Posts filed under 'Observation & Musing'

Forget Superman – only Justin Bieber can save us now!

While the Euro hurtles towards collapse, there is hope for the world, in the form of … Justin Bieber.

The Telegraph’s Debt Crisis Blog reveals

“Analysts are getting good vibes from the packed-out stores in the States – particularly vendors of Justin Bieber apparel and Twilight merchandise.”

Who could have forseen such a day!

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Add comment November 25th, 2011

The kindness of strangers

I’ve noticed a new phrase in the daily lexicon of Irish people. It’s one that I haven’t heard around this land in a long time, until this week – “the kindness of strangers.”

Snow drifts and financial storms happen for a reason. Trouble brings people together.

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Add comment December 3rd, 2010

The Catcher in the Rye

With my new year’s impetus I dived into my backlog of books to read. Top of the list (because it was thinnest) is a book I’d intended to read for a while, a book I’d heard much about: The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. I knew nothing about it, but was determined to find out what all the fuss was about. I still haven’t found out. I have, however, read the book. I can cross it off my list.

I can understand that it may have been controversial at the time it was published, especially in a time where the memory of the harsh sacrifices war was still fresh in the adult generation, and a time when the teenager generation had not yet been given their iconic advocate of James Dean in Rebel without a Cause. But today, perhaps a youth that is disillusioned, confused, and truant is no longer a worrying pointer of the future, but is now an engrained issue in society. When we hear regular news bulletins of happy-slapping, drug and alcohol abusing teenagers, teenage gangs, knife crimes, etc., then Holden Caulfield’s peccadillos seem tame by modern society’s standards.

The voice of the protagonist was certainly strong and convincing and of its time, but everything “killed” him. That killed me … after a while. While reading it, I wondered if a modern equivalent novel of disillusioned youth, laced with OMG!s and Whatevaar!s would attract as much interest as this book.

The biggest disappointment for me was, while the character voice was strong, the story was weak. It meandered. It went nowhere. Maybe that was the point. Maybe it was a clever way to show the lack of any purpose or trajectory in Caulfield’s life. Ok. I get that. But, I didn’t think it was very well done. Look at Karoo as an example. It had a similar type of meandering tale with a strong character voice. Karoo, in a way, is a middle-aged version of Caulfield’s character. I think the big difference was humour and irony. Caulfield’s was a humourless character. Karoo had a wry way of looking at the world and things happened to him. Aren’t things supposed to happen to a protagonist? Karoo certainly had a definitive ending. And something happened. Something that made you realise how much the character had grown on you. Holden Caulfield? I was glad to say goodbye to him. His story didn’t end, it just stopped, where it stopped. Not because it had arrived anywhere. It just stopped. So did I. It was a disappointment that (in my view) didn’t live up to the hype. Maybe it’s just not my taste.

So onto the next classic. I might try a little Dostoevsky this time.

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Add comment January 26th, 2010

My year of adventure in pain

Sorry I haven’t been keeping up the blog this last week. I said I would have some articles to put up on it, but life got in the way. Work and illness.

2009 has been, without doubt, the second worst year of my life. I haven’t said much about it during the year, because I don’t like to complain, and it would be tiresome to hear it too. But I always look for meaning in even the bad things that happen to us. This year, I have learned to be sympathetic to those in pain, in a way that you can only when you’ve experienced pain. I hope to bring that sympathy with me through to 2010 and beyond.

As much as I can find purpose in this dire year, I really want a better one for next year. Come January, I plan to set about making it just that.

This year I learned something about my writing too. I’m not as talented a writer as I thought I was. Actually, it’s not that I thought I was hugely talented (in some vain way), it’s that I just always assumed I had what it takes to “make it”. In the end, despite what anyone will tell you, publishing, like life, is a bloody lottery, even though you do your best. What I do about that in 2010, we’ll see.

For now 2009 is limping to a close, and me right along with it. I’m exhausted. Blindsided by a bad year that came out of nowhere. And a stomach bug over Christmas too, just to see out the year consistently! But I’m looking forward to the new year of hope.

I won’t wish you all a happy new year, because we can’t know what will come our way. However, I wish that you learn to have a good 2010, in all its sorrows or joys.

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Add comment December 26th, 2009

What’s Amazon up to?

Dealing with corporate clients, handling their last minute rush requirements that absolutely have to be done by Christmas (happens every year!) got me thinking about the megacorps of publishing. The megacorp of publishing – Amazon. Ok, so bear with me. I’m have a suspicious mind. It comes from reading and writing all those thrillers.

When I first considered self-publication a year ago, BookSurge was the candidate. In the meantime, it has been subsumed into the great belly of the Amazon beast. Not long after, Amazon stated that the only vanity press they would list on their site was … BookSurge (CreateSpace as it has recently been renamed).

There’s the rub. And a portent of the future. That was a clear case of Amazon leveraging it’s online market dominance to push out other vanity presses, and so maximize its profits from that sector of the market. It is a common strategy of all megacorps, like Tesco and Walmart. Suppliers are so glad to get into chainstores like those, that they will take a financial hit for the sake of wide exposure. And the megacorp will squeeze them financially, because they know they will take it.

In the Internet age, if we are not vigilant, we will live in an age of monopolization of the distribution channels. The companies who control the distribution channels set the rules of the game, and can squeeze suppliers.

So who are Amazon’s book suppliers? The publishers? Yes and no. Mostly no. Because it is the authors who actually make the product. Amazon knows this. This is why CreateSpace makes such sense for them, especially in the long term, as I will explain shortly. If they capture the huge volume of vanity published authors, it doesn’t matter if they sell only a few books on each. Amazon aren’t fussy, because one person’s buck is as good as any other. Multiply a few book sales out by the volume of vanity authors they can capture (remember, they control the main distribution channel). And they can charge the author for the privilege of using their vanity services too (the willing supplier will be squeezed gladly for access to the distribution channel).

Publishers aren’t really the suppliers. They are the middle men in Amazon’s paradigm. Amazon need publishers for now, of course, because Dan Brown’s latest will drive browsers to Amazon in droves. But in the future … who knows. Apart from squeezing supplier’s profit margins, the other strategy megacorps use to maximise profits is shortening the supply chain. On the Internet, this is known as disintermediation. The middle men are kicked out, because the distribution costs are kept low, and the Internet company can connect supplier directly to customer. Authors linked directly to customer, by Amazon alone. Internet companies will use and tolerate any intermediary only so long as it makes financial sense for them. With Borders bookstores closing daily, will Amazon grab some high street pick-up points for their consignments on the cheap in a recession? If Amazon become the distribution channel for books, what’s to stop them signing contracts with Dan Brown once his contract with his publisher expires? What’s to stop them from setting up an X-Factor book site to crowd-source the next Dan Brown from the ranks of all the CreateSpace authors?

Publishers beware. And watch what Amazon is up to. Gradually, Amazon’s interests may be to push the publishers out of the chain and deal with authors directly. Small shifts, inexhorably, over time. Too suspicious for you? It’s not just me: Publishers need Amazon – but do Amazon need publishers?

The big worry, in such a doomsday scenario for publishing, is who would be left to fight back against the megacorp in the author’s interest?

But, for now, we’ll all happily use them. They’ve got the biggest, best distribution on the Internet. Right?

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Add comment December 14th, 2009

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