Waterstones.com, Hubs & “The Lies of Locke Lamora”

Eoin Purcell

When you get it really right
Waterstone’s have been pushing to make their online store a site worth visiting for a little while now. They only recently broke away from their amazon link up so I was pleasantly surprised when I came across this page.

Yes it is a promotional page and yes it is designed to promote only one book but it goes to show you the capabilities for really pushing a book. The book in question is The Lies of Lock Lamora by Scott Lynch. Interestingly the author page does not have a link or an embed of the video.

And it works
The odd thing about that is that I recently took the book from my TBR pile and moved it to the read next pile (this is a slight misnomer as the next pile is about four books high). Having spent time on the page I am now more than ever looking forward to reading the book and I think once I finish Fooled By Randomness by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, it’ll be the first book I pick up.

Which brings me to my point, how great the Waterstone’s site could be if they did this for more books. Hell, as a publisher I’d be willing to finance some of the work for many of the titles we are launching in the coming year and even for some of the backlist too.

Who else can do it
Remarkably though it reinforces for me the value of LibraryThing as a potential locus for promotion. After all so long as there was a strict separation of sponsored content from user and non commercial content it could be a great place to host pages of this type.

Hub or not?
it also reminds me of the positive discussion on the web recently about hubs, from Snowbooks (Here and Here) and from Penguin (Here), two of the publishers that seem to my mind to be most on top of the web as a community tool concept.

I have been considering this at length since I read this report. I have yet to follow up all my random thoughts but when I do I’ll post some more on the idea.

Ah the luxury of writing decently long posts

Some rational thought on “The Cult of the Amateur”

Eoin Purcell

Over at Assignment Zero (A crowd sourcing News initiative which I encourage you to check out separately anyway) there is some good analysis of the debate about amateurs and professionals drawing together a few different schools of opinion and making what is the key point in my view:

But the debate seemed like a red herring to me. Should we only have
professionals doing the media or just let the amateurs have it?

Why is it an “either-or” decision? …..

You can find more here.

Enjoying a relaxing day

The cult the amateur and other nonesense

Eoin Purcell
I have yet to read the book (damned if I’m linking to it), but I will. If I find it is as bad as the author interviews suggest I will say more. If, as I think unlikely, I change my mind I will say so, loudly!

Andrew Keen
It would be very difficult for me to express exactly how angry this guy is making me. He is loudly proclaiming the evils of web 2.0 and blogging while holding out the Main Stream Media some kind of knight in white armour who we have for some obscure reason ignored. He holds out a selection of Straw Men to be shot down with swift blows of little substance and less meaning. He decries the hidden agendas of web 2.0-ers (in this interview he can be heard discounting the value of Wikipedia without admitting that he writes for Britannica Blog [though he does have a link on his own BLOG]

A selection of his quotes from this interview:

    “undermining of authority, undermining of mainstream media, the undermining of expertise”
    “wet dream for pr people . . slippery dishonest pr people”
    “nobody really knows who anybody is”
    “cultural anarchy”
    Anonymity . .
    “nobody knows who anybody is”
    “creating media of spin and lies rumour and innuendo”
    “nobody knows their agenda”

And how is it all going to be paid for:

    “Much of it is advertising”
    “Traditionally you had a clean distinction between content and advertising”

It’s like in his world Main Stream Media isn’t paid for by advertising but by some magic system. Is the journalist somehow immune to the agendas he discusses in this interview? Immune to commercial pressures because between him and the advertiser lie a few managers? Come on.

What annoys me the most is that he is using the very same techniques he derides so snidely to market his own book and campaigns for greater media literacy while ignoring the proliferation of discussion on the web. The reality is that he is a man with an agenda (sell more books) using exactly the same spin tactics he supposedly shuns.

He suggests that the web is somehow responsible for the Bush presidency and the war in Iraq happening (yeah I fear the link escaped me too) and shields the Main Stream Media from criticism on that point too. But what is worse he lambastes the web for undermining authority while earnestly suggesting that one of its failure is that it did not undermine the authority of a sitting president of the United States enough to prevent him going to war? You cannot have it both ways sunshine.

Th truth is that Main Stream Media is embracing the very technologies he abhors (look at CommentisFree)> What is more, had the Main Stream Media been quicker, their dominance of the medium would by now be almost assured, they had the brands to levy, the personalities and resources to deploy, but they failed to react and face now the task of unseating upstarts if they can before they achieve the dominance they have been used too.

Still annoyed at the pomposity of the man, enraged at the fact that such sloppy think might warrant a post but unable to contain the need to post about it

Oh and in case you are afraid I am going off the deep end over one piece list to this one too he does it again here.

The end of copyright (At least as we know it)

Eoin Purcell

Its not quite my thing: Aerosmith
But they do put on a fantastic show. I saw them last night in Marlay Park in South Dublin. The weather held and the band seem to be moving into Rolling Stones territory in terms of ability to just keep on Rocking (as it were).

