Right Reading

concept to publication

Month: June 2007 (Page 2 of 2)

Companion Sites Roundup

Find out what’s been happening at my companion sites after the jump.

BTW, I’ve moved my flickr badge over to Frozen Concentrated Culture and temporarily suspended “now reading.” I did this when I was experiencing slow response on this blog, but I like the flickr badge better at FCC, where it can be horizontal. If anyone has a preference between this centered 3-column layout and the layout over there, which has a wider main text area on the left, I’d like to hear opinions.

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The homogenization of publishing continues

michael hyattRemember the days when we had a large number of medium- to large-sized publishers fiercely competing to be the leading cultural voice? Neither do I, but the continuing consolidation of the industry can’t be helping. Now Michael Hyatt of Thomas Nelson (pictured at left) is sweeping away the atavistic vestiges of long-gone diversity and arguing for the elimination of imprints altogether. And the thing is, he’s probably right. Nelson’s inprints were probably just about meaningless, so why hang on to them?. The damage has already been done. So, yeah, why not do away with the charade of diversity?


atelopus frog

Isn’t this a fine-looking fellow? He’s Atelopus, a newly discovered species of fluorescent psychedelic frog, found in Suriname. (Suriname, formerly Dutch Guiana, is north of Brazil on the Atlantic coast.) This is one of two dozen new species identified by researchers in that country. Caribbean Net News has the full story (but I got it via Book of Joe).

More on Mutanabbi

mutanabbi streetI mentioned before the reading planned in San Francisco in support of the literary community of Baghdad (follow the link for a video; the contact to offer assistance is Beau Beausoleil at overlandbooks [at] earthlink [dot] net).

From London come details of two parallel events. The text of an e-mail announcement follows after the break.

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The most pompous translator of our time?

ted hughes by tcWhen I saw that the anchor text for a link on Ron Silliman’s blog was “a review of the most pompous translator of our time” I had a brief moment of concern. Then I remembered that my book on translation isn’t out yet.

Ron’s link is to an article called “Ted Hughes and Translation” by Clive Wilmer. Here is an excerpt from Mr. Wilmer’s fulsome text: “Hughes [took] another poet’s translation of a work by the Hungarian Ferenc Juhasz and, without any knowledge of the original language and no Hungarian speaker to advise him, [turned] that version into a thrilling poem that drives the existing versions off the map.” A thrilling poem, maybe. But is it translation, or is it revision (or re-vision)? Does Shakespeare “translate” Boccaccio?

Sketch of th by tc.

“They can’t sell them, they can’t give them away”

kant lecturing

That’s Carlton Sedgeley, founder of the Royce Carlton lecture agency, quoted in the International Herald Tribune dismissing the notion of midlist authors supplementing their incomes with the assistance of speakers bureaus associated with publishing houses. Such bureaus attempt to find paying gigs for the authors, in exchange for a 20 percent commission.

Mr. Sedgeley is not the only skeptic. Sara Nelson, editor-in-chief of Publishers Weekly, patronizingly worries that such arrangements put too much pressure on authors to hone their presentation skills at the expense of their literary development. Do editors worry that their speaking gigs will retard their editing skills? Writing is an extremely tough business. If this can help, I’m for it. But I’m not sure how much of a market exists, once you get beyond the top tier authors.

Works and Days

That’s the name of a book about the life of Yeats, which will accompany a major exhibition this summer at the National Library of Ireland. It sounds well worth seeing. But what I really like is this e-card, featuring a T. S. Moore cover from 1928.

the towwer by t. s. moore

via book design blog

Random Facts

random house logoNew York magazine has posted a brief article about Random House (now owned by Bertelsmann) that includes some interesting figures and quotes.

Among the interesting figures:

  • 80 percent of Random’s profit comes from its backlist
  • 55 percent of Random’s profit comes from fiction
  • 67 percent of Random’s income comes from paperbacks

(I can’t tell if the author is being careful about the use of the terms “income” and “profit,” and I’ve replicated his usage.)

And here’s an interesting quote, from RH CEO Peter Olson. I won’t comment because think it speaks for itself:

The most-profitable books are highly successful authors early in their career with a contract that doesn’t reflect their success.

Giving It Away

Tim O’Reilly has posted some observations on whether allowing free downloads of books hurts or helps their sales. This is a question that is difficult to resolve empirically. O’Reilly allowed free downloads of their title Asterisk: The Future of Telephony, by Leif Madsen, Jared Smith, and Jim Van Meggelen. 180,000 copies were downloaded and about 19,000 print copies were sold. It’s hard to be sure how to evaluate this but O’Reilly concludes that, at least, the downloads didn’t hurt sales, and he is probably in the best position to know.

Related News Item: Jonathan Lethem advocates relaxing copyright.

The Fairy Use Doctrine

Disney characters recite the Documentary Filmmakers’ Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use.

