E-books Vs. Printed Books

We here at Beatnik live and breathe all things books.  And by books, we mean the real thing – books that have been created, designed, published, and printed.  The words found on pages can fly us to another world, empower critical thinking, teach us new skills, and help us to learn about and understand others.  Books can be an escape, and many of us enjoy flicking through a few pages, or chapters, before bed.  However, reading at night isn’t a good idea if you don’t have a printed book. 

While we could provide you with an extensive list of reasons why our books are amazing, here are some of the top reasons you should steer clear of e-books, and pick up one of the real things instead. 

Reading from a light-emitting reader, such as a smartphone or tablet, can disrupt your body clock.  According to Harvard Medical School, exposure to blue-light (a wavelength common in many e-readers) in the evening can make it difficult for you to fall asleep.

  • Excessive exposure to blue-light can also reduce the quality of your sleep and leave you feeling tired when you wake in the morning.    
  • Obesity, diabetes, depression, and even cancer have been linked to blue-light exposure. 
  • When you read a paper-version, you will most likely remember the story better than if you read it digitally.  

Learn more from the experts on: The Guardian, BBC, and Writing and Wellness

2017 PANZ Design Awards - Nominees

The 2017 PANZ Design Awards Ceremony will be held later this month in Auckland.  Last year, The Game Chef by Angelo Georgalli and Whole by Bronwyn Kan were nominated for the 1010 Printing Award for Best Cookbook, with The Game Chef being presented the award.  This year, we are incredibly proud to have three books nominated. 

Louise Cuckow, Jenny Allison, and Toby Morris are our three talented, nominated authors.

See Play Do: A Kid’s Handbook for Everyday Creative Fun, has been nominated for the Edify Award for Best Educational Book.  Created, designed, and photographed by the talented Louise Cuckow, this children’s activity annual explores the idea that all creations can be celebrated – from glitter playdough to a homemade pine cone bird feeder.    

Second on the nominations list is Golden Month – Caring for the World’s Mothers after Childbirth by Jenny Allison.  Focusing on a mother’s long-term well-being, a decade of research was completed to create this book.  Golden Month explains the importance of nutrition and aims to debunk the anxiety-inducing myth of the postpartum body.       

Toby Morris is the man behind Capsicum, Capsi go – a nominee for the Scholastic New Zealand Award for Best Children’s Book 2017.  As an art director, illustrator, designer, and comic artist, Toby Morris brings life to his books. Angela Oliver from The Reader – The Booksellers New Zealand Blog, describes Capsicum, Capsi go as a “fun rhyming book introducing the concept of opposites to youngsters” with illustrations that are “simple and absolutely charming, rendered in bold colours”. 

Purchase See Play Do, Golden Month and Capsicum, Capsi go through the Beatnik Shop, and keep an eye-out to see the results of the 2017 PANZ Design Awards!  

Two Portraits of the War in Syria

The bloodied face of a Syrian boy, Omran Daqneesh, seated on the back of an ambulance has disrupted the news cycle and caused people to pause. He is a victim of a Russian airstrike targeted at the Syrian city of Aleppo on Tuesday, August 14. The Syrian Refugee Crisis has arguably lost its lustre in the media, compared to the cutthroat battle between Trump and Clinton for the American presidency, but this face demands attention. He reminds people that the war rages on, and there are real people suffering the injuries. With half of his face covered in blood, he stares straight ahead, but not into the camera. His eyes are not full of despair, but rather, full of numbness, as ruin lay before him and his future is unknown. His small, limp body, monochrome grey from the soot and smoke, stands out against the orange ambulance chair in a bleak contrast, representative of the dark mark that war and violence leaves on Syria. This image is a violent one, eliciting strong emotion and righteous anger regarding the innocent children who quite literally get caught in the crossfire. 

