Book Bizzo #8 Why Aussies aren’t wild about ebooks, and a bored bank worker is lost in Elizabeth Bennet’s backyard

Lost in Austen (DVD)
Lost in Austen (DVD)

Pride and Prejudice time travel shenanigans

Tomorrow night, ABC1 will screen the first part of Lost in Austen, a British mini-series in which a 21st-century reader swaps places with Elizabeth Bennet and finds herself inadvertently changing Jane Austen’s story. It sounds fabulously fun, and the SMH provides some background to the series. Lost in Austen has become one of Britain’s best selling DVDs, with talks of a film adaptation. Click here to watch a preview of the show.

Ebooks in Australia

Thinking of buying an ebook? David Frith at Doubleclick has a good round-up of ebook options for Australians. The BeBook seems to be the cheapest option, although Frith seems to have missed the products sold by DA Direct (which, according to a reader at ARRC, will be selling more ebook readers through their Melbourne store).

But ebook publishing remain a US-centric model, according to Simon Canning over at The Australian. Canning mentions lack of standard formats, digital rights management, foreign copyright and revenue models as the biggest issues facing ebooks today. I think Canning fails to identify one very significant barrier to the adoption of ebooks in Australia, and that’s the high cost of ebook readers.

And speaking of ebooks, UK publisher Faber & Faber is trialling a “pay what you want” scheme for an ebook released 6 weeks before the official release date of its print publication. The article doesn’t elaborate on whether or not the author will be paid royalties on the ebook sales, but it’ll be interesting to see how it works. For bestselling authors, I suspect a market-based system would be more ideal, with the ebook price fluctuating according to demand. I can just imagine how much diehard fans would be willing to pay for Ward and Kenyon books ahead of time.

Cover preview for Dark Country

Dark Country by Bronwyn Parry (Cover Preview)
Dark Country by Bronwyn Parry (Cover Preview)

Check out the cover for Bronwyn Parry’s second book, Dark Country, due for release in September. Isn’t it fab? It has a kind of Nora Roberts feel, but the background, the colours, seem very Aussie to me. It also feels quite foreboding. The only thing I’m worried about is that the heroine is wearing a white turtleneck knit shirt. I could be wrong, but that doesn’t seem too comfy to me. Plus, imagine the dust! I seriously can’t wait for this book to come out.

More ARRC stuff

I Heart PresentsAnnie West on the Inaugural Australian Romance Readers’ Convention
Jane TaraARRC 09

Click here for a full list of Book Thingo’s coverage of the ARRC09 and a collection of links to write-ups on other blogs.

On a side note, am I the only one who’s disappointed that ARRC didn’t even rate a small mention in The Age? What’s going on, Jason Steger? At least the SMH Entertainment blog wrote about ARRC even if not during the actual event.

Readings, signings and author events

Readings in Melbourne have a line-up of female authors this month:

Allen & Unwin also has a good line-up of author events, including a Q&A and booksigning with Wendy Harmer at Berkelouw’s Newtown on March 31, 6pm. For enquiries, call 02 9557 1777‎.

Suvudu free book library

I’ve seen this posted around the blogs, but it’s worth mentioning again. Random House has launched Suvudu Free Book Library from which you can download—yes, FREE—sf/f books in PDF format. The free books are first books of a series, and they’re hoping we’ll love the book enough to buy the rest of the books in the series. I think it’s a fantastic idea. I’d love something similar for romance and particularly for series that go way past 3 books. His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik is on the list. (Which reminds me, I have books 3 and 4 in my TBR list. I really should get to them soon.)

City of Sydney Library temporary membership

I recently found out that non-residents including tourists and backpackers can now apply for temporary membership to City of Sydney libraries for a small fee. Homeless people and refugees can also apply for membership. Click here for more details on how to apply. And if you happen to visit Ultimo Library, go say hi to Vassiliki and ask for a romance rec. :-) I discovered Suzanne Brockmann through her.

Romance Writers of Australia’s Bushfires Book Appeal

Romance Writers of Australia is collecting fiction books to deliver to communities affected by the Victorian bushfires. They need romance books, children’s books, and all sorts of other fiction books that are new or in near new condition. If you can help, send your books to: RWA Bushfires Book Appeal, c/o 89 Rennie St, THORNBURY VIC 3071. They’ll be collected over the next few months and sent to appropriate centres or libraries.

PEARL winners

The 2008 PEARL winners have been announced, and Ann Aguirre won Best New Author. I’ve been meaning to review her first 2 books, and I’ll probably do those as part of the Re-read Challenge. Her third book comes out soon—see the sidebar countdown widget thingo for details. Acheron won Best Fantasy or Magical Romance and Best Overall Paranormal Romance. Lover Enshrined won Best Vampire, and Story of Son won best novella—both are by JR Ward. The Magical Christmas Cat got an honorable mention.

BTW, does anyone know what PEARL stands for?

