Sunday, February 28, 2010

Teaching kids to read from the back of a burro
By Ebonne Ruffins, CNN
February 26, 2010

Magdalena, Colombia (CNN) -- To the unaccustomed eye, a man toting 120 books while riding a stubborn donkey would seem nothing short of a circus spectacle. But for hundreds of children in the rural villages of Colombia, Luis Soriano is far from a clown. He is a man with a mission to save rural children from illiteracy.

"There was a time when many people thought that I was going crazy," said Soriano, a native of La Gloria, Colombia. "They'd yell, 'Carnival season is over.' ... Now I've overcome that."

Soriano, 38, is a primary school teacher who spends his free time operating a "biblioburro," a mobile library on donkeys that offers reading education for hundreds of children living in what he describes as "abandoned regions" in the Colombian state of Magdalena.

"In [rural] regions, a child must walk or ride a donkey for up to 40 minutes to reach the closest schools," Soriano said. "The children have very few opportunities to go to secondary school. ...There are [few] teachers that would like to teach in the countryside."
More at CNN.




4-5 June 2010, RMIT, Melbourne, Australia

logoA symposium hosted by:

Writing and Literary Studies

School of Media and Communication

RMIT University

Melbourne, Australia,

in association with: The Katherine Mansfield Society


Dr Sarah Ailwood (University of Canberra)

Dr Melinda Harvey (RMIT University, Melbourne)

Confirmed Keynote Speakers:

Emeritus Professor Vincent O’Sullivan (Victoria University, Wellington)

Editor (with Margaret Scott) of The Collected Letters of Katherine Mansfield: Volumes 1-5 (1984–2008).

Professor Sue Thomas (La Trobe University, Melbourne)

Author of The Worlding of Jean Rhys (1999) and (with Ann Blake and Leela Gandhi) England through Colonial Eyes in Twentieth-Century Fiction (2001)

Symposium Sponsors:

Consulate-General of New Zealand, Victoria

Symposium Overview:

This symposium provides an opportunity for scholars in Australia, New Zealand and all over the world with a forum to present papers on all aspects of Katherine Mansfield’s life, work and times.

Topics for the symposium include, but are not limited to:

Ø Mansfield’s ‘Underworld’ – promiscuity, penury, Dostoevsky

Ø Mansfield and the ‘Blooms Berries’ – KM’s relations with and opinions of the Bloomsbury Group and Modernist writing generally

Ø Who owns Mansfield? The biographer? New Zealand? Postcolonialism? Feminism?

Ø Mansfield the Modernist

Ø Mansfield and the Modernist magazine – The New Age, Rhythm, The Blue Review, The Athenaeum

Ø Mansfield the critic

Ø Mansfield the translator

Ø Fictional representations of Mansfield in literature, theatre and film

Ø Women, place, expatriatism and tourism

Ø Mansfield’s influences/the influence of Mansfield on other artists

We stress that papers on works, artists, places and ideas that shed light on Mansfield’s milieu, methods, reception or reputation in literary canons and literary histories (Modernism, New Zealand literature, feminist literature, postcolonial literature, and so on) but do not refer to her directly are very welcome.

Abstracts of 300 words and a brief bio of 30 words should be submitted to Dr Sarah Ailwood ( and Dr Melinda Harvey ( by Monday 2 March 2010.

Saturday, February 27, 2010


Tomorrow Monday 1 March 2010 is a red-letter day for Penguin Books NZ when they launch these ten NZ classic fiction titles

Stevan Eldred-Grigg - Oracles and Miracles
Maurice Gee - Going West
John Mulgan - Man Alone
CK Stead - Smith’s Dream
Witi Ihimaera - The Whale Rider
Ronald Hugh Morrieson - Came a Hot Friday
Shonagh Koea - The Grandiflora Tree
Patricia Grace - Potiki
Maurice Gee - Plumb
Fiona Farrell - The Skinny Louie Book

Bargain priced at $12.95 each but collectors of NZ fiction will be crazy not to buy the set.
Jason B. Jones writing in Bookslut about Sam Sampson and his new book:

The New Zealand-based poet Sam Sampson's Everything Talks is a remarkably smart and engaging first book, in its engagement of the European poetic tradition with an antipodal frame of reference.

A new interview with Sampson, by Zach Savich, makes this clear:

This spatial sense of "Coast," of water, and, more specifically, West Coast seascapes is omnipresent in my work and there is certainly ocean, with a capital "O" (literal and guttural) at the initial compositional stage. While this regional presence may surface in different ways, the imaginary sea is also at play in the work.

