Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Will she come out and play?

Harper Lee is the newest recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, making her just as important as Pope John Paul II, in the eyes of our nation. The question now is, will Ms. Lee actually say anything on the occasion of the award ceremony? She is notoriously tight-lipped and reclusive, and I think I know why. Here, from my blog's infancy on MySpace is the inside story.

On a side note, the website of the Medal of Freedom has a good picture of George and Laura with the Pope. The Notable Recipients section is especially amusing. According to this list, Nelson Mandela is an African American, which is apparently a more fitting description than "Recipients Who Were Politicians." Maybe because he is still a politician? Julia Child gets her own bullet point on this list, which makes her better than Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, and Henry Kissinger, but the same as Edward Teller. Where does Harper Lee fall? We'll have to wait until the government gets around to updating the website. From the looks of things, it's been a couple years since the last update so we shouldn't have too long to wait.

Open Letter's First Run

Open Letter Press just announced its debut list of titles, which are currently set to come out in the fall of 2008. Get psyched and buzzed!

Nobody's Home by Dubravka Ugresic:
By Dubravka Ugresic, a Croatian exile living in Amsterdam. After the outbreak of the war in 1991 in former Yugoslavia, Ugresic wrote critically about nationalism and the travesty of war. She was labeled a traitor and left Croatia in 1993. This collection of witty stories offers life from the exile’s point of view.

The Taker and Other Stories by Rubem Fonseca:
By Rubem Fonseca, a Brazilian author who was one of the first to write about the reality of urban life in Rio. His gritty style is considered groundbreaking for Brazilian writers, where the pastoral setting has in recent decades reigned supreme. Few English translations of Fonesca’s works are available today.

The Pets by Bragi Olafsson:
By Bragi Olafsson, a young Icelandic writer who also forged a notable musical career as the former bassist for the Sugarcubes, the first band of Icelandic superstar Bjork. Olafsson’s work is a quirky, cinematic novel, much of which takes place with the main character trapped under his bed hiding from his “friends” who have invaded his living room.

Vilnius Poker by Ricardas Givelas:
By Ricardas Gavelis of Lithuania. The translator of this novel felt so strongly about the work that she translated the entire novel without a contract and sent it to Open Letter. The book is one of a handful of Lithuanian novels to be translated into English in the past decade. An intensely imaginative and creatively structured novel, it’s considered by many to be one of Lithuania’s greatest literary works.

The Conqueror by Jan Kjaerstad:
By Jan Kjaerstad of Norway. This book is the second in a trilogy featuring the fictional TV personality Jonas Wergeland, a famed Norwegian documentary producer who, for reasons left unexplained at the end of the previous novel, The Seducer, has murdered his wife. Kjaerstad was the recipient of the Nordic Prize for Literature in 2001.

The Sailor from Gibraltar by Marguerite Duras:
By Marguerite Duras, the late French author and filmmaker known for her autobiographical work translated into English as The Lover. Open Letter is reprinting The Sailor from Gibraltar, an expansive novel about a women living on a yacht, traveling the world looking for her lost lover.

The boys of Open Letter are featured in the new issue of Currents, which describes the unique approach to publishing that the press is taking:
Most nonprofit presses exist on their own as an entity that ends up at universities with special arrangements. In this case, Open Letter organically came out of the things that are going on here at the University within the humanities and all the international and translation initiatives. We’re seamlessly integrated into the mission of the University and work really well within the structure, including as a key resource in the developing academic programs in literary translation. I know of only one other press that operates similarly as part of a university. You could say that this is an experiment of sorts, one we hope will be very successful.
This is the kind of experiment that the publishing industry needs. We need to begin thinking of new ways to preserve the literary culture in this country and to keep it from disintegrating into a landscape of homogeneity. Long live the small press!

