Holidaying in Sepia: thoughts of a postmodern luddite

January 23rd, 2015 by Alec Spencer | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Holidaying in Sepia: thoughts of a postmodern luddite
Tags: , , ,


Lanz2I once said to my son, who is a consultant orthopaedic surgeon, that the medical profession should get ready for cases of phone-itis. All he did was to laugh. And since then he sometimes recalls what I said and laughs again. I can’t see what’s so stupid about my observation? After all, with the development of the typewriter and the keyboard doctors are seeing cases of repetitive strain injury – all those fingers seizing up!

Just walk along the street and every other person is on their mobile phone, talking to someone – somewhere on this planet. Perhaps they are not really doing so? If they are lonely, friendless, then perhaps they are only pretending to speak to someone else – so that others will think they are just like them. And of course, those with ear-phones – so that they appear to be talking to themselves, or arguing violently with themselves – no wonder our mental health services are so overloaded. And those blue-tooth earpieces, with little blinking blue lights – we now have remote controlled aliens driving our taxis.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, people walking around holding their phones to their ears and chattering away. Now, I know that when I do that, after a few minutes I start getting aches in my muscles around my elbow. So I switch arms for a few minutes, then back again and so on. The pain is not quite tennis elbow, which can come from a burst of activity in the arm muscles – but I’ve not done any decorating or violin playing recently. So, I thought phone-itis would describe the phenomenon – and since millions of people are always on their phones – then a proportion of these will start suffering similar pains. “So get ahead of the rest of the medical profession and ‘discover’ and treat phone-itis“, I said. He just laughed.

What is the world coming to? Everybody appears to need a personal communication device of some sort. Some people have a range of them – their mobile phone, a tablet, a computer, a notepad and so on. I remember going into a mobile phone shop and asking for something that was just a phone. They laughed. It had a megapixel camera, wifi and bluetooth connectivity, and it could connect to the G8 or something like that. It had GPS, email, diaries and could probably have switched on my washing machine remotely, since it could seemingly control my television and probably attempt to control my life. It had applications by the score – so I had better call them apps. And it had games so that I could spend all day moving bricks around a screen, killing-off pac-men or playing solitaire. I think it also had a device for phoning home or friends hidden among the icons for facebook or twitter. Did I want to occupy the Cloud – or was that simply where my head was?

So I have my personal communication device and I can send messages in so many ways that by the time I have decided whether it is better to send it via the phone signal or wifi, and whether it should be an SMS text, email, twitter or whatever, I have forgotten what it was I was going to say.

It is wonderful to be able to Skype or Facetime ones friends and family. But why do they always seem to want to make visual contact while I am sitting on the loo?

Do we really need to be connected to the rest of the world? Is it important to know what one’s @personal_guru is thinking or eating for #breakfast? Who do you follow? A football player? A pop-star, fashion icon, writer, politician, fruit-and-nut-case, artist, your boss or a friend? And why? What is so important about reading their latest whim or comment, re-tweet or joke?

Now, I can have new aspirations. My social media presence needs a makeover. I’m a social nobody if I don’t have at least 500k followers or if my latest YouTube submission hasn’t gone viral. How can I live in cyberspace and hold up my head with only 53 followers and 69 hits?

I am thinking about my next holiday in the sun and worrying about whether I will remember to take the phone and ipad chargers and the European travel plugs. And then, when we are away wherever we are in the world, we will have to make sure that we take pictures of ourselves relaxing by the pool, reading a book and drinking sangria and send them off as proof that we are actually there. When we saw those first pictures of an American space ship landing on the moon, there were loads of conspiracy theories offering an alternative view that the landings were filmed in a studio somewhere. So we are on holidays and ask at reception for the wifi code, and we get a small piece of paper with some strange hieroglyphics which would make MI5 proud. Or will I just use the guest wifi in the café next door? Do we really want to know the temperature for the next two days or that Andy Murray has blown it again at the quarter-finals?

I’m thinking about a relaxing holiday – if that’s not an oxymoron? Reading my printed book on the plane without having to close it on take-off and landing. Being able to enjoy a meal without getting a phone call from an ambulance chasing law firm asking me if I’ve been sold PPI, or doing a Sudoku in the morning without having to contemplate an urgent email. How did we all survive when the world was only in black and white? Did we just forget about others and simply enjoy the here and now?

