This Week in Publishing 7/9/10

by | Jul 9, 2010 | Uncategorized | 50 comments

This! Publishing! In the Week!

As we look toward our coming e-future, where we will soon be growing food on the Internet and driving flying books, there have been a series of articles putting the brakes on your technoptimism. First, writing in Slate, Jan Swafford posits that e-books and print books will have to co-exist because…. well, I think because tpyos are easier to sopt on paper? Hard to tell, really. I was reading the article on a screen so…

Next up, John Askins passed along a study that suggests that people read books faster than they read e-books (though a second article notes that overall productivity may increase with e-readers).

And finally, David Brooks took note of a study that showed that giving twelve books to disadvantaged kids at the end of a school year improved their test scores vs. their peers, no doubt because forcing the kids to lug twelve books home in the summer heat scared them away from manual labor and motivated them to do well in school. I may have made that last part up. Brooks is actually making a point about print literary culture vs. the short attention span online world, but again, reading on these screens! I’m not getting anything!! Are you getting this? Should we talk about Jake and Vienna instead?

Big congrats to Eric at Pimp My Novel, who is celebrating his first blogoversary (or is it birthablogday?) with some awesome year in review posts. The first is all about co-op, and second on covers. Next year’s birthablogday will recap how he conquered the Internet in only two years.

Author Kiersten White has a great post on the reason why YA paranormal books are still undead and going strong: they’re a great metaphor for teen romance.

Agent Mary Kole has a terrific post about the perennial argument about whether books are/should be commerce or art. In reality: they’re both.

Via the indispensable Jacket Copy, the Guardian recently published a list of the top 10 English pubs in literature.

And you may have deduced this from my book title, but I have a soft spot for old sci-fi. So naturally I loved io9’s awesome roundup of old pulp sci-fi covers.

This week in the Forums: a truly brilliant discussion about absentee parents in young adult literature, does social networking really work, bourbon vs. whisky, and, of course, World Cup Fever! One guess about which color I mean team I’m rooting for in the final.

Comment! Of! The! Week! goes to J.T. Shea, who had a hilarious response to yesterday’s post about undercooking novels:

And the beet goes on…Sorry, I couldn’t resist it.

Seriously, art is indeed life with the boring bits left out. Even the seemingly raw reality of slice-of-life stories and reality TV hides a lot of artifice.

Elevate the food? Eat standing up!

And finally, speaking of reality TV, MTV recently featured my old high school in an episode of If You Really Knew Me. This, ladies and gentlemen, is where I came from:


  1. Joanne Bischof

    haha, growing food on the internet. Now that made me smile ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. swampfox

    Being a teacher, I've seen how brutal kids can be to each other. But nothing's changed. I saw it when I was a student in the dinosaur days. Kids will be kids. That's why we need adults.

  3. Luna

    Great to hear you are supporting the Dutch ! Hup Holland !

  4. Bane of Anubis

    What, no mention of "The Decision?" — I gotta say, my new fave person of the week has to be Dan Gilbert.

  5. ryan field

    Enjoyed the vid. I went to a small private high school and the only difference was we had to wear uniforms.

  6. Sissy

    At my school, we have seen scores increase from running a Summer Reading Program with incentives and a drawing for prizes. While it does interfere with my summer vacation, it helps keep the kids in a somewhat school frame of mind if they are reading and answering basic questions about the book.

    What clique were you in at ole Colusa High? Looks like a nice small town, though!

  7. Kim Lionetti

    No shout-out to Coach and Tammi Taylor for their long awaited Emmy nominations?!

  8. T. Anne

    OK so were you a Jock or a stoner? I can't figure this out.

  9. Luc2

    Hup Oranje! Go Orange.

    It's been great to see their run so far. They haven't even been firing on all cylinders yet. And they need to if they want to beat Spain.

    I hope to be celebrating in Amsterdam on Tuesday!

  10. J. T. Shea

    Growing food on the Internet? No, my laptop isn't that dirty, yet.