Monday, October 29, 2007

The New Yorker is highbrow

When I first arrived in New York City, I read every word of the New Yorker and absorbed it as the absolute God’s truth. Everyone in this city must do the same thing, I thought. This is how you become a real New Yorker. On the subway, there was always someone reading the latest issue, someone with cool clothes and an overall intelligent-yet-hip look. These were probably the people populating the readings at indie bookstores and occasionally splurging on a ticket to some fabulous off-Broadway play. They could have a casual conversation about the latest exhibition at the Whitney and switch effortlessly into a discussion about the financial situation of oil companies in Africa. Judge me as you will, but I wanted to be one of those people.

Times have changed, and so has my cynicism. Our issue of the New Yorker arrived today, and as I thumbed through it, my eye fell on an article about the World Series. Being from Colorado, this is a slightly sensitive topic. It seemed like a good idea to find out what the New Yorker had to say about the whole tragic affair. Forgive me for being incensed by the reference to Elizabeth Bishop in the second sentence of an article about baseball. I am sure the writer thought he was being quite clever and New Yorker-ish by incorporating poetry into sports writing, but really!

To writers and readers of the New Yorker: it is ok if your sports writing does not contain references to literature or other obscure minutiae.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Swiss reject fixed book prices

Today's New York Times reports that the Swiss Competition Commission ruled to overturn the fixed-price law on books that has kept so many small publishers and booksellers alive in German-speaking countries. Rafael Corazza, director of the Competition Commission, said that the fixed-price law created "a cartel" out of the German and Swiss book markets, but said he was unsure whether this change would be good or bad for the industry. "Nobody knows for sure yet. But nobody can read on million titles, so the question is, is it better that more people read fewer books or that fewer people read a lot of different books?"

Fixed book prices in Germany means that the industry can sustain a large number of small publishers and booksellers that cater to niche audiences. The books that get published and sell are not dependent upon a few companies or bookstores, but rather reflect the diverse tastes of many readers and publishers. Germans are quick to defend this system because reading, education, and intellectual curiosity are key ingredients to Germany's national identity.

The Swiss Competition Commission made the decision in May of 2007 to abolish fixed pricing on German books, and consumers can already see the effects. The German translation of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows sold in Germany at the fixed price of 24.90 euros, but the Boersenblatt reports today that the books sold in Switzerland for 27 Franks, or approximately 16.20 euros.

I am not yet fully entrenched in the business side of publishing, but this seems to me a significant change for the German book market. Some customers might be tempted to buy their Harry Potter book from a Swiss bookstore rather than the little German shop around the corner. Swiss bookstores will have to charge more for the non-bestsellers to accommodate for the profits lost to discounts on the Harry Potter book, causing even fewer copies to be sold. Keep an eye on this. Germany is one of the strongest book markets in the world, and while it isn't crashing down around us yet, the potential for dramatic change is in the air.

World Series


Go Rockies!

Colorado Rockies vs. Boston Red Sox
Wednesday, October 23 at 8:35 p.m.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Stephen Colbert

might just be our next president! Ok, maybe not, but Republican polling firm Public Opinion Strategies conducted a survey and found that in the Democratic primary, 2.3% of respondents would vote for Colbert. This leaves Colbert only slightly behind Joe Biden (2.7%), and ahead of Bill Richardson, Dennis Kucinich, and Mike Gravel.

Colbert announced his campaign to run for president on his television show, The Colbert Report, on October 9th. He plans to run in both the Democratic and Republican primaries on a "favorite son of South Carolina" platform. Satirical as his campaign may be, Colbert is apparently kind of a candidate. He even appeared on Meet the Press on Sunday, October 21. Only in America.

Speaking of America and because this is supposed to be a book blog, Colbert's campaign announcement came on the same day as the release of his book I Am America (And So Can You!). Here is an excerpt of this introduction:

I am not fan of books. And chances are, if you're reading this, you and I share a healthy skepticism about the printed world. Well, I want you to know that this is the first book I've ever written, and I hope it's the first book you've ever read. Don't make a habit of it.

