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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Web/Tech, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 60
1. New RSS Feed for Blog, and My New RSS Reader Selections

My blogging host, TypePad, recently added FeedBlitz integration. I was already using FeedBlitz to send out my blog newsletters (daily and bi-weekly), but after finding some quirks in my existing RSS feed, I decided to create a new one via FeedBlitz. Here's are the links:

Feed: http://feeds.feedblitz.com/jensbookpage

Mobile: http://m.feedblitz.com/jensbookpage

Email: http://www.feedblitz.com/f?Track=http://feeds.feedblitz.com/jensbookpage&Publisher=202824

As far as I know, the other feed will continue to work, too. But on the new RSS readers that I've been testing, this new feed looks better (paragraphs, images, etc.). It also eliminates a weird glitch that I was seeing by which Feedly displayed the date that I created a post, rather than the date that I published it. Since I often hold reviews until closer to publication, this was irksome. 

So, if you feed this blog via RSS reader, it would be great if you could switch to the feed above. 

Speaking of RSS readers, as many of you know, Google Reader is going away on July 1st. After much experimentation, I've settled on a new solution that I think will work for me (though it won't be right for everyone). I've decided to use Feedbin on my computer. Feedbin is a paid service ($2/month), and it's actually pretty bare-bones, but it's simple, and does what I need it to do. The main reason that I chose it is that it offers direct integration with the Reeder iPhone app, which I like (one-time cost of $2.99).

I was using Feedly on my desktop, but I didn't like their iPhone app, and I found the Google Reader migration process fussy and difficut. I was using Feedler Pro on my phone, and I loved it, but it relied on Google Reader support to sync to my PC, so I had to drop it for now. So, on the advice of this article (which I found via this Twitter post) and after various other research and testing, Feedbin and Reeder are what I'm going to work with. For now anyway. 


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2. The Diamond Street App

Rachel Lichtenstein is an artist, archivist and writer. She is the author of Rodinsky’s Whitechapel and co-author, with Iain Sinclair, of Rodinsky’s Room.

Diamond Street is the second in a trilogy of books by Rachel on London streets. On Brick Lane was the first and both will be followed by a volume on Portobello Road, also to be published by Hamish Hamilton. Find out more about Rachel by visiting her site.


After receiving the fantastic news in 2012 that my application to the Arts Council to produce a digital app to coincide with the paperback edition of my latest book Diamond Street: the hidden world of Hatton Garden had been successful, I have spent the best part of a year working in collaboration with an amazing team of experts in the digital media, film, design, literary and historical fields to produce this new media project. 

The development of a digital app may at first seem like an odd choice for a non fiction writer with absolutely no experience of or skills in this type of medium but from the first time I heard about GPS technology being used in locative apps, I immediately recognised what a great tool this could be for me. I have always worked in a very multi-disciplinary way, having trained as a sculptor before becoming a writer. My creative practise currently involves writing of course, alongside walking, intensive archival research, photography, audio recording, painting, site-specific art installationsand making short films. The multi-media capabilities of a digital app seemed to offer a good way for my readers to experience my work not just as a printed text but also through digital space, new media and in real time.

Before starting this project I spent a long time imagining what a digital app could offer that a printed book could not and how new technologies could be used not to replace but to enhance and support a book.

I wanted the app to offer new insights for my readers into both the stories in the book and the places and people I have written about. I’m really pleased to say that after a lot of hard work I really do believe this has been achieved. Mainly due to the exceptional team I have been collaborating with who have made this magic happen.

Work on the app began with paper plans, budget discussions and meetings with Simon Poulter, Metal Culture’s digital arts officer who was co-producer of the project. We brainstormed on my original idea: ‘to pick up on traces of the history of the place as you wandered around, with images, audio and text being activated by geo-technology.’ We literally ripped the printed book apart and imagined these pages being scattered around the Hatton Garden area, transformed into different digital media, which would then beactivated as users passed by specific locations. The idea was to develop an experimental drift through an area, rather than a guided, chronological linear walk. 

Ripping the book apart
Ripping the book apart – September 2012

From paper designs formulated during this process we developed the rough outline for a design for both the virtual (armchair version) and the GPS on location versions of the app.