Can we still find peace and calm in a modern world? The Pope now uses twitter to communicate with his flock. Even he will want to put down his mobile when he turns to prayer? Perhaps there will be a notice in church that reads “No tweeting during services (unless to @God)”.

So I hope for a quiet, technological free, time on holidays. Now all of you can have a laugh!

The Indigenous Literary Foundation in Australia

January 23rd, 2015 by Paula De Lucas Gudiel | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on The Indigenous Literary Foundation in Australia


ILFWhen it comes to spreading literature, there are several associations that are focused on this matter. One of them is the Indigenous Literary Foundation in Australia, winner of the International Education Initiatives at the London Book Fair International Excellence Awards. The article in Publishing Perspectives gives us a glimpse at what this foundation is attempting to do.

In 2004, Suzy Wilson originated this Literary Foundation with the aim of expanding literacy levels to remote indigenous communities.

Karen-Williams-en-route-to-Alice-SpringsKaren Williams, one of the members of ILF, has been on almost 20 field trips that have taken her to Kimberley in Western Australia, in order to reach a community of 80 people. These trips also include a community on the edge of the Great Sandy Dessert, called Warburton, with 500 members, or even to the Tiwi Islands, having to fly in an light aircraft off the coast of Darwin. Not only that, but early this year, Williams and other members flew to what is known as the remotest community in Australia: Tjuntjuntjara. In order to accomplish this, they had to take an eight-hour- long flight from Perth, then a three-hour flight to Kalgoorie and drive for eight more hours. The ILF has been involved with this community for a long period of time. They have helped pupils to work on a book that is based on their school garden, and it’s called How Does Your Garden Grow and two years ago, some students and elders were brought to Sydney to participate in the charity’s Indigenous Literacy Day. This event was very important for them, for they had never been in a big city or even seen a plane before. They had never left their community, but during that visit, they even had the chance to visit a bookshop.

The Indigenous Literary Foundation has delivered more than 120,000 free books to more than 230 remote communities, and it has published and funded more than 40 books, including some of them in aboriginal languages.

Definitely, the job that the ILF is doing in order to reach isolated communities in Australia is very so successful that they can proudly show it in all the achievements they have accomplished.

– Paula de Lucas Gudiel.



Xinyu Zhang, MLitt in Publishing Studies 2014-15

January 16th, 2015 by Xinyu Zhang | Posted in Student Profiles | Comments Off on Xinyu Zhang, MLitt in Publishing Studies 2014-15


10007448_286025964932958_4824950561450489688_nI am a 2014-2015 postgraduate student in Publishing Studies in university of Stirling. I come from China, inner Mongolia, which is located in the  North of China. I also studied the master degree of communication in Beijing institute of Graphic Communication. This is my second year’s study, but I want to study more in publishing to enhance my background. I hope I will overcome all the barriers of language as  soon as possible so I can get involved this exciting area through  excellent lectures and classmates.

Literature ingrained in society

January 16th, 2015 by Marit Mathisen | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Literature ingrained in society
Tags: , , , , ,

Where do the popular knock knock jokes come from? Some people say they are from Shakespeare’s Macbeth, and they are not the only thing coming from literature to become something everyone says.

The most obvious type of literature people might quote without knowing they are quoting it, would be religious texts, but there are many other areas in which literature is being used on a daily basis. For instance, it should not come as a surprise that catch-22 comes from the novel of the same title, but people might use that without having even seen a copy of the book.

Do you, for instance, know why you say something is “a sight for sore eyes”? The saying is attributed to Jonathan Swift, who in A Complete Collection of Genteel and Ingenious Conversation wrote “the sight of you is good for sore eyes”. Or did you know that the phrase “busy as a bee” is attributed to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales? Some research is likely to yield more examples like these, and Norway has one long quote from a book that is so ingrained in society that any Norwegian you ask will know what you are talking about, regardless of whether they have read the book it comes from.

What I am referring to is the “Law of Jante” or “Janteloven” in Norwegian. It was written by Aksel Sandemose, who was Danish, but lived in Norway. His writing was actually a combination of the two languages, but  knowing that Norwegian writing is derived from Danish, either language is quite easy to understand. There are ten laws, and the gist of them is  that whoever you are, you are not to think you are anything more special or better than “us”.