Coincidence? I think not, but let's not criticize one man's efforts to further brand himself as the political comedian, especially since he's so hilarious. And to keep you laughing today, watch Stephen Colbert roast George Bush to his face during last year's White House Correspondents Dinner.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Dumbledore is gay apparently

Yes, that is the official word from the author herself, announced Friday at a reading in Carnegie Hall. Why wasn't this in the books? I guess we were supposed to intuit the fact that Albus Dumbledore was in love with Gellert Grindelwald (whoever that is). Rowling's literary prowess strikes again. Edward Champion comments here and the Guardian's article here.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Motoko Rich thinks we are bourgeouis

Thank you, Motoko, for portraying the publishing industry as one long cocktail party. Admittedly, you have written a brilliant article here. On the surface, this is an earnest report of the adventures of the Stein siblings at the Frankfurt Book Fair, but it actually reads more like the New York Social Diary than the New York Times.

I am surprised that more people have not blogged about this article, but this may be because they are afraid it might be true. We have only ourselves to blame if it is.

Man Booker Prize

Confession: I did not read The Gathering by Anne Enright, which won the Booker Prize.
Confession: I do not feel compelled to finish reading every book I pick up.
Confession: I did not read all of Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones but judged it anyway.

Congratulations, Anne Enright, for winning the Booker Prize. People seem excited. Way to beat Lloyd Jones’ Mister Pip, which I found disappointing in spite of all the hype. The concept behind the book is a romantic one for readers of literature, namely that writing can become more real to us than real life, guide us through traumatic events, and ultimately help us live our own lives to the fullest expression of satisfaction. Even though this is precisely what the book is about, Jones’ use of this device as a vehicle for his story feels unwieldy and forced. He plops Great Expectations all over the story in unsightly gobs, obscuring the narrator’s voice and dynamics of her community. Fear and tension are supposed to be growing in the story as the young men of the village join rebel armies and attacks on the village increase. Dickens is meant to be seen as a safe alternative to this harsh reality. The problem is that the book explores so little of this harsh reality. The quiet island village is disrupted, but without feeling the fear that the characters do, the reader cannot find the solace in Dickens that they do. Reading Mister Pip was like reading Dickens through the blurry lens of an average and predictable story. Sorry, Lloyd and other fans, but this didn’t do it for me.

On a book-reviewing note (since there has been so much flying around the blogosphere about book review culture lately), it is my belief that book critics and reviewers should be frank and honest in their writing, not polite. Sir Howard Davies, chairman of the 2007 Man Booker Prize, agrees with me: “The only way you can detect that the reviewer doesn’t like the book is when they spend the whole time simply describing the plot. They’re not brave enough to say, ‘It doesn’t work’.” Ironically, he said this in defense of this year's Booker shortlist, which contained more unknown authors than established ones, including Lloyd Jones. Even more ironically, Booker shortlist books fall into the category of books that reviewers treat with kid gloves instead of honesty. Well, even if our reading tastes differ, Howard and I will at least be honest about it.

Mystery list

ZDF Television (German public television) and Bild am Sonntag magazine have allegedly created a list of the books most stolen from the 15 largest German publishers during the Frankfurt Book Fair, as reported by ABC News, Reuters, and the New York Post. However, extensive Google research has turned up no such list. So I guess we don't actually get to see which books were stolen the most. This tantilizing tidbit has me on pins and needles. If anyone has this list, I want to see it!

The English-language reports say that among the top stolen books was the German version of Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth. Instead of getting upset that their books are being stolen by sticky-fingered fair-goers, the German publishers rely on this as an indication of which books will become best-sellers. Among the other books mentioned as best-seller potentials were German Book Prize winner Julia Franck's Die Mittagsfrau and Dan Brown's Diabolus.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Frankfurt, Day 5

It's over! The final day of the fair passed in Hall 8 with relatively little chaos. I heard a rumor that the Dutch remainder and discount bookseller de Slegte decided to cancel its agreement to buy books from some of the bigger publishers in Hall 8 so they were stuck with all these books. Some publishers were selling their books at a discount to visitors. I have no idea if that is allowed because of Germany's fixed pricing laws for books, but that is what happened.

