THE OVERFLOW ROSEMARY SORENSEN
WE don’t know about e- books taking the ‘‘ joy of reading to another dimension’’, as Dymocks claims, but they are certainly taking the issue of royalties into a new era. The bookselling chain says it has 135,000 titles ready for you to download and read on screen ( yuck), and you have the advantage of not waiting for a real book to be sent to you. Trouble is, Jeremy Fisher from the Australian Society of Authors says, while the cost of providing a download is negligible, the royalty rate for payment back to the author is ‘‘ at best the same as print’’ ( about 10 per cent). The ASA says a royalty rate of 80 per cent is fair because there are no distribution or print costs. Fisher says there’s even an issue about whether publishers ‘‘ have the rights to license their books into a Dymocks- type project’’ at all. THE winner of the Man Asian Literary Prize, Wolf Totem by Jiang Rong ( whose real name is Lu Jiamin), will be published by Penguin in the US and Britain in March next year. Translated by veteran American translator Howard Goldblatt and set in Mongolia during the years of the Cultural Revolution, this novel sounds as if it will be perfectly timed as the world gears up for a China- fest in the lead- up to the Beijing Olympics. The author’s political past ( he was imprisoned at the time of the Tiananmen Square demonstrations) has made his publishing position a bit iffy in China, apparently. One of the three judges, Nick Jose, says this is ‘‘ grand storytelling and very original’’. KEVIN Rudd, of course, could read Wolf Totem in the original, but apparently what he’ll be reading this summer is Di Morrissey’s novel Monsoon . At least, that’s what he told the Lismore locals earlier this month when he was at the Dymocks bookshop signing ( weirdly) copies of the two biographies written about him. On the recommendation of partisan locals, including the politically outspoken Mungo MacCallum, Rudd bought Morrissey’s latest ripping yarn. Set in Vietnam, Monsoon features a blind Buddhist monk who lives in a pagoda on top of a mountain. THOSE stormy times at the University of Melbourne over the future of its longstanding literary magazine Meanjin appear to have subsided, although we have it on good authority that the situation can be summed up thus: confusion reigns. Editor Ian Britain, who dug in his heels over the board’s plan to embed the magazine in the offices of Melbourne University Publishing, claiming that would remove editorial independence, has been in Canberra for the past couple of months, working at the Australian National University on a biography of Donald Friend. Will the editor’s position be advertised soon? Will the magazine have its own offices? Maybe yes, maybe no. EXCELLENT to see the impressive Anna Bligh, recently elevated to the position of Premier of Queensland, making a small statement about the importance of, and pleasure to be had from, reading. She will do the honours at the Brisbane launch of Matthew Condon’s big new book, The Trout Opera , at the Queensland State Library on Thursday.
overflow@ theaustralian. com. au