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Book news: Apple, Oscars, e-readers, and a new literary offering

  Clooneypitt

Oscar nominations were announced this morning; 6 out of 10 best picture nominees were adapted from  books. "The Descendants" comes from the novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings; "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" from the novel by Jonathan Safran Foer; "The Help" from the debut novel by Kathryn Stockett;  "Hugo" from the middle grade book "The Invention of Hugo Cabret" by Brian Selznik; "Moneyball" from the nonfiction book by Michael Lewis; and "War Horse" from the middle grade book by Michael Morpurgo. While it didn't get a best picture nod, the bestseller "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" wasn't totally overlooked: It is up for cinematography, editing, sound editing, sound mixing, and Rooney Mara is nominated for best actress.

Jay-Z was among the winners at the Publishing Innovation Awards on Monday night in New York. Announced at the opening night of the Digital Book World conference, the Publishing Innovation Awards honor excellence in e-books and beyond. Jay-Z himself was not on hand to accept the prize.

Last week, when Apple announced its sort-of-garage-band-for-e-textbooks, your faithful scribe was on a plane -- without wifi! -- and unable to get to the story. Over at Wired, Tim Carmody has done the heavy lifting; he followed the announcement, then explained why e-textbooks are the kind of big business Apple would want to get into.

Over the holidays, e-readers were popular to give -- so much so that I wonder if some purchasers used the one-for-you, one-for-me method. According to a new study, 19% of American adults now own an e-reader or tablet. Among college grads, the number is very high: 31%.

Today the Chicago Tribune announced a 24-page weekly literary supplement, Printers Row. For an annual subscription of $149 ($99 for Chicago Tribune subscribers), readers will get news, reviews, interviews, and Chicago-focused literary content. They'll also get VIP access to some Chicago-area book events -- Printers Row takes its name from the Tribune's annual book festival. Single electronic editions of Printers Row will be available from Amazon for $2.99.

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-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photos: George Clooney, left, in "The Descendants," and Brad Pitt in "Moneyball."  Credits: Fox Searchlight and Columbia TriStar

NBC News to begin publishing e-books

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NBC News will launch NBC Publishing, the company announced Monday, using its own television assets as a starting point for e-books. NBC Publishing will begin as a digital-only publisher; although the title of its first e-book is not yet announced, the company says it will be released in February.

Publishers Weekly reports:

NBC v-p Michael Fabiano has been appointed general manager of NBC Publishing and the company has hired two publishing veterans to lead its new efforts: Peter Costanzo, previously with F+W Media and Perseus Books Group, has been named creative director, and Brian Perrin, most recently with Rodale, has been named director of digital development....

In addition to using the various NBC News units (Today, NBC Nightly News, Dateline, Peacock Productions, and NBCs archives), NBC Publishing will have the ability to create works derived from other divisions of NBCUniversal, such as NBC Sports, Universal Pictures, and Telemundo. E-books will be based on current events, documentaries, trends, biographies, and profiles.

NBC Publishing plans to release about 30 titles each year. They will be released as text e-books and enhanced e-books that include multimedia that can be seen on tablets like the iPad and Kindle Fire. "As the tablet and e-reader markets continue to expand exponentially, and as the definition of 'what is a 'book?' evolves, we see opportunities to bring readers a unique and immersive content experience," said NBC News SVP Cheryl Gould. "This business enables NBC to use video, audio, and current programming in creative new ways."

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-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: The NBC logo displayed in Burbank, 2003. Credit: Getty Images

Los Angeles Times publishes first e-book: 'A Nightmare Made Real'

Los Angeles Times publishes first e-book: "A Nightmare Made Real" The Los Angeles Times today makes its entry into the e-book marketplace with the release of "A Nightmare Made Real," an expanded version of staff writer Christopher Goffard's gripping account of a man accused of unspeakable acts, facing a lifetime behind bars. The original two-part series was one of The Times most-read stories of the year.

"As a content company, we are enthusiastic about harnessing new mediums and business models that expand the reach of our unique storytelling,” said Times President Kathy Thomson. “The immediacy of e-book publishing allows us to easily adapt Times coverage to a convenient reader experience that's being heavily embraced.”

Available today for Kindle, Nook and iBooks for 99 cents, "Nightmare" is the first of eight to 10 new digital titles The Times plans to release in the coming year. All will be accessible via latimes.com/bookstore, and readers can expect short- and long-form stories, topical e-singles, recipe compilations, photo-driven narratives and Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage.

"E-books offer an exciting opportunity to take The Times" world-class journalism and present it as a different reading experience," said Times Editor Russ Stanton. "Be it an overview of a significant news event, a collection of Steve Lopez columns or a dip into our rich archives, we're excited to release titles that span our areas of expertise and can be easily and conveniently accessed."