The best part of the day was the Frankfurt Book Fair staff party in Hall 4.0. As one lady said, we know how to work hard and how to party hard. That we do. The main course was delicious (artichoke casserole, some kind of meatball, paella, squid, some other kind of baked casserole dish, and bread of course). The wine selection included a riesling called Geil (which means cool in German). According to fellow diners, the dessert was nothing to blog about.

After a short speech, everyone got funky on the dance floor. By everyone, I mean pretty much every single person in the room was on the dance floor at some point. Frankfurt Book Fair people kick ass! During this dinner, I also became blog buddies with Andrew Wilkins and Edward Nawotka, who came to write for the Frankfurt Book Fair blog, which you should all check out because it's really great.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Books Update

The latest buzz to reach my ears, which is going to be pretty late:

Roger Moore's autobiography is up for auction at the moment. Bidding started at 1 million pounds and as of yesterday was up to 2 million pounds. I don't know what other fabulous things he's done besides be James Bond. I guess we can read about it soon enough.

Julia Franck won the German Book Prize this year for her book Die Mittagsfrau (S. Fischer), and the English rights to this book are still floating around.

Doris Lessing has written a ton of books, and these books have been published by many German publishers. As soon as Lessing won the Nobel prize, signs went up at all the publishers' stands saying they were the publisher of Doris Lessing.

More as it comes!

Frankfurt, Day 4

Days 4 and 5 are open to the public. The English-language publishers are averse to the public and most of them pack up and leave on Friday to avoid it (leaving interns and assistants behind of course). These publishers are avoiding a whole bunch of nothing, however, because very few people come out to Hall 8, mostly because nobody is here. A vicious cycles ensues, allowing me and everyone else ample time to fart around (or blog, whatever). Most of the people who come through here are either lost, or hearty and intrepid readers in search of something specific.

I went over to Hall 3 to hear former Frankfurt Book Fair director Peter Weidhaas speak about his new book. He is a very charismatic speaker and the book fair's biggest fan (after Fred Kobrak, of course). The aisles were packed full of awe-struck people. I was one of them. The stands were big and showy, designed with cool, swooping bookshelves and elegantly displayed books. These publishers stick around for the public days to interact with their readers and build brand recognition. The average German reader has a much better knowledge of individual publishers and their programs than American readers do.

Last night, I listened in on a conversation between some German publishing people that was somewhat enlightening. On the last day of the fair, the Germans sell their books to the public (at full price because they have a law about that here). The people I was talking to were saying, oh come by our stand and I'll save a copy of such-and-such book for you to buy. The attitude in Hall 8 would be, come by our stand and I'll give you a book. I have no idea why publishers would sell these books to each other. This is certainly a matter to follow up on.

After a very nice dinner in Oberursel with some friends, I went home. Earlier I had planned to be fabulous and intellectual at the Frankfurter Hof, but my eyes wouldn't stay open. Plus, being nice to the public is hard when you are hung over.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Update from Hall 8

The world has been officially turned upside down. Because so many more women work in publishing than men and because there are always lines for the women's restroom, the book fair wisely decided to convert some of the men's rooms into women's. I heard from a reliable source that yesterday, for the first time ever at the Frankfurt Book Fair, there was a line for the men's restroom. Ladies, the world has finally caught up to what we have been saying this whole time...we need more stalls!

This is awesome

Courtesy of Critcal Mass, a short piece from Finnhits by Kari Hotakainen.

Frankfurt, Day 3

After a long commute with the street car yesterday morning, we arrived bright-eyed to the fair. The day was an energetic one, as if we had all banded together over the transit strike. By the third day, people know approximately where they are going, so we get fewer questions about HarperCollins and more questions about obscure publishers that are part of other publishers who may or may not be here. The day went by quickly.