Check the interview out here -

Walter Mason
Allen & Unwin - NZ $29.99

“I fell in love with Vietnam, because I’d fallen in love.”

So begins this heartfelt, hilarious, sometimes sad, always evocative memoir, journal, guide-book, tribute and love letter to an adopted home land.

When Walter Mason first went to Vietnam with his life-partner in 1994, he took one look and promptly locked himself in his hotel room and cried for three days. He had never seen such poverty, heard such clamour, felt a heat, smelt such smells or tasted so many strange flavours. And he had never felt so terrified.

Eventually though, he emerged, and what happened next is a love story that has spanned 16 years and 11 trips, it has seen Walter embrace a culture, learn a language, shake up his spirituality and re-shape his life’s path.
From the crazy heat and colour of Saigon to the quieter splendour of Hanoi, Walter gives us a rare, joyous and at times hilarious insight into twenty-first century Vietnam. Seduced by the beauty and charm of its people, and the sensuousness of its culture, we can almost taste the coconut cakes cooked over a fire in a smoky Can Tho kitchen, or smell the endless supplies of fresh baguettes and croissants just out of city ovens.

Swept along by Walter’s sheer passion and exuberance we squeeze ourselves onto buses, perch perilously on the backs of motorbikes, kneel to pray among monks, and jostle our way through city streets that leap off the page and into our hearts and minds.

We find ourselves arrested, caught up in weddings and funerals, bent over the tables of forbidden fortune tellers and impulsively running off into the mountains. Behind-the-scenes visits to Buddhist monasteries reveal a quieter and more transcendent world beyond the busy day trips of tourists. And in the process we begin to see the country through the eyes of its people.

Walter’s prose is both charming and entertaining and will leave you keen to visit Vietnam.

About the author:
Walter, a former bookselle, has several blogs, and is a popular figure on the speaking circuit. He's a noted raconteur, and has a strong eye for the quirky. He is fluent in Vietnamese and is a practising Buddhist.
The secrets of self-publishing

The publishing world has been turned on its head and suddenly we can all be authors. Sorrel Downer reports in British Airways Business:Life magazine.
Newsflash from The Bookseller:

Irish book chain Hughes and Hughes goes into receivership

Irish bookseller Hughes and Hughes has gone into receivership blaming collapsing consumer demand, a drop in passenger numbers visiting its airport stores, and internet competition. It described receivership as "the only appropriate action left to the company".

Ulster Bank Ireland Limited appointed David Carson of Deloitte as receiver to the company today (26th February). According to reports all of the shops have been closed, with the likely loss of 225 jobs.
February 25, 2010
John Grisham to Pen Children’s Books
By Motoko Rich in The New York Times

John Grisham,(left), the best-selling author of more than 20 books, is writing a new series for children centered on a precocious amateur lawyer.

The first in the series, which will be published in May by Penguin Young Readers Group, is called “Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer” and features the 13-year-old eponymous character, the son of two attorneys in a small Southern town.

Mr. Grisham has sold North American rights to the first two books in the series to Penguin, a move that takes him away from his long-time publisher, the Doubleday imprint of Random House. Terms of the new deal were not disclosed.

Doubleday will still publish Mr. Grisham’s forthcoming legal thriller for adults, an untitled work that will be released in October.

David Gernert, Mr. Grisham’s literary agent, said the author wanted to explore other publishers as he entered a new genre. “Children’s publishing is totally different from adults,” said Mr. Gernert. “So John felt that it would be a good idea to explore the world of children’s publishing and talk to a couple of different people.” Mr. Gernert said Mr. Grisham spoke with less than five publishers.

Stuart Applebaum, a spokesman for Random House, said that Random House’s Children’s Books division made an offer and expressed “our keen interest.”

Don Weisberg, president of Penguin Young Readers Group, said the new series would be aimed at children aged 8 to 12. The title character, he said, is “delightful, and the kind of character you would like the opportunity to develop over time.”
Faber repackages James

26.02.10 | Catherine Neilan in The Bookseller

Faber is planning a major repackage of crime fiction author P D James, with 14 of her novels scheduled for release in April, June and August.

As part of the facelift, Faber is moving James into B format, applying “a gorgeous, sophisticated and intriguing photographic approach for the jackets”. She is published in paperback initially by Penguin, with the rights reverting to Faber after a number of years. This will be the first time James’ main paperback ­edition with Faber is in B format.