The next stage of the development involved intensive meetings with Phantom Production who produced and mixed the extraordinary sound files for the app. Phantom consist of an amazing team of audio producers headed by the multiple-award winning sound artist Francesca Panetta, who runs the Guardian’s audio team. Francesca was one of the first to work on this type of GPS activated app (Soho Stories App). Her knowledge and expertise has greatly enhanced the project and through Francesca I was introduced to Calvium, app developers based in Bristol, worldwide leaders in the field of GPS activated apps.

Before working on the back end of development I spent a considerable amount of time storyboarding the app. I found this a painful process, after five years of researching the area and its history and a book’s worth of material gathered and more, it was hard for me to cut this down. I eventually decided on 12 different story zones, which take you through the story of the historic quarter of Hatton Garden, from its time as a medieval rural monastic landscape in the Fleet Valley, to its transformation in the nineteenth century into a jewellery quarter and the contemporary story of the place today. 

Even though I had already conducted hundreds of hours worth of audio recordings of people who work in the Hatton Garden jewellery trade, it was decided these needed to be re-recorded. The quality of my recordings was just not high enough for the project. So I contacted a number of people who had been involved in the book, from Iain Sinclair, to geologist Diana Clements, to orthodox diamond dealers and sewer flushers and then BBC broadcaster India Rakusen re-recorded my interviewees. These recordings were then mixed with bespoke soundscapes and music to create 12 beautifully produced and extremely high quality sound files, which really form the core of the GPS experience. As you walk around with your smartphone in your pocket and your headphones in your ears the secrets of the streets around you are revealed. Have a listen to some of the sound files we used on the Diamond Street App here. 

After spending a lot of time in different archives, deciding on which images to use in the app and editing down some of the text from the book, we had all the content ready to go. The next stage got a lot more techy! In November 2012 Simon Poulter and I attended an intensive training day with app developers Calvium learning how to use Calvium’s specially developed platform for GPS located apps.

In collaboration with Phantom Production and Calvium we decided on location zones and then placed the sound files and images within these zones. A period of intensive testing ensued, with extensive notes on any issues on site (such as leakage of sound files from one zone to another, or places where sound files overlapped) being taken and then reported back to Calvium who made continual adjustments to the back end of the app. There were many small problems to iron out and a lot of testing was needed before the app was working well. Most of the testing took place throughout the coldest winter on record and I can’t say it was all an enjoyable experience, but hearing those stories come to life in place as I wandered around was undeniably really exciting, a very contemporary way of conducting pyschogeography in place.

I really did jump into the deep end with this project. I had to learn a whole new language fast, as developers and digital artists asked me questions about ‘front ends’ and ‘back ends’, ‘story zones’ and ‘location zones’. To try and explain what I mean, below is a screen shot of the ‘back end’ of the app in development.

Appfurnace build (back end), showing the sound and location zones of diamondstreetapp. The diamond icons represent sound files

Alongside intensive testing on location we began to develop the designs for the armchair version of the app, which eventually became a swiping timeline through the stories in the book, with embedded text, images, films and sound.

I’m delighted to say the Diamond Street App has now been published and is available as a free download both in the iTunes store and for the Android market. I’m really excited about the project, which I hope has achieved its aim of giving readers a much deeper, interactive, dynamic and live experience of the locations, people and stories described within my printed text.

For me, working for the first time with these new mediums has completely altered my outlook on digital publishing and the potential of using new media to connect with new readers and audiences. I’ve found the collaborative multi-media way of working both really exciting and really challenging and whilst I’m looking forward to some quality time alone with my computer, cracking on with my next book, I can certainly imagine working on more digital app projects in the future.


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3. can haz streamed cutoffs? CAN HAZ.

The Millions kindly provided this vital link to the recent Rolling Stone interview with David Cross about the next season of Arrested Development, which will be released on Netflix:

It's really audacious and amazing. I think a lot of people will miss the work that is involved, the story, the Venn diagrams that are being created, the domino effect that characters have with each other in their various episodes. I know what he's doing, and this has never been done on a TV show like this. This makes Lost look like a Spalding Grey monologue. You'll have to watch each episode more than once.

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4. it is the earth the geeks inherit, not the dirt

Newsweek decrees, via The Daily Beast website, that the geeks have inherited the earth.

They've published a Digital Power Index of 100 movers and shakers, conveniently arranged by category for those of us who enjoy such things. (Larry Page is an 'innovator' and Sergey Brin is a 'visionary'. Or vice versa.)

