Insta-Books: Will They Take Off Or Be A Futuristic Flop?

new york public library

I’ve already expostulated on the merits of physical books over eBooks and Kindle editions, but a recent announcement has bought a new contender into the fray.

The New York Public Library has recently announced that it is creating Instagram novels to attract young people and get them into books. Partnering with creative agency Mother in New York, the library is creating a unique solution that might just help the young to get into books.

Its first offering is an adaptation of Lewis Caroll’s Alice in Wonderland, and the Instagram version, unlike normal stories on the site, will be available for the foreseeable future, as opposed to 24 hours, as stories usually are.

Other social media sites already have literary themed accounts or ideas, including Twitter, where there are numerous accounts dedicated to one-line stories, quotations from famous authors or short reviews. Facebook also has numerous literature themed accounts and there are literally hundreds if not thousands of literary memes on the Internet, but this is the first time that books have been serialised in such a specific way. Obviously aimed at getting a younger generation, who are hooked on social media, into literature, this is an innovative means of going about it.

So, in the form of a gateway post between social media and real literature, it is my hope that these new Insta-books will pave the way for young people to find new favourites and learn about authors they had previously never even thought about. Rather than phasing out actual reading, as some people believe this might cause, I hope that it will simply be another way of getting readers to find out about the classics by reaching out to them on a platform they’re already familiar with, and leading them straight into the open arms of their local library.

While I don’t believe that Instagram books will ever replace the thrill and enjoyment of actual reading, and physical books in particular, it’s certainly a great idea to get young people, particularly the generation that has been bought up hooked on social media, hooked on books, and if the New York Public Library’s idea works then more power to them. In the same way that once-upon-a-time the way to get kids into books was to host readings or use special editions to entice them, now social media is the way forward, and I’m all for progress if it gets more people into literature.

 

 

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Soneva Bookshop Role: A Great Opportunity for A Bibliophile

soneva fushi bookseller role

As part of my role at a publishing house whose publications include a luxury lifestyle magazine, a couple of years ago I had the privilege of staying at Soneva resorts in the Maldives as part of a press trip with a group of journalists.

Our stay was primarily at Soneva Fushi, where recently a job opportunity has been placed for a bookseller to share their love of books and experiences on this stunning island paradise. I have to say, whoever the successful applicant is, this will be an ideal role if you have the experience and the social media savvy to take full advantage of the opportunities it has to offer.

After all, this is the ultimate in Instagrammable resorts. Alongside its sister resort just across the sea, Soneva Jani, which I have never seen fully open, as it was being built at the time I visited, Soneva Fushi is a picture perfect destination ideal for sharing on a blog or social media. With the added bonus that the glorious palm trees and luscious long white beaches make it a great platform for taking exceptional photos of yourself indulging in a little light reading.

The resorts are rather isolated, being in the middle of the sea, and with little civilisation beyond Malé, the region’s capital, which is reachable by seaplane or boat. As such, it would be tough to get new reading material in a hurry, but then I suppose that would be the beauty of working for a bookseller- free books! If needs be, you could always get yourself a Kindle and load it up with your favorites and some new picks to check out on the beach.

The resorts also offer the very best in luxury hospitality, with five star accommodation throughout. After all, the Maldives is renowned for its decedent atmosphere, and many A-list celebrities have been known to frequent Soneva’s resorts, which feature over-water villas with slides directly into the sea, expansive pools and tree-top dining. There are all manner of watersports available, from a diving school to Soneva’s own yacht, which can be hired out for when you fancy showing off.

With all this and more on offer, it is understandable that anyone who has ever even opened a book will be clamoring for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and frankly I don’t blame them. It will be fascinating to hear how the successful application does and I personally will be subscribing to their blog at the earliest possible opportunity to find out more about their adventures and how they enjoy their time reading and reclining in the lap of luxury.

 

Bookshop Attack Hits At The Heart of Society

bookmarks attack

The attack on the weekend on Bookmarks, the socialist bookshop in Central London, proves that the far right has gained a firm hold in society. After all, bookshops are the traditional heart of the community; unlike libraries, as private stores they have the right to choose a stance and sell the books that fit the ideologies of their owners.

After activists attacked the shop and, thankfully, only scared the staff (there were no reported injuries to staff), I personally felt that the attack should galvanise those who believe in human rights and encourage those writers who want to make a positive difference, rather than putting them off.

