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1. Kid Conversations

Hugh MacLeod, Gaping Void.com

I got the new Time for Kids iPad app, and we were looking at one of the articles (projected on the IWB). In it, we learned about a tiny dinosaur skull that was found in the field in the 1960s, put in a drawer at Harvard, taken out of the drawer again in the mid '80s, but only truly DISCOVERED as something amazing and new just recently.

I added this to my "All of the science has not been discovered yet" speech I give every time I get the chance. I don't want kids to give up on a career in science because they have some kind of perception that the field of science is a thing with boundaries. If they are curious about the way something in our world (or out of it, or within it) works, they have the beginnings of a career in science.

I thought of "Science is not finished" again yesterday when my new family doctor told me about a recent study that purports that too many cancers are being detected by mammograms. "Too many?" I asked, incredulously. Seems that not all of the tiny cancers they are finding are malignant, and some of them could actually be "cleaned up" by the body's own immune system, if given time. All well and good, but until we can tell the difference between the cancers, I'm going to remain happy that mammograms are finding lots of cancer early. And I'll pass this bit of "yet-to-be-discovered" science on to the next generations.

I'll end with this, overheard as we passed a line of tiny kinders giving themselves a hug with one arm, finger pressed to lips with the other, listening to their teacher give "When we get back to the classroom" instructions. I'm sure it will be in (or the inspiration for) a poem that I have yet to write. B said,

"I remember being that little, but I don't remember growing."






2 Comments on Kid Conversations, last added: 12/5/2012
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2. History Lessons

We add to our history every day of our lives.  That history might not written on pages made of paper, but it can be found in our hearts.

Looking back on the events in our lives may help us to define who we are today or who we may become in the future. By tracking events, we may even see a pattern or a path.

Here is a picture of my 1 and only art gallery show at the Denver Children’s Museum. It did not draw big crowds, family members did not pour in to see it, but it was FUN!!!!  It drew in LITTLE crowds… tiny people.  All the art was about 18 inches above the ground!  It was all about “Fairy Tales”.  My painting was titled, “The Princess and the Pea”.  It is still one of my most favorite fairy tales.  This show was key in my journey to discover what I liked doing and that was illustrating for kids!

What history will you write on your heart today? Where is your path leading you?  Sometimes you have to rise above the mucky muck to find it.  The world is full of mucky muck, but there are always grand adventures around the corner!

“Let’s sit upon a cloud today or hop on a bird and fly away! “

 

 

 

 


Filed under: Kicking Around Thoughts, Surprises

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3. Hindsight

Noun 1. hindsight- understanding the nature of an event after it has happened; “hindsight is always better than foresight”.Most all of us have had opportunities to look back on in our lives and see there was a path set before us to follow!  Whether or not we have pursued that path is up to us. As I look back, even my disappointments were part of my present.

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1. My childhood was fertile ground for make-believe.  We had dress up clothes and plenty of games and things to keep us busy. I always LOVED dolls and I remember my imagination being so keen that I could believe my dolls were almost real.

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2. In Jr. High school I met a friend name Ronnie Burton.  She made the most wonderful cartoons. I still remember how she drew the ears and the hair.  She amazed me! Soon I began drawing my own cartoons. Just a few weeks ago we met up at our high school reunion.  She is still my friend after all these years and she is still doing amazing art!

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3. When my children were young I read them book after book. I loved reading them stories.  My favorite stories were the ones that made us laugh and laugh. Some of our favorites are Ruby the Copycat, Dabble Duck, But No Elephants, Patrick and Ted, Duncan and Dolores, Frog and Toad, Owl at Home and more.  Anyone ever read Julie Andrew’s book called Mandy?  I sat sobbing as I read that one. Even though I was an adult, my future was still being shaped and my desire to illustrate books for children grew.

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4. When my youngest was ready for reading we ordered Ladybug magazine.  Since I was an artist and cartoonist I began entertaining the idea of illustrating for Ladybug.  I sent off some art and was quickly rejected. I attended a SCBWI conference and an editor from Ladybug was there.  She looked at my portfolio and hired me to illustrate the parent pages.  It was a dream come true!


