Too many bibliophiles, says Philip Blackwell, have been stranded in a hotel without anything to read except a Bible and some out-of-date paperbacks.
Blackwell, who had served as the CEO of his family’s bookstore business, decided it was time to upgrade the literary offerings available for guests at hotels and started the business Ultimate Library, which selects, then sells, books to hotels in an attempt to make the books offered at each location better for those staying there. The business was started in 2007.
“As frequent travellers and bibliophiles, we have always enjoyed reading about the places we visit and reading those books that best capture the sense of place, whether fiction, traveller's tales or even poetry,” Ultimate Library’s website reads. “Reading great books has always been an integral part of every holiday we have been on. But we have always been dismayed by the poor quality of reading material offered in hotels and have never understood why.”
In addition to suggesting books for a library that are simply enjoyable to read, Ultimate Library notes a hotel’s location and selects books that are related to the surrounding area so guests can learn about where they are staying. Ultimate Library can select books for a hotel lounge, library, and/or guests’ rooms, depending on the hotel’s preference.
Blackwell told the Economist that the company works to create a selection from both second-hand and new titles so the hotel library they create doesn’t only have the current bestsellers.
“The library should not look like you walked into a bookshop in 2013,” Blackwell said. “It needs depth.”
Ultimate Library consults with writers and those who travel often to select books for a certain location. In addition, hotels can choose to have an Ultimate Library staff member come to the building to talk over book possibilities with management there. After the library has been created, the company then touches base with the hotel every so often to suggest new titles to add.
The young adult novel “The Maze Runner” by James Dashner is set to become a film that will be released next February.
“The Maze Runner” follows Thomas, a boy who wakes up with no memory except that of his name only to find himself inside an enclosed meadow-like area with other boys. A large maze is beyond their immediate surroundings, but no one has ever figured out how to get through it or how to escape.
The first book in the series was released in 2009 and is part of a trilogy detailing Thomas’s adventures. A prequel to the series, titled “The Kill Order,” was released last August.
Director Wes Ball, who is taking the helm for the first time for the movie, says Thomas is different from the others surrounding him.
“He’s curious,” he told Entertainment Weekly. “That’s partly perceived as a threat, but it actually may be the thing that gets him out.”
Thomas will be portrayed in the movie by actor Dylan O’Brien of the TV series “Teen Wolf.” Alby, the group’s leader, will be played by actor Aml Ameen, who appeared on the NBC Kathy Bates TV series “Harry’s Law.” Newt, Alby’s second-hand man, will be played by actor Thomas Brodie-Sangster, who’s currently appearing on HBO’s “Game of Thrones” as Jojen Reed, a mysterious boy who can communicate with animals.
Ball says the protagonist, Thomas, is different than the others with whom he’s imprisoned in the Glade.
“Thomas is the boy who takes that step forward when everybody else takes a step back,” he said.
The good news: The number of e-books sold last year grew by 43 percent.
The bad news: After three years of triple-digit increases in sales, that’s a serious slowdown.
That’s the latest news from the Association of American Publishers, which released its annual BookStats study Wednesday. The report found that digital books remain the fastest-growing segment of the publishing market, but that record growth is hitting a plateau after years of runaway sales.
Among the report’s findings:
• E-book sales grew by 43 percent in 2012
• E-books now represent 20 percent of all books sales
• Some 457 million e-books were sold in 2012, compared to 557 million hardcovers sold in last year
• Even if e-book sales have slowed, the industry has made massive progress: the 457 million e-books sold in 2012 represent a 4,456 percent increase over 2008 when 10 million e-books were sold.
As for the reasons behind the e-book slowdown, analysts’ explanations vary. Some, like Hachette Book Group CEO Michael Pietsch, cite the enduring strength of the print format, which continues to outsell digital books by a margin of 4-to-1.
Another reason for slowing e-book sales? The explosive growth simply isn’t sustainable. Any industry that starts from zero and experiences rapid growth will eventually face a slowdown. So says Amazon vice president Russ Grandinetti: “As e-books have grown from practically nothing, you can’t expect to keep doubling it every year,” he told the AAP.
Finally, perhaps the most controversial reason: the digital marketplace may finally be reaching saturation. That is, the folks who have decided to adopt e-reading have already done so and the rest aren’t likely to go digital anytime soon.
“We’ve just reached a point of natural resistance,” Mike Shatzkin, a publishing consultant and organizer of the Digital Book World conference, said, according to USA Today.
Or, as Barnes & Noble CEO William Lynch put it, “Consumers have settled into their book formats of choice.”
The bottom line: Both print and digital will remain important segments for the industry for years to come.
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.
According to news reports, court filings suggest the Justice Department is now painting Apple as the “ringmaster” pressuring publishers to adopt higher e-book pricing in a wide-ranging price-fixing conspiracy.
