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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Ned Kelly's sentencing auctioned

Ned Kelly's court record sold

The first appearance of a young Ned Kelly in court documents has gone under the hammer.

The ledger of the Beechworth Court of General Sessions was sold for $25,000 at an estate sale in Hobart.

Dated August 1, 1871, Kelly was sentenced to three years hard labour for horse stealing and receiving.

Auctioneer Russell Thomson says the infamous bushranger was 15 when he first faced the Beechworth court.

"Just one entry there, but it also goes through other bushrangers and everyone else," he said.
"There's a few other different entries there of the Kelly gang and so forth."

The book was bought by local art dealer Nevin Hurst.

Mr Thomson says there is an interesting story about how the book was initially found.
"He picked up this one book, he didn't know what was inside it, it just had a leather binding on the back," Mr Thomson said.

"And he said 'ah that'd be great, there's pages in it for the kids to scribble on', and he said 'do you mind if I take that one' - so that's how it was saved from the incinerator."

Kelly was captured after a shootout with police at Glenrowan in Victoria in June 1880.
He was hanged for murder that year and buried at Melbourne's Pentridge Prison.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Amazon stock rises, beating logic

Amazon's margin of 1% leads to buying frenzy

I keep on waiting for Amazon to fall over from sheer weight, but no, the mega-internet-store continues to flourish.

Publishers Lunch reports that Amazon continues to grow sales and produce very little income.  The latest spreadsheet reveals revenues of $13.18 million for their first quarter (up 34 percent) and net income of $130 million (down 35 percent).

North American media sales ($2.197 billion) were up 17 percent, and international media sales ($2.513 billion) rose 21 percent.

It seems that the beancounters are placing a lot of faith in Kindle Direct, the indie publishing arm that persuades authors to make their work exclusive to Amazon. The press release leads by trumpeting that authors of 130,000 KDP titles have signed up for the scheme, so that Prime members can borrow them for free.

The recent Department of Justice action is, of course, hailed as a big win.  It will, again of course, lead to lowering of the prices of more Kindle books.  So the same kind of growth (or non-growth) can be expected in the future.

And sales will zoom.  The forecast if that they will grow between 20% and 34%. Operating income estimates range from a $260 million loss to a $40 million gain.

Despite these unimpressive figures, the estimates were above expectations -- and so Amazon stock has risen sharply.  According to the Nasdaq index, a share is currently worth $226.57, having risen 15.9% overnight.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Vogel Award

Congratulations to Paul D Carter

His manuscript, Eleven Seasons, is the winner of the 2012 Australian/Vogel's Literary Award.

Paul was awarded a cheque from Vogel's for $20,000.

He was told in September that he had won and has since worked secretively with his publisher, Allen & Unwin, to ensure the book was ready for the shops today.

It is a very Melbourne book with Aussie rules playing a crucial role in the life of Jason Dalton, a boy from a broken home in the mid-1980s.

The Australian/Vogel's Literary Award is the richest and most prestigious prize in Australia for an unpublished manuscript by a writer under the age of 35.

Read more in the Brisbane Times 

Journo to be deported from Zimbabwe

He had been to to hot spots like Rwanda, Kazakhstan, Egypt, so he was arrested as a spy from New Zealand ...

Robin Hammond, who was In Zimbabwe working on a story about the movement of refugees from that country to South Africa, was arrested on Monday local time with charity worker Bertha Chiguvare in the border town of Beitbridge, 580km south of Harare.
Mr Hammond was convicted of contravening a section of the Protected Areas and Places Act for taking photos in a protected area, and fined $US150 ($NZ184).
Zimbabwean journalist Columbus Mavhunga has spoken to Mr Hammond's lawyer and police, who told him Mr Hammond will be driven about 600km to Harare on Friday local time for deportation to New Zealand.
"They are saying he had not declared he is a journalist," Mr Mavhunga told Radio New Zealand.
"They say his passport showed ... he has been to hot spots, like Rwanda, Kazakhstan, Egypt, so they suspect that he is a spy from New Zealand, so they would want to deport him back to his land of origin."
Mr Hammond's lawyer told Mr Mavhunga he had spoken with the British embassy in Zimbabwe, which was assisting the New Zealand High Commission based in Pretoria, South Africa.

The embassy had hoped Zimbabwean officials would release the South Africa-based photographer, but that had been rejected.

Mr Hammond's lawyer told Mr Mavhunga the photographer was "in fairly high spirits but he's not as good as he should be ... He was not beaten, but his morale is down."

Video and digital still cameras as well as a voice recorder with excerpts of an interview were found in Mr Hammond's possession, AFP reports.

The media in Zimbabwe is tightly regulated and journalists are not allowed to work in the country without accreditation.

Downsize for NZ's biggest newspaper?

New Zealand's biggest newspaper contemplates shrinking.

The New Zealand Herald is likely to go to tabloid-sized, in what the paper describes as "compact format".

It's part of a review of Herald titles by owners APN.