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5. Meeting my hero, Tomie dePoala was great fun!  He came all the way out West to meet ME! Ha!… Okay… so I never met him in person until this day, but he did write me a couple of times after I wrote to him. Yes, if you write an author or illustrator, they MAY just write you back! 2 Comments on Hindsight, last added: 9/7/2011 Display Comments Add a Comment
4. The day it all changed

III Media Maratón A Coruña 21, 2011 P1050094a

Image by dietadeporte via Flickr

What happened the day your life changed?


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5. Goggle

Rock the Block

Image by Neighborhood Centers via Flickr

What’s the last thing you Googled?


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6. Bursting the bubble.

Yesterday, quite a few people were freaked out by this news story, which dominated the Guardian's homepage. In essence, it’s been revealed that an iPhone not only keeps track of your location but keeps that data stored on the phone and syncs it to your computer when you plug your phone in. Many people were outraged, leading to lots of comments on Twitter about how much of an invasion of privacy this constituted. It was also debated this morning on The Today Programme, arguably the country's leading broadcast news outlet. 

 

What surprisFilter bubbleed me was how much people were suprised by this, until I remembered that I've already read The Filter Bubble by Eli Pariser, published by us on June 23rd, and the subject of which is exactly this: the data companies gather and store about you through the internet and what they use it for. For major digital corporations such as Google, Facebook and increasingly Apple, information is their bread and butter; by gathering lots of information on a person they are able to make their advertising space more attractive to advertisers and therefore charge more money for it. Eli Pariser says that former Google CEO Jeff Schmidt likes to point out that "if you recorded all human communication from the dawn of time to 2003, it’d take up about five billion gigabytes of storage space. Now, we’re creating that much data every two days". Where you are, where you've visited is all part of this and while the data currently doesn't seem to be being sent back to Apple, it perhaps might be useful for future location-based advertising services. It all ultimately adds up to a lot of information on a given person, much of which is incredibly useful and valuable. It's a fairly simple equation - gather info, work out what's valuable, sell it to advertisers - but it's done to such enormously complex degrees by companies that it boggles the mind of even the people who work there.

 

This information can lead to some remarkable things, not least personalised search, whereby what appears when you type something into a search engine is tailored to you (simplifying enormously there, of course). The search engine works out what you're interested in and filters out what you're not. Many of us probably see this as a service, an improvement on the way we used to have to trawl through the results to find what was relevant: I simply typed 'iphone location guardian' to find that story just now. When, for example, was the last time you even clicked to the second page of a Google search result? But on the other hand it can lead to what Eli Pariser calls a 'filter bubble', whereby we are no longer challenged or inspired by things outside of our realms of experience or comfort zone. This means politically

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7. Friday afternoon literary thought-provoker - Romance Special

Flowers? For me? Oh, you shouldn't - oh. You didn't. They're for your mother? Fine. Whatevs.

But you did get me a book? Now we're talking.

Despite difficult book relationships at times, a deciding factor in agreeing to domestic bliss with my better half was the discovery of a key shared book. I say I gave the book to him, he says he gave it to me. Potato potahto. (I gave it to him.)

So which book have you found shared love in? Or, for the misanthropes out there, which was the straw that broke the relationship's back?

Once more, I'll post something nice out to whichever answer I like best. Although that will probably only apply to UK people. But come on! Everyone can just join in anyway! Yeay! Hang on - you didn't even get me flowers. Why am I feeling bad about this?

Sam the Copywriter

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8. SCBWI 2011, Part II: Beyond Picture Books, to New Media!

(Oh hey, check out this new Oliver Jeffers’ Heart And The Bottle app!)

Everyone – and I mean, EVERYONE (that’s right, NPR) – is talking about e-books and new media.  While adult e-readers are already a major part of consumer culture, childrens’ apps and e-books are still in their infancy (pun intended).  People seem to have a special concern and defensiveness reserved for the future of kids’ books – after all, who wants their kids’ future reduced to bedtime stories curled up with an IPad?

Most industry professionals and consumers alike agree that traditional children’s books aren’t going anywhere.  For one, buying a two-year-old a Color Nook is a lot less cost-efficient than a $4.99 board book, if all the toddler’s going to do is chew on the corners.  For another, people like the visceral experience of buying a hardcover book and turning its pages, reading aloud themselves instead of pressing a button.

Instead, we’re heading towards more and more options for kids books, and while we adults will have to nervously or excitedly adapt, kids will grow up expecting content on myriad forms of media.

