concept to publication

Month: May 2007 Page 1 of 2

The Western Gaze

500 years of female portraiture in Western art. Nicely done.

Gabo Returns to Macondo

gabo a macondo

Although he has a home in nearby Cartagena (one of the great colonial cities of South America), Gabriel Garcia Marquez (“Gabo” entre amigos) is said not to have been back to his home in Aracataca in twenty-five years. That town, his birthplace, was the main model for Macondo in One Hundred Years of Solitude. Now he will return at last, as part of a local promotion called the Macondo Express.

Read the full story in the Guardian, source of the image above.


google image searchright reading

If you do an image search on Google and then append &imgtype=face to the end of the url, what do you get? You get only faces as results. The above images are all from this site. Interestingly, the tags under the images are not the filenames or the alt or title tags but text that is near the image on the source page. I’m guessing these images were tagged as “face” via Google’s enhanced image search and labeler. But it seems a step, if a rudimentary one, toward more visual image searching.

The image is clickable if you want a closer look.

Via Marketing Pilgrim.

Update: Hey, here’s a related post from Slashdot. Computers outperform humans at recognizing faces.


news map

NewsMap lets you get the news from any country by clicking its location on a map. It’s basically a mashup of Google Maps and Yahoo News.

Kind of cool but you could get the same information without going through the map.

Via Book of Joe.

WorldCat Library Search

worldcat search boxI’ve been working on a bibliography for a book about Chinese jades. Many of the listings were incomplete, and I had to search a variety of sources to find the information I was looking for. I found that by searching through WorldCat I was able to locate a number of titles (including many books published in India or China) that I could not find elsewhere, and which had turned up no results with a standard web search engine such as Google.

WorldCat provides standard bibliographic information. It will show a list of libraries within a range of a specified zip codes. It will allow e-mail follow-ups to searches. Users can post reviews of titles. Unfortunately its only prominent link for purchasing titles is Amazon, although other options may appear in search results.

Here is what a search for Julio Cortazar’s Around the Day in Eighty Worlds turns up.

When I mentioned it to a librarian friend, he wrote the following:

Yes, it is a very useful tool produced by OCLC, which, however, is taking over the (library) world like Starbuck’s or McDonald’s. Though it is extremely helpful, and wonderful in concept, it is also insidious, and I am very wary of it. It is controlling and unifying all library cataloging and in some places outside of the US and replacing wonderfully enlightening and useful cataloging with bland, uniform, insufficient and extremely conformist cataloging. OCLC is forcing old school and creative catalogers and librarians out of jobs as it grows ever larger. Use it at your own risk & only if necessary. KILL it if you can.

So I guess this is another of those modern dilemmas that seem to be springing up more and more frequently. Good resource, soulless librarian killer, or both?


New World / New Words

Acouple of days ago I completed proofreading first pages of New World / New Words: Recent Writing from the Americas, A Bilingual Anthology, the first volume in a new series from the Center for the Art of Translation called the Two Lines World Library.

I’ve decided to post my introductory essay on this website, here. I’d be interested in any comments. (Bear in mind it’s a print piece, so a little longer than most of my web stuff. And I haven’t broken it up into multiple pages like I often do.)

This book anthologizes translations from Spanish texts from Latin America that were published in the journal Two Lines, along with some other texts from elsewhere.

Introduction to New World / New Words

Electronic versus Print Media

There’s been a lot of blather on the threat to books by new media. In fact, at the moment new media represent an alternative to the stranglehold that big corporations have on print publishing (that could change). We go through this every time a new information technology comes along.

Graphic novelist Warren Ellis’s comments get to some of the key differences between print and elecontric media — “the web isn’t a replacement medium — it’s *another” medium.” The gist of his observations is that the web is a “burst” medium. Information (or opinion) is served up in quicker helpings. Following are a couple more selections from his post on this subject.

