Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Book videos on the net

This weeks sees the debut of two book-themed online-video initiatives.

Yesterday, Barnes & Noble (aka my old employer) launched B&N Studio, a special section of the BN.com website that hosts a range of video programming. It has a mix of archival material (videos of in-store lectures and other live events) and original "mini-documentaries."

Tagged!, a weekly series, gives the back story on new books. I watched the first episode and it was a little excruciating. The host, Molly Pesce, is set on high chirp mode, and the actual content was pretty thin--the three-and-a-half minute clip rounds up three authors who visited prisons to research their latest books, points out that Anne Rice and her son both have books coming out, and, pegged to the Oscars, lists books that have had recent movie adaptations. It's the video equivalent of an FOB chart, and the video format only emphasizes its fluffiness. Book Obsessed, a series that profiles all kinds of bibliophiles, is more fun, but I wish it would up the camp factor a bit. Obsessions are ridiculous! (As our Portfolio class is learning.)

I'm more excited by the archival stuff, like the hourlong "Upstairs at the Square" programs, in which authors get paired up with musicians and present their work jointly. (These seem to be a mix of audio and video recordings.) Now I just need to figure out how to download these to iTunes--because even if I'm excited about hearing Gary Shteyngart perform with Sondre Lerche, I'd much rather listen to it on my iPod, on the train, than on my laptop.

The other big debut is Titlepage, which is being billed as "a 21st century version of the Algonquin Round Table." (It was the subject of a NYTimes piece last month.) Hosted by Daniel Menaker--the former executive editor at Random House as well as a New Yorker fiction editor--the hourlong show features four thematically-linked authors sitting around a table, discussing their work. It promises to be a literary version of the oddly-compelling Dinner for Five, the Independent Film Channel series where Jon Favreau (of Swingers fame) gets a whole bunch of movie celebs drunk and blabbing. Unclear whether Titlepage has an alcohol budget.

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