Something in here for everyone, I think.

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5. iBooks vs. Kindle App on iPad

I recently did a little experiment while on my trip to KidLitCon and the East Coast. I read Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick as my first eBook, downloaded to the Kindle app on my iPad 2. I also read Harlan Coben's Shelter on my iPad, using the native iBooks app.I found pros and cons to each. (Please note that here I'm talking about the Kindle app on the iPad, and not the Kindle itself.)

I found the Kindle app more readable right out of the box (fonts, fontsize, relative contrast of text and background), though these things are somewhat configurable in the iBooks app. The iBooks app does let you change the font, which is nice, but the old-school part of me thinks that I shouldn't be monkeying with the font of books I'm reading anyway.

I initially liked that the iBooks app shows page numbers, but was less pleased when I realized that the page numbering does not correspond with the page numbers of the hardcover. Of course this makes sense, given that you can change font size, etc. It's more a nod to old-school ways of knowing where you are in a book. The Kindle app just shows you what percentage of the way through the book you are. I respect what the iBooks app is trying to do in giving the feel of a printed book (the right-hand side of the screen also shows ruffled page edges). But the net result is that the iBooks screen feels more cluttered, while the screen when using the Kindle app is cleaner. The Kindle automatically hides all of the options (book location, home button, etc.), while the iBooks requires an extra step to hide them, every time you reopen.

So, on a pure reading experience basis, the Kindle app wins for me. But of course there are other factors.

Both products have integrated Google and Wikipedia search, and the ability to bookmark pages and add notes to the text. You can also link to Twitter and Facebook with the Kindle app, to share excerpts of books (kind of cool, though I'm not sure I would do it). The iBooks app lets you add notes (like sticky notes that you can write on), and then email them to yourself (it doesn't email text from the book, just your note and what page it was attached to). The Kindle app by default automatically backs up all your annotations at Amazon.com, and includes them in "popular highlights". This bothers me a bit, even though I frequently share things that I like in reviews. Perhaps it's because when I flag something in a book that I'm reading for review, I might flag because I like it OR because I don't like it. But I can turn that off.

Both products include dictionaries. The Kindle dictionary was a bit less intuitive to use, you have to press down on the word for a surprisingly long time to make the definition come up. The Kindle app puts a short definition at the bottom of the page, below the text, with an option to click for more detail. The iBooks app has a longer popup definition to start with. So again, the Kindle version is a bit less cluttered.

But the bottom line is that these apps have largely the same functionality, with each having a slight edge in one area or another. Although I preferred the less cluttered look of the Kindle, I could easily get used to either reader. I think that the decision of which to use is going to boil down more to who I trust to store my book content than which of these two apps provides a better reading experience. I think the jury's still out on that ...

What I think I'm going to do for now, though, is continue to purchase a few titles that I'm particularly interested in reading, and read them on my iPad. I prefer this to starting to accept review titles for my iPad, because I still have some kinks to work out in terms of using the notes features and writing reviews. I still find paper books easier on my eyes,

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6. Trending T.S. Eliot, “The Waste Land” App and Volumes of Letters Coming to the US

Check out the news on GalleyCat: “The Waste Land” app is now the most popular iPad book app, after only being released last week. It might seem unsurprising for a poem that was literally carried in the breast pockets of literati and college students on both sides of the Atlantic throughout the 1920s; we have new ways of enjoying literary trends nowadays.

Letters of T.S Whether you’re still serving yourself on print and paper or e-readers, at the end of summer, we’re simultaneously publishing the first two volumes of The Letters of T.S. Eliot in our US market. The first is a revised edition with new material made available since the 1988 publication, and the second volume has never been published in the US before. Each has approximately 1,400 letters, a stunning Who’s Who of correspondence that includes Jean Cocteau, F. Scott Fitzgerald, E. M. Forster, André Gide, James Joyce, D. H. Lawrence, Wyndham Lewis, C. K. Scott Moncrieff, Marianne Moore, Ezra Pound, Bertrand Russell, Edmund Wilson, Leonard Woolf, Virginia Woolf, and many moreedited by the poet’s widow, Valerie Eliot, and University of York professor Hugh Haughton, spanning Eliot’s career from 1898 until 1922 when “The Waste Land” was published, and secondly from 1923-1925.