The English Wikipedia article on the law has the list translated:

  1. You’re not to think you are anything special.
  2. You’re not to think you are as good as we are.
  3. You’re not to think you are smarter than we are.
  4. You’re not to convince yourself that you are better than we are.
  5. You’re not to think you know more than we do.
  6. You’re not to think you are more important than we are.
  7. You’re not to think you are good at anything.
  8. You’re not to laugh at us.
  9. You’re not to think anyone cares about you.
  10. You’re not to think you can teach us anything.

The law is so ingrained that whenever someone acts too confident they are told to remember the law of Jante. The Norwegian people police each other with these rules, as do Danes and Swedes. Can you think of anything borrowed from literature that is completely ingrained in the society you come from?

These ideas might make you wonder what will be in use in everyday language in the future. Will muggle become an everyday term? And if so, what would it mean? What other words, phrases and ideas might become the norm in the future?

Fanrong He, MLitt in Publishing Studies 2014-15

January 12th, 2015 by Fanrong He | Posted in Student Profiles | Comments Off on Fanrong He, MLitt in Publishing Studies 2014-15
Tags: , , ,


84040b69jw1eh7o7bl7nuj20l00vkgruHello, everyone, My name is Fanrong He and my English name is Amanda, I’m from China.  My undergraduate major was Publishing, and I choose to go on to study this major at the University of Stirling is because I’m really interested in the publishing industry. As we all know, publishing industry in many countries is facing a huge change, from traditional publishing to digital publishing. How to participate in this industry well is a question for many people, and this is the question which I’m interested in.

I like reading books and doing exercise when I’m alone. I prefer reading e-books than paper books. Thanks to an amazing development of technology,  e-books can suit modern life much better. I’m looking forward to gain knowledge about digital publishing and copyright. In my opinion, digital books will be the main stream in the feature while the physical books will still exist.

I have a strong emotions that force myself to do my best, I like the feeling that do very hard working on a certain issue, this makes me feel like I’m fulfilled by positive energy all the time.


Beautiful Gift Books

January 12th, 2015 by Leia Forster | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Beautiful Gift Books
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Something that has always caught my attention in book shops is books with wonderful production value; thick paper, glossy images and gold embossing. If a book has gold embossing, I need it in my life. While run-of-the-mill paperbacks can be great purchases if you’re an avid reader, when it comes to giving books as gifts I feel there’s a need to choose something a little more special. If like me you are at a loss for what to buy someone this Christmas, read ahead and behold the beautiful gift books of my choosing.

The Barnes and Nobles Leatherbound Series



An affordable and wonderfully produced collection of books. Ranging from the classics to science fiction and non-fiction, you can tell a lot of thought has gone into the cover designs for each individual book. With an extremely reasonable RRP price of £25 a book, there’s no reason not to have several of these on your shelf. Many of the editions have several books within their pages, and the quality of production almost makes you feel bad for paying so little. The image to the right is just one example of the illustrations that can be found in these books. This particular one is from Edgar Allan Poe’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination.


Mister Finch, Living in a Fairytale World

 mr finch 5For anyone interested in quirky art, this is the book for you. Mister Finch is a textile artist from Leeds who creates fabric fairytale creatures ranging from huge bees to dead canaries. Have you ever wondered what it might be like to have cat sized moths in the world? Mister Finch has.

This book showcases the best of his work with wonderfully photographed, glossy full colour images, and the cover could be considered art itself with the intricate metallic embossing.

mr finch 3mr finch 2










 Folio Society & Gollancz H.G.Wells Classics

H. G. Wells Set [3 Vols] Classics of Science Fiction The Time Machine, The Invisible Man, The War of the Worlds - Folio SocietyThe Folio Society prides themselves on their extremely high standards of book design and production. Amongst my favourites is this collection of H.G.Wells Classics complete with illustrations. This lovely edition is however out of print, but can be still be found through online retailers with a price tag of around £65.