So I commend SCBWI’s Illustrators’ Intensive for making the focus of their annual NYC event “Beyond Books: Picture Books and the New Media“.  Hey, if we don’t know about it, let’s invite some panelists to tell us about it!

As excited as I was about hearing the “Online Presence: A Panel Review of Websites, Blogs and Social Media”, it wasn’t my focus of the day.  Mostly, I was there to hear about the latest digital development shrouded in mystery: apps.  It’s something we all know is the future (SO much cooler than e-books), but we don’t REALLY know how they’re created.  First off, we sat in on the “Development of Apps from Classics” discussion, with panelists Virginia Duncan of Greenwillow Books (HarperCollins) and Colin Hosten of Hyperion/Disney Digital Books.

Ms. Duncan explained the making of Greenwillow’s first app, Freight Train by Donald Crews.  With bold shapes and different views from its companion book, Inside Freight Train, this was a perfect way to get an introduction to all that can be done with an app. Take a simple story, then add movement, games, songs… the sky’s the limit!  Check out storyboards and other making-of tidbits from Freight Train here.

Now, say what you want about Disney’s creepy corpo

2 Comments on SCBWI 2011, Part II: Beyond Picture Books, to New Media!, last added: 2/8/2011
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9. Favorite way to save

Rae Eating a Sack Lunch

What’s your favorite way to save?


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10. Trust your gut

Trust

Image by m-c via Flickr

When is the last time you trusted your gut?


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11. 2030

A chocolate bar and melted chocolate. Chocolat...

Image via Wikipedia

The year is 2030 and you are longing for the days of chocolate, what else will you miss?


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12. Picture books for the digital generation

Today is an incredibly exciting day. Today is the launch of the Puffin Digital Prize and a brave new world for Puffin picture books. I'm so excited I can hardly breathe. But, I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me take a deep breath and I’ll explain things properly. I'll start at the very beginning . . .

As the Editorial Director of Puffin Picture Books, I am the lucky girl who has the privilege of working on beautifully illustrated, full colour books for young readers. Think Raymond Briggs and The Snowman, add Helen Oxenbury and Julia Donaldson and you get the picture. As I said, I am VERY lucky. But I wasn't feeling quite so lucky a little while ago, when the word digital was a real thorn in my side. How did picture  books fit into this amazing digital world everyone was talking about? Well, quite simply, they didn't. Being full colour with integrated text, the technology simply didn't exist to bring them to life on a digital device. I would enviously look at my fiction colleagues with their e-readers where a whole world of stories lived and breathed in one nifty little machine. Sigh. All I could do was be patient. One day, I said to my beautiful, fully illustrated books, one day, your time will come. Screen shot 2010-06-22 at 14.23.27

And come it did with a bang - the iPad. Woo-hoo! Like every other person at Penguin, I used all sorts of ruses, good and bad, to get my hands on one. And when I did it felt like Christmas. I've always been a 
book-sniffer (I use that term affectionately, someone who loves a book for being a book as well as a fabulous story) but my conversion was complete in that one moment. Just look at what this thing can do! We have glorious technicolour in fanta

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13. How to Sell Books in a Recession

Books by the river by Chor Ip

In one of the darkest years of the 1930s depression, Allen Lane founded Penguin with the -- then groundbreaking -- notion to sell quality writing as cheaply as a pack of cigarettes and to sell them everywhere.

Studying our own history gives us pause for thought as we tip headfirst into recession: bleak economic times are sometimes the crucible of inspiration and creativity. I think of the black box theatres so beloved of Peter Brook and endless student productions, in which limited resources became the spur to imagination. And I compare that to a particularly bloated production I once saw where just one effect must have cost thousands of pounds, scores of unionised man-hours and added precisely nothing of meaning or value to the piece.

When I say we're ready and inspired to take the challenge of an economic downturn, I don't just mean cutting a few long lunches, but having a vision and being fleet of foot enough to respond to changing market conditions. Historically, the publishing industry thrives on such challenges. I think I've said in a previous blog that for an "old" industry, we're pretty responsive and innovative. We have to be.

