Click here to “like” Social Reading September

It’s not just the way we read, write, publish and buy books that’s changing. It’s the way we talk about them, too – today’s announcements from Kobo, GoodReads and Facebook are just the latest in a series of social reading developments.

GoodReads is set to integrate with Facebook's new 'timeline'.
The Federal Government’s annual Get Reading! campaign (which continues till the end of this month – you can buy the books here) is once again leading the way when it comes to social ways to bring us back to books.

Their website includes forums like this one on ereaders (you can sign in using your Google, Facebook or Twitter account) for the first time this year. They’ve also got active and friendly Facebook and Twitter profiles.

You can post your own review of the “50 Books You Can’t Put Down” (here’s my brief equivalent: I’ve read Jessica Rudd’s short story “Pinata” in the free book available to those who buy one of the 50 titles, 10 Short Stories You Must Read in 2011, and found it poignant, romantic, clever, fun and original).

Get Reading! offers dedicated iPhone, iPad and Android apps too.

I’m surprised to see that according to the PDF catalogue of the 50 books on the Get Reading! site, there are still some titles that are not available as ebooks. OK, surprised, and ANNOYED. With the publishers, that is. Come on, people, catch up with your customers’ needs and wants.

Another initiative to encourage Australians to get reading is The Novel Challenge, the adult equivalent of the MS Read-a-thon. I looked forward to the latter every year as a child, and am finding myself feeling the same way about the grown-up version.

It’s a great way to push yourself along with the reading, and raise money for a good cause at the same time (they’ve raised more than $70,000 so far this year). The program has been underway for a couple of months, but you can sign up to read as many books – and attract as much sponsorship – as possible in 30 days during October.

And why wouldn’t you? You’re probably going to be reading anyway.

I love the fact that you can sign up as an individual or team, and track your progress in comparison with other participants online. The website allows you to set up a Facebook-like profile page to document books read, those you’re planning to read, and funds raised. Buttons allow easy sharing of the link on several social media platforms.

Feel free to sponsor me. I need an incentive to get into my current book (not a strong opening chapter, obviously, as I put it down a few days ago and have felt no compulsion to return).

In any case, I feel somewhat frustratingly as though I’ve been too busy talking about books and writing (in new, digitally social ways) to get much reading done lately.

In the past month I’ve participated in setting the program for if:book’s Bookcamp unconference on the day it was held as part of the Melbourne Writers Festival, and contributed $45 via crowd-funding platform Pozible to ensure the Emerging Writers Festival’s Digital Writers Conference in Brisbane actually happens on October 14 (see their website to find out how the organisers raised $4000 ahead of the event, and for program details).

At another event in Canberra, the Australian Security Research Centre’s forum on developments in e-publication, there was no need to take notes during sessions or swap contact details with delegates during the tea breaks. The Centre collated selected business cards and PowerPoint presentations and emailed them to all attendees a few days later.

Highlights of that event included hearing about ANU E Press’s ground-breaking digital publishing model (they have 3-6 staff and publish 50-60 ebooks a year), the National Library’s ebook program (next month they will publish three titles simultaneously for print and digital readers while work continues on a multimedia or enhanced ebook due out next year), and the ACT Government’s iCabinet program (IT staff worked – with some tips from Federal spooks – to “lock down” iPads so that ministers can securely store and view cabinet documents on the go).

As for talking to my friends about books, while I continue to attend regular book club meetings (we’re talking about The Slap this month, timely given the television adaptation is about to premiere), I’ve also signed up to the aforementioned social reading platform

GoodReads allows you to quickly and easily share your thoughts on books you’re reading or have read, and to view reviews and star ratings from fellow book lovers.

It offers lists of must-read titles in areas of interest (the best books of the 20th century kept me scrolling and clicking for hours), and even allows you to scan barcodes from the books in your existing library to add them to your own chosen categories.

It’s a great way of keeping track of what you’ve read and what you like (or don’t), and making sure you retain a healthy ratio of classics and literary fiction to genre and trash in your mix.

So, Facebook friends, beware, GoodReads updates aplenty are coming your way.

Speaking of being wary, part of me is just that about Facebook’s announcements today, but hopeful too. Personal recommendations from like-minded friends and colleagues are a great way to find new favourite authors and reads.

Don’t you think?

Charlotte’s posts on books, digital publishing and social media also appear on Twitter (@ebookish), Facebook ( and at

Interview with former international cricket umpire Darrell Hair – author of In the Best Interests of the Game

MD of Boomerang Books, Clayton Wehner recently caught up with former international cricket umpire Darrell Hair to talk about his new book, entitled In the Best Interests of the Game.  The book is one of the 50 Books You Can’t Put Down in the 2011 Get Reading! campaign – buy a copy and get a free book.