If that’s a little over budget, Gollancz published a series of cheaper but equally as charming H.G.Wells books. This edition of The Shape of Things to Come was recently featured in the hit TV show, The Walking Dead.

 classic collection hgwells

These are just a few of the many particularly special books in circulation that could make fantastic gifts. If these aren’t quite what you were looking for, I hope this post gives you the inspiration to find something suitable for that book-loving friend or family member.

Ziwei Lu, MLitt in Publishing Studies 2014-2015

January 8th, 2015 by Ziwei Lu | Posted in Student Profiles | Comments Off on Ziwei Lu, MLitt in Publishing Studies 2014-2015


I am Ziwei Lu, and you can call me Sophia. My hometown is Shanghai ,China. I have chosen Publishing studies to be the subject during the time of my postgraduate because that I really enjoy the time when I read books. When I was a little child, my parents helped me to develop a reading habit by some interesting children’s books. So nowadays, I still thankful to that children’s books. I always hanging around the children’s book section in the bookshop and library when I am free.

I also interested in the digital part of the bookselling in the UK. In China, the digital book market has been largely dominated by piracy. When people in China think about digital books, most of them think they should be free. But  I think people should be used to pay money when they want to get something, even that is not a physical book. The process of words becoming a book is really hard, so authors deserve to be paid for what excellent work that they have done. Since the digital book market in China is not so sophisticated, I am really interested in this aspect.

Michaela Strachan, MLitt in Publishing Studies 2014-2015

January 7th, 2015 by Michaela Strachan | Posted in Student Profiles | Comments Off on Michaela Strachan, MLitt in Publishing Studies 2014-2015
Tags: ,

   My name is Michaela. I’m a recent undergrad from the University of Strathclyde. In 2013, I graduated in English and History with a BA (Joint HONS). I grew up travelling to various places abroad with lengthy plane journeys spent carrying armfuls of books. Reading and learning from writers I had never experienced before are the few constants throughout my life. From the Beatrix Potter books I was raised with to my expansion into the works of J.G Ballard, Angela Carter, Ian Fleming, and many others, my bookshelf was always the first thing to be packed and the first unpacked. It’s from these trips and interests that I decided upon pursuing publishing.

   After my first degree, I hoped to find a course which blended together theory and practice. One that took advantage of the things I enjoyed most, and what I was passionate about learning about. While I still get buried in historical theory and debate, Publishing is an area which I’m eager to participate and learn more about.

  Currently, I’m looking ahead to future internships and the experience I can gain from them. For more thoughts, updates and information look to my LinkedIn and follow my twitter account, @Strachan_M.



Visiting Speaker: Dr Sam Rayner

January 7th, 2015 by Callum Mitchell Walker | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Visiting Speaker: Dr Sam Rayner
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


On Thursday the 4th December we enjoyed the last visiting speaker of the semester, Dr Sam Rayner, the Director of the Centre for Publishing at the University College of London (UCL). Dr Rayner’s talk focused on her paper ‘Star Texts: The Next Generation’ in which she explores the dynamic modern world of publishing and its impact and potential impact on teaching and learning in society. Dr Rayner analyses the way in which publishers edit and package content for new readers and new markets, the shaping of the literary canon, and the emergence and significance of several types of ‘Star Texts’. Before beginning her talk, Dr Rayner pre-warned us of her use of Star Trek puns (which she admitted she had toned down), however the class was eager to hear about her research on ‘Star Texts’.

But what does Dr Rayner mean by Star Texts?

Dr Rayner began by expressing that throughout her academic and professional life (whether it be teaching, research, working in libraries or bookselling), texts and their status and consumption have been fundamental. This made her interested in observing how we read, keep, study and rate books. As a literary and publishing researcher, Dr Rayner recognised that certain terms related to texts with cultural standing—‘The Canon’ and ‘The Classic’, have “become elusive and complicated by two other means of quality control”—‘The Prize Winners’ and ‘The Book Club Recommendations’. Dr Rayner collectively calls these four groups ‘Star Texts’, and argued, “these texts create clusters in the impossible constellation of the research environment that they belong to”. This term, ‘impossible constellation’ comes from Prof. Ruth Mateus-Berr from the University of Applied Art Vienna, during a conference on artistic research, and she used the term to attempt to describe the “several contradictory methods, understandings and histories” that could be applied to artistic research. Dr Rayner believes that this ‘constellation’ was a particularly useful way of understanding how texts exist in the 21st Century. Her research therefore focuses on the tension between a literary work, and the responses to the literary work in question. Dr Rayner suggested that whilst the text remains unchanged, there is a constant transformative process of the work, born out of the interaction and response from each specific reader.