If you can’t find your copy of the poem, we’ve got that a book for that, even annotated, by the eminent Lawrence Rainey.

7. 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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8. 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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9. Flogometer for Kelley—would you turn the page?

The Flogometer challenge: can you craft a first page that compels me to turn to the next page? Caveat: Please keep in mind that this is entirely subjective.
Note: all the Flogometer posts are here.

What's a first page in publishingland? In a properly formatted novel manuscript (double-spaced, 1-inch margins, 12-point type, etc.) there should be about 16 or 17 lines on the first page (first pages of chapters/prologues start about 1/3 of the way down the page). Directions for submissions are below.

Some homework. Before sending your novel's opening, you might want to read these two FtQ posts: Story as River and Kitty-cats in Action. That'll tell you where I'm coming from, and might prompt a little rethinking of your narrative.

Storytelling Checklist

Before you rip into today’s submission, consider this list of 6 vital storytelling ingredients from my book, Flogging the Quill, Crafting a Novel that Sells. While it's not a requirement that all of these elements must be on the first page, they can be, and I think you have the best chance of hooking a reader if they are.

Evaluate the submission—and your own first page—in terms of whether or not it includes each of these ingredients, and how well it executes them. The one vital ingredient not listed is professional-caliber writing because that is a must for every page, a given.

  • Tension
  • Story questions
  • Voice
  • Clarity
  • Scene setting
  • Character

Kelley’s opening page:

Starting over. That was the whole point of this, right? Then why do I feel such a strong sensation pulling me backward, back to my empty house in the only city I’ve ever called home? With each mile of pavement under the tires, the sensation grows inside me like the mountains rising on the horizon. What used to be a slight nag has now become full-blown anxiety and alarm so intense I’m starting to feel nauseous.

My mind seemed at ease for most of the drive, and I clearly remember feeling a shred of optimism as I watched the Chicago skyline fade in my rear-view mirror a few days ago. I couldn’t have imagined the only positive emotion I’ve had in such a long time. Why the apprehension now? I hoped that putting physical distance between myself and my old life would free me from at least a portion of my torment, from some of the weight pressing down on me every day. I know better than to think I can live happily again, but is just a tiny bit of relief too much to ask?

I can blame some of my unease on this unfamiliar land, now more unfamiliar with the arrival of the vast mountains fading into the horizon and getting closer, fast. The open air, the flat ground surrounding me, and the ceaseless, oppressive sky make little effort to provide any cover from my past. They specialize in full, honest exposure with no apologies. I am a lightning rod out here. I cannot hide. There is nowhere to blend in, and it is going to take some strength to get (snip)

Would you turn Kelley's first page? Be tough. Comments help the writer.online survey Amazon page Add a Comment
10. Facebook public status updates searchable, says TechCrunch

Your public Facebook status updates? Now publicly searchable outside Facebook

Via the helpful chaps at TPUTH.

While the debate rages on about Facebook’s attitude to privacy, and in particular the views of Mark Zuckerberg, the current situation is that an awful lot of people make their status updates public, whether they realise the full implications or not. A stark reminder of this comes today in the form of a new search engine thrown together by two developers.

FacebookSearch simply takes those public status updates and makes them searchable, outside of Facebook. The guys behind it, Peter Burns and Will Moffat, have posted a simple explanation: “This is a simple example of just how open facebook has made your information. This data is wide open, and this is one of the least scary uses that anyone will make. If nothing changes, it’s only to get worse.” There’s an interesting discussion over at Hacker News on the morality of what they are doing.

 I am going to keep my eye on what happens there and suggest any Facebookin' readers do same. TechCrunch is a very reliable source for this kind of thing.

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11. Follow Friday Links: March 26, 2010

Manguel Grossman  Eagleton Fierypool
This new regular blog feature presents a weekly roundup of interesting links related to Yale University Press, courtesy of the keen-eyed citizens of the Twitterverse:

@cafsimard reflects on Alberto Manguel's troublingly negative review of Roberto Bolaño's latest work.

@flloydpk quotes a particularly tongue-twisting passage from Edith Grossman's Why Translation Matters.

@GeneDillenburg catches us up on @Lileks's clever plan to create a Twitter account for John Cage.

@mediabite wants Terry Eagleton for pope.

@amytetreault reviews the Peabody Essex Museum's "Fiery Pool" exhibition in @nsartthrob.