Eleanor Crow, the Faber designer who has overseen the whole project, said: “We commissioned Roy Mehta to photograph objects and locations from a very low angle, as if from a forensic perspective. We wanted­ the covers to look quietly chilling, setting the scene but taking care that none of the images would give the plot away. These are literary crime novels, with great emphasis on character and motive.”

In October, the publisher is also bringing out the paperback of Talking About Detective Fiction—a non-fiction work about the genre, published in hardback by the Bodleian Library last year—and repackaging The Maul and the Pear Tree—James’ only true crime book, about the Ratcliffe Highway Murders of 1811, in November.

Paperbacks editor Sarah Savitt said the aim was to bring James “to a new, broad audience both within and beyond crime shelves”. Savitt explained: “Crime across the market has been moving to B format and we wanted to keep James at the forefront of this market, as well as access­ible to the many literary readers who love her.

"We also wanted to update her jackets so it seemed a good time to address both. In addition, her last novel, The Private Patient, was a huge success so this was a great way to keep momentum going and celebrate her incredible backlist.”

The team is discussing promotions with retailers at the moment, but Savitt said there had been “lots of enthusiasm” so far. “We would hope and expect to secure trade promos but nothing is yet secured,” she said. These will run in August, once all repackages are out.

Other marketing will include a dedicated new website for James fans, featuring articles, photographs and “many other treasures”, with copies of classic James novels offered to literary and crime bloggers to raise the profile of her backlist online.
So Many Book Conferences, So Little Time
By Edward Nawotka - Publishing Perpectives

This week, while my colleagues were at O'Reilly's Tools of Change for Publishing conference in New York, I was doing something more prosaic: serving jury duty in Houston. As it turns out, you're not allowed to drive a drag racer on US federal highways. Who knew? The one thing about jury duty is that even though you can keep trying to get out of it, eventually you're going to have to do your time. It's a bit like digital publishing conferences: you can avoid them for only so long.

I would have liked to have been there -- it was wonderful last year -- but, in the end, I didn't feel too terrible about missing it. After all, there are seven more book conferences in the next few months, five of them focused exclusively on e-books and digital innovation.

(read on ...)

Are Conferences Creating a De-facto E-book Elite?
By Edward Nawotka

In our lead story today, I write about the proliferation of e-book and digital publishing conferences. There are at least five focused on digital publishing and e-books coming up in the next five months, in addition to three shows in the last three months.

The expense, not to mention the time one needs to take off work, is not insignificant. For small publishers, start-ups and others who may not have the corporate sponsorship to enable them to attend the events, it's unlikely they'd be able to attend multiple events over the course of a year.

(read on ...)
New-look UK book trade awards are unveiled

26.02.10 | Graeme Neill in The Bookseller

The new-look Bookseller Industry Awards, formed by the merger of The Bookseller’s Retail Awards with the British Book Industry Awards, a.k.a. the Trade Nibbies, are launched this week, with new judges and categories.

The awards will be presented at the Royal Courts of Justice in London on 17th May, the middle night of this year’s Book Industry Conference.

Two judging panels have been recruited, one for publishing and one for retail. The publishing panel, chaired by Bookseller m.d. Nigel Roby, comprises Judy Piatkus, founder of Piatkus Books; Eddie Bell, former head of HarperCollins and chairman of Bell Lomax Moreton; Kit Van Tulleken, executive director at Quayle Munro; Kate ­Wilson, former Scholastic chief and now m.d. of children’s publisher Nosy Crow; Brian Berg, m.d. of Universal Music; and Angus Phillips, director of the Oxford International Centre for Publishing Studies.

Joining the retail judging panel for the first time are veteran retail analyst Robert Clark, now director of Retail Knowledge Bank, bestselling author Kate Mosse and Peter Williams, former finance director and chief executive of Selfridges­.

They will be joined by Ottakar’s founder James Heneage, City analyst Paul Smiddy, ex-W H Smith’s director Jo Howard and consultant Damian Horner, plus The Bookseller’s editor-in-chief Neill Denny and features editor Tom Tivnan.

The closing date for submissions is 19th March and entries should cover the 12 months to 1st March. Shortlists will be announced on 23rd April.

Denny said: “We have tried to keep the best of both schemes, retaining the best categories and extending the transparent and open judging of our awards across all categories. I would urge people to enter all the categories they can, so that we can celebrate terrific winners on the night.

