Vine 23rd December Newsletter

We have snow again for Christmas and what’s worse is that it seems to be a lot colder than it was last year.  We definitely have a lot more below freezing temperatures and the house just never seems to get warm.

Anyhoo, the leftover newsletter was out last night as normal, not earlier so we had a chance of getting books before Christmas – not that it would matter at all at the moment since no parcels seem to be getting through due to all the snow for the last few weeks.

If these books ever make it through the backlog, I chose Immortal Beloved: Bk. 1: Everlasting Life (Immortal Beloved 1) and Training Your Brain For Dummies (I figure my brain could use some serious help at the moment)  Oh and Happy Christmas everyone – stay safe and warm!

Vine 16th December Newsletter

First newsletter of the month and I chose a non-book item and this book – The Marrowbone Marble Company – there actually wasn’t that much to chose from that I was interested in which was a bit disappointing after being able to choose four items from the leftovers last month.  I could have happily picked more books from that list!

Vine 23rd November Newsletter

Leftover week starts earlier than usual since Thursday is Thanksgiving so the newsletter went out on Tuesday instead… however maybe this was a special Thanksgiving present for us or maybe it was for some other reason but this week we got to select FOUR times from the leftover newsletter!!!  This time around I picked up – Shakespeare: The Essential Comedies: v. 1 (Classic Radio Theatre) on CD and A Taste of the Unexpected which is from the River Cottage people!  Looking forward to that one. And Starting Over one cake at a time which is an autobiography from Sandra Bullock’s sister Gesine who gave up her Hollywood life to go open a bakery  and make cakes 🙂 and How to be a Social Entrepreneur: Make Money and Change the World!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Vine 18th November Newsletter

First newsletter for November and I selected two non-book items.  In other news I am well into my first course for the semester and so far so good.  This time around I have one course that started in October and the second course that starts in February, so there will be some overlap in the middle which is going to be a lot different from doing two courses that start and end at the same time.

Vine 28th October Newsletter

Leftover week and I picked up a couple of non-fiction titles – Bill’s Basics from Aussie chef Bill Granger which will sit nicely on the shelf with some of his others, and a business book – Net Profit: How to Succeed in Digital Business which sounded interesting.

Amazon goes into battle with publishers over ebook prices

The online bookseller is urging customers to ‘vote with their purchases’ and avoid electronic editions with a price fixed by publishers

Amazon has opened a new front in the battle over ebook prices, with a direct appeal to Kindle users to “vote with their purchases” against publishers looking to set prices for electronic editions.

An open letter to Kindle customers posted on Amazon.co.uk said that the “agency model”, where publishers set a price at which books must be sold instead of allowing retailers the freedom to discount, would be “a damaging approach for readers, authors, booksellers and publishers alike”, citing a loss of Kindle sales for publishers using the agency model in the US, and calling on customers to “decide for themselves how much they are willing to pay for ebooks, and vote with their purchases”.

“Based on our experience setting consumer prices for many years, we know that these increases have not only frustrated readers, but have caused booksellers, publishers and authors alike to lose sales.”

Amazon is setting a series of low prices for Kindle editions of this autumn’s bestselling titles, such as Stephen Fry’s The Fry Chronicles and Tony Blair’s A Journey, backed up by a high-profile advertising campaign as the online retailer seeks to establish the Kindle as the leading UK e-reading device.

But publishers, authors and agents are worried that the book industry is being used recklessly in a struggle to make profits from sales of the hardware, as Amazon struggles to knock rival Apple, manufacturer of the iPad, out of the water.

Penguin’s deputy chief, Tom Weldon, followed Amazon’s announcement with a note sent to agents this morning confirming that he would line up alongside Hachette, which declared last month that it would be setting firm prices for ebook sales in future, with retailers taking a commission on each sale.

“Our first and foremost concern is that we protect the value of our authors’ books, as well as the long-term health of this exciting new segment of the publishing industry,” Weldon wrote. “We believe that the agency model is more likely to provide authors with a just reward for their creative content, while establishing a fair price for the consumer.”

Tom Holland, chair of the Society of Authors, also said he supported the agency model. “My feeling would be the imposition of the agency model would be bad for authors’ incomes in the short term but good in the long term,” he said. “Ebooks are only starting to penetrate the market now. If it gets written in stone that prices are low, that is what the public will expect from now on. The risk is that the book, which has been traditionally a high-prestige object, will be permanently devalued. Publishers are right to try to protect the value of their brand. I’m delighted they are doing something about it because there was a point when I thought they’d just be steam-rollered.”

