Category Archives: Industry Thoughts

This Week's Fish Wrap (№27)

Here’s what I did with my Sunday whilst it was sunny outside: sat in the basement for the entire afternoon and watched, one after another, The Conversation (with director and screenwriter Francis Ford Coppola’s commentary track running), then Reservoir Dogs (with not only “Info Pop-​​Ups” running, but also a commentary track featuring just about everyone except Steve Buschmi and the Key Grip), followed by 2001: A Space Odyssey with nothing running but its glorious soundtrack (featuring a total of 88 minutes of dialogue-​​free sound).

Pardon me for a moment whilst I screw the eye-​​balls back into the front of my skull.

So, in lieu of actual content, why not promote some things about our beloved authors & things?

 

John Llewellyn Probert

This is the astonishing well-​​dressed – and incredibly well-​​behaved – author of Wicked Delights, the collection of short stories and novellas of the macabre and literary horror genre. He’s dreamy!

Hear an interview with him! He talks funny! GO HERE and learn everything you didn’t know about the Doctor Who episodes from the 1974−−76 era which you’ll now be fighting with me for in the Public Library’s DVD area.

He visited Texas! He was in Austin for World HorrorCon! You can read about that, plus see him taking a chainsaw to his Special Lady Friend, RIGHT HERE on his site (scroll down a titch)!

He’s writing a book that will be his first novel! I don’t remember what the thing’s called! Atomic Fez will publish it! He’s writing it now! It’s taking a touch longer than everyone thought it would! It’ll be available… erm… here… uhhhhYES, IT SURE WILL!

Cover art by Kimberley Hiscocks (click to enlarge or close)

 

Cover art by Kimberley Hiscocks (click to enlarge or close)

 

Carol Weekes

The cover of her first Atomic Fez title, Terribilis, is now available for viewing on the right. Hooray! More details of that soon, with the eBook edition of that out by the end of this month at the latest, and the paperback edition in November probably.

For other news about what she’s up to… well, frankly she’s busier than a really really busy thing. Head to her blog: CLICK HERE!

 

John Travis

This is the author of The Terror and the Tortoiseshell, the first in the “Benji Spriteman Mystery” series. He’s not someone you want to meet in a dark alley after closing time, let me tell you!

He’s a guest over at Steve Lokley’s blog this week-​​end! John’s discussing self-​​publishing, which appears on the 18th of June! HOORAY!

Final editing of the second “Benji Spriteman” novel is about to begin, and that one is called The Designated Coconut. It’s an homage to the British Detective genre, and features mole men! The cover will be again by Steve Upham, and neither he nor I have a clue what that cover will feature (although a carnival scene and/​or coconut is possible).That book will be available in e-​​book edition during autumn of this year. The book will be available in hardback at roughly the same time in its UK edition, with the North America release the next spring (just in time for beach and cabin reading).

Meanwhile John’s in the midst of writing the third story in the series, the title and details of which I know nothing of. Other than it’ll be brilliant, obviously, and you can expect that in late-​​2012.

Cover art by Terry Cooper (click to enlarge or close)
Cover art by Terry Cooper (click to enlarge or close)

 

Chris Rothe

The cover of his first title, Dirk Danger Loves Life, is now available for viewing on the left! Hooray! More details of that soon, with the eBook edition of that out by the end of this month at the latest, and the paperback edition in November probably.

Chris Rothe is building his web site, and you can locate that RIGHT HERE. While there, you can read his BLOG and even vote on a poll he’s taking! Vote on the poll! Gaze in wonderment at his insanity!

 

Andrew Hook

This is the astonishing silly author of the astonishingly silly book Ponthe Oldenguine!

Andrew Hook’s a judge! For a contest! A world contest! The 2011 World Fantasy Awards, as a matter of fact! This means his time is severely truncated because he’s currently reading 80 novels at once with more to come. When last heard from, about 30 more books arrived in one packet, and a second parcel contained yet another twenty. Suggestions on how to construct an entire house using only bound volumes can be sent to the author with all due haste.

 


So there we are. I’ll see you next week, when it’s hoped all this ‘hockey’ nonsense is done with and we can concentrate of important things like (WARNING: shameless plug imminent) attending events titled “How to Pitch Your Thing to the Media”.

Foyles, Charing Cross Road, London (c/o Christopher Fowler’s blog)

This Week's Fish Wrap (№26)

“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.

 

Why Would Anyone in Their Right Mind Want to Buy a Book Store Right Now?

Good question… erm… because they’re cheap at the moment…? Granted, so are video rental stores, especially the ones with Betamax® tapes as part of their collections… erm…

Foyles, Charing Cross Road, London (c/o Christopher Fowler’s blog)
Foyles, Charing Cross Road, London (c/​o Christopher Fowler’s blog)

Oddly, there’s a number of retailers in the middle of exchanging current for new owners. For every shop such as Vancouver’s Ardea Books & Art, formed by the laid-​​off staff of multi-​​generational shop Duthie’s Books [The Georgia Straight; “Farewell, Ardea Books & Art”], there are others in the marketplace who are large enough that the publishers and wholesalers will work with the management to find new money so that the closing of the chain doesn’t lead to wide-​​spread unemployment and shuttering of businesses up and down the production ladder. Yes, as the old saw goes, “money talks”, and the more you have involved the more attentive the ear of those with their finger on the button (to mix one’s metaphor to the point of muddling the thing to death).

Chapters USA and Barnes & Noble in America, Australian bookshop chains Borders and Angus & Robertson, and Waterstone’s in the UK are all either looking for buyers or are in final negotiations with one. Either the new owners are getting the businesses at ground-​​floor prices, or they’re the biggest suckers to ever come down the pike; there’s a slim line betwixt those two, as well.