12. The Magic of book trailers! Need one made for your book?

It's been a while since we have posted to this blog, but I mean to change that with some news and some great new promotion ideas.

It is no secret that one of the best ideas to come out of web marketing and writing books is the BOOK TRAILER! That said, I am happy to announce that my 2009 Berklee School of Music graduate son, Dave Hoon Newman, has now added the creation of original book trailers to his repertoire.  Honestly, it is the perfect vehicle for him: he is a gifted musician and composer, and he is also a wonderful visual artist. Blending video and sound is something he does VERY well and something he has been doing since he was nine years old. Now, with his degree behind him and serious training in not only music but sound design,  he has found his perfect medium. He already has a couple of film soundtacks under his belt, as well as the creation of new audio for existing TVads. Adding book trailers was the perfect step.

Check out his site and make sure to check out no only his sound design and film work,  but also some of his original music. Here is his MySpace page for his music.  http://www.myspace.com/davehoonnewman

I have to admit it, that Dave'sbook trailers are the most professional I have seen.I think it has to do with the fact that he creates  ALL ORIGINAL music and also performs it. The music for trailers that he does does not exist until he writes it.

Have a book coming out? Think about a truly custom book trailer!

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13. sun comes up today on a city of books (live here on RW)

The Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas website is well and truly alive today: from Twitter there is news of the media launch this morning, and some programming is already up on the website, as well as a NAME, "The Wheeler Centre" - which is not as clunky as CBGBWI, I know - news of their opening for the masses in February, and other great things in the associated pipelines, including a Reading The City program next March.

I am hardly surprised to read that such a program is in the waters, as the State Library's Summer Read program has downsized itself for a snugger fit with local libraries (it's going online in early December, so keep an eye on that here.)

On first glance, this is a really nice looking website - I like the site map down the bottom. There will be news posted daily on the site from the "Dailies" section, which has an RSS feed? yes. You can also subscribe to Events from that page. Excuse me now, I've liveblogged a website (not the media event, I hasten to add - there are pics of that on Twitter) and I'm off to play.

*Later today - Michael Orthofer has heard the news, and spread the word, but also speaks of ANOTHER Wheeler Center, in Montana. Zut alors.

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14. from my email...

For it is true, some of us live in an Internet world. And isn't "Internet Tendency" just the best name ever for a service delivering an i-Phone app from indie publishers? How 'hubbly jubbly'.

Mc Sweeney's email newsletter promises great things for its new iPhone app, The Small Chair:

No longer will T-Pain be your only salvation on trains, during lunch, and through all the other empty gaps in a day. Allow McSweeney's to fill your moments of solitude, moments of togetherness, moments of intolerable boredom.'

Und so weiter. There's a review making extravagant claims about sales of The Small Chair, here at Boldtype.

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15. "Between the Roundups" News Widget

Jpg_book008 Earlier this month, Terry Doherty and I announced some changes to the way that we were going to do the weekly children's literacy and reading news roundups. This was in response to the fact that the roundups were getting bigger and bigger every week. While we've been thrilled that there's so much news to report, we were concerned with a) the roundups getting too large and b) getting the news out in a more timely manner.

As part of revamping the roundups, Terry took on a project to find a better way to share some of the links that we find. And she's been hugely successful - I am VERY lucky to have her as a partner in these literacy roundups, that's for sure. What she's done (thanks to some very helpful advice from Andrea Ross) is set up Del.ic.ious accounts that we're both using to share news in four different categories: raising readers, literacy news, 21st century literacies, and events.

Today, she also set up a great new widget using WidgetBox, with which you can, if you like, display these news links on your own blog. You can see the widget in my right-hand sidebar, near the top. You can switch between the four tabs, to keep the one you like best on top. If you click on "Get Widget" you can install it on your own blog. If you create a (free) account on WidgetBox, you can change the width of the widget, to match your blog's setup.

Terry has more details about this widget, and some other widgets that she's experimenting with, at Scrub-a-Dub-Tub. As for me, I'm going to be working on sharing more children's literacy links on Del.ic.ious and Twitter. We welcome your feedback!