And other random stuff…

What do romance books and street prostitutes have in common? I can’t even remember where I found Maryam Webster’s article on “what Internet marketers can learn from bodice-rippers” (it might have been via Google Alert), but as a romance reader, it left me a bit appalled. Now, I understand her underlying point about marketing and hooking people in. I even understand that she’s used the metaphor of prostitution to put a bit of zing to her message, but this just offended me (italics are my own):

And like sex sales, the art of writing marketing pieces is remarkably similar to writing a Harlequin Romance. Why do women buy bodice-rippers? Because, in marketing research I’ve read, they’re unsatisfied in their own love lives. Or they have lots of sex, but not the romance, gentleness or caring that they crave. The picture on the cover of a Harlequin Romance is 80% of what sells the book, the title is the other 20%. Those pictures in case you haven’t seen them, are usually a brawny handsome man in the act of ripping a fantasy heroine’s bodice open and kissing a breast – hence the nickname – or in a second version, the man is down on his knees in front of the woman looking up entreatingly and adoringly.

And correct me if I’m wrong, but I always thought “bodice-ripper” referred to forced seduction and rape stories of some of the historical romances of the 70s and 80s. Anyway, Harlequin Romances don’t usually have those covers—maybe Avon historicals, but certainly not HQN Sweet or Medical or Super Romance or  Nocture or Blaze (the woman is more likely to be ripping the guy’s shirt off) or even Sexy.

*sigh* Let it go, Kat…

The allure of historical drama. Philippa Gregory, author of The Other Boleyn Girl, wrote an interesting piece for The Age on why we love to read about or watch historical drama. The article was written last year, but it has some great insights on how we (or certainly I) have romanticised historical facts and behaviours and ascribed values or motives that weren’t necessarily there at the time.

Readers of romance and soft-focus fuzzy-fact historical fiction also think of the past as a place where a great deal of romantic love-making goes on….

We tend to overlook the effects of ill health, poor nutrition, powerful religious views, the pressure on women to be chaste, the lack of contraception and the fear of sexual disease. We fail to remember that, until the 18th century, most aristocratic and, indeed, middle-class marriages, were arranged, and did not serve the participants for love or even lust. We assume that the people of the past sought and experienced sex as enthusiastically as we do.

On Paris and love. Wandergurl found this in Gwenyth Paltrow’s newsletter, and I thought it was just lovely:

When I was ten years old, my father and I took a trip to Paris… We stayed at a great hotel and he said I could order whatever I wanted for breakfast (French fries). We went to the Pompidou museum, the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre—the usual spots. It was pretty great. On the plane back to London he asked me if I knew why we had gone, just he and I, to Paris for the weekend. I said no, but I felt so lucky for the trip. He said, “I wanted you to see Paris for the first time with a man who would always love you, no matter what.” From that time on, Paris was and continues to be very special to me.

Has anyone else seen this Gloria Jeans ad? I love it! And I love that they got two actors whose faces have character and look like regular people. (Here’s the YouTube version, but embedding is disabled. Boo.)

Save the date

5/3 — Trudi Canavan book signing at Galaxy Bookshop, 5:30pm
17/3 — Romance writing workshop with Ally Blake at Montrose Library, 12.30pm | Bookings: 03 9728 4224 ($10)
25/3 —Linda Jaivin at Readings Carlton, 6.30pm | Bookings: 03 9347 6633 or or Facebook.
31/3 —Kate Legge at Readings Hawthorn, 6.30pm | Bookings: 03 9819 1917 or
31/3 — Q&A and booksigning with Wendy Harmer at Berkelouw’s Newtown, 6pm | Enquiries: 02 9557 1777‎
2/4 — Wendy Harmer at Readings Carlton, 6.30pm | Bookings: 03 9347 6633 or
3/4 — Celebrate the life of Dorothy Parker at Bell’s Hotel, 8pm (dinner at 6.30pm) | Bookings: Jacqui Horwood on 0449 703 503 or ($10/$5)

Book Bizzo is a weekly omnibus of news items, events, and other interesting tidbits related to books, and especially the Australian romance book industry. You can find past Book Bizzo posts here.

Did we miss anything important? Got a book event coming up? Feel free to send tips, press releases, and any other interesting links to


  1. Tez Miller says:

    I don’t read The Age, but there were brief mentions in the Herald Sun. But only in the Books section, which only appears on Saturdays, as is now shorter than ever. (Used to be 4; now is only 3. Unless a celebrity has a book out.)

    Have a lovely day! :-)

  2. Allison says:

    Am I the only one who thought Amanda Price could have made more of an effort to blend in?

    * She could have put her hair up, or asked for help, hopefully with a curl-free style. And for that matter, why produce her lip gloss at every available opportunity?
    * She could have made more of an attempt to speak like they do, especially if P+P is a book she reads regularly.
    * Lizzie communicated via a note under the door. Why didn’t Amanda ever write Lizzie a note, especially since letter-writing was big in those days? Surely other people in the household wrote letters to their acquaintances, but why wasn’t Lizzie’s not a big enough hint for Amanda?

    Otherwise, the show was quite interesting. Her presence in the Bennett household has made a right pigs’ breakfast of the story, so it will be interesting to see how things resolve themselves.

  3. Kat says:

    Allison, I did wonder why someone who knew the book inside out couldn’t manage to get into character better. I suppose it’s because she was stressed out by everything unravelling around her.