“Apple knew exactly what it was doing,” the DOJ wrote in its filing in which it described Apple as the “facilitator and go-between,” strong-arming publishing companies to go along with its scheme. “Apple assured Publisher Defendants that it understood and would support their goal of raising retail e-book prices as part of Defendants’ grand agreement.”
The DOJ’s smoking gun? An email from the late Steve Jobs of Apple to James Murdoch of News Corp., the parent company of publisher HarperCollins, that reads: “Throw in with Apple and see if we can all make a go of this to create a real mainstream e-books market at $12.99 and $14.99.”
As we reported in previous posts, the government’s suit, which was first filed last year, accuses Apple and five publishers of conspiring to fix e-book prices in a scheme to force Amazon to raise its e-book price of $9.99. The five publishers – Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin, and Simon & Schuster – have all since settled, leaving Apple to fight the government’s charges alone. The trial is set to begin June 3.
And if pretrial antics are any indication, this is going to be one contentious fight.
Not surprisingly, Apple isn’t taking Justice Department’s latest allegations lying down.
“Apple did not conspire to fix eBook pricing,” Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr said in a statement. “We helped transform the eBook market with the introduction of the iBookstore in 2010, bringing consumers an expanded selection of eBooks and delivering innovative new features. The market has been thriving and innovating since Apple's entry, and we look forward to going to trial to defend ourselves and move forward.”
In its most recent filing, Apple put forward its counterclaim, that publishers had decided to eliminate discounts on wholesale book prices of e-books and to delay e-book sales to first sell more lucrative hardcovers (a practice called windowing), both decisions made independent of Apple in order to force Amazon to raise prices.
In fact, the tech giant claims it ran into opposition when it approached publishers to cooperate in setting up an online bookstore for its new iPad, then under development.
“Early – and constant – points of negotiation and contention were over Apple’s price caps and 30 percent commission,” Apple wrote in its filing. “After Apple sent draft agency agreements to each publisher CEO on Jan. 11, each immediately opposed Apple’s price tiers and caps.”
The DOJ’s and Apple’s dueling versions of the adoption of the agency model are likely to be front and center when the trial begins June 3.
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.
The concept of "Shakespeare behind bars" is not new. At least since 1995 there have been programs in some US prisons encouraging inmates to study and/or perform Shakespeare. But prisoners in solitary confinement? This group – considered to be the most dangerous and hardened inmates in the entire penal system – have always been excluded from such programs.
Until Laura Bates came along. Bates, a professor at Indiana State University and author of Shakespeare Saved My Life, recently talked with Monitor books editor Marjorie Kehe about her experiences teaching Shakespeare to inmates in a “supermax” long-term solitary confinement prison unit. Here are excerpts of their conversation.
Q: What gave you the idea of teaching Shakespeare to prisoners in solitary confinement?
Initially I got the idea to do volunteer work in prison because a friend of my husband’s was working in a maximum security prison. I sort of challenged the whole idea. I thought these maximum security prisoners were beyond rehabilitation. And so I started my own program [teaching college classes] at the local Chicago Cook County Jail with first-time offenders. I didn’t know what “supermax” was until one of my students was sent there. Flash-forward 25 years: Here I am teaching in supermax.
Q: Were you scared at first?
I want to say no but nobody’s going to believe me! I was definitely apprehensive. Of all the years I spent working in prisons, the most apprehensive that I ever felt was that first day that I entered the supermax unit.
But partly I think my background helped. I’m not a traditional academic. I grew up in inner-city Chicago. I worked my way through school. I didn’t end up getting a college degree until rather late in life. My parents didn’t have college educations. So in a funny sort of way, I wasn’t as scared of prison as I was of college or academia!
And in a strange way I find that to be true [of the prisoners as well]. Because of all the prisoners I worked with – the 200 prisoners I worked with – not a single one entered the program through a love of Shakespeare. And many of them were actually frightened of Shakespeare. That’s the ironic thing: these big scary prisoners were frightened of Shakespeare. A 400-year-old dead author. Initially there was that fear factor and challenge that they themselves had to get over.
Q: Can you tell us about Larry Newton, the convicted murderer who had been in solitary confinement for 10 years – and who became your star Shakespeare scholar?
Larry didn’t even know who Shakespeare was. I think that’s part of the beauty of this story. Larry [is like] so many other prisoner readers ... [who] didn’t have a teacher at high school or college feeding them their Shakespeare. They directly connect to Shakespeare. And that’s something that Larry did on a very, very personal level. [While reading “Macbeth”] Larry said that he found himself questioning Macbeth’s motives: Why does he do this deed that he knows is wrong? Why does he give in to peer pressure?