The funny thing is, whenever you bring-​​up the closing of a bookstore – any bookstore – the universal response is one of dismay; the end of an era; yet another step toward the End Times has been taken; it is another sign of the Fall of Civilization. However, if you live in North America or anywhere in the UK other than Metropolitan London, let me ask you this: when was the last time you bought a book from a bookstore. No, not an on-​​line retailer, or even the on-​​line version of a brick-​​and-​​mortar retailer, but when was the last time you walked into a bookstore and purchased a book before leaving? Be honest now.

The advancement of Amazon.com /​ .ca /​ .co.uk /​ .de /​ .fr /​ .jp, Chapters.Indigo.ca, and even BarnesAndNoble.com have somehow created a disc9onnection in the mind of the people with the normal manner that they acquire their reading materials. I don’t know if it’s necessarily a ‘bad thing’, or is merely a ‘new thing’ as the way anything is purchased has changed over the centuries of business-​​based exchange. It’s no good bemoaning the evolutionary change in buying patterns if people are not only reading more – because they are – but are discovering a more diverse selection of authors simply due to changing their method of purchasing books. Likewise, it’s pointless to decry the closing of bookshops if your last visit to one was during the Presidency of George Bush, Sr.

Admittedly, Atomic Fez books are available right here, so it’s possible to argue that I’m part of the problem. However, when the number of actual shops you can walk into in the world and locate a copy of one of those book actually sitting on a shelf numbers a grand total of zero*, one can hardly consider oneself the principle reason for the town highstreet becoming a non-​​stop panorama of coffee houses and fast-​​food outlets, can one?

Meanwhile, the on-​​line ordering of books from shops can’t be helping the postal system of Canada any. The postal system of this country is suffering rotating strike action, with most people shrugging and saying “nearly all of my mail is bills – except for the ones I get on-​​line – so who cares?”

All of this leaves me with a feeling that is mixture of frustration, bitterness, sadness, and general confusion. Anyone have an answers to this…? Anyone…? Anyone…?

 

VANCOUVER EVENT: Learn to Pitch Your Thing to the Media (from ACTUAL! MEDIA! DUDE!)

FULL DISCLOSURE: I’m the organizer of this event, as well as subsequent monthly meetings of The Shebeen Club, which aims to be Vancouver’s version of the Algonquin Round Table.

Mr. Stephen Quinn
Mr. Stephen Quinn

Whatever you have to pitch to the media for coverage — your band’s new record, your new publishing company, the fact you won a big shiny award — it’s not always easy to attract their attention. While different media outlets and platforms have their idiosyncrasies, there are general rules and techniques that always work (and not necessarily include tucking a bottle of whisky into the package, although that does help). Come to the June Meeting of “The Shebeen Club” and learn or re-​​learn the rules, share your own tips about successful pitches, and generally sharpen your pitching techniques.

SPECIAL VANCOUVER MEDIA GUEST: Globe & Mail columnist and the host of CBC Radio One’s On the Coast: Stephen Quinn!

Additional fun includes hearing “Bad Pitch Horror Stories”: Pitches from Bitches! Don’t miss this evening’s zany hilarity!

 

Interview with Publisher / Proprietor Now On-Line!

We’re done! For those of you who missed it, head TO THIS PAGE and listen to the interview on Blog Talk Radio with Wayne Herlbert. Go to the page linked to above and click the little button on the player to start the babble. Or, if you’re into that sort of thing and would rather download it and play it as a podcast, HERE’S A LINK FOR THAT.

 

* any shop in the UK will happily order in a copy of anything you happen to know about; although given they don’t have any copies there in the shiop it’s beyond me how you would have found out about the things without coming here in the first place, frankly [BACK]

All TALKING! All THINKING! ALL HOUR LONG!

Hear the Publisher's Voice!

This Week’s Fish-​​Wrap is preempted, owing to just about anything covered by that that being easily covered in tomorrow’s event, exciting details of which are below.

All TALKING! All THINKING! ALL HOUR LONG!
All TALKING! All THINKING! ALL HOUR LONG!

Tomorrow at 17:00 PDT (or 20:00 EDT, or barely into Wednesday at 00:00 GMT) I’ll be interviewed on Blog Talk Radio with Wayne Herlbert. In addition to the possibility I’ll mention an up-​​coming title or two, here’s what he’s claiming I’ll talk about:

Independent book publisher and President of Atomic Fez Publishing, Ian Alexander Martin, shares his views on current and future trends in the publishing industry. Ian describes the challenges facing publishers in the current economy and with the rapid changes taking place in the publishing industry. Ian shares his thoughts on genre busting fiction, developing a niche market for specific titles, and how an author can get published in today’s highly competitive marketplace. Ian also offers some advice for successful online book marketing including some very unique and unexpected tactics for which Atomic Fez has become famous.

Frankly, I’m not so sure about the belief that “Atomic Fez Publishing has become famous”, but I’m hardly going to dissuade him at this point.

The interview is an hour long, so I’ll have to work at being briefer than normal. More than likely, about half-​​way through we’ll get far off the subject and start debating the various advantages of tea-​​making techniques. Also possible is comparing of the cinematic visions of  Akira Kurosawa v. Francis Ford Coppola or Terry Gilliam v. Orson Welles.

It’s also entirely likely that we’ll talk about books. You never know.

  • STREAMING LIVE: Tuesday, May 31st at 5PM Pacific /​ 8PM Eastern /​ 00:00 GMT (Midnight at the start of Wednesday): CLICK HERE

UPDATED: and we’re done! For those of you who missed it, head TO THIS PAGE and click the little button on the player to start the 66 minute babble. Or, if you’re into that sort of thing and would rather download it and play it as a podcast, HERE’S A LINK FOR THAT.

Cover of “Modern Mechanix” (July, 1935)

This Week's Fish Wrap (№25)

“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.

 

New Kobo Touch-Screen Model Announced Today

Discovered by accident by me, head over to Kobo’s site to see a brand-​​new touch-​​screen model of their eReader. The big, square, navigation button is gone, you turn pages by swiping your finger across the screen the same way you would with a printed book, the power button is now a toggle switch, and you can scroll through the book using a slider control so you can jum tp the middle of the book without having to guess at chapter numbers. As the Kobo still allows the user to load their own files on it, borrow books from the library on it, and several other things the Kindle doesn’t, they may very well have finally found their mass-​​market break-​​though device.

