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Explosive Words

Updikes Autographs His Book
"Defend your lonely forts," John Updike, here signing copies of his new book, "Terrorist," told booksellers on Saturday. ". . . Books are intrinsic to our human identity." (Nikki Kahn -- The Washington Post)

Not that he was disavowing the notion of library scanning. Libraries, he said, have been with us a long time and "all the books in them are free to end users."

Turvey liked Kelly's article. "I think he nailed it," he said. Told of Updike's criticism, he suggested that there's a bit of an "apples and oranges" thing going on.

"For novelists and trade publishers that publish books to be read sequentially," he said, the utility of searching within a book's content is harder to understand. But this kind of book is a minority, and a lot of publishers know that they can increase their sales by allowing searches that lead potential customers to texts they otherwise might never have found.

Take HarperCollins, which has all its in-print titles in Google Book Search program. At a BEA panel for publishers yesterday, HarperCollins executive Brian Murray discussed the advantages of Book Search. And now there he was, starring in a looping video that played on two flat screens in the Google booth:

"We've learned a tremendous amount working with Google and we've reached a tremendous amount of consumers," the onscreen Murray said.

The 'Oooh' Factor

Beyond the Google booth, it was back to business as usual.

At the same breakfast event where Updike lit into Kelly, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) gave an optimistic speech in support of his new book, "The Audacity of Hope," due out in October. At the Quirk Books booth, co-authors Sarah Mlynowski and Farrin Jacobs autographed "See Jane Write: A Girl's Guide to Writing Chick Lit." It could not be ascertained whether Harvard plagiarist Kaavya Viswanathan had acquired a copy.

In the serious-author category: Here was Sebastian Junger (of "The Perfect Storm" fame) promoting his latest, "A Death in Belmont." Here was Richard Ford, whose "The Lay of the Land" will complete his Frank Bascombe trilogy ("The Sportswriter," "Independence Day") this fall. Here were Margaret Atwood, John Grisham, Jane Hamilton and Mary Gaitskill.

"The Da Vinci Code" being just out in theaters -- you could see a giant "DVC" billboard from the entrance to the Convention Center -- it seemed fitting to encounter brochures for a forthcoming spinoff compilation called "Secrets of Mary Magdalene." Meanwhile, Steve Berry, author of the if-you-like-Dan-Brown bestseller "The Templar Legacy," explained his formula for writing fact-based fiction:

"The 'oooh' factor plus the 'so what' factor equals high concept," Berry said.

At the W.W. Norton booth, a crowd gathered around a familiar, furry face. It was Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, founding member of the technorati and author of a fall book titled "iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon: Getting to the Core of Apple's Inventor."

Had he by chance read the Kevin Kelly article on the future of the book?

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