Larry [said that this led to] a very harsh analysis of himself. [He asked himself]: Why did I engage in a variety of criminal behaviors that I personally didn’t want to do? What was driving my motives? [And] that’s where he really found true freedom. [Editor’s note: Mr. Newton’s improved behavior after he began studying Shakespeare eventually led to his release from solitary confinement. He has since written a manual to help other inmates read Shakespeare.]
"Macbeth" is the first play I have the prisoners read. I felt like they would connect, that they would relate to the character of Macbeth who is a good man who is contemplating making a bad choice in killing an innocent person.
Q. And you've seen this kind of character analysis lead to personal reform?
Absolutely! That’s why it’s so important to get the word out [about these kinds of programs]. The Shakespeare program [at the Luther Luckett Correctional Complex in LaGrange, Ky.] and a handful of others tend to focus on the performance of the plays. And that’s a good thing in itself of course. But we use the plays exclusively to try to have the prisoners come to that kind of understanding of themselves. So it’s really about self-analysis and ultimately a change in their criminal behavior.
Q: Could this kind of program work using an author other than Shakespeare?
The beauty of Shakespeare is that his works are so open to multiple interpretations. And I think that is more true of Shakespeare than other literature. And then “Macbeth” in particular is a very important text to be used in prisons because it gets so into the head of a killer who at the beginning of the story is not a bad person. That’s a very important text for the prisoners.
At least 400 sellers are making the book available via Taobao, a Chinese shopping website, according to the Telegraph. The book had already been translated into Chinese for the market in Taiwan. But given China's strict censorship laws, only contraband copies are available in the country.
A spokesperson for the Foreign Multi-Resource bookstore in China said the book was still under the radar in Chinese culture.
“Not many people know about it yet,” the spokesperson told the Telegraph. “There has been no publicity, so it is only a cult book at the moment.”
However, the spokesperson said that not all Chinese readers have been won over by the British bestseller.
“Most of the feedback we get is that it is very repetitive,” the spokesperson said.
(This isn't a new complaint, judging by reviews left by English-language readers on the website Goodreads and in Amazon's comments section. Amazon user DS from LA, for instance, wrote that "I'm convinced the author has a computer macro that she hits to insert one of her limited repertoire of facial expressions whenever she needs one.")
According to the Telegraph, the book is being printed in Guangzhou after copies arrive from Taiwan.
Hollywood is also working to win over Chinese audiences. The movie “Iron Man 3” recently broke an opening-day record in the country, though ticket sales have since slowed down. But it’s a fair bet that the planned movie adaptation of “Grey” won’t be allowed in Chinese theaters, even if some of the country’s citizens have already read the book.
“Inferno,” the novel by Dan Brown based around Dante’s work of the same name, is publishing’s newest blockbuster, boasting high sales despite mixed reviews.
Washington Post reviewer Monica Hesse writes that it’s clear Brown has mastered his genre of page-turning historical mysteries: “He has perfected the breathless art of the cliffhanger chapter, the ooky villain, the historish backdrop.”
However, Hesse says she found herself distracted at times by actual inaccuracies.
“A simple Wikipedia search tells me that one of the important artifacts is believed to be a reproduction, not the real thing the reader is led to think it is,” she wrote. “The Consortium is real, too, Brown writes – and it might be, but would such an organization really have its headquarters in a giant yacht floating around in the Adriatic Sea? No matter. As with Brown’s other works, it’s more fun to read 'Inferno' when you accept that every whoa-ful tidbit is true.”
She also poked fun at one of Brown’s standard plot devices: the dying person who decides to leave enigmatic clues.
“Rather than using the last minutes of his life to scrawl, 'The [IMPORTANT OBJECT] is in the [SPECIFIC LOCATION]' on a crumpled napkin, he uses them to concoct an artsy, esoteric scavenger hunt through a foreign city,” Hesse writes of one character.
But USA Today's Brian Truitt found himself completely won over by the new book.
“[The book] comes close to the mega-popular 'The Da Vinci Code' in terms of entertaining tension,” he wrote of “Inferno.” “Brown has a definite formula in place for putting Langdon through his paces, but watching him go through hell is about as close as a book can come to a summertime cinematic blockbuster.”
“The early sections of 'Inferno' come so close to self-parody that Mr. Brown seems to have lost his bearings…. But 'Inferno' is jampacked with tricks,” Maslin wrote. “And that shaky opening turns out to be one of them…. the main emphasis here is hardly on gloom. It is on the prodigious research and love of trivia that inform Mr. Brown’s stories.”
Boyd Tonkin, reviewer for The Independent, said that he was unimpressed by Brown’s writing but that he admires the author’s plotting.
“However barmy his premises, however leaden his prose, Brown retains all the advantages of surprise,” he wrote of the story.