"We don’t have to look very hard to find bad news—but let’s find some success stories the whole trade can celebrate.”

Tim Godfray, BA chief executive, said: “The Book Industry Conference has long played a tremendous part in the UK’s book publishing and book retailing industries and it is a natural home for the new-look Bookseller Industry Awards. The awards are an invaluable opportunity for publishers and booksellers to showcase and recognise their many achievements; making them part of the Book Industry Conference brings them to the forefront of the book trade.”

Friday, February 26, 2010


Can I use your blog to put in a word for the As You Like It movie now screening at the Academy Cinema in Auckland city.
It is filmed live at The Globe and is absolutely magical – superbly acted, brilliantly filmed, it manages to capture the atmosphere of the theatre without making the audience too intrusive. I was overwhelmed by it. Like having your mind and senses tended to by a beautiful, expert masseuse.
Last Evening With Garth Cartwright -
Unity B
ooks Wellington

Music fans of all persuasions filled seats and floor space to hear Garth Cartwright at Unity Books last night.
He told us stories about his travels through Europe and America exploring roots music and the culture and societies that inform and inspire these musicians. Beginning with his obsession with American music and culture and his formative years in music journalism he then gave us some historical background to the Romani people. He explained how he won the trust of these musicians and his colourful descriptions of Gypsy festivals took us right into their world.
This time of his life is covered in his book “Princes Amongst Men: Journeys With Gypsy Musicians” and there is a CD compilation of the same title available.

He went on to talk of his time in America researching “More Miles Than Money: Journeys Through American Music”, describing the way the country, and the music it fostered, had changed and the homogenous nature of the music industry.
This talk was interspersed with samples of the music he discussed and followed by a Q & A and book signing.
Do yourself a favour and read his books, he is one of the best music writers working today.

Also, be sure to check out his website:
Arts on Sunday on Radio New Zealand National - 28 February 2010

2:30pm - Robyn Buchanan talks about her investigation into the untold stories of the Crown’s 1881 invasion of Parihaka Pa, one of the most troubling chapters in New Zealand’s history. She includes own family history in the story.

Parihaka Album - Huia Publishers - NZ$45
Book-related guests on Saturday Morning with Kim Hill 27 February - Radio NZ National

The New Zealand Internationa Festival of the Arts opens in Wellington tonight, and on tomorrow's programme, Kim speaks with two festival guests.

Dean Wareham is a former member of Galaxie 500 and Luna, and the author of Black Postcards: a Rock & Roll Romance (Penguin Press). Now based in New York, he performs as Dean and Britta with his wife Britta Phillips; they bring their film/live music performance, 13 Most Beautiful: Songs for Andy Warhol's Screen Tests, to the Festival on 4 March.

Australian writer Margo Lanagan, whose dark stories for younger readers (most recently the novel Tender Morsels) have sparked controversy, will be here for Writers and Readers week (8-14 March)

Also on the programme is New Yorker writer Ken Auletta; his latest book is Googled: The End of the World As We Know It.

For a full rundown, go to
Transworld asks: has Lee Child killed off Jack Reacher?

25.02.10 | Benedicte Page writing in The Bookseller

Transworld is to publish a new Jack Reacher hardback from thriller writer Lee Child next month (61 Hours, Bantam Press, 18th March), and will then follow it up with an unprecedented second new Reacher novel this autumn.

Child usually produces only one thriller featuring his popular ex-army action hero Jack Reacher each year.

Transworld m.d. Larry Finlay said the development had come about because 61 Hours—which sees Reacher finding himself in an isolated South Dakota town in midwinter after being involved in a bus crash—ends with a major cliffhanger concerning the fate of its main character.

"61 Hours ends on an extraordinary culmination full of tension—is Jack Reacher dead or alive?," said Finlay. "Lee's editor Marianne Velmans read the manuscript and came in to see me with a white face, saying: ‘I think Lee's killed Jack!' So we rang his agent, as we've four books under contract, and we've persuaded Lee to write a second novel [this year]".

On the final page of 61 Hours is written simply: "To be continued—30.9.2010"—the date of the next book, which is as yet untitled and which no one at Transworld has so far read.

"The review copies have gone out and bloggers will pick up on what we're doing," said Finlay. "We've got a whole strategy in place. It means Lee has two paperbacks and two hardbacks this year, and the intention is to build the audience up into a crescendo to buy the next book in hardback."