Wearing Donald Trump memorabilia and draped in a Union Jack, the activists focused on books on Islam and anti-racist magazines, this was very clearly an attack not just one specific bookshop, but on a whole ideology- one that actively promotes inclusion. Earlier this year Gay’s the Word had its windows put in in another display of fascism.

Whilst it would be easy to be disheartened by such an attack, this physical display of violence highlights how relevant books and bookshops remain in the spreading of ideologies and ideas, and as such rather than feeling upset by the incident and put off writing for fear of reprisals, novelists and social commentators alike should focus on creating even more work. Not only will this prove that the attackers have not won, it will also create a legacy for many years to come of writing that is born out of fear, and still manages to showcase the very best of the human race.

Ultimately, whilst it is true that Trump and his cohort, alongside the UK’s Tory government, have certainly helped to stir the pot, at its heart this attack proves that, now more than ever, books and literature are a key media despite the move online for many publications. Even in 2018, books remain a key weapon for the people, and as such writers should use this to their advantage, and write their truths, no matter what the threat.

Scandi-Fiction: Why Sweden in the Snow Will Keep Your Mind Off The Heat Wave

scandi-crime in the heat

It’s far too hot!! I’ve said it. It’s too bloody hot. After another sleepless night where I can’t get any shut-eye because of the temperature, I dug out my old copy of Miss Smila’s Feeling For Snow, and quickly immersed myself in the desolate, cold landscape of Peter Høeg’s Scandinavian setting, which travels from Denmark through to the chilly environs of Greenland.

Pretty quickly I’d finished this and moved onto a re-reading of an old favourite by Henning Mankell, which again satisfied my craving for something set in a cold landscape. Idling away my sleepless nights indulging in vicarious snowbound adventures has become my go-to now, as I continue to struggle against insomnia thanks to the oppressive heat which, frankly, doesn’t belong in the UK, no matter what time of year it is.

Whilst I appreciate that beachgoers and the like probably spend their days lazing about reading trashy rom-coms or those high-octane thrillers that are basically today’s pulp-fiction, there is something to be said for reading a really good thriller with the added bonus of being set somewhere cold when you’re not actually on holiday, but stuck at home in between shifts, and trying desperately to get some much-needed kip.

There’s lots of great Scandinavian crime fiction out there, and with famed writers such as Jo Nesbø putting out new books on a regular basis, so there should be enough to keep me busy over the coming months while the temperature remains sweltering and the weather humid.

Look, I understand that it’s not the solution to this unprecedented heat wave, but at the end of the day Scandinavian crime fiction is brilliantly well-written and completely gripping, so even if it doesn’t work for cooling you down, at least it’s something to do to while away the days until we finally get the cold back.

Can A Rapper Really Influence Great Literature?

stormzy

Somebody once told me ‘You’ve got to write about what you know’, and that really stuck with me. You can’t write about things you don’t understand, and as such I constantly work to educate myself and learn more so that I can write about exciting new things.

So, as Stormzy, the famed London rapper, announces that he is launching an offshoot of Penguin Random House, under the name #Merky, to support aspiring writers, what does this mean for the industry?

After all, what does Stormzy know about writing, and will he be able to spot the good from the guff? Sure, I know that he won’t be doing most of the work- which is about as likely as the Kardashians making their own perfumes or slaving away in the factory that makes their lipkits- but it still begs the question, what does a writer of rap music know about literature, and how will he be able to influence the up-and-coming generation of young writers?

It’s my theory that what Stormzy needs to do now is make sure he’s taking on the right writers. People who are truly passionate about their craft- young writers who have grafted, have their names out there and are working hard to succeed. Those who think writing is an easy way to make a name for themselves, and send in a load of poetic cobblers or some true-life drama will only stop writing as soon as their name is out there and try to live off the fame it has bought them. The industry doesn’t need more of those; what it needs is real triers who are working hard to get a foothold in this competitive market.

Offering paid scholarships to kids in schools is a great idea, but I disagree with the rapper’s assertion that it is hard for writers to ‘get their name out there’. With the internet, blogs, free websites and social media, getting your name out there is the easy part- it’s getting people to pay you for your work that’s tough. As a copywriter I know that pretty much every journalist, writer and novelist out there had to go through months, if not years worth of unpaid posts, internships and writing ‘for exposure’ before they managed to get a paid role. What the industry needs is fundamental change; a shift in thinking so that writing is not viewed as something everyone can do, but as a real skill, and something worth paying for.

