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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 

London 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

If 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.


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