I went for a few minutes to the Publishing Trends luncheon, one of the few cool events held over here near Hall 8. I hobbed and knobbed for a little while before returning to the info stand. After hours, we took the "express" shuttle bus from Hall 8 to the U-bahn near Hall 1, which nearly bucked us out with erratic yet slow driving. We had one quick beer (a lager that I was not fond of) before heading off to a dinner/art exhibit put on my the Ramon Llul Institute. Along with several glasses of awesome wines from Catalonia, we had small plates of delicious tapas-like delicacies. The best dish was a morel mushroom in a cream of foie sauce. I almost fainted with tastebud overload.

Then we went to the German independent publishers party. It was supposed to be an outrageous dance bash, but only one girl was dancing to the semi-cool techno-trance music. She was both too drunk and too confident. Nobody knew who she was, but she was breaking it down German-style in her book fair business suit, like an amateur version of Flash Dance. We tried to dance for about five minutes, but the music wasn't keeping up. I took a taxi back and the driver told me a story about how he got drunk at Oktoberfest when he was 18 years old.

Quotes from the evening:
"Everybody should know a Welshman."
"It's not impressive. It's like never having tried cannibalism." (on being a long-term vegetarian)

The coffee machine in the Hall 8 office is broken. This is not good.

Friday, October 12, 2007

The best news all week!

For all Coloradans, you might want to sit down. Appearing in the New York Times today was the following: "For the uninitiated, Jeff Francis is the best pitcher on what is right now the best team in baseball, the Colorado Rockies."

Straight from the sports experts, the Colorado Rockies are the best team in baseball right now.

Al Gore is a big deal

I guess you have to be a big deal to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Gore plans to donate the $1.5 million award to the Alliance for Climate Protection. I guess this means I have to watch his movie now.

The results are in...

The publisher most frequently asked for at our stand yesterday was HarperCollins, with Random House coming in at a close second. Congratulations Jane Friedman!

Frankfurt, Day 2

Our little info stand has sold a record amount of merchandise this year. The classic black logo bags, the Moleskine notebooks, and the pins seem to be favorites this year. Interest in the colorful striped shoulder bag has died down since last year. A press guy came and took pictures of us info stand workers helping customers find their way around the fair. Maybe we will be on the Frankfurt Book Fair website someday!

I missed the festivities last night, and according to brief reports from fellow fair-goers, it was a late one. Tonight's parties should be fabulous, so I hope that resting last night will leave me in good shape to get down with the publishing crowd tonight.

The German train drivers union went on strike today. The morning's communte (with my fellow info stand buddy Fred Kobrak) consisted of a brisk 40-minute walk through the forest, over the highway, through some kind of strange gravel field, and then back to the highway. Then we finally found the last stop on the street car, which took us into the city. The strike will be over at 2 a.m., so that is a good excuse to stay out late tonight and take the train home.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Nobel Prize

Doris Lessing just won approximately $1.6 million dollars. And she wrote some stuff, too.

Fabulous Summary

John Freeman provides some very awesome insight into day 1 at the Frankfurt Book Fair on the National Book Critics Circle blog, Critical Mass. German Book Prize winner Julia Franck's book is apparently still up for grabs in the US, people. Get in gear and get on that.

Freeman also mentions Russian Disko by Wladimir Kaminer, a fabulous book that failed because the translation was not the best. If you can handle poor phrasing, or if you read German, this book is worth a look. Kaminer paints a humorous and insightful picture of Berlin after the wall came down with details that outsiders might never know.

Frankfurt, Day 1

"Can you tell me where the HarperCollins booth is?" This is one of the most frequently asked question we get here at the Hall 8.0 information stand. Yes, we can tell you how to get to HarperCollins and many more! We did not keep an official tally yesterday, but I have decided to pit HarperCollins, Random House, Penguin, Simon & Schuster, and Scholastic against each other today and see who comes out on top. Results will be posted tomorrow. Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines.