However, Telegraph reviewer Jake Kerridge was less enamored and called “Inferno” Brown’s worst work yet.
“As a stylist Brown gets better and better: where once he was abysmal he is now just very poor,” Kerridge wrote. “His prose, for all its detailing of brand names and the exact heights of buildings, is characterised by imprecision. It works to prevent the reader from engaging with the story.”
Meanwhile, “Inferno” is at number one in Amazon sales rankings, having spent 120 days in the top 100 and is Amazon’s most pre-ordered book of the year so far in both print and Kindle. The book is also number one for sales at the Barnes & Noble website.
And for those who prefer their Robert Langdon adventures on the big screen, there's good news. Brown told USA Today that he’s certain “Inferno” will become a movie like his previous works “The Da Vinci Code” and “Angels and Demons.”
Children’s author Judy Blume’s book “Tiger Eyes” has been adapted into a movie that will be released this summer. It is the first-ever film version of one of Blume’s books.
Blume adapted the book for the screen with her son Lawrence.
The fact that the movie is being released by an independent studio, Freestyle Digital Media, and in a fairly quiet fashion (it’s coming to theaters in a limited release and will be available on demand as well as on iTunes) has been a positive thing, Lawrence told Entertainment Weekly.
“The fact that we had total artistic control is rare,” he said of the filmmaking process. “For better or worse, it’s our movie.”
“We were able to do this with really nobody watching,” Blume added. “And it looks beautiful.”
“Tiger Eyes” follows Davey and her family – mother Gwen and brother Jason – after her father, Adam, is shot in a convenience store robbery. The family goes to stay in New Mexico with Davey’s aunt and uncle as Davey tries to recover from the death of her father.
Lawrence told EW that he first read “Tiger Eyes” when he was in college and that the book “affected [him] deeply,” partially because he and Blume moved to New Mexico when he was a teenager after Blume and his father divorced, and he struggled there.
“The divorce was hard, and what brought us to New Mexico was a guy,” Blume said of the time. “I don’t want to get into all that – but there was the good and the bad and the evil and the ugly.”
Lawrence said it was difficult getting the film made despite Blume’s fame and the current multiple young adult book adaptations happening at the movies.
“It’s a Judy Blume movie,” he said. “That should be enough, you would think. What shocked me was that a big segment of the business knew who Judy Blume was but they didn’t understand who she was. Part of it is that the film business is run mostly by old white men – and some young ones, too – who didn’t grow up with her books.”
Blume’s writing has been adapted for TV previously, including a version of “Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great” which aired on television in 1991 and the TV series “Fudge,” which aired for two years starting in 1997 and was based off her children’s series which focused on little brother Fudge and his long-suffering older brother Peter.
The movie deal was originally with Amber Entertainment, but after filming the movie, the Blumes and the company parted ways. They eventually landed with Freestyle Digital Media.
Making the movie with Lawrence was “the highlight of my life,” Blume said.
“Although I've never read a book all the way through, I'm sure excited to write one,” Short said in a statement.
According to the publisher, the book will discuss Short’s time on the comedy shows “SCTV” and “Saturday Night Live” as well as his marriage to his wife, Nancy, who passed away in 2010.
Short says he has not yet decided on a title.
“But I’m toying with the title ‘If I’d Saved, I Wouldn’t Be Writing This,’” the actor said in his statement.
His memoir is planned for a fall 2014 release.
Short starred in “The Three Amigos” with Steve Martin and Chevy Chase in 1986 and starred as various characters on “Primetime Glick,” a spoof of talk shows, from 2001 to 2003. He also guest-starred in a 13-episode arc on the FX show “Damages” in 2010 and has voiced the Dr. Seuss character the Cat in the Hat on the Canadian TV show “The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That!” since 2010.
The actor also appeared in the Broadway production of "The Goodbye Girl" in 1993 as well as starring in the 2006 stage show "Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me."
Rumors that Microsoft was planning to purchase Barnes & Noble’s Nook Media caused B&N stock to rise and some in the book industry to wonder what this would mean for one of the last remaining big bookstore chains.
But the website Insider Monkey is now quoting someone they cite as “a highly placed source inside Microsoft” who says that the story of a possible deal is not true.
“This deal was nothing more than a rumor,” says the source, according to Insider Monkey. “Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) will not come out and deny or confirm for legal reasons, but the company has no intention of acquiring the NOOK unit.”
According to Insider Monkey, the source told them that because Nook uses Android software, it would not be possible for the Nook to be used with Windows 8.
B&N stock fell 9.5 percent after the story was posted, according to Shelf Awareness.
So for the moment, the future of Nook Media – the portion of Barnes & Noble that focuses on the Nook and its digital services such as tablets, e-books, and e-readers – remains in flux.