  • Kobo Blog: “The Rumours are True! Kobo Launches the The Kobo eReader Touch Edition Today” | CLICK HERE
  • Kobo; “The Kobo eReader Touch Edition – Amazing New Touch Experience” | CLICK HERE

 

Kindle eBook Sales Exceed Number of Books Ever Printed in History of World

Seemingly, the only thing on anyone’s mind in the past seven days – unless they were discussing the prediction that the Lord would end His Humans: Can They Be Trusted? lab-​​test – was the announcement by Amazon that they sold more copies of books in an electronic format than all printed format books combined. The most impressive part of it is that this does not include the free books offered in the Kindle store, but only those purchased for actual retail values.

  • The Wall Street Journal; “Amazon: Kindle Books Outselling Print Copies” | CLICK HERE
  • Engadget; “Kindle books officially take over print sales at Amazon, pulp starts making retirement plans” | CLICK HERE
  • TeleRead; “Kindle e-​​books outselling print books on Amazon” | CLICK HERE
  • The BookSeller.com; “Amazon.co.uk selling twice as many Kindle books as hardbacks” | CLICK HERE
Cover of “Modern Mechanix” (July, 1935)
Cover of “Modern Mechanix” (July, 1935)

Thus, eBooks have passed another milestone. While this is greater in quantifiable achievement than most of the previous ones, can it be seen as anything more significant than previous ones? Until now, the biggest headlines were “more eBooks were sold than copies of books in _​_​_​_​_​ format” in the US market (the UK market still has eBooks only out-​​selling hardbacks), so declaring that ‘eBooks have finally arrived’ is still a tough call. Amazon’s declaration is important, as well as sufficient to put to rest any suggestions of a 21st century variety of a hula-​​hoop, but it is imperative to keep in mind the limitation of the source: Amazon®. While not denigrating the retail company, nor calling into question the veracity of their statements, one does have to remember that they are not the entire book market; albeit a damned large part of it.

Amazon does, for one thing, make and sell a device called the Kindle™. You may have heard of it. In my opinion, it is the device that will be seen as revolutionizing the way eBooks were perceived, shifting them away from a way to read a book that would only be contemplated by residents of their parents’ basement. Suddenly, with the Kindle, people were admitting that they were not only reading again, they found they were reading more books than normal, because they had constant access to a seemingly endless supply of them. Only the USA had this all-​​you-​​can-​​eat buffet-​​style of book selection on the Kindle at first, as it was the only nation that was connected to the bespoke WI-​​FI network used by Amazon. Still, no matter where people were, they were entranced by the idea that someone sitting next to them in a café could recommend a particular title and it was possible to purchase a copy of it right then, so as to not stand in the middle of a book store with endless rows of shelves filled with books and think what was the name of that damned book again? to then turn and walk out of the place without buying a thing having only acquired a feeling of frustration and embarrassment that one still had not mastered the simple task of “writing the damned title and author’s name down at the time”.

The effectiveness of the adoption of the Kindle is the driving force behind the statistic mentioned above. However, remember that this same statistic is limited to that device, and thus cannot be expanded to suggest that the eBook is outselling printed books everywhere. Other factors such as ‘are the accumulated totals of books sold in any format larger or smaller than this time last year?’ or even ‘are there more people buying books, or are there fewer people buying more books than previously?’ are not brought up, at least in the Amazon marketplace.

It’s readily apparent that eBooks are forming a greater part of both the market and income for publishers and retailers alike. Simon & Shuster recently announced that they were represented 18% of their total global sales in the first quarter of this year [CLICK HERE], and this was during a period that revenues increased 2% to $155m.

This increased preference for eBooks also carries across the board, with the UK Publishers Association stating in its 2010 yearbook that the digital market is now worth 6% of UK publishers’ sales, with consumer digital sales up more than 300% in 2010 to £16m [CLICK HERE]. The most impressive aspect of this is that it represents the third year of treble digit growth, with e-​​book sales now standing at £13m for those publishers included in the study, and they estimated that including those publishers not included in the PA yearbook panel brought the digital consumer market close to £20m for last year [ibid].

To discover what evils eBooks do not contain, as well learning about the rest of the eBook phenomenon, CLICK HERE to read the first of the 6-​​part series “E-​​Books: Calming the E-​​Terror of Book Lovers”.

Clearly, the future of the eBook – I was told it was “a solution to a problem which doesn’t exist” only a few years ago – is seen by many as promising. One of the keys to the recent bid for purchase of the American retailer Barnes & Noble is its ‘Nook’ device [CLICK HERE]. Indeed, John Malone, who made a fortune in cable television, is offering $1 billion for the retailer at a risky time: the №2 in the market, Borders Group Inc., is clinging to the edge with its fingernails.

I’m all for the electronic binding format, and have been an advocate of them from the inception of Atomic Fez Publishing. All of the titles Atomic Fez publishes are in electronic form as well as printed format, and soon will be making a novel available in electronic format in advance of a printed format version. When the number of electronic books exceed the number of printed books at Amazon, I am pleased: eBooks are less costly to purchase, more of the RRP goes to the author, nearly nothing is added to the growing effects of Climate Change, and the democratization of learning and literature is advanced considerably due to the greatly reduced cost to purchase the books in electronic form for everything is now a mass market paperback in essence.

I’ve been saying for years that this is the smartest position for people to consider the eBook in is as the MMP; suddenly, others are thinking the same [CLICK HERE]. Now that the ‘acceptability’ of the format is seen as valid in areas where it serves a need better than its printed siblings, the next hurdle is to get rid of the reason it can’t service the needs in other areas reliably: Digital Rights Management that basically screws everything up in ways that make eBooks less useful than printed ones [CLICK HERE]. The whole point of changing from one way of doing anything to another one is that the newer format should – nay must – be easier, faster, cheaper, and/​or better than the earlier one; if it’s not, then it is nothing but change for the mere sake of it. DRM prevents this coming to pass, and serves no actual purpose of protecting anyone’s interests in real ways.