"A Nightmare Made Real" tells the spellbinding story of Louis Gonzalez III, a Las Vegas banker accused of kidnapping, torturing and sexually assaulting the mother of his child. Evidence from the scene included clumps of her hair and a cord that was tied around her neck. "In 19 years of police work, this has to go down as one of the most brutal attacks I have ever seen," a police spokesman said. Over the next several months, as Gonzalez sat behind bars, his defense attorney and a hired investigator would try to prove his innocence. The detective assigned to the case began to nurse suspicions that the facts were far from what they first appeared.

In addition to The Times original series, e-book readers can expect new material, including more detailed portraits of the investigating detective and the defense team, and a deeper look at the alleged "suicide note" that emerged at a pivotal moment in the case. In addition, Goffard provides an account of how the story started with an unlikely tip and grew into a narrative.

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-- Los Angeles Times

Image: The cover of the e-book "A Nightmare Made Real." Credit: Los Angeles Times

LA Weekly editor Drex Heikes stepping down

Laweekly_people2011
Drex Heikes, who has been at the helm of the LA Weekly for just two years, will be leaving the alternative weekly Friday. Who will replace him as editor is not known.

Jim Rainey writes on The Times blog L.A. Now:

Heikes announced his departure at the Weekly’s regular staff meeting Monday morning. He told the outlet’s reporters and editors he was proud of the awards the publication had won and of a 22% readership increase in print since his arrival in 2009, along with a 36% increase in online readership.

“We have a terrific staff in place,” Heikes said. “When I sit at staff meetings now, I’m the dumbest guy in the room.”

Heikes came to the Weekly after Phoenix-based Village Voice Media forced out his predecessor, Laurie Ochoa, over "creative differences."

After leaving the Weekly, Ochoa became founding co-editor of Slake, a literary journal based in Los Angeles that emphasizes the beauty of print and the creativity of L.A.'s writers. Heikes may not undertake such an ambitious endeavor right away -- in announcing his departure, he noted that he'd been working since he was 11. "I'm now at a point when I can afford to take a break, the first break of my life," he said, "and figure out what I want to do next."

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-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: A battered 2011 LA Weekly. Credit: Carolyn Kellogg / Los Angeles Times

Dogfight! Julie Klam vs. Jill Abramson, editor of the N.Y. Times

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Two slender books written by women about the relationship between humans and dogs are coming to shelves. The first, "The Puppy Diaries: Raising a Dog Named Scout," is by no less than Jill Abramson, executive editor of the New York Times; it's out next week. Then a week later comes "Love at First Bark: How Saving a Dog Can Sometimes Help You Save Yourself" by Julie Klam, whose previous book, the dog memoir "You Had Me at Woof," was a N.Y. Times bestseller.

How do the two match up?

Abramson/"Puppy": 256 pages
Klam/"Bark": 192 pages

Abramson/"Puppy," first line: "The truth about getting a new dog is that it makes you miss the old one."
Klam/"Bark," first line: "It was six forty-five a.m., and I was heading back to my apartment with my three dogs, Wisteria, Fiorello, and Beatrice."

Abramson/"Puppy": photos of Scout in the text
Klam/"Bark": photos of dogs on the end papers

Abramson/"Puppy," Page 70: "What happened next was a loopy canine version of O. Henry's famous short story, 'The Gift of the Magi.' On the same day and without telling each other, Henry and I both put in a distress call to the same dog trainer."
Klam/"Bark," Page 70: "I'm not taking her, but the group is trying to decide whether or not she should come in to foster. She has malabsorption syndrome and some neurological thing and she's 'fecally incontinent.' "

Abramson: 9,982 Twitter followers
Klam: 5,398 Twitter followers

Abramson/"Puppy," Pages 154-155: "I still yearned, of course, to return to my epicurean days of cooking a plat du jour for Buddy. But Henry was still insisting that we refrain from giving Scout human food at mealtimes, using it only for high-value treats."
Klam/"Bark," Page 155: "Would I wear dirty, wet clothes to save a dog? Definitely. Was I looking forward to it? Nope."

On Monday, Klam premiered her book trailer, which features Twitter buddy Timothy Hutton (playing  something like "evil Timothy Hutton") at New York Magazine. So far, Abramson does not have a book trailer, but you can hear her talking about  writing "The Puppy Diaries" on the book's website.

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-- Carolyn Kellogg

Image credits: Riverhead Hardcover, left; Times Books

Guardian creates indie book-buying map via Twitter

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It's Independent Booksellers Week in England, and the Guardian has some online projects going to help celebrate independent bookstores.

