"The publishing business in Japan," he said, "is currently less than a $20-billion enterprise.
This is down from $21 billion in 2005.
In fact, there has been an annual decline of about 2 percent since the mid-'90s.
The most appropriate term for the business today is jitensha sogyo."
Jitensha sogyo is the Japanese term for "hand-to-mouth operation."
And he notes:
State broadcaster NHK has banished its popular weekly book-review program to Sunday mornings at 8:00 on its BS-2 satellite channel.
Also, literature courses are decidedly unpopular in Japan compared to the arty old days.
Meanwhile, variety shows on television have been dumbed down to such a degree that only the dunce in the class would tip his cap to them.
There is no equivalent of an Oprah Winfrey urging viewers to pick up a book and read.
A great idea (and ambitious undertaking): at Three Percent Chad Post is trying to keep track of the new literary translations in to English, month by month.
First up: January Translations: Fiction.
It could be a really valuable resource !
The 2008 National Year of Reading has been launched to help build a greater national passion for the pastime among children, families and adult learners alike.
We're particularly intimidated by the: "146 'reading coordinators' working with local authorities" .....
Of course, there's also the obligatory official site.
And we do wonder whether it was wise to choose to go ahead with this in 2008 -- after all, how can they ever compete with
the UN's International Year of the Potato (IYP, as everyone is no doubt already calling it) ?
At Street at the San Diego Union-Tribune Erin Glass writes about Aaron T. Stephan's 'Building Houses/Hiding Under Rocks'-exhibit at the Quint Gallery, in The perilous adventures of the book in the modern age, "in which he's converted some 20,000 discarded books into basically an artist's Lincoln Logs."
Check out the photographs with the article, as well as those at the gallery site (and the exhibit is on until 2 February).
As widely reported, there may be some hope that Turkey is getting rid of its ridiculous Aticle 301, a law under which many writers (including Orhan Pamuk) and journalists have been charged as it forbids the open-to-interpretation concept of "public denigration of Turkishness" (or Turkey itself) and has been widely abused by prosecutors trying to curry nationalist favour.
See, for example, Ankara hints at changes to controversial article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code in Hürriyet:
Justice Minister Mehmet Ali Sahin, speaking at a press conference today in Ankara, noted that the AKP-led administration had prepared a bill proposing changes to the controversial article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code.
No details yet, and so maybe they're just fiddling with it, but really the only sensible thing is to do away with it once and for all.
For more information about 301, see, for example, the Amnesty International report.
The January/February issue of
World Literature Today is now available -- though only a small part is accessible online (click on icons in the upper left part of page) and the best part, 'world literature in review', isn't .....
Next week, the Emperor, Empress and a hundred poets and dignitaries will gather to recite the poems known as waka, in which Japanese emperors have expressed their delicate sensibilities since the 13th century.
The Prince of Wales has watercolours, it's true, but it's hard to imagine him getting to grips with the waka, with its 31 syllables, strictly arranged into five lines in the 5-7-5-7-7 structure.
Akihito and Empress Michiko knock out four waka apiece for New Year's Eve as well, reflecting on the year just gone by, and this year's offerings were helpfully put out in English by the Imperial Household Agency last week.
Translating poetry is notoriously difficult and the waka usually come out sounding as poetic as the instruction manual for a vacuum cleaner.
Canadian publisher Raincoast filled its coffers on the bounty that was and is Harry Potter but doesn't want to waste any of that money on fostering or publishing any more fiction that might not offer as high a rate of return: see, for example, Jane Adams reporting in the Globe & Mail that Raincoast halts domestic publishing program:
The Canadian co-publisher and distributor of the phenomenally popular Harry Potter series of novels is scrapping its domestic publishing program and blaming the appreciation of the Canadian dollar for that decision.
Actually, they seem to have all sorts of excuses and explanations -- and:
Raincoast's domestic-publishing regime, by contrast, has had a troubled history since its creation in 1995 and has "remained unprofitable," Broadhurst said.
Traditionally, Raincoast has published 25 to 30 Canadian titles a year, but the program will cease this spring with the publication of 15 books.
We hope there are Canadian publishers that can fill the void (and who can handle the appreciating loonie).
The site is meant to appeal to readers, authors, booksellers and publishers as a kind of one-stop shop for biographical information, book reviews, blogs, video and audio content and author appearances.
It's a virtual place where "midlist" authors in particular, who are watching their books get knocked off store shelves with alarming speed, can network and promote themselves, much as emerging musicians do on MySpace.com.
Sounds great, and it looks like it has a lot of potential -- but we're a bit ... surprised by what's gone into it -- and what they expect out of it:
Madison has collected $1.25 million in venture capital for the business and has hired a staff of 15, and anticipates raising $2 million more in the coming months.
She said she expects to break even in 2008 and make $15 million in gross revenue in 2009.