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The digital reading revolution | Victor Keegan

Devices such as the Kindle and iPad are changing the way we think about books – but who will control the future of reading?

Books have come late to the digital party, but change is now happening at such a furious pace that even conservative members of the trade are starting to realise that their industry is being snatched away from them before their eyes. The undisputed leader in the race to sell digital books is Amazon. Its Kindle e-reader was a late entry into the race but it used its redoubtable marketing muscle to gain a 76% share of all digital books sold. It could have been much more but for the arrival of the iPad, which now has a 5% market share, though rising fast.

Traditional booksellers such as Barnes and Noble (which has just released a new Wi-Fi reader) and Waterstones are still in the race, but it looks as though book distribution is being sewn up by existing digital giants. Is this what we really want – a series of walled gardens controlled by corporate giants? Why hasn’t a horizontal model emerged in which networks of readers and authors can interact and buy and exchange favourite works on a global scale? Where is the Facebook of books?

This vertical model, of course, brings terrific benefits – having a virtual library of thousands of books you can read when and where you want. I do it a lot. But there are also very disturbing side-effects. Do we want reading, which ought to be a truly communal experience, migrating into a handful of digital silos, each imposing their own rules about what we can read, where we can read it and making it impossible to lend a book if you don’t lend the device as well? Some publishers even ask you to state that you won’t read the book aloud.

Amazon doesn’t just own Kindle. Its tentacles have spread out into a series of worrying monopolies. Instead of using its formidable base in selling traditional books to build up a similar position with second-hand books, it purchased the biggest existing seller of second-hand books on the internet, Abebooks.com. Instead of building up its own presence in audio books, it purchased Audible.com, which had over 90% of the audio market. It also bought a 40% stake in Librarything.com, one of the admirable online book clubs, which has just released a kind of mobile public library in the US and Ireland.

There are lots of interesting experiments in the online book world, including Nick Cave’s novel Bunny Munro, sold as a multimedia iPhone app; Google’s massive scanning of out-of-copyright books; the now venerable Gutenberg project, which has over 33,000 out-of-copyright books uploaded by volunteers; and numerous bookclubs not to mention the Guardian’s own. The video book publisher Vook.com has just celebrated its first anniversary. I loved Tim Wright’s geo-tagged retracing of Robert Louis Stevenson’s journey in Kidnapped. And still to come is 24Symbols, which aims to be the Spotify of books by streaming them for free over the web (with adverts paying) as well as traditional paid-for downloads.

If we are yearning for something to take books from “them” and give them back to “us”, we have to look a bit into the future to start-ups such as Etherbooks.co.uk, which currently offers short stories to your phone at 59p a pop but has ambitious plans to expand into a global horizontal model. Its founder Maureen Scott has a long history of involvement in disruptive start-ups. Quoting the mantra “Content is king, but context is queen”, she sees the literary future as networked, multi-platformed and inclusive – mainly through the mobile phone. Down with silos, up with communities – especially the community of writers, bloggers and fans. She sees the site as a forum for stories that will all be curated to maintain standards.

It is clear that the revolution in books is only just beginning. The interesting thing is that the product itself – the book – is not threatened, only the way it is read. It is pretty clear that more books will be read in future as out-of-copyright ones are reprinted and 18-to-24-year-olds, the drivers of mobile adoption, take to reading on their phones and other devices. More and more books will be read through dedicated e-readers (which can be read in daylight and on the beach) and backlit ones such as the iPad, which can be read at night.

No one knows where all this will end up, but it will be nowhere near as revolutionary as the change from reading scrolls to reading books in the middle ages. The e-reader revolution merely lures the same people to read books in a different format. The move from scrolls to books turned an immobile activity enjoyed by a tiny minority of educated people into a mobile phenomenon that would eventually be enjoyed by all. The unanswered question remains: who will control this revolution in knowledge, them or us? The answer, literally and metaphorically, is in our hands.

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Vine 16th September Newsletter

First newsletter for September and only eight items on the list, four of which were books.  I was too late to be offered any of the non-book items so I went for a cookbook from someone I’ve never heard of before – My Kitchen: Real Food from Near and Far (New Voices in Food) and a YA book called Finding Sky by Joss Stirling.  I was attracted by the cover of the cookbook and there seems to be a series of them.

Vine 26th August Newsletter

Leftover week and I picked up two new books – The Devil’s Graveyard which is the third book in the Anonymous series and Room by Emma Donoghue.  I have only read one of her previous books – Slammerkin – but there is a lot of talk about this one since it is based or inspired by the real life Fritzl case in Austria a few years back.

I also finally made up my mind what courses to do next semester and reserved places on them!