, HMV, and the Death of the High Street

Last week, I heard someone say they were surprised by the news that Blockbuster had gone into administration – surprised, because they didn’t know Blockbuster was still going. Very tongue-in-cheek, but then what isn’t funny about the impending closure of a major high street retailer, the loss of thousands of jobs, and a further move to consolidate online retailing in the hands of a select few business megaliths?

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McDonald’s continues fight against mind obesity with free books

Almost exactly a year ago – on the equivalent Tuesday in 2012, in fact – we ran a piece about how McDonald’s was embarking upon a quest to solve the problem of, to coin a phrase, childhood mind obesity, by giving away copies of Michael Morpurgo’s Mudpuddle Farm series free with every Happy Meal for four weeks. Despite the typical reservations about anything to do with McDonald’s and its business practices, we sounded a note of cautious optimism about the scheme, saying: ‘this is one case where the old author’s rubric of  ‘if I can just reach one kid…’ could actually apply to kids who don’t find themselves in libraries or bookshops on anything like a regular basis.’ We then suggested that ‘[i]f McDonald’s really, truly, sincerely wants to make a lasting difference, it’ll have to do this kind of thing for longer than the four weeks it’s giving away Morpurgo novels.’

So I guess we can take the news that McDonald’s is, indeed, doing this kind of thing for longer than four weeks by committing to give away 15 million books with its Happy Meals over the next two years as a definitive sign that BookMachine has the ear of the fast food chain’s high heid yins.

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6 questions for Adrian Hon of Six to Start [INTERVIEW]

Adrian HonAdrian Hon is the Founder and Chief Creative at Six to Start, an award-winning online games company. Working with the likes of Penguin Books, Disney and the BBC, their transmedia experiences have engaged millions of people in new ways. Adrian originally trained as a neuroscientist at Cambridge and Oxford and also writes for The Telegraph about technology. So, basically, he really knows his stuff! BookMachine has peered into Adrian’s world of augmented reality and this is what we found…

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New Thomas Pynchon book exists, and that’s it for now

Yeah, so the apocalypse didn’t happen after all and we’re back for 2013, and hello again, and [SEASONAL PLEASANTRY NOT FOUND]. In even more Earth-shaking news than the Mayans anticipated, however, the end of 2012 has brought with it word of an occurrence almost as rare as a planet-destroying cataclysm: A new novel from Thomas Pynchon, the iconic, near-mythic American author whose output over the past fifty years has, until now, averaged slightly fewer than one and a half novels per decade, publishing seven in total since 1963. (If you’re keeping track, that means that he’s averaged more guest appearances on The Simpsons over the past decade than he has published novels per decade over his entire career.)

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Dan Brown announces latest results of book-writing algorithm

In news that has Oxfam shops the country over bracing themselves for impact, Doubleday has revealed details of the sixth novel by Dan Brown. Due for publication on May 14, Brown’s Inferno sees the return of his Angels & Demons, The Da Vinci Code and The Lost Symbol protagonist, symbologist and fan of sensible yet casual trousers Robert Langdon. This time, Langdon will apparently be ‘drawn into a harrowing world centered on one of history’s most enduring and mysterious literary masterpieces’, namely Deception Point Dante’s Inferno. Also, there will probably be Illuminati, Freemasons and/or Opus Dei. What a twist!

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Is Re-Publishing a Self-Published Book a Good Idea?

In the last two years, a lot of publishers have been buying into self-published ebook successes in a big way. There’s the Amanda Hocking trilogy, John Locke (the first man to really “crack” the KDP system and sell one million kindle ebooks), 50 Shades of Grey, and, quite recently, Wool by Hugh Cowey to name a few of the main deals. Some of these have earned seven-figure advances, something debut authors would only dream of. But are they worth it?

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BookMachine needs you! TOC Conference Startup Showcase semi-finals [ANNOUNCEMENT]

TOCCON2013We’re excited to announce that, the new people discovery site we’ve been working on for the past year, has made it to the semi-finals of the Startup Showcase at O’Reilly’s Tools of Change for Publishing Conference.

What does that mean? Well, if we get through this round, the site will be presented to leading lights of the US publishing industry in New York. We hope will become a great visual tool that helps all you talented publishing-types out there to find each other online and collaborate on new projects, and this is a fantastic opportunity to spread the word.

If you’d like to help us get to the final, please head over to the TOC site and rate us, we’d really appreciate it. Voting closes tomorrow (Friday) so there’s not much time left!


Vote here


The site was backed with seed funding from the British Council, and you can check out the story behind over on their site.

We’re also happy to see fellow UK startup Valobox reach the semis: they were featured at our Publishing Now event with City University back in 2011, and these guys are definitely worthy of a vote too. is currently in private beta, but if you’re signed up to our upcoming Brighton, NYC or Unplugged events, your invite will be on it’s way to you very soon. We’re looking forward to your feedback.

Here’s that voting link again, thanks folks!

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Cargo announces initial plans for third year of Margins fest

Dig out your Ladz On Tour t-shirts: Beloved Glasgow indie Cargo Publishing has announced a jaunt up north for the third year of its Margins book and music festival, expanding its cavalcade of novelists, poets, indie and folk musicians, and other assorted drunks to encompass, for the first time, Margins Aberdeen. The festival’s inaugural northern leg will see it take over Woodend Barn Arts Centre in the rural town of Banchory – around a half hour drive from Aberdeen city centre – from 31 May to 2 June.

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A Compendium of Linguistic Failure: Dictionaries Losing It

One of the most horrific things I heard at university was linguistics tutor spouting the idea that we need to embrace changes to our language as though it is an evolution. We should see words like ‘LOL’ (not a word) or ‘LMFAO’ (not a word)  not as hideous abortions of taste, but as a reflection of cultural change as we begin to broaden our vocabulary to describe our experience. In theory, this sounds all very nice  – we’re getting more inventive with objects, so perhaps we should be so with words – but then you hit a word like ‘pwn’, which is based upon a spelling error, and it all becomes a little too dirty and a little too real. And there is nothing  in any linguistic theory book that can excuse the title of the Black Eyed Peas song ‘I Gotta Feeling‘.

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