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This Week's Fish Wrap (№29): Short Lists & Short Wizards

“This Week’s Fish Wrap” is an on-​​​​going series of posts summing up the news of the previous seven days in the publishing industry, and appears here each Monday. It’s also quite possible that the posts merely serve as a dumping ground of links so that Atomic Fez Proprietor Ian Alexander Martin can find articles later to include in his occasional rants about how ‘EVERYONE ELSE IS ENTIRELY WRONG’ about various things.

 

Tiny, One-Man Band in Burnaby Twice Makes Short-List in Far-Away United Kingdom

CLICK HERE to see the official announcement of this (new tab)Well now, this is the way we like to start the week ‚wot?

Not just a British Fantasy Society’s Short-​​List nod for Andrew Hook’s Ponthe Oldenguine in the “Best Novella”, but also a position in the short-​​list for “Best Small Press” for Atomic Fez itself! HUZZAH!

CLICK HERE to get more details and order copies (new tab)Considering the full list of those being considered was massive – and yes, everyone says the next bit, but it’s honestly true – just getting on the list of the “best five” is an achievement-and-a-half.Considering that Atomic Fez is based 13 of the way around the planet to the west of the United Kingdom, and it gets even more amazing. “Right chuffed” is the way the entire offices of Atomic Fez feel just now.

…okay, it’s just me, but all of me feels that way.

While Mr. Hook’s is the only single title to be recognized, obviously the hard-​​work of all the authors in 2010 making their books as good as can be has been noticed, as the publishing house itself has been ‘short-​​listed’ for “Best Small Press”. Thus, the collective effort by all of the authors over the previous year is what made the “Best Small Press” inclusion possible for this publisher. Hooray for all of them as well!

 

Old School Magic-User Goes New-Age High Tech with 'Pottermore'

Right, so we’re probably all sick of hearing about this by now, but let’s step back and brush aside the NEW! EXCITING! HOOPLA! portions of the coverage so far. Yes, the stories are finally available in e-​​Book format, and that’s grand. This ought to mark the way the young folks get hooked on the format now, as well as getting a fresh generation of readers’ eyes staring at the tales already beloved by young & old. All very good, but this was bound to happen with the Harry Potter… stories; and if they don’t hook the young ones, then some story series will do it eventually.

But, as Olivia Solon of The Telegraph pointed out on the 23rd, there’s more to this than meets the eye of just a new format. I’ve said time and time again that e-​​Books are the new and better version of the Mass Market Paperback (better because there’s no shipping cost, no paper wasted, and the RRP is less than printed copies), and that’s all essentially what this is, according to the typical “we’ve got 45 seconds to cover this” media. Lots of copies of the books have been sold in paper, now they’ll be sold electronically as well so that the piratical sites will no longer have PDF copies to shove at those with no money or the willingness to part with some.

But…

We're shakin’ up publishing like The Pastors were shakin’ up Vegas!
We’re shakin’ up publishing like The Pastors were shakin’ up Vegas!

There’s more on offer over at that site of Ms Rowling’s. You will not only have available the books as already released, you’ll have bonus materials as well, just as movies have been offered for quite some time with DVD Extras. She’s apparently written another 18,000 words to expand the information on characters and settings. Additionally, there’s an on-​​line forum to supplement the already extant ones such as “Mugglenet” and permit a central location for people to share their love of Potter arcana. Part of the appeal here is the addition of ‘official extras’ such as being sorted into houses, wand selection, and so on. All of this combined makes it possible for people to scratch their wizardry itch without feeling odd about going to some fringe-​​like message board filled with wackos and repressed adults; this is, after all, a professional and commercial site.

The chief lesson to be learned here is twofold:

  1. you can do it yourself (the rights to the electronic versions are reportedly held exclusively by the author)
  2. you can do more than merely reproduce the words on paper electronically

Mike Cane has repeated called for e-​​Books to do more than merely provide words, but until the tablet came along, it was damned difficult to provide anything fancy, what with a forest of operating systems making cross-​​platform guaranteed delivery of anything nigh-​​on impossible. What with the iPad, Galaxy Tab, and a whole bunch of others operating on three solid programming standards, all should be possible in the new, post-​​PC world of equipment. When you’ve got something as basic as a web-​​browser available (two models of the Barnes and Noble “Nook” can be easily ‘hacked’ to make it live, and even the new Kobo Touch has one if you know simply drill down through the settings to activate it), you’ve got the possibility of audio supplements, video, e-​​mail, coupons, and who knows what else? No, it’s not going to be something you see everyone doing, but if you’ve got source material such as a young wizard, how do you not take advantage of the magical possibilities?  Ms Rowling’s team had started including these sorts of this a years ago, and the tablet revolution was not nearly begun as yet.

Also not yet begun was the Apple v. Big Publisher battle for an open approach to customer data. The idea of them fighting over the 30% of the RRP as the main issue is a joke. Any bookstore that sells copies of authors’ works gets at least that in return for making the book available. Apple could have charged far more, and would be in the same league as Amazon.com, who gets anywhere up to 60% off the RRP for stocking popular books (which is why they can then sell them at such insane sale prices, and destroy your local bookshops in the process). No doubt many executives in New York City and London were relieved to hear it was only 30% that the Cupertino-​​based Apple was expecting for inclusion of catalogues in the iBook Store.

The real desirable thing is the data: customers’ ages, locations, and so on. By creating her own site – or ‘platform’, as the marketing people will chirp – Ms. Rowling has kept everything in her control, and can market directly to her customer base in a broader way possible than were it merely a fan base. This is far more influential to the market, in my view, as this really takes the last of the power from the oligarchical publishing model of the previous centuries. not only can the author write and publish their own works in the same way as an independent band might, they now have a model to provide far more than one form of limited content to their customers.

We all need to challenge ourselves to ‘work harder’. How else can we reach people? How else can we entertain them? How else can we do all of that and maintain the quality of work – in whatever form it takes – and make things exciting and fresh whilst making it worth someone’s time and hard-​​earned money?

These truly are the most revolutionary times since Caxton and Gutenberg.

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