Where is this revenue going to come from ?
Doesn't sound very realistic to us (-- but what do we know ?)
Interesting also: Jeff Seroy, Farrar, Straus & Giroux's senior vice president of publicity and marketing reveals:
The publishing house, as part of Macmillan, will participate in a new Web plan, to go into effect later this year, under which every author published will have his or her own micro-site.
"That's because search-engine optimization is the single most important way to promote books on the Internet," Seroy said, referring to a computer user's search for an author's name, book title or subject.
He's not wrong -- though we hope they don't have too high expectations from this project either: we seem to do fairly well (entirely by accident, mind you) in terms of 'search-engine optimization' here at the complete review
: more often than not if you search for a book we happen to have under review at Google by title+author our review will be one of the top results (admittedly more often with older titles than fresh-on-the-shelf ones -- our reviews tend to rise to the top as time passes) -- and the resulting traffic is not exactly overwhelming.
The hype for the English translation of Jiang Rong's Wolf Totem -- due out at the end of March in both the US and UK -- continues.
Today's instalment: Clifford Coonan in The Independent writing about: Jiang Rong's 'Wolf Totem': The year of the wolf
After its Man 'Asian' Literary Prize win hopes for it seem even higher:
The publishers, who broke records when they paid more than £50,000 for Wolf Totem, are also confident the book will raise the profile and popularity of Chinese fiction in Britain and reach a general readership in the UK.
Booklit reminds us that UK publisher Dedalus have now had their Arts Council subsidy cut, and that this is a major blow for the small publisher.
James Doyle also addressed this at The Guardian a few weeks back, in Found in translation:
Dedalus has recently lost its Arts Council funding.
This decision will effectively make it impossible for it to continue publishing new and varied voices in English.
It will further diminish the access of English readers to international culture and understanding of other societies.
The decision follows several years of conflict between Dedalus and the Arts Council, but comes inexplicably at a time when Dedalus has begun to increase its sales (with a 50% increase in 2006/7) and when other independent literary publishers are rapidly vanishing.
And he notes:
Dedalus has created its own distinct genre that is surreal and grotesque but intensely European.
It has unearthed two of Britain's most acclaimed novelists: Robert Irwin and Andrew Crumey.
Both are intellectual writers yet they appeal to wider audiences.
The last book Dedalus published sold out its first print run within a week.
Dedalus a very European success story, at a time when fewer British teenagers are learning foreign languages, so will this decision further isolate Britain from the ideas, writers and stories the rest of the world is talking about ?
We're not really big fans on the rely-on-public-funding 'business' model, but in the English-speaking world it seems the norm for publishers of this size and ambit (well, in the US a lot of the money is (more or less) private -- from foundations, etc. -- but the model is pretty much the same), and this certainly seems a good
use of such monies (and pretty much what the Arts Council seems to want to do in the literary area).
There's now also a Don't Let Dedalus Die-petition up, and quite a few impressive names have already signed on; we did too, and suggest you might want to as well -- though perhaps the better way to go would be to buy some of their books .....
Perhaps not entirely coincidentally Nicholas Lezard recommends their new translation of Bruges-la-Morte by Georges Rodenbach [Updated - it is Georges, not 'Charles', as the article has it ...] this weekend, noting:
This is one of the greatest novels ever written about grief, loneliness and isolation; and such subjects are, alas, always relevant these days.
The five-volume set of fairytales written by the Brothers Grimm is valued at 30 million euros ($44 million).
The books stand out from the crowd because their margins are filled with the brothers' hand-written corrections and additions.
The world's most expensive fairytale collection sits in a vault of a bank in the northern German city of Kassel while a museum and library fight over ownership.
Peter Handke has unloaded another 66 volumes of his scribblings -- this time his diaries and journals from 1975 to 1990 (only about a third of which have been published).
They're going to the Deutsche Literaturarchiv Marbach, who announced the acquisition (see also the bottom of the press release for three pictures from the manuscripts).
We recently mentioned
that he had sold off some of his manuscripts to the Austrian National Library, and this new press release now notes that the two institutions have agreed on how to divvy up the rest: Vienna gets the manuscripts and the Austrian correspondence, Marbach will get his diaries and the German correspondence.
No word on who gets the letters to and from other countries; maybe the bidding is still open.
Not much new, but well worth harping on: in The Observer Saeed Kamali Dehgan finds The gag is tightened n Iran.
'They [the governmental authorities] have not only made the publishers stop working, but also have put writers in a situation in which they have no inclination to write,' says Mahmoud Dowlatabadi, author of the Persian 10-volume bestseller Kelydar, who refuses to give his next book to a publisher as a protest against the government's clampdown.
The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Bernard du Boucheron's The Voyage of the Short Serpent.
