New Kindle + Book Depository Live

The new generation of Kindles is out, and I must say I really like the changes they made. It looks much nicer in black, the screen seems to have better contrast, and it’s smaller while retaining the same screen size. I’m still weary of buying e-books – the whole “1984” fiasco and the inability to lend or borrow books to / from friends (my primary way of finding new authors) makes me a bit doubtful. I still prefer paper books in general (and I doubt that will change soon, since, for example, I give a lot of importance to the design), but I see the advantages of owning an e-book reader, for traveling or for books I don’t particularly want to waste storage space on. We’ll see how it goes in the future.

Elsewhere, the Book Depository launched this nifty new feature where you can see which books are being purchased, and where (found here). Very interesting!

On Blurbs and Flap Copies

As I was reading this article about book blurbs, I was reminded of a book I saw recently in a store. Lately I’ve been trying to pay more attention to books written by Portuguese authors, but I’m invariably put off by the subject matters, covers, blurbs or flap copies (this being the text on the back part of the book cover). It’s a pity, and I realize this might sound a bit superficial, but… If people in the publishing business don’t care about the book enough to make a decent job of presenting it, then why should I care enough about it to buy it?

The particular book (which I’m not going to single out here) that prompted this discussion was one of a supposedly highly recommended author, whose flap copy sounded like it was written by someone who never looked at a book in his / her life. It was the most boring, utterly pointless piece of writing I had ever read. It managed to take what might have been an interesting story to a list of unrecognizable names and events, and even gave out the ending. Why, oh why would you do this to any book? How about looking at other similar, successful books out there and realize what made their descriptions attractive to those who bought them? You’d think people who have been in the business long enough (this was the author’s 4th book with the same publishing house) would put a little more effort into it. Unfortunately, all it did was make sure that I wouldn’t take a chance on the book (and the cover didn’t help, either).

Blurbs can be almost as bad. One or two can be beneficial, but when the cover is filled to the brim with praise from a myriad of sources I don’t particularly care about, it starts to get a bit annoying. That, and when the author / book gets compared to better-known authors / books that have anything to do with one another (for example, I don’t know, saying you’re a mix of Tolkien, Orwell and Salman Rushdie, or something like that) just screams bullshit marketing. Most readers I know aren’t stupid. Then again, I don’t know that many readers, so my sample might be skewed.

Bad covers are also an issue that baffles me, but I will leave that for another time, another post.

José Saramago dies at 87

José Saramago, probably the best known Portuguese writer on an international level, died today at 87 years of age. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1998 (the only Portuguese author to receive one). He was also pretty well-known for writing “Ensaio Sobre a Cegueira“, the book that later inspired the movie “Blindness“.

He was a controversial author and person, both loved and hated (at least here in Portugal), but I think that’s part of what made him so important – there are enough people in the world who don’t speak their minds and follow others blindly. There’s no denying he was an important figure in literature, specially Portuguese literature, so our world is a little poorer today… According to news sources, he died peacefully accompanied by his family.

Here’s the obituary in New York Times and the one in the RTP site (Portuguese).

Angels: The New Trend in Books?

I have heard from a lot of people here in Portugal that 2010 would be the “Zombie Year”, and that zombie stories were going to replace vampire stories as the new hot thing in young adult categories. I remained skeptical. There is just no way you can twist the notion of a zombie into something even remotely attractive, which, if you haven’t noticed, is what makes vampires so popular. It’s not the blood-sucking – it’s the fact that they’re handsome while still being more outlandish than any “boring” human could ever be. So I was pretty sure that people would find something else to explore to exhaustion in literature, but zombies wasn’t it.

Then I came across this article (via LitDrift).

Angels replace vampires as the hot new thing. That I can believe. Oh boy. I look forward to all the twisting and turning of the idea of angels. I bet we’ll be seeing plenty of fallen angels, evil angels, and demons who care about your feelings and don’t want to hurt you. And, of course, all of them will be dangerously attractive.

After the vampire craze I have no expectations, but… Here’s to hoping that some highly original and interesting works come out of it.

Everyone Gets Rejected at Some Point

While I’m busy trying to finish Irrationality (some outdated ideas there – the book came out in 1992, and it shows) and diving into my Amazon wishlist to select the books for my next spree (with an emphasis on art books this time), I thought I’d share a link that I came across at LitDrift, entitled 30 Famous Authors whose works were rejected (repeatedly, and sometimes rudely) by publishers. My personal favourite:

8. George Orwell
One publisher rejected Mr. Orwell’s submission, Animal Farm, with these words:
“It is impossible to sell animal stories in the USA.”

Priceless.

Sometimes it might look like things come easy for everyone except ourselves. It’s great to be reminded that everyone has to overcome barriers in life.