Friday, 23 March 2012

W&R: part the second.

Lucky for me, when I bought my ticket to Emerging Writers, I also picked one up for ‘Are We the Last Real Book Readers?’ We’d been told about this session in class, it’s a very interesting time to be in the publishing world with the digital age of books clipping our heels.The panel was chaired by Radio NZ’s Kathryn Ryan – her opening speech mainly consisted of how she loves the smell of books, I do too, but not enough to say it more than once; nonetheless, she was definitely a fine choice for the role.

(c) Writers and Readers website. 
L-R Fergus Barrowman, Tilly Lloyd & Denise Mina. 
First to speak from the panel was Tilly Lloyd, manager and co-owner of Unity Books. Coming from a book background myself, I understand the damage digital resources are doing for a lot of independent bookstores, but it’s most excellent that Unity is still going strong. It’s hard to imagine a Wellington without it. However, I won’t lie, I didn’t start taking notes until Fergus Barrowman, the publisher at Victoria University Press, started talking – not because Tilly wasn’t interesting, but because I completely forgot I had my notebook in my bag. I do believe she said that books would become like horses – taken over by cars and trucks, but still around and definitely not obsolete. But apologies Tilly, and if anyone remembers points from her, please comment!

Oh, and Fergus then decided to tell us that an article he read said that if we had an industrial breakdown, there wouldn't be enough horses in the world to breed us back to the numbers the world had in WWI. So that’s interesting, huh?
Anyway, I found it super interesting that Fergus uses his ipad for all of his manuscript assessments – I find reading on a screen way too hard after a while. But as he said, and this has stuck with me, digital resources are “good enough” for most people. They don’t have to be excellent yet, because perfection in e-reading doesn’t quite exist, it just has to be good enough. Like most things in our lives. Fergus also noted that VUP had seen a drop in their non-fiction sales. This he said, and I agree with, is due to people not wanting the entire story in non-fiction. They want to drop in and out of the story for small snippets of what they need to know. As a student, I totally relate to this – for essays, I’m all about google books and doing a simple ctrl+f to find the keywords I need. But this isn’t to say I don’t still buy and read non-fiction. It’s easily my favourite genre of new books being produced, especially a good biography.
Her latest book,
if you're in to crime.

Last on the panel was Scottish crime writer Denise Mina. Heard of her? I hadn’t. But, bro, she was excellent. According to some statistics she had, the majority of authors in Britain make around £6000 a year, while there are five authors in Scotland that make over £100k a year (and I totally assume she’s one of them). She talked a lot about how the industry’s changing so you don’t need agents or publishers. When she first met her agent, she bought a new jumper from the 2nd-hand store for the occasion, and couldn’t understand them because apparently all British agents talk with no vowels in their words. But the point is anyone can be a publisher without the scary middle man - just write a novel, make it in to e-format and sell it for $1 on Amazon. One thing – she hates Amazon. Man, I mean, she is not a fan. The main thing I gained from her was we must crush Amazon if it the last thing we do.

However, I did pick up one more interesting point from her. Denise talked about (I feel she said she got it from Ian Rankin...) books becoming much like vinyl. Nowadays when you buy a record, like I still do, it comes with a code to download the digital file for free. She believes this is what will happen with books, which I’m pretty ok with. I haven’t acquired an e-reader yet, and don’t think I will unless I get an awesome job where they give me one, or I go travelling. And I’d much rather buy the real pretty book that can sit on my shelf and have the digital file for free, than just buy it boringly off the internet and not have anything physical to hold.

Now this was supposed to be the last post about W&R, however this post has become longer than the first one already, and I still have two more sessions to write about. Soooo, there will be a third. And it will be excellent. It’ll be about Shakespeare and WWI poets. Yus.

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