Library ebooks may actually generate sales

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Book publishers could be missing a lucrative boat with their efforts to curb free circulation of their ebooks through public libraries.

Traditionally, the publishers have treated libraries almost as parasites that siphon off sales with their free-circulation practices. Through a mix of licensing agreements, high prices and, in some cases, outright refusal to deal with libraries, the publishers have tried to restrict library circulation of their e-titles.

A new survey of 75,000 library ebook readers — conducted by Overdrive and the American Library Association – suggests, however, that they may be shooting their sales in the foot with their anti-library tactics.

As Michael Kozlowski of Good E-Reader explains, “the study confirms 57 per cent of people use libraries as content discovery engines. Patrons often will see a book and will end up making the digital purchase. Fifty-three per cent of all people surveyed have thought about buying an ebook listed on the libraries website and fifty-three per cent borrow ebooks and also buy them.”

About one-third of the readers actually buy the ebook to add to their personal collection after they have read the library edition, he says.

That’s hardly the profit-eating monster that publishers have long feared.

Bearing in mind that Overdrive and the library association have a horse in this race, the study suggests library ebook circulation may actually be an effective way to market the publishers’ new offerings.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I admit I’m an enthusiastic borrower of ebooks from my public library. And I still buy way too many books – both in digital and paper format.)

Prairie writer wins $60K nonfiction prize

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Saskatchewan writer Candace Savage has won the $60,000 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction for A Geography of Blood: Unearthing Memory from a Prairie Landscape.

The prize was announced at a gala literary event in Toronto.

In a Monday release, the Writers’ Trust said Savage is a celebrated writer of dozens of books and essays, who writes on a wide range of topics, from the cosmic science of the aurora to the inner workings of a beehive. She was inducted as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2010 in recognition of her scholarly and artistic achievements.

The four other finalists each received $5,000. They are Kamal Al-Solayleefor Intolerable: A Memoir of Extremes; Modris Eksteins for Solar Dance: Genius, Forgery, and the Crisis of Truth in the Modern Age; Taras Grescoe for Straphanger: Saving Our Cities and Ourselves from the Automobile; and JJ Lee for The Measure of a Man: The Story of a Father, a Son, and a Suit.

The Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction is awarded for literary excellence in the category of nonfiction, which includes, among other forms, personal or journalistic essays, history, biography, memoirs, commentary, and criticism, both social and political. Finalist works are judged to demonstrate a distinctive voice, as well as a persuasive and compelling command of tone, narrative, style, and technique.

Celebrated author kicks off annual Festival

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A reminder that Giller Prize winning author Rohinton Mistry takes to the stage tonight with host Charlie Foran, PEN Canada president, and the CBC’s Eleanor Wachtel for the opening night of the International Festival of Authors.

Proceeds from the evening at the Harbourfront Centre’s Fleck Dance Theatre will go to PEN Canada.

The recipient of the 2012 Neustadt International Prize for Literature, Mistry is the author of three novels: Such a Long Journey, A Fine Balance and Family Matters, all short-listed for the Booker Prize, and a collection of short stories, Tales from Firozsha Baag. His fiction, which has been published in 30 languages, has won the Giller Prize, the Governor General’s Literary Award, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best Book and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.

The annual Festival runs until October 28, bringing together some of the world’s best writers of contemporary literature for readings, interviews, lectures, round table discussions, and public book signings.

Highlights include readings by finalists for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, Governor General’s Literary Awards and Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, as well as the awarding of the Harbourfront Festival Prize.

Glitz and glory brighten city’s literary skies

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Glitz, glory, grants and glamour – the next five weeks promise to be a high-octane celebration of all things literary in Toronto.

On November 7, the Writers’ Trust of Canada will hand out $114,000 in prize money at its 12th annual awards event, to be held at the city’s Isabel Bader Theatre.

Headliner is the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, where five finalists will vie for honours as writer of the year’s best novel or short story collection. Each of the five will receive $2,500, with the eventual winner receiving a total of $25,000. Finalists were chosen by a jury of Lynn Coady, Esi Edugyan, and Drew Hayden Taylor from 116 nominated titles.

To give the public a taste of their work, finalists Tim Bowling (The Tinsmith), Tamas Dobozy (Siege 13), Rawi Hage (Carnival), Alix Ohlin (Inside) and Linda Spalding (The Purchase) will be reading at the International Festival of Authors in Toronto on October 24 and in Owen Sound on October 25.

(The annual festival runs from October 18 to 28 and features such luminaries as Alice Munro and Rohinton Mistry.)

Also competing at the November 7 awards event will be three finalists for the Writers’ Trust of Canada/McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize, which recognizes new and developing writers for the best short story first published in a Canadian literary journal during the previous year.

Kevin Hardcastle (“To Have to Wait” in The Malahat Review), Andrew Hood (“Manning” in PRISM international) and Alex Pugsley (“Crisis on Earth-X” in The Dalhousie Review) will joust for the $10,000 Journey prize.