Newspaper revenue fell seven percent last year and traditional readers world wide are turning to other ways of getting their news.

APN bosses stress the change to a compact format hasn't been decided yet, with concern that going tabloid would make the paper more populist and less credible.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Thoreau video game gets NEA grant

Writer who evaded poll tax inspires video game

Henry David Thoreau declared that he would rather go to jail than pay taxes that contributed to causes he didn't believe in (such as the war with Mexico). Now the man who devised the philosophy of civil disobedience has inspired a video game -- one that presumably illustrates the same credo.

And who knows what the consequences might be?

Galley Cat reports:

The University of Southern California has received a $40,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to produce a video game based on the work of Henry David Thoreau.

Here’s more about the project: “To support production costs for a video game based on the writings of Henry David Thoreau at Walden Pond. The player will inhabit an open, three-dimensional game world which will simulate the geography and environment of Walden Woods. Once developed, the game will be available online.”

You can download free eBook edition of Thoreau’s Walden at this link. At the same time, a number of PBS shows saw significant reductions or cuts in their NEA grants this year.

Story by Jason Boog.  Read the rest at GalleyCat.

Queen reopens Cutty Sark

The Queen officially reopens the Cutty Sark in Greenwich five years after it was ravaged by fire.

The clipper, which has been restored at a cost of more than £50m, is now elevated so visitors can see it from underneath as well as climb aboard.

After the Queen unveiled the Cutty Sark, the royal couple moved inside to view the clipper's cramped decks that during its working life were filled with tea from China.

Richard Doughty, director of the Cutty Sark Trust, described the vessel as "spectacular" and said: "We have a ship fit for the Queen and we're very proud Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh have come to open the site.

"Fifty-five years on from when she first came, it's a very different experience, offering a light environment in the Cutty Sark's new elevated position."

The 2007 fire was caused by an industrial vacuum cleaner which had been left switched on for two days while a conservation project was being carried out to repair Cutty Sark's iron framework.

Fortunately, the ship's masts, saloon and deckhouses had been removed and put into storage in Kent when the fire took hold.

The painting of the lovely old tea clipper in her heyday is by Montague Dawson. We used to have it on a tea-tray ...

Read the full BBC story

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Shakespeare in Maori

Shakespeare in 37 languages

A performance of Troilus and Cressida in Maori has kicked off an international festival in Britain, where Shakespeare is being staged in many tongues.

The Globe to Globe Festival opened yesterday (the Bard's birthday) with the Maori translation of the deathless tragedy of love, infidelity, hubris, and misplaced heroism.  (It would be more logical to have it in Greek, being a saga of the Trojan War, but never mind; the Maori version is beautiful.)

The Festival will also feature Hamlet in Lithuanian, Cymbeline in Sudanese, and a sign-language version of Lave Labour's Lost.

The Secret Service Scandal and the President's Watch

There's a lot of tap-dancing going on in Washington

It's even noticeable in New Zealand.

The story, the way we read it here, is that a couple of dozen president-protectors had a college-boy-style holiday in Cartagena before the President arrived.  It involved a few sex-workers -- something that is not illegal in Cartagena.  But, though, they weren't breaking the law, they were breaking the rules. And, what's more, one of them didn't pay his bill.

The thought of sex-workers getting a glimpse of classified material, however unlikely, has sent a shudder through the ranks. (Maybe some in Congress are old enough to remember the Profumo scandal.)   Hence the tap-dancing.

On what I suppose is the humorous side, the Borowitz Report has reported (tongue in cheek) that there has been a 5000% jump in Secret Service recruitment. Even more bizarre is the (real) report that Congresswomen blame the problem on not having enough female Secret Servicepersons. Have they considered the implications? Are they really suggesting that prostitutes would not be necessary if female co-workers were on tap, as it were? Or are they like the pious whaleship owners of the mid-nineteenth century, who believed that the presence of a lady (in the person of the captain's wife) improved the morals on board?

Personally, I think it is sad, as the President and his family seem to have had such a good relationship with their protectors. 'Way back when, I posted a story about Obama's watch, which is a good illustration of this. 

And, as Laurie Kellman in Washington observes, "For any president, a Secret Service scandal creates discomfort. Members of the agency's elite protective service help the first family feel safe in the public glare."

It's a fairly intimate relationship, as First Lady Michelle Obama told members of the Secret Service last year. The president, their daughters and she playfully argued at the dinner table over their favorite agents, she said.

"We love our detail," Mrs. Obama said. "For us, it's like having family around."

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Pros and cons of academic journals

Do scholarly journals warrant high subscription fees?

Yesterday's post about the movement to make academic journals more affordable -- or at least to promote the revolutionary idea that their authors and reviewers should be paid -- generated such interest on both this blog and facebook, that I had a look at what the internet is saying. 

And I found that it is a LOT. Google (perhaps because of a vested interest?) seems to actively encourage discussion, but it is definitely a very hot topic, originally triggered by the boycott of Elsevier, the Dutch publisher of many of these journals. See, for instance, gigaom -- but there is much, much more.