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16. tinkering - as done as it will ever be

Well, I like the look of this for now. I tried out the whole new navbar thing on a sample blog over the past couple of weeks and I think this will help with a number of things,

one: reading too many feeds and not enough books (believe me, a wider page is a frightening thing to a linkster);

two: trying to write occasional posts in a quieter vein;

three: still reviewing the odd new title here and there, but taking time for the 370-odd articles I have bookmarked to read, as well as rereading other books, and pasting in quotations from things I like here and there;

four: Reeling and Writhing keeps its name and URL - there was a brief flirtation with a new blog, and it's over.

Thanks for your patience with my self-indulgence and hopefully temporary insanity. If I could get at the code on the 'Browse' page and put those lists into columns, believe me, I would. I won't be here quite as often in the future, but I will be here, while I am spared.

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17. long may you run

Well, there are prizes. And then, there are prizes.

And speaking of the other kind of prize, three hearty cheers for Sleepers and Steve Amsterdam's win. Not bad for the first novel out of their blocks, is it now. Not too shabby at all.

Someone after Pav's heart.

As noted on Twitter by Jason Ensor, Damien Broderick has published a new story, here.

Want to record and send a 5 min video through Twitter? YES YOU CAN.

Congratulations are due to Jennifer Mills for a nomination for the Blake Poetry Prize. GO JEN.

What would Oscar have wanted to say about Twitter if he was here? something like this, I think.
(In other news, Fry has discovered what he calls Goldilocks Miniblogging using his iPhone.

And congratulations to Mark Rubbo and his crew for the good ship Readings' happy birthday. Many pictures here, long may she sail.

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18. a web of writing that reads itself

Poets have embraced online communities, and Andrew Burke of Hi Spirits has pointed out this one, newly relaunched in a social network format.

I like the look of their virtual book tour, with its implications for the future of the reviewing of poetry.

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19. Keyhole Shows How to Use Technology

Stephanie Johnson, author of One of These Things is Not Like the Others (Keyhole Press, 2009), used UStream TV this evening to read three stories to viewers from anywhere in the world so long as they had an internet connection.  She looked very comfortable in her own den or library, reading to the camera via her computer.  Keyhole's Peter Cole set this up and has Stephanie set up to read the next two nights as well.

This is something that can change how reading tours are run, especially for authors that might have the ability to go on week or two long bookstore tours. To see how tonight went, just wander over here.

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20. We Told Stories

A year ago to the day we launched We Tell Stories, an experiment in digital storytelling developed with ARG designers Six to Start. Over the course of six weeks, six writers told six stories based on six classics - but unlike their (and our) usual publishing output these stories were told online, using digital tools to create what we hoped would be engaging, fresh and radically different narrative experiences. 

Charles Cumming, for example, told his story entirely on Google Maps - readers can follow his character around the map as he attempts to make sense of the bizarre events that unfold. Nicci French (bravely) wrote their story live allowing the audience to see their tale appear on screens around the world, word by word. And Mohsin Hamid created an elegiac and fresh digital version of a choose-your-own-adventure story, readers creating their own path through his magical narrative. Sitting behind the six pieces was a secret seventh story which asked readers to solve a series of puzzles hidden online and in 'the real world' to stand a chance of winning prizes which included a complete set of Penguin Classics.
We got a lot out of the experience of producing this project. We got to work with and meet some very talented people. We learned that our authors enjoy taking on a challenge. Nearly a quarter of a million people have spent over 9000 hours reading the site and we received a ton of nice publicity, most of it very positive, and perhaps along the way we even sold an extra book or two ;-) And this Sunday, in Austin Texas, we were thrilled to receive the award for Experimentation and, astonishingly, the Best of Show award at this year's South by Southwest Interactive Festival Web Awards.

Best of all, perhaps, we learnt that it is possible for old school publishers to get out there and play with the cool kids without having our glasses stolen and stamped on. These are challenging times for traditional media companies - as Penguin author Clay Shirky writes

'the core problem publishing solves — the incredible difficulty, complexity, and expense of making something available to the public — has stopped being a problem.'

(note: technically Prof. Shirky was talking about the newspaper business, but the same can surely be said of book publishing). People are discovering new ways of telling stories, sharing stories and talking about stories and if we want to thrive through this paradigm shift we've got to master these techniques ourselves and perhaps invent a few of our own.

We've already taken some of the learnings from We Tell Stories and applied them across our marketing and in the next few months we'll be launching a couple of projects which again push the boundaries in some new ways. I can't tell you much more about these right now, except to say that next time around we're looking forward to reading some stories that other people make. And no, we're not talking about another wikinovel...