Have eBooks ‘arrive’ with this new sales figure? Probably not, no. But it is another solid step in the process of the ‘new reality’ which is the most earth-​​shaking one in the publishing trade since Gutenberg started putting little blocks of wood into a frame.

What about you? Are you the owner of an eReader? Do you like it? Do you use it more than you thought? If you don’t own one, do you think you might buy one at some point? What ability would a device need to have to make you change your mind?

Burroughs Corporation Advert “Angry Young Computer”

This Week's Fish Wrap (№24)

“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.

Burroughs Corporation Advert “Angry Young Computer”
Burroughs Corporation Advert “Angry Young Computer”

While this is supposed to be weekly, not every week has some sort of important topic that is swamped by some massive über-​​topic. Sometimes there isn’t even an important topic at all. Sometimes there might be an important topic, but I’ve been too distracted editing /​ proofing /​ playing Portal 2 /​ feeling sad /​ obsessively watching films in order to get up to speed on tropes and stereotypes /​ ranting about Canadian Politics. So… basically… you get one of these when I have time /​ feel like it /​ have something to go on a tear about. ‘You get what you pay for’, as the saying goes.

Let’s see where this week’s version gets us, shall we?

 

Neil Gaiman (WARNING: Doctor Who-free Content)

Yes, it’s true: there will be no Whovian content in this section. Sorry about that.

He’s got other things on the go, you see. Such as dealing with a maximum-​​sized git who wants to call him names! Yes, some Republican named Matt Dean, in the State House of Minnesota, called the creator of… oh for Pete’s sake, it’s too long a list; just go here if you need to…

Anyway, during a budget discussion, the pig-​​ignorant swine singled out a payment of State Legacy money that was made last year to the author for a four-​​hour speaking appearance. Mr. Dean said that Mr. Gaiman, “who I hate” (something that has been deemed impossible according to four chemical laws) was a “pencil-​​necked little weasel who stole $45,000 from the state of Minnesota.” Had he done a touch of research about the man he claims to know well enough to hate, he would have discovered that Mr. Gaiman’s appearance fee for that event, as any similar fee is, was donated to charity.

The links below provide some details of ‘who said what to whom’, but if you already know enough about that, then let me point you at further fun involving Mr. Gaiman. A satirical site recently posted a purported introduction written by him to the soon-​​to-​​be-​​upcoming book Duran Duran: The First Four Years of the Fab Five. The site claimed that this was something Mr. Gaiman whipped off during a very lean part of his writing career, and an up-​​dated edition was clamoured for by all and sundry. The fake introduction to the fake book is quite well done, and the purported author even tweeted about it (click here), which then spawned the question ‘who would you write an introduction for?’, the reply to which you might find surprising (click here).

  • Star Tribune, State/​Local; “GOP targets Legacy funds for MPR, arts” | CLICK HERE
  • Guardian; “Neil Gaiman hits back at US politician’s theft accusation” | CLICK HERE
  • Neil Gaiman’s blog; “The Opinions of a Pencil-​​necked Weasel-​​thief…” scroll to ‘Semi-​​Political Bit’ | CLICK HERE
  • GalleyCat; “Matt Dean Apologizes to Neil Gaiman” | CLICK HERE
  • Neil Gaiman’s blog; “Weasel-​​necked pencils. Part I hope the last.” (it probably is too) | CLICK HERE

 

There are Stores Closing All Over the World

It’s sad, it’s seemingly inevitable, and it’s an indication of the greater power that national and multi-​​national companies have in the market place, but stand-​​alone book stores are rapidly fading. The really disappointing thing is that it flies in the face of what I’ve maintained for years: the independent, specialized bookshop will always exist, due to making available ‘titles which aren’t available anywhere else’. Well, damn it to hell, if that’s true then Duthie’s Books, Biz Books, Murder One Books, and countless others would still exist on a street somewhere.

The latest to really hit me with any emotional impact is the loss of Ardea Books and Art in Vancouver. Formed by former staff of Duthie’s Books’ last location when it was forced to close due to the double-​​whammie of lease and civic tax hikes, it was announced a few weeks after its birth-​​mother shut its doors after being the ‘go to’ place in the area for two full generations of ownership. Initially called “Sitka Books and Art”, the name was changed to “Aredea” in January this year after a conflict was noticed with a local skate-​​shop, as well as a book-​​distribution company somewhere in Oregon. Given the announcement was made at least six months before the doors opened, it was hoped that their careful planning would make a difference to their livelihood; after all, they had a sub-​​lease for their location reportedly with fellow retailer Book Warehouse using the 2nd floor for storage. Things looked promising, but the end result is less than one-​​year in existence.

  • AUSTRALIA
    • Bookseller & Publisher (Bowker AU); “REDgroup administration: Six more A&R stores to close” | CLICK HERE
  • UNITED STATES
    • Bloomburg Business Week; “Borders Said to Attract No Bidders for Entire Bookstore Chain” | CLICK HERE
    • Publishers Weekly (MAY 14TH); “More Borders Rumors Swirl” (including $79.99 Kobo eReaders?!) | CLICK HERE
  • CANADA
    • The Georgia Straight; “Farewell, Ardea Books and Art” | CLICK HERE
    • Ardea Books & Art; their Twitter feed | CLICK HERE
    • Publishers Weekly; “Canadian Booksellers Nat. Conf.: E-​​books for Stores; Fewer Retailers Attend” | CLICK HERE
  • UNITED KINGDOM
    • The BookSeller.com; “High street bookshops need greater support” | CLICK HERE
    • The Mail on Sunday, This is Money; “Deadline set to lure bidders to Waterstone’s” | CLICK HERE
    • The BookSeller.com; “Bidders given two weeks to make Waterstone’s move” | CLICK HERE

 

Two Words That Bode Well for SF Authors: SPACE SQUID

Yes, really. They’re putting a squid in space. FOR SCIENCE!