Traditionally, students are strongly recommended to use journals in their research; indeed, they are considered so important that the University Library of the University of New England has a page with tips for telling academic ("peer-reviewed") journals from other types of publication. To summarize:
  • In academic journals there is a list of editorial board members at the beginning 
  • The articles include sourcing, such as footnotes, endnotes, and bibliographies
  • The papers are often illustrated with charts and graphs 
  • The authors are NEVER anonymous 
  • The language is very formal: "sensational, highly emotive language is almost never used"
  • Most specialize in original research

So, okay, these students are captive to the scholarly journal arena, and university libraries include hefty subscription fees in their budgets as a matter of course.  But is this system coming to an end? Have internet search engines such as google guaranteed the demise of these publications in their present form?

A forum which discusses the issue in an intelligent manner is based at Slashdot. What makes it interesting is the input from people who have been involved in the author or reviewer process -- people like Dale, who posted very interesting comments on this blog.  And, there are very definite pros and cons:


  • Reliable scholarship
  • Junk is more likely to be rejected
  • Internet data is easy to obtain, but the recipient has to do all his or her assessment, while with scholarly journals the assessment has already been done
  • The current journal system employs people with high level filtering expertise, and no search engine can match that
  • It allows significant advances to be seen more easily
  • "Saner content than a crackpot with a webpage"


  • Anonymity of reviewers cannot be guaranteed when there are only a few experts in the field
  • Vulnerability to academic rivalry
  • Immense time-lag between submission and publication: one author commented that by the time his technology-related paper was printed it was obsolete and not worth reading
  • Despite the peer review system idiotic and plagiarized material has been published
  • It panders to intellectual elitism
  • Reviewers can be emotionally biased
  • Most papers are work in progress, and not a complete understanding
  • Because of high charges "these publishing bodies are actually slowing down the advancement of mankind!" 
 Obviously, the discussion is only going to get more lively. Watch this space.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The costs of academic publishing

Academic publishing doesn't add up

-- says John Naughton in the Guardian.

The world of university research has long been held to ransom by academic publishers charging exorbitant prices for subscriptions – but that may all be about to end.

As he goes on to say, if you're a researcher in any academic discipline, your reputation and career prospects are largely determined by your publications in journals of mind-bending specialisation – like Tetrahedron, a journal specialising in organic chemistry and published by the Dutch company Elsevier.

Everything that appears in such journals is peer-reviewed – vetted by at least two experts in the field.  These two experts are recruited from academia, and it is in their interest to do the research to back up their opinions and comments.

These peers review the papers, and do the research involved, for absolutely nothing. They don't get a penny. Or a cent.

The scholar who has written the paper gets exactly the same payment --- zilch.  His or her career depends on being published in these esoteric journals, and so the gratification of publication is considered quite sufficient.

Yet the journals charge an absolute fortune to the libraries that subscribe to them.  Ordinary scholars could not possible afford a subscription, believe me.  As Naughton describes, in the publish-or-perish academic world, the vulnerability of scholars gives enormous power to outfits that publish key journals -- outfits like Elsevier.

An annual subscription to Tetrahedron, for example, costs a university library $20,269 (£12,600). And if you want Biochimica et Biophysica Acta, that'll set the library back €18,710 (£11,600) a year. Not all journals are this pricey, but the average cost of an annual subscription to a chemistry journal is still $3,792 and many journals cost far more.  Most major British universities are spending between £4m and £6m a year on journal subscriptions -- and yet it is the universities, funded by the taxpayer, that are paying the authors and reviewers.

The worm, however, is beginning to turn. An eminent Cambridge academic, Professor Tim Gowers, announced in a blogpost that he would not be submitting articles to Elsevier's journals and that he would also be refusing to peer-review articles for them.

And lo, his post proved hugely popular, attracting thousands of readers and commenters. Even more importantly, it triggered the set-up of a website, The Cost of Knowledge, which enables academics to register their objections to Elsevier.

To date, more than 9,000 have done so.

As Naughton remarks, if this marks the end of the "academic publishing racket," Professor Gowers should get not just a knighthood, but the Order of Merit too.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Independent bestsellers

"Self-pub" is out. "Indie" is in.

And there are two indie books on the NYT fiction (print and eBooks) list this week.

At number 7, having raced out of nowhere, is On the Island by Tracey Garvis-Graves.

And at number 10, rising fast from its number 15 slot last week, is The Marriage Bargain by Jennifer Probst.

On the Island is billed as adventure. In this book,  30-year-old school teacher moonlighting as the tutor of a 17-year-old lad is stranded with him on an uninhabited island, after their seaplane has a heart attack. The plot sounds fairly ho-hum, being an account of how they managed the castaway experience, with a racy hint of the sexual problems that lie ahead. 

What is remarkable is Ms. Garvis-Graves's own resourcefulness.  She published via createspace, and then launched herself into an intensive publicity campaign. Currently #1 in its category on, On the Island was promoted with a video trailer, lively blogging, the snaring of lots of good reviews from online magazines and other indie authors, and a virtual book tour. 