    I only caught the show after SYTYCD, so I missed the bit about how Lizzie and Amanda communicate. I might have to hit you on chat to get the details! :-)

    It’s excruciating to watch the debacle, to be honest. Short of being a dream, I can’t see how Jane is supposed to get away from being married to Mr. Collins, and how Bingley will cry off an engagement to Lydia, etc. And Mrs. Bennet! I swear, she must be one of the funnest parts to play.

    Also, it amused me no end that the actors who play Darcy and Bingley look very similar to Colin Firth and Crispin Bonham-Carter.

  4. Allison says:

    She might not be making as much of an effort as she could because she considers them to be fictional characters so nothing’s really real. Maybe. She made a big deal about how she’s not pining for Darcy and she knows it’s fiction, so maybe that’s it.

    Elizabeth finally managed to open a door at the end of their attic that should open out into nothing (the door is in an exterior wall), but actually opened into Amanda’s shower. Amanda’s shower had something that looked like a panel in the wall that should open into the plumbing. They had a bit of a conversation in Amanda’s flat, but when she went to have a look into Longbourn, the door shut behind her and won’t open.

    The problem I have with their communication is that Elizabeth wrote a letter to her father and slipped it under the door to Amanda, but Amanda only ever shouts through the door at Elizabeth and (not so surprisingly) never gets a response. (It’s just as well that their father never gets involved in anything or he might have trouble sending a reply to Elizabeth.) Why doesn’t Amanda ever slip a note to Elizabeth under the door instead of just ranting about how everything’s “tits up”?

  5. Kat says:

    Yes, but maybe it wasn’t yet consummated? Because, really, how happy can the ending be if Jane has to be naked with him?!?!

    Also, Wickham. He’s so much more diabolical in this story. I want to stab him in the eye.

    And hello! Never leave space or time portals unattended while open. Sheesh!

  6. Allison says:

    True. I wouldn’t want Jane to have such a traumatic first time. But how is the plot going to keep a sleazeball like Collins from consummating?

    Caroline Bingley is a complete and total bitch in this one, worse than I’ve seen her before. Now THAT would be a fun role to play!

  7. Kat says:

    I can’t comment any more because I’ve read spoilers! Not sure how I feel about it now, but actually watching the final show should help.

    For me, the one big flaw in this series is how the characters ignore some very unacceptable behaviour from Amanda. I’m not sure if this plays into the vicarage vs aristocracy issue that was discussed at ARRC (village society was more tolerant of social faux pas than the aristocracy, etc.), but things like Amanda kneeing Collins I would’ve though would be social suicide. Or the fact that she spoke so plainly to Bingley about being a lesbian (supposedly). As in, I just can’t imagine anyone of good breeding being able to tolerate her after that.

  8. Allison says:

    Or when she gets caught at the end of her cigarette break, Bingley commented on her breathing fire. Men smoked back then, so I’m surprised that he didn’t seem familiar with that, or that he found it acceptable behaviour from a woman. It’s incredible that he found her to be “refreshing” rather than offensive, especially after telling him she prefers the company of women. (Wouldn’t she still be expected to marry anyway?)

    And I’m probably being really anal now, but isn’t it amazing that Elizabeth’s letter from Amanda’s flat was written on paper similar enough to what they used then that it hadn’t been remarked upon?

    But having said all this, I really want to see how the story gets resolved. I take it that being around Elizabeth is meant to make Amanda’s boyfriend pull his socks up, but I’m not sure how the writers are going to make it convincing.

  9. Elana Bowman says:

    It all sounds so intriguing, especially all your comments, I’d love to see this. I couldn’t imagine (and don’t really have to – thankfully) going back in time to such a snooty and stuck up era. All this about women not speaking up or not smoking or writing letters to each other or having to consider their places in society … I’m glad that we have mobiles, blogs, DVDs, businesses, each other, and can be who we really want to be. I think that I need to see this and consider how hard it must be for someone to go back in time to an unfamiliar place and try to be accepted – great concept.

  10. Kat says:

    Elana, I found some of it excruciating, but if you don’t take it too seriously, it’s quite fun. Elizabeth in the modern world talking about her employers’ “footprint” was very amusing. And there’s a scene where Amanda asks her best friend if she wants to go have a look through the door, and the friend was like, “I’m black. And I like chocolate and good plumbing…” Hehe.

  11. Allison says:

    Elana, your comment really reminds me of Aussie Ladette to Lady, where the ladettes are introduced to “gentlemen” huntsmen, who teaches onehow to crack a whip and suggests she “take that straight to the bedroom”.

    Another poor ladette objected about this to one of the teachers and was shot down for not expressing herself properly and however men act, ladies are still expected to be ladies and she would find men like that everywhere. She was essentially told to suck it up. This ladette was a stripper, so I think she has a better idea of how men act than the teacher, and she has a point about the standard of behaviour accepted from this so-called gentleman.

    And when another ladette complained about being turned into “decorated f***dolls for the pleasure of men”, it was one of the most hilarious moments of the whole series.

What do you think?

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