Four additional prizes for a body of work will also be presented at the ceremony:

  • Matt Cohen Award: In Celebration of a Writing Life ($20,000)
  • Vicky Metcalf Award for Children’s Literature ($20,000)
  • Writers’ Trust Distinguished Contribution Award

Canada’s literary leaders will reconvene for the $60,000 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction, with the crowning of the 2012 winner set for a November 12 gala at Toronto’s Royal Conservatory of Music.

The five finalists were chosen from a slate of 104 titles by former Ontario lieutenant-governor James Bartleman, past prize finalist Charlotte Gill and writer Marni Jackson. They are Kamal Al-Solaylee (Intolerable: A Memoir of Extremes), Modris Eksteins (Solar Dance: Genius, Forgery, and the Crisis of Truth in the Modern Age), Taras Grescoe (Straphanger: Saving Our Cities and Ourselves from the Automobile), J.J. Lee (The Measure of a Man: The Story of a Father, a Son, and a Suit) and Candace Savage (Geography of Blood: Unearthing Memory from a Prairie Landscape).

After all that praising and prizing, literary benefactors will start topping up the till again at the annual Writers’ Trust Gala to be held Thursday, November 15 at Toronto’s Four Seasons Hotel. Proceeds from the event  fund  programs and initiatives that include the organization’s literary awards program, Berton House Writers’ Retreat and scholarship program with Humber College.

The Writers’ Trust of Canada is a charitable organization that seeks to advance, nurture, and celebrate Canadian writers and writing.

Five poets vie for $6,000 prize

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Canada Writes and its partners have announced the shortlist of five finalists in the 2011-2012 English-language poetry prize – and an Ontario poet has cracked the line-up.

Sadiqa de Meijer of Kingston has earned a spot among this year’s finalists for her work, Great Aunt Unmarried. She joins Stephanie Bolster of Montreal (Long Exposure), Emily McGiffin of Smithers, B.C. (Stikine Country), Catherine Greenwood of Victoria, B.C. (The Texada Queen) and Marion Quednau of Mission, B.C. (Yesterday, I Looked Inside) vying for $6,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts.

The Grand Prize also includes a two-week writing residency at The Banff Centre and publication in Air Canada’s enRoute magazine. Other finalists will each receive $1,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts, and will be published on the Canada Writes website, starting this week. 

The winner selected by the CBC Poetry jury — writers Julie Bruck, Patrick Lane and Dennis Lee — will be announced on Tuesday, September 25.

Canada Writes has also launched its competition for the CBC Short Story Prize, with a submission deadline of November 1.

Open to all Canadians, the prize is awarded annually to the best original, unpublished, short story submitted, as judged by a jury of well-known and respected Canadian authors. Submissions must be between 1,200 and 1,500 words. There is a $25 entry fee.

The Grand Prize winner will receive $6,000, courtesy of the Canada Council for the Arts, and will have his or her story published in Air Canada’s enRoute magazine and on the Canada Writes website. The winner will also be awarded a two-week residency at The Banff Centre’s Leighton Artists’ Colony, and will be interviewed on CBC Radio.

The four runners-up will each receive $1,000, courtesy of the Canada Council for the Arts, and their stories will be published on the Canada Writes website.

Further information is available at the Canada Writes website.

Giller jury unveils its 2012 longlist

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The Scotiabank Giller Prize jury has announced its longlist of 13 books that are in the running for this year’s prize. The books were selected from 142 competitors put forward by 51 Canadian publishers from across the country.

Started in 1994 by Jack Rabinovitch in honour of his wife, the late literary journalist Doris Giller, the annual prize recognizes the best Canadian novel or short story collection published in English. This year’s jurors are Dublin author and screen writer Roddy Doyle; Toronto publisher, writer and essayist Anna Porter; and New York author and satirist Gary Shteyngart.

Several Ontario writers made this first cut for the prestigious award. Toronto residents Cary Fagan, Robert Hough, Katrina Onstad and CS Richardson join the pool of talented authors vying for the $50,000 prize.

On October 1, finalists will be announced at a news conference in Toronto. The 2012 winner will then be crowned at a televised ceremony in Toronto on October 30.

Claiming a place on this year’s longlist are:

  • Marjorie Celona for her novel Y, published by Hamish Hamilton Canada
  • Lauren B. Davis for her novel Our Daily Bread, published by HarperCollins Canada
  • Cary Fagan for his short story collection My Life Among the Apes, published by Cormorant Books
  • Will Ferguson for his novel 419, published by Viking Canada
  • Robert Hough for his novel Dr. Brinkley’s Tower, published by House of Anansi Press
  • Billie Livingston for her novel One Good Hustle, published by Random House Canada
  • Annabel Lyon for her novel The Sweet Girl, published by Random House Canada
  • Alix Ohlin for her novel Inside, published by House of Anansi Press
  • Katrina Onstad for her novel Everybody Has Everything, published by McClelland & Stewart
  • CS Richardson for his novel The Emperor of Paris, published by Doubleday Canada
  • Nancy Richler for her novel The Imposter Bride, published by HarperCollins Canada
  • Kim Thúy for her novel Ru, translated by Sheila Fischman, published by Random House Canada
  • Russell Wangersky for his short story collection Whirl Away, published by Thomas Allen Publishers

Libraries could open portal to indie ebook exposure

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Libraries are finding innovative ways to circumvent the restrictions imposed by big publishers so they can enhance their ebook offerings for members. And there’s one recent trend that should be flashing on the radar of indie authors.