The author's energy has paid off handsomely, providing an excellent model for other ambitious indie writers. A good start would be a good look at her vivacious website.

The background of The Marriage Bargain is very interesting indeed. Jennifer Probst published through Entangled Publishing, which appears to have a much closer relationship with its clients than other outlets for indie authors. Set up by a team of dedicated professionals, they go about the production of a book in an apparently very businesslike fashion.

They only produce romances, some -- like The Marriage Bargain --with a paranormal element. Thus, at the start of this book, the protagonist, bookstore owner Alexa, casts a spell for a man with lots of money.  And guess why she needs the money -- to save the ailing bookstore, of course.

Having cast this spell, she expects the hero to walk through the door. Instead, it's her best friend, who has a brother who has broken Alexa's heart in the past.

But that doesn't signify, as she's not in search of love. And this bloke seems to have been sent from heaven -- he needs a marriage of convenience in order to inherit Dad's fortune.  And so a marriage bargain is struck, where they pretend to be married for a year, no intimacy, no strings attached.

Well, for anyone who has idled away an afternoon with a book from Harlequin or Mills and Boon -- or enjoyed the movie The Green Card, for that matter -- this is a predictable plot, as well.

Apart from the expertise of the producers of the book, what seems to be in Jennifer Probst's favor is that she had a loyal following already.  See her website for more.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Cheaper books help hold inflation

Pricing bestsellers a guide to inflation in New Zealand

According to the business section in today's Wellington Dominion Post, inflation almost vanished for non-smokers in the March 2012 quarter, "helped in part by much cheaper books, such as hot seller The Hunger Games."

A surprise element in the figures was "an unprecedented" 14% drop in book prices.

How did they deduce this, one wonders.  Well, it seems that the bean-counters track the top ten best-selling books.  The Hunger Games, for instance, sells for $NZ18, compared to the typical hardback, which costs something over $30.

It certainly doesn't reflect a drop in book prices across the board.

In fact, the whole scene is bizarre.  Helped by a strong New Zealand dollar, costs of international airfares, overseas package holidays, telecommunication costs, audiovisual equipment, and -- yes, books -- have all gone down, taking the figure for inflation along. 

Yet the average New Zealander is finding life quite a bit more expensive: petrol, housing rentals, insurance premiums, and vegetables have all gone up.  Along with those pricey cigarettes.

Judge sets DOJ hearing

From Publishers Lunch

At a status conference Wednesday afternoon in New York District Court, Judge Denise Cote heard from lawyers representing Apple, contesting publishers Penguin and Macmillan, and the three publishers - Hachette, Simon & Schuster, and HarperCollins -- that settled with the Department of Justice and are working towards a similar outcome with as many as all 50 states. Hachette and Harper confirmed they signed a memorandum of understanding with 16 states and Puerto Rico, Bloomberg reported, and "they hope to have a settlement with all 50 states completed by June 11," exactly 60 days from when both the DOJ and state ebook price fixing lawsuits were filed. A lawyer for S&S indicated the publisher also hopes to settle with all states soon, too.

Under such a settlement, paidContent said, the states would use the money collected from the settling publishers for "consumer restitution" as part of a large pool which would be paid out to customers. Answering one of the big open questions since the settlements were first announced, Harper lawyer Shepard Goldfein indicated their position that the state settlements remedy and effectively take the place of the class-action suit, which is also under Judge Cote's jurisdiction (channeling the funds to actual consumers rather than the class action attorneys, we would add). "There could be something left of the class, or nothing left of the class," Goldfein asserted.

Lead class action lawyer Steve Berman at Hagens Berman tried to counter this by arguing that state settlement "only applies to natural persons, not to businesses or libraries," but Goldfein countered that "few businesses and libraries bought ebooks." Regardless, Macmillan, Penguin and Apple will still be subject to the possibility of defending themselves against the class action suit as well as the suits brought by the Department of Justice and the coalition of state attorneys general, unless Judge Cote rules otherwise.

Cote said she would hold a hearing on July 27 to determine whether the federal settlements "are in the public interest," taking into account any public comments that emerge in the meantime. Readers are reminded that anyone who wishes to express themselves about the settlement is welcome to write to DOJ and "all comments received...will be considered" by DOJ and the judge. You should write to:

John Read
Chief Litigation III Section
Antitrust Division
U.S. Department of Justice
450 5th Street, NW, Suite 4000
Washington, DC 20530

That means it will be at over 100 days at a minimum before the settling publishers will need to have new contracts in place for ebook sales.

As for Apple, Reuters said the company wants a trial and explained their rationale in court: "Our basic view is that we would like the case to be decided on the merits. We believe that this is not an appropriate case against us and we would like to validate that." The next status conference is scheduled for June 22.

Meanwhile, ebook price fixing lawsuits have crossed the border, as the Toronto Star reports that two law firms in Ontario and one in B.C. have named Apple and the Agency Five (and their Canadian subsidiaries) in class-action claims. (The Globe and Mail adds there are additional suits pending in Quebec as well.)

