Archive for Quick Takes

Big Announcement Coming Soon!

I’ve mentioned a couple of times on this blog that I’ve got a big announcement in store for you.  I’ve finally managed to secure all of the necessary okays, and so I’ll be rolling out the news on TUESDAY, APRIL 6th. Be sure to check back then…


The End of Publishing (Books Are Dead and Boring)

I heard about this video from the good folks over at BoingBoing and just knew I had to share it with all of you here at The Late Age of Print.  Now, I generally don’t make a habit of posting corporate promotional videos, but this one’s a gem.  Truly.

DK, a subsidiary of Penguin, originally created this ingenious short for a sales conference.  Spoiler alert: it plays upon and then completely reverses a host of misconceptions people have about so-called “digital natives.”  Be sure to watch the whole thing through, because there’s a good bit of misdirection going on in the first half.

I’m working on something BIG at the moment related to Late Age, and so I’m not going to blather on at length about the video.  Just enjoy it, and consider it a little something to tide you over.  Hopefully I’ll be able to roll out the big news in a week or so.

One other quick announcement: Columbia University Press, my publisher, is currently holding its annual spring sale. The Late Age of Print is 50% off the cover price, which is a steal.  Stock up and save!


Late Age Meets Mrs. Dalloway

I just came across this image by David Silver, who is a professor and leading cyberculture researcher based at the University of San Francisco.  On September 13, 2009, he snapped this picture of the window display of Mrs. Dalloway’s Literary and Garden Arts, a bookstore in Berkeley, California.


The Late Age of Print @ Mrs. Dalloway's

What’s that you see there, just right of center?  Why, it’s The Late Age of Print, of course! What a thrill to see it there!  I’ll have to follow up with David for some back-story.  For now, I can tell you that I initially stumbled across the image when a Google search led me to David’s Flikr stream.

Thanks, David — and my gratitude goes out to Mrs. Dalloway’s for not only carrying but indeed featuring the book.  If those of you reading this blog happen to see The Late Age of Print in a bookstore, library, or anywhere else in public, snap a photo, send it to me (, and I’ll post it here.


Richard Nash Reviews Late Age

I’ve been working practically nonstop for the last several weeks on the remarks for all of my upcoming speaking engagements.  Needless to say, I haven’t been as attentive to The Late Age of Print blog as I would like to be.  So, to tide you over until I can compose something substantive of my own, I thought I’d share a brief excerpt of Richard Nash’s AMAZING review of my book, which appeared a week or so ago in The Critical Flame:

It is impossible to talk about books, nowadays; to talk about books without nostalgia creeping into the discourse; though perhaps, to speak the lingo, perhaps ‘twas always so. Whether the specific tone is wistful, elegiac, defensive, hostile, or whether the talk is of an imminent and lamented end, or of a bitter and defiant survival, or of some type of triumphalist victory in another world, it is difficult to find a discussion of books that does not view the past as some better place. The title alone of the book under discussion, The Late Age of Print, offers all sorts of elegiac vapors — instantly retrospective, placing the present almost immediately in the past, it frames the now from the vantage point of a future from which we can gaze back upon the current times.

Like Benjamin’s Angel of History in his “Theses on the Philosophy of History,” the book gazes upon the past, its back to the future towards which the storm, emanating from the catastrophe of the past, hurls it.

I call Nash’s review “amazing” not only because he genuinely understands and praises the book (let’s be honest…that of course never hurts), but also because of what he has added to my own understanding of the book industry — above and beyond whatever I may have said in Late Age. And that is exactly what book criticism should do: it should engage a text in meaningful dialogue and thus further a conversation already in progress.


The Magnitude of Nora Roberts

I love The New Yorker, but I cannot ever seem to keep up with it. Case in point: I’m just now getting around to the June 22, 2009 issue. Specifically I’ve been reading — and thoroughly enjoying — Lauren Collins’ profile of romance novelist Nora Roberts.

I don’t have anything to say about the content of Roberts’ books, as I’ve never read any of her romances, much less the detective novels she puts out under the nom de plume, J. D. Robb.  It’s not that I’m so snooty a reader that I wouldn’t bother with her books; I’ve just never had the occasion to do so.

Anyway, what struck me about the article was the magnitude of Roberts’ output.  Here are a few of the more stunning tidbits:

  • Roberts has written 182 novels since 1980;
  • lately she’s been publishing around 10 novels a year;
  • 27 of her books are sold every minute;
  • the amount of Nora Roberts books in print is equivalent to the volumetric capacity of Giants Stadium . . . times 4,000.

