Shady Characters at the BBC: The mysterious ancient origins of the book

In the run-up to the US publication of The Book, I was happy to be able to write an article for BBC Culture entitled “The mysterious ancient origins of the book”. It takes a look at the forces, mysterious and otherwise, that lay behind the evolution of the papyrus scroll into the parchment book. It was a challenge to write this one — it compresses a huge amount of history into a few hundred words — but I hope that it does justice to the subject. Have a read!

Alternatively, if you’re in more of a podcast sort of mood, last week I was also interviewed on Radio NZ’s Nine to Noon (listen out for the Bavarian/barbarian confusion) and Newstalk’s Moncrieff programme about books, scrolls, ebooks, and more. Thank you to Radio NZ and Newstalk for having me!

And the winners are…

Cover of The Book
Cover of The Book as designed by David High.

The third and final round of The Book giveaway is now closed, and I’m pleased to announce that the winners this time are Twitter user Elizabeth Fraser (@Frauhaus) and commenter Frank S. Congratulations to both of them! Their signed copies of The Book will be on their way soon.

I must take this opportunity to thank everyone who entered the competition, whether here or on Twitter. Your comments and tweets have been kind and inspiring in equal measure, for which I’m very grateful. And I hope that even if you didn’t win in this last round of the competition, you might still consider buying a copy of The Book for yourself or your favourite bibliophile or history buff!

It’s US publication day!

Cover of The Book
Cover of The Book as designed by David High.

The Book: A Cover-to-Cover Ex­plor­a­tion of the Most Power­ful Ob­ject of Our Time is published today in the US! You can order a copy from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound or Powell’s — or, of course, from your favourite local bookshop. Learn more here, or read an extract over at Medium.


If you’d like to win one of two signed copies of the book, enter the giveaway here at Shady Characters. Good luck!

We have a winner – and the final competition!

The second round of The Book giveaway came to a close yesterday, and I’m pleased to announce that Angela Boothroyd (@StudyingOnline) is the winner. Congratulations to Angela! Her signed copy of The Book will be on its way soon.

Cover of The Book
Cover of The Book as designed by David High.

To celebrate the publication of the US edition tomorrow, I’m going to do things a little differently this week and give away both of the two remaining copies of the book. To enter this last round of the giveaway, just do one of the following:

  • leave a comment on this post, making sure to supply a valid email address so that I can contact you in the event that you win, or
  • reply to or retweet the tweet announcing this contest, making sure to follow @shadychars so that I can send you a direct message if you win. (Please don’t create multiple accounts or repeatedly reply to the message — Twitter may ban you as a result. One entry is fine!)

This last round of the contest will close at noon GMT on Sunday 28th August 2016, so make sure you enter before then. After that I’ll pick two winners from the list of all unique entrants, and I’ll happily post their copies of The Book to them wherever they are in the world.

Good luck! And don’t forget — if you don’t win in this final round of the competition, The Book will be available for purchase in all good bookshops before you know it.


Update: The competition is now closed! I’ll announce the winners soon.

We have a winner – and a new competition!

So! The first round of The Book giveaway came to a close yesterday, and I’m pleased to announce that of the 278 entrants the winner was Gary K. McCormick (@WillotheGlen). Congratulations to Gary! His signed copy of The Book will be on its way soon.

Cover of The Book
Cover of The Book as designed by David High.

If you didn’t win (and statistically speaking, you, um, probably didn’t), don’t fret! This is your chance to win the second of four signed copies I’ll be giving away over the next few weeks. To enter this round of the giveaway, just do one of the following:

  • leave a comment on this post, making sure to supply a valid email address so that I can contact you in the event that you win, or
  • reply to or retweet the tweet announcing this contest, making sure to follow @shadychars so that I can send you a direct message if you win. (Please don’t create multiple accounts or repeatedly reply to the message — Twitter may ban you as a result. One entry is fine!)

This second round of the contest will close at noon GMT on Sunday 21st August 2016, so make sure you enter before then. After that I’ll pick one winner from the list of all unique entrants, and I’ll happily post a copy of The Book to them wherever they are in the world.

Good luck!


Update: The second round of the competition is now closed! Thank you for all your comments and tweets. I’ll announce the winner tomorrow, and kick off the next round of the competition!