AT LAST TECHNOLOGY is catching up with books. Watch out for three Noddy books coming out later this year from Harpers UK: the books will be customizable. The parent, on ordering the book through the web, can change the title, character names, hair styles, eye and hair colour etc, so that the child in the book looks like their own little angel and has the same name.
It's a nice idea, but I think Harpers may be surprised at who buys the books. They'll make perfect presents for a certain kind of star-struck adult. People like Tony Blair.
“Did you know, Mr Blair, that you once met Noddy and saved Toyland from Osama Bin Laden?”
“Yes. And now there’s a book about it. Here it is: ta da!”
Register here for your copy.
FROM OUR FRIENDS in Beijing: “Every Wednesday at The Bookworm is open mike night where Beijing's poets, foreign and local, can get together to share, workshop and perform their work, and that of their favourite writers. Hosted by Benjamin 'Driftwords' Sobanje, three weeks of the month are open workshop style sessions with a grand finale showcase on the last Wednesday - look out for special guest Tze Ming Mok on Wednesday 30th.”
A ROW HAS broken out over a change in standard contracts issued by Simon and Schuster. The Authors Guild is on the warpath, urging the company to withdraw it and writers to avoid signing it. The publishing company is downplaying the incident, saying that the authors’ union has over-reacted.
In a nutshell, the row is over “perpetual rights”. The new contract specifies that if the publisher buys a book, it holds the rights exclusively and indefinitely -- even if it has dropped out of print.
Older contracts said that if a publisher loses interest in a book and allows it to drop out of print, the author can try and get another publisher interested.
But the new contact says that if the book is in the publisher’s database, then it is still technically “available”, and still technically belongs to the publishers. Authors fear they will be left in a situation where the publisher refuses to publish their book, but continues to hold the rights, so that no one else can publish it either.
The guild has advised authors to "consider asking your agent to exclude Simon & Schuster imprints unless they agree before the auction to use industry standard terms".
Thanks to the folks at Chinese International School for a great evening on Friday night. I gave a talk on "The 20 Weirdest Things about Being a Parent in Hong Kong". It was one of those events where the audience sent out so much positive energy that it was fun, rather than work, for the performer. And I was thrilled at the comments I received at the bookstall afterwards -- they were stuffing money into my hands. (I'll send the royalties to the orphanage in Hebei province which I have mentioned earlier in this column.)
I WAS INTERVIEWED by a television reporter from a Chinese television station about comedy. Did Westerners and Asians have different senses of humour, she asked?
The interview was unintentionally hilarious -- for me, anyway. I gave her lots of funny answers to her questions -- lots of one-liners and boom-booms. But she missed all the jokes. Every single one. Zoom -- you could almost hear them whizzing over her head. By the end of it, I realized that I had not only answered her question, but demonstrated the answer live on camera. Zoom! Zoom! Zoom!