UK sales of Child's last Reacher thriller, Gone Tomorrow, published in April 2009, total more than 74,000 copies through Nielsen BookScan to date, up 10% on the previous book in the series, Nothing to Lose. In all, £3.5m was spent on Lee Child (pictured) books last year according to BookScan, making him the fifth bestselling British novelist of the year. Child has been worth £20.4m to UK book retailers since records began in 1998.

The headline on this story chilled The Bookman to the bone when he read it this morning. No no no, surely not.What a nightmare.
Jack Reacher is only just in his prime and must have many more adventures ahead. I hate to think of my holiday reading minus Jack Reacher.
I have written to Transworld asking them to tell me that this is just a publicity move and that they really have no reason at all to think that master storyteller Lee Child could possibly be thinking of killing of Jack Reacher.
And The Bookman will be talking to Lee Child at a public event on Auckland , NZ's North Shore on Sunday evening 11 April 2010 at which time I will ask for his assurance that Jack Reacher will live on to entertain us as he travels about, without luggage.
Further footnote:
Details of Lee Child's NZ itinerary will posted on the blog shortly.
And more:
Craig Sisterson's Crime Watch blog joins the fray.

Mark Broatch interviewed me for the Sunday Star Times and the Q&A is now online at In the interview I say things like:

I have way too few other interests. I'm lucky to be able to write and feel that anything that takes me away from it is abusing the privilege. In reality I am more fun than that, especially if you catch me in the hating myself / seeking distraction period.

You can read the rest of it here.
Seeking "Aha" at O'Reilly's Tools of Change Conference
By Hannah Johnson for Publishing Perpectives

At the Tools of Change for Publishing conference concluded in New York City on Wednesday, people were looking for that "aha" moment, but not one so jarring that it makes them feel "uh oh" and knocks them out of their comfort zone.
Many people in book publishing right now are looking for inspiration: an idea or insight that will give them confidence that they still have the skills and knowledge to succeed in a turbulent and unpredictable marketplace and to do the jobs they were hired to do. If you ask me, that is a tall order for a conference to deliver.

(read on ...)
Scribd Pushes Content to Smartphones, E-Readers
By Dylan F. Tweney Email Author writing in Wired February 24, 2010

While magazine, newspaper and book publishers wrestle with the logistics and technical details of publishing to the Apple iPad, Scribd has an alternative: a “send-to-device” feature that lets people send documents to their e-readers or smartphones for reading on the go.

The new feature, reported in the Wall Street Journal two weeks ago and confirmed by Scribd Wednesday, will support most smartphones, as well as the Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, Sony Reader, Cool-er and Entourage Edge, among other e-book readers.

Scribd, founded in March 2007, is a document-sharing social network that connects mostly written content (documents and presentations) with a social network of readers. The company claims that 10 million documents have been published on the site to date, including non-copyrighted and amateur content as well as some professional, for-pay content from publishers like Simon & Schuster, Lonely Planet, O’Reilly, and the Chicago Tribune.

When reading a document on the Scribd website, readers can now click a “send to device” button that will pop up a menu of possible devices. Select the Kindle, for instance, and Scribd will ask for your Kindle’s email address, and will then send a Kindle-formatted document to that address. For smartphones like the iPhone, Scribd will ask for a phone number; it then texts the URL of a web-accessible PDF file to the phone.

Read more at Wired.

Hodder & Stoughton - John Grisham

Liz Thomson in BookBrunch

John Grisham
has signed a two-book deal with Hodder & Stoughton, teaming up again with his long-time editor Oliver Johnson, who joined H&S from Century last summer. He remains under contract with Random House for his standalone novels
Descartes Letter Found, Therefore It Is
By Patricia Cohen
Published in The New York Times: February 24, 2010

It was the Great Train Robbery of French intellectual life: thousands of treasured documents that vanished from the Institut de France in the mid-1800s, stolen by an Italian mathematician. Among them were 72 letters by René Descartes, the founding genius of modern philosophy and analytic geometry.

Imagno/Getty Images
The mathematician and philosopher René Descartes.

Haverford College
The stolen letter, dated May 27, 1641.

Now one of those purloined letters has turned up at a small private college in eastern Pennsylvania, providing scholars with another keyhole into one of the Western world’s greatest minds.