Our customers are still there and a book remains fantastic value for money. Apparently at such times we skew more toward escapist fare, rather like the cinema goers in the 30s flocked to gangster films, musicals and screwball comedies. When the Canary Wharf Waterstones opened the day after the collapse of Lehman Bros, the first two books to be sold were books on spirituality. Another huge growth area is teenage fiction thanks to the Harry Potter effect on our growing kids, with help from teenage vampires in Twilight and teenage fathers in Nick Hornby's Slam. The common wisdom is that this mortgage-free demographic market's disposible income remains relatively unaffected, although books compete for it with games and music. People will also still buy books for their kids. The success of Ascent of Money, Black Swan and The Great Crash 1929 shows that those books helping us understand what's happening are also flying out the door.

So what are we worried about?

In short, it might not be our readers, but our retailers.

The once mighty high street has been fighting competition from online and supermarkets for a few years, but when every day another high street name goes into administration, we have to assess the risk. When a company goes into administration, the independent administrators sell off as many assets as possible, paying off debts in order of priority. If we have lots of stock sitting in a customer's warehouse or on their shelves, we first have to prove to the administrators that we supplied it, rather than a third party wholesaler, and then once that value is assessed, we may only be awarded pence in the pound. So a retailer going under is bad news for its suppliers.

There is a theory that in these times it's best to be very big so you can take a hit like the one I've described, or to be very small, so you can turn on a dime in response to tricky market conditions. Each of our retailers needs a strategy to suit these times as much as we do: whether it's negotiating down rents and utilities, increasing margin on every book sold, increasing marketing income, consolidating roles, departments or even outlets, making cost savings in the supply chain, and so on. That can make for even tougher negotiations between publishers and retailers, but it's not the only game in town. How do we get back to creativity and innovation? How do we as publishers and retailers inspire our customers to buy books?

Peter Brook felt passionately that a theatre of more limited means helped to bring theatre-makers and their audiences into a closer rapport. The stage is bare. Enter an actor and a book.

Fiona Buckland
Sales Manager

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14. Blog to the Future


How many of you know your grandparents? I mean, really know their stories? Their favorite childhood friend, how they met their spouse, the hardships they endured in their marriages, the passions they pursued, the loves they left behind, the joys that comprised their lives?

I don’t know my grandmother beyond the surface. She collects owl and cardinal knick-knacks. Her eyesight is fading. She enjoys making hooked rugs and solving word puzzles. She sleeps beneath a golden crucifix.

I know she married a man 10 years her senior at just 17 years old and had two children before she turned 20. I know she was a young girl during the Depression. I know her brother lived with her almost his entire life. I know she watched her husband die of Lou Gehrig’s disease. But I don’t know any of the stories associated with these things. I know one sentence each, and I’ve told you all I know.

I’m eager for more about her life. I want to understand what she went through to ensure I could have the happy, secure life I have today. She is a part of me, but it is all mystery.

As I fell asleep last night, I thought about this blog and how it may remain online for many years into the future. Ten, twenty, maybe even 100 years or more. Then there’s my Shutterfly albums. And YouTube. A permanent record of my life in words, photographs and movies exists out there. Future archeologists need no shovels.

So if you are my grandchild reading this after I have passed, I don’t know you, but I love you. I would like to tell you all my stories. Please sit in a comfortable chair and read about how I wanted to be an author. I hope I inspire you.

Tell me, was I successful? Do you have my books at your bedside?

Please don’t forget to comment. Who knows, maybe in 100 years they’ll figure out a way for me to read it. I’m sure the spammers will lead the way with that technology.

      

2 Comments on Blog to the Future, last added: 12/22/2008
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15. Way back when

When I joined Penguin more than a decade ago it is fair to say that we were not at the cutting edge of the technological revolution. Senior editors used dictaphones and the office was redolent of the smell of Tipp-Ex. There were a few computers around, but a manager needed to authorise internet access which was doled out sparingly. Amazon had just launched and had not yet made it to this side of the Atlantic and there were many who were convinced that CD-ROMs were going to be the next big thing.

But the next big thing had not even been launched yet and it is a measure of the pace of change that the word Google has now become commonplace as a noun, a verb and as a virtual embodiment of the tranformation in how we search, discover and engage with information, technology and other people. Google are this year celebrating their 10th birthday and as part of the festivities have released their index of pages searched in 2001.

