Book startups and why they don’t work

Books and tech seem like they should be a natural combination but book startups are invariably a bit crap, to be honest. This is a great read on why:

Apple, Amazon and the uncertain future of the book startup — Tech News and Analysis

Three BWB Texts from Bridget Williams Books

With the prospect of a stormy weekend ahead of me I decided it was the perfect time to delve into three delightfully short books I recently received from Bridget Williams Books. The predicted storm never really materialised but it still provided me with the perfect excuse to read these small gems from the BWB Texts series.

Creeks and Kitchens cover imageCreeks and Kitchens: A Childhood Memoir by Maurice Gee, ISBN 9781927277430, RRP $14.99

A wonderfully evocative short exploration of Gee’s West Auckland childhood and family, as well as the inspiration behind much of his writing. Being a child of the “Under the Mountain” generation I particularly liked that he talks about where the ideas for Under the Mountain came from, and about children’s books and writing being truthful and hopeful but also containing “hard things”. Creeks and Kitchens also reads as a slice of social history, an elegy to 1930’s and 40’s New Zealand where life was necessarily rooted in the land and the water, and at once shiningly bright and disturbingly dark. The creek and the kitchen.

Luminous Moments cover imagePaul Callaghan: Luminous Moments, Foreword by Catherine Callaghan, ISBN 9781927277492, RRP $14.99

A collection of speeches, essays and interviews with Paul Callaghan, one of New Zealand’s best scientists, who passed away in 2012. His gift was being able to communicate what he knew in a human and truly inspirational way, and Luminous Moments is both genuinely enlightening and personally moving.

But science is not ultimately about the individuals; it’s about the methodology. It’s about the requirement of evidence and consisstency, a process in which the chaff is spearated from the wheat. Through the winnowing process, truth gradually emerges.

Thorndon cover imageThorndon: Wellington and Home, My Katherine Mansfield Project by Kirsty Gunn, ISBN 9781927277447, RRP $14.99

In 2009 New Zealand (and English and Scottish?) writer Kirsty Gunn returned home to Wellington to be the Randell Cottage New Zealand Writer in Residence in 2009. This text is her project from that experience, a mix of essay, memoir, fiction, history and meditation. It has a wonderful cyclical feeling about it, especially when you consider this “notebook” strongly echo the notebooks of Gunn’s subject, Katherine Mansfield. What better place to explore the nature of “home” and Mansfield’s relationship to it than Wellington? As New Zealanders we often have this extremely complex relationship with our own country and the rest of the world, at one and the same time we want to bring it all closer and push it away. Mansfield’s writing was always about the microcosm vs the macrocosm (she wrote a story called The Doll’s House for goodness sakes), which is what New Zealand does to us, and Gunn delves into similar territory.

I have a confession… and here it is

It’s time to come clean.

I’ve been fooling you all for a while. Well, not so much fooling you, as just not ‘fessing up.

I am now, officially, a converted lover of e-readers. Not just any e-reader, oh no, the Kindle Paperwhite. It…is…awesome. It is 1NTERESTOMG*.

And it really is. I started my conversion quietly, with the Kindle app on a cheap Android tablet. I thought I really needed to start looking into ebooks, despite my well-covered natural aversion to them. I thought that would be a cheap way to at least find out what it was like reading ebooks. I thought “They’ll never replace “real” books, they don’t smell right.”

Then I started reading. And reading, and reading, and reading. It quickly became clear that I actually quite liked reading ebooks. And that I may as well give in and just buy a goddamn Kindle from the evil empire.

So here’s what I’ve learned:

  1. Ebooks can replace real books, even though they don’t smell right. But they feel great. My Kindle screen (and it’s a touchscreen) feels so good to the fingertips that I sometimes switch it off just so I can run my fingers over it. This is akin to the way I often smell books in book stores. Don’t judge.
  2. Reading ebooks is like discovering reading for the first time. I specifically remember exactly when I discovered how to read in my head (instead of reading out loud) and how it felt to go into my own little world of reading for the first time. I don’t know why but reading ebooks was like that. It’s a different experience but it’s JUST AS GOOD. Now I have two ways of reading! Hoorah!
  3. Maybe I’m missing something but I really miss having a description for each book. I spend a ridiculous amount of time deciding what to read next, and I’m guided by a precise but totally undefinable combination of “That sounds interesting”, “That’s what I feel like reading”, “That’s what I need to review next” and “That starts with P and purple starts with P and purple is my favourite colour, but maybe I’ll read this instead”. That sort of approach really needs all available information at all times. Am I being Kindle-clueless? Please let me know.

I’m not giving up books made of ink and paper and wood and glue and silverfish and bits of food and weird smells. The sound of a book being cracked open for the first time is simply something I’m not willing to let go.  I’m just catching up with the future.

*My new favourite term coined just this week in a Facebook message from a delightful NZ author who shall remain nameless.

Digital State: How the Internet is Changing Everything, edited by Simon Pont

Digital State cover image

Digital State: How the Internet is Changing Everything, written and edited by Simon Pont, Kogan Page, ISBN9780749468859, RRP $42.99, June 2013.

As many pages as there is on the internet, there is an equal amount of pages spent dissecting, analysing, reminiscing and predicting what the internet is, where it’s going and how it’s “changing everything”.

Which is fair enough. It is insane.

Digital State is something of a history of the interwebs, and something of a “where are we going?” projection forward. As is often the case with collections of different writers the quality is a little variable, ranging from ho-hum to decently engaging to crazily out there.

There is some repetition (“I heard about this weird internetty thingy in 199x and so took a good look and wow!”) but overall the message is that our society and culture and economy will never be the same, which is true. Some of the best essays are by Faris Yakob – serious thinking about the possibilities of digital and where we’re going with it –  and Judd Labarthe.

The “I’d like you to meet” schtick at the beginning of every writer’s essay is a little wearing, but overall I’d recommend this for people who don’t just like to use the internet but like to think about what it means.

Note: weirdly I read this in ebook edition and it was a little messed up, with bad layout, lower case when it should have been upper case, a mix of cases in titles and words running together…

HarperCollins Titles Now Available on the iBookstore in New Zealand

Just through from HarperCollins NZ…

AUCKLAND, New Zealand — 24 October 2012 — HarperCollins today announced that thousands of its local and international catalogue of titles are now available on the iBookstore. This includes New Zealand classics such as Tamar by Deborah Challinor, He’ll be Okay by Celia Lashlie, Before Your Kids Drive You Crazy, Read This by Nigel Latta and The Winner’s Bible by Kerry Spackman.

“Having HarperCollins’ books available on the iBookstore offers a great opportunity for New Zealand readers to get further access to a fantastic array of books,” said Graham Mitchell, General Manager, HarperCollins New Zealand. “The popularity of the iPad and the iBookstore in Australia, the US and the UK indicates that the market available to New Zealand authors through this platform will be significant and will also contribute to the accessibility of our authors in international markets.”

Download HarperCollins titles today from the iBookstore on iPhone, iPad and iPod touch or at