This year we didn’t spot a single unicorn (though it’s possible a unicorn was hidden under one of the hoods.) To all unicorn-lovers out there, don’t lose heart. Unicorns are rare – like double rainbows — so a year without them will only make their inevitable reappearance that much more magical. In the meantime, there’s always this.
If we’re going to continue to use “covers” as marketing material, which presumably we will as long as digital texts have physical counterparts, we need to recognise that their reproduction is out of our control: they will be copied, linked, and reposted, at different resolutions and sizes (there’s long been a muttering desire from publishers for the ability to supply Amazon with different covers for different size displays: this is one option, but not one Amazon seems happy with). We might also recognise that there are potentially many different jobs for the cover to do.
What do covers do now? They appeal aesthetically (something hard to do at 120 pixels high). They give space to blurbs and plaudits (it’s OK, we’re not space-limited any more). And they recommend (this is why all thriller covers look the same; why there is a blood-spattered crime vernacular; why every historical novel features a bodice and ruched velvet).
Editor & Publisher and Kirkus Reviews to close. Frankly I find this a little strange. Even spinning them off might have been better, though survival on their own would have been pretty unlikely without serious reorganization and a fundamental rethinking of the business models. Here
Canongate is profiled in the Wall Street Journal, that Jamie Byng has an eye for a book that can be packaged. It’d almost make ya jealous. Here
Frankly, I don’t buy this Apple Tablet nonsense much. Apple cannot single-handedly change the industry, though they may try. In any case when Steve Jobs announces this on a stage somewhere, I’m sure I’ll want it, but until then, I shall waste no energy waiting or wanting. Here
On the other hand, both Mike Shatzkin and Michael Hyatt have articles about new display systems for content that they claim will change the book world as we know it. I think both are right that change is coming but I have more sympathy with the Sports Illustrated demo video on Michael Hyatt’s post. After all that looks like a faster webpage with some extra features rather than something new. Webpages are the answer and so putting the web in every hand you can is the way forward for publishers and makes more sense than creating new, confusing and unnecessary formats. The trick is to make the customer pay for access to your content, not find a fancy way to display it.
Niamh Sharkey, who I am happy to say wrote a book and designed some wonderful covers for Mercier before she went onto mega-stardom (and before I started here), keeps a nice blog here. Today she posted a wonderful note about keeping ideas in notebooks with some really excellent examples given:
If I am starting a new project and looking for ideas and I get stuck I go back and look through my old notebooks. The Ravenous Beast started as a card design called Ravenous Monsters I painted in 1994. When I first went to Walker Books they spent most of the time looking through my notebooks. Amelia the head designer saw this painting and said mmm… interesting. It started from there.
First Things First
So I’ll get the shameless self promo out of the way from the get go. I heartily recommend my own addition to the Food & Drink genre, Our Grannies’ Recipes. It is a wonderful collection of recipes gathered and collated from ourgranniesrecipes.com and set beautifully in a hardback b-format for the relatively decent price of €14.99 (I hear H&H are selling it at €12.99). Whatever price you get it for, Age Action Ireland will get €1 for each and every copy sold. That’s good news I like to think. Not much chance of it getting to you by post so drop into your local bookstore and buy it there.
Other Great Ideas
Given the tumultuous times publishing is passing through I thought it might be nice for those who enjoy books and the bookish life to read Gabrieal Zaid’s So Many Books. It is a great read and well worth the tiny amount of time and effort you will expend reading it. So Many Books is a really nice company whose slogan is, Publish Few But Wonderful Books. There is a lesson in that for us all!
I have a weakness for Niall Ferguson so I could hardly write this post and not mention his rather great looking,The Ascent of Money. I think they rather smartly retooled the TV series to make this appear a far more skeptical tome than had originally been envisage, but I’ll wait until I have read the text to judge that.
I read and loved Adam Zamoyski’s Warsaw 1920. It is a really excellent book that in a short few pages paints a picture of a forgotten conflict that might have had much further reaching effects were it not for the cataclysmic World War Two. Alternatively you could conceivably make the case that the world would be different for the better now but I hesitate to suggest that, the Europe of 1920 was hardly ready for a war with Russia the like of which it would have had to face had Poland succumbed to the ALMOST unstoppable juggernaut.
A smaller list than normal this year. The sheer volume of good material made me lean in the direction of the truly great stuff. I hope no one minds.