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The End of Oulipo?

The End of Oulipo? My book (co-authored with Lauren Elkin), published by Zero Books. Available everywhere. Order it from Amazon, or find it in bookstores nationwide. The End of Oulipo

Lady Chatterley’s Brother

Lady Chatterley's Brother. The first ebook in the new TQC Long Essays series, Lady Chatterley's Brothercalled “an exciting new project” by Chad Post of Open Letter and Three Percent. Why can't Nicholson Baker write about sex? And why can Javier Marias? We investigate why porn is a dead end, and why seduction paves the way for the sex writing of the future. Read an excerpt.

Available now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and direct from this site:


Translate This Book!

Ever wonder what English is missing? Called "a fascinating Life Perecread" by The New Yorker, Translate This Book! brings together over 40 of the top translators, publishers, and authors to tell us what books need to be published in English. Get it on Kindle.

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Group Reads

The Tunnel

Fall Read: The Tunnel by William H. Gass

A group read of the book that either "engenders awe and despair" or "[goads] the reader with obscenity and bigotry," or both. Info here. Buy the book here and support this site.

Naked Singularity

Summer Read: A Naked Singularity by Sergio De La Pava

Fans of Gaddis, Pynchon, DeLillo: A group read of the book that went from Xlibris to the University of Chicago Press. Info here. Buy the book here and support this site.

Life Perec

Life A User's Manual by Georges Perec

Starting March 2011, read the greatest novel from an experimental master. Info here. Buy the book here and support this site.

Last Samurai

Fall Read: The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt

A group read of one of the '00s most-lauded postmodern novels. Info here. Buy the book here and support this site.

Tale of Genji

The Summer of Genji

Two great online lit magazines team up to read a mammoth court drama, the world's first novel.

Your Face Tomorrow

Your Face This Spring

A 3-month read of Javier Marias' mammoth book Your Face Tomorrow

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Ten Memorable Quotes from William Gaddis’ Letters

New Books
Here are ten of my favorite moments from these hugely interesting letters.


Interviews from Conversational Reading

New Books
See this page for interviews with leading authors, translators, publishers, and more.


  • A Treatise on Shelling Beans by Wiesław Myśliwski March 9, 2014
    A man enters a house and asks to buy some beans, but we aren’t given his question, only the response: humble surprise from the narrator and an invitation inside. This modesty, though it remains at the core of the narrator throughout, is quickly overwhelmed when his questions, his welcoming explanations, flow into an effort to tell his whole life story, from […]
  • The Gorgeous Nothings by Emily Dickinson, edited by Marta Werner and Jen Bervin March 9, 2014
    The Gorgeous Nothings, the dedicated work of visual artist Jen Bervin and author Marta Werner, presents in large format the first full-color publication of all fifty-two of Emily Dickinson’s envelope writings. As such, it opens up an aspect of her craft that suggests she was, in the so-called late ecstatic period of her career, experimenting with creating te […]
  • The Mehlis Report by Rabee Jaber March 9, 2014
    The Mehlis Report follows the architect Saman Yarid on his daily perambulations around Lebanon's capital, where his memories of the city's past and his observations of the high-rises that have emerged from the ruins of the nation's civil war dominate the faint plot. But the book transcends Beirut: Jaber writes about what is left behind when pe […]
  • The Fiddler of Driskill Hill by David Middleton March 9, 2014
    Middleton’s sensibility as poet and man is thoroughly Christian, Southern (or rather, Louisianan), and traditional, but he’s no unreconstructed romantic Rebel reliving the Civil War. His manner is meditative and elegiac, not rancorous or redneck. In a rare useful blurb on the back of the book, the North Carolina poet and novelist Fred Chappell describes Midd […]
  • The Fata Morgana Books by Jonathan Littell March 9, 2014
    After The Kindly Ones, the nine hundred-page long Goncourt Prize-winning “autobiography” of a Nazi, fans of the Franco-American writer Jonathan Littell may heave an inward sigh of relief at the sight of The Fata Morgana Books. A slim collection of “studies” (as some of these stories were called in their original French incarnations), The Fata Morgana Books n […]
  • Novelty: A History of the New by Michael North March 9, 2014
    There is no better way to ensure the early demise of a form or a style than to proclaim its newness; fewer epithets are as old as “new.” A well-known work by Italian artist Maurizio Nannucci reads, “All art has been contemporary”—we may wish to amend it, for present purposes, and have it read, “All art has been new.” Yet surely this is something of a truism. […]
  • A Life Among Invented Characters: A Tribute to Mavis Gallant March 9, 2014
    Two things immediately come to mind when remembering Mavis Gallant: her unique sense of humor—stories always told with a wry half-smile—and her near-comical stonewalling when confronted with leading questions about her craft in interviews and with audiences. The first time I was in her simple three-room apartment on rue Jean Ferrandi, a mere three blocks fro […]
  • The Guy Davenport Reader March 9, 2014
    Poet-critic. Think of that word, made of two—what a beaux construction. The first is wild, hair mussed, looking at a bird in a tree—yet the follower is practical, urbane, and seemingly obeisant to word counts. Together they bleach out the fusspot academic and appeal to logos—Davenport once said that he was “not writing for scholars or critics, but for people […]
  • [SIC] by Davis Schneiderman March 9, 2014
    In 2011 Andrew Gallix, in the Guardian, wrote a piece on unread difficult books, and mentioned “an anthology of blank books [edited by Michael Gibbs] entitled All Or Nothing,” and we can consider Blank as continuing that line. Kenneth Goldsmith’s prefatory essay “Why Conceptual Writing? Why Now?” in Against Expression: An Anthology of Conceptual Writing (201 […]
  • The Ben Marcus Interview March 9, 2014
    I do tend to generate a lot of pages when I’m drafting something, and I cut as I go. I make strange noises out of my face, on the page, and they are for the most part not worth keeping. Some of the stories don’t take shape until I overwrite and pursue every cursed dead-end I can think of, which clarifies everything I don’t want the story to become. But I don […]

