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Showing posts from November, 2013

A Traditional Publisher's Unusual Experiment to Discover the Next Big Author: Does it Work?

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"You Crime" is the name of a traditional publisher's digital imprint that is a unique experiment to try and discover the Next Big Author. The publisher has attempted to unite digital forces with self-published authors in the brave new online world, something that, as far as I know, hasn't been attempted anywhere yet except here, in Italy. 

If nothing else, it shows how innovative the Italian publishing industry has become, e.g. "Masterpiece", the literary reality show on TV  that I recently blogged about. 

"You Crime" was launched this summer by Rizzoli (RCS Media Group), the largest Italian publisher, with the publication by its digital division RCS Libri, of four e-books of crime fiction short stories.

What is so remarkable about this? 

The publishing formula! The concept is simple:

1. publish a collection of short stories but not too many, just four (don't overwhelm your readers!);

2. the lead story is from an established author with a solid fan …

Are We Headed For Secular Stagnation?

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What we are living through now in our so-called wealthy, developed world - intractable unemployment, weak consumer demand, banks unwilling to lend, low economic growth and even periods of contraction - could go on for decades, perhaps indefinitely. That dire situation is what economists call secular stagnation, a terrifying, dismal notion that only radical economists have held so far. But the concept of secular stagnation, or permanent slump, has suddenly gone mainstream when Larry Summers elaborated on it in his presentation to the IMF Conference on November 8, suggesting we were on our way to become like Japan (see here, there's a video of his talk). He noted that even the bubble that preceded the 2008 crash wasn't enough to produce any real excess in aggregate demand. We have fallen into a persistent "liquidity trap".

As Krugman so ably pointed out in a series of fascinating posts on his NYT blog (read this one here, particularly illuminating), the "normal rul…

Has the Fall of Facebook Started? What it Means for the Future of Social Media

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A recent study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project revealed that among younger users of Facebook, those aged 18 to 29,  a crucial demographic for the future, 38%, that is well over a third of users said they would spend less time using the site this year. And a majority of users was found to have taken at one point or another, long breaks from Facebook, adding up to several weeks off the site.

Are we suffering from Facebook fatigue? Has the fall of Facebook started?

Some bloggers who loved Facebook when it first became big around 2004 (already ten years ago!) are expressing disappointment. They say it has "lost its edge" when everyone and his uncle came on board, and games on the site have become boring. Game and app developers, like Angrybirds, are going to Google+, eschewing the Facebook platform.  A growing number claim they no longer need Facebook, that Google+ looks better and that they get more interesting news from Twitter.The New York Times also took note, …

Masterpiece: Can a Reality TV Show Help Writers and Boost Reading?

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Masterpiece, an Italian TV Reality show on Rai 3, a ground-breaking experiment to discover the Next Big Writer and boost reading in Italy, was on last night (I announced it on my blog last week, here). I watched it, fascinated, through the hour and a half it lasted (including publicity clips, among them one from Amazon for its Whitepaper Kindle - remarkably, nothing from Kobo although it is present in Italy in all major libraries). 

I  kept wondering how they would manage to inject TV glamor in an industry that is quintessentially conservative, intellectual and remote. That remoteness is also congenial to writers who are solitary souls that tend to communicate only through the written word.

Can writers be taught to communicate visually? 

Rai 3 really tried. First, the jury was not just constituted by heavy-weights on the Italian literary scene, it also included beautiful Taiye Selasi, an American of Nigerian and Ghanaian origin, who is also a rising international literary celebrity and c…

Masterpiece: An Italian TV Reality Show for Aspiring Writers

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This Sunday, 17 November 2013, could mark a watershed for writers living in Italy. This is a country where more and more books are published and fewer and fewer people read. A book that sells 10,000 copies is considered a best seller. 