What Is a Page?

the horrible whiteness of the pageI know a page is scandal bait inside the beltline, but let’s restrict ourselves to the meaning of the word in the context of print and screen. For the most part it’s pretty clear what we mean by a page in the print context: it’s one side of a leaf, one half of a spread. Take nine sheets of paper and fold them in the right way and you can make a 144-page book. True, the situation gets a little more complicated when you get into fold-out pages, accordian-fold publications, and Asian scrolls, but by and large the term’s meaning is established and accepted.

So why do we use the word page to refer to web documents? On the web a page is not the reverse side or the opposite face of anything but rather a complete unit, a document in itself, however it may be connected to others. It’s a file. It can be the target of a link. Its length is virtually limitless.

On his blog Subtraction, Khoi Vinh meditates thoughtfully on our use of the word page in the context of the web. “The fact that we call the basic organizing unit of a Web site a “page,” as in ‘Web pages,’ has,” he says, “made the lives of Web designers immeasurably more challenging, and it’s a disservice to those coming to the Web from the world of print, too.” He concludes that

Pre-existing knowledge is a trap for print designers working online, and clearing the trap is one of the most challenging things about becoming comfortable with the medium. A lot of Web design today barely escapes the traditional confines of a digital translation of a printed page. But it’s also a trap for Web designers, too. It’s too easy to forget that the defining characteristics of a Web page are in continual flux; we’re creating new innovations regularly, and the pages of today are materially different from the pages of tomorrow.

Read the full post here.

Logos from Letters

tc logoBefore&After has a pretty good summary of how to make a logo by interlocking, overlaying, or otherwise connecting letters. Though basic, it can be useful as a reminder of some of the possible approaches.

I’ve used the cross and orb logo composed of my initials, shown at left, for many years. The cross and orb was a traditional mark of printers in Europe during the early Renaissance. You can see another example, from the Kenneth Spencer Research Library, here. You can also get a glimpse of a larger version of my mark here.

Related:  New sidebar approach for rightreading html pages.

Dept. of Headlines That Speak for Themselves

New York Times Will Lower Editorial Standards Online And Reduce Size Of Print Newspaper

In related news: CNN and Wall Street Journal Embrace Aggregation Of Third-Party Content.

Disappearing Newsstands

newsstand by john vachon

If you’re a historical photographer, grab your camera and snap a newsstand quick, before you miss your chance. According to ChicagoBusiness there are now about 46 operating stands in Chicago. That’s down from about 130 in 2000. And that’s down from about 500 in the early 1990s. Another sign of the decline of print news (here in San Francisco the Chronicle just announced 25 percent staff layoffs, and in L.A. the Times announced 60 layoffs today) — but that’s not news.

Newsstand photo by John Vachon, 1938.

Book Industry Stats

Bowkers has released its latest complilation of book industry statistics. They show a 3.3 percent increase in the total number of titles (last year saw a 4.6 percent decrease). The big winner was adult fiction, up 17 percent; the loser was children’s books, down nearly a third over the past two years (that will change when the new Harry Potter comes out). Computer books and travel books are also down, probably in part because of on-line competition.

I’m never sure how to take information about sheer numbers of titles, since a lot of the crap that’s published barely deserves the term book. But Kelly Gallagher, general manager of the business intelligence business unit for Bowker believes she knows: “What these statistics for last year illustrate is that most publishers are done with retrenching for the time being. “But since the overall numbers have not yet returned to the level of 2004, it shows the industry is still being cautious about what books they add to their catalogs.”

Splinters Revisited

Previously I wrote about how I had segmented off my Northern Californiana and Mesoamerica material into separate blogs (Frisco Vista and Buried Mirror respectively). This blog is focusing a bit more on print and electronic publishing, defined broadly to including not just publishing industry issues but also writing, editing, translating, graphic design, typography, and aspects of webwork — everything that goes into getting stuff onto a page or screen.

But there are plenty topics that I write on that don’t fit all that well. And these include some of the most popular pages on the site, such as ones on Chinese jades, Taoism, the Yi jing (I Ching), East Asian printing, travel-related writing and photography, and so on. And then there’s also all the weird and goofy crap (like this, this, this, or this) that amuses some people and annoys others.

For all the sobrante — the left-0ver and miscellaneous stuff — there’s Frozen Coagulated Culture. FCC was my first blog — well, my second after a LJ one that is now used mainly for personal and family stuff. The name comes from my first book-length translation, a technical translation done for a big international corporation back when I was a student, called Frozen Coagulated Cultures in Wine, Cheese, and Sauerkraut Production. You’ve probably read it.

I’ve had that blog hosted on blogger. But blogger still lacks the functionality and flexibility of WordPress. You can’t use widgets or trackbacks, for example. So I’ve moved FCC over here to be served up via WordPress. I’ve decided to start mostly fresh, so I haven’t ported over the old material. No doubt posts will pile up quickly. A blank canvas (and a new theme), woot!

UPDATE: How to send a trackback with blogger (using third party sortware or services).

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