"I would expect that if there's a change in business practices Canadians would benefit, but the case filed in the U.S. is on behalf of U.S. residents and seeks refunds to U.S. residents and so that would not do anything for Canadian consumers who have already made their purchases," explained Charles Wright of Siskinds LLP, which launched a suit on behalf of several Ontario residents. "A Canadian action is necessary and desirable to get compensation for Canadian consumers." All three complaints use similar language and request $110 million (CDN) in damages, which makes it likely the suits will merge into one.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Tolkien and Dickens descendants collaborate

A grandson of JRR Tolkien and a descendant of Charles Dickens are to collaborate on two new fantasy books for children.

Poet Michael Tolkien, the eldest grandson of the The Hobbit author, will write two novels based on stories his grandfather read to him as a child.

Gerald Dickens, the great-great grandson of Charles, will narrate the audiobook versions.

Both works are due to be released later this year.

Publisher Thames River Press said the first book, Wish, was inspired by Florence Bone's 1923 story, The Rose-Coloured Wish.

It tells the story of two children who set out to use an evil enchanter's wishing chain of stones to save their alpine valley, only to fall into trouble.

Michael Tolkien was introduced to the tales in the 1940s and 1950s as a child, and he later read them to his own children.

He said he decided to pay tribute to the now-neglected tale and to "recreate the spirit of the original in new dress".

The second book, Rainbow, is based on Bone's 1910 novel, The Other Side of the Rainbow.

Dickens said: "Wish is a timeless story which children will enjoy for years to come. Michael Tolkien has brought it to life in narrative verse."

Read the rest of the BBC story

Amazon acquires James Bond

Amazon acquires US rights to Fleming's James Bond thrillers

Amazon Publishing has bought a 10-year license for North American rights to the entire series of Ian Fleming's James Bond books in both print and e-book form. The deal was done with Fleming's family company Ian Fleming Publications Ltd via Jonny Geller, managing director at Curtis Brown.

All the Bond titles will be reissued by Amazon Publishing's Thomas & Mercer imprint from the summer.
Corinne Turner, managing director of Ian Fleming Publications Ltd, said: "We believe that Amazon Publishing has the ability to place the books back at the heart of the Bond brand, balancing traditional publishing routes with new technologies and new ways of reaching our readers."

Geller said the deal "heralds a new phase in Ian Fleming's publishing story".

Read the full story on The Bookseller

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Wellington Gold Awards

Those who helped make Wellington the coolest little capital 


Last night at Jeff Gray BMW's Kaiwharawhara showroom The Dominion Post's GM - Gerrard Watt and Mayor Celia Wade-Brown announced this year's finalists.

They are a true cross-section of business and life! Providing us with services and products from the cradle to the grave.....

And here are those who helped publicize our arts:

The Wellingon Company, film, media and creative content
Awa Press, giving meticulous attention to producing great New Zealand books

BInteractive, a producer of leading education reading applications worldwide

Carter Observatory, world class visitor and education center
NZ Affordable Art Trust, promoting, new, emerging and established artists

Read the full list

Poets wanted

London 2012: Worldwide poets still needed for Festival event

Jo Shapcott Jo Shapcott won the Costa Book Prize earlier this year

More than 20 writers are still needed for an event to include a poet from every nation competing in the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics.

The Poetry Parnassus will take place on London's Southbank at the end of June.

Organisers have already signed up 153 poets, with another 28 being confirmed, but still need writers from 23 countries including Mali and Liberia.

Writers already confirmed include Jang Jin Seong - former court poet to North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il.

He fled the regime and now resides in South Korea.

Jo Shapcott will represent Great Britain, while Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney will represent Ireland.

The event, the UK's largest poetry project, is part of the London 2012 Festival.

Read the bull BBC story

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Salem Privateers

Salem's Privateers in the War of 1812

This looks interesting:  A new -- bargain priced ($15) -- book on the little-covered, yet swashbuckling, history of the privateers of Salem.

By Captain Michael Rutstein, the owner/operator of the schooner "Fame"

During the War of 1812, Salem was in many ways representative of the nation as a whole. Deeply divided over politics and the war, Salemwas home to Republicans and Federalists, privateers and smugglers. Salem sent out 43 cruisers, ranging from 300-ton ships owned by merchant princes to open boats manned by unemployed sailors. Her cruisers roamed the Atlantic from the Irish Sea to the coast of Brazil — and also patrolled the harbors of Maine and Massachusetts, searching out smugglers. The privateers whose careers are covered in this book ran the gamut from scintillating success to abject failure. There are tales here of heroism and cowardice, generosity and greed, astonishing good fortune and deep personal tragedy.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Applications open for Copyright Licensing Awards


Applications are now open for two $35,000 awards for writers of non-fiction or educational works.

New Zealand writers of non-fiction books are invited to apply for grants worth $35,000 each in this year’s Copyright Licensing Ltd (CLL) Writers’ Awards.