I heard that it was quite hot and stuffy in Hall 3.1, and the lack of natural daylight was a bit oppressive as well. Similar situations were reported in other halls as well. Despite the noticeable lack of stand receptions and 5 p.m. happy hours in Hall 8.0, we do have sunlight, air-conditioning, and security guards who search your belongings for WMDs and nail clippers.

Tip for fair visitors: do your research before you hit the trade show floor. We cannot print a list of all the people at the fair interested in literary fiction. Nor can we tell you what corner of Hall 8.0 all the Canadian remainder book companies are in because the fair is not organized that way. The catalogue is online ahead of the fair for this very reason.

Last night, I went out with the boys of Open Letter only to get heartily rejected from one party. We ended up at the Frankfurter Hof, buying expensive drinks and talking about hope. Then I waited in the train station for about an hour because the S-Bahn was delayed. Then I woke up in the middle of the night with a head cold. Good. This shouldn't happen until Friday at least.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Frankfurt Book Fair blog

I already linked to this in my last post, but only now has it become apparent how cool the Frankfurt Book Fair blog really is. I imagine there will be party pictures posted later on as the parties get wild with bookworms high on literature and wine.

International Rights Directors Meeting

Every year, a day before the official opening, the Frankfurt Book Fair hosts an International Rights Directors' Meeting. It a big important deal where industry experts present and discuss topics of timely importance. This year, the theme was digital licensing and contracts. Having attending this event (standing for about five hours in the back of the room and my feet are still killing me), here is the official Literary Rapture report.

Diane Spivey, who moderated the discussion after the speakers' presentations, touched on a theme that seems most important in discussing the digital possibilities and the future of book publishing. She said that digital publishing means working in a world where it is difficult to decide how much something is worth. Fear of the unknown has kept publishers from embracing digital the way other industries have. Spivey was the only speaker to explicity mention fear, but the tentative approach that many publishers take to digital endeavors bears this out.

Maja Thomas, VP of Hachette Audio, pointed out that we all saw the music industry's problems with piracy, but books target a different audience. She also said that once a customer buys a book or audio book, that customer is able to make copies and distribute them as they like. Digital formats inspire images of students maliciously sharing pirated digital versions of copyrighted material in their dormrooms at 2 in the morning.

What stood out to me, something I am sure all of you already thought about, is considering what kind of information a publisher is trying to sell digitally and what format to sell it in. Reference material can be formatted and sold differently than a cookbook or guide to bird species.

Exiting guests gave compliments to the book fair on the quality of this year's meeting. Way to go, Frankfurt Book Fair! For more complete and thoughtful coverage, visit the Frankfurt Book Fair blog, new this year.

Check back for continuing Frankfurt coverage.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Wadelwärmer

Sometimes, when those big Bavarian men were out chopping down trees and hunting large animals, their calf muscles would cramp up. It was too hot in the summer to wear the full knee socks with their lederhosen, so they began wearing Wadelwärmer, or calf muscle warmers. These wonderful pieces of clothing are less common than knee socks, yet equally as traditional. Compliments of the Oktoberfest frenzy that gripped Munich, here is a series of Wadelwärmer pictures:






Oktoberfest

Guten Morgen, meine Damen und Herren! I had plans to write something very clever in this post to make it seem like I did more in Germany than just go to Oktoberfest, but who am I kidding? I arrived in Munich on Friday to find half of the city's population dressed in lederhosen and dirdls, going about their normal routines. It's true, the culturally hardcore Bavarians wear the traditional German outfits during Oktoberfest as if they had thrown on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt.

We found a fabulous chocolate shop, complete with chocolate mushrooms and a man in lederhosen:

Next we went to lunch at a tiny, very old school restaurant where they only spoke Bavarian. We each had heaping plates of Semmelknödel. I have no pictures because we ate it too fast.

