Saturday, May 29, 2010

50 Years of TV in New Zealand

June 2010 marks 50 years of TV broadcasts in NZ, 4 years later than Australia, but the impact was the same, not just on movie going, but on going out for entertainment generally. As we reported in our book Celluloid Dreams, it killed off most suburban cinemas in NZ within a few years. In 1973 came colour TV and in 1975 came the second channel. Video cassette recorders to hook up to the TV set made their appearance in 1981 and they were initially as expensive in proportion as TV sets were when they first appeared, but people still took to them like ducks to water.

Yet today, despite the multitude of channels available on freeview and pay TV plus of course a whole universe on the Internet, there is a cinema revival and places which had not had a cinema in the 1950s even have one now. Perhaps it is because all movies suffer on small screens as we commented in Celluloid Dreams.

What about the effect of TV on books though? Here the impact has been less positive. Apart from TV series tie-ins, moving pictures on screens of all sizes have made life much more difficult for book publishers. Such is the march of technology. Despite this, we feel that the features of high quality reference books manufactured the traditional ways - like those that we publish - more than compensate for the perceived advantages of illuminated screens.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

reportage de Paris

From the rejuvenator to the real deal: Paris is the place to go for book lovers disillusioned by the desert offered by Whitcoulls and Paper plus in NZ.

Paris is a city full of boutiques in both the French and English senses and there are lots of independent bookshops; some look like those that used to exist in NZ a long time ago. There are books on almost every subject to be found and it requires a lot of self control not to buy and buy! Well if suitcase weight was not an issue...

Books are advertised on illuminated billboards, something unknown in NZ, and there are TV programmes devoted to new books; in prime time slots in the evenings too; not Saturday mornings as in NZ.

Lots of older books are of course also sold from the green boxes along both sides of the Seine as they have been for many years.

A favourite of the French literary scene which is easy to get hooked by is the bande dessinee or cartoon book which gives illustrators an opportunity to produce pictorial stories with ballon style dialogue boxes; some are designed for adolescents and others for adults, and the style of illustration covers a large range too. Again they´re unknown in NZ except the well known Tintin series.

Apple's iPad is released here on 28 May; will Parisiens swap their paperback books in the parks and on the Metro for a bulky iPad reader? One doubts it.

Monday, May 17, 2010

10 years of our website

Not this site which is only 1 year old, but our main site.

The online catalogue format has remained the same in that time, although we added our online shop a couple of years ago on a separate server. Our service provider has limited this to 500 titles but with increasing orders this will be doubled in a few months.

And of course we added this site a year ago to talk about things which were more appropriate on a blog site.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

New York post

If you want to browse though a good range of books it is easy to do that in NYC. As a starter, a walk through the Barnes and Noble bookstore on 5th Avenue is a worthwhile experience for those who love books with its 3 big floors of almost nothing but books; most of them ones that you will never see in NZ shops. There are also independent shops worth visiting too but specialists will be further out in the boroughs. And no, we can´t be be bothered with e-book readers.

For those into art and architecture there is plenty here too. Manhattan has been high rise city for over a century, but the nondescript and often ugly steel and glass boxes from the second half of the century are more than compensated by many elegant buildings with ornate features from the first half of the century. Grand Central Terminal, or Grand Central Station as it is usually called, is a must see building. Unfortunately it only serves regional trains now, Amtrak operates out of the much less prestigious Penn(sylvania) Station.

Since this writer's last visit to NYC a new addition to rail transport has been the airtrain for the JFK airport, a driverless elevated electric train system which connects all the terminals and branches to Jamaica and Howard Beach for connections to the Long Island Railroad (good to see that historic name has been retained); at Jamaica you can also connect to the E train of the Subway system although the LIRR is significantly quicker, if dearer. Travel within the AirTrain is free but an exit ticket at Howard Beach or Jamaica costs $5.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

New York

That is where your writer is at the moment in the most ethnically diverse city in the world, befitting the United Nations. The weather is fine and cool with a northwesterly breeze which yesterday was more of Wellington proportions.

Not only volcanic ash in the Atlantic but the closure of one of JFK's two runways for 6 months causes a lot of congestion and delays for flyers.

It is interesting to see not so much what subject books are on sale here but their designs. More reports to follow.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The atmosphere of Wellington Harbour

Today's picture is "Sweet Georgia", a painting by Kapiti artist Shona Moller of the early morning atmosphere of Wellington Harbour viewed from the waterfront, a theme which features quite a lot in our books Strait Crossing: the ferries of Cook Strait and NZ Maritime Images: the Golden Years.