But Christine Spring's HOPE: In the Hands of Fatima offers a glimpse into the courage and vitality that persists amidst the war and poses the question: 'what happens to people once they are out of immediate danger?' She captures the unforgettable faces of the Syrian refugees living in designated "safe-spaces" in Lebanon, thus highlighting the ongoing issues and stamina required to meet them, once the adrenalin and acute horror of the warzone have been left behind. Spring features scenes of children playing football, receiving medical treatment, and reading their personal stories aloud to groups of fellow refugees. In this way, she conveys the essence and multi-faceted nature of daily life in the camps. 

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There is an inevitable disconnect between viewer and subject. But Spring invites the viewer to come close, to gaze into the eyes of Fatima, rather than living comfortably removed. The public needs to be pulled out of the apathy that permeates a society seemingly separated from the despair of the war in Syria, and together, Omran and HOPE offer a fuller understanding. 

Radio NZ Book Review – Three Words

Radio NZ's Louise O'Brien reviews Three Words: An Anthology of Aotearoa/NZ Women's Comics. Thanks for the kind words!

To expand on the list of contributors Louise O'Brien began on the segment:

Comics by Adele Jackson, Alex McCrone, Alex Wild, Alice Tumblescribbleson, Alie Mcpherson, Anna Critchton, Andra Jenkin, Bek Coogan, Beth Duckingmonster, Beth Sometimes, Caroline Anderson, Celia Allison, Claire Harris, Dawn Tuffery, Demarnia Lloyd, Diane Rimmer, Elsie Jolliffe, Emma Blackett, Erin Fae, Debra Boyask, Giselle Clarkson, Indira Neville, The Rabbid, Jem Yoshioka, Jessica Dew, Jessica Hansell, Joanna Anderson, Judy Darragh, Kayla Oliver, Kerry Ann Lee, Margaret Silverwood, Olga Krause, Linda Lew, Lisa Noble, Liz Mathews, Loux McLellen, Lucy Meyle, Maiangi Waitai, Marina Williams, Mary Tamblyn, Mengzhu Fu, Mirranda Burton, Miriam Harris, Pritika Lal, Rachel Benefield, Rachel Shearer, Rae Joyce, Raewyn Alexander, Ralphi, Rebecca Hawkes, Renee Jones, Rosemary McLeod, Warsaw, Sally Bollinger, Sarah Laing, Sarah Lund, Sharon Murdoch, Sophie McMillan, Sophie Oiseau, Stella Corkery, Susan Rugg, Susan Te Kahurangi King, Suzanne Claessen and Zoe Colling.

Essays by Robyn Kenealy, Rae Joyce, Ruth Boyask, Jem Yoshioka and Miriam Sapphira.

An Interview with Courtney Sina Meredith (Mexico City Poetry Festival)

Award-winning poet, playwright, fiction writer and musician Courtney Sina Meredith represented New Zealand at the Mexico City Poetry Festival that was held earlier this year in November 2015. 

‘It was a great experience,’ said Courtney. ‘I loved meeting the other writers, and the venues were breath-taking. The organisers had obviously put a lot of thought into the planning of the events. For example, there was a reading on a rooftop, out in the open, warm air, which was really special. Another time there was the brilliant acoustics of the church-like venue which gave the poetry a haunting quality.’

The festival had a jam-packed programme with 52 writers from around the world, including two Pulitzer-prize winners. Courtney had a busy schedule that included being one of the
Poets from the five continents at the Templo Di Corpus Christi alongside Dinu Flamand (Romania), Victor Rodriguez Nunez (Cuba), Ahmed Al Shahawi (Egypt) and Zang Di from China. 

She also did a reading at the stunning Museo del Estanquillo (a museum that houses the personal collection of the writer Carlos Monsivais) with Heike Fiedler (Switzerland), Mario Melendez (Chile), Ahmed Al Shahawi (Egypt) and Slave Gjiogjio Dimoski from Macedonia.

‘I did my readings in English and enjoyed watching the reaction of people in the crowd who could understand English. But it was wonderful to observe the response when the poems were read in Spanish. The poems were translated and read by women who brought real passion to them. It was wonderful!’

