Thursday, October 18, 2007

Would you believe it?

The Register claims (link from booktrade.info) that the 'US Patent Office decimates Amazon's 1-click patent -- only five of 26 claims survive.'

Which is quite interesting, because, as I understood it, Amazon was earning revenue from any other web-based outfit which offered a similar facility.

And, what is more interesting, the patent claims were challenged by a New Zealand blogger, supported by funds donated by his readers.

In passing, of course, retired schoolmasters such as Mr Robinson will note that, in rejecting 5 out of 26 claims, the Patent Office was not 'decimating' at all. Strictly speaking, to decimate means (as Sir Ernest Gowers pointed out in Plain Words in 1948) to reduce by one tenth, not to one tenth. And here the Patent Office wasn't doing either.

Decimating was originally something done to mutinous troops. You shot every tenth man and the rest usually had second thoughts.

Sir Ernest offered the following example, drawn from a discussion of the misuse of the word 'literally' in the Times. It came from a penny dreadful: 'Dick, hotly pursued by the scalp-hunter, turned in his saddle, fired, and literally decimated his opponent.'

Forty years ago, my pupils in the top class for English used to enjoy that one.

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The Times reports that there are plans afoot to make the Booker shortlist available free online.

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Oh my God. Madame Arcati is a fan of Martin Amis. I would never have thought it. Well, at least I made the right guess about Madame's sexual tastes.

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I read a news report last weekend which said that, on average, an American office worker receives 140 emails a day, and manages to look at less than half of them. One young woman reportedly deleted 30,000 unread emails, and felt a lot better afterwards.

My situation, mercifully, is not that bad, but I am still catching up on that two-week absence of computer. So, if you have written to me in the past month, and wonder why I am being so rude as not to reply, bear with me. You may yet get a response.

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Crossword fan? Go to the OUP blog and try theirs.

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Frank Beddor wrote Seeing Redd and The Looking-Glass Wars, and now I learn that he was producer of There's Something About Mary. His latest is a 'geo-graphic' novel called Hatter M. Wikipedia fills in the background.

There seem to be lots of reworkings of the Victorian stuff these days -- e.g. Lost Girls. Intriguing.

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The braindead are always with us. The Salt Lake Tribune says, 'Publishers rarely issue new books over the summer.' Only about 2,000 a week, that is. Link from Publishers Lunch.

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The Creative Commons blog has an interview with Brandt Cannici, creator of a web site called Strayform.com. This seeks to provide creative artists (for want of a better expression) with a platform through which they can perhaps obtain funding for their work. Strayform makes heavy use of the Creative Commons licensing system, which means, of course, no DRM or nonsense of that kind.

This looks to me like a good idea in principle, but it has some way to go, I feel, before it gets out of what is effectively the beta stage at present. It may, conceivably, offer a useful platform for writers at some point. Keep an eye on it.

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The BBC lists the ten main ways in which you are persuaded to read (and preferably buy) a book. (Thanks to Bill Sinclair for the link.)

In the US, substitute Oprah for Richard & Judy.

By the way, speaking of Oprah, Publishers Lunch recently reported the case of Sarah Symonds. Ms Symonds is the self-published author of Having An Affair: A Handbook for the 'Other Woman'. Somehow or other Ms Symonds got herself taped for an interview to appear on Oprah on 10 October. When Hatherleigh Press publisher Kevin Moran heard about this, he promptly signed the book, with a little help from his distributor, Random House.

So that makes everything very simple, doesn't it? All you have to do, if you're a self-published author, is get yourself pre-recorded for Oprah, go see a publisher with a distribution setup, and all your problems are solved.

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I have an idea for a short story, as yet unwritten. It's about a man who hates Christmas, especially when it starts on 1 October and continues until the end of January. This character has certain attitudes not entirely unrelated to my own, and he would not be too thrilled, I feel, by http://www.hollyclaus.com/. This is the story of Santa's daughter. And it is for kids. And it opens with a song.

Excuse me while I go and lie down.

12 comments:

Clive Keeble said...

The Thunderer is being less than honest in suggesting that negotiations are ongoing to ensure that The Booker shortlist is available free on-line. This Bookseller.com update clarifies the position.

http://www.thebookseller.com/news/46753-booker-shortlist-will-not-be-free.html

elberry said...

Just read a book of Martin Amis' essays, Visiting Mrs Nabokov - very good. i've only read one of his novels, Money, which i enjoyed for the prose & verve & black, irresponsible humour. No plot as far as i could tell. He may well be a born essayist who's mainly known for his novels; perhaps in 100 years, people will think of him as a gifted essayist who also wrote novels (like Gore Vidal).

Andy O'Hara said...

Oprahh, Punch and Judy, "cheese and nibbles." Hand me a rope and I'll hang myself.

I love the statement by the chairman of the judges after selecting Enright's book. "“I think you people will find this a very readable and satisfying novel.” High praise indeed.

Ok, you people. Get to reading, now.

Mary Witzl said...

I've just taken a look at Hollyclaus.com. If you hadn't warned me first, I'd have had to lie down too.

Why not go and enjoy Mr Hankey's Christmas Classics (South Park) as a good antidote to this sort of schmaltz?

Peter L. Winkler said...

You seem to have misread the quote at the top of your post. The patent office invalidated 21 of Amazon's 26 patents, leaving 5 intact.

Jon said...

>Crossword fan? Go to the OUP blog and try theirs.

No thanks. This is an American-style crossword, which relies on one's knowledge of arcane words rather than on puzzle-solving talent or imaginative skill. Even worse, it depends on a specific knowledge of modern culture that I neither have nor want to have. Witness 1 Across:

"Org. Eminem mentions in 'Without Me'".

'Org.' is presumably short for 'An organisation' (but why not 'An orgasm' or 'An orgone box'?), mentioned in a song I have never heard from a performer I take pains not to listen to. And while I could go on the Web and look up the lyrics, what conceivable satisfaction would that give me?

Meanwhile 1 Down is "Jack and the Beanstalk, e.g." Not only is this lousy English, it is also a lousy clue. There are at least two dozen things that "Jack and the Beanstalk" is an example of -- a clause, a conjunction, a title, a twenty-one-letter string of text, a fable, a fairytale, etc, etc -- and the solver's choice of any one of these is going to be purely arbitrary.

This is why American crosswords need to have so many intersecting letters -- because the clues as such are virtually useless. But having so many intersecting letters means that they can only be constructed using impenetrably obscure words which exist only for that purpose ('ALAR' is one of my favourites).

Contrast this with a clue from a Times Crossword: "Path of the swallow" (10). A quick mind may get this at once without the need for any intersecting letters. A slower mind may have to fill in some intersecting letters to help focus their intuition. In any event, the solution comes with a satisfying rush, not via the dreary hackwork of some word-finding software.

Automatic said...

Many thanks for your enthusiastic leap into the Pool of Tears assisting Princess Alyss and Royal Bodyguard Hatter Madigan with their harrowing adventures into pop culture.

We would like to share with you new revelations from Wonderland as they come into the Looking Glass Wars Library and Hatter M Institute. If you’re interested in receiving this confidential material, before it becomes public, please supply a secure email address.

The LGW Librarian
info@lookingglasswars.com

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