1. I used to review a lot of poetry chapbooks on LitKicks. I really loved doing that, but then more and more chapbooks started coming in the mail and I couldn’t figure out what to do with them. One day I looked at a stack of chapbooks by my front door and realized I’d just been stacking them there for the last few months. I hadn’t opened a single one. It was time to end the LitKicks poetry chapbook exchange, which didn’t feel good, but I couldn’t keep up.
Now I’ve got the same problem with novels — specifically, novels by newer or lesser known authors. It feels horrible to exchange emails with a nice friendly author, get a crisp good-looking book with a nice handwritten note in the mail, and never write about it. But this keeps happening, because I am a slow reader and I’ve barely been able to begin most of these books. I really do feel horrible about this. I know the writers deserve better.
Then again, just because I run a literary blog, who says I want to run a filtering service for new and unknown novelists? This is not a role I ever wanted to play, and it’s not the kind of reading I most enjoy. At least 2/3 of the books I read are older texts (lately, hmm, Edmund Wilson’s To The Finland Station, the Gunter Grass Reader) or history or politics titles (recently, Jacob Weisberg’s The Bush Tragedy, David Adelman’s A Shattered Peace: Versailles 1919 and the Price We Pay Today). I also sometimes read cheesy rock biographies (Suze Rotolo’s A Freewheeling Time, etc.), and I try to read international titles as much as I can, so there’s just not that much time left for new upcoming novelists or desparate last-gasp novelists, as good as their books probably are.
And yeah, sure, I’m interested in knowing who the next big sensation is going to be. But I really don’t need to be the first to know. Hell, I haven’t even found the time to read Roberto Bolano yet.
I am going to run some very few long-overdue book reviews in the next couple of weeks. But once again I have to warn any novelists who communicate with me that I’m always happy to hear from you and I’m always happy to check out your books, but please don’t send it unless it’s okay that the odds are against me writing about the book.
But please do keep those global history/politics titles and cheesy rock biographies coming! I need some good beach reading.
2. Oxford University Press’s Evan Schnittman has written a refreshing analytical piece that projects the likely (secret) sales figures for the two major E-Book devices, Amazon’s Kindle and the Sony Reader:
The chatter, as reported in the NY Times, has publishers and others speculating that Amazon has sold somewhere between 10,000 – 50,000 Kindles.
I think all the speculations are completely wrong. By my calculations, combined sales of the Amazon Kindle and the Sony Reader will be 1,000,000 units in 2008. This estimate is based on solid data.
Schnittman’s math is fine — but a projection is just a projection, and since these conclusions are largely based on parts (screens) ordered for manufacture, his research is probably over-optimistic. But he’s right that E-books are a growing business.
Of course E-books will eventually succeed. Anybody who thinks they won’t is out of touch with the 21st Century. But pricing is key, and the Kindle is too expensive. By slicing across the price differential, Schnittman’s research misses the main lesson the industry needs to hear — make it affordable, stupid. Still, the article is a worthwhile read.
3. It’s strange that Ben Child says in the Guardian that Deepak Chopra is the inspiration for the Mike Myers character in the new film The Love Guru, since the character looks a whole lot like real-life love guru Mahirishi Mahesh Yogi, who recently died. I’ll go see this film … Mike Myers hasn’t steered me wrong yet.
4. Speaking of karma, Ed Champion is dishing some heavy stuff out here.