The CLL Writers’ Awards - among the highest monetary prizes for works of non-fiction available in New Zealand - have been running since 2002. They are financed from copyright licensing revenue received by CLL on behalf of authors and publishers and enable successful applicants to devote time to specific non-fiction project.

Awards have been provided to the following winners and a number of works published. Two or three more works are likely to be published by past winners this year.

Sarah Quigley
Charles Brasch biography
Paul Millar
No Fretful Sleeper: A Life of Bill Pearson
David Eggleton
Contemporary Culture
Lloyd Spencer Davis
Looking for Darwin
Rowan Taylor
Allan Wilson biography
Jill Trevelyan
Rita Angus biography
Judith Dell Panny
CK Stead biography
Stevan Eldred-Grigg
Diggers, Hatters & Whores (NZ Gold Rush)
Martin Edmond
The Zone of the Marvellous
Jeffery Holman
Best of Both Worlds
Hazel Riseborough
Shear Hard Work
Philip Norman
Rise of NZ Composition 1946-2006
Peter Wells
The Hungry Heart. The Enquiring Mind
Damien Skinner
Maori Carvers in the 20th Century
Steve Braunias
New Zealand: The Biography
Christine Cole Catley
Getting Ready
Melissa Williams
Te Rarawa in the City
Malcolm McKinnon
The 1930’s Depression in New Zealand

The Board of Copyright Licensing Ltd (made up of authors and publishers) encourages all established writers of non-fiction to consider applying for one of the two awards on offer this year. It is hoping to encourage applications from writers with interests in the sciences, business, Māori and Pacific studies, the arts and beyond. Applicants must be New Zealand citizens or permanent residents and writers of proven merit.

Applicants must submit details of a project planned or under way to a selection committee. Applications must be received by 5pm on Tuesday 26 June 2012. The two winners of this year’s awards will be announced at a special ceremony to be held on Thursday 6th September 2012.

Full application details for the CLL Writers’ Awards are available on the website

Amazon and the DOJ action

Jeff Bezos Should Send Eric Holder a Christmas Card

Says Tim Carmody on WiredOpinion
"I can imagine Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in Seattle this morning, reading the Justice Department’s antitrust lawsuit on a gigantic Kindle Fire XL prototype, and grinning ear to ear, savoring every word," he begins.
"Officially," Carmody goes on, "Amazon’s response to today’s news is fairly measured. “This is a big win for Kindle owners, and we look forward to being allowed to lower prices on more Kindle books,” writes Amazon spokesman Drew Herdener in an e-mail."
But if it’s “a big win for Kindle owners,” as he goes on to demonstrate, it’s an even mightier win for Amazon.

Read the whole commentary

Eric Holder (pictured) is the current Attorney General of the United States.

Publisher statements

The Department of Justice suit

From Publishers Lunch:

Penguin Group ceo John Makinson issued a statement about the lawsuit his company faces from the Department of Justice and a group of attorneys general on Wednesday afternoon. He writes: "A responsible company does not choose a path of litigation with US Government agencies without carefully weighing the implications of that course of action." But, Makinson says, "we have done nothing wrong. The decisions that we took, many them of them costly and difficult, were taken by Penguin alone." As for Justice's complaint filed today, "the document contains a number of material misstatements and omissions, which we look forward to having the opportunity to correct in court."

Additionally, Makinson reiterates that "the agency model is the one that offers consumers the prospect of an open and competitive market for e-books. We understood that the shift to agency would be very costly to Penguin and its shareholders in the short-term, but we reasoned that the prevention of a monopoly in the supply of e-books had to be in the best interests, not just of Penguin, but of consumers, authors and booksellers as well.... The decision we took in January 2010 to move Penguin’s e-book business to agency pricing has been vindicated by the very rapid subsequent growth in the volume of e-books sold by agency publishers, and by the benefit to consumers of the steep decline in the price of e-book readers that that has resulted from this open competition."

Makinson also says that "alone among the publishers party to the investigations that resulted in today’s announcements, we have held no settlement discussions with the DOJ or the states."

In other statements, ABA ceo Oren Teicher said: "Today's DOJ filing is baffling. Following the implementation of the agency model at the end of 2010, the ebook market has become more competitive. There is more -- not less -- competition among retailers, and more -- not fewer -- examples of marketing and promotional efforts among publishers that have reduced prices. For the Department of Justice to challenge a business model that played an essential role in fostering a more competitive, diverse retail environment seems to turn logic on its head and is not in the best interest of consumers."

And from John Sargent at Macmillan:

Dear authors, illustrators and agents:

 Today the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against Macmillan's US trade publishing operation, charging us with collusion in the implementation of the agency model for e-book pricing. The charge is civil, not criminal. Let me start by saying that Macmillan did not act illegally. Macmillan did not collude.

 We have been in discussions with the Department of Justice for months. It is always better if possible to settle these matters before a case is brought. The costs of continuing--in time, distraction, and expense-- are truly daunting.