    I hate E-books! Apart from the fact that I'm writing one. Well, three actually. A Word novel text is an E-book. AND I'm reading Nathan's THIS WEEK IN PUBLISHING, which is an E-text. AND typing this comment, which is also a (shorter) E-text. So really, I love E-books. I think…

    Comment of the week! I'd like to thank my parents, siblings, first cousins twice removed, teachers, the doctor who delivered me, bookies, bartenders, and particularly the Irish Beet Industry, which was the root of my inspiration.

  11. Emilia Plater

    I watched that whole show – it was absolutely amazing. I wish they'd come to my school, & I NEVER wish stuff like that haha. Thanks for posting it, Nathan ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. Michael

    I'm bypassing the E-books. By the time my manuscript is edited (from hard copy of course) I'll publish it as an F-book.

  13. D.G. Hudson

    Note re-the vid. Says 'Unable to show it in your region'? That's the first time I've seen that message. (the Pacific Northwest, or is it because it's Canada)?

    On further investigation it's due to MTV-USA regs. Figures – it's that border line again.

    Have a great weekend!

  14. Nathan Bransford


    I didn't really think of myself as being in a group, I sort of moved between different groups.


    I hadn't seen that! Go Taylors!!

  15. Doug Pardee

    Re Swafford, I don't understand how typos being easier to spot on paper means that print books rule. It's not like we want our paying readers to spot our typos.

  16. Livia

    A colleague of mine does dyslexia/reading research only using an old school tachiscope, because he found that the results changed when you switched to CRTs. I think it was the lower resolution you get on computer screens that messes with your ability to focus your visual attention. Question is whether that will change for a generation that grows up reading on screens.

  17. Robert Michael

    I can forsee a future where textbooks are downloaded to e-readers/netbooks. Notes can be added to digital copies, term papers can be cited with ease, and students will read them more.

    And backpack manufacturers and chiropractors everywhere shudder at the thought of students not lugging 6-10 three-pound books around all day.

    And what will a digital chia-pet look like? That's the trouble with that Trible.

  18. Ishta Mercurio

    Oh, I loved the David Brooks article! I had never thought about e-media versus print-media in those terms before. I read an article about e-culture and the short-attention-span it engenders quite some time ago ("Is Google Making Us Stupid?", The Atlantic, Summer of 2008), but I've never thought about it in terms of whether or not it teaches us to defer to the intellectual authority of another. Interesting.

    As for reading books faster than reading e-books, I do, but it's because when I read a book, I can skim more easily when I can flick through the pages than when I have to click through them. In other words, an e-reader forces me to actually read every word, whereas if I have a book that has some parts that bore me or put me off I can just skim them or skip them altogether. I feel a little guilty about that…

  19. Marilyn Peake

    Wow, your high school was really small, Nathan. Sounds like maybe the small population intensifies the conflict between cliques because students are always in close contact with each other. Challenge Day and the MTV show look really fascinating! Also, interesting about the "Nerds" group, many of whom may grow up to get great jobs and run the world someday (e.g. people like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs).

    Speaking of digital technology, I saw Stephen Colbert interview Nicholas Carr, author of THE SHALLOWS: WHAT THE INTERNET IS DOING TO OUR BRAINS – interview is fascinating … also hilarious, thanks to Colbert. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Iโ€™ve noticed that many Kindle books, all published by the major publishing houses, contain glaring formatting errors (e.g. no space between two words, single paragraphs that are turned into two paragraphs in the middle of a sentence, etc.) and more than the normal number of typos. (Right now, Iโ€™m reading a popular novel in which many sentences have no punctuation marks at the end.) Iโ€™m hoping that this will improve over time. Maybe more editors who are also computer experts are needed.

    Have a great weekend!

  20. Sarah W

    The idea of undead paranormal literature as a metaphor for teen romance tickles me. As I recall, undead was a fair description of my high school romances.

  21. Elaine AM Smith

    I hit play, ready to see Colusa High, and it is copy-write protected: US only ๐Ÿ™
    The roll I was on got squished.

    World-Cup-wise, I'm with Paul the Octopus.

  22. maybe genius

    What a tear-jerker of a video. THANKS NATHAN. Heh. It was very moving.

  23. John Jack

    A clairoyant octopus in Germany has been predicting World Cup soccer match outcomes. Teams the eight light-fingered mollusk has predicted will lose and then lose have purportedly threatened to make it into calamari.