At Penguin, there's nothing we hate more than missing a party, so here's a comparison of some Penguin and book related searches from 2001 and from 6 October 2008. It's slightly humbling to see how the amount of  information available on any given subject (technically, the number of pages indexed that contain the search term) has skyrocked in just seven years

                                  2001                                2008

"Penguin Books"          83,000                             5,450,000
Nick Hornby               11,300                            1,540,000
paperback                   2,100,000                        220,000,000
ebook                        251,000                           82,400,000
"cookery book"            5,970                              354,000
Catcher in the Rye     35,900                            2,270,000
"Charlie and Lola"         3                                   383,000

You can find Google's 2001 index here - if you find any more interesting book comparisons, post them in the comments below.

Jeremy Ettinghausen, Digital Publisher

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16. That looming future

I wish I had more insightful things to say. I wish that my blog was an amazing dissertation on education theory and policy. It isn't, and truth be told I don't have anything insightful to say. I have a lot of questions, fears, and haphazard possibly unsupported theories about my views on education. I know I haven't had the experience of most people, but so you might question, why blog, why do it at all. Maybe it is my liberal arts education, but a part of me feels that the questions are just as important as the answers. What questions do new teachers ask themselves in the few weeks before they are gifted 20 or so smiling faces. Here are some of my biggest questions...feel free to supply answers if you have any, or simply smile. 


How will I assess my students? It's a word I hear over and over "assess", "track", it all seems like numbers on a page sometimes. Will I DRA my students, use running records, will my students get excited for spelling tests, how will I test my students?

What does that first week look like? I know I know, I set up rules, I rehearse procedures, but somewhere in there I have to find out my students starting point. Somewhere in there I have to teach a real lesson, or two, or seven. 

Will other teachers hate me because I'm new? 

When will my body adjust to waking up at 5 am?

Will I ever stop having questions? I guess I won't. My inquisitive nature never fails, but I wonder if I'll ever get to the point where my blog will steer away from questions and fear and towards those insightful thoughts. How many years? ten? twenty? For now, I'll focus on the important task at hand, becoming a strong teacher and leading my students to success.

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17. Storytelling2.0

Yesterday I was asking an American book blogger if, following a week spent hanging out with UK publishers, she could see any major differences between publishers in the US and those over here. "Yep," she said, "depression." In the US apparently, "morale is low" and there is a feeling that the publishing of fiction, in particular, is ailing. If the internet hasn't won already, it is believed, major damage has been inflicted on non-web based forms of entertainment.

Previous posts here, here, here and here for example, have considered that while the internet might indeed be transforming the cultural landscape, it's not yet time to roll over and die. Yes, the game is changing, but we still want to be players, still believe that there is a market for quality fiction, and still think that if you tell an interesting enough story, whatever the medium, it will be read.

Over the last 5 weeks nearly 150,000 people have read the digital fictions we've presented at We Tell Stories, and with the release of this week's installment this incursion into web-based fiction is coming to an end. We've learnt lots of things along the way. We've discovered that our authors are interested in new challenges and Cyoa_2have enjoyed writing outside their comfort zones. That game designers are as interested in strong narrative as book editors. That there is an interest and an audience for new ways of telling stories. That we shouldn't be frightened of the internet, but instead should critically examine the possibilities it presents to create new forms of narrative, new audiences and new opportunities for our authors and their work.

We Tell Stories has been a great project to work on, but the challenge now is to learn from and take forward some of the ideas that have been raised and use this platform to make further, bolder online incursions. Being a publisher is not just about selling and distributing books, it's about selling and distributing stories and ideas, and these can take many forms.

As Mohsin Hamid writes, 'There are always at least two ways to tell a story.' The game is afoot...

Jeremy Ettinghausen, Digital Publisher

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18. Nonlinearity

There has been plenty of chatter in the last few weeks about ebooks and ebook readers, technologies which might or might not dramatically transform how we buy and read books. But there has also been the odd item here and there speculating on the future of reading, examining how internet usage might affect how people actually look for and absorb information.

There is a school of thought that says that Gutenberg's invention of the printing press - leading to the demise of the illuminated manuscript and the transfer of knowledge by linear type - actually affected the way that people absorbed ideas and information and that Western Rationalism might not have taken hold without the orderly presentation of text. So it is not implausible to imagine that as more and more knowledge and information is transfered via the internet, with popup windows, embedded video, infographic boxes and all the other eye-catching frippery competing for attention, we might witness significant changes in the way we read, and perhaps in the way we actually think.

This is probably already happening - in The Observer John Naughton quotes a report which described information seeking behaviour as 'horizontal, bouncing, checking and viewing in nature.' Teenagers, I was told today, start reading at the centre of a website moving outwards from the middle when something captures their digitally native eyes.

