Welcome to the June State of the Thing. This month we have some nifty new features, an author interview with Bharati Mukherjee, and an interview with Hodder & Stoughton publisher Kate Parkin about a new book format, flipbacks. There are 2,942 free Early Reviewer books and thousands of Member Giveaway books available in June.
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News and Features
Better sharing features. We've begun a multi-step project we're calling "better sharing," by rolling out a news feed for all LibraryThing members. This allows for much easier and better integration with Facebook and Twitter, and also serves as a handy log of what you've done on the site lately. See your feed, or see an example. For all the details and the next steps in this project, visit the Talk thread.
New recommendations: what should you borrow? At the suggestion of LTer sturlington, we've added a new recommendation category for the books you should borrow from another LT member. If you're signed in, you can see the feature on every other (public) member's profile page (or check out what Thomas Jefferson and John Adams should borrow from each other). Read more about this new feature in the blog post.
LibraryThing at ALA. Tim and Abby will be at the American Library Association's annual conference in New Orleans later this week, so do stop by Booth 827 and say hi! There's a LibraryThing meetup planned for Saturday morning, and we'll be announcing a whole bunch of LibraryAnywhere and LibraryThing for Libraries enhancements this week as well.
Free books: Early Reviewers
Read and review free books, before they even hit the shelves! We've given out 81,595 books so far through Early Reviewers.
The June batch of Early Reviewer books contains 2,942 copies of 103 different titles. The deadline to request a free book to read and review is June 30 at 6 p.m. EDT. The next batch will be up during the second week of July.
The list of books
The most requested books so far this month:
Interview with author Bharati Mukherjee
Bharati Mukherjee, a professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley, is the award-winning author of numerous works of fiction and non-fiction. Her latest novel, Miss New India, was recently published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Miss New India bears a resemblance to a long line of other works where a young person from a rural area goes into the big city in search of things new and different: how do you see this work fitting in with similarly themed works set in different times and places, and how is Anjali’s experience different?
The story of Anjali's belief in her inalienable right to personal happiness and her pursuit of that right, which propels her from her hometown to a far-off, thriving, expanding metropolis is my story as well as that of Anjali, of Thackeray's Becky Sharp and of Dreiser's Sister Carrie. We're currently witnessing contemporary American versions of that drama as hundreds of thousands of documented and undocumented migrants, yearning a better life, cross our porous borders.
That yearning is universal. But Anjali's specific response is shaped by her psychological make-up, her cultural upbringing, and the where and the when of her journey of self-discovery. In Miss New India I braided Anjali's coming-of-age story with the drama of India's immense self-transformation over the last fifty years.
Where: If Anjali had been raised in a cosmopolitan mega-city, such as Mumbai, she would not have had to migrate in search of jobs. If she had been born in a remote village, she would probably not have had the untested sense of self-worth necessary for breaking with age-old tradition; certainly she would not have had the English-language fluency required of "call-center" employees. At the start of the novel, Anjali is an urban teenager with urban ambitions, stuck—she fears—in Gauripur, a provincial town with a stagnant economy and limited opportunity (other than "arranged marriage") for a young woman with middling education born into a patriarchal family of modest means. Her impatience with the shabby future that Gauripur can offer her, propels her to seek better quality of life elsewhere.
When: Anjali's personal quest for self-fulfillment coincides with economic boom-time in today's India. The global corporate practice of "outsourcing" has transformed Bangalore, which was a "cantonment town" during the British Raj, into an ever-expanding, overcrowded IT-"hub city" with a population of 8.4 million. "Call-centers" attract young women and men, often from provincial towns with sluggish economy, to work the phones as "customer service agents." The pay is good, and most of the young employees are out of the censorious reach of their traditional families for the first time in their lives. They feel empowered by their financial independence, and are not at all afraid to improvise rules to live happily by. Globalized economy has brought seismic changes to Indian society. Anjali's quest would not have been feasible if she had been born a generation earlier.
Personality: Though Anjali and her older sister, Sonali, were brought up in the same strictly traditional family, they respond very differently to their desires for a better, happier life. Sonali stifles her dreams, and after a brief protest, submits to an "arranged marriage" to the bridegroom her father has selected. Though this marriage ends in heartbeak, divorce and single motherhood, she values tradition. Anjali gives her father a chance to find her a "suitable" bridegroom, but when her father fails again, she has the guts to take control of her own future, undeterred by the pain and disgrace she knows her middle-of-the-night flight from home will cause her parents.
A significant feature of my mapping the arc of Anjali's narrative is that I'm writing of a "new India" that is still evolving by the minute. I'm not writing about a fixed moment in history. The joint-story of India and Anjali isn't over. That's what excites me as a novelist.
The Indian call centers as described seem like fascinating places. Did you visit many in doing the research for this book, and how did you feel about what you saw there?