  • I love print. I love magazines that commit and pay for long articles and long fiction. The web rewards neither approach. It’s a packeted medium, a surf medium. Short bursts are the way to go.
  • If attention span was dead, JK Rowling wouldn’t be selling paperbacks thick enough to choke a pig.

Now, there are a few blogs that I like that run print-length items: Gawain’s Heaven Tree and Conrad H. Roth’s Varieties of Unreligious Experience, for two. But in general I agree with Mr. Ellis on this notion of “burst media” — even for sources like those I learn about new posts through a feed reader. What could be more “burst”?

Out of Print Out of Date

Print-on-demand publishing has changed the concept of what it means for a book to be “out of print” — and not in favor of authors.

Traditionally, when a book went out of stock, upon the request of the author the publisher had the option of reprinting or reverting the rights of publication to the author. Now, with print on demand, books can in effect stay in print forever, potentially tying up a writer’s work indefinitely. A traditional reprint meant an investment in at least hundreds of copies but print on demand requires essentially no investment on the part of the publisher.

Chris Webb of Wiley’s Technology Division argues that “once a book has reached this point in its life it is a long shot to be successfully placed as an in-print (non-PoD) title elsewhere. As S&S is discovering, there may be life for books as a PoD titles but the same services that make it easy for the Publisher to offer the book as print on demand are also available to the author.”

Technology books, of course, have short life spans, and in most cases it would be a long shot for such books to find a new home. But many books do find reprint editions. At North Point Press and Mercury House we reprinted many previously published titles. One was West with the Night, which became a national bestseller after being neglected in its original publication life. While in many cases remaining with the original publisher in the form of print on demand could be the best option for the title, this should be a separate negotiation and not something that the publisher acquires by default.

The Writer’s Life … in Film

He can’t go on, he’ll go on

sam beckettThe works of Samuel Beckett have been united for the first time under one imprint.

UPDATE, 9 Sept. 2007: Publishers lock horns over rights to Beckett work

(Image modified from one posted at

Book Reviews in Blogs and Newspapers

Joe Wilkert makes some good points about book reviewing on his Publishing 2020 blog. Why do so many people like reading the reviews of books on I think it’s because we all know how much tastes vary. Amazon presents the viewpoints both of those who like a book and those who don’t. Even if no one of these reviews is particularly good, if you read enough of them you can get a pretty good sense of whether the book is likely to appeal to you.

Print media, however, has mostly failed to keep up with the social media revolution. Books reviews in papers have been dropping fast, but those that remain still by and large do things the old way: an editor assigns a book to a reviewer who produces a review to a certain specified length, which is then run without comment, except for the occasional letter to the editor in a subsequent week. Reviewers take pride in not being influenced by the opinions of others (in theory; in practice most recycle the publisher’s press release). But if print book reviewing is to survive it will have to figure out ways to engage a community in a more participatory product.

Media Predict’s Project Publish

sorry darwinHere’s a weird mash-up of book marketing, acquisitions, and social media. A group called Media Predict is soliciting book proposals from authors and agents (I’m not sure what sort of agent would participate in this). The proposals are posted on the site. “Traders” from the general public are given $5000 in fantasy money to invest in the books based on the posted summaries.

The books that do best in the competition will be short-listed for review by a group of editors for the grand prize, which includes publication of Simon and Schuster’s Touchstone Books, “so long as the completed manuscript satisfies Touchstone’s publishing criteria.”

It seems like an awfully difficult way to get a book published. If the project is successful, it will presumably amount to further a further reduction in the influence of editors, in favor of the collective wisdom that has produced such wonderful performers via American Idol — although clearly Touchstone Books wanted to retain ultimate editorial control despite whatever incentive Media Predict obtained their participation with.

“Media Predict and Project Publish is an intriguing new way to evaluate content for publication,” said Mark Gompertz, Executive Vice President and Publisher of Touchstone Fireside. “It is the ultimate pre-publication, market-based focus group. I look forward to following the market closely once trading gets underway and using their lead to invest in a project for publication by Touchstone.”