Ebooks: Catastrophe or Opportunity?

While I was at Blue Met last week, Chad had some interesting things to say about how Amazon selling ebooks at $9.99 was something that publishers could definitely make a profit off. He was making a lot of sense—basically that at 70% of $9.99, publishers would be earning more per ebook than they’re currently getting per print book.

But now Jason Epstein says this at the NYR Blog. So, would be interested in seeing Chad’s rebuttal.

The problem began when Amazon set out to charge $9.99 per e-book download, considerably less than it was paying publishers for their e-book inventory. Since Amazon’s competitors could not afford such a costly strategy, Amazon hoped to dominate (or even monopolize) the e-book market and dictate future e-book pricing. Should Amazon’s $9.99 price become the industry standard—a reasonable assumption since e-books like iTunes are merely disembodied electronic information—publishers might then be obliged to sell e-book content to Amazon for perhaps as little as $6.00, too little to contribute their share of pre-digital legacy costs for warehousing, inventory and traditional marketing. Publishers, unable to support these residual costs by physical book sales alone, might eventually submit to the digital imperative and market their books directly to the web to be read on digital screens or printed on demand one copy at a time at diverse locations. Though Amazon’s strategy, if successful, might force publishers to shrink or even abandon their old infrastructure, demand for physical books, printed and bound, will not disappear. Publishers might thus find it necessary to subcontract their physical inventory to specialized distributors.

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More from Conversational Reading:

  1. The Hidden Costs of eBooks The Harper Studio Blog makes the case for why ebooks shouldn’t be dirt cheap: There seems to be a common refrain in many discussions of...
  2. Cheap eBooks: Good or Bad? As I idly requested last week, Chad has more fully explained his thoughts on pricing Open Letter's new ebooks at $4.99 for a limited time....
  3. Audiobook Trends Thanks to MP3s, audiobooks are upping their share of the book market. Digital downloads of Naxos’s talking books account for about 12 per cent of...
  4. What Ebooks Can't Do "Are we writing books or producing content that can be reproduced in any form?" asked Ander Monson, a poet and essayist whose "Vanishing Point: Not...
  5. HarperCollins Switches to All-Digital Catalogs MobyLives follows up Rachel Deahl's report in Publishers Weekly with the news that HarperCollins is switching to all-digital catalogs. One of the big publishers —...

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1 comment to Ebooks: Catastrophe or Opportunity?

  • asli secil

    i work for a turkish publishing company, and in 2011 we have rolled out a new series of books that we publish only in the e-book format, without the printed version. the cost of production for an e-book is as follows: usd 3 per page (covering editing, proofreading, and design) + usd 200 usd for cover design. for an average 250-page book, that makes usd 950. we sell all e-books at usd 3. the turkish version of amazon.com sells our books, and charges 45% for that – also discounting 18% vat, our net revenue is usd 1.4 per copy. 30% of that goes to the author. this puts our break-even point at approximately 950 copies. for printed books, when we print 2000 copies, charge usd 9 and pay the author 10%, we get the same breakeven point – 950 copies. so for us it’s a win-win-win situation – the readers are better off (way cheaper books), authors are better off (because even though the price of the e-book is 3 times cheaper than that of the printed book, this is more than compensated for by the 3 times higher royalty percentage and the greater number of e-books sold compared to printed books), and we as the publishers are also better off by the same token. also, once we start selling our own books, the share of books for which we’ll pay 45% to the distributor will decrease, thus lowering our breakeven point drastically.

    this, of course, will be the case in about four or five years, because e-book titles don’t yet sell all that many in turkey. we are footing the bill because we want to have a strong backlist when that time comes.

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