Thank you very much for taking the time to speak with me, Darrell, and congratulations on the release of your new book, In the Best Interests of the Game. You controversially no-balled Muttiah Muralitharan seven times in three overs for a suspect action during a test match between Australia and Sri Lanka in Melbourne in 1995, and subsequently claimed that his action was ‘diabolical’ in your earlier autobiography.  Given that the incident contributed to you being sidelined from the elite umpiring panel by the ICC, do you regret calling Murali?

No I don’t regret it one bit. The fact that ICC several years later changed the regulations to permit bowlers to straighten their arms by 15 degrees only validated my decision.

Murali announced that he had ‘forgiven’ you when he last toured Australia – what were your feelings towards that statement and have you had any contact with him since?  If you were to meet him again, would the conversation be icy?

I guess the conversation would be “icy” as I still believe he broke the Laws as they were back then and continued to operate with immunity for the remainder of his career. He was in fact “too hot to handle” for other umpires. And what do I have to be forgiven for anyway?

Your new book deals specifically with another more recent controversy that you were involved in – the ball tampering incident involving the Pakistani cricket team at The Oval in 2006, which resulted in Pakistan refusing to return to the field of play and forfeiting the match. Again, this incident resulted in you being sidelined by the ICC and eventually being forced into retirement.  Clearly the Asian bloc countries hold much sway in international cricket – what can be done to change this power imbalance, one which seemingly threatens the traditions of the game of cricket?

The “power” of the Asian Bloc is not the issue. If certain regions generate a large percentage of cricket’s revenue, that is fine but it doesn’t necessarily mean we get better governance of the game. Whilst I was sidelined due to the backlash from decisions made during the forfeiture of The Oval test match, I believe the reasons behind that were more poor governance and weak leadership by ICC Management rather than the power of the Asian Bloc. One must also understand that whilst India generates most of the game’s revenue, it is also responsible for the majority of illegal gambling on the game. Where are the ethics behind that?

We’ve seen a significant spill of Cricket Australia coaching staff and selectors in the past month and just last week the ICC Test team of the year was announced without a single Australian player.  What do you think about the current state of Australian cricket?  How has Cricket Australia become unstuck?

Australian cricket is generally in good shape – its just that the rest of the world has caught up with us and our proven methods.  I don’t believe it has come unstuck – there has just been some bewildering decisions on team selection and talent identification.

How does Australia reclaim its mantle as the top Test playing nation in the world?

Focus on the strengths – the Sheffield Shield for example is still the toughest first class competition in the world. Make certain it stays that way and remains the nursery for our future test players.

Twenty-20 cricket is getting really serious in Australia with the enhanced 8-team Big Bash competition starting this summer.  Your strong actions against suspect bowling actions and ball tampering suggest that you’re a traditionalist – what do you think about Twenty-20 cricket and how is its popularity impacting upon Test cricket?

I don’t believe it will ever impact on Test Cricket because the majority of players still want to represent their country at Test level. Sure, there are so-called specialist T20 players who seem to provide the power hitting and excitement that crowds want to come along and watch. In addition, the revenue stream created by T20 is something that cannot be underestimated. The game needs every spectator it can find and needs to keep them coming back. If they continue to watch and support T20 then that’s good for the game overall.

Now that you’re no longer jetsetting the world to officiate in cricket matches, I’m assuming that you have a little more time on your hands.  Are you still involved in cricket?  Do you get back to Mudgee or Mosman to umpire a local game from time to time?  Has your knee recovered sufficiently to allow you to have a trundle?

Yes, I am still involved and work for Cricket NSW as Executive Officer for the NSW Cricket Umpires Association, this job also entails acting as State Director of Umpiring and developing and coaching the next generation of 1st class umpires. I don’t umpire anymore even if my wonderful friends in Mudgee or Mosman ask me to. I prefer to say once retired, always retired. My knees are not in any state to be sending down any more vicious outswingers or bouncers.

Finally, a question that you’re likely to be asked regularly – who are the three best cricketers that you have had the pleasure to umpire?  And who is the best umpire on the international circuit?

Brian Lara, Shane Warne and Curtley Ambrose.  The best umpire on the international circuit was Peter Willey – unfortunately he refused to travel on a regular basis so his career was curtailed when ICC insisted on having their panel on the road so much.

Thanks for your time, Darrell, and best of luck with the sales of your book.

My pleasure.


50 Books You Can’t Put Down

It’s that time of the year again. The Get Reading campaign kicked off at the end of last month and for the first time they’re offering an iPhone app to help readers connect with books.

The app is free from the App Store, and I’m surprised to say that it is excellent – far more useful than the Get Reading brochure available from most good book stores.