Yes, I made many trips to Bangalore. The trips started out as family visits to a favorite first cousin who has settled in Bangalore's Dollar Colony after retiring from a life-long career with a Europe-based international agency. We lived together in a joint-family household in Kolkata when we were children. Over the last seven years or so, I was astounded—mesmerized—by the rapid sprawl of Bangalore, the sprouting of futuristic corporate "campuses," the surge in the numbers of confident, sharply dressed workers in IT industries, the erection of luxury hi-rises, gated communities, shiny shopping malls, Five-Star hotels, clubs, and restaurants. My family visits turned into research "field trips" for Miss New India. I had many "resource persons" associated with different aspects of the IT-industry in Bangalore. They arranged visits to campuses and training centers for "accent-neutralization" and "accent-enhancement", to team-building wilderness-camps. I interviewed scores of "customer service agents," and hung out with them in popular bars and clubs. Their Bangalore radiates energy, swagger, money, and consumerist glee. Like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, I wasn’t in the India of my girlhood.
Read the rest of our interview with Bharati Mukherjee.
Flipbacks! An interview with Kate Parkin
I first read about flipback books in a Guardian article in late March, and immediately started learning more about them so I could share them with the LibraryThing community. Popular in the Netherlands (where they're known by the delightful name dwarsligger), these small-format hardback books will be launched in the UK at the end of the month by the publisher Hodder & Stoughton. The first batch features titles by Stephen King, Jasper Fforde, David Mitchell, and John le Carré. I talked to Kate Parkin, Hodder & Stoughton's flipback publisher, to find out more about this new book format.
Can you tell us a bit about how the format has gained popularity in the Netherlands and elsewhere, and how Hodder & Stoughton decided to launch flipbacks in the UK?
The flipbacks were launched in Holland in autumn 2009. The inventor—Jongbloed, a printer and publisher of Bibles—had a vast stock of very thing Bible paper and machines configured to non-traditional book formats: Bibles have always come in all shapes and sizes, unlike 'normal' (non-illustrated books which tend to appear in only four formats. Jongbloed partnered with one of Holland's biggest publishers, Ambo/Anthos, and together they did extensive market research which suggested that there would be a ready market for books in this format. There are now over 100 titles in Dutch in this format and 1 million copies in print—which is phenomenal when you think there are only 16 million people in the Netherlands! Although they were launched at the Frankfurt Book Fair I don't think any English-language publisher noticed them at the time. I discovered them entirely by chance at a dinner in France when I tripped over the handbag of a fellow guest—a Dutch woman—and out fell this little book. She was so enthusiastic—and I was so taken with it—that when I got back to the office I called the Dutch publishers (whom I knew), asked them to send me some samples, showed them round the office and had such a good reaction that I hopped on a plane to Holland and—after lengthy negotiations—managed to persuade Jongbloed to grant us the exclusive English-language licence for the UK and our overseas markets.
There's a long tradition of small-format hardback books, going all the way back to Aldus Manutius. But the landscape format of the flipback does seem quite innovative: other than the layout, what else is different about the bindings and paper used in the flipbacks?
Each flipback is sewn, glued and bound in such a way that it falls open fully without breaking the spine. In effect you are reading a normal paperback page that can fold in half. The paper is Bible paper, which is very fine and means that the flipback is far lighter than a paperback - 45g on average.
How'd you pick the twelve "first run" titles for the flipback format in English? Were the authors (or some of the authors) involved in the process?
We chose a representative sample of some of our biggest authors across the list. For most of them the format was something completely new, but they have been really enthusiastic with the finished product. We are following up with another 6 titles in September, and a further 9 in November when we will launch the first in our 'Flipback Classics' range—the six major novels by Jane Austen.
What's the pre-release reception been like in the UK? Any feedback so far from retailers or consumers?
We gave away copies at the Hay-on-Wye literary festival and had a fantastic reaction! People really loved the size and feel of these books and we have had some great emails subsequently raving about them. Booksellers have on the whole been very supportive, too.
Some articles about flipbacks have suggested that they are a response to e-readers (offering some of the portability without the size of a regular book). How do you see them "fitting in" in today's publishing market?
We have never seen these as rivals to the Kindle—although this is how the launch has inevitably been characterized in the press. For us, this is about finding another way to offer our authors' books to readers. Not everyone likes reading electronically, but almost all of us like the idea of its portability—and with the flipback you really can fit an entire book in your pocket. E-readers are a fantastic way to download and access a whole lot of information, but for many people part of the pleasure of reading is the feel of the book itself. The flipback offers that tactile experience - and of course it makes a lovely gift. It's been interesting watching the way that people we've shown it to in the run-up to the launch have stroked it and played with it—it's as if they are rediscovering the physical pleasure of a really beautifully produced book.
Any plans to release flipbacks in the United States?
We don't have US rights, unfortunately, but it will be possible to order the books via Amazon and the Dutch printers tell me that they are in talks with US publishers at the moment.
Find out more about flipbacks at www.flipbackbooks.com
Author Chat lets you talk to authors—ask questions, get answers, and find out more about how or why a book is written. The schedule of upcoming chats is posted too, so you can plan to read the author's book ahead of time.
More free books: Member Giveaways
At any given time, there are hundreds of books available from our Member Giveaways program. Member Giveaways is like Early Reviewers, but isn't limited to select publishers—any author or member can post books. Request books, or offer your own!
Popular titles this month
- Bossypants by Tina Fey
- Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris
- A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
- A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
- The Snowman by Joe Nesbo
- Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
- Woodsong by Gary Paulsen
- The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss
- I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore
- Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart
Questions, comments, ideas, suggestions? Send them our way.
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