The letter, dated May 27, 1641, concerns the publication of “Meditations on First Philosophy,” a celebrated work whose use of reason and scientific methods helped to ignite a revolution in thought.

The document, experts say, reveals just how much Descartes tailored his writings to answer his contemporary critics. Frequently suspected of heresy, Descartes sent copies of his arguments to well-known theologians to gauge their opinions and answer their objections within his text.

If old-fashioned larceny was responsible for the document’s loss, advanced digital technology can be credited for its rediscovery. Erik-Jan Bos, a philosophy scholar at Utrecht University in the Netherlands who is helping to edit a new edition of Descartes’s correspondence, said that during a late-night session browsing the Internet he noticed a reference to Descartes in a description of the manuscript collection at Haverford College in Pennsylvania. He contacted John Anderies, the head of special collections at Haverford, who sent him a scan of the letter.

“This was exhilarating,” Mr. Bos wrote in an e-mail message. “Seeing Descartes’ handwriting appear on my screen took my breath away.”

Descartes, the author of “Cogito, ergo sum” — “I think, therefore I am” — spent two decades living in Holland. Mr. Bos’s research is part of a large project sponsored by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research.

It turns out the letter had been donated in 1902 to Haverford’s library by Lucy Branson Roberts, whose husband, Charles Roberts, was an avid autograph collector. He had bought the letter without knowing that it was stolen.
More at NYT.
Trotsky biog wins Duff Cooper Prize

25.02.10 | Katie Allen in The Bookseller

A life of Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky has won the 2009 Duff Cooper Prize, which was awarded last night (24th February).

Robert Service took home the £5,000 prize for Trotsky: A Biography (Macmillan). The other shortlisted titles were Family Britain by David Kynaston (Bloomsbury); Russia against Napoleon by Dominic Lieven (Allen Lane); The Frock-coated Communist by Tristram Hunt (also Allen Lane); and The Music Room by William Fiennes (Heinemann).

The Duff Cooper Prize was set up in 1956 in the name of the diplomat and author to celebrate the best in non-fiction publishing.
Shriver, Nicholls and Booth to speak at LBF

25.02.10 | Graeme Neill in The Bookseller

Lionel Shriver, David Nicholls and Hodder & Stoughton's Mark Booth are among the panelists at two seminars for aspiring authors and screenwriters at this year's London Book Fair.

The two sessions, dubbed masterclasses, will run on 17th April at the Earls Court Conference Centre in London. "How to Get Published" will take place from 11am to 1pm, chaired by former Bookseller news editor Danuta Kean. On the panel will be children's writer Meg Rosoff, Orange Prize-winner Lionel Shriver (pictured), Hodder publishing director Mark Booth, agent Carole Blake and self-publishing expert Siobhan Curham.

How to Write for Screen will be chaired by Julian Friedmann, of the Blake Friedmann Literary Agency, and will run from 2.30pm to 5pm. Joining Friedmann will be One Day author David Nicholls, Paul Ashton, development producer at BBC Writersroom and Dr Craig Batty, author and senior lecturer in screenwriting at Bournemouth University.

Alistair Burtenshaw, group exhibition director of the London Book Fair, said: "Our Masterclass sessions have been such a fantastic success.

"This year, once again we are looking forward to giving all those interested in creative writing an opportunity to receive first-hand professional advice
from experts in their fields."

London Book Fair

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Crows Nest - NZ$39.99

Biggles becomes involved in four undercover operations in this third omnibus edition of his classic adventure stories.

I read all of the Biggles books when I was a kid growing up in Gisborne way back in the 1950's, along with the Just William series, Enid Blyton's Famous Five & Secret Seven series and of course the Swallows and Amazons series by Arthur Ransome. All borrowed from the library of course.
Amazingly these various series of books are still in print. Biggles has had a bit of a bad rap in recent yewars but I'm glad to see them being reissued in these handsome omnibus editions.
W.E.Johns died in 1968 but one imagines his estate in is good financial form.
Another glimpse of the future of publishing?

Auckland author-publisher Gordon Dryden passes this video on as “another glimpse of the interactive book of the future—and especially the interactive textbook for lifelong learning, co-created by the brightest experts in any skill and the brightest in the new interactive technologies”:

Dryden agrees with Harvard Business School’s Clayton Christensen, in his 2008 McGraw-Hill book Disrupting Class (“How disruptive innovation will change the way the world learns”) that, no later than 2019, 50 per cent of all school courses, from high-school level up, will be available on the Web. But the Auckland educational writer goes further: he thinks the “model” will be based on some of the world’s best existing online games to learn to become expert at chess and bridge. Students of any age will learn hands-on, by playing at any level, from beginner to world master, with instant hints built-in from real world masters and available at the touch of a button. Another button-link will tailor the hints and activities to your own learning style.