After the carbo-loading, we headed off to...drumroll...Oktoberfest! A sign in the subway said that we should get off one stop early because the stop near Oktoberfest was too crowded. We got off with the surging crowds in traditional garb to find a huge fair (I don't know what I was expecting, but I did not expect this):



Then we rode this rollercoaster, which was one of the best rollercoaster experiences I've ever had (luckily, this was pre-beer drinking):

Then we made it into the Armbrustschützen Zelt, where beer only comes in one-liter servings. Today, our hands are swollen from where we held large beer glasses for four hours while standing on benches and swaying to a strange combination of German drinking songs, folk musics, and American oldies:


Prost!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Pardon my non-posts

The silence has been deafening here at Literary Rapture recently. Frankfurt Book Fair preparations are underway, and at this point nearly complete. I am heading off to Germany tonight and everything would seem to be in order, were it not for a very small wrench thrown into my well-oiled scheduling machine.

The German rail workers union will be going on strike on Friday, and the Deutsche Bahn website is all but inaccessible, most likely because everyone is trying check the emergency schedule. I just hope I make it to Munich for Oktoberfest on Saturday!

In other news, you will have to get your Frankfurt cool from someone other than me. My cell phone doesn't have email, so I can't do any remote blogging, and my reading selection this year leaves something to be desired. My two books to "read" are Crazed by Ha Jin and Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones. Neither of these books are new, and most people at Frankfurt will have already read them. My only hope of coolness is talking about these books in an intelligent way.

See you all in Germany!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Dept. of Gross

Three Percent reports on the latest "carnival-like approach to publishing" from Penguin, Amazon, and Hewlett Packard, the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. Instead of publishing really good books that have already been written, maybe it's a good idea to accept submissions of mediocre books online, build up a bunch of hype, and let the public go into marketing overload. You've got yourself a another temporarily cool bestseller right there. Ed Champion points out the ethically gray areas of this endeavor.

Publishing is such a divided industry. On the one hand, we are in business (a rather limping business at the moment) and need to make money. On the other hand, the nature of our business is to care about literature, ideas, and stories. Once again, artistic idealism collides with the bottom line, and it makes us all kind of cranky.

Rumor Alert!

According to theBookseller.com, rumors are circulating that Amazon will unveil its ugly new e-reader, Kindle, at the Frankfurt Book Fair! Stop by the Amazon booth (or maybe somewhere in Hall 4.2?) and find out. I hope Amazon has made some aesthetic improvements since they built the prototype out of an Apple Performa.

How to be cool in Frankfurt

"So what are you reading right now?"

Everyone at the Frankfurt Book Fair will ask you this question, and you better have a cool answer, especially if you want to be invited to the Hessischer Hof or the Frankfurter Hof for drinks with the cool kids sometime around 2 a.m. People spend hours agonizing over the coolness of their current reading selection and which titles to bring to the fair. I am not talking about work-related titles that you are trying to sell. To make an impression during those informal and inebriated conversations that inevitably lead to book deals later on, you have to have a couple of impressive and slightly obscure books on your proverbial nightstand. With parties lasting until 2 or 3 a.m. and appointments starting a few short hours later, let's all be honest and admit that no reading actually happens during the fair. Nevertheless, you have to bring cool books to "read" and discuss with cool people.

Below are my further recommendations on how to be cool in Frankfurt.

Hannah's Top Ten Cool Rules for Frankfurt:
1) Bring two or three impressive books to "read"
2) Go to the parties no matter how tired you are
3) Wear hip Euro business attire (bonus points for cool glasses)
4) Make friends with a Frankfurt Book Fair employee because they all have the inside scoop
5) Join the digital age and download the map and catalogs to your mobile device
6) Carry a Frankfurt Book Fair bag because it makes you look like a pro
7) Don't be that poor person carrying a huge bag and wearing uncomfortable shoes
8) Save sleeping and reading for when you get home
9) Take cell phone pictures and post them to your blog
10) Talk to enough people and go to enough parties to make it into a cell phone picture on someone else's blog