“If they say we find it really persuasive that everyone bet on book A, they’re just looking at a book that everyone bet that everyone else bet that everyone else thinks is the best book,” according to Justin Wolfers, an assistant professor of business and public policy at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, as quoted in the New York Times. “So you don’t end up with the wisdom of crowds, but the infinite reflection of crowds looking at crowds.”

New York Times: Publisher to Let the Public Have a Vote on Book Projects

The cartoon image is from Resurgence: “Democratising Science”

So What

Over at Tom’s Book of Days I had Miles Davis’s birthday as May 25. But in Ted Gioia’s History of Jazz he gives May 26, so I’ve updated the listing.

So What:

13 ways of looking at a typeface

perpetua gAt Designer Observer, Michael Bierut lists some of the factors that lead us to choose one typeface over another.


On a semi-related note, lately in boring meetings I find myself sketching lowercase g a lot. Usually there’s a little hook at the upper right of the upper ball. I’m still not quite sure what it’s for — maybe to lead the eye in its left-to-right journey across the page — but I love fiddling with its angle in relation to the connector between the upper and lower balls (which is often sort of similar to an open parens or angle bracket). That hook must be some vestigial element, right? If I was less lazy I would look it up.

Department of headlines that require no comment

Drunk Man Fails Driving Test

Bad Health Care, Deficient Welfare Keep Americans Short

short and tallThat’s the headline I’m reading here. Seems Europeans have been gaining on us, to the point where Americans are now shorter than the average Dutchman. From the article:

Researchers have established in recent years that wealthier families tend to provide better nutrition for their children and, as a result, they tend to grow taller. The drastic differences in the United States between rich and poor, the researchers pointed out, mean that the US average is pulled down by those who struggle to get by. Whereas in the US, some 15 percent of the population has no health insurance and those on welfare can barely get by, almost all citizens of northern and western European countries enjoy universal health care and a generous social net. The result is that even those children dependent on welfare in Europe have a sufficient living standard, the researchers concluded.

The downward trend started right around the time Reagan was president. It’s been pretty much all downhill from then.

Dick Cheney

tricky dick

According to the lawyer of the alleged “D.C. Madam,” Vice President Cheney “isn’t not” on her list of phone records.

Showing Support for Mutanabbi Street

Mutanabbi Street, a winding street filled with bookstores and book stalls, is the historic center of Baghdad bookselling. It is the present heart of one of the world’s oldest and most distinguished literary and intellectual communities. On March 5 a car bomb was exploded there, killing more than thirty people.

In support of the Baghdad literary community, a reading will be held at the main branch of the San Francisco Public Library in August. Readings are by invitation, but to contribute or volunteer, please write to Beau Beausoleil of Overland Books (overlandbooks [at] earthlink [dot] net).

Comparing the U.S. and France

With France mired in malaise, French voters have turned away from the center-right government of Jacques Chirac in favor of the center-right government of Nicolas Sarkozy.

The Guardian has provided a interesting statistical comparison of the U.S. and France:

US: 301m. France: 61m

Life expectancy
US: male 75.15 years, female 80.97 years.
France: male 77.35 years, female 84 years.

Working week
US: approx 46 hours. France: usually 35 hours

Population living below the poverty line (for two adults and one child)
US: 12%. France: 6.2%

Minimum wage
US: varies widely from state to state – no such thing in Alabama. France: €8.27 (about US $11.18 per yahoo currency)

Usual retirement age
US: 65-67. France: 60

Prison population
US: 2 million plus. France: 50,500 plus

Number of murders a year
US: 16,692. France: approx 1,000

Number of overweight citizens
US: a little more than two thirds. France: a little under one third

(via Translation Blog)

Wiccans Are Uneasy

NYT: Wiccans Keep the Faith with a Religion under Wraps.

The gist of the article is that wiccans worry that people will think they’re satanists.

Maybe education is the answer. Maybe what’s need is a Wiccanpedia. (Unfortunately, I’m already busy with my Publishpaedia.)

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