THE BRITISH LIBRARY

In through the outfield blog

44 posts categorized "Books"

15 May 2012

Writing Britain: Wastelands to Wonderlands – I’ve pinned my tale on the map

Add comment Comments (0)

writing-britainOur great new exhibition which opened last Friday is called Writing Britain: Wastelands to Wonderlands, and features some wonderful exhibits which have never been seen in public before.

These include loans coming directly from writers such as Hanif Kureishi, Jonathan Coe, Ian McEwan, and Posy Simmonds. You can read regular updates on the exhibition on the English and Drama blog.

The exhibition is all about exploring how the landscapes and places of Britain permeate our great literary works. And on the exhibition website is the chance to participate by adding your own literary geographic reference.

Just choose a literary work from any period and any form (e.g. a novel, a poem, song lyric or a play) that relates to a specific location in Britain or Ireland. Then say a little about your chosen item, and how the author has captured the spirit of the place, and what it means to you.

Pooh_Shepard1928

Image from Wikipedia

I couldn’t resist revisiting my youthful playground of the Ashdown Forest. I grew up in Forest Row in the heart of Sussex, and spent many a happy hour exploring 500 Acre Wood. This was the basis for A. A. Milne’s fictional Hundred Acre Wood, the landscape for the Winnie-the-Pooh stories.

I have a strong memory of a 10th birthday party egg-hunt under the tall Scots pines at Camel’s Clump and amongst the ferns and bracken. Thanks to the Conservators of Ashdown Forest the place is pretty much the same as it was back in Winnie-the-Pooh’s days.

Russell_Brand_Arthur_Premier_mike

Image from Wikipedia

I also put in an entry for Grays in Essex as the stamping ground for the young Russell Brand, which features heavily in the first of his two (so far) rather childishly titled autobiographies, (unless you believe his claim to be inspired by the fictional Nadsat language from A Clockwork Orange).

In My Booky Wook, Brand talks at length about growing up in this rather miserable town. He believes that part of his determination to become famous was as an escape route from this grey and mundane environment.

Early on in his career he revealed a passion for Jack Kerouac, and his classic novel On the Road. Together with his writing partner Matt Morgan, he travelled across the United States from coast to coast.

I met the notorious comedian briefly in 2007, when his book signing tour came to Brighton. And, in between seducing the young woman in the queue in front of me, and insulting my 14 year old son, he expressed a great interest in visiting The British Library. Although I suspect he has been rather too occupied with his burgeoning Hollywood film career since then to find the time.

18 April 2012

The law of unintended consequences and e-books – Fifty Shades of Grey

Add comment Comments (0)

50_shades_of_greyThe law of unintended consequences is an interesting topic in its own right, with perhaps the most well known example being the unexpected use of text messaging on mobile telephones.

The latest example according to David Sexton in the Evening Standard is the way e-book readers have allowed more women to read adult fiction. Apparently the lack of a racy cover and give-away title when reading a discretely packaged Amazon Kindle or Apple iPad, allows more and more women to indulge their tastes in public. No longer do they need to fear the snorts of derision or disapproving looks as they plough their way through the latest Bodice ripper.

Apparently the growth in e-books (one in eight of adult fiction books is now purchased digitally) has allowed for a rapid growth in what some call ‘Mommy porn‘, or literotica.

The UK market leader in this genre is E L James and her début adult romance novel Fifty Shades of Grey. According to her official website;

E_L_JamesE L James is a TV executive, wife and mother-of-two based in West London. Since early childhood she dreamed of writing stories that readers would fall in love with, but put those dreams on hold to focus on her family and her career. She finally plucked up the courage to put pen to paper with her first novel, Fifty Shades of Grey.

It is claimed 250,000 copies have already been sold in different formats, and has topped the New York Times Bestseller list.

So, the next time you see a fellow commuter looking a bit hot and bothered, it may not be due to the faulty heating system on the train, but caused by something hot and steamy in her e-book reader.

09 February 2012

Information sources in patents, a book review

Add comment Comments (0)

The third edition of Stephen Adams' Information sources in patents has been published by De Gruyter Saur, ISBN 9783110235111.