    Does no one fact check anymore? Calamari is squids used as food, plural, singular calamaro, and maybe cuttlefish. Actually, I suspect the newsmedia's overactive imagination is behind the seemingly contrived commentary, not actual soccer nationality citizens nor soccer teams and fans.

    Octopus has tough flesh, about as tough as conch, too tough for fried calamari-like preparations. Octopus fritters is another matter, polpo con salsa, octopus gumbo, Tako Poki, octopus and stewed tomatoes.

    Visual media publishing sure handled the ball on this one. Red card.

    Word verificate: outim; outing 'im for patently contrived insipid reporting.

  24. Lesa Stember

    I'm old school. I love holding a book in my hands. Walking into a bookstore and smelling ink and brewing coffee…wow. I'll be 40 this year, but I appreciate that times are a' changin. The newest generation has been raised on digital technology. And publishers can print e-books without worries about page requirements, printing costs, etc. E-books get an artist's work out there at an incredibly economical (and, therefore, attractive, price). Not to mention the trees we're saving. While to old schoolers like me who love holding paper in hand the demise of print is sad, I embrace the fact that I can download a book in seconds on my iPad and start reading. Because after all, it's about the story, n'est ce pas?
    Lesa Stember

  25. aimeestates

    "lug twelve books home in the summer heat scared them away from manual labor and motivated them to do well in school."

    I almost fell out of my chair…lol.

  26. treeoflife

    Re Jan Swafford's article about having to print stuff off in order to edit it, I'm not sure if that means paper is better for spotting errors, or that we're simply addicted to circling stuff with red pens ๐Ÿ˜›

    I vote the later.

  27. Anonymous

    IDK if you meant to provoke this sort of reaction, but that MTV show was THE BEST. It was so moving, I started crying. I wonder if you're going there was more accidental to posting, seredipity, because it certainly felt like mine, & that was land far, far away, in a time long, long ago. And it reminded me why I write books w/teens in mind. Thank you for posting that.

  28. Nathan Bransford


    I know, right?? I thought it was really good, and it captured the town. That program is amazing and I'm in awe of the people who run it.

  29. Curtis

    I liked the video. Wow, if that isn't the exact same high school I grew up in, I'll eat some of this delicious homegrown food I just cultivated on the internet. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Maybe it's every small town in America. Kamas, Utah (my hometown) is cut from the very same cloth.

  30. Fairylight

    Awesome post and I love the video. I ended up watching the whole thing. Very emotional.

    The other links were awesome too. I think I'll be one of those die-hard paper book buyers. I love to collect them and show them.

  31. Mira

    Oh good! It's Friday. Which means Nathan has tons of fascinating links, and everyone writes these eensy, teensy, tiny posts.

    Except Marilyn, thank god – where have you been, Marilyn!? I missed your links.

    So, I've given up writing short posts on Friday. My new tactic is hypnosis. I will hypnotise everyone into thinking this is a short post.

    You are getting sleepy. Sleepy. You feel relaxed and peaceful.
    Everything is green. You suddenly realize how short this post is. Especially the four paragraphs I wrote before ever addressing the links.

    So, good links. The anti-ebook research studies all have huge holes in them. Swafford made alot of unsubstantiated statements, the Askins study had a tiny sample size (and also quietly hides the fact that those 24 people said they prefer reading e-books to paperbooks in an off-hand sentence that is not referred to again), and the article about giving kids books was pretty much pure rhetoric. What this tells me – as a staunch e-book supporter – is that people are feeling threatened enough to try to back up their anti-e-book opinions with weak research. Yay! When the doomsday folks come out, then you know that e-books are getting stronger.

    That was a fun and interesting article by Kiersten.

    Happy blog anniversary to Eric! I remember when he was a guest blogger here, and that whole thing took off from this site.

    I guess I see it abit differently than Mary Kole. I think books are art, and that art is then sold for money. So, I think I separate the functions more than she might.

    Think of the sci fi covers on e-books!

    J.T. can be very funny. And very punny. Ha, ha, ha!

    The forums are so much fun. Thank you for the forums, Nathan.