For those who don’t know, the Get Reading campaign runs every year and is designed to get people who wouldn’t usually read a book to have a go. The way it works is that there’s a list of 50 books broken down into a few basic categories: non-fiction, new authors, page turners and escapist reads. If you buy one of those books from a participating store you get a free exclusive book written specifically for the campaign. This year you get a choice between 10 Short Stories You Must Read in 2010 and Tickled Onions by Morris Gleitzman.

The iPhone app is great for browsing the books available and with the click of a button you can read the first chapter of the book or find a bookstore near you to buy it integrated with Google Maps. You can even find a place to read the book, as the app contains a directory of coffee shops (cute!). The app also has a schedule of Get Reading events that are being run throughout the month, which you can pinpoint and get directions to if you decide to go.

One-off apps of this nature are often a bit gimmicky, but I, for one, am all for them, so long as they are well made and actually useful, as this one is. Over the past year I noticed a Sydney Festival app and the Good Food Guide, and I’m hanging out for an app of this nature for the Sydney Writers’ Festival, which has a notoriously annoying schedule.

My only gripe, predictably, is that ebooks are not included in this year’s Get Reading campaign, though this is hardly the fault of the iPhone app. Nonetheless, it’s disheartening to see that in a campaign run by the government to get people reading at any cost, they have not managed to include reader-friendly ebooks as part of the promotion. (To be fair, they may have tried and failed – the only real Australian ebook retailer is Borders/Kobo, and they may have declined). Ebooks are incredibly easy to buy – and it wouldn’t be difficult for retailers to rig up a system for giving away the free books in a package (it is definitely possible with online retailers of dead tree books – cheers Boomerang! – so it should be possible for ebooks). At any rate, I applaud the effort, and I look forward to seeing what they come up with next year.

You can download the iPhone app here.

Time to Get Reading – and score your free book

Did you know that the Get Reading! Campaign for 2010 has started.  Purchase one of the 50 Books you can’t put down from Boomerang Books and you’ll get a free book!

The 50 Books You Can’t Put Down guide for 2010 is available to browse or download on the all-new beefed-up website, as well as a host of other material, including previous years’ guides.

Information on the two free books and the all-new Outdoor Reading Rooms , events listings, book retailer and library listings, first chapter downloads, a Kids’ Room, News , poetry, television commercials, a blog and more make this the most comprehensive website in the history of the campaign.

So go to, have a browse and check out dates for events or Reading Rooms near you. Or download a first chapter or two. And GET READING!

Message from Get Reading! – Outdoor Reading Rooms

The first Get Reading! Outdoor Reading Room was open over the weekend in Sydney’s Hyde Park and it was a huge success.

For a gold coin donation to the Indigenous Literacy Project, people enjoyed the sunshine, relaxed in the comfy furniture, browsed the 50 Books You Can’t Put Down and chatted to visiting authors Judy Nunn, Gabrielle Williams, Malla Nunn and William Kostakis. Kids loved the kids’ corner, where they could draw, colour in and do puzzles, or just read a book.

The mood was buzzy but homely, and those who dropped by didn’t want to leave. To see the photos click here or go to

So if you’re in Brisbane, Melbourne or Wagga Wagga, don’t miss the chance to relax in the Get Reading! bubble chairs or chat to an author or two. Get outdoors, make a gold coin donation to the Indigenous Literacy Project, and enjoy your very own celebration of books and reading!


1–5 September: Brisbane
Maiwar Green, Southbank Cultural Centre
State Library of Queensland
Stanley Place, South Bank, Brisbane
10 am – 4 pm daily

10–12 September: Melbourne
The Amphitheatre, Federation Square
Flinders St, Melbourne
10 am – 4 pm daily

14–15 September: Wagga Wagga
Wagga Wagga Library Garden
Baylis Street, Wagga Wagga
Tues, 14 September: 9 am – 4 pm
Wed, 15 September: 10 am – 4 pm

Aussie celebs endorse 2010 Get Reading! campaign

The 2010 Get Reading! Campaign is live!  Buy one of the ’50 books you can’t put down’ and you’ll receive one of two free books.  Check out the details here…

Four Australian celebrities – Ray Martin, Judy Nunn, Anh Do and Matthew Hayden – have endorsed the campaign  and you will soon see these television commercials on small screens around the country:

Get Reading events announced

2010’s Get Reading (formerly Books Alive) campaign is fast approaching. While we’ll have to wait until midnight on August 25 for the big reveal of the 50 Books You Can’t Book Down, the events programme has been released on the official blog.

Participating authors include Margaret Wild, Judy Nunn, Morris Gleitzman, Charlaine Harris, James Phelan and Boomerang Books’ own William Kostakis.

Click on your state for information about the events in your area:


Now… which books do we think have made the 50 Books You Can’t Put Down list? Sign off in the comments.