Jeremy Ettinghausen, Digital Publisher


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21. New Blog Feature: ShareThis

Sharethis_logo_new At the suggestion of someone on Facebook, I decided to try a new widget for my blog. It's the ShareThis application. Below each of my posts, next to the Permalink, there's a little logo like the one to the left and words ShareThis. Clicking on the logo or the words brings up a pop-up window that you can use to share the current post via email, or post it as a note or update on other social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter. You can even use it to create a short blog post on another service, with a comment and a link back to the post in question, should you ever want to do that. 

I've done some testing of this for the other services that I use, and I think it's pretty cool. Obviously, I have no particular expectation of anyone sharing any of my posts in other places. But if you do try it, and you have any problems with it, please let me know. And I'd recommend that you think about installing the application on your own blog, too. I know it works for TypePad and WordPress.

I'm feeling so cutting edge, all of a sudden! Or, you know, whatever the word is for one who experiments with social networking.

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22. Web 2.0 makeovers for Brit publishing

Although launched and hosted by the independent publishing house Canongate, Meet at the Gate is not a typical publisher's website. Yes you can search the Canongate catalogue and find out more about the excellent and diverse array of books and writers we publish, but Meet at the Gate has much broader and bigger ambitions. It's about the creation of a cultural hub, one that is totally independent in its spirit and content, a place with a particular focus on books, film, music and websites that will help guide you to the most interesting stuff around.

Not only does Canongate Publishing's blog invite the public (including the publishing industry) to contribute posts (called gateposts), but it selects blogs of note to feature every once in a while. (This I discovered via Stephen Mitchelmore at UK blog This Space, featured last week. )

Not only that, it's the front page of the whole establishment, the first hit for Canongate on Google and the publisher's public face is integrated quite well into a social network site. Haven't seen anything else like this yet; I will have to get out a bit more, I think. A search turned up this article by Hannah Davies in The BookSeller (thanks to Book Addicts for the link), which will be my starting point for further forays. Davies notes that Canongate's site was in beta in September and due to be launched, so I would say this is still very new.

The Canongate site could do with some more navigation aids either on top or to the side. It seems to have been designed by someone who thinks most blogs are messy affairs, however most of (er, most of) our mess has some purpose or other. Because of the lean design, presently the search box on the Gateposts page of Meet At The Gate can only help you find things you already know are there, unless they're the latest or greatest posts, of course.

Keep your eyes peeled and you'll be able to browse topics and contributors from the side menu on the front page (though sadly you cannot find the posts on featured blogs easily). See, our categorised archives exist for a reason...and there could be a reason why there's no room for them here, also.

There appear to be dribs of more innovative technology drabbed here and there through the site - a Twitter feed of news and some MySpace and Facebook addresses are mentioned, but only from one page.

Otherwise it's an interesting experiment and I am reasonably impressed by their efforts to bring writers, publishers and the public together in a social network. A fair bit of thought has gone into this, and given the prestige of bloggers in the UK (most of the prominent bloggers were sent Sony E-readers to trial in September), it would want to be pretty to attract their attention.

Now I'm off to read Maria Hyland's post - whoo hoo. Hope I can comment....nope, I am too shy. Never mind how she feels about Helen Garner being nominated for a prize alongside her - I can't even put fingers to keyboard when I have the chance to talk to MJH. I must have some favourite writers after all, and this is the test I will apply in future.

Also she's published by Text, Canongate's partners down under. So I am left wondering if the arrangement's so very different from providing a few choice sentences for a cover blurb. While not as gratingly obvious as the author blogs at Faber, some of which seem to be simply webpages put up on Blogger under industry pressure, this is a funny state of affairs. Do the authors volunteer for this activity? How does this work exactly?

(The blog of the month at Faber for November, that of Richard T. Kelly, author of a bio of Sean Penn and other works, is worthy of a post on its own on author blogging. He's doing quite a nice job with whatever it is that he thinks he's doing there. The labelling is a tad gratuitous, but he seems to like, and 'get,' blogging, which is more than can be said for the blog I found there in October, which has discreetly disappeared from the site.)

There are also snippets from Canongate's 'archives', which I assume doesn't always include sniffy correspondence like this. I am going to follow the Gate site for a bit and see what else turns up, and I will keep you informed of any progress I make.