After being the youngest artist as writer-in-residence in Berlin back in 2011, Courtney was prepared for the many questions about New Zealand and was thrilled to be an ambassador for New Zealand in this way.

‘I did get asked if we were part of Australia occasionally, but I was so pleased when people said our country was “clean and beautiful” and the people are “kind”. They also wanted to know about Maori culture and our environment.’

Courtney feels ‘very lucky’ to have been in Mexico promoting her work, but she also saw it as an opportunity to promote other writers in New Zealand, as well as the festivals here – creating platforms and opportunities.

With a packed schedule, Courtney only managed a morning of sightseeing. She grew up loving the works of Frida Kahlo, so went to see the Frida Kahlo House, along with a writer from Botswana and a writer from Switzerland. 

‘It was life-changing,’ said Courtney. ‘She was such an icon; it was wonderful to sit in her garden and think she used to sit there also. It gave me goose bumps.’

Courtney loved Mexican culture and the food. ‘Tacos are the best there – they are fresh and simple, top quality, with only a few ingredients.’

Mostly Courtney is grateful for all the support, which she found to be overwhelming.

‘There is passionate support for Brown Girls in Bright Lipstick. It is in translation and women from Africa, Indonesia, the Muslim world, and Spain and Mexico really understand the poems. I think women respond to my passion. I want to be a role model for brown women everywhere to be active citizens in their societies. I loved the feedback when I was in Mexico – and I would never have dreamt that my work would have this influence.  It fills my heart that it does. Sometimes I have to pinch myself.’


Courtney Sina Meredith is the author and poet behind Brown Girls in Bright Lipstick. Her most recent collection of poems and short stories, entitled Tail of the Taniwha, is due for release later in 2016. In the meantime, you can keep up with Courtney on her website/blog at courtneymeredith.com

Reading Blind: Technology and 21st Century Literacy

Reading Blind: Technology and 21st Century Literacy

Amongst the list of things that most able-bodied people take for granted, sight would have to be up there. If books are gateways to other worlds, then those worlds historically would have been completely locked to the millions of blind and disabled people who didn't have the means, monetary or technologically, to access them. 

Exams, Slams and Rushing Dolls

Poetry is much cooler than school made it out to be. Poetry should hit you in the heart; should feed your mind and set your soul on fire. As local poet and author Courtney Sina Meredith puts it in this Radio NZ interview (5:52-6:21) she did for National Poetry Day, poetry is about expressing your personal truth, celebrating it, and sharing it around.

For your afternoon viewing pleasure and inspiration, we've gathered a small collection of spoken word poetry.

Shane Koyczan – To This Day

A poignant performance that touches on the pain people are capable of inflicting on others through bullying, and that affirms the inherent beauty in us all, despite what others might say.

Courtney Sina Meredith – Basilica
& Rushing Doll

A passionate rendition of two of “our” Courtney's best pieces, punctuated by rhythmic cadence and lyrical acrobatics, and powered by the fire of youth.

Ernestine Johnson – The Average Black Girl

An insightful dissection of the harm caused by racial stereotypes and of how belittling even 'complimentary' stereotyping can feel.

Suli Breaks – I Will Not Let An Exam
Decide My Fate

When an argument about the flaws in many education systems is articulated so succinctly by a student, it becomes hard to argue against.

Kate Tempest – Hold Your Own

A simple mantra that can mean so much. The poet’s Glastonbury audience stands transfixed as they let the words wash over them.

If you'd like to get into poetry, you can check out this page on the NZ Poetry Society's website for events and open mic nights up and down the country.

Books by their Covers: what do stories look like?

We've all heard that often repeated platitude, "Never judge a book by its cover". And while it is undoubtedly sound advice, echoed in numerous forms and iterations by all of us morally upstanding members of society, the phrase takes on a different meaning when you're a publisher.

