Wednesday News: Enduring reads, Alexa, wedding announcements, medieval “comic book”
1984 Isn’t the Only Book Enjoying a Revival – It’s always interesting to see what people turn to during any particular era. We can often look back and see how social challenges and changes are reflected in entertainment choices, but with more data readily available, there is more opportunity for reflection and analysis, even in the moment. So what’s trending now in the U.S.? This is a surprise (not). I’m only surprised there isn’t more ‘end of the world’ self-help (that’s a category, right?).
1984’s recent spike has been notable, but the novel has perpetually hovered on the bestseller list, featuring in the top 100 of Amazon’s most-ordered books for the lastthreeyears (in the last 24 hours, it’s jumped from around #91 to #56 on the list of books purchased on Amazon in 2017). For other works, though, their rise in popularity seems more directly linked to the emergence of Trump as a political leader. Sinclair Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here, a 1935 novel about the rise of an authoritarian fascist leader in the U.S., is currently the 26th most-purchased book on Amazon, and its spike on Google Trends corresponds with the U.S. presidential election on November 8. – The Atlantic
Publishers, meet Alexa: voice search is this year’s disruptive force – I am not as persuaded by the revolutionary overtones of this article, but maybe that’s because I’m already on board with audiobooks and Alexa?
In short, Amazon and Google are engaged in a full-fledged voice search arms race. Modern publishers have no choice but to bite the SEO bullet – voice search technology, publishing, and search engine optimization share common ground. But how? . . .
Edison Research showed 23% growth in podcast listening between 2015-2016. How about growth since 2013? A whopping 75%. All told, 57 million Americans listen to podcasts. Most of that listening occurs on mobile devices (often via voice search), and with the popularization of at-home voice search interfaces like Alexa, users may eventually listen to podcasts at home as often as they do on a daily commute. . . .
The mediums are complementary. Publishers can reach a higher volume of potential readers through podcasts and third-party apps; once reached, those readers are more likely to buy print editions of a books or story collections. And in regards to revenue, publishers’ income will remain commensurate with the quality of their podcasts, apps, audio services, and other ventures. In the digital economy, volume of users often dictates profit – and volume comes through quality and user-friendliness. Again, a high volume of digital users will, in fact, lead to more physical book sales. – The Bookseller
Of course, not all wedding stories had happy endings. On June 6, 1855, The New-York Daily Times ran a Page 1 story on a wedding celebration turned tragic: “At a late hour it was found that most of the party, who had partaken of a lot of custard, were suffering from the effects of some deadly poison.”“There were so many affected that the number who escaped were scarcely able to attend to their friends, and the greatest terror and consternation prevailed,” the reporter continued. – New York Times
Back in the day, monks owned the keys to the intellectual kingdom—the ability to read, write and produce the illuminated manuscripts that held religious and educational information for those lucky enough to enter their erudite communities. As the British Library’s Alison Ray notes in the library’s medieval manuscripts blog, the manuscripts they produced often read like comic books— and the medieval illuminated manuscripts of Psychomachia; the war of the soul: or, the battle of the virtues, and vices could hold court against the best modern-day comics and graphic novels?. . . .
Prudentius’ Psychomachia has been called the first pure allegory—a work that gave abstract virtues like chastity and humility and vices like wrath and pride human forms. The poem shows the vices and virtues locked in a spiritual battle for the human soul—a battle that, when put in the hands of medieval monks, became perfect comic book fodder. – Smithsonian Magazine