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23. How My Blog Has Changed My Life

TypePad, the blogging service that I use, is holding a 5th anniversary celebration. The marketing folks asked TypePad users to share stories about: "how my TypePad blog has changed my life." Since my blog has certainly changed my life, I decided to participate. You can find my story on this page. Currently it's the fourth story down, though I imagine that other stories might be added. Here's a brief excerpt:

"I was always an informal advocate for children's books and raising readers... My blog has allowed me to take my literacy advocacy to a new and previously unimagined level, in a way that would have been impossible before the advent of blogging."

I do think that this is true. Blogging allows someone like me, someone who doesn't have a formal library or teaching background, to participate in the conversation about raising readers. I feel very privileged to be here.

And, for the record, I've been quite pleased with TypePad as my blogging service. I hope that they'll be around for another five years.

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24. Once Upon a time...

... in an office building on the Strand, we had an idea to make a story that was a game and a game that was a story. We called it We Tell Stories and tens of thousands of people looked at the site and wandered around St Pancras station and followed fictional characters on Twitter.
Well, the third story is now up and running and if you like your fairytales both personalizable and dark you will enjoy this. Kevin Brooks, author of the brilliant Black Rabbit Summer, has constructed the building blocks for a traditional, yet melancholy fairytale. Putting them together is down to you. Go have a play and let us know what you think.

In other news, those wags at the BBC today announced the discovery of flying penguins. Of course we didn't fall for this lame April Fool gag here at Penguin Towers. Everyone knows Penguins can't fly.

Jeremy Ettinghausen, Digital Publisher


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25. His first words were free

Taster_2 Last year I gave - hang on, let me count them up - yes, I gave fourteen books as gifts. All of these were books I'd read. Books I'd really enjoyed. Books I thought my friends and family might love or enjoy as much as I did.

How many books did I receive in return? None. Not a one. I've counted them. Twice. It didn't take long.

But let's hold back those cries of 'tight-fisted, illiterate buggers!' There is a good reason for this unfortunate state of affairs. You see, the trouble with working in publishing is that everyone who doesn't is too scared to buy you a book on the somewhat unlikely grounds, considering how many books come out each year, that either you have read it, or, if you haven't, you already know all about it and have decided you'd rather stick pins in your eyes.

Even if you're not in publishing, people are often wary of buying you something on the much more sensible basis that they can never be sure that you'll like it.

This is a shame since receiving a book from a friend by an author you've never read is usually the best way to discover something wonderful, new and unexpected. Especially if you are anything like me and have become increasingly risk-averse in your reading habits. These days I will on no account buy a book unless I've read some of the writing within. No really. I don't give a damn what the blurb writers - a pack of miserable, tricksy curs (I know, I live inside the head of one) - have written. Or what the FT thinks about it. Even what Martin Amis has penned on the matter. Sure, all those words - if they're good - together with a decent cover have a great chance of getting the book off the 3-for-2 table and into my hands. But I want to get a taste of what's within if I'm going to commit.

This is why you'll find me at lunchtimes in bookshops, cracking open the covers and reading the first few pages of any old rubbish. If I'm going to devote some time to a book then I want to hear the author's voice, I want an idea of what sort of story it is right from the start. Surprise me, thrill me, have me begging for more.

Which brings me to Penguin Tasters. From today (or actually from six months ago if you were sniffing around some of our new novels on the Penguin website) you can download the opening chapter (or chapters) of all Penguin's new fiction for free. Yes, that's right. FREE. For nothing. In pdf form - which you can print, email, view on your PC screen or a Blackberry, Palm or iPhone - these Tasters offer you the very beginnings of Penguin's latest novels. You can get your mitts on some great stories without having to give a jumped-up calculator the keys to your bank account. It's an entirely risk-free way to discover new authors, to read new stories (and to pass them on to your literate friends).

New Tasters will be added as each title is published. Currently, we have 53 up there for you already. So if you've been tempted by Marina Lewycka's novels, but haven't yet been persuaded to take the plunge - and BTW why not? I worked hard on that blurb - then just click here and you can download and read the opening 25 pages. What are you waiting for?

If you like it, you've discovered a wonderful new author for yourself. If not, then there are 52 other titles for you to try. And more coming every month.

Let drooling commence.

Colin Brush
Senior Copywriter


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