But What About the Books, asks On the Media

This week's edition of the WNYC radio program On the Media is devoted to the humble book. Among other things, they discuss War and Peace, ebooks, Google Book Search, and the awesome power of Oprah. There are even a few great 12-word novels submitted by their listeners.

Non-Publisher Picked to Run Random House

WWBCD? (What would Bennett Cerf do?)

NYT report: Bertelsmann, the giant German media conglomerate, appointed Markus Dohle, the head of its printing unit, to run the company’s Random House division. Peter W. Olson, the current chief executive of Random House and one of the country’s most powerful figures in publishing, is stepping down from the post.

Peter W. Olson is stepping down as chief executive of Random House.
Mr. Olson will step down May 31 and is in negotiations for a “senior faculty position” at a university “nearby” to Harvard Square, according to a memo sent to employees Tuesday morning.

The appointment of Mr. Dohle, 39, an outsider to the publishing industry, is likely to rattle insiders at Random House and comes at a time when both Random House and the wider publishing industry are suffering from a slowdown.


Large Print Up Close

Technology's tight embrace gives us ample opportunity to read the fine print. In fact, we often have no choice, squinting into laptops in badly lit offices, in living rooms, on trains and even in cars; staring down at a BlackBerry or a Palm device as we wait for the first course; or trying to read the news crawl across the bottom of the TV screen. We do an awful lot of work with our reading, not to mention reading at our work. When it's time to read for pleasure, chances are that people, with eyesight already strained, might be on the lookout for a bigger picture.

Taxonomy upgrade extras: 

Publishers consider dropping old standby: the paper catalog

A publishing institution, faithfully mailed at least twice a year to thousands of stores and libraries for about as long as the industry has existed, may be on its way out: The paper catalog.

HarperCollins announced Monday that it was planning to make their listings of upcoming releases available only online, calling the current system both economically and environmentally indefensible.

"I think we are overdue. We produce thousands and thousands of catalogs, many of which go right into the wastebaskets," HarperCollins President Jane Friedman, who said the switch would likely begin by summer 2009, told The Associated Press. "It's such a waste of paper and so inefficient."

Lexicographical Longing

A commentary in the New York Times about the OED no longer being distributed in paper.

Random House CEO Stepping Down

Peter W. Olson, the chief executive of Random House and one of the most powerful figures in American book publishing, will step down in the next few weeks, according to two executives at Bertelsmann, the German media conglomerate that owns the division. NYT has the story.

Mr. Olson, who has run Random House, the world’s largest consumer publisher, since 1998, has come under mounting pressure in recent months as Bertelsmann’s financial results have been damaged by lower profits at Random House and steep losses in its American book clubs, which he also oversees.


Doctorow's Little Brother

Cory Doctorow (or his publisher) has made parts of his new novel Little brother available as audio -- DRM-free mind you. From BoingBoing:

Science 2.0 -- Is Open Access Science the Future?

An article in Scientific American states, "A small but growing number of researchers (and not just the younger ones) have begun to carry out their work via the wide-open tools of Web 2.0." Many scientists are posting raw results online, with tools such as blogs and wikis.

More on the Amazon/Booksurge Issue

As previously reported here on LISNews last month , Amazon is continuing to insist that all Print On Demand books to be sold on their site,, be printed by their own subsidiary, BookSurge.

Sound monopolistic? Is it. Here's a statement from aother POD company, Author Solutions; here's more on Amazon's decision in Publishers Weekly.

To get an idea of the number of POD publishers Amazon's decision will be cutting out, check out John Kremer's Bookmarket list of POD publishers. These people are trying to make a living too.

Turn Those Bytes Into Books

THE first time Jeannet Leendertse, a freelance book designer, saw the software on the Web site that could automatically produce a book, she was more than a little sad. “I thought I needed to have a stiff drink for the end of my career,” she said.

The software could help anyone turn some text and photos into a bound book in a few minutes.

Soon after, though, she saw an opportunity. “I realized there would always be people who appreciate time and effort going into design. I decided to put myself onto their Web site.”

Today, Ms. Leendertse still turns a pile of pictures and paragraphs into bound books, but instead of working just for a roster of major publishers like MIT Press, she helps individuals create books. She is participating in an offshoot of the scrapbooking phenomena, the hobby of collecting and preserving photos and mementos.

Full story in the New York Times.


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