Somebody who's not afraid to pull writers out of their ivory towers, has decided to throw them together in a reality TV show on State Television, Rai 3. Massimo Coppola is the show's host, three best-selling novelists form the jury, here they are:


And here's a video with the contestants breathlessly lining up, hoping to be selected. Fully 5,000 of them turned up but only 70 were selected to compete against each other down to the last drop of... ink!


The winner will get his book published by Bompiani, a major Italian publishing house. A first print run of 100,000 copies is optimistically planned, no doubt counting on the visibility provided by Reality TV. 

Who knows, it could very well prove to be a good bet. If it succeeds in reviving interest …

Is Boomer Lit a New Genre or a Category? And Should it Matter?

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I just came across the blog of an author who vehemently argues that Boomer Lit is not a genre, that it is a category (see here). She claimed that since genres are theme-centered (e.g. romance, science fiction, thrillers etc.) the term could not apply to Boomer Lit that is age-centered on all those born between 1946 and 1964.

My first reaction was so what?

My second reaction was, I don't agree that Boomer Lit is exclusively focused on Baby Boomers. It's a way of thinking. It transcends this question of date of birth, which is about demographics and not literature. You can be older or younger and still be interested in Boomer Lit. Why, on Goodreads, I came across a 15 year-old fan of Deborah Moggach's "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel"!

My third reaction was, yes, there's something in this. Perhaps the term "category" would help readers. Genres were devised by the publishing industry to guide readers but there are so many genres and sub-genres that they s…

The Global Fund for Forgotten People: A New Player in Humanitarian Aid

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Launched six months ago by the Order of Malta, the Global Fund for Forgotten People has just begun gathering funds and so far, with a modest $245,000, it has already helped 17 projects around the world: an amazing feat! 

Most charities gather funds and then waste time to spend it, trying to figure out exactly what to do with the funds. Okay, I hear you sniggering, a lot of them put money in their pockets, and yes, I've blogged about this before (see here). But the Order of Malta has been involved in emergency and humanitarian aid over the past 900 years, longer than anyone else in the charity business. And they have associations and groups working for them everywhere on the ground, over 100,000 persons are involved world-wide. For them, finding aid projects to assist is a no-brainer, the structures for project delivery are already in place.  

So what exactly has this new Global Fund done in the 6 months since it became operational? Click here to read their latest newsletter. The pr…

Why the Web is Dangerous: Third Parties Are Watching You

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Gary Kovacs' talk on TED almost two years ago was prophetic: "privacy is not an option", he said, and "the memory of the Internet is forever". That was in February 2012, and now that we are living through the scandal of universal NSA surveillance revealed by Moscow-bound Edward Snowden, this is more than ever the case.

In case you missed it, here is Kovacs' talk:



Over 2.4 million viewers! For a TED talk, that's really popular.

He was then the CEO of Firefox, today he is heading AVG, a web security company with 150 million subscribers.

Now what he refers to as "collusion" in the talk has become a Firefox add-on called Lightbeam. All you need to do is log into your Firefox browser and download the add-on. Don't worry, it's not going to blow up your computer. Besides, it's safe and transparent - the whole Lightbeam project is financed by the Ford Foundation and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC).

What does Ligh…

A Painter (My Mother) Celebrates Her 100th Birthday

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Are artists particularly prone to longevity?  The list of centenarian artists on Wikipedia is long but there's no way you can prove a causal effect beyond the intuition that if you spend your time doing something you love, your life might last longer. For one Grandma Moses who lived to be 101, you always have a Caravaggio who died in his late thirties.

This is by way of introduction: on 20 October, my mother, a professional painter who studied with Delvaux and met with success in the 1960s as a portraitist in New York, celebrated her (first) century on earth. Her art name is "S. Ruyters" where the mysterious S stands for Simone, a name she hates. Her parents had a memorable dispute about what name to give her and her father unilaterally opted for Simone, actually a fashionable name for baby girls at the time - perhaps because of the beautiful Madame Simone, a theater celebrity in pre-World War I Paris who also happened to live to the ripe old age of 108 years (she died in…