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Comment from the book world in February 2011

February 2011

'A new gatekeeper'

28 February 2011

'The balance of power has permanently, irreversibly shifted from the media companies to the tech firms. But unless a media company is able to build a better tablet or a better phone or convince customers to return to paper magazines and newspapers, nothing changes the fact that the publishing industry has lost control of its most valuable asset: distribution.

It was always the printing presses and the delivery trucks, not the words themselves, that were the seat of the publishing industry's power. The audience has moved elsewhere, and this emigration has birthed a new gatekeeper.'

Pete Cashmore founder and CEO of Mashable, in his weekly column about social networking and tech for

Let's imagine some bolder moves from the publishing industry. Perhaps multiple publishers could band together in opposition, starving the App Store of content until better terms can be negotiated. Or maybe they could seek to challenge Apple on antitrust grounds. Either might prove effective in leading to slightly better terms for publishers.


Writing a biographical novel

21 February 2011

'With a biographical novel you've got the basic structure of the life, you've got a mass of facts. The problem is to find a novel-shaped story to tell, there's no point telling the biographical story, it's been done... what the novel can do is to give a seamless sense of the experience of the writer and how his personal life was interwoven with his public life, how they impinged on each other and to imagine how he would react to success, failure, disappointment, frustration in a more inward way, than a biographer can do.

The truthfulness of the novel is not a truthfulness to fact in the way that a biography is, it's a truthfulness to your own intuition of what this man amounted to, what motivated him, how did he reconcile or not reconcile the conflicting impulses in his character.'

David Lodge, author of A Man of Parts on H G Wells, in the Bookseller

'Seeing the film as a film'

14 February 2011

'When I see films made from books, I make a huge effort not to remember the book. It's important to see the film as a film. Of course, it's easier with an old book. If it's Wuthering Heights or something, it's like going to the theatre and seeing another version; it might as well be Chekhov. This book (Never Let Me Go) came out in 2006, so it's harder to do that. But it's a movie. Every discussion shouldn't be dominated by comparison with the novel...

There's something peculiar about writing fiction. It requires an interesting balance between seeing the world as a child and having the wisdom of a middle-aged person. The further you get from childhood and the experience of the teenage years, the greater the danger of losing that wellspring.'

Kazuo Ishiguro, the film of whose book Never Let Me Go has just been released, in the Evening Standard

'Author events will take over your life'

7 February 2011

'The fact of the matter is that author events will take over your life if you let them. Being invited to Edinburgh these days is like entering the royal enclosure at Ascot. If you haven't sat sipping whisky in that yurt, you haven't arrived - and it's not just other pen-pushers that you'll meet. Politicians, sportsmen, celebrities... they don't need to have written or even ghost-written a book. Talking about books seems to be a bigger business than reading them...

But I do have some concerns. What happens if you don't like performing? What do you do if you're born plug ugly or with a lisp? Is there a danger that the publishing world is aspiring just a little too much to the pages of Hello! magazine?

Worse than that. In the great welter of speeches, Q & A sessions, panel debates and so on, do any of us really have anything strikingly original to say? Is it possible that we are all, the whole lot of us, frauds? The terrible truth is that I do not know how I create characters. I'm not even sure how long it takes me to write a book. I have no answers to at least half of the questions that are thrown my way but, of course, I'm a writer. I make things up.'

Anthony Horowitz in the Bookseller