    I loved the video. What a powerful and wonderful program. I can't imagine a better use of television. That was very moving, thanks so much for sharing it. Fun to see your high school, too, Nathan. Also, it struck me there might be a use for that type of thing in the adult world. For example, if two countries were at war, they could have a Challenge Day, and air out their true feelings about having bombs dropped on their families. That might make a difference. So, stuff like that.

    Okay, the post is over, so I'll unhypnotise you now. When I count to three you will wake up refreshed from reading this short post. You will also have a great weekend! ๐Ÿ™‚ One, two, three!

  32. Megan

    I love your round-ups, thank you so much!

  33. Kathryn Magendie

    When I'm reading my prose, I always read it on the screen and printed out, because each way "looks" different – and here's the weird thing: if I email my prose to someone/somewhere and then open the sent attachment and read it again, I'll sometimes find things I didn't before. Funny how funny our brains are…strange mass of clicks whirrs and general la tee dah going on up there.

    thanks for the links!

  34. Terin Tashi Miller

    Just finished reading Mira's eensy, teensy short post.

    I agree with all of it, almost as if my agreement was a predestined suggestion.

    But I also have to support Spain, Mr. Agent Man. Sorry. Lived there too long not to.

    An interesting optical illusion was run as a diversion by some friends on the internet. It was from a stuy that shws peples brans insert missing leters in print, on screens or on paper…

    Mira's right, I think. When the "doomsayers" come out to decry ebooks with weak arguments based on little to no real research, the new technology has arrived and threatened the status quo…

    That said, I prefer to buy books that are art, though I don't believe all are.

    There is art in the book covers, of course, and some artistry in the very act of putting words together in an interesting and compelling manner.

    But to me, art in writing, as opposed to artifice, is more valuable than currently commercially offered.

    I'm sure I've mentioned it before, but I long–and probably always will–for a Maxwell Perkins to show up at a publisher's, find real literary greats that no one wants to risk any money promoting, and contribute to the art of literature what Perkins did.

    I know Scribner's is still making money off it. I wonder, did they when he was with them?

  35. Terin Tashi Miller

    Oh. And I graduated from a public high school in a small midwestern town. My graduating class consisted of 590 students.

    Don't talk to me about "groups" or "cliques" in high school.

    I, too, was a "floater," somehow fortunately not tied to any specific defined group, though many often tried unsuccessfully to place me in such groups.

    Our idea of "Challenge Day" resulted in some major fights that turned into near riots.

    But it was a different time.

    Went to my 30th (yes, I'm that old) high school reunion 3 years ago. Let me tell anyone younger, age is a GREAT leveler.

  36. wry wryter

    If you really knew me…ah wait, that was then, this is now.

    Great video.

    Terin 7:15, is absolutely correct, age is the GREAT leveler, plus time, experience, and wisdom.

    If you can just make it through without being too damaged and without damaging others, life can be grand.

    Terrfic post !

    Um…e-books vs. paper?
    Please tell me books, with covers and pages will never be obsolete? Please !
    When they sell a spray can of 'new book smell' for your e-reader publishing is in trouble.

  37. J. T. Shea

    A pun my soul…still in Mira-induced trance…agree completely with everything Mira says, has said, or ever will say…fresh out of puns at the moment…very sleepy…zzzzzzzzzz

  38. patlaff

    I had successfully avoid all things MTV since Ruthie went to rehab. How dare you suck me into the vortex that is MTV reality programming. Now I gotta go through MTV detox. Do you know how hard that is during the derth of summer television?

  39. A Rose by any other name...

    Nathan, I love the jubilance in your word play. You so silly!

    Thanks for the video link. I watched all of the episodes and cried at the end. Well done, Colusa high.


  40. abc

    I'm rooting for Spain. Because because.

    They are a passionate people.

    And the one time I was in Barcelona the Barcelona team had just beaten the Madrid team and the place was crazy happy fun!

    Of course I wouldn't be in Spain this time if they won, but I like to imagine their joy.

    I don't really know anything about futbol as you can probably surmise.

    And did you see this article in

  41. Sheila Cull

    So funny saying this is where I came from. I'd be humiliated too.