Of course not all books are linear - our sister company, Dorling Kindersley for example produces the most wonderfully designed and illustrated guides and reference books, but for fiction, generally, linearity is the rule. Beginnings, middles and ends. Words following words.

All of which is a roundabout way of saying that in a few weeks Penguin will be embarking on an experiment in storytelling (yes, another one, I hear you sigh). We've teamed up with some interesting folk and challenged some of our top authors to write brand new stories that take full advantage of the functionalities that the internet has to offer - this will be great writing, but writing in a form that would not have been possible 200, 20 or even 2 years ago. If you want to be alerted when this project launches sign up here - all will be revealed in March.

Jeremy Ettinghausen, Digital Publisher

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19. An out of this world event

I spent much of yesterday doing something a publisher should never have to do - buying skin for an author in preparation for an book launch. But when this event takes place in the virtual world of Second Life and when the author is William Gibson, normal publishing activity leaps out of the window.

The author of Neuromancer, Pattern Recognition and the just released Spook Country has legions of fans in Second Life and four hours before the event they had began to gather to await his arrival. Indeed so many arrived early that William Gibson himself could not get into the sim (the virtual space where the event was taking place) leading to a brief evacuation to allow the author to sneak in through the virtual fire escape. And then we were reminded that Second Life is still very much a world in its infancy by a video which failed to play - hopefully not too many were disappointed by seeing the quicktime logo for a few minutes!

But when William Gibson took to the stage, descending from the heavens in a customized shipping container, everything came good. He read from the opening portion of Spook Country and answered a series of very fine questions from the audience who hung onto his every word. Audio was beamed in from the MDM campus in Vancouver to the riversrunred studios in London, and out to Second Life. What made me happy about this event was that it gave people from all over the world a chance to be in the same space as one of their favourite authors, and during the event I was receiving goodwill messages from people thrilled to see him.

Should he return to Second Life he will find lots of friends, old and new, and I guess that this is what virtual worlds and social marketing is really all about.

Jeremy Ettinghausen, Digital Publisher

PS Pics, audio and video from the event will be available very soon and there is a nice piece about it here.

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20. Home at last

Strand_stationWonderful, wonderful, oh most wonderful... Cafe Penguin is no more, and we have finally returned home to the open arms of Penguin Towers, on the lovely, lovely Strand. Lots of pre-moving anxiety (constructive comments ranging from "People will pity how awful our desks are" to "There's no natural light! We'll become Morlocks!" have, of course, turned out to be utterly unfounded) became joy at returning to somewhere that actually had running water. No more shoes sticking to the pavement of Brick Lane on a Monday morning, no more lack of access to banks, post offices, key cutters, shoe menders, pharmacies, dry-cleaners and our Penguin canteen, no more cut cables, random fire alarms, extreme temperatures and the World's Most Awful Lifts... Instead, we are in the glittering new offices, hand-crafted by tiny literary robots to suit our every whim. We've only been here four hours (who doesn't enjoy a late start on a Monday morning?) and already our computers work, our phones dial out, and our files have somewhere to live. I feel a little bit like weeping for joy, so I might just ride up and down in our lifts for a little while to celebrate.

Sam the Copywriter

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21. The future of books - bleak or bright

Towards the end of every year I tour the office, brazenly declaring that the next year will undoubtedly be the year of the ebook, so why should 2007 be any different? But this year, there is more and more evidence that the tipping point for digital reading, if not here already, is just around the corner. With this in mind Penguin, like many other big publishers, is getting its As, Bs and Cs converted into ones and zeros and preparing our catalogue for a time when words will be blithely transmitted across the ether to a variety of devices via a variety of services. Our high level digital director this week spent an hour talking to 200 Penguins from around the company explaining where we were going and giving people an idea of the amount of work that lies ahead. To bookend her talk she prepared the two videos below that give very different ideas of what the future of books and reading might look like. I know which view I favour. What about you?

A World without Books

or

The Future's So Bright...

Jeremy Ettinghausen
Digital Publisher

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22. Zoom. There it goes.