Stephen is a well-known professional in the patent information world. This book is meant for the serious researcher who needs to know details such as Brazilian patent numeration, or what databases cover Russia. For those less involved in that area, it is still a very useful reference. Minor quibbles are that I would have liked the index to indicate for example which of the 6 mentions of India was for what subject, and I found the index citations to tables of data rather than to the actual pages awkward. With such a comprehensive book more space is needed for the index.

At over 300 pages there does not seem to be a relevant point that is not covered and discussed. The book begins with principles of patenting. As patent systems vary in their publication methods and content and in their numeration (if only historically), four major systems are discussed in great detail (Europe, USA, Japan and the PCT), then over 10 in less but still considerable detail. These include the BRIC countries (a special feature of the new edition) as well as the Far East.

Part II then discusses the different ways to get at the information in those documents. Numerous databases are not just explained but also discussed. As Stephen has a chemical background this subject is of course very well covered here.

I would have liked to see more on public sites, since these are used so much for accessing specific patent documents, and would like to suggest that this forms a "common search type" besides the three given (alerting; patentability and freedom-to-operate; and portfolio and legal proceedings) as obtaining copies is not always straightforward. Filing numbers can be taken to mean published numbers, and US Re-issues are a particular problem, as it is easy to think that a conventional US patent number is the correct text when it may have been replaced by a Re-issue with a new number. Both Espacenet and the official US database do not warn the user that the original patent has been replaced.

Other subjects in the book include legal status searching and classification. Someone new to the trade would probably find it useful to look carefully through the lists of 27 figures and 72 tables to see which ones illuminate problems or display useful data.

In short, this book is packed with detailed information and advice and is indispensable for anyone working in the field, or hoping to do so. It is very easy to construct a bad search or to misinterpret what has been found. Stephen's book helps make mistakes less likely (the searcher still needs to have ability !). The book can be examined through the publisher's website. It is certainly taking a place next to my PC at work.

07 February 2012

CMI Management Book of the Year 2012

Add comment Comments (0)

Last night I attended the CMI Management Book of the Year for 2012 held in association with the British Library.

brainwaveThis competition aims to celebrate the best of management books published or distributed in the UK, from the most inspiring to the most useful.

This year Cass Business School joined as sponsor for the Innovation and Entrepreneurship category.

I was pleased to see that Celia Gates’ book From Brainwave to Business, How to turn your brilliant idea into a successful start-up, was one of the short-listed titles.

The overall winner on the night was The Cult of the Leader, A Manifesto for More Authentic Business by  Christopher Bones.

cult_leadershipThis is a very timely topic with the media attention firmly on the causes of our economic plight, and railing against excessive executive pay.

The book is a critical look at the way business leadership has gone so badly wrong, and what can be done to fix it. Christopher explained that this was his first book for 15 years, so was particularly pleased to have won the award.

The Cult of the Leader, A Manifesto for More Authentic Business
Modern business is obsessed with leaders.  We talk about leadership all the time, but its real meaning is becoming more and more obscure.  Recent corporate crises have shown that all too often, our leaders are missing in action when we need them most. 

In this groundbreaking and provocative new book, Chris Bones shows how we need to:
    Restore trust and confidence
    Be more realistic about what leaders can and can’t do
    Redefine talent
    Revalue experience
    Reconsider remuneration

24 November 2011

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson – A monster of a book about a monster of a man

Add comment Comments (0)

Steve_Jobs_by_Walter_IsaacsonMany thanks to Debbie Epstein for giving me this amazing book as a present.

Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson is the only authorised story of the life and death of one of the most influential figures of the last 50 years, who died on 5 October this year, aged 56, from pancreatic cancer.

The book is something of a monster at 627 pages, and chronicles Steve Jobs‘ life from his childhood, through the creation and early days of Apple computers, his battles with Microsoft, his sacking and 12 year later return to the company he founded. Isaacson managed to interview Jobs himself over forty times, and tracked down more than a hundred friends, family, colleagues, competitors and adversaries.