One is a gallery of independent bookstores, pulled from photos submitted to this Flickr group. The photos are mostly of bookstores in England, but include Builders Booksource in San Francisco.

This week, they're encouraging readers to add their recent independent bookstore purchases to a book-buying map. Apparently, the bookstores can be located anywhere on the globe, and submission takes only a Tweet. The Guardian explains how:

This week we're building a tweet map of our book-buying hive mind. Just tweet us @guardianbooks with the title of the book you've bought, the name and postcode of the bookshop where you bought it and the hashtag #indybooks, and we'll assemble a map of independent action.

The newspaper plans to post its map of independent bookstore purchases online sometime soon.

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-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Independent bookstore Stories Books and Cafe in Los Angeles. Credit: Carolyn Kellogg / Los Angeles Times.

AOL's Editions wants to bring you the Web -- from AOL's universe [Updated]

AOL editions

AOL is getting into the Flipboard/Pulse/Zite business -- that is, it's built an app that turns Web pages you select into a more comprehensible magazine format. It works on Apple's iPad and other tablets, and it's called Editions.

To stand out from the crowd of content customizers, Editions is being even more user-focused. Our Technology blog reports:

AOL is employing algorithms in Editions that decide where to place stories inside the app by what it deems as important to each specific reader, essentially building a magazine of stories each day from online news sources.

Using what a reader self-identifies as their interests, as well as outside trends such as what is rising to the top of the froth on Twitter that day, stories will appear toward the front of the app's digital magazine, or rear, and be given more, or less, page real estate.

The idea is to sort of re-create the work done by editors and designers at newspapers and magazines, who lay out a publication and place stories to communicate to the reader what's most important in any given printed issue. It's just that Editions is using software to do this, not human editors.

Each Editions reader will get a 30-to-40-page magazine every morning, AOL says, tailored to the interests he or she has identified. There are 15 categories -- "sports," "business," etc., plus a daily top-news category -- but "books" is not among them. There's a category for "art & photography," one for "design," and one for "lifestyle" -- which warns it may have racy content -- but no books content to speak of. Unless you count the entertainment story about the movie adaptation of Milton's "Paradise Lost" that's got Bradley Cooper lined up to play the devil.

The real issue is that Editions is not scraping the Web but using AOL's Web content. That makes sense from a corporate perspective -- it's an AOL operation, after all. The onetime Internet giant has struggled to find a place in the contemporary online world, at one time making content king. But a read through Editions shows just how much wider and richer the Web is than the version of it that AOL can provide. Do I really need a Patch writer from Pacific Palisades writing about taking a trip all the way to downtown Los Angeles to go to MOCA and have lunch, when I work downtown and know not to refer to the museum as "MOMA"? I'd rather get updates from my favorite neighborhood blog, Eastsider LA -- but I can't in Editions, because it's not part of AOL. 

The stories seem to somehow lack the basics, failing to deliver either authority or voice. That's despite the acquisition of the Huffington Post, which seems to mostly be providing access to Associated Press stories.

The magazine-style -- or, dare I say it, newspaper-style -- morning delivery of daily news seems like a good idea, but until AOL remembers that it doesn't have to keep users within its own subset of the internet, Editions will have a hard time keeping pace.

Downloading the Editions app is free.

[Updated  11 a.m., Aug. 5: AOL says that Editions' content is not limited to AOL-affiliated sources, saying that its stories come "from thousands of news sources," and that additional sources of content are being added to the app.]

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-- Carolyn Kellogg

Images: Screenshots of Editions by AOL for Apple's iPad. Credit: AOL / Apple

Being a Borders bookseller, then and now

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Camaraderie, sexual adventures, slow embitterment and a trail of corporate missteps figure in Paul Constant's tale of bookselling at Borders. Constant, the books editor of Seattle's alternative newspaper The Stranger, talks to a former Borders executive and a current staffer -- both use pseudonyms -- as well as tapping his own experience. More than a decade ago, he was a Borders employee himself.

Constant writes in the piece (which includes strong language):

It's embarrassing now, but on the day that I was hired to work at Boston's flagship Borders store in 1996, I was so happy that I danced around my apartment. After dropping out of college, I had worked a succession of crappy jobs: mall Easter Bunny, stock boy at Sears and Kmart and Walmart, a brief and nearly fatal stint as a landscaper. A job at Borders seemed to be a step, at long last, toward my ultimate goal of writing for a living. At least I would be working with books. And the scruffy Borders employees, in their jeans and band T-shirts, felt a lot closer to my ideal urban intellectuals than the stuffy Barnes & Noble employees with their oppressive dress code and lame vests....