Overall, I guess really only time will tell whether Stormzy’s foray into publishing is just another publicity stunt or a real chance for some great new voices to be heard.

Why Omnibuses Are A Godsend On Long Haul Flights

reading on planes

As I’m sure you’re aware by now, I recently had the fortune to travel to Australia and sample the delights and explore the natural wonders of Queensland. Being from the UK, the flight is horrendous, with a long layover in Singapore as well as the flights themselves, both of which combine to steal away nearly a full day of your life.

When packing, I had to think long and hard about which book to take with me for so that I didn’t get board en route. I was only taking carry on luggage in the form of a massive backpack, and as such I had limited space for literature, giving myself added pressure to choose correctly.

In the end I opted for a tried and tested option- an omnibus of Colin Dexter’s incredible Inspector Morse novels. They seemed like a sure bet- I love all of his work and I hadn’t read them in a while so I would be suitably enthralled throughout the whole massive flight.

During the flight I noticed that some of my fellow travellers had also plumped for omnibuses to ensure that they had enough reading material. One of the girls I was travelling with had chosen a Bridget Jones The Single Years and there was a bloke at the back of the plane who was reading a Jeeves and Wooster omnibus.

This got me thinking- why are omnibuses such a good choice for long haul travel? I suppose the main issue is consistency- you know what you’re getting with work from the same author/ series, so you can safely say, even if you haven’t read every book in the omnibus, that you will be reasonably happy with your choice and won’t hate your reading material for the entire flight.

Then of course there is the not-so-small matter of space. Because each book does not need a front and back cover, and the legal bumf is usually confined to the front of the whole omnibus, they are significantly smaller than lugging however many individual books around with you. This is a great thing when trying to cram everything you’re going to need into a limited amount of luggage, and means that you don’t have to heave vast reams of paper about with you.

Anyone who is about to mention buying a Kindle for long haul travel can kindly fuck off. Whilst tablet computers and e-readers have their virtues, there is something to be said for reading an actual book over staring blindly at a screen, particularly when one is on holiday and wants to switch off. Also, on places there are often restrictions to the use of electrical devices, as well as the limitations that the battery will place on you, as there are often not charging points for ages, and those things drink power.

So, as far as I’m concerned, omnibuses are the way to go. They’re often a cheap alternative to buying all the books in one go anyway, and with so many older omnibuses available second hand they are, in my humble opinion, vital for anyone planning a long distance trip this summer.

 

 

Non-Fiction Bank Holiday Reads To Get You Feeling Informed

non-fiction

A couple of weeks ago I had a rare whole week to myself. I treated myself to a week away from work, told everyone to fuck off and took myself and a good book to a posh marina for an ice cream and a quiet read.

The book in question was Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff. A friend of mine had lent me the book but I hadn’t made time for it; what with the reviews I do I always have a huge stack of books just waiting to be read.

Making time to read some non-fiction was awesome, and I really enjoyed it. The book is incredibly descriptive and provides unique insight into a jumbled and disruptive White House. What impressed me the most was the fact that, despite my adoring the escapism that fiction offers, I truly enjoyed my foray into non-fiction.

Which got me thinking: for the Bank Holiday, when everyone has plenty of time on their hands, maybe now is the time to be checking out the latest non-fiction awesomeness. There’s so much going on in the realm of non-fiction, with the current political landscape bringing forth a wide variety of commentaries and historical books looking to showcasing the similarities. There’s a book called The Beautiful Poetry of Donald Trump, which aims to find poetic meaning in the President’s ramblings, a book that aims to educate those who want to find out more about British policies called How Britain Really Works: Understanding the Ideas and Institutions of a Nation, and, for those seeking real insight on American politics, Hillary Clinton’s biography, which will offer you more education and knowledge than anything even remotely Trump-related.

For those who aren’t so politically minded, there are a lot of biographies and autobiographies out there right now too, although Michelle Obama’s Becoming, which promises to be fascinating, won’t be published until November. This is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor by Adam Kay looks set to be a great, funny exploration of the trials of a Junior Doctor which would make for intriguing reading. Also, major celebrities such as Russell Brand, Bruce Dickinson and Robert Webb have autobiographies out so that you can find out more about your favourite celebrity no matter what you’re preference.

So as you stretch out on the last day of your Bank Holiday relaxation, why not check out some non-fiction and educate yourself before you return to the drudgery and mundanity of normal life.