5 reasons why I blog

Eoin Purcell

Litlove tagged me. As I tagged her recently it would be rude not to post so here goes:

1) To make sense of a confusing period of change in Publishing: By far the most important reason for me is to sort ideas in my mind, write them down have others discuss/argue them and basically make sure I know what I am thinking when it comes to publishing.

2) To find out what others are saying about Publishing: You know it sounds like one but actually it is different. Commentators on this blog have led me far and wide in my search for the changes and the changers that are shaping the industry I hope to work in for many years to come. Reading other blogs has also opened doors to other perspectives.

3) To be part of the conversation: the last thing I’d want is for these changes to happen with no input from me. That way massive shifts might occur without me having any impact. Sure there is little I can do as a single individual but I’d still like my view to be heard and my opinion to be considered. Blogging helps that happen.

4) To help build my profile: This is a guilty one because who likes selling themselves. Let’s face it though, the world is a big place and the more you can build your profile in it the better. I won’t pretend for a second that I am making waves but at least some people are paying attention.

5) Because its fun: I enjoying it. Need I say more?

And I tag: Blathnaid, Kieran and Richard.

Downright impressed with this: Feedbooks

Eoin Purcell

I was lead to this video & blog by the continuing debate I mentioned previously and which Mark Thwaite of the Book Depository (I love shopping there and intend to shop there more) continues on The Booksellers new blog section.

Now the system strikes me as like xFruits, a similar service that has launched to weak enough take off (perhaps it was a little ahead of its time/has a difficult time getting readership and thus publishers/has no revenue model attached). The site lists only 13620 xfruiters!

It may be an old idea executed well but it is very cool even so!

Which reminds me. You can find my own blog in a nice little PDF here.

Remembering the coolness of reading one’s own words on a nicely formatted pdf!

Keith Richards’s memoir, 7 million dollars and something much more important

Eoin Purcell

You can generally trust O’Reilly to get their priority right
And so it was today. When all anyone else seemed to want to talk about was this, they were considering the merits of CommentPress 1.0 [a new tool from The Institute for the Future of the Book] as:

a potentially significant evolution in blogging architecture

*For a better idea of what exactly CommentPress is read this little piece from the site:

CommentPress is an open source theme for the WordPress blogging engine that allows readers to comment paragraph by paragraph in the margins of a text. Annotate, gloss, workshop, debate: with CommentPress you can do all of these things on a finer-grained level, turning a document into a conversation. It can be applied to a fixed document (paper/essay/book etc.) or to a running blog.

Why do publishers care?
Good question. I suggest we care for the same reason we care about this two pieces of news: A clipping service from Exact Editions and a cheap e-reader.

We should care about the clipping service because someone is building tools to make our online content more useful and easier to utilise. CommentPress is another tool in a growing ecoshpere of tools and services that are making novel and new uses of content more likely. That makes our content more valuable. Seems pretty important to me.

And we should care about e-readers because we need a solid platform for that digital content to reside on. Sure we will get along fine as web-pages that reflow* according to the screen but people don’t always want to be tied to their laptop or PC when reading and that is where the e-reader will come in (if we are lucky).

So ignore the big money, big name news today and dig a little deeper. There is a lot to read about what really matters for this industry.

For more on this Booktwo points in a nice direction

Harry Potter & selling other books at Waterstones

Eoin Purcell

The art of selling
Selling Harry Potter takes no work for a bookseller. Yeah they can open at 12-midnight and have a show with owls, yes they can sell it for the incredible price of €8.99 but at the end of the day most people who buy Harry Potter were going to buy it anyway, they just took a greater or lesser share of that Harry market. [Due Disclosure: I bought my Harry for Euro 10.70 in Tesco with no feelings of guilt or badness).

So I was not terribly impressed with the Harry show. But something did strike me as very effective in Waterstones store in Jervis St Centre Dublin. On the first floor entrance there is a three bay bank of staff reviewed books of nearly every possible genre. Some nice shots below:

These are old tricks for Waterstones and good ones too. They are enjpyable to read and very much make me likely to buy. in fact had I not already had my bag filled with six books I was escorting back to Cork I would have bought this book:
Close up

It’s a simple tool but the bulk of these books are old or backlist, the hype long since past. There were of course piles of Harry Potter nearby but although there were posters and the rest there was little need to highight it, it sold itself. These books needed effort and as you can see they got it. That’s bookselling and I have to say I admire it.

Wishing I had had a bigger bag,

LibraryThing’s evolving Social Network

Eoin Purcell

Call me stupid
But when I signed up for LibraryThing I never really considered the positive effects of the social aspect. Silly me. I guess because I am not a huge convert to social networks (Facebook being the only one to hold my attention for long but still never sucking up the hours social networking does for many). In any case I have watched with a certain detached interest as LibraryThing has rolled more features that lead it into the social network area and I have to say I have been impressed.

Even the latest round of additions seem to flow from a very natural sense of expansion and to grow almost organically around what the user wants and need. The one I like the most is the interesting library feature:

1. Friends and Interesting Libraries. (On your profile.) LibraryThing now offers a number of different “connections” between members. Shared books are still primary, but we’ve added “Interesting Libraries,” “Friends” and “Private Watchlist.”*** Interesting libraries are a one-way thing, although the person you mark as interesting gets a heads-up notice. “Friends” is a mutual connection. “Private Watch Lists” are still private. You can edit your connections, and see who has you on their lists.