Shona's paintings are very vibrant with bold colours and are popular with buyers both here and overseas. She is always happy to meet and talk with browsers in her gallery/workshop on the Paraparaumu Beach shorefront. Website

UK election ... no satisfaction

45 years after the Rolling Stones topped the charts with "[I can't get no] satisfaction" it seems like an appropriate theme for the main parties in the UK parliamentary election just held.

The exit poll held on the day proved very accurate, but not the daily polls held in the previous month which showed the Lib Dems level pegging with Labour most of the way and at times even ahead. In the end the Lib Dems only polled 23% of the total vote - 5% behind Labour - and despite this being slightly up on 2005 their number of seats was reduced by 5, due to the crazy electoral system. The Conservatives share of the vote is below what they got when they were the Government in past years.

The Labour Party is now a minor party in most of the countryside - almost all its seats are urban.

No doubt the Lib Dems proposal for an amnesty for illegal immigrants after 10 years cost it support, given how many illegal immigrants there are in country and the trouble they cause, and it wasn't a good time to be pro-Euro either.

And for all parties there is the wheeling and dealing from no-one having a clear majority (which the Shirtcliffe Gang in this country claims doesn't happen under the FPP electoral system) and the fact that the turnout was still a low 65%, compared with 84% in the French Presidential election of 2007, the sort of figure which NZ is also accustomed to in general elections.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

new book on Pullman carriages

In the USA, Pullman cars referred to railway luxury parlor cars, sleeping cars and dining/restaurant cars which were built and operated on most US railways by the Pullman Company (founded by George Pullman) from 1867 to the end of 1968.

In Europe it refers to railway dining cars that were operated by the Pullman Company, or lounge cars operated by the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits. In Britain, Pullman refers to the lounge cars operated by the British Pullman Car Company, and there were some complete train sets such as the Golden Arrow and the Brighton Belle.

Additionally in some West European countries in the 1940s and 1950s, some especially luxurious motor coaches were referred to as Auto-Pullmans.

This book deals with the luxury railway cars built and operated in the USA and the range of photos, illustrations, plans and memorabilia accompanied by a potted history of the cars and trains should satisfy those who want to indulge their interest in the golden age of rail travel in the USA; there is plenty of colourful nostalgia in the 176 page hardback book.

Euroland woes

Although Greece represents less than 3% of the Euro zone economic output, its ability to service its rapidly mounting debt is clearly impacting on international sentiment for Euroland as a whole. And TV pictures over the last year showing riots in Athens over budget cuts are unlikely to encourage tourists to go there, the main source of the country's income.

To see things in context, to a limited degree, this ranking from last year (but some countries' data is 3 years old) shows foreign debt as a percentage of GDP, ranking of all countries. This has changed since then, but the debt of Ireland in per capita terms is also very high not to mention Iceland (although it is not part of the EU, most of its debt is held in the EU). It is not clear if this is gross debt or net debt (debt less assets): in the cases of Switzerland and Luxemburg foreign assets would make a big difference to their status.

A drop in the value of Euro which for a long time has been an expensive currency, should boost economic activity there, however, and in the longer term things will return to some semblance of normality.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Kereru killers charged

The kereru is a lovely gentle large native bird which is often seen basking on native berry trees.

Last January five gung-ho idiots from Norway toting rifles decided to shoot some, and being idiots decide to film themselves committing these crimes. They then decided to show the world their character by posting these videos on YouTube. But within a few days their gruesome crime videos of the bloody birds had attracted over 400 scathing comments.

The kereru is an absolutely protected species under the Wildlife Act and the Department of Conservation was outraged. The maximum penalty for killing such protected wildlife is a $100,000 fine and up to a year in jail.

The video also showed the tourists shooting a paradise shelduck with a rifle. Paradise ducks can only legally be hunted with licence and a shotgun during the shooting season starting in May. Illegal hunting can bring a fine of up to $5,000.

The Norwegian penal code is even harsher. It provides for up to six years jail for people convicted of having wilfully or through gross negligence reduced a natural population of protected wildlife, in Norway or overseas.

Let this be a lesson to all thug idiots out there.

new book: Ocean-going ships

The first edition of this pictorial compendium of ocean going ships was published in 1964. The latest edition reveals a further step away from the types of ships that sailed the oceans in those days. The basic trend is bigger - both the cruise ships and the cargo vessels, most of which carry containers, but some carry bulk commodities such as oil.

Despite the inroads made by the airlines into passenger traffic, the overwhelming majority of freight carried around the world is still on board ships. The only type of cargo that the airlines carry is that which is perishable and/or time sensitive, plus of course most intercontinental mail.

This is a colorful and informative book, although nearly all the text consists of lists of owners and ship data and thus is a look up reference, rather than a 'good read'.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

How will the e-book library appear and function?