At the time, independent bookstores were blaming Borders for a spate of mom-and-pop bookstore closures around the country. I'll never forget the employee at Bookland in Maine who coldly accused me of single-handedly destroying her small chain when I admitted who my employer was, even as I was buying $50 worth of books from her. Of course, the accusations had truth to them — small bookstores simply couldn't compete with the deep discounts the chains offered — but for what it's worth, every employee who worked at Borders, at least when I first joined the company, adored literature. We were not automatons out to assassinate local business. We wanted to work with the cultural artifacts that were the most important things in our lives, the things that made us who we were. Not all of us could find work at independent bookstores, so we did the next best thing: We went to work for a company that seemingly cared about quality literature and regional reading tastes, and gave its employees a small-but-fair wage for full-time bookselling careers, with excellent benefits. It sure didn't feel like selling out.

Until suddenly, one day, it did feel like selling out. Because it was.

Constant's article raises many important points about the dissolution of Borders. As a bookstore, it lost its footing some time ago. It was led by executives who understood retail in general but not books in particular, and the company foolishly contracted Amazon to manage its pesky Internet bookselling, ensuring that it would be left behind. Those aren't problems with books or reading or readers, those are problems with the business part of running a business.

With better leadership, could Borders have survived? The company, which entered bankruptcy this year, is undergoing liquidation. More than 10,000 employees nationwide are losing their jobs.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: A Borders bookstore in New York. Credit: Bloomberg

A scandalous story: New Rupert Murdoch book on the way

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The phone-hacking scandal sending shock waves through Rupert Murdoch's media empire will be the subject of a new book by Guardian reporter Nick Davies, Faber and Faber announced Monday. "Hack Attack: How the Truth Caught up with the World's Most Powerful Man" is planned for publication in 2012 in the U.S.

Galleycat has more about the book, from the publisher's release: "On July 8, 2009, Nick Davies broke the story that Rupert Murdoch’s News International had paid £1 million to settle legal cases that threatened to lift the lid on News of the World journalists' involvement in illegal phone-hacking... The seismic shocks affecting Rupert Murdoch's international media empire and family as well as law enforcement agencies and officials and highly placed political figures are already being called the biggest political scandal in Great Britain in seventy-five years. Davies, author of the bestseller FLAT EARTH NEWS, intends to provide an authoritative account and commentary on the News International Scandal, including new revelations."

But will it include the inside story of how Murdoch's wife, Wendi, leapt to his defense when he was approached by a pie-wielding assailant during a hearing last week? Oh, never mind, it seems Newsweek's already got a breathless blow-by-blow.

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-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Rupert Murdoch and his wife, Wendi Deng, at the Academy Awards in Feburary. Credit: Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles Times

Rupert Murdoch pulls plug on News of the World

  Rupertmurdoch_g8

Rupert Murdoch, the media mogul at the top of News Corp., has pulled the plug on its popular British newspaper News of the World in the midst of a scandal involving hacked telephone messages. The newspaper, which will print its final edition Sunday, had been operating for 168 years. The announcement from News Corp. stunned publishers, journalists and readers.

Rupert Murdoch's son James Murdoch was the one to make the announcement, which was done in a statement on the News of the World website."The good things the News of the World does, however, have been sullied by behaviour that was wrong. Indeed, if recent allegations are true, it was inhuman and has no place in our Company," Murdoch wrote. "The News of the World is in the business of holding others to account. But it failed when it came to itself."

The scandal has grown from reports that staff of News of the World hacked into voicemail accounts of news subjects in order to aggressively report stories. In one egregious incident, the newspaper is accused of accessing voicemails of Milly Dowler, a missing 13-year-old girl, in 2002. When the voicemail box was full, News of the World staff allegedly deleted messages from frantic family members in order to make room for new messages, an action that led investigators to believe that Dowler was well enough to retrieve her voicemail. Instead, it was later learned that she had been kidnapped and killed.

The scandal has prompted a number of advertisers to withdraw from News of the World, which likely contributed to Thursday's surprising cancellation of the paper. From our report:

The closure will mean the death of a weekly newspaper that has been a part of the British media landscape for more than a century. The News of the World enjoys a circulation of more than 2.5 million, far beyond its closest rival....

Whether the drastic step to shut down the paper will dampen public anger remains to be seen. Many politicians are demanding the resignation of Rebekah Brooks, chief executive of News International and the editor of the News of the World at the time of the alleged hacking into the teenage kidnap victim.

Brooks is one of Rupert Murdoch's closest confidants and has so far insisted that she will stay on to get to the bottom of the hacking scandal.

About 200 News of the World staffers are expected to lose their jobs.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Rupert Murdoch speaking at the eG8 summit in May. Credit: Stephane Mahe / Reuters

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