The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books -

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

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