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Book News for Monday, May 18, 2009

  • The Future of Books? The big story today is the rise of Scribd, a site that aims to be the iTunes of digital books. (Or the YouTube of digital books, depending on which newspaper you read.)

    The Scribd Web site is the most popular of several document-sharing sites that take a YouTube-like approach to text, letting people upload sample chapters of books, research reports, homework, recipes and the like. Users can read documents on the site, embed them in other sites and share links over social networks and e-mail.

    In the new Scribd store, authors or publishers will be able to set their own price for their work and keep 80 percent of the revenue. They can also decide whether to encode their documents with security software that will prevent their texts from being downloaded or freely copied.

    Authors can choose to publish their documents in unprotected PDFs, which would make them readable on the Amazon Kindle and most other mobile devices. Scribd also says it is readying an application for the iPhone from Apple and will introduce it next month.

    If you're wondering why on Earth an author would rather publish his/her manuscript on a digital download site, consider the case of Kemble Scott, author of SoMa, which was published in 2007 by Kensington.

    The L.A. Times notes:

    For his second book, "The Sower," Scott eschewed print and decided to debut his novel on Scribd as a $2 digital book....Still, at $2, Scott will make more money per copy than he did with his first book, priced at $15. His contract for "SoMa" gave him 7.5% of the cover price for each copy sold, or roughly $1.12. His contract with Scribd for "The Sower" gives him 80% of $2, which is $1.60 per copy. The question is whether Scribd will be able to push the kind of volume on its website that a traditional publisher can through bookstores.

    What do you think, readers? Are you clicking over to Scribd to order a digital book right now?

  • Hit The Road: The trailer for The Road is now making the rounds of the Internet.

    Check out Viggo Mortensen looking pretty unhappy as he makes his way through the film version of Cormac McCarthy's bestselling, Oprah-approved postapocalyptic tale:

Book News Round-up:

  • Janet Maslin of the New York Times on the latest from Walter Kirn: "Lost in the Meritocracy is a funny, self-mocking memoir about how persistently Mr. Kirn went astray."
  • Good thing I'm not paid to predict box-office tallies. On Friday I prognosticated that Star Trek would beat Angels & Demons.

    I was wrong — the Da Vinci Code prequel landed at the top spot... although Star Trek was really close behind.

  • BNet Media wonders if eBooks have hit their tipping point. Judging by how consistently I find myself typing "eBooks" in Book News these days, I'm going to say yes. Consider the following:

    The New York Times considers the matter of eBook pricing.

    The Idea Logical blog considers the matter of the New York Times' consideration of the matter of eBook pricing.

    Meanwhile, a corporation called E Ink is already preparing the first color eBook reader, to be demonstrated later this month and destined to hit stores sometime in 2010.

  • Oxford University has selected Ruth Padel to be its first female professor of poetry.
  • On NPR, Jeffrey Eugenides proclaims his enduring admiration for Saul Bellow's novel Herzog:

    I open the book — anywhere — and read a paragraph.

    It always works. Right away I'm restored to full alertness and clarity. Style, in literature, has gone out of style. People think it's just ornament. But it's not: The work that goes into a writer's style, the choices that are taken, the cliches that are chucked, represent a refining of thought and feeling into their purest, most intelligent, most moral form.

÷ ÷ ÷

Brockman is the head writer for the daily Book News posts on the Powells.com blog. In his free time he's hard at work on his fictional memoir, which changes titles daily.

The views and commentary posted by Brockman are entirely his own, and are not representative of the whole of Powell's Books, its employees, or any sane human being.


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