American games designer Marc Prensky has an even bigger dream: for the world’s brightest students to redesign the world’s school system by co-creating interactive games for any subject at any level. Prensky’s newest book, Teaching Digital Natives, can be bought on his website (, as can his earlier one, Digital Games-Based Learning.

For those New Zealanders interested in the current “national standards” debate, Dryden recommends reading several of Prensky’s articles, under “Writing” on his website, including: Open Letter to the Obama Administration, Programming is the New Literacy, and (Dryden’s favorite): A New Business Model for 21st-Century Software. It starts with this quote, from Prensky: “Education is a public service — not a place to make a buck.” Hence his suggestion to get the world’s brightest students (The new “Digital Natives”) to redesign the future of schooling.
Bedtime Story 2.0
By Jason Boog, GalleyCat on Feb 24, 2010

With digital books, smartphones, and the highly anticipated iPad, the bedtime story could change forever. At the Tools of Change conference, Hillel Cooperman unveiled "A Story Before Bed," a way to read a child a storybook via webcam videos.

In this exclusive GalleyCat video, Cooperman walks the viewer through his simple interface, allowing children to read along with a loved one--no matter where they are.

Here's more about the innovative product: "The service lets parents and grandparents who can't be there for bedtime record videos of themselves reading children's books. The kids can watch the videos synchronized to the pages of the book right on screen anytime they like, as often as they like."

Watch the video at GalleyCat.

French Classics à la Nintendo (With a Little Help from Gallimard)
By Olivia Snaije - Publishing Perpectives

PARIS: On March 5th, Nintendo France will release its 100 Classic Book Collection in a deal with publisher Gallimard, becoming the third country after Japan in 2007 and the UK in 2008 to make literary classics available to read on its DS portable games consoles.

Gallimard's 25,000 title-strong backlist catalog includes a great majority of France's best known classics, including Baudelaire, Corneille, la Fontaine, Maupassant, Musset, Montaigne, Racine, Jules Verne, Voltaire and Zola.
(read on ...)

Does Turning Classics into Video Games Indoctrinate Readers?
By Edward Nawotka

There's a trend going on: We're seeing more and more classics being turned into video games. Today's lead story describes how Nintendo is planning to release 100 French language classics for their Nintendo DS handheld game machine (something they've already done in Japan and the UK). Earlier this month we saw the release of a video game based on Dante's The Divine Comedy.

In each instance, it kind of makes sense: Nintendo is turning the DS into a de-facto e-reader, while the creators of the Dante video game saw in Dante the possibility of a hack-and-slash adventure with hideous monsters. But this raises a number of questions...

(read on ...)
The joys of bookshop browsing
Guardian Blog - Posted by Sam Jordison

Searching real shelves is the most satisfying way to find literary treasures – but can it survive the rise of Amazon and ebooks?

Left - Prospecting for literary treasure in a bookshop. Photograph: David Levene

Among the many things that will be lost if The Man gets his way and the supermarkets, Amazon and ebook readers succeed in driving independent bookstores from our streets will be proper browsing. All those Amazon recommendations, Facebook friend requests, tweets, reviews, and yes, blogs, sometimes get too noisy. It is a relief to go into a bookshop and quietly pick up a book. It satisfies my hunter-gatherer vanity. And there's the simple pleasure of judging a book by its cover – which, contrary to popular cliche, is effective and fun.

I say that particularly, because – bucking all trends – a new independent bookstore called The Book Hive has recently opened near my house in Norwich and reminded me that fossicking is by far the most pleasant way to find a book. The shop offers clear advantages above and beyond sticking it to The Man. Even ordering books is an enjoyable experience. They arrive the next day, without extra charge, and when I pick them up I can take my daughter along and let her roam around in the children's section, playing with the plastic vegetables the owner Henry has thoughtfully placed there. I can also share a coffee with Henry and gossip about local poets who allow their infant children no toys other than the leaves and bits of wood they find for themselves out in the Norfolk boglands. The shelves and tables, meanwhile, are mines of serendipitous treasures.