 But the terms the DOJ demanded were too onerous. After careful consideration, we came to the conclusion that the terms could have allowed Amazon to recover the monopoly position it had been building before our switch to the agency model. We also felt the settlement the DOJ wanted to impose would have a very negative and long term impact on those who sell books for a living, from the largest chain stores to the smallest independents.

When Macmillan changed to the agency model we did so knowing we would make less money on our e book business. We made the change to support an open and competitive market for the future, and it worked. We still believe in that future and we still believe the agency model is the only way to get there.
 It is also hard to settle a lawsuit when you know you have done no wrong. The government's charge is that Macmillan's CEO colluded with other CEO's in changing to the agency model. I am Macmillan's CEO and I made the decision to move Macmillan to the agency model. After days of thought and worry, I made the decision on January 22nd, 2010 a little after 4:00 AM, on an exercise bike in my basement. It remains the loneliest decision I have ever made, and I see no reason to go back on it now.

 Other publishers have chosen to settle. That is their decision to make. We have decided to fight this in court. Because others have settled, there may well be a preponderance of references to Macmillan, and to me personally, in the Justice Department’s papers – often without regard to context. So be it.
 I hope you will agree with our stance, and with Scott Turow, the president of the Author's Guild, who stated, "The irony of this bites hard: our government may be on the verge of killing real competition in order to save the appearance of competition. This would be tragic for all of us who value books and the culture they support".

 Since we are now in litigation, I may not be able to comment much going forward. We remain dedicated to finding the best long term outcome for the book business, for Macmillan and for the work you have entrusted to our care.


Weird Things People Say in Bookshops

The things people say about books!

Just recently,New Zealand Listener columnist Joanne Black, reported overhearing a father telling his wayward child that if she didn't behave she would only get books for Christmas, instead of "real" presents. Then, in a more amusing echo of this, I received an email from a friend in Cambridge, England, who had been mightily amused by a feature in the Financial Times about what people say in bookstores.

I came across something in Saturday's Financial Times (he wrote) that had us both laughing. It is on page 2 of the "Life & Arts" section, and is a selection of extracts "Things people say in bookshops" by Jen Campbell.

It begins with:

Customer: I read a book in the 1960s. I don't remember the author or the title. But it was green and it made me laugh. Do you know which one I mean?

It ends with:

 Customer: I'm looking for a biography to read that's really interesting. Could you recommend one?

Bookseller: Sure. What books have you read and liked?

Customer: Well, I really loved Mein Kampf.

Bookseller: .... ???

Customer: "Loved" is probably not the right word.

Bookseller: Probably not.

Customer: "Liked" is probably better. Yes, I liked it a lot.

Read more about Weird Things People Say in Bookshops by Jen Campbell. (Constable, £7.99)

Apple and associated publishers sued

The Department of Justice has sued Apple and publishers for allegedly colluding to set eBook prices.

Apple, Macmillan and Penguin will fight the suit in court; HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster and Hachette have settled with the government.

In court documents, DOJ attorneys alleged that Apple and five major publishers engaged in a “substantial” conspiracy as they set up the agency model for eBook pricing–including deleting emails “to avoid leaving a paper trail.”

Read the full story on GalleyCat

Hans Christian Anderson Illustrator Award

Congratulations, Peter Sis!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Australian serial killer writes book

Victoria's worst serial killer, Paul Steven Haigh, has penned a jailhouse manuscript in which he attempts to blame some of his victims for their own deaths.

The seven-time murderer, who is seeking a minimum parole for his crimes, writes that he is not "endlessly flagellating myself with memories of murder or anything else".

His book, titled The House of the Blue Light, contains a harrowing account of how he killed two of his victims, Sheryle Gardner and her son, Danny Mitchell, 9, in 1979.

"I shot the mother first. Then, while consoling the boy, I shot him with the second gun when his back was turned to me," he writes.

He says he killed Ms Gardner because she knew too much about his crimes.

He says the bereaved family members of his victims would not compel him to shed a tear for them.
"Because they can't climb out of the pit of the past, it doesn't mean I'm not going to do everything I can to put the past behind me and to find all the happiness I can," he wrote.

He said his victims had only themselves to blame.

"I own that I killed people but I won't be a scapegoat for poor genes, parenting, social support, peer relations or education that led to my victims being what they were and choosing as they did."

The friends and families of his victims say the manuscript should never be published.

Read more in the Herald Sun

Adverts in eBooks

Yahoo files e-book advert system patent applications

Yahoo e-book advertising patent diagram Yahoo's patents suggest users could weigh the type of ads against the sizes of discount before purchase

Yahoo has signalled it is investigating e-book adverts as a way to stimulate its earnings.

It says in two US patent applications that ads for digital book readers have been "less than optimal" to date.

The filings suggest that users could be offered titles at a variety of prices depending on the ads' prominence

They add that the products shown could be determined by the type of book being read, or even the contents of a specific chapter, phrase or word.

The paperwork was published by the US Patent and Trademark Office late last week and relates to work carried out at the firm's headquarters in Sunnyvale, California.

