Links of Interest (At Least to Me) 04/08/2009

Eoin Purcell

Interesting effort here by RTÉ who seem to be getting the hang of cross media productions following the success of their Judging Dev and Our War enterprises:
Look Of The Irish

The Book Oven opens for business finally and impressively with the first in a new set of tools to make publishing easier and funn-er! Read the post about it here and sign up for their Bite Sized Edits program here.

Will Somebody Please Hire This Woman: this is very slick. Debbie Stier gives credit where it’s due and calls for book publishers to hire more people like Marian Schembari

That’s it for today, though I have many more links to share once I get some time to read through and share!

No Seriously: The Plague

Eoin Purcell

I was getting on the Dart to travel back from Sydney Parade to Glasthule when I stumbled across this rather exceptional story in Metro*:

A second man has died of pneumonic plague in northwest China, in an outbreak that prompted authorities to lock down a town where about a dozen people were infected with the highly contagious deadly lung disease, a state news agency said.

And if you think that is the worst of it, how do you like this:

Pneumonic plague is spread through the air and can be passed from person to person through coughing, according to the World Health Organization. It is caused by the same bacteria that occurs in bubonic plague — the Black Death that killed an estimated 25 million people in Europe during the Middle Ages.

Bubonic plague is usually transmitted by flea bite and can be treated with antibiotics if diagnosed early. Pneumonic plague is one of the deadliest infectious diseases, capable of killing humans within 24 hours of infection, according to the WHO.

Worrying no. Some quality material on the plague is available on Google Books in case you are in the humour for digging and reading:

THE most memorable example of what has been advanced is afforded by a great pestilence of the fourteenth century which desolated Asia Europe and Africa and of which the people yet preserve the remembrance in gloomy traditions It was an oriental plague marked by inflammatory boils and tumors of the glands such as break out in no other febrile disease On account of these inflammatory boils and from the black spots indicatory of a putrid decomposition which appeared upon the skin it was called in Germany and in the northern kingdoms of Europe the Black Death and in Italy la Mortalega Grande the Great Mortality

The Black Death in the fourteenth century. By Justus Friedrich Carl Hecker, Benjamin Guy Babington

There is much, much more, all of it worth reading. I think, this is a limited outbreak I stress and expect that it will not, unlike the Swine Flue Virus we are currently experiencing, cause widespread fear and panic.

* The link is to the Yahoo News version of the story, Metro is not online.

On Fungibility

Eoin Purcell

Why the future will bite
Today’s lesson in why the future is neither necessarily a nice place comes in the form of this nasty headline and story I spotted in The Bookseller:

A total of 11 assistant editor posts have gone at Taylor & Francis imprint Europa Publications, with the function now offshored to New Delhi.

We will see more of these headlines and they are one of the very specific reason* why I avoided the editorial side of publishing in favour of commissioning and more relationship focused aspects. It all comes down to fungibility (that link goes to a pretty decent explanation on wikipedia but if you wanted an uncritical look at what I really mean, try Friedman’s The World is Flat which does a good job of explaining some of the economics).

Why is the editorial side at risk more than the commissioning?
The basic thought process goes like this. There is no reason why an English speaking editor in India, Pakistan, China, Canada, Germany or indeed any country in the world cannot edited a work written in English. This increases the competition. Even if all things were equal that would make the market tougher for editors anyway. But all things are not equal and pay scales differ hugely across these countries making it tempting for companies to outsource their editorial efforts and achieve productivity and expense improvements.

On the commissioning side there is less chance that an English speaker in India knows much about the market conditions of the Irish or UK market, they may well have a strong idea of who the major players are but do they know them and can they reach them on the phone, have they lunched with them or met them for sales events recently? Do they understand why certain books work in a small distant market or why they don’t? Probably not and learning these things and meeting these people requires on the ground experience an expense that most people won’t engage in. This builds an artificial protection for those engaged in commissioning and relationship type activities on the ground.

Of course this logic does not always protect the commissioning editor as I know too well but announcements like the one today and my own experience within publishing shows that where a bad economy might hurt the prospects for those working in the commissioning arena, even a good economy will not protect the editorial side of the business from the competition that changing technology has enabled!

Been a good few days,

* The others being:
1) I saw that the larger share of the money in publishing rested in this area and
2) I felt much more at home with the commissioning and relationship skill-set.