  • Gawker; “Finally, A Squid is Being Sent Into Space” | CLICK HERE
Pocket Book Vending Machine (c.1960), via “BoingBoing”

This Week's Fish Wrap (№23)

“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.

Pocket Book Vending Machine (c.1960), via “BoingBoing”
Pocket Book Vending Machine (c.1960), via “BoingBoing”

So another week arrives at its end: screeching, squealing, but inevitably coming to a halt. Much as before, it’s all about e-​​books, Borders, and so on. This is getting a tad dull, isn’t it? Still, there is the seemingly simple question of adverts on the Kindle™, which is far more complicated that you’d think.

 

Amazon Kindle Drops $30, Raises Commercial Content

Adverts appearing in the screen-​​save of “The Kindle™ With Special Offers” making the hardware cost less, but still permitting Amazon® to make some money. Will people go with it? Will people reject the idea altogether? Will people like the books more with a picture of a Pontiac in a screensaver? Do adverts belong in a book at all? Aren’t they there already with the promotional bumpf in the rear pages anyway?

The following links cover the topic itself, and then onward into the question of price point /​ business model, and constitute a bit of a ‘catch-​​up’ with a back-​​log of e-​​book articles. As usual, I don’t expect people to follow all of them, but looking at the headlines for each of the links is a smart move, as there’s a goodly number of things worth knowing about here.

  • The BookSeller, “Amazon.com to introduce ads to Kindle” | CLICK HERE
  • Moby Lives, “New Kindles to feature advertising” | CLICK HERE
  • Moby Lives, “Are Kindle ads the latest in a long tradition of ads in books?” | CLICK HERE
  • Publishers Weekly, “Amazon to Offer $114 Kindle 3 Supported by Ads” | CLICK HERE
  • Gizmodo, “How Much Less Would You Pay For This Ad-​​Supported Kindle?” | CLICK HERE
  • Gizmodo, “This Sponsored Gadget is the Beginning of the …Look! Free Stuff!” | CLICK HERE
  • PC World, “Amazon Introduces Ad-​​supported Kindle With Special Offers” | CLICK HERE
  • PC World, “Discounted $114 Amazon Kindle to Come With Ads” | CLICK HERE
  • PC World, “Ad-​​Supported Kindle: Why Stop There?” | CLICK HERE
  • Man of la Book, “New Business Model? Advertising in Books” | CLICK HERE
  • The New York Times, “The Secret History of Ads in Books” | CLICK HERE
  • Publishing Perspectives, “What Can Publishers Do To Make E-​​Books Appealing as Gifts?” | CLICK HERE
  • The BookSeller, “Free ‘key driver’ in e-​​book sales” | CLICK HERE
  • Bloomsberg Business Week, “As E-​​book Sales Explode, Consumption Patterns Change” | CLICK HERE
  • Engaget, “E-​​book sales triple year-​​over-​​year, paper books decline in every category” | CLICK HERE
  • Crain’s New York Business, “Amazon.com pushes into book publishing” | CLICK HERE
Still from “Alien3”, introducing the ‘Guess the Symbol’ theme

This Week's Fish Wrap (№22)

This edition is a bit different from normal, as there’s little to differentiate last week’s news from just about any other one in the past six months or so. Borders USA is having a problem with paying their suppliers, people are grumbling about how invasive and omnipresent /​ how difficult to locate a decent selection of e-​​Books are, and there’s about 87 conventions to attend in the next thirty months or so (the most recently announced being World FantasyCon in late-​​October of 2013 in Brighton)

So here’s a few things to cover those things properly:

  • The New York Times, “Borders Plan for Recovery is Described as ‘Doubtful’ ”: CLICK HERE
  • World HorrorCon 2011 (Austin, Texas): CLICK HERE
  • World FantasyCon 2011 (San Diego, California): CLICK HERE
  • British Fantasy Society’s “FantasyCon 2011″ (Brighton, England): CLICK HERE
  • West Coast Science Fiction Association’s “VCon 2011″ (Richmond, BC): CLICK HERE
  • World FantasyCon 2012 (Richmond Hill, Ontario): CLICK HERE
  • World FantasyCon 2013 (Brighton, England): CLICK HERE

On Saturday, an interview and Q&A with me appeared on the book blog “Triple R: Read, Rate, Review”, and you can experience that by CLICKING HERE.

Plus here’s one more link explaining “How to Get Books Into Your iPhone or iPad Without Using iTunes”.

 

Why This Applying of Limiting, Alien Categorisation?

Over the past fortnight or so, I’ve finally got around to watching the Alien series of films, none of which I had ever seen before¹, because just prior to Christmas I picked-​​up the “Alien Quadrilogy” box-​​set of the four films. I watched them through once on their own, then once more with the Audio Commentary tracks switched-​​on, so as to get a richer sense of the story-​​telling background that went into the decisions which resulted in the final versions of the films (plus I’m just that sort of obsessive, trivia-​​buff who loves hearing film directors slag-​​off the heads of studios who insist on things being made badly in order to keep to an arbitrarily determined budgetary figure).

Still from “Alien”, showing SF-based lab
Still from “Alien”, showing SF-​​based lab

The end result of my watching the films was a mixture of admiration for Sigourney Weaver’s talents as an actress playing the same role four times in entirely different ways; a deeper understanding of the effect different directorial styles have on a story; and a question that continues to burble around in my mind which has prompted this posting.

Why is the publishing world filled with such narrow views of story types?

At some point through the four films, I tried to determine the type of film I was watching, and decided it was an SF, Horror, Thriller, and Action film. The various entries in the saga mix those up in different proportions, but – ultimately – they are all four of those at some point in each of them.