I found it a compelling read, and managed to complete it in less than a week. It is perhaps the most honest and revealing authorised biography ever written of an industry leader. Isaacson uncovers both the amazing stories behind the revolutionary products Apple produced. However, he also reveals something of a monster of a man.

Jobs was a sensitive person, perhaps more so due to being adopted at birth, who spent several months wandering across India in his youth looking for spiritual enlightenment and followed Buddhism for the rest of his life. But he could also be the most manipulative and down-right nasty person it is possible to imagine. So much so, that his early colleagues referred to his ability to distort reality to his own ends (Reality distortion field even has its own Wikipedia entry).

Having been something of a computer nerd as a teenager in the mid-1970s I first came across his creations in the form of an Apple II computer. As you can see it was some way from the sleek and sexy design of the more recent iMacs. So reading the story of how Jobs and Steve Wozniak developed these machines made for riveting reading.

Apple II computer

Although he made many mistakes along the way, as well as many enemies, and a trail of broken colleagues, his vision and passion resulted in products which have truly revolutionised the computer industry, and made Apple the most valuable company in the world.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about Steve Jobs was that he never felt the need to conduct market research (something we recommend all our clients in the Business & IP Centre should do). Instead he worked on creating ‘insanely great’ products people would discover they didn’t know they needed until they saw them.

15 August 2011

History in an Hour – another of our Success Stories

Add comment Comments (0)

History-in-an-HourAfter my post Here’s one we helped earlier – Seasoned culinary courses, I’ve heard from another client of the Business & IP Centre who has gone on to great success.

Even better, History in an Hour is the brainchild of a librarian.

Rupert Colley had the idea ten years ago, but with the encouragement of his partner Annabel and help from the Business & IP Centre, he finally made a success of it.

The value of the idea has now been recognised by international publishing house Harper Collins, who recently purchased the e-book series from the Rupert.

Annabel kindly sent me a note saying;

“… had it not been for the Business & IP Centre, I wouldn’t have had the idea or the confidence to know where to start in registering a trademark for “In An Hour”, which meant that this became also an asset purchase, not just a straight multi-book licensing deal.”

Rupert also sent me a note to say they are having a summer sale. For the month of August 2011 only, the apps are 69p -  iBooks 49p – Nook 99c and Kindle 98p or less.

History-in-an-Hour-wide

HarperCollins Signs History in an Hour Ebook Series

In a major new acquisition HarperCollins has purchased the History in an Hour e-book series from the company founder and author Rupert Colley. The deal was set up by Scott Pack and the books will be published by Arabella Pike at HarperPress.

History in an Hour is a series of e-books and apps that summarise key areas of world history in digest form, with each title taking no more than sixty minutes to read. From World War Two to Black History, from American Civil War to the Reformation, History in an Hour titles have been a permanent fixture in the Apple bestseller lists since September 2010, often with 3 titles in the top ten or five in the top twenty. They recently came out on Kindle as well. The History in an Hour website and blog can be found at: www.historyinanhour.com

Scott Pack says: “When I saw these e-books topping the Apple iBooks charts I was intrigued as I was pretty sure they weren’t from a major publisher. I downloaded one and was really impressed, it did exactly as it promised. I was amazed to discover that they were all the work of a librarian from Enfield creating them in his spare room. I was determined to snap them up before anyone else did.”

Rupert Colley comments: “History is fascinating but it can also be daunting – huge books, a huge choice and endless websites. My aim with History In An Hour is to make it less daunting and more accessible whilst still providing a quality read. I want to offer readers a starting place in their historical reading; a platform on which to build. Now, with HarperPress, we can take it to a new level and spread the word – that History is exciting.”

HarperPress will launch the series on 4th August with six titles. A further seven will follow in October. All existing books will be rebranded and an ambitious programme to grow the series will include titles on the fall of the Roman Empire, the Gunpowder Plot, the Vietnam War, Castro and the Wars of the Roses, as well as an extension of the brand into other subject areas. More than one year on, History in an Hour is still topping the charts with World War Two in an Hour currently number 15.