"Books do furnish a room" ~ Anthony Powell (English Writer, 1905-2000)

With some big publishers predicting that 25-30% of their sales will be e-books before too long, this is a question that librarians everywhere must be pondering. It is not clear whether this figure consists of new releases, backlist or both, but if books are not going to be physical objects anymore the question arises - will we still need shelves?

One way to turn computer files into physical objects is to burn them onto a CD-ROM. A CD box then becomes a shelvable object. However, this can not be done with all e-books currently on the market. For example, those who buy them with Amazon's Kindle are unable to do anything with them other than store them on their Kindle. And if that is rendered kaput for any reason, tough.

The e-books that we have made available are pdf files at the same format as the original print edition - and we only make them available when the print edition has sold out and a decision has been made not to reprint it. We also supply a square version of the cover art so they can print out a piece of paper for a CD box. At this stage we are unlikely to change this method.

Will library browsers of the future be able to download the file onto their Wi-fi laptops from the library's intranet? Or just borrow a CD? The first has copyright implications, although so does the second. One major problem that publishers of electronic media - videos, DVDs, CD, computer software - have always faced is piracy. The issue arises less with a book because the cost of running the book through a photocopier and binding it is usually about the same as buying a copy of the book and with a book that contains a lot of colour photos the cost will likely be higher.

The issue is complex and another aspect of it is those who like to have have tangible objects which form part of a household's furnishings. Once a paperbook book has been read it tends to look it. But a high quality hardback book like we produce if handled properly will keep on looking good in a varnished wood bookcase, when it is taken out to be read, and even better sitting on a coffee table. It does not require electricity to operate, boot up time, file opening time and search keys.

But of course the economics of ever smaller print runs weigh in too, and if people are going to buy e-books in preference to print editions then publishers will eventually have little choice but to go with the flow.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The romance of rail

Today's photo was taken 40 years ago not far from Lake Brunner on the West Coast, but could have easily have been taken 30-40 years before that. It recalls the romance of steam trains from the golden years.

For more photos like this one, get the book New Zealand 1950s Steam in Colour compiled from the Derek Cross Collection, available in our on-line shop (as this photo was taken in 1970 it didn't qualify for that book!).

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Lawsuit in Belgium to ban a book

A Congolese accountant now living in Belgium has brought a lawsuit against the bande dessinée or cartoon book Tintin au Congo published in the early 1930s on the grounds that it portrays racial sterotypes.

One can understand the sensitivity given that the Belgians treated their colony of the Congo until 1960 in a way that even Stalin would have admired, but the issue becomes the old one of whether freedom of speech should be allowed. If books like Beloved, Hard Candy, Mein Kampf, the Koran or even Huckleberry Finn which have provocative content are allowed, where do you draw the line? The Nazis banned books by Jewish authors and books which took a contrary line to theirs (although interestingly Mein Kampf was also banned in France during WW2 on the grounds that the French had best not know what the Führer had written about them).

We agree with the Americans that freedom of speech should be protected.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Central Otago is nice this time of year

Today's picture is Central Otago Landscape (1940) by Rita Angus, one of NZ's best known artists. With its many deciduous trees which turn orange-gold in April and May, matching the yellow-brown grassland, it is a lovely area to be in.

For a few years our Wellington office was a few doors up the street from Rita Angus's house at the corner of Sydney Street and Ascot Street, and our next door neighbour was the late composer Douglas Lilburn.

Belgian MPs vote to ban Islamic burqa in public

Belgium is Europe's first country to vote for a ban on the full Islamic veil or burqa, sparking dismay among Muslims with France set to follow suit.

"We're the first country to spring the locks that have made a good number of women slaves, and we hope to be followed by France, Switzerland, Italy, and the Netherlands; countries that think," said liberal deputy Denis Ducarme.

In the lower house of the federal parliament on Thursday night, 136 deputies supported a nationwide ban on clothes or veils that do not allow the wearer to be fully identified, including the full-face niqab and burqa.

There were two abstentions. No one voted against.

The ban will be imposed in streets, public gardens and sports grounds or buildings "meant for public use or to provide services" to the public, according to the text of the bill.

Exceptions could be allowed for certain festivities like carnivals if municipal authorities decide to grant them.

People who ignore it could face a fine of 15-25 Euros and/or a jail sentence of up to seven days.

All governing parties and the opposition agreed on the move - most for security reasons linked to the fact that people cannot be recognised while wearing the clothing.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has declared that the burqa is not welcome in France, calling it an affront to French values that denigrates women.

France's National Assembly will begin debate in early July on a bill banning Muslim women from wearing the full Islamic veil.