Still from “Alien”, starting the ‘Haunted House’ sequence
Still from “Alien”, starting the ‘Haunted House’ sequence

Alien (the first one) begins as an SF film as we watch people wake-​​up from ‘hyper-​​sleep’ and then land on a planetoid in response to a beacon. There, we continue with the SF theme with the discovery of odd egg-​​like things and poor John Hurt is carried back to the ship. Once he has his stomach explode (which is a bit of an odd thing for an otherwise very polite person to do at the dinner table, I might add), we shift into ‘Horror/​Monster’ mode, and start searching for the little lizard-​​like thing around the ship.

Now that we have a residence /​ working area hiding an un-​​known monster, we’ve also introduced the plot device of ‘The Haunted House’ where everyone tries to locate the ‘other being’ – typically a ghost or ghoul, but here is a space-​​based one – while we in the audience keep shouting “It’s right behind you!” like we’re watching some Christmas Pantomime. After trying to destroy the thing using a variety of military techniques – thereby introducing the ‘Thriller’ and ‘Action’ genres – the important thing to do is to get the heck out of here, which reduces the victory required from “destroy all monsters” to a simple goal of “get out of here alive”. Throughout the film, the defenceless cat is seen as ‘that which must be saved’, because otherwise everyone would have a much easier time of the whole thing.

Still from “Aliens”, re-introducing the ‘Space-Ships Are Cool’ theme
Still from “Aliens”, re-​​introducing the ‘Space-​​Ships Are Cool’ theme

Aliens (the second film), introduces the same sort of elements with the added attraction of it being 57 years later, our heroine being frozen in sleep for that period, thus introducing a bit of ‘time travel’ which we’ll very much see later on. This film has a huge reliance on ‘military action movie’ due to the involvement of the unit of Marines who accompany Ripley to the now peopled planetoid we saw in the first film. Again, once we determine the ‘house’ is ‘haunted’, then that we cannot truly conquer the ‘other’, the characters must get out alive. Complexities of situation get in the way of that, obviously, and so things crash, ways through danger are blocked, risks are taken, and the little orange stripy cat is replaced by a little dirty-​​faced girl. The monsters are larger and more numerous; however the weapons are stronger and more advanced. Yet the same balance exists: monsters are wilier than the guns. In the same way, our ‘defenceless complexity’ is seemingly more important for she is human now instead of feline.

Still from “Aliens”, introducing the ‘Children Are Helpless’ theme
Still from “Aliens”, introducing the ‘Children Are Helpless’ theme

Alien3 (that’s the third one, obviously) provides all of this, but makes things trickier. The enemy is though gone by Ripley, but she needs to make sure after crash-​​landing in mysterious circumstances on a maximum security jail planet. Once she’s determined the monster exists, she then has to convince others that the thing exists and is as dangerous as she avers. This time, there is only the one monster, but there are no weapons to speak of, so we have a battle of wits betwixt the group of criminals² she’s won over to her cause, and the complex’s various hallways and storage rooms, and ultimately its lead works. After trapping the beast once, only to have it let out again³, the next plan is to get the thing into a mould and drown it in molten lead.

Still from “Alien³”, introducing the ‘We Are Tiny in Thy Sight’ theme
Still from “Alien³”, introducing the ‘We Are Tiny in Thy Sight’ theme

Meanwhile, a second ‘evil’ is on its way to the planet: the Corporation wants to preserve this dangerous creature and study it in order to create their own ‘biological weapon’ in the form of a living, killing machine. We had a taste of that in the second and first films, but it was only a plot point and was never manifested in any sort of imminent fashion. Now, the people who need ‘rescuing’ – in the way we had the cat and child previously – are everyone we see, but the ‘cavalry coming over the hill in the nick of time’ are shadowy Men in Black, who may save our heroes, but at the cost of technology trumping safety by letting evil live to fight another day. Morality plays and Biblical questions of “what is the ultimate right”, as well as philosophical questions of “whose interests are best served by this or that plan of action”, are all invoked by the time we see the credits roll. But, just in case we didn’t have enough religious symbolism of ‘pure, cleansing fires of death’ and ‘the fires of Hell contain much evil’ already, Ripley’s – believe it or not4–sacrifice is made doubly-​​meaningful as she kills both herself and the fœtal alien she is carrying; but she swan-​​dives into the forge, dying so that others might live, visually screaming her messianic purpose so loud only the blind and deaf might miss it.

Still from “Alien³”, introducing the ‘Guess the Symbol’ theme
Still from “Alien³”, introducing the ‘Guess the Symbol’ theme

I watched Alien Resurrection the same day as Alien3 simply because my only thought was “how in blazes do they get her to return?” Here, we have a lighter tale, cover the same ground as the previous films, and toss a bit of humour into the mix. The other major thematic element is “does knowledge and science trump all other concerns?” We get a bit of that with the story in the book of “Genesis” in The Bible with ‘The Tree of Knowledge’ being something humanity is forsworn to partake of. Here we have a sort of warning about what might happen if we irrevocably make that mistake.

Science has taken Ripley’s blood, left just prior to hear death, and re-​​constituted both her and the Little Alien Child within her.5 The various previous attempts are viewed in a lab, and Ripley commits a sort-​​of suicide by destroying the failed experiments. “Science does bad things” comes the warning here.

Still from “Alien Resurrection”, introducing the ‘They’re Slimy, But Smart’ theme
Still from “Alien Resurrection”, introducing the ‘They’re Slimy, But Smart’ theme

From here on we have a fairly straight-​​forward shoot ’em up style of tale, with an ending filled with another dose of “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few… or the one”, as we had before. Here, we have extra-​​added joy of watching a mother – or ‘God/​Creator’, if you will – destroy her child – or ‘give of her only-​​begotten son’, in a sense – so that humanity might be rid of an evil.

So… what’s my damned point, then?

Without ever seeing these films before, or even hearing much about them other than what do you mean ‘you haven’t seen them?’, it’s possible to find instances of the SF, Horror, Thriller, Action, Western, Judæo-​​Christian Dogma, and Haunted House plot elements. Not only are ‘Noble Warrior’, ‘Dangerous Other’, and Plato’s questions of ‘what is “good-​​ness” and “right-​​ness”?’ thrown in for good measure, there’s also the recurring question of “if you destroy or create a human-​​like robot, have you destroyed or created a life?” It all works, too!