Arabella Pike comments: ‘This is an incredibly exciting venture for HarperPress. In just over one year Rupert has, single-handed, created a superb brand offering great history for busy people – short, sharp, informative books to be read on a phone or e-reader perfect whilst enduring the daily commute to work. As a leading publisher of history, we intend to work with Rupert to build this pioneering series to publish some terrific titles, show how historical content can be refashioned to suit the digital age, and open up a whole new generation of readers to the delights of history.’

Launch titles:

  • World War Two
  • The Cold War
  • The Afghan Wars
  • The Reformation
  • Henry VIII’s Wives
  • Nazi Germany
  • October titles:
  • Black History
  • 1066
  • Hitler
  • Ancient Egypt
  • American Slavery
  • The American Civil War
  • The World Cup

16 June 2011

A better mousetrap blog and book

Add comment Comments (0)

Back in February I posted about My favourite patent and invention blogs. I've just discovered a new one: A Better Mousetrap.

The blog is packed with interesting material, voiced frustration at the problems involved in getting a new product to market, and not a little humour. In their own words, "We use our blog mainly to vent spleen and tilt at windmills." I'll certainly come back regularly to read new postings.

A Better Mousetrap is also the name of a book by Graham Barker and Peter Bissell which is available from the site. It explains in great detail what is involved in, again, getting a new product to market. I remember how pleased I was on seeing the first edition, quite a few years ago -- later editions were a lot bigger in content.

They also offer a consultancy service. Based in Hebden Bridge, Yorkshire, they "help inventors with affordable invention evaluation and advice services". Their about page gives more information.

21 March 2011

Green Metropolis – a million books to read again and again

Add comment Comments (0)

GreenMetropolis Thanks once again to Smarta.com for this inspiring business start-up story, this time featuring books (a subject close to my heart).

They have interviewed Barry Crow the founder of Green Metropolis about  how he came to develop the site using his redundancy pay.

What’s your background and how did you come up with the idea for the site? I’m originally from Newcastle and worked for British Airways as an IT developer. I moved to London for my job and went from a 4 bedroom house to a one bedroom flat. I’m an avid reader and had loads of paperbacks. If people have space, their books go under the bed or on the shelf. I had no space and had to de-clutter everything. So I started giving them away to charity shops. 

I went through pretty much the same process; I would buy a new book every month, read it and then drop it off in a charity shop.  But I could never find books there I wanted to buy. If I had just finished a James Patterson, then I would want to read another one. But if the charity shop didn’t have it I would have to go to Waterstones and buy a new one.

After a while I just thought: this is crazy; there must be a better way to do this. That was the beginnings of the idea but I didn’t look at it properly until I lost my job.


How many people use the site?

We have about 100,000 members.

We started with 1,000 books in stock which were mostly mine, and a few of my friends. We have about a million second-hand books in stock now. Some members still buy books brand new, because they have to have it, but within a week they’ve read it and will post it on the site


What sets you aside from sites like Amazon or even eBay?

Our site is more like a book club; it’s a community doing it to benefit each other. It’s for people who want to share their books with each other and at the same time raise money for a good cause. It adds to the whole feel-good factor of the site.

When you join us, you get an online account and every time you sell, you can either have the money refunded to you or use it buy new books.

Everyone should benefit, whether buying or selling, and ideally, we want our sellers to have enough credit from sales to buy their next one on the site without ever needing to use a credit card.

What’s been the biggest challenge?

I think probably promoting the site. I have no experience with the marketing side of things. My background is computers and IT, so I didn’t have a problem with the technical side of the site. But I suppose I naively thought after 6 months that once we had a great website, people would naturally come to it.

Like I said, we’ve never advertised it, and it’s been a very slow process. I started off and it was just me and I massively underestimated the time it takes to do everything.

Where do you see the site in five years time?

I would like GreenMetropolis.com to be the main ethical alternative to Amazon for second hand and charity books. For myself, I would like to work a little less, so that I can read a little more.