Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015


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Bookselling 101
Here's a classic example of the media not understanding how the book trade works and then passing on that ignorance to the general public. In the Financial Post last week Matt Hatley reported on taking the Kindle for a test drive. The Kindle, Amazon's e-reader, has just been released in Canada and Hatley complains that not enough books are available yet for the device. To wit:

Strangely, one of the most disappointing aspects of the Kindle is the lack of actual books available to download. Amazon claims Canadians have access to more than 300,000 different titles, including best sellers and classics.

But there sure seem to be a lot of omissions. To test this out, I went to's Best Sellers list on my laptop and typed each of the top 10 books which appeared there into the Kindle to see which were available straight through the device. Out of those 10, eight seemed to be unavailable. This includes General Rick Hillier's book A Soldier First, Andre Agassi's recent autobiography and Dan Brown's latest tome The Lost Symbol. ... If Amazon really wants people to use this thing, they're going to need to make more books available. [my emphasis]

Strangely, Mr Hatley? Only if you are ill informed. Bookselling 101: Amazon.COM is an AMERICAN bookseller. American booksellers may not, by law, sell books into the Canadian market if a Canadian publisher holds rights for that book. Just as you can't order hardcopies of Hillier's or Agassi's or Brown's books from, you cannot order a digital copy of those books from You have to order those books from Amazon.CA, their Canadian site. This is not just splitting hairs. If laws did not exist to insulate the Canadian book trade from foreign imports, there would be no Canadian book trade. would have steamrollered it long ago. As much as some short-sighted consumers don't like to accept it when they are even marginally inconvenienced by it, Canada is a sovereign state with a border to protect. This is an issue of copyright: Canadian publishers buy the rights to publish books (and you can be sure Canadian rights for all those bestsellers have been purchased). Amazon was required to set up so that Canadian-published books did not have to compete with American-published books. The Kindle has been out in the USA for a few years, but was only just released in Canada last week. It is not up to Amazon to decide what books are to be made available for the Kindle, it is up to the publishers, since the publishers own the rights to the books. Less than a week is just too short a time in which to expect Canadian publishers to have made digital copies of all their books available. And even if they did have them ready, you're not going to find them on Amazon's American site.

"Did Satan really create the dinosaurs?"
You know those dumb-dumbs who think believing that an invisible sky daddy used his magical powers to make you, me, all the puppies and everything else in the world is somehow less taxing on the human imagination than Darwin's theory of evolution? Well, those folks were hard at work last week. (No rest for the wicked, I guess.) Apparently many thousands of copies of Darwin's Origin of Species were handed out by them for free on American university campuses, except this edition of the book also contained an introduction that attempted to refute Darwin's theory by calling it, um, "just a theory". Er, right, er...yes, as opposed to the factually proven story of mr big sky daddy and all the other hokum in the Bible. The Christian Science Monitor has the story, as well as a long and very entertaining list of scathing reader comments.

I cover the space port
Speaking of the Bible, io9's Book Vortex has a very cool post offering galleries showing the history of the cover art for 16 science fiction classics (sorry, Bible not actually included). If you are a nerd for this sort of stuff, like me, you'll find it to be a whole lot of fun and a great way to waste time.

More misguided fools
And speaking of people who think the Bible should be shelved in the "history" section, first they voted for her, then they bought her book, and now they've been snubbed by her. Mrs Lipstick on a Pig herself, Sarah Palin, cut out early on a book event pissing off half-an-alphabet worth of her fans. MSNBC has the (irritating) video made by one of her fans documenting the aborted event, along with some smirking, gloating commentary by its wonks.

Toilet reading
And speaking of Darwin's Origin of Species, The Independent reports that a rare first edition of the book was recently found in a book case in a lavatory of a home near Oxford, England. It is going on the block at Christie's and is expected to sell for £60,000. [UPDATE: The book sold for £103,250.]

The LA Times shows us how to make a book, in just 3,000 photographs.

7 Words
The autobiography (or as he apparently called it, "sortabiography") of George Carlin, Last Words, has just been published posthumously, which is my excuse to cue up the 7 words you CAN say on the internet.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

Shaun Smith

Shaun Smith is a novelist and journalist living in Toronto. His young adult novel Snakes & Ladders was published in January 2009 by the Dundurn Group.

Go to Shaun Smith ’s Author Page