Readersforum's Blog

January 21, 2012

Sutherland to chair Fiction Uncovered panel

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Bookblurb @ 7:02 am

Photo credit: Sarah Lee

By Benedicte Page

John Sutherland, a former judge and chair of the Man Booker prize, is to chair the judging panel to choose books for this year’s Fiction Uncovered promotion.

Sutherland, who is professor of modern English literature at University College London, will join the Independent on Sunday‘s literary editor Katy Guest; Foyles Group head of buying Jasper Sutcliffe; and writer Matt Thorne.

Eight titles will be chosen for Fiction Uncovered, a promotion which supports writers who deserve recognition but have yet to receive a major literary prize or big media attention.

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December 13, 2011

Book swaps at London tube and train stations ‘a good idea’, says Johnson

Book sharing could be a common sight at tube and train stations across London next year. Photograph: Sarah Lee for the Guardian

London mayor agrees to look into creating a network for sharing books at capital’s stations in time for 2012 Olympics.

By Hélène Mulholland

Book swaps and book shares could be set up at tube and train stations across London in time for the 2012 Olympic Games.

Boris Johnson, the London mayor, agreed to look into the possibility of establishing a network of book swaps in the capital’s 700 tube and train stations, in response to an idea put forward by Chris Gilson, a political researcher at the London School of Economics, who has already set up a pilot scheme for communal book sharing in his local station, West Ealing.

Johnson, chair of Transport for London, welcomed the suggestion presented to him at a London policy conference, though he warned that it might be difficult to get Tfl on board.

But he said he would be “thrilled” to try and develop the idea in time for the ambitious deadline of the Games next summer.

“I think it’s a very good idea and would say something powerful about the kind of city we are and our commitment to literacy, which obviously we are trying to demonstrate in lots of ways particularly with young people,” said Johnson. more

October 5, 2011

The future of reading: iPad, Kindle … and hardback

The hardback novel: surprisingly resilient. Photograph: Sarah Lee for the Guardian

It’s not a surprise that ebooks are booming, nor that mass-market paperbacks are suffering. What’s fascinating is how well hardback books are still selling.

By Peter Preston

Can it be good news or bad news that the six Booker prize contenders have already sold a record 37,500 copies, some 127% more than 2010’s chosen sextet managed last year? Bad news, sniff some, because high-minded quality ought to come first. Good news, say bookstore owners, beaming all the way to the bank and getting ready for a Jamie Oliver Christmas bonanza. But maybe the crispest conclusion is simply that this is fascinating news. Because the last time I looked, traditional books, involving words printed on paper, were supposed to be dying as the tornado of digital destruction swept on.

Monstrous gloom is still easy to find, sure enough. Take the latest book sales revenue statistics – for June – from the Association of American Publishers. They show adult paperback cash sliding by an eye-watering 63.8% in 12 months, nearly $85m gone missing. And hardcover sales are down 25.4%, too, while ebooks, via Kindle, iPad and Nook, boom away, up 167% for the month, a $50m rise.

Yet even America, in the teeth of the economic storm, can find some comfort in the relative resilience of many hardback categories, as well as books for children. And while the tablet surge may not quite be covering the losses on printed pages yet, it’s still buoyant enough to allow cannier differential pricing. Factor in the happy thought that ebooks don’t sit around in warehouses waiting for pulping, that demand and supply are cost-effectively matched, and there are some new reasons for a cautious grin.

And Britain? Here, too, the Kindle is surging forward: sales up 20% last year, and this year says it is selling 242 ebooks for every 100 hardcovers. Enter last week, on the US horizon, the new all-singing and dancing Kindle Fire plus two updated ebook versions, priced ever more competitively. The worldwide rate of change is fast, fast, fast.

Yet observe that, according to the Publishers Association, UK book sales were only 7.5% down for the first three months of 2011, and only 4.9% down in revenue terms. Moreover (a consistent, significant theme) hardbacks aren’t suffering nearly as much as paperbacks.

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September 1, 2011

Waterstone’s ends 3-for-2 book offers

Filed under: Retail — Tags: , , , , , — Bookblurb @ 9:13 am

3-for-2 no more ... Waterstone's longstanding offer has been withdrawn. Photograph: Sarah Lee for the Guardian

High-street chain abandons influential sales promotion after a decade.

By Alison Flood

Waterstone’s, Britain’s biggest bookseller, is ending its long running three-for-two promotion, which has been a key plank in the company’s marketing effort for more than a decade.

The decision follows the sale of the chain to Russian billionaire Alexander Mamut, and the appointment of independent bookseller James Daunt as managing director in June.

Daunt, owner of the seven-store chain Daunt Books, had previously said the three-for-two deal “goes completely against the grain of how I like buying books”, telling the Bookseller magazine in May – before his new role at Waterstone’s was announced – that “we don’t despoil our books by putting stickers on them. We don’t use price as a marketing tool.”