Still from “Alien Resurrection”, introducing the ‘Who Are We to Create Life?’ theme
Still from “Alien Resurrection”, introducing the ‘Who Are We to Create Life?’ theme

Why, then, given that we can all agree that novels can contain far more complexity than any movie will, do we have to limit the number of influences and thematic threads to that some nit-​​wit in a corner office – who like as not hasn’t bothered to read the book – can slot it into the ‘horror’, ‘thriller’, or ‘general fiction’ slots in their marketing campaign?

Please do comment below here, and tell me why the lines of published fiction are categorised upon release when the initial distribution of films are free of these content labels?

Given the above, I don’t understand why it’s done.

Printable Copy of This Article CLICK HERE to get a PDF version of this article suitable for printing


  1. Stop looking at me like that! Yes, it’s true. Honestly! Listen, have you seen It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, The Third Man, The Maltese Falcon, Touch of Evil, and Lawrence of Arabia so often you can quote huge chunks of dialogue from them verbatim? Well I can, because while you were watching the “Alien” series, I was committing those other ones to memory. Right; are we okay now? Good. [ ↑ BACK ↑ ]
  2. Inevitably referred to as ‘a rag-​​tag bunch of men that society has rejected…’ etcetera… [ ↑ BACK ↑ ]
  3. Yes, the ‘work-​​print’ version that David Fincher originally wanted; it’s got better tension, really [ ↑ BACK ↑ ]
  4. Sorry… couldn’t resist. [ ↑ BACK ↑ ]
  5. Thankfully, they never attempt to create an answer to the question how do you do that, exactly?↑ BACK ↑ ]
Not that anyone’s bitter; no no!

This Week's Fish Wrap (№21)

For some odd reason, everything was terribly complicated a couple of weeks ago. This was followed by last week being nigh-​​on un-​​eventful. Unless you count the Canadian Election Campaign.

So, in lieu of any content based on links and things, here’s something I have Twitter to thank for the provision of.

Not that anyone’s bitter; no no!
Not that anyone’s bitter; no no!

Credit, as it’s due: Shannon McGinnis, aka: “@avecvoix”

Cover of “Mechanix Illustrated”, June 1957

This Week's Fish Wrap (№20)

My gracious it’s been a busy time last week, what with a variety of major issues coming to a head – or a fresh one – during the past seven days. So much so that this is one of several posts like this one this week.

Cover of “Mechanix Illustrated”, June 1957
Cover of “Mechanix Illustrated”, June 1957

This issue will have two topics, later this week there will be another batch that will also be from last week. Honestly, there’s just that much stuff right now. Stores closing! distribution centres closing… nope, a different one… yup, it’s this one now! Applications being banned… nope, it’s back again! E-​​books are killing things… no, they’re zapping life into the… no, hang on, they’re needing to be regulated.

Oh yes, it’s an interesting period for the industry.

UPDATED: actually, no there won’t be a second post this week. Events have transpired to prevent the creation of a second post, and most of the ‘un-​​used material’ is now either moot or no longer fresh enough to serve to a discerning reader such as yourself. Stay tuned for Monday’s post featuring things from March 28th – April 3rd.

 

Stop Brian Keene Being Screwed: Boycott Dorchester

Logo for Leisure Fiction (imprint of Dorchester Publishing)First up, let’s have a bit of a declaration of public shame for Dorchester/​ Leisure. Horror author Brian Keene, around mid-​​October of last year, found himself with a publisher in very serious financial straits. In order to reduce their risk of failure due to the World economy having itself a conniption, they decided to delay paper-​​back editions of their up-​​coming titles for six-​​months, in favour of e-​​Book bindings; the latter being released a couple of months after the decision, then the printed copies at about this point on the calendar. Some readers over-​​reacted and saw this as “they’ll never print real books again”, along with “they’re changing to a Trade Paperback size so they can screw us with slightly higher prices!” (both of which I considered, at best, insane).

Authors such as Mr. Keene had already become increasingly grumpy with Dorchester’s lackadaisical approach to timely royalty payments, as well as their minuscule buy-​​out amounts. When the alteration to the schedule and delay of printed editions arrived, both of which were contrary to the already signed contracts, many threw-​​up their hands and cried “enough, already! Gimme my publishing rights, and then I’m outta here!” Dorchester started to stall again at this point, then let go Don D’Auria from the Leisure Fiction imprint, reportedly one of the best damned editors and nicest fellahs you could get involved with a horror title; giving a sure sign that the horror-​​based imprint was about to be scuttled, no matter what anyone said officially. Then there were more lay-​​offs, supplies of Leisure titles disappeared from store shelves and weren’t re-​​stocked, and little more came from their offices in the way of reassuring words.

There were some e-​​book editions of titles already out there in Amazon and other on-​​line stores, but they were obviously to be removed from availability by the public, and several weeks went by without that taking place. Author’s royalties were still delayed. Royalty sales reports remained elusiveafter repeated requests by agents and authors both. At this point, I was under the impression that legal claims were filed, because things became quiet and was likely due to people not wanting to screw-​​up things being handled by lawyers. But, it turns out that things got quiet because Leisure started saying they were looking into things and was asking for some time to arrange the matters, finalize sales reports, clear files from their system and so on.

Now here we are at the end of the first quarter of 2011, all of Mr. Keene’s rights reverted to him as of the end of last year (that’s all of them), and he’s seen his books continue to be offered for sale through Amazon, iBooks, Sony, Nook and so on, even though Dorchester hadn’t the rights for sale of e-​​Book editions since December 31st. Leisure blames Apple, Amazon, and the digital distribution house Libre Digital for the screw-​​ups, and claims they’re “looking into it”. Employees at both Apple and Amazon have informed Mr. Keene that it is unlikely that anyone at either of the retailers is responsible, given that they have little to do with actual provision of content beyond what is made available to them.