Books are our bread and butter, and making them is what puts bread on our teams' collective table. Making books is fun. At times stressful, sure, but most definitely fun. Getting acquainted with the author and what they do, inhabiting their world, and then translating it by design into a refined product with lasting appeal is indeed a daunting task, but we love it. We'd like to think that the time we devote into the smallest of details within each and every page is worth it. That our time and effort is not wasted, that people actually pick up our books up to be absorbed into the carefully curated, considered and created worlds held within its pages, is our dearest wish. 

However, despite the frequency with which we are constantly reminded to reserve our judgements until we have the 'bigger picture', we do not – perhaps even cannot – do so. Books will always be judged by their covers, literally and metaphorically. Not by choice, but by necessity. The act of the snap judgement is for all intents and purposes, immensely useful, but we won't go into the evolutionary psychology behind that. 

Ultimately, what that means is that despite our best efforts in our craft, a book on the shelf will often remain just that; a book on the shelf, unless, upon a chance glance, something on the cover reaches out to grab the imagination or, at the very least, pique the interest of passersby. 

We've heard so many positive things about the covers of the books we've released this year (and thank you sincerely for saying so), that we thought you might like an insight into the process and thinking that underlies the design of a good book cover. Short of inviting each of you along to the studio as we deliberate covers with gusto (these things can get passionately heated!), we think that this surprisingly humourous TED talk sums things up nicely.

Chip Kidd has been designing books for over 25 years, and is the graphic designer behind the iconic Jurassic Park dinosaur logo and some of the most inspired and original book covers to grace the shelves of bookstores all over the world. In this talk, he offers us tons of valuable insights into the world of book design, publishing, and speaks with great fondness of the intimately visceral experience of holding, smelling, feeling and reading a well-designed book.

It goes without saying, we can totally relate.

Overcoming Writer's Block

As anyone who was dabbled in creative endeavours know, writer's block is ubiquitous aspect of the creative process that virtually all artists/authors will encounter and have to overcome at some point in their career. Particularly after periods of dormant artistic inactivity, writer's block will leave even the most fanciful and imaginative of creators at a loss when it comes to the incubation of fresh ideas. During trying times like this, that spark of genius or that unbridled outpouring of self-expression artists are perpetually seeking may, illusive as it already is, seem nigh impossible to conceive. But as you claw your way out of the depths of the valley of artistic stagnation, one painstaking line at a time, the former struggle to create seems more and more trivial as you begin to rise and crest yet another wave of creation.

Scoured from all corners of the internet, here are some broad tips — featuring the advice of some illustrious names in prose and poetry — to help you overcome writer's block.


1. Let it Be

Like everything else, writer's block comes and goes. Truly, the most effective remedy to this seemingly incurable malady of the spirit/soul/mind — similar to most of our ailments — is time. Take it from Neil Gaiman, author of so many vivid and imaginatively conceived critically-acclaimed award-winning novels and comics that it will make your head spin:

"Suggestions? put it aside for a few days, or longer, do other things, try not to think about it. Then sit down and read it (printouts are best I find, but that's just me) as if you've never seen it before. Start at the beginning. Scribble on the manuscript as you go if you see anything you want to change. And often, when you get to the end you'll be both enthusiastic about it and know what the next few words are. And you do it all one word at a time." - Neil Gaiman


2. Contemplation & Mindfulness


Truly great art is the product of a genuine need for self-expression. The process of taking what's on the inside and articulating it in such a way that people are able to understand and appreciate it requires contemplation and thoughtfulness beyond the beck and call of garden variety self-analysis. And this, according to Ray Bradbury, author of Fahrenheit 451, is particularly true when you're not struggling to write anything, but when you're struggling to say something.

“Now, what I’m thinking of is, people always saying “Well, what do we do about a sudden blockage in your writing? What if you have a blockage and you don’t know what to do about it?” Well, it’s obvious you’re doing the wrong thing, don’t you? In the middle of writing something you go blank and your mind says: “No, that’s it.” Ok. You’re being warned, aren’t you? Your subconscious is saying “I don’t like you anymore. You’re writing about things I don’t give a damn for.” You’re being political, or you’re being socially aware. You’re writing things that will benefit the world. To hell with that! I don’t write things to benefit the world. If it happens that they do, swell. I didn’t set out to do that. I set out to have a hell of a lot of fun.

