You’d be forgiven if you missed the launch of Google’s storefront in the UK – the somewhat optimistically-named ‘Google Play’, which ties together their bookstore (eh?) their music store (coming soon – bet you can’t wait), their video store (you mean… Youtube?), and their apps (Android). Available directly through your Android device your browser (natch), the Google Play is probably the closest thing Apple has ever come to direct competition. Although, Google is about as much competition for Apple at this point as MC Hammer is to Google.
This week I took some time out from sipping a cup of coffee and hitting ‘send’ on an email, and doing various other publisher-related tasks, and read the Guardian article by Lloyd Shepherd on his recent experience with eBook pirates.
I usually don’t read articles on piracy and try not to write about it because the debate is so vast and terrifying and I’m still sitting on the fence about DRM mostly. But this seemed to be pretty neutral as its written by an author, and I’m always interested in hearing pirates justify their actions in case I find something I hadn’t considered.
Unfortunately, the justifications people on this sharing site were giving were really shitty.
If you don’t know about 50 Shades of Grey yet (ie: if you don’t have Twitter) then here’s a brief summary: it’s an erotic novel about a young girl who meets some older guy into BDSM. She works in a hardware shop and one seduces the other (my guess is he seduces her, because girls don’t typically do anything but swoon in romance novels), and I guess there are a lot of double entendres on the word ‘wood’. I hope there are.
That would make it readable. Wait, no. Funny.
Things have moved fast in publishing recently, there’s no doubt about that. It’s moved so fast in fact it’s easy to forget all those high-flying ideas we had at the start about things that would take off and just… well… haven’t. Here’s just a couple I’ve been reminded of recently. Like sands through the hourglass, these were the early days of our innovation.
Tuesday last was the Society of Young Publishers’ career speed dating evening, which I was invited to appear at as a digital expert. Basically, a group of publishing students and people who are interested in working in publishing come along and ask you about your job and how you started out and what your day-to-day entails, and you’ve got six minutes to turn your own blank look into something like worldly advice.
Legacy publishing is not a thing. Sorry, maybe it’s this thing. But in the context of the publishing industry, supplanting the word ‘house’ or ‘printed’ for ‘legacy’ is used as a tool only to insult mainstream publishing and assist the few who are benefiting from this false dichotomy (thanks, university degree) of publishing houses vs author.
This meaningless phrase is used as meaningless phrases are: to cover holes in our understanding of things. In this case it is being used to describe a gap in our understanding of digital publishing. In our rush to seem up-to-date and not go the way of the music industry, we create such labels and then throw them around in order to draw a line between ourselves and them. Those others. Those morons with old ideas. Those… Saruman-like dictators of culture.
On National Libraries Day (February 4th) when we’re supposed to show our love for our local by visiting and getting out some books, I went to the pub and watched the Scotland vs England Six Nations match, which is pretty crap for someone who loves books and hates rugby. So I went all High Fidelity on the libraries – revisiting our old relationship and thinking about what I missed and what had changed.
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.
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.
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.