In my other guise as an active participant in a minority sport* I often find myself in the position of being the “old pro”. You know, the guy who’s been around the block, knows the score and imparts words of wisdom when properly prompted (or when feeling properly grumpy).
Properly grumpy normally involves being asked a question such as, “Gee, you can do X really well, how can I master that too? What’s the secret?” The subtext being “How can I do this NOW.” This answer is, invariably, practise.
People don’t get good at anything unless they put the hours in. How good you get is almost directly proportional to effort – at least in sport – but applying a little common sense early reaps dividends. Do the boring stuff, find out how to get the information you need (Tip: Wikipedia is not a reliable source!) and don’t ask self-evident questions of the irritated old guy in the corner.
* I’m a fencer seeing as you asked.
Last Friday night (16th of February) I received an intriguing invitation to join a bona fide secret society. I was offered a choice: either go home to bed or attend An Evening of Death. I was given the mysterious instruction to meet at “Doctors“.
After meeting the others we shuffled across the road and into the entrance of the Old College at Teviot. There, we were invited to sign our last will and testament. We also had to provide examples of things that should do before we die and the music we wanted played at our funeral. Since you ask, I opted for: see a monkey do a handstand on a goat (inspired by this video) and Flash! by Queen. I was part of the first 100 and I got to go to heaven – which meant I got to boo everyone outside as they were the sinners (aka late).
The actual show consisted of a series of lectures and performances on various tangents about death.
We had a lectures: on perceptions of death, Edison’s Phonographs and how people viewed disembodied voices, the “truth” of spiritualism and a biography of one Charles Lightholler. We had a performing child prodigy (who played random tunes plucked out of our handwritten cards) and a lady who played the Theramin while a robotic crow recited poetry – after all what could be more spooky!
I had a great time. I would tell you more but I am now a member of the Edinburgh Secret Society and I don’t want to kill you. Yes you. The person reading this. We of the society know who you are…
It seems that the Australian arm of Borders has gone into administration with some pundits wondering what this says about the future of the printed word. Hm. I think some people need to go back and do their stats again and realise that correlation does not equal causation. The reasoning goes like this: people can buy ebooks, ebooks are cheaper than printed books, printed books are expensive in Oz – therefore the demise of the Borders chain in Oz must be because people want ebooks.
The problem with the demise of Borders (Oz tentacle) is that their business model, which includes cartel pricing, was seriously flawed. Additionally, if you chuck the bizarre copyright laws in Oz which denies Australians books widely available in the US, easily shipped across border lines to arrive cheaper than buying at the shop down the street, is it any wonder that Borders fell over.
More can be read at this article: The Internet Ate Our Homework
People also seem surprised that Borders in the UK has fallen over – that this somehow presages the collapse of publishing generally – and I would disagree. Again, if you look around, there seems plenty of evidence of a poorly run business collapsing when a bit of financial pressure was applied.
The obvious comparison is with the music industry - after all many of these places are actually owned by the same large conglomerates – so you would expect to see a similar approach to sales and marketing. When music started going digital, the monolithic music industry attempted to squash trade in these files rather than see the opportunities. The consequence was that they became synonymous with evil in the minds of many consumers who, rightly, didn’t enjoy being relentlessly pursued for doing what they wanted – listen to music at a reasonable price (or free).
These days it seems that the music industry has finally recognised that it needs to change. If you look behind the big players in music streaming you normally find the same conglomerates funding and lending libraries. The deals these services supply are convenient to users and the price is invariably right.
I wouldn’t write off the publishing industry. As the same influences that changed the music industry percolate throughout the major media companies you will start see differences in the way that books are supplied. Plus there’s a lot of small press activity out there – and it certainly seems that a lot of the interesting stuff in literature is being produced in these small businesses.
What does this have to do with ebooks? Not much. The convenience of ebooks make them attractive to consumers but because people want digital books does not mean that the publishing industry will fail.