Good e-Reader reports that the Washington County Library System is reaching out to local authors, inviting them to submit their own novels in electronic format to add to the existing library system.

It is not alone.

The system developed its “Library Local Connect” program after hearing of a similar initiative in Colorado. It hopes to give worthy local authors some much-needed exposure, while at the same time beefing up its ebook inventory.

“We’ve always been very concerned about making everybody’s works accessible,” said Joe Manion, the system’s director of public services director. “What’s a little bit more difficult is to find the small author, the author who is getting started, the author who is local – but now we have the ebook revolution.”

By linking local writers and readers, they’re hoping to build a bridge to the next best seller.

The system has developed criteria to ensure the quality of submissions, and it’s working to improve the process with an automated submission tool.

Maybe this is something aspiring e-authors should discuss with their own local libraries.

Durham freelancer honoured by outdoor writers

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Durhamregion.com reports that Newcastle writer Tom Doyle has won the Pete McGillen Award for stimulating interest and appreciation of the outdoors while demonstrating high standards of craftsmanship during his professional career.

Presented by the Outdoor Writers of Canada, the annual award recognizes a member whose writing career best reflects the organization’s aims and objectives. In the doing, it honours the memory of one of Canada’s best-known outdoor writers.

An avid bowman and big-game hunter himself, Doyle began his successful freelance career writing features for Ontario Out of Doors Magazine. He rose to become field editor, and then a columnist in the archery department. He has presented archery seminars and volunteered for the Outdoor Writers of Canada for years.

Leo (Pete) McGillen (1908 – 1973) was the full-time Outdoors Editor of The Toronto Telegram, the first such position of its kind on a daily newspaper in Canada. He also served as the City Editor for The Peterborough Examiner for 11 years. He broadcast a weekly outdoors show, “Outdoors with Pete McGillen”, over CFRB radio in Toronto and was a regular contributor to the CBC Sportsmen’s Show on radio. According to a Canadian Press survey of the day, he was “the most widely quoted outdoor writer in Canada.”

Doyle points to the list of writers who have won the award over the years.

“When I look at the people who went before me who got this..,” Mr. Doyle told Durhamregion.com. “It’s for a (lifetime) body of work. It’s not for a piece. It’s quite an achievement.”

Useful blogs for creative writers

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Poet, novelist, short story crafter, screen writer or blogger – you’re bound to find something useful in the updated list of Top 100 Creative Writing Blogs compiled by BestCollegesOnline.com.

Although the list has a U.S.-focus, it is wide-ranging enough to offer plenty of food for thought and inspiration for writers everywhere.

BestCollegesOnline.com provides guides, news, tips and rankings to help its followers find online academic programs that will prepare them to compete for exciting careers.

Poetry hits chord at Trillium book fest

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The night sang with poetry this week as Ontario presented its Trillium book awards at a dinner in Toronto.

Poet Phil Hall of Perth took home a $20,000 prize as winner of the Trillium Book Award in English-language. His book, Killdeer, was published by BookThug of Toronto. Killdeer also received the Governor-General’s Literary Award for Poetry last fall and was short-listed for the 2012 Griffin Poetry Prize.

In the separate English-language poetry category, honours went to Toronto’s Nick Thran and his publisher Nightwood Editions for Earworm.

Ottawa writer Michèle Vinet’s managed to crack the line-up with her novel Jeudi Novembre, which was named best French-language book. Fellow Ottawa resident Sonia Lamontagne’s quickly re-versed the theme, however, with À tire d’ailes, winner of the Trillium Book Award for Poetry in French-language.

Sudbury’s Editions Prise de parole was the publisher for both French-language winners.

The Wednesday event marked the 25th anniversary of the awards. As part of the celebrations, Open Book ran a public contest to select the favourite French and English titles from the previous 24 years’ winners. From a list of public picks, a celebrity critics’ panel selected Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient (McClelland & Stewart) as their favourite in the English language category. A panel of students from The Toronto French School, meanwhile, selected Les Rebuts : Hockey 2 by Paul Prud’Homme (Les Éditions du Vermillon) as the best of the best in the French language.

Trillium Book Award winners each receive $20,000, while their publishers receive $2,500 toward their promotional costs. The two Poetry Award winners each receive $10,000 and their publishers receive $2,000. All finalists receive a $500 honorarium.