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Global Marketplace Demands Literature That’s Easy to Translate

posted March 4, 2010

Posted by Erin Brown in Bookselling E-books events translation trends uncategorized virtual offices world literature

global novel

Tim Parks, who blogs for the New York Review of Books, had an interesting post recently about the pressure that writers (particularly non-American writers) feel to reach an international audience and the way this is affecting what and how they write:

There is a growing sense that for an author to be considered “great,” he or she must be an international rather than a national phenomenon . . . [M]ore and more European, African, Asian and South American authors see themselves as having “failed” if they do not reach an international audience.

Parks goes on to describe how this pressure has increased with the advent of electronic submissions, which enable an author to send a new work simultaneously to publishers all over the world, such that international rights may even be purchased before the writer has found a publisher in his or her own country:

An astute agent can then orchestrate the simultaneous launch of a work in many different countries using promotional strategies that we normally associate with multinational corporations. Thus a reader picking up a copy of Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol, or the latest Harry Potter, or indeed a work by Umberto Eco, or Haruki Murakami, or Ian McEwan, does so in the knowledge that this same work is being read now, all over the world . . . This perception adds to the book’s attraction.

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Margaret Atwood Rocks New Technology

posted July 22, 2009

Posted by Mariko Fujinaka in Bookselling books technology trends virtual offices world literature


When you think of writer Margaret Atwood, do you imagine her to be embracing the latest technological innovations? Well, she is. The award-winning Canadian author of such novels as The Handmaid’s Tale, The Blind Assassin, Alias Grace, and Oryx and Crake will be plugging her new novel, The Year of the Flood, at book fairs across Canada … virtually. Atwood will appear in the flesh at Toronto’s Word on the Street festival in September 2009. At the same time, she will participate via video conference in two other book events in Vancouver and Halifax.

In addition to “meeting” festival participants and answering questions, Atwood will also be signing books with LongPen, a device Atwood helped invent (!) that enables her to sign books remotely and in real time. Atwood came up with the idea for the LongPen on one of her many long and grueling book tours. She explained to journalist Anthony Barnes in a February 19, 2006 article in The Independent, “As I was whizzing around the United States on yet another demented book tour, gettting up at four in the morning to catch planes, doing two cities a day, eating the Pringle food object out of the mini-bar at night as I crawled around on the hotel room floor, too tired even to phone room service, I thought, ‘There must be a better way of doing this.’” The LongPen made its public debut at the London Book Fair in 2006.

A Virtualized Publishing Industry

posted May 18, 2009

Posted by Thomas Riggs in publishing technology virtual offices

According to Peter Kelly, who headed Nortel’s enterprise division in Europe, the virtual office “is probably the most significant business dynamic taking place . . . the virtual enterprise model will allow companies to leapfrog others. It really is a case of virtualise or die.”

In fact, publishing has been virtualizing since the 1990s, when companies sought to save money by outsourcing to freelancers and allowing employees to work at home. Increasingly much of the actual work on books, such as the editing, took place elsewhere. As e-mail became common, text began to be sent back and forth electronically. It was only a minor leap to imagine going from a physical company with a network of telecommuting employees and freelancers to having a company that functioned entirely out of a virtual office.

This ABC news report highlights three companiesIBM, Accenture, and Crayonthat are heading toward virtualized work worlds. Here in our own business we work through a virtual office and a network of distributed workers, and along with the rest of the publishing world, we are on the edge of a technology explosion that will make our everyday work lives unrecognizable.

Getting Stuff Done by Grooving Virtually

posted May 1, 2009

Posted by Thomas Riggs in technology virtual offices

Imagine you work for a company where every employee is in a different location. You finally decide e-mail and phone calls aren’t enough to function as a team, and you choose a virtual office on the Internet. Now everyone shares the same file directories, calendars, and tasks lists. Things suddenly seem more connected and efficient. You’re happy.

Then one day your Internet connection is out of service, and you can’t connect to the virtual office. In fact, because all your company’s files are there, you can’t work. It’s as if the office lock has been changed, and you don’t have the key.

Or say you’re on a plane from New York to San Diego. It’s a long flight. You get your laptop out and start to work. This is great, you think. Now you won’t have to do that report tomorrow. But then it begins to sink in: you need a file that’s in the virtual office but not on your computer.

If you were a Groover, this would never happen. You would be using Microsoft’s simplest virtual office, Groove, which works on a different technology than most other Internet collaborative tools. Instead of connecting to a website, you install the Groove software, with its file directories, calendars, and discussion lists. You can make separate Groove workspaces for each project and share the workspaces with whomever you want. As long as you’re on the Internet, any change that you make in your version of Groove is instantly made on the computers of your colleagues (or the next time they’re online). You might be in India, but the moment you drop a file in a directory, it’s on the computer of your colleague in New York. When you disconnect from the Internet, all the files are still on your computer. An important feature is “presence,” meaning you always know if someone else is connected to the workspace, and you can send an instant message to the person through Groove.

Click for Groove demo video

Click image for Groove demo video

If Groove’s strengths are its simplicity, offline access, and low cost (once you buy the software, there are no more fees), what are its drawbacks? At least for now, Groove can be installed only on a PC. If you use a Mac, you can’t be a Groover. Another is the inability to create a common calendar for all your workspaces, though a third-party vendor, GrooveIt!, sells a solution to this problem. Finally, Groove’s simplicity is matched by its small number of features.

Overall, Groove, included in some Microsoft Office suites, is a great product for simple needs. We’ve used it in the past. But if you need more features or have a lot of people on your team, you might look elsewhere.

Basecamp: A Simple, Elegant Virtual Office for Basic Needs

posted April 21, 2009

Posted by Thomas Riggs in technology virtual offices

Picking an appropriate virtual office—a place where you can collaborate with coworkers online and share files, calendars, and contacts—is not easy. You need to understand your company’s present and future needs. But equally important is understanding your company’s collective personality. If only there were a Myers-Briggs test for virtual office users.

Lacking that, I created a quiz to see if you’re a potential user of one of my favorite collaborative web tools on the Internet.

  1. Do you love Macs?
  2. When you don’t like software, do you find yourself saying, “It’s not intuitive”?
  3. Do you tend to avoid manuals, wanting things to be obvious?
  4. Do computers scare you or are you someone who finds it challenging or enervating to set up software?
  5. Do you generally prefer fewer options but find it important that the options you have are simple, elegant, and function well?

If the answer to most or all of the questions is yes, go straight to the Basecamp website and watch the demo videos, narrated by the founder of 37signals, which makes the online software. Each demo begins, “Hi, I’m Jason,” and shows you how you can set up a basic, useful virtual office in no time.

There are many reviews of Basecamp already, some glowing, some nitpicking, but if imitation is a sign of success, Basecamp has been an overwhelming winner, spawning numerous competitors in the “simple, well functioning, but with limited features” niche. For many companies, especially those with ten employees or fewer, Basecamp is a gift from the gods, transforming them from disorganized collectors of papers and sticky notes to smoothly operating organizations, companies where each employee is only a few clicks from any file or important information. Basecamp is also an extremely likable service, as displayed in this testimonial video from its website.

But if Basecamp is so great—and I really think it is—then why shouldn’t everyone use it? Simply put, Basecamp’s strengths are its weaknesses. Basecamp is so simple that you won’t get confused, but it’s also so simple that you won’t have many options. Companies that have more than ten employees or those that are looking for more comprehensive ways to store information and collaborate might find Basecamp’s features too limited.

In my next post I’m going to discuss another simple virtual office, one, like Basecamp, that you can set up during a coffee break or while watching a rerun of Friends.

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