‘The Classic’

Dr Rayner went on to discuss importance of the transformative star text group of ‘The Classic’. These texts, Dr Rayner argued, are those that most commonly stand the test of time. But what makes a text a ‘Classic’? Dr Rayner pointed out that scholars have very varied views on this question. The ‘Classic’, academics argue, should arguably be “timelessly appealing” and “elevate its author to the status of a god”. Dr Rayner also added that ‘Classics’ can be very subjective, and one individual’s list of ‘Classic’ texts won’t necessarily be the same as that of another individual. However, we do find a curated ‘Classics’ section in a bookshop, and publishers for centuries have created ‘Classic’ lists. This type of text is chosen, designed and marketed by publishers rather than academics (not suggesting they are purely commercial products, however). Dr Rayner asserted that the ‘Classic’ should appeal to every type of reader. She also pointed out that publishers such as Penguin attempt to modernise by means of packaging, engaging with digital, and marketing these timeless texts.

‘The Canon’ 

Dr Rayner next went on to explain another type of ‘Star Text’ known as ‘The Canon’. The establishment sets this group for primarily educational purposes and to define identities within culture. This type of text exists to represent the view of the individual and the preservation of tradition. Dr Rayner went on to discuss how texts have become ‘canonised’ in education through curriculum and have moved away from chronological presentation, towards a clear genre focused syllabi of texts. ‘The Canon’, Dr Rayner believes is undergoing a time of extreme change, and the impact of celebrity culture and national feeling are determining the way texts are canonised in education. Dr Rayner also addressed the issue of whether or not students should be given a prescribed reading list, as arguably this is a means of industrially restraining the individual’s imagination. Perhaps a more effective system would rather encourage young people to love reading and get into a habit of it, Dr Rayner shared to the argument.

‘Prize Winning Fiction’ 

The next type of ‘Star Text’ Dr Rayner explained was the ‘Prize Winning Fiction’ category. Dr Rayner argued that in the modern world of publishing, being nominated for literary prizes quite often means being read or not being read by the reading public. Dr Rayner also discussed how effective creative writing courses are in the emergence of this type of text and the development of a synergy between academics, creative writing and publishing bestsellers. The question was also raised over what should constitute as a ‘prize winner’. Should it be by measured by unit sales or by its literary quality? Furthermore, who should decide on these status elevated texts? Academics, publishers or readers?

‘The Book Club Recommendations’

Following on from Dr Rayner’s previous group of ‘Star Texts’ was the final group of ‘Book Club Recommendations’. This group can also be a prizewinner, but experiences the treatment of being associated with a well-known figure or celebrity. In these cases, the power of an individual’s brand is worth thousands in sales of a title if they have been selected as part of their ‘book club’. This phenomenon arguably gave the book back its ‘social history’ and within these book clubs, the well-known figure(s) (such as Oprah or Richard and Judy) play an active role in choosing, recommending and associating themselves with a title. Dr Rayner described how in a sense these individuals act as mediators between the author’s text and the audience. Book clubs show more than any other type of ‘Star Text’ the tension between the cultural and the commercial that exists in the book trade.

Merely ‘Solar Flares’ or Eternal ‘Burning Stars’?

Dr Rayner developed her argument by observing the conflict between cultural and academic responses of texts and the importance of reader interaction and marketing campaigns on the success of these titles. In the vast ‘constellation’ of texts in the current market, Dr Rayner believes that grouping these ‘Star Texts’ helps us to identify what drives us when we choose what we are reading. The development of technology also makes the text organic, with digital transforming the way in which we read, store and share text. Dr Rayner’s paper raised several interesting debates on the textual environment and what defines a text as a ‘Star’ and indeed what cultural, academic and commercial forces play a part. By the end of Dr Rayner’s talk, we were ready to “boldly go where no researchers have gone before” and explore the future of ‘Star Texts’ and textual constellations!