Where to though
Where my trouble begins however is in seeing the value of these services. I know that the meta-data coming of the social connections might be useful. I can see how one might enjoy looking over the libraries of a friend or an interesting non-friend mining it for books you feel you would like, but overall I just wonder if they won’t reach the point of banality pretty quickly.

Will the meta-data help sell more book? How many new book ideas can one person actually need? Do I need to reinforce the strong gut feeling I have that I belong to a seriously nerdy subset of the population? Will I actually want to chat about books with someone in Europe who also happens to have a US Civil War fascination (and why so few do escapes me)?

If I was interested in that surely there are many existing forums and newsgroups for that type of discussion, I never joined them because the level of debate was so poor, the absence of evidence other than assertion predominated and the arguments could shift into vitriolic personal abuse with ease. the Talk forum on LibraryThing doesn’t seem to be headed that way but it also just doesn’t appeal to me.

Maybe it is me, in fact I am pretty sure it is me. I like the features, but I just do not see me using them to a huge extent. I much prefer the Early Reader system (is that the publisher or the reader in me).

Wondering if I was wrong

Eason & buyers . .

Eoin Purcell

Why Easons is important
If you work in publishing in Ireland, you have to work with Easons. I say that, not to attack them or to slight them, it is simply fact. Easons stores are located in nearly every major urban centre from Athlone to Roscommon and nearly everywhere in between.

But it is not just their brand name stores you have to consider when you think about Easons. Equally important is their wholesale third party customers. These stores range from large independent bookstores to newsagents who sell mostly magazines.

They will mostly order new releases with little prompting (in ones and twos at first but more if they sell) but, especially for a company with a backlist like Mercier’s, it is important that these stores are supplied with your backlist titles and Easons are the key player in making that happen. The bible for those booksellers (and Easons Managers) is the monthly Booknews magazine. Getting your cover info and bookdata correct and into the Booknews on deadline is therefore pretty vital.

Some news of note . .
All of this is by way of bringing a nice end to a story I mentioned recently, that Eoin McHugh Eason Head Buyer. The Bookseller reports today that Easons have reorganized their buyers to take account of that:

Maria Dickenson, who has been with the Irish retailer for nine years, has been appointed head of buying. David O’Callaghan is now general book manager
alongside his existing role as children’s buyer. He will be responsible for bestseller stock management.

Both O’Callaghan and Dickenson will report to Tom Owens, books director.

There is more but it gets complicated so I will leave it out. The point I want to make before I sign off though, is that it will entail a slight shift in the selection of books on Easons shelves. An often forgotten bias in publishing is the retail book buyers bias. I just hope it works our way.

Still even if it doesn’t it’ll be a fun challenge

Irish Publishing & Parochialism

The Irish publishing world appears to be stuck in a parochial rut and perhaps this is due, at least in part, to its being subvented so graciously by the Arts Council.


The problems faced by Irish publishers are not chiefly, as Desmond Fennell argues, a lack of enterprise or imagination on the part of publishers themselves, but the limited public visibility of the industry, erratic State support for the sector, and a trading environment in which bookshop chains hold the upper hand.

SEÁN O’KEEFFE, Editorial Director, Liberties Press

[Extracted from The Irish Times letters pages June/July 2007]

Storm in a tea cup or Fiddling while Rome burns?
There has been a rather petty, sniping and pointless debate running in the paper of national record The Irish Times. To make matters worse, it was all kicked off by what was an interesting and stimulating article in June by Tony Farmar (who is a publisher himself and recently finished his term as President of Clé):

We are proud of our writers. We have four Nobel Prizes for literature, and a world renown for many of our authors – but we also have a book-publishing industry that is suffering from severe market pressures from overseas. The National Development Plan 2007-2013 has allocated more than €1.1 billion to culture, but very little of this will help the one art form in which the Republic of Ireland has consistently punched above its weight.

The general impression is that there are plenty of books, even too many, but in fact very few of them are published here. The average European country publishes four times as many titles per head as we do. In terms of titles per million of population, Ireland is actually the weakest performer in the whole expanded EU, with the possible exception of Luxembourg. We publish fewer titles per head, even, than much poorer countries such as Estonia, Greece, Latvia and Slovakia.

Rather than an invitation to a debate on small issues and over the relative abilities of publishers and authors, this was a call to collaborate, to innovate and to change with the changing industry. By far the most useful contribution to date has been that of Clé itself who have pointed to positive steps taken rather than problems encountered.

From an outsider’s perspective it must still seem petty. I cannot help but feel that to some extent there is right on both sides and wrong on both sides. Authors are right that Publishers (and not just Irish ones) are conservative and tend to dislike huge risks, after all it is their money being risked. They are right too that Irish authors are likely to be published by foreign publishers (not such a bad thing I suggest) and of course they are right that “serious” books have difficulty in getting published.

For their part the publishers are right to point to their efforts and the difficulties of publishing in a marketer which is

attractive to predatory British publishers as a source of both sales and authors. With honed marketing skills and deep pockets, they dominate local bookshops. As a result, even on home territory, Irish publishers find it difficult to gain an equal footing.

Overall, I cannot help but feel that the debate has been more a forum for self justification than for really promoting change in Irish Publishing. Authors need to realize that there is no Right to Publication. Publishers need to be searching as far beyond their borders as they can to achieve success and change. Most of all it seems to me it ignores the reality that there really is no Irish Publishing Market anymore but a global one that writers and publishers need to adjust to.

Amused, disappointed and tired.