At this point, I would suggest heading to the first link below, then the other two, as my fingers are getting tired, the cats need feeding, and if I type any more of what’s in my mind I’ll either explode or start using less than business-​​like language about the Dorchester Group. [ahem] Which would be so out of character for me. [ahem]

  • Briane Keene’s blog, “BOYCOTT DORCHESTER (with updates at bottom)” | CLICK HERE
  • “Genreville” column, Publishers Weekly; “Brian Keene Calls for Dorchester Boycott” | CLICK HERE
  • Robert Swartwood’s blog, “Stand Up and Fight” | CLICK HERE

 

Authors Succeed Over Google Books' World-Domination

In the middle of last week, the Google Book Settlement was struck down due to it being too favourable to Google’s position in the view of the judge (although he was an American and didn’t spell it that way). Have a look at the headlines below, and get the aspects of this topic that you missed out on.

  • Publishers Weekly, “Google Settlement is Rejected” | CLICK HERE
  • The BOOKseller, “Judge Throws Out Revised Google Book Settlement” | CLICK HERE
  • Guardian, “US Judge Writes Unhappy Ending for Google’s On-​​Line Library Plans” | CLICK HERE
  • V3.co.uk, “Judge Strikes Down Google’s Book Agreement with Publishers” | CLICK HERE
  • Bloomberg Business Week, “Google’s $125 Million Digital Library Accord Rejected by Judge” | CLICK HERE
  • Publishers Weekly, “After Rejection, a Rocky Road for Google Settlement” | CLICK HERE
  • The BOOKseller, “Defeated Google Settlement a ‘Victory for Copyright’” | CLICK HERE
  • Melville House Publishing’s blog Moby Lives, “After the Google Decision … What?” | CLICK HERE
  • Publishers Weekly, “The Google Settlement Rejection: What Comes Next?” | CLICK HERE

 

“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.

David Niven for Carling’s “Red Cap Ale”

This Week's Fish Wrap (№19)

This round-​​up, more about the HarperCollins /​ Library problem, and Borders continues its descent. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

David Niven for Carling’s “Red Cap Ale”
David Niven for Carling’s “Red Cap Ale”

BUT FIRST: a little self-​​promotion. Wayne Hurlbert at Blog Business World has interviewed Atomic Fez’s Proprietor/​Publisher! To read that in full and learn more things about this publisher house and the man who runs it, CLICK HERE.

 

HarperCollins v. the Libraries III: Read with a Vengeance!

Last week the issue started to heat up in a different way than it had previously. While average librarians, readers, and small publishers like Atomic Fez weighed in about it (to read that rant of March 7th, CLICK HERE). Now, the official people are taking the opportunity to comment, and the greater effects of the issue are being examined by both those in the industry as well as media watchers, freedom of information advocates, and main-​​stream media.

What is it that people are ‘buying’? What rights do readers, or viewers, or listeners, have to the works themselves? Does the creator of the work have the right to rescind permissions or change the work itself? What realistic expectations can a business have about their products, their customers, and the revenue stream from something which can actually be used infinitely without any diminishing of the item? Is it right to be able to fully remove a book from any circulation?

On a practical level, let’s say you have a problem with your e-​​reader and then have to re-​​set your unit, plus re-​​download a file you just downloaded from the library? The result is that you’ve ‘borrowed’ the book twice, yet haven’t read it yet. Ta-​​da! The library is now one more lending closer to the need of a license. Fair? Hardly! Before you suggest this might be rare, I did this just earlier today, minus having a file borrowed from library on the unit.

  • Publishers Weekly, “The Happy Reader Equation: A Librarian on HarperCollins’s E-​​Book Pricing Model” | CLICK HERE
  • Publishers Weekly, “In Statement, ALA Criticizes HarperCollins’ E-​​Book Lending Restrictions” | CLICK HERE
  • American Library Association, “Restrictions on Library e-​​Book Lending Threaten Access to Information” | CLICK HERE
  • Engadget, “Publisher Starts Annual e-​​Book Licensing for Libraries, Attempts Blood Extraction from Stone” | CLICK HERE
  • New York Times, “Publishers and Libraries Struggle over Terms of E-​​Books” | CLICK HERE
  • The Bookseller, “Library bodies warn [UK] Publishers Off ‘Retrenchment’ Over e-​​Book Lending” | CLICK HERE
  • Library Journal’s ‘Peer to Peer Review’, “Problematizing Patron-​​Driven Acquisitions” | CLICK HERE
  • The Star, “Publisher’s Cap on Library Downloads Begs Question: When Do e-​​Books Wear Out?” | CLICK HERE

 

Borders' Re-Organizations Continue to be Organized

Borders is slimming down – in the same way someone sheds 150 pounds of unwanted fat by hacking off their own leg – and things start getting a bit more interesting for the consumer: is my local store still there /​ will it be next week /​ what about my loyalty card /​ what about my e-​​books and so on? It’s not just the USA, either, as the cuts in Australia’s Borders, owned by REDgroup, continue to cut staff with seeming abandon.

  • Consumerist, “Borders Employee: I Don’t Want to Mislead Customers to Sell Rewards Cards” | CLICK HERE
  • Publishers Weekly, “Borders to Decide Fate of 75 Stores This Week” | CLICK HERE
  • Publishers Weekly, “Borders Gets Extension to Assume or Reject Leases” | CLICK HERE
  • Publishers Weekly, “Borders Gets DIP, Outlines Downsizing, Rejects Leases” | CLICK HERE
  • Publishers Weekly, “Borders Targets 28 More Stores for Closing” | CLICK HERE
  • Bookseller + Publisher, “REDgroup administration: 26 Australian head office staff made redundant; further redundancies, store closures possible” | CLICK HERE
  • NineMSM (Australia), “More lose their jobs at Melbourne Borders” | CLICK HERE

 

“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.