I’ve never worked a day in my life. The joy of writing has propelled me from day to day and year to year. I want you to envy me, my joy. Get out of here tonight and say: ‘Am I being joyful?’ And if you’ve got a writer’s block, you can cure it this evening by stopping whatever you’re writing and doing something else. You picked the wrong subject.” - Ray Bradbury


3. Plan It, Do It. Just Do It


While the first two tips prescribe courses of action to take if writer's block rears its head during the middle of a project, this last tip will address what to do if nothing at all is coming out. Plan it out, break it down, and attack. Too often we'll struggle to create because our minds are encroached with claustrophobic worries and woes that leave us confined in uncomfortable corners in our own heads. Set aside time in your day for the sole purpose of writing and just do it. Just write with reckless abandon and no regard for "mistakes" or what others or even yourself may think. Don't let your ego get in the way of the act of creation.

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.” - Mark Twain

“What I try to do is write. I may write for two weeks ‘the cat sat on the mat, that is that, not a rat.’ And it might be just the most boring and awful stuff. But I try. When I’m writing, I write. And then it’s as if the muse is convinced that I’m serious and says, ‘Okay. Okay. I’ll come.’”  - Maya Angelou

Sources: The Guardian, Flavorwire

Free eBooks (Project Gutenberg)

Free eBooks, anyone?

The name Gutenberg is synonymous with the printing press — an invention that, around 600 years ago, ensured the exponential acceleration of human knowledge. In today's digital age, the Project Gutenberg website continues this tradition, appropriating the ethos of the inventor's name for their free, aptly-titled eBook repository.

With over 46,000 titles available (and 100,000 through their partners), Project Gutenberg is a keystone development in the digitisation and cataloguing of literature in the public domain. It is a working model of how new technologies can increase the rate of global collective learning.

Here are some classics that we've managed to find — definitively riveting tales freely available to anyone who has the good fortune of simply stumbling upon them.

The time machine (h.g. wells, 1895) 

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H.G. Wells' The Time Machine is a landmark work of science-fiction. Credited with popularising the modern concept of a time machine, this now 120-year-old book is still as fresh and though-provoking as it was when it was first published. A timeless piece of fiction.

The socratic dialogues (plato, circa 399 B.C. – 347 B.C.)

The Socratic Dialogues are a series of conversations written by Plato, student of the Ancient Greek philosopher, Socrates. Although fictional, the dialogues and discussions pivot around ubiquitous abstract topics such as morals, ethics, love and what it means to be good. Very much grounded in real-life opinion, perspective and circumstance, the dialogues are all exemplary of the Socratic method — a truly indispensable tool and mode of enquiry. If you are at all interested in philosophy but have no idea where to start, these dialogues are considered foundational not only to Western morality, but also to the literary tradition of philosophy as a whole.

around the world in 80 days (jules verne, 1873)

At a time when the world teetered at the cusp of a new age of discovery and technological development, this book was released and captured the imagination of pre-20th century Europe. You probably already know the story from — if not the telling title — the multiple adaptations that have sprung into existence since Verne's highly acclaimed work was first released in France all those years ago. If you're a history buff, and you like travel, then this journey will surely be able to offer old but new perspectives on once-exotic far-off places that you yourself may have visited hundreds of years after the fact behind this fiction.

Flatland (edwin abbott, 1884)

Fully titled Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions, this satirical novella utilises the two-dimensional world and characters of Flatland in order provide insights and observations into the hierarchy of Victorian England. Although it is a fascinating socio-historical account in and of itself (if you're interested in it), the novella is most notable for its use of dimensions as an allegory in its examination of cognition, perception and to an extent, the nature of reality itself. Metaphysics abound!