Weekend Bookends April 12

This week’s roundup of bookish news is a potpourri of prize announcements and electronic reading related items.

Literary Prizes

Announcements of contenders for this year’s literary awards came thick and fast over the past few days.  Monday saw the 6 short listed titles for the Baileys Prize for women’s fiction announced − it wasn’t really a surprise to find Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie ‘s Americanah; Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch and Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland all on the list of finalists. Tuesday was the turn of fiction in translation with the shortlist for the International Foreign Fiction Prize which for the first time included work by some Japanese women writers and a book written by the German author Birgit Vanderbeke (The Mussel Feast) more than 20 hears ago but only now available in English. The International Impac Dublin literary award also revealed the 10 shortlisted authors for the 2014 award this week. I wonder if the people at publishers Harvill Secker have already put the champagne on ice in anticipation of success for their Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgaard who made it onto the lists of both the Impac and the Foreign Fiction prize though with different pieces of work.

There’s one major prize however that we didn’t hear from this week – the Pulitzer Prize. It’s due to be announced on Monday (April 14)  but in case you can’t wait that long take a look at the Huffington Post article which does a review of the authors/titles they believe are the strongest contenders for the four categories this year, Tartt, Adichie Lahiri are amongst them.

E-world buzz 

EBookrealLondon Book Fair this week was used by many publishers and sellers as the platform for announcements of new tools and channels for selling and accessing books. Penguin Random House UK unveiled My Independent Bookshop – a consumer book recommendation website where you’ll be able to set up a virtual bookshop to share your favourite reads. It’s also a platform for discovering new reads and posting reviews. It’s not yet ready for launch so there are few details yet of how this will work.  Clearly the publishing house has seen the growth of personal recommendation as a way of influencing what we buy. Their new channel will have to be pretty special to compete in a space which is already crowded – what will it offer that people can’t already get from Goodreads and Library Thing I wonder?

Yet another article about the effect of on line reading – this one fortunately isn’t the usual fare of the ‘e-readers’ versus ‘real books’ type. The Washington Post  looked at question whether the trend for reading via an e-reader or computer is actually changing how we read rather than simply what we read and how much.  Apparently research has shown that when we access content on line we skim rather than read and slowly digest so we miss key information. I’ve certainly found that’s the case myself − I know that when I need to proof read something for example or to really understand complex info, then I have to use a printed copy. It’s all connected apparently with the way the eye moves on the page and on the screen. We think we read every word in a sentence but in reality we see one word and then without being aware of this, our eyes also take in a few words either side − but not the whole line,  just enough to  get the sense of what were reading − before jumping to the next line. Our brain fills in the gaps so that we can make sense of he whole line. With on screen reading we ‘read’ even fewer words per line so the gaps get wider and its harder to make sense of the whole line.

If you want to see whether your on screen and printed reading habits are different, you can test it by timing yourself by opening a printed book you’ve never read before. Read it for 15 minutes. Count how many words you completed. Then have someone test you on what you remember (e.g. names of characters, places, dates, times). Then repeat this with a different book but this time read it on a computer screen or an e-reader. Was there any difference? I’ll be curious to know your results……

Libraries Stretch their Horizons

Breathe while readingIf you’re down at your local library today and here some strange noises coming from behind the shelves, fear not – it might just be the neighbourhood yoga group in action.  We’ve known for a long time now that libraries are about more than just books – some of them have very extensive music and dvd collections and they’ve long opened their doors to community acivities like local history societies. But some libraries like the multi-million facility opened in Birmingham, UK last year, have taken the open door approach a stage further. As the BBC reported recently now you’re just as likely to hear the clickety-click of knitting needles as the sound of pages turning.



What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

6 thoughts on “Weekend Bookends April 12

  • So many prizes now that I do wonder as to their value. Especially since they all pick the same books pretty much – which makes sense, of course, or would do if only they weren’t just the ones the publishers were pushing hardest. And while it clearly still pushes books up the rankings, the plethora of awards seems to be making this happen less and less – The Lowland (mediocre, in my opinion) has only ratchetted up 60-odd reviews on Amazon UK and is ranked 2,639th in sales despite being shortlisted for nearly every prize going. Burial Rites, a much better book, is ranked 147 with 147 reviews. It makes me think that perhaps the public is paying more attention to reader reviews and less to awards shortlists…

    • I wonder if anyone has counted the number of prizes – it would be edging towards 100 surely if you took account of all the genre awards. Do they make people buy the book? Maybe they did when people relied much more on what they read about in magazines or saw in the shops but now there are so many other ways they get to hear recommendations so the award itself doesn’t have the same effect. I remember reading an article last year which said that winning the Booker hadn’t translated into long term commercial success in most cases. You get the initial bump in sales when the short list is announced and then the winner but after that, the sales tail off to what they would have expected anyway

      • I remember looking back at a list of previous Booker winners and being stunned at how few of them are still well-known – many were out of print (though that probably won’t happen to the same extent now there are e-books). Still, the Booker is the only one I pay much attention to – and as often as not just to disagree with it! But every year I probably buy one or two books from the shortlist that I wouldn’t otherwise buy – and that’s the total extent of all the awards on me…directly, at least. Maybe I’m indirectly influenced by reviews from other people who’ve been influenced by awards. As a crime reader, all the crime awards pass me by completely – it seems every crime book ever published is ‘award-winning’. In fact, it’s tempting to search out the few that haven’t won an award to see why not! 😉

        • there are masses of crime awards aren’t there? It’s not a genre I spend much time reading though I do enjoy listening to the audio versions. I find they are the best thing to accompany me on a drive to work or to the airport

  • I wonder if My Independent Bookshop will benefit from not being linked with Amazon as so many other sites of this nature are? I’ve signed up for further information and will certainly explore it when it goes live. I like the ability to link with independent bookshops. And thanks for reminding me about the Impac. It had dropped off my radar. I’ve always thought that if you could read through their long list each year you could really call yourself well read.

    • That seems to be their USP (unique selling proposition) for this new platform. Undoubtedly it will attract some people simply because it isn’t linked with Amazon but that doesn’t seem a big enough idea. They need to do more than just offer an alternative way to buy.


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