What struck me on the evening though was not the band, or event he venue. What hit me was that literally thousands of people were recording, photographing and bootlegging the concert on a diverse range of cameras, phones and video cameras. It surely will not be long before the material hits YouTube or some other online video service.

The other element to the problem though is that no one seems to think this kind of copying is unfair. After all you pay €70 just to see them play and why not take a few snaps, record your favourite song as a memory, so what if you share that with 100,000 or 1,000,000 people on YouTube, isn’t Aerosmith lucky to have such a great fan base?

Finger in the dam
And it hit me then that there was simply no way of stopping it. You can pursue the people responsible individually (hardly effective) and stop the material coming online (close down sites and ban certain videos) but those measures will prove either entirely negative or ineffectual. One because the individual cost will be greater than the reward and the other because videos will simply move to another site that does allow pirated or bootlegged material.

So what do you do and how will the reality that affects live performance hit other forms (I am thinking, naturally, of books). At first it seems a different game. Books can hardly be recorded live. But they can be photographed and passed about. You only need to look at Scribd to see copyright protected material I am FAIRLY sure isn’t posted with permission.

If the logic of the concert holds and I pay €20 for a book am I not entitled to share a few images with my friends and online buddies on Scribd?

Leaving us with a fairly clear shift away from respect for copyright convention as it now stands and is enshrined in law (I have to admit I feel like I am living the Nine Shift shifts now). If the majority do not respect the law, do not see the logic of the law and flagrantly breech the law without fearing retribution, is there any point of keeping the law?

I know my thoughts on this are rough and I need to think it through much more but it sure begs some questions!


To all the ‘modest successes’ wondering where to go with their next book

Eoin Purcell

The doom first
Who wouldn’t be depress by reading this (Reg Required) article in The Bookseller (but actually a cull from The Herald which is free online and here):

The result? Publishers can no longer afford to take chances and authors who have enjoyed modest successes over many years are suddenly being dropped in favour of potential big hitters.
“They could be on their way to writing an opus, but will not be given that chance,” says Kean. “Ian Rankin, for instance, wasn’t an immediate success but his publishers stuck with him because they saw his potential. That wouldn’t necessarily happen now.”

The article’s main focus is Book Clubs but is concerned too with the side effects:

“The downside is that if someone goes into a book shop and buys the books that Richard and Judy have recommended, perhaps they won’t buy other titles,” he says. “There is no doubt that there are winners and losers in this. That’s something I feel slightly disturbed by. There is a sense that it is very much about corporate dealing.”

So where is the light?
Well here it is: if you happen to be one of those modest success squeezed out by the bigger publishers, I am happy to say there are tonnes of smaller, pluckier and braver publishers just waiting to do the job. Perhaps large advances won’t be forthcoming, maybe the massive campaigns the big ones can pull off will be a memory, but we can publish and publish well. We can drive sales and sell rights just as much as the conglomerates and we are always eager to try things.

What is more you will find modest success to a large publisher is a very nice little success to a smaller publisher. So maybe you have one or two or three books under your belt and your publisher is no longer on board. Maybe you have modest sales and a small but loyal fan base. I say you have a good platform and room for growth.

Get in touch, if not with Mercier (where I work) than someone else. The world of publishing doesn’t begin and end at the top five or even the top ten. Don’t be the victim of a dreaded publishing trend, buck it and move onto new and hopefully happier one.

Waiting for e-mails, letters and calls

More on O’Reilly TOC

Eoin Purcell

If you weren’t enormously envious of everyone at TOC before now . . .
(And personally I was) then you will be now. It is not just that everyone who is anyone is going, its that the discussions sound so wonderful too.

For instance the POD discussion covered on the O’Reilly XML.com pages by Simon St. Laurent:

Why? I think the basic reason is simple – I’m one of those terrible people who’s always looking for books you can’t find easily in stores. They’re out-of-print, available only from the publisher, or otherwise obscure. Ingram was my friend when I ordered through stores, and then Amazon made a lot of things easier. At O’Reilly, I want POD for all kinds of reasons, from keeping old books in print to providing a way to test out new ideas without having to print 5000 books.

I’ve been expecting POD to happen for years. I spent too much time working at Kinko’s, I guess – I’d seen books getting made, if not the fine offset books typically sold in bookstores.

So here, now, it looks like it’s finally here. Lightning Source and other printers are offering print from PDF at rates that aren’t too insanely horrible relative to offset plus the cost of warehousing.

There’s still definitely a place for offset printing – offset has great economies of scale, and if books move out quickly, then the warehousing and other distribution costs don’t matter much. Offset will probably always make sense for initial print runs of books that will sell thousands of copies in a year – but that’s actually a relatively tiny share of the total number of books out there.

You can read much much more of the detail here. At least TOC has enabled em to widen my blog count for publishing and innovation in publishing. So for that at least thank you Tim O’Reilly.

An envious book nerd.