The 296-store Waterstone’s business is now said to be looking at introducing money-off deals for individual books from September, instead of the blanket three-for-two, either pricing campaign books at £5, or introducing a “staggered” offer for paperbacks at £3, £5 and £7.

The news was greeted positively by a book trade that has largely welcomed the change to Waterstone’s ownership.

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July 18, 2011

What’s missing from the Guardian first book award list?

Filed under: Literary Prizes — Tags: , , , , — Bookblurb @ 11:59 am

With 136 submissions from publishers, the Guardian first book award has assembled a fascinating list of this year’s hottest debuts. But what are we missing?

By Claire Armitstead

No awards for naming this debut author ... the Orange prize winner, Téa Obreht. Photograph: Sarah Lee for the Guardian

Today, for the first time in its history, we are opening up the list of submissions for the Guardian first book prize to public scrutiny.

We’re doing this for two reasons: to allow debate around the list; and to provide a new route for books outside the mainstream to be brought into contention.

With over 200,000 titles published in the UK every year, it’s harder than ever for new writers to make their mark. Putting aside the occasional flurry of interest in a newsworthy debut, book prizes are one of the most important ways for new writers to reach new audiences.

The great strength of the first book prize is that it offers a chance for different genres to compete: we’re proud of a list of past winners that includes novels, short stories, graphic fiction, science and biography. more

June 15, 2011

Totting up the 100 greatest non-fiction books

Filed under: Lists — Tags: , , , — Bookblurb @ 1:20 pm

They're all here ... Eduardo Paolozzi's statue of Newton, inspired by Blake's drawing, in the courtyard of the British Library. Photograph: Sarah Lee for the Guardian

We’ve had fun compiling our list of the best non-fiction books to coincide with the announcement of the shortlist for this year’s Samuel Johnson prize, but there’s bound to be the odd omission. Can you fill in the gaps?

Samuel Johnson was in full spate, attacking “the general lampooner of mankind” who turns his ire on others, when he declared that “fiction is easier than discernment”. But on the day when the 2011 shortlist of the prize for non-fiction that bears his name is announced, his disdain for writers who “spare themselves the labour of enquiry” carries a greater weight. Why should novelists and poets get all the acclaim? What about the facts? To celebrate truth-seekers of every stripe, we on the Guardian’s books desk have spent a happy few days assembling a list of what we believe to be the greatest non-fiction books ever written, by anyone, ever. Ever! more

May 4, 2011

The phrase every publisher craves: word-of-mouth success

Filed under: Authors — Tags: , , , , , , — Bookblurb @ 2:03 pm

JK Rowling, Dan Brown and Lynne Truss have all sold millions with word-of-mouth successes, but what is their secret?

Malcolm Gladwell’s success was aided by his talent as a public speaker. Photograph: Sarah Lee for the Guardian

By Robert McCrum

Word of mouth, a phrase that first crops up in Twelfth Night, is the holy grail of book publishing. Good reviews and literary festivals are all very well. But with the wind of many voices in its sails, a book can reach millions. Word of mouth made Dan Brown and JK Rowling. As the world’s publishers fly into London for the book fair tomorrow, word of mouth will be what they crave for their titles.

Some of them will go to any lengths to stimulate the phenomenon. One leftwing 1930s publisher, Victor Gollancz, used to bribe his staff to read his books on the Underground. No one could miss their lurid yellow covers. Perhaps a casual commuter conversation would inspire sales mania.

With the advent of social networking, word of mouth begins to enter the realm of science, at least in theory. Actually, despite Twitter, Facebook and the rest, publishers are finding it as difficult as ever to mobilise that elusive thing, the viral conversation about a new book that translates into worldwide sales.

                                                                                                                                                 …read more

March 18, 2011

Orange prize longlist tackles difficult subjects – and alligators

The 20 novels on the longlist for this year’s Orange prize for fiction deal with challenging issues ‘with incredible sensitivity’, say judges.

Click to buy

By Mark Brown

Debut novelists will make up nearly half of the Orange prize for fiction longlist, which this year tackles strikingly difficult subjects: incest, sadistic cruelty, polygamy, child bereavement, hermaphroditism and mental illness. There is, though, also alligator wrestling in the 20-strong list, and Susanna Reid, the BBC Breakfast news presenter and judge for this year’s prize, insisted there was much joy to be derived from the books.

“There are difficult subjects tackled with incredible sensitivity,” she said, “but there are also unexpected moments of pleasure and joy and humour and intimacy. They’re found in the least expected places. Even though some of the subjects are difficult, they are handled in such a way that makes the books extremely readable and unexpectedly pleasurable.”                                                                                          …read more

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