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The power of Twitter

It amazes me the power of twitter. The ability to create an evening of great conversation in a friendly, relaxed environment, with fellow ‘tweeters’ – surrounding ourselves by people who work in the same industry, have similar visions and most importantly are able to learn from each others experiences and views.

I’ve been using twitter now for a few months and there are certain people who just get how it works. These people make you feel like you know them, who, by updating their ‘page’ using 140 characters periodically, manage to command an online presence. The kind of people you feel you should know. I mean, how clever is that? With just 140 characters you can almost be ‘famous’ (if you’re into that kind of thing of course….!).

So, last Thursday was good, very good. It had been mainly organised by Sam (@samatlounge). Although I’d never met her I knew where she lived, where she worked and that she was a fan of Glee! The frequency of her tweets showed that she’d worked really hard at putting this event together.

On the night she wowed us even more – we were given bags (everyone likes a treat); she shared advice about how to set up our own night (it’s happening on the 30th, watch this space – @book_machine) and introduced us to her colleagues (we all like to meet people). I think this event can only get better and better. (and thanks so much for the hints Sam, if our second night is half as good as yours, we’ll be laughing!)

So who else was there? @benjohncock, whose voice I’d heard before (makes two podcasts); knew what he was reading and even what computer he has. Great to see him in the flesh! @druceydrama – who’s recently written a great article for the SYP on finding work in publishing; @jonslack – setting up the first South Asian Litterature festival (looks ace); @mafunyane (real name Anna Faherty) who is about to start lecturing in publishing to share her knowledge (good luck on your first day of term!) and plenty more inspirational and interesting people…. (I could go on naming but it would take forever!). 

So thanks Sam, and the rest of the @futurebook team for being such an inspiration to all of us fellow ‘tweeters’ – hope to see you on the 30th!

A plan to save the book perhaps?

Are we obsessed with going digital as a nation, as publishers or is it just me? Everyday I read the bookseller, follow my twitter feeds and browse eagerly, looking for further verification that the book has no future.

As someone who sells books, this obsession was starting to worry me a bit. Should we all abandon our jobs in the book trade and get on the digital band wagon? I started to look at my friends working in digital media and think they are ‘lucky’ to be in-the-know and at the forefront of the revolution.

And then it suddenly occurred to me that there are millions of us still working in the book trade, still sat in meetings discussing the cover, the page count and the trim size. So why is no one fighting for the life of the book and the jobs of authors, publishers and booksellers? (think civil rights movements!) Surely we can do more to keep the book alive.

I spent a few hours wondering around F***** (could have been any of the large chains) the other day, browsing the shelves and dreaming of having enough time to read all the books on display. However, I did get the impression that there was a lot of ‘space’, that the shelves weren’t bustling with choice of content (as you might find online). And what about customer reviews? Amazon has proven that what really pushes a consumer to buy – is reading a non-branded customer review. Where are the in-store forums? Surely bookshops should be inviting people in for copious amounts of alcohol and a place to air their views – now that’s something that the Internet can’t offer!

Despite the digital hype, publishers are still producing books. We are trying our hardest to keep hold of the versatile, tactile element of owning a book and the pride so many of us hold in the visual array of titles on our bookshelves.

So before we all get pushed out of our day jobs, into the unknown; why don’t booksellers look at their shelves and use the Internet as a model of how to market our brands. We could use the offline advantage of being able to browse the shelves, talk about books we’ve read whilst having a drink. How where’s the harm in that?

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