Anyone paying even cursory attention to the Scottish literary scene at the moment knows that the most exciting publisher around is Cargo. From humble beginnings, the company has grown exponentially in influence over the past couple of years, having released some of the most vital and critically acclaimed Scottish books in a decade, including Allan Wilson’s rightly-hailed debut short story collection Wasted In Love and the landmark anthology The Year Of Open Doors. For the first time since the glory days of Rebel Inc., a publisher feels central to the cultural conversation in Scotland, or at least the countercultural conversation.
Archive for January, 2012
The Dramatic Unmask is something well-known in superhero or crime television shows where a villain or hero decides, or is forced, to reveal their true identity. The audience and the other characters all take in a sharp breath and someone on-screen usually says: ‘It was you/me all along!’ If it’s a good unmask, there’ll be some evil cackling involved or maybe a reference to ‘meddling kids’. And as petty as it might sound, I would take no small pleasure from doing this dramatic unmask to a sales rep for New Harvest in the USA at the moment – leaping from my chair mid-way through their pitch about a celebrity memoir and shouting: ‘Ah-HA! But these were AMAZON titles all along!’ And my smugness would be exceeded only by their embarrassment and the force with which they were tossed from the premises by my in-store security.
It’s been said, that it’s the most fun you can have in publishing with your clothes on.*
It’s been said, that if you can talk books, digital publishing, politics, haircuts, music or… anything, then this is the place to be.**
You can sign up here:
BookMachine @ Porter’s Bar (The Green Man), 383 Euston Rd, London, NW1 3AU
23rd February 2012, 6.30pm
I’ve blogged for BookMachine before about the value of an MA in Publishing, an issue that was debated further by a lecture-hall full of publishing academics, publishers, industry representatives and other interested parties last week. The Are publishers born or made? symposium at Kingston University was designed to provide a forum for discussing the value and content of academic publishing qualifications, how industry and academia might work more closely together and what publishing-related research is – and should be – undertaken. If that all sounds a bit like academic navel-gazing, the presence of Richard Mollet (CEO of the Publishers Association) along with a number of professional publishers demonstrated the practical relevance of all this.
Picture the scene: it’s February 2012. You’re in Waterstones in Piccadilly. You’re wandering around, browsing aimlessly, not really focusing on one thing or the other. Maybe you’ve got something on your mind. Did you lock the door? You’re pretty sure you locked the door. But then, you were on the phone when you left, so maybe… huh, there’s a lot of books in Russian here. Weird.
Wigtown, I repeated.
The librarian hung up her hands in dismay.
I say Galloway, and it evokes a slow, bemused response.
Few have heard of Scotland’s national book town. Fewer know it is slouched in the Machars area of Galloway where River Cree Estuary meets the Solway firth, in the backdrop of the Galloway hills. Coastline, hills, the sea, and the ferry to Ireland, typical south western climate, all defining characteristics of the region.
But those who do know the area, will warn you, there is nothing to do in Wigtown, a town which you can walk around in twenty minutes flat! Not many know of Wigtown as a geographic location, least of all for what it’s most famous: Scotland’s largest boutique showcase of about 20 antiquarian bookshops, internet book warehouses, and studios dealing second hand books and older and new collections too, crossing all genres from film, music, Tartan noir and topography, world history, local mythology and combat aviation to name the very least.
A disclaimer, upfront: it’s great that J.K. Rowling has sparked the imaginations of so many children in the 15 years (!) since the initial publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. It’s wonderful that so many of those children have then used the Potter books as a gateway to further reading. It’s beautiful to see a generation grow up clutching seven novels so close to their hearts. And now that’s out of the way, it’s safe to say that real-world Quidditch – which The Guardian reports is being played at Oxford, Yale, Harvard and several other universities around the world – is too deeply, deeply silly an idea to ever qualify as the ‘sport in its own right’ its most ardent proponents would like it to become.
Here’s a lesson in how to sink an already flooded market: create a piece of software where publishing is as easy as clicking a button, and promote a culture where it is commonly accepted that writing a novel is as simple as putting down whatever comes into your head. Inflate your life jackets now, guys, because we’re there.
Today we’re mostly talking about Apple’s announcement on education yesterday. Are Apple set to shake up textbook publishing with iBooks 2 and iTunes U?
And there’s more, as Apple’s iBooks Author Tool Sets the Stage for Showdown With Amazon. Essentially it’s A GarageBand for ebooks: Simplifying publishing.
But what is The iBooks 2.0 textbook format? And there’s the backlash too: perhaps You Can’t Afford Apple’s Education Revolution, and what about The Unprecedented Audacity of the iBooks Author EULA?
Elsewhere this week, it was argued that Academic publishers have become the enemies of science. And while Dorling Kindersley says “Goodbye Books, Hello ‘Flat’ Content. Make Once, Use Anywhere,” there are increasing Publishing Opportunities from Online Communities.
See the man. He is talented and celebrated, he writes celebrated and prize-winning novels. He stokes the slow publishing news day. He – wait, before I continue, everyone’s read Blood Meridian, right? No? Oh. Then I’d better stop rewriting it. And you should probably stop reading this and go read that instead.