Recently I've picked up a book of excellent writing about Berlin and Len Deighton's hilarious Action Cookbook, but the book that really proves my point about the benefits of browsing is Robert Graves's Lars Porsena – On the Future of Swearing.

Lars Porsena, or the Future of Swearing
by Robert Graves
Oneworld Classics Ltd,

Although I've read a few other Graves books, I'd never heard of this odd sidenote in his prolific career. I would never have read it had its elegant cream cover not caught my eye in The Book Hive, but I'm very glad I did.

The title gives a good impression of the sly humour within. Porsena, you see, as well as being an Etruscan king famous for warring against the early Romans, was the star of a poem by Thomas Babington Macaulay that starts with the lines "Lars Porsena of Clusium / By the Nine Gods he swore …" The perfect man, then, to lend his name to a book supposedly lamenting the fact that "swearing as an art is at present in low water".

While complaining about this lack of good cursing, Graves provides a pitch perfect – cough – mickey-take of the strict censorship laws in place at the time he was writing (1926). He makes the point that nearly everyone has been effing and blinding since the beginning of time, and that that's no bad thing. Naturally, he also offers some excellent examples of taboo-busting along the way. There's a very good story (almost certainly untrue) about a young man hosting a dinner for all the Sidebottoms, Longbottoms, Netherbottoms and similarly named individuals he could get his hands on, where he treated them all to rump steak. There's also the fantastic suggestion to unsettle a stranger on a train by telling them "You will have a dangerous illness in three weeks' time – and then refuse to explain why you say so".
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Feeling at Sea on the Roads of New China
By Dwight Garner
Published New York Times: February 23, 2010

A Journey Through China From Farm to Factory

By Peter Hessler
438 pages.
Harper. US$27.99

American travel writers over the past century have taken special delight in describing the intricacies, and the lunatic comedy, of driving etiquette in foreign countries. Some enterprising publisher is bound to scoop up the best of these observations and issue a queasy-making anthology: “Carsick: A Global Reader.”

When that anthology does arrive, Peter Hessler’s new book, “Country Driving: A Journey Through China From Farm to Factory,” deserves a special place in it. It’s not merely that Mr. Hessler convinces us that the Chinese, being new to driving, are simply awful at it. He makes the additional, and delightful, case that perhaps no other people “take such joy in driving badly.”

The Chinese rarely use turn signals or windshield wipers or seat belts or headlights. They tailgate and honk like mad. “People pass on hills; they pass on turns; they pass in tunnels,” Mr. Hessler writes. “If they get passed themselves, they immediately try to pass the other vehicle back, as if it were a game.”

The Chinese government is little help. Traffic lights are occasionally mistimed, Mr. Hessler notes, showing green in all directions. A left turn lane might be on the far right side of the road. Highway patrols are so rare that officials put fiberglass statues of police officers at some intersections, to function like traffic-calming human scarecrows. Get a dent? Hop out and haggle for an instant settlement.

Mr. Hessler is a staff writer for The New Yorker, and he was that magazine’s Beijing correspondent from 2000 to 2007. “Country Driving” is his third book about China, after “River Town” (2001), which was about two years he spent there teaching English while in the Peace Corps, and “Oracle Bones” (2006), a multi-layered survey of that country’s past and present.

His new book is an exploration of China’s burgeoning highway system, and it definitely contains some epic drives: Mr. Hessler, for example, undertakes a 7,000-mile trip across northern China, following the Great Wall all the way from the East China Sea to the Tibetan plateau, his rental car packed with a tent and food supplies that will make your teeth ache: Coca-Cola, Oreo cookies, candy bars, Gatorade.
Read morre at NYT.
Rushdie to write fatwa account
24.02.10 | Katie Allen in The Bookseller

Man Booker-winning author Salman Rushdie is to write a book about the decade he spent under a fatwa issued by the Iranian government.

The author discussed the proposed title at Emory University, where an exhibition of his personal papers including manuscripts, letters and photos, opens on Friday. Rushdie is a lecturer at the Atlanta-based university.

"It's my story, and at some point, it needs to be told," he said, according to the Washington Post. "That point is getting closer, I think. When it was in cardboard boxes and dead computers, it would have been very, very difficult, but now it's all organised."

Rushdie, now 62, was forced into hiding in 1989 after the Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran issued a religious edict, ordering Muslims to kill the author and claiming his book The Satanic Verses insulted Islam. In 1998, the Iranian goverment said it would not support the fatwa but could not rescind it.