FireworksSuddenly, another year has gone by. A final Harry Potter, the promise of more Bond, and a growing addiction to stollen - that's been my 2007 in a nutshell. The future, however, looks both golden and delicious: Bond is actually published, the shops stop selling stollen (for a while), and we give you a new Marian Keyes, the plague, a bit of musical poetry, some fairly monstrous and some very funny parenting, a gangland statistician, some number-crunching Lewis Caroll stuff, and a guide for nice guys. What more could you ask from 2008?

Wishing you all a very happy Christmas and a lovely New Year - I'm off to dance on the photocopier at the annual Penguin Towers bash.

Sam the Copywriter

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23. Morte De Reader?

This morning I have been musing on this interesting phenomenon, the Death of the Reader. (Apologies to Barthes.)

It started with an innocent post on Advergirl, about how her latest book to read is underneath her PS3. And it reminded me of the NEA report scare from before Christmas about how Americans are reading less than they used to. NPR's Talk of the Nation carried the story.

But book sales data is showing it to be true.

There's a great article from this summer's Washington Post.com: Harry Potter and the death of Reading. A chilling excerpt:

We're experiencing the literary equivalent of a loss of biodiversity.


Alane sent me a great futurist article about whether we would all stop reading altogether by 2050, in favor of voice. (I won't give away the conclusion here--but you may postpone the monograph bonfire at least until tomorrow...)

And of course I approach all of this with a healthy skepticism.

I have not yet read the NEA study. But I do wonder what model of reading they consider "official." Does it count all the little black squiggley things I roam around in, in my online world? Or is reading online not considered *real* reading?

And maybe it shouldn't be. IS there such a thing as *real* (as opposed to psuedo, imaginary, forced or otherwise unreal) reading?

1 Comments on Morte De Reader?, last added: 1/21/2008
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24. Mayday! It's the end of literature!

Generally speaking, I'm a pretty big fan of Jean Hannah Edelstein. I often read her posts and feel a pang of recognition, albeit by replacing her hi-falutin' titles with the ones I actually read. But this time, the headline writers of the Guardian have gone too far. "Can the novella save literature?" may be both an interesting question and a tongue-in-cheek way of addressing the fact that London's public transport is crammed with crummy freepapers, but it smacks of the terror that seems to riddle the whole world of books like woodworm. Or bookworm.

JHE argues: "the vast majority of new writers - even the very good ones - trying to crack in to publishing with their first novel are inevitably told that times are hard for fiction right now ... the chance of publishers successfully launching a novel by an unknown writer on the reading public are indeed slim in an information culture where we struggle to get through 10 pages without losing focus to the buzz of media white noise. Several hundred pages can feel like too much of a commitment when there is so much information to consume ... And who could deny that the actual experience of reading a long book can feel a little arduous if it doesn't really make your heart sing?"

I think partaking in anything you find rubbish is a pretty poor way of judging that oeuvre. Going to see my sister's childhood orchestra would never have made a classical music fan of anyone, and seeing one Young Vic performance of Hamlet is not the way to judge that theatre is "over". Yes, we are pretty busy these days, and yes, there is a lot going on in terms of the information being fed to us - but how much more do we appreciate sinking into a good book? A thick, good book. Whether it's a Rowling, Clarke, Mitchell or James, a book that requires dedication and commitment is exactly what many people are desperate for at a time where restaurant meals last 45 minutes and you can cross the planet in a day or so.

JHE also suggests that novellas battle dumbing-down charges, because "without exacting quite the level of austerity presented by the task of writing a good short story, novellas challenge writers to use words like wartime rations: with care and thought and the extra level of creative gusto required to ensure that they stretch to make a miniature read that is just as satisfying as something more substantial." Why not encourage full-length novelists to work that way? Neither Lolita nor The Talented Mr Ripley are particularly brief, but neither has a word wasted - unlike some of the sprawling rambles novelists (as opposed to novella-ists) can be inclined towards. And if a reader didn't have to wade through 150 pages of foggy childhood recollection, who knows - 800-page tomes might fly by.

I think the bell for literature has been tolling for a few hundred years now, with no noticeable shift away from books over walking, talking, dancing, playing the piano/Wii, or any of the myriad other options. And since Penguin Towers keeps on ticking over, I think I'll hold off on tearing down my bookshelves for novella racks/computer brain sockets/iron gates to keep away the barbarian hordes. Although since one of them fell down recently, I may have to reinforce the 'tome' section.

Sam the Copywriter

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25. House of the Future


from plan59.com

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