"Greater levels of advertising, which may be more valuable to an advertiser and potentially more distracting to an e-book reader, may warrant higher discounts," it states.

Read the full BBC commentary

Google glasses raise privacy fears

A new way to see the world

Project Glass, from Google's secretive Google X lab, has posted a video preview of its bleeding edge goggles.

The technology allows the wearer to walk around speaking commands to the glasses to do such things as take photos and post them to other users, get directions, or pop-up alerts when a friend is close. But senior editor at the website Cnet, Bridget Carey, says the development also raises serious questions about privacy:

“Google’s video talked about all the cool things you could do in your daily life to communicate with friends, but what it didn’t talk about is how companies would love to get on this and send advertisements as you are walking by the store, perhaps get some pop-up coupons. What if you’re shopping and you’re looking at a jacket? The camera can recognize the product you’re looking at and tell you the jacket is on sale.”

Some European regulators have raised doubts about the legality of Google’s new privacy policy under EU law but the company insists it is lawful.

Is this rather frightening new technology even safe?  Because Google places data in the wearer’s line of sight, concerns have also been raised about safety issues while driving or walking. In Wellington, the council has stalled on placing real-time bus timetables on busy pedestrian streets downtown, for that exact same reason -- that distracted pedestrians might step out in front of cars.

More importantly still, if the robots at Google can see what the viewer is seeing (such as that jacket), how about the security of data?  It's bad enough to envisage them counting what TV programs you watch, but what if you are going through banking records, for instance?  The expectation, most probably, is that people would be sensible enough to take them off when reading what is supposed to be secret, but people are not all that reliable.  As a commentary in Forbes points out, the age of the saboteur and the malicious peeping tom is nigh. 

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Edible cookbook

A truly innovative book design

You read it, assemble the ingredients, stuff the pages, cook it, and eat it.

In this special edition edible cookbook from German design firm Korefe and Gerstenberg Publishing, the recipes are printed on fresh pasta pages that can be baked into a delicious lasagna.

KOREFE is the integrated design and innovations agency of Kolle Rebbe, specializing in corporate design, corporate publishing, packaging and product development.

That is what their home page says.
This is packaging with a Difference. As their promo tells it, it is the first and only Cookbook you can actually read, cook and eat. Made out of 100% fresh pasta it can be opened, filled with ingredients and finally be cooked. Packaged as classic lasagne. The Cookbook was designed as a special project for a large publishing house.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Author sues hostile Amazon reviewer

An author who tried to sue a father of three from the West Midlands over comments made in a series of unfavourable reviews on Amazon is facing a six figure legal bill after a judge struck out his case.

Chris McGrath, an online entrepreneur from Milton Keynes, tried to sue Vaughan Jones, 28, from Nuneaton, over a series of reviews and postings he made on the Amazon website about his self-published and little-known book “The Attempted Murder of God”.

Amazon, the prominent evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins and his eponymous foundation were also named as defendants because they either carried the review or discussion threads linked to it that Mr McGrath claimed were libellous.

The four defendants applied to have the case thrown out with proceedings coming to the High Court late last year. The judgement has now been made available to the public. In it Judge Maloney dismissed the case against Amazon, Richard Dawkins and his foundation whilst throwing out the vast majority of the case against Mr Jones. Mr McGrath will now face legal bills of around £100,000.

The judge also questioned whether Mr McGrath, a married father of two, might have trouble convincing a jury that he had been wronged because of his own online behaviour. During proceedings it emerged that the author had used a number of online pseudonyms to review his self-published book and come to his defence once people began to criticise his work.

Mr McGrath’s book – which he described as a satirical parody of the often fractious debate between science and religion – was initially published anonymously under the pen name “Scrooby”. It came to the attention of Mr Jones in September 2010 when multiple links to Mr McGrath’s work began appearing under reviews for “The Grand Design”, a popular science book by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow which argued that God is not necessary to explain the origins of the universe.

Mr Jones wrote a series of uncomplimentary reviews of “The Attempted Murder of God” and, after doing online research, outed Mr McGrath as the author. He also named Mr McGrath’s two children, something Judge Maloney described as “nasty”. Increasingly hostile replies went back and forth between Mr Jones, Mr McGrath and Mr McGrath’s online pseudonyms – the content of which became subject to libel proceedings.

Libel reform campaigners, who have expressed concern that Britain’s defamation laws disproportionately favour claimants, said last night that the case should not have got to the preliminary hearing stage.

Michael Harris, from Index on Censorship, said: “We want the government to ensure that libel actions cannot proceed unless the harm caused is both “serious” and “substantial”. We’re concerned that it cost Amazon £77,000 to have this case struck out by a judge, an amount of money that most ordinary libel defendants simply cannot afford. Change to our archaic libel laws cannot come soon enough.”

Read the rest of the story at The Independent.

The publicity doesn't seem to have done the author any good.  On the book ranks at 1,634,877; on it ranks at 4,362,673, with 28 one-star reviews.  One really wonders why Mr Jones bothered.