This was apparently a pretty big sensation in France in 2004 -- in no small part, presumably, because new-on-the-scene author du Boucheron was born in 1928 .....
At The Guardian Mark Lawson takes the recent announcement of the category winners of the Whitbread Costa Book Awards to worry about How fiction lost the plot.
Among the troubling observations:
These vicious economic predictions have come into publishing because of a collapse in the market for fiction that prizes prose over plot.
At the Christmas parties, many publishers were talking guiltily about new books by authors you might have heard of -- winner of a Whitbread 20 years ago, writer of that book that became that film -- that they have been forced to turn down because marketing was alarmed.
This has happened largely because of a shift in the priorities of libraries, which used to be a guaranteed haven for several thousand copies of hardbacks that take a bit of brain work, but which are now rapidly ceding shelf-space to Citizens Advice Bureau leaflets or DVDs.
And pressure on leisure time has made both producers and consumers of entertainment reluctant to sample a product that does not have some advance buzz.
('Marketing was alarmed' ?
Isn't marketing's job to keep their opinions to themselves and sell whatever the product is ?
Also terrifying: his conclusion:
The frightening consequence of these cultural changes is that serious fiction is now almost entirely dependent on judging panels.
It is an awesome responsibility with which, literary history suggests, they may struggle -- though women writers have less to fear than they did.
That's terrifying also because so many books don't even make it to the judging panels, because of prize entry limitations (nationality, number of titles that can be submitted, etc.).
In The Nation Lorna Scott Fox reviews Lydie Salvayre's The Power of Flies (see also our review), but she takes a good look at a lot of Salvayre's work, noting, for example, that:
The reproduction of oppressive or inauthentic behavior in Salvayre's fiction is not just confined to a domestic hell.
She is at her funniest when caricaturing the language and hang-ups of petty despots and their victims.
Her renderings of City Hall meetings, pedagogical lectures and factory award ceremonies are grand riffs on demagoguery and inadvertent self-revelation.
One could argue that Salvayre is not so much a novelist as a prophet in the desert wielding a facetious literary megaphone, and that her synthetic plots, confessional characters and savory or archaic speech rhythms make her works more like monologues that demand to be performed aloud.
"Has there been a leaner year for English fiction ? It is difficult to remember one" David Robson thinks in Left on the shelf in 2007 in the Daily Telegraph, his look at 'the past 12 months in the world of books'
-- though he manages to ignore pretty much all the world, not considering any of the often impressive fiction-in-translation that appeared in the UK in 2007 (while at least peeking over at the US, finding: "Things were a little better across the Atlantic").
Even leaving the foreign snub aside, he doesn't seem very much on our wavelength:
There was some good stuff published.
There always is.
The Ghost by Robert Harris was a typically polished effort.
The Ghost is the best example he could come up with ?
Symptomatic of a genre not in crisis, but most certainly under the weather, was Diary of a Bad Year by the South African heavyweight J.M. Coetzee, an impenetrably bad book, crafted with a tortuousness that was painful to behold.
It was like watching Tiger Woods go round in 165 rather than 65.
Coetzee, a double Booker-winner, did use to rise above the crowd but, like others, had lost his way.
Sure, Diary of a Bad Year is no Slow Man, but impenetrably bad ?
In Le Figaro Mohammed Aïssaoui reports that there might be Vent de réforme au Goncourt.
The ten-strong jury will meet on 8 January to discuss some changes, though given how Edmonde Charles-Roux moans that they can't (and acknowledges that they don't) read the three hundred novels published each September it sounds like they're looking for a pre-selection solution that will make their jobs easier.
Sounds like they're tempted to institute ridiculous submission procedures like those for the Man Booker (all submissions must come from publishers, and each can only submit two titles, with only a few possibilities for additional titles to slip in) .....
Our copy of Peter Handke's new work of fiction, Die morawische Nacht, due out in about a week, arrived today -- shortly after the 600+ page non-fiction collection, Meine Ortstafeln Meine Zeittafeln 1967-2007 arrived (and, we presume, shortly before the new volume of his collected poems arrives ...).
The cover claims it's a: "Erzählung" -- i.e. story -- but short it ain't, weighing in at 561 (!) pages.
Admittedly, the text isn't packed in -- Handke seems to like his pages not to be cluttered with too many words -- but it looks like it adds up to at least 100,000 words -- leading to flap-copy describing it as a 'romanlange Erzählung' ('novel-length story'), not a concept we can recall encountering too often.
No wonder the guy has to periodically sell off his papers (see our mention), if he keeps churning out new works at this rate .....
It sounds ... well, pretty typical: the whole story takes place during one night, on a house-boat where an author (who hasn't written anything for a while) invites some friends and recounts his boating adventures through western Europe (making it sound a bit like a waterway-version of Crossing the Sierra de Gredos) .....
There's a mystery woman present, too.