  42. Other Lisa

    Jake and Vienna…that was without a doubt the ugliest thing I've ever seen on reality TV.

  43. Marla Warren

    Nathan wrote:
    One guess about which color I mean team I'm rooting for in the final.

    That reminds me of the film The Blind Side, when Sandra Bullock's character tells her son he should accept a football scholarship to the U. of Tennessee:

    "…I promise that I will be at every game cheering for you…But I will not wear that gaudy orange, I will not."

    That line cracks me up, because I have a lot of relatives in Tennessee.

  44. Marilyn Peake


    You wrote such a short post…such a short post. **hypnotism wears off** Wow, Mira, I enjoyed your lengthy comment with so many great points. I especially liked your point about Challenge Day for adults. That is a fantastic idea. Although, with countries at war, there would need to be a Pre-Challenge-Day-Summit or something in which opposing sides bickered about where to hold the Challenge Day, how many news organizations would be allowed to attend…you, know, grown-up stuff. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Glad you like my links! Iโ€™ve missed chatting here this summer, but have been having a really busy summer, traveling, as well as taking day trips. Itโ€™s been fun. Hope you and everyone else here are having a wonderful summer!

  45. terintashi

    Can't let it go without more about "Challenge Day" for grownups.

    How many anti-UN folks know, or ever knew, that was the real purpose of creating the United Nations, and locating it in New York? To theoretically "prevent" by unanimous consent, or at the very least chastise, countries for waging "wars of aggression" on other countries?

    To "talk out" differences, and generate understanding?

    Yet folks who'd like to see the UN abolished never suggest giving the land back to the Rockefeller family.

    Viva Espana! (And I admit, I'm a "Barca" fan over any team from Madrid, especially considering the history of Atletico–Francisco Franco's favorite team).

    I believe Wry Writer's right. That will be the death knell, or scent, of "books". I hope not to live that long…(admitting to enjoying, truly, the scent of old paper).

    Of course, there's history to the Holland/Spain battle as well. There was a time–a fair amount of time–that Holland, also called "the Netherlands," or, in Spanish, Paises Bajos, Lower Countries, was part of the Spanish empire. Of course, that's when Spain was part of Napoleon's French empire, but I'm sure such old rivalries never rear their ugly heads in grown up games…

    Have a great rest of the weekend.

  46. Rehman


    A Pakistani girl escaped murder in the name of "honor" on campus… she has written a stunning blog ( explaining how her west-educated teachers wanted to kill her at a university in the terror-hit country…

    Nathan! Can she write a book about Talibanization and killing of women in the name of "honor" which could be a way of self-catharsis after the trauma? She writes well but is shy!


  47. Carla

    Great to have found your blog and to hear what is happening at the coal face of publishing. All the best Carla

  48. Mira

    Marilyn –
    yes! I definitely miss you when you're gone too long. Glad you're having fun, though. ๐Ÿ™‚ And you're right. Given that we're dealing with grown-ups, we'd probably need to have several pre-challenge subcommittees. Then we'd probably have to have challenge days to help the sub-committees all get along. You know how mature and efficient adults are.

    J.T. – Wow. Such power,such responsiblity. I'll have to contemplate how to use it for personal gain. I'll get back to you.

    TerinTashi – One of the reasons I really like e-books is it allows all books to be published, especially the ones that are overlooked for various reasons. With paper books only, great books who couldn't find a publishing home quietly died in some drawer somewhere. With e-books, the author can self-publish and reach an audience. If the book is truly great, I have faith readers will find it.

    And the United Nations is a great and idealistic vision. Too bad it became so corrupt. Sad. I must consider hypnosis on the U. N. If it worked on J.T…..

  49. Candy

    Thank you for sharing the video. I bawled all the way through. I wish they could do this at every school. Maybe it didn't stick with everyone, but I'm sure a lot of kids had
    their eyes opened.


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Hi, Iโ€™m Nathan.ย Iโ€™m the author ofย How to Write a Novelย and theย Jacob Wonderbarย series, which was published by Penguin. I used to be a literary agent at Curtis Brown Ltd. and Iโ€™m dedicated to helping authors chase their dreams.ย Let me help you with your book!

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