Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Around the Word

The BloGG is back from our summer respite (yes, you can all exhale in relief). Here's what we're reading as we trade swimsuits for sweaters.

Re@ding in the digital age: A new feature for Amazon's Kindle e-reader, @Author, is attempting to change the way we read and interact with books. The program enables a reader to highlight a passage in an e-book and ask the author a question about it. Though still in beta testing, several high-profile authors have signed up for the service, including Susan Orlean and Timothy Ferris. Today on the New Yorker's Book Bench blog, Mark O'Connell weighs whether this will revolutionize the reading experience or threaten the author's status as an artist and creator. Try it out and let us know what you think. 

Special agents: As the publishing world continues to e-volve, literary agents are continually wrestling with their place in this new word order. Some big name reps have tried to survive by reinventing themselves as Agent-Publisher hybrids, publishing their clients' work under their own digital imprint. While this mash-up may seem like an appealing survival strategy in a shrinking market, our friend Jason Allen Ashlock from the Moveable Type Literary Group argues that agenting and publishing at the same time creates a unnavigable conflict of interest that will jeopardize the interests of writers. Check out his provocative editorial in Publishing Perspectives and let us know what you think. When an agent becomes a publisher, does the writer lose?

The Art of E-publishing: For those who just can't get enough of a good meta publishing story, Vanity Fair is offering a look behind the scenes of the six-figure deal for unknown author Chad Harbach's baseball book, The Art of Fielding. The deal, which made headlines earlier this year after Harbach, a previously unemployed copyeditor, sold his book to Hatchette Book Group for $665,000 -- a sum previously reserved only for blockbuster titles (usually involving a vampire). Not content to do a standard magazine piece on the subject, Vanity Fair this week released a 19,000-word e-book chronicling the whole out-of-leftfield story, titled How a Book is Born: The Making of the Art of Fielding, for $1.99. Will you be purchasing a copy?

I am the Walrus: As professional word nerds, we were intrigued last month by the release of James Pennebaker's new book, The Secret Life of Pronouns: What our Words Say About Us. Now the New York Times has combined our love for grammar and our love for pop culture with a story about Pennebaker's analysis of pronoun use in Beatles lyrics. The Fab Four were pretty pronoun-happy, though as they matured they moved from fewer self-centered "I" phrases to "more socially involved perspectives." The high point, of course, was the first line of "I Am the Walrus": "I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together."

Stori-telling: There's been a lot of hype about the social-publishing-real-time-news platform Storify, and we were curious to know how writers and publishing pros could get the most out of this hot new site. GalleyCat did us the favor recently of breaking down the advantages for literary types, from collecting everything on the web about a publishing trend to creating a tribute to your favorite author. Have you tried out Storify yet? Live up to the hype?

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