Vox is announced

You may have read over the past few days about a new SixApart service called Vox. (SixApart is the owner of Typepad, hoster of Petrona, and the more functional Moveable Type, used by many professional company blogs).

In a nutshell, Vox is a service that lets you keep a blog confidential to your friends and family, rather than allowing it to be viewed by the whole world. It also offers, or will offer, numerous other features, including picture tagging.

Vox  will be officially launched later this year or early next, but please go to the link if this sounds as if it is just the thing you have been waiting for. The web/tech community (Tim O’Reilly, Steve Rubel et al.) have given it rave reviews, so it will be good.

P D James’ crime favourites

Dave Lull has sent me a link to an article by P. D. James (creator of Adam Dalgliesh) listing her five favourite crime books. (Actually the article says "best" but I am using a less confrontative adjective.)

P. D. James’ choice:

1. Tragedy at Law by Cyril Hare (1943)

2. The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey (1949)

3. The Moving Toyshop by Edmund Crispin (1946)

4. Murder must Advertise by Dorothy L. Sayers (1933)

5. Dissolution by C. J. Sansom (2003).

Of these books, I have read and enjoyed 2, 3 and 4. I don’t think I would call them my favourite crime novels, or the best-ever written, for that matter  — I think they would seem pretty slow and dated if I read them again now (if I recall correctly, the Sayers is nastily anti-semitic). They may have seemed ground-breaking at the time, but I think the field has moved on. (A bit like reading The Moonstone now: it was innovative at time it was written, but seems a bit obvious to the modern reader.)

An odd thing about James’ list is that four of her selections are vintage 30s and 40s, yet one is very recent. I haven’t read or, I think, heard of Sansom’s book, but according to James it is set in the sixteenth century, involving the church and "sinister acts of sacrilege". James’ interest in religion no doubt accounts for its inclusion, but I wonder how much crime fiction published between 1949 and the present she has read, for comparison?

I’m going away to think about my five favourites. I’d love to know yours.

Thanks again, Dave, for the link.

Link: OpinionJournal – Five Best.

The what of fiction?

I’ve discovered another blog, The Tart of Fiction, subtitle "the sour thoughts of a literary bitch. And some sweet ones too." The author calls herself "Fiction Bitch" and lives in Manchester, UK.

Here’s an extract from one of her postings:

"This is the marketing philosophy behind the fiction-publishing industry now: identify an acknowledged need and answer it, give the public what they recognise and think they want, tap into established habit.

No one seems to have noticed that NOVELS ARE NOT SPAGHETTI SPOONS! Novels are ideas, language, emotions, stories you don’t know you want before you read them and they enter your life for ever; literature is about surprise and enlightenment as well as recognition, and sometimes about CHANGING PEOPLE’S MINDS!"

(link via the Grumpy Old Bookman’s weekend round-up)

A roof over our heads

Ever since Kevin Kelly’s article "Scan that Book" was published, bloggers and regular media have been chewing over the topic with varying degrees of aggressiveness and knowledge. (They’d been doing so extensively before the article was published too, of course.)

The Publishing Contrarian featured an insightful post on the KK affair. I highlighted her key conclusion in a recent post, but see today that a lot of heat and debate has been going on in her comments, well worth reading. I’ve just added my twopennorth, which I reproduce here (slightly edited for context), because I love this subject!

>>>This topic (book scanning and the future of publishing) gets lots of people ("stakeholders") het up for different reasons. Scanning books and putting content online does not necessarily mean people will be able to read it all for free — most publishers put their full content online, but access is controlled in a fine-tuned way — some content is free, some isn’t. This is the case for many archives, as we’ve all found when trying to click through from online searche returns. (I am not making any predictions about access via Google book search, merely pointing out what is possible — and of course, Google has said plainly that it will respect copyright, whatever that might mean.)

What may well happen to book publishing is what has happened/is happening to the scientific journal part of the publishing industry, and what Amazon is developing fast via its search partnering and its own book scanning, never mind what Google is up to. That is, reader-ranking and "citation tracking". Google Scholar will show you the kind of thing — the archived scholarly content is user-ranked, and you see that in your search return. What comes up to the top of your search is the article on the topic that has been most cited by other people. (And if that article is behind a publisher’s firewall, it stays there when you click on the Google Scholar link.)

On the "scan this book" model, best-sellers could become best-sellers because people like reading them…get a book returned in your online search that has a high ranking/citation (high number of approval ratings), decide you want to try it, and order it (POD from the author or small publisher, or conventionally from the traditional publisher).

So could the whole thing mean more power to the author and the small independent publisher, and less power to the conglomorates and marketeers? Will the conventional publishers go out of business? I don’t know, of course, Lynne, GOB and many others have posted on this topic from a much more knowledgeable position than me. Authors will continue to develop innovative forms of personalised marketing such as we see from some of our fellow-bloggers. Booksellers, as Glenn Reynolds (Army of Davids), Lynne, Frank Wilson and others have said, need to speed up their self-reinvention as wi-fi-ed coffee houses in which people like to spend their time running their one-person businesses, writing their books or whatever. I would love to see bookshops getting together with the beleaguered libraries to provide a combined book buying/lending service as part of a multi-environment for relaxation, education, reference, writing, web surfing — all under one roof of books, self-employed workers and knowledge-seekers. <<<

A bleak day

Eleanor, my stepdaughter, is inbetween flats (leaving her sandwich year in London, and about to start her final year business studies degree in Nottingham). So she is coming to live with us for the month of June. So far, great.

But we have a small house and our TV is firmly banished to the spare room upstairs. It is a tiny room. Therefore, as of 5 mins ago, the TV has been relocated into our living area (a sort of long merge of a kitchen, dining room, sitting room and garden running through most of the back of the house). And you may have heard of a certain event starting next week…….

As I type, the England v Jamaica practice (?) (warm up?) (friendly?) has just begun.

I think I deserve a gender-appropriate joke. Here’s one.  Reading matters: A joke for the girls.