All I can say is, whoa.  Anyone who believes that print is dead hasn’t caught up lately with Ms. Roberts.


Bezos Apologizes

Just a quick follow-up on the whole Amazon/1984 incident, about which you can read more by checking out my post, below.  Yesterday Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos apologized for the series of unfortunate events on the Kindle Community Forum, which is hosted on the company website. The statement reads:

This is an apology for the way we previously handled illegally sold copies of 1984 and other novels on Kindle. Our “solution” to the problem was stupid, thoughtless, and painfully out of line with our principles. It is wholly self-inflicted, and we deserve the criticism we’ve received. We will use the scar tissue from this painful mistake to help make better decisions going forward, ones that match our mission.

With deep apology to our customers,

Jeff Bezos
Founder & CEO

Thanks and kudos for the stand-up move.  And here’s hoping that Amazon never, ever repeats the mistake.


Harry Potter Fatigue

Well, the sixth installment of the Harry Potter movie franchise, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, debuted last night just after midnight.  My local paper here in Bloomington, Indiana (which unfortunately you cannot access without a subscription) reports that a large group of Potter fans gathered for the day at one of our movie theaters to celebrate the release.  Not a small number arrived in costume.

It’s intriguing to have read the local report on the heels of the New York Times review of the movie, which is much less celebratory.  The piece opens by noting how the Potter franchise has “begun to show signs of stress around the edges.”  Indeed, it’s been two years since the release of the seventh and final chapter of the book series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and the plan for its film adaptation includes not one but two separate installments.  I happen to have loved Half-Blood Prince — the book — but according to the Times the movie feels a whole lot like “filler.”  I may wait to see it on video.

Could it be that after a dozen years worth of books, movies, and merch, Harry Potter fatigue has begun to set in?

What’s intriguing is how adamant Harry Potter’s rights holders have been about policing their copyrights and trademarks.  (I discuss this at length in chapter 5 of Late Age of Print.) One of their goals in doing so has been to mitigate the boy wizard’s over-exposure. But if the Times is to be believed, then it would seem like Rowling and company have done a pretty good job of over-exposing Our Hero all on their own.


Update — Kindle & the Future of Journalism

Just a quick follow-up to my post from earlier in the week, “Kindle and the Future of Print Journalism.”  There I proposed that should sell its Kindle e-reader at a loss, with the understanding that the loss could be recouped through a revenue-sharing agreement with those newspapers publishers who choose to distribute their content electronically through Amazon.  Well, it turns out that something like this arrangement already exists — only the revenue sharing isn’t designed to drive down Kindle’s hefty price tag.

The video embedded below contains Congressional testimony by James Moroney, Publisher and CEO of the Dallas Morning News.

Moroney states:

The Kindle, which I think is a marvelous device, the best deal Amazon will give the Dallas Morning News-and we’ve negotiated this up to the last two weeks-they want 70 percent of the subscriptions revenue. I get 30 percent, they get 70 percent. On top of that they have said we get the right to republish your intellectual property to any portable device. Now is that a business model that is going to work for newspapers?

Evidently this information has been circulating for some time now, although I only learned of it recently, in Malcolm Gladwell’s insightful review and critique of Chris Anderson’s new book, Free! The Future of a Radical Price.

Anyway, so much for the idea of making Kindle more accessible by bringing the cost down.  Until that happens, the device will remain an elite source for daily news — which I take to be contrary to the democratic impulse driving journalism in the United States.


Late Age of Print — the First Interview

My first interview about The Late Age of Print is now up on Scott Esposito’s wonderful blog, Conversational Reading.  You can find the full text of the conversation here.  Scott not only asks smart questions that cystalize key themes from Late Age, but he also presses me to elaborate on some of the more controversial arguments I advance there.  He’s an amazing interviewer, and I’m fortunate to have had such a wonderful first interview experience about the book.  Enjoy!


Library 2.0

Just a quick note to say how excited I am to be heading out today to the Library 2.0 Symposium, hosted by Yale Law School.  The organizers have graciously invited me to present a version of my work-in-progress on the Amazon Kindle e-reader, which is an outgrowth of The Late Age of Print. The piece is called “Kindle: The Labor of Reading in an Age of Ubiquitous Bookselling,” and the latest draft is hosted here on my wiki site:  Comments are of course welcome and encouraged.

I plan on posting some sort  of report about the Symposium early next week, so be sure to check back then.