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

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

Book Watch, The Herald on Sunday, 3 June 2012

Bookwatch 030612

Not Drowning, Reading

By Andrew Relph (Fremantle Press, $30)

A memoir for readers, Not Drowning, Reading is an affecting meditation on a life of reading (or not reading). Relph had a reading disability as a child so there’s a real intensity to this “literary conversation”. I was simultaneously moved and spirited by Relph’s reflections on what books can mean to a child, a teenager, and an adult, in fact what books can bring to a whole life.

The Prince of Soul and the Lighthouse

By Fredrik Brouneus (Steam Press, $30 paperback, $12 ebook)

The first book from brand new New Zealand speculative fiction publisher, Steam Press, The Prince of Soul and the Lighthouse bodes very well for the future of NZ publishing. A very clever, very funny and very enjoyable YA read which had me very envious of the talents of its author, Fredrik Brouneus. Brouneus may be Swedish but his book is definitely Kiwi, and should be on every Kiwi bookshelf. Packed with action, puns, science, philosophy and soul.

Mystery at Riddle Gully

By Jen Banyard (Fremantle Press, $18.99)

Pollo di Nozi – she’s a reporter in training and she’s out for a scoop!  Along with her sheepish sidekick, Shorn Connery (yes, I giggled every time I read it), Pollo’s going to find out what’s happening in Riddle Gully. A smart and funny chapter book for kids, Mystery at Riddle Gully will engage any reader. Banyard uses humour and a touch of the spooky to produce an entertaining read that still tackles some of the serious issues most kids have to deal with.

Love & Money

By Greg McGee (Penguin, $29.99)

McGee’s first novel under his own name (having published two crime novels under the pseudonym Alix Bosco), Love & Money is a true New Zealand satire set in 1987 – a time that seems disturbingly familiar. Our protagonist is Mike, an ex-hippy actor who is almost gratingly inept at modern life. Love & Money combines brittle commentary on our recent financial and political landscape with slapstick comedy and a playfully poignant celebration of family.

Book Review: Total Blueprint for World Domination by Jolene Stockman, ISBN 1466359307, Available now.

Total Blueprint for World Domination by Jolene StockmanTotal Blueprint for World Domination by Jolene Stockman, ISBN 1466359307, Available now.

Total Blueprint for World Domination turned out to be a self-help book: it’s a guide to ruling your world, not the world. (But I think we can all agree that this BookieMinion shouldn’t rule the planet, so that’s probably for the best.)

Self help books are kind of a nebulous genre, halfway between misery memoirs and the uplifting babble that is Chicken Soup for the Soul. They have a kind of a stigma attached to them, which I think is ridiculous, because I read somewhere that they can be as effective as therapy – and who doesn’t have at least some problems? (I googled and can’t find that reference: does anyone know what I’m talking about?)

I received Total Blueprint as a PDF ebook, and read it in Google Docs because I am not currently on speaking terms with my Kobo ereader. Total Blueprint was formatted fine for screen, and looked like it would print well too. At about a hundred pages, it’s not so long that the screen will strain your eyes.

As self help books go, Total Blueprint sticks pretty close to the formula. The reader is presumed to have a problem; the author explains that this is a very common problem and can be overcome by following the steps X, Y and Z. You can do it!

In Total Blueprint, the reader is presumed to be a teen, with very average teen-issues: motivation and procrastination. The reader is not presumed to have any family issues, issues with relationships, or illness or grief. Things aren’t bad, exactly, but the reader feels like they’re drifting a little. (An aside: I am suddenly wondering why I was assigned this book to review.) Total Blueprint lays out how to find out what your passion is (hint: it’s probably animals or music), and how to make a plan to make that passion the key focus of your life. (Goal: manage a cat band, sell hits on iTunes, retire on the proceeds, spend rest of life watching cat videos. Now let’s figure out how to achieve that goal!)

The actual advice is often pretty vague, but delivered so forcefully and cheerfully that you start to believe it. Having said that, a couple of points were flat-out terrible. These two stood out for me:

- Afraid of rejection? Start seeing every “no” as one step closer to the inevitable “yes” that’s on its way!

– Hate not fitting in? Know that you are special because you don’t fit in!

The first point squicks me out because I was raised to believe that “no means no”. In the context of Total Blueprint, the tip works fine (get a job, teens! If no one wants to hire you, apply more places!). The second point is just really unhelpful to teens. Sure, not fitting in will make you a more awesome adult, but it can also make your teenage years pretty damn terrible. (Also, maybe you can’t get a job because you’re a werido?)

Having just been all mean and picky, I should say that the main thrust of Total Blueprint’s is very sound: make a list, stick to the list.

The tone is that familiar, upbeat one which is common to the genre. Short, punchy sentences! Lots of repetition of key points! Exclamation points! Bulleted lists and pages left blank to write in notes! This is annoying for a while, but it’s a trope of the genre because it works, damn it. Thirty pages into Total Blueprint, I closed my browser, and started working towards the total domination of my world.

So: the Total Blueprint worked on me. If you need to be told in the nicest possible way to get off your butt and do something with your life, Total Blueprint for World Domination is a good a place as any to start.

Use the comment section below to brainstorm some thoughts about self help books. Will you admit to reading them? Do you have a favourite? Do you follow its advice?


Book Review: 21st Century Dodos by Steve Stack

21st Century Dodos

21st Century Dodos : A Collection of Endangered Objects (and Other Stuff) by Steve Stack, The Friday Project (Harper Collins NZ), RRP $26.99 or 99p as an ebook from, ISBN 9781906321734, Available now. 

You may remember Steve Stack from such guest posts as Guest Post: Steve Stack on Copyright Pages, and uh… that’s it actually. So you know he’s funny. Because you read the post, right?

Lucky little readers are us then, because the funny Mr Stack also writes books! And this is his newest endeavour… an endangered list for inanimate objects (and ideas). Of course, it’s much more than just a list, it’s a pleasant jaunt down memory lane. Particularly if you were a 70s or 80s child.

Mix tapes? BASIC? Computer tapes? Teletext? Intermission? Cap guns? If any of these things mean anything to you, you’ll enjoy 21st Century Dodos’ journey with these stops and more along the way! Being written by a British author, there are some entries that may be a little unfamiliar or downright totally unknown to readers outside the UK but those are in the minority. Otherwise we get little meditations on laser discs, mini discs, smoking sections, handwritten letters, carbon copy paper and Smash Hits, including this tiny detail that had me giggling:

…for many, the main attraction was the inclusion of lyrics from the most popular songs of the day, most of which seemed to end with the legendary bracketed phrase “(ad lib to fade)”.

I can’t help it. I’m a child of the 80s. I love this stuff. Plus Mr Stack agrees with me that the old practice of putting two spaces after a full stop is no longer needed in our digital age. SO STOP IT, PEOPLE.

Divided into sections covering technology, the home, school, the cinema, TV and radio plus more, Stack really does cover many of the changes that have happened in the late 20th century and he does it with nice personal stories and occasional brevity (see “Nougat” and “Nestle”).

A totally fun read and lucky for all you e-reader owners it’s only 99p (that’s around $2 in real money) on the Amazon Kindle store until Christmas.

And if you think that’s a good deal you can also get Steve Stack’s first book It Is Just You, Everything Is Not Shit for only 49p (again, real money = $1)