But we're pretty sure summary doesn't do any Handke justice, so we'll have to dip further in before we really have anything to say about it.
Meanwhile see also the (German) Suhrkamp publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.de.
They're holding a Nordic Translation Conference 6 to 8 March in London -- "the first conference of its kind, the first to focus solely on the Nordic languages and their translation."
Also: "Several Nordic authors will read from their most recent books".
Sounds pretty good -- we hope there will be some online-reports on the goings-on.
They've announced the category winners of the Whitbread Costa Book Awards -- and the story everyone likes best is Catherine O'Flynn's What Was Lost taking the First Novel category prize, making for pieces such as: Rejected author has last laugh (Dalya Alberge in The Times) and Former postwoman takes Costa first novel award (Mark Brown in The Guardian).
Yes, it's yet another case of the inability of publishing 'professionals' -- 'literary' agents and publishers -- to spot potential.
Though, of course, someone did finally spot it, and it's nice that an outfit like Tindal Street Press now also gets to rub it in the faces of all the bigger houses.
(See also their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.co.uk; the US edition is coming out from Holt in the summer, pre-order your copy at Amazon.com.)
At VietNamNet Bridge they think 2007 a quiet year for literature, finding, simply, that: "No outstanding Vietnamese literature appeared in 2007."
And they know who to blame, too:
Writers are the decisive factor for the prosperity and detriment of literature.
In 2007, writers seemed to be hibernating.
But maybe there's some hope:
When will Vietnamese writers and poets wake up ?
Writer Da Ngan said: "I know many authors are writing quietly. We believe in the new generation: Nguyen Ngoc Tu, Do Bich Thuy, Nguyen Ngoc Thuan, Nguyen Danh Lam, Nguyen Vinh Nguyen and Do Tien Thuy.
They are the future and answer you are looking for."
On-demand publisher Lulu.com has churned out 236,000 paperbacks since it opened in 2002, and its volume of new paperbacks has risen each month this year, hitting 14,745 in November.
We're all for this opportunity for everyone getting their words out, and hence glad to hear that:
New printing technologies are making published authors of legions of aspiring writers, a population that once toiled for years on tomes that might not see the light of day.
The vast majority of today's instant authors may sell only a few dozen copies of their books, but on-demand publishing is letting thousands realize the ambitions of generations of would-be writers.
Of course, getting the book in book-format is only part one of the three-part equation:
"It's all about the marketing and distribution.
We realized early on that that was the bigger challenge,"said Eileen Gittins, founder and CEO of Blurb.com, an on-demand publisher with 11,000 available self-published titles.
According to a new Ipsos Reid survey, which was commissioned by CanWest News Service and Global Television, nearly a third of adults (31 per cent) across the country didn't read a single book for pleasure in all of 2007.
The discouraging figure puts Canadians four points behind the U.S., where an identical poll last August showed 27 per cent of Americans hadn't picked up a book in the previous 12 months.
Interesting also the regional variations:
Regionally, west coasters were Canada's most avid readers in 2007: among those who had read at least one book, the average B.C. dweller devoured an average 33 titles. Atlantic Canada followed at 22, Ontario at 19, Alberta at 18, Quebec at 16 and Manitoba/Saskatchewan at 15 books.
The January issue of Open Letters is now available online.
Once again, Sam Sacks' is the most interesting article -- a discussion of Michael Dirda's Classics for Pleasure, Catalog Reading, with Sacks arguing:
As for the fate of the printed word in light of the spread of electronic text, the future can only be guessed; but there is presently no doubt that the expediencies of the Internet have begun to give an obsolete fade to the category of "Book on Reading."
Iím not talking about the art of criticism, mind you; scholarly analysis clothed in crafted prose will always be at home in whatever forum will have it, whether in newsprint or on a website.
I mean books whose central desire is to catalog; books whose tables of contents are read almost as closely as the prose that follows.
Apparently it's hard to find leader (editorial) subjects at the beginning of the year, and so instead of calling for world peace or an end to hunger or any of the other usual stuff the Daily Telegraph devotes their leader space to ... calling for TV programming to go Beyond Jane Austen, pleading:
But is it not time that other 19th-century novelists were given a chance on television ?
The Guardian has the Nielsen BookScan data on the Bestsellers 2007 (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) -- the 100 top-selling books in the UK, with the actual (well, BookScan -- i.e. close, but a bit less than the actual) number of books sold.
(We hope there will be national bestseller lists from elsewhere -- with hard numbers ! -- popping up elsewhere soon.)
We have a few of these UK best-selling titles under review:
Thousands of old books -- published both inside and outside the country -- are being arranged on the second floor of the bookstore, which will one day serve as a small museum.
Anyone can make use of these books for their research.
The article also offers a glimpse of bookselling in Indonesia, and the success of the Toga Mas