Friday, June 30, 2006
Words alone cannot really do this justice but the old concrete bunker on the roundabout at the end of Westminster Bridge Road is BEING EATEN BY A CRANE.
It has jaws and eyes and water sprouting from it's articulated neck. It looks a little bit like this.
I had to stop and stare and laugh like a 10 year old boy.
I've just seen a crane eat a building.
Thursday, June 29, 2006
As I'm not a publisher I've just been plucking figures out of thin air. I'm more than happy to stand corrected if none of the below stacks up...
Let's take a £6.99 mass market paperback thriller, the kind of thing I guess would be used on the reader.
The publisher will sell this to a large retailer for £3.50. The author gets their royalty (and here I must profess my unforgivable ignorance in the matter of how much percentage the author takes but I'll hazard a guess at a pound for a 6.99 book [this only underlines the fundamental differences between authors and retailers - writers, most retailers aren't really your friends no matter how much the big boys go on but that is really a whole other post])
That leaves £2.50 to the publisher. Printing, wharehousing, distribution and admin must amount to atleast £2 (surely?) leaving 50p profit on the book.
So, how do you price an e-book download? Working backwards we have £1 to the author, 50p profit to the publisher, no physical costs but running and managing a vast website of millions of titles out of which only a few thousand or so turn a profit ain't cheap so I reckon, conservatively, another £1.
So, the minimum price for a download would have to be atleast £2.50. But what about the question of value? A 3 minute single from i-tunes is 79p. A book which you may end up spending 2-3 weeks with demands a certain price point to give it the appearance of importance and value in your purchase. Too low and people will dismiss it as cheap and not worthwhile and too expensive and you might as well have the book. Which is why you can see from the article that a publisher would aim to come in at about 20-25% below cover price - between £4 and £4.50 then for a download.
But, a cheap mass market paperback is that price from asda. Anyway, back to value.
The Sony i-reader looks at being priced between £175-£225. If you're saving £2 a book then you have to download 100 books to break even (and the i-reader only holds 80 titles). A serious book reader may still take close to 2 years to get to that point and serious book readers love browsing in book shops so they ain't your market. Your average reader will probably take a good 5 years to break even by which point your machine is close to obsolete. I guess this is why the Sony i-reader can surf the net and play music too. Let's face it, the i-reader is aimed at men of a certain age who read certain magazines and just love gadgets. I'm Sony and this is my market, I'm happy but, if the i-reader is only being used for reading for half of its time then there aren't many books being downloaded and the publishers aren't making any money.
Which brings me to why people love i-pods. Listening to a song tends to remind you of another song. On your i-pod accessability is everything. When you're reading you tend to be lost in that world, accessability is redundant. Collating all your music into one piece tends to make geeks of the best of us - who doesn't compile playlists and top tens for every concievable occasion? This is a fundamental difference to books. Ok people make book lists and can be semi-autistic in their attitudes but there is a question of time and space involved in reading a book that the pop song delivers instantly. (Or, a quiet spliff as opposed to freebasing cocaine but I wouldn't know anything about that) And something not entirely compatible with the convenience of the i-pod. (Even so it's still a darn sight quicker to turn to page 239 rather than clicking on the wheely thing on the i-pod)
So, I'm a publisher now and I'm asking myself where's my market for this e-book thing? Answer: Over 80% of the publishing business is made from academic publishing and text books. All this guff about Waterstone's and high streets and Independents is a mere drop in the ocean compared to where my profits are. What are my costs in academic publishing? - small print runs and distribution. Electronic delivery takes care of that. Printing, paper and again distribution costs for work books - you'll be able to write on the screen. Interactivity. Ok, you've lost those sales but you've more than gained from the other savings. Also, if Bill Gates does get round to giving away his billions and equiping children in developing countries with these things then that is a good thing to do. All of a sudden the e-book makes sense. Cheaper for the people who need the information while still returning profits to publishers. Hooray, everybody's happy.
So, the small part of the publishing industry that we at C&P deal with - the creamy bit (or is it scum that rises to the top?) - just won't be affected at all by this e-book thing. England are going to win the world cup too. (But I will bet my own money on France beating Brazil)
The e-book is dead. Long live the e-book! Time and a place innit?
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
It was a book called Remainder by a writer I had never heard of - Tom McCarthy. I began to read it. I closed the shop early. I read it in the half-light that filtered through the lowered shutters. I could not put it down. The music and the book and my thoughts all blended together. Booky bliss!
Several hours later it was finished and I was thrilled. Wow. I was straight on the net only to discover our great friend Short Term Memory Loss was there ahead of me...
His review is good so I'll spare you mine. Suffice to say this is THE MOST EXCITING BOOK TO BE SET IN SOUTH LONDON IN RECENT YEARS. (by exciting I mean in the Kafkaesque Ice Pick way - this book will split your skull) (That's a good thing!)
It's out next week.
You need to read it...
Saturday, June 24, 2006
Anyway it's actually a fair representation of what we said - accuracy from the press? surely not - but I would like to point out a few minor errata:
- I never "giggle".
- I'm not sure that Matthew was "smiling" when he said "How often in a chain would you get the staff telling you to f*** off or flouncing out of the shop".
- We do get customers, I am going to be in so much trouble about that.
- We usually only have the one chin each.
Aside from that though, it's pretty funny, and a worryingly revealing portrayal of what we're really like. But I'm not sure I actually wanted anybody to know.
PS If you're wondering which book I'm reading in the picture, it's Peter Hobbs's excellent The Short Day Dying which deserves to be bought by more people, and I'm only sad that you can't see the cover in the photo.
Friday, June 23, 2006
AC Grayling talk in the shop...
Vast improvements in local beer (pub next door)...
Football on telly every night...
Customers who not only love the shop but have started lending us CDs (Thanks Mr S!) and making us coffee in the morning (on delivery of a box of books - thanks Sue!)
All in all a bloody good week.
Thanks people, enjoy the weekend.
'You don't have many books for the size of the space do you'
'erm... we like it like that. Customers seem to respond to the light and space'
'ohh. When I worked in books there was more of them. Bye then'
'Bye to you too and f*** you very much!'
Atleast being the boss I can give people dirty looks and get away with it. (The first dirty look in 6 months might I hasten to add). Although I guess I need to be careful as every dirty look given only condemns me to the next circle of hell below. At this rate I'll be keeping Judas company in no time. Behave yourself, boy.
The book is called Divine Destruction and one of its theses is that America's opposition to climate control policies is the influence of far-right dominion theologists who believe there is no reason to protect the environment given the imminence of the Second Coming of Christ.
Gulp, oh christ. I'm scared now. Pass the crack pipe. There's really no reason to carry on. I'm almost certainly doomed to a flaming eternity of damnation and flesh-eating demons upon god's holy judgement.
Or maybe not.
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
But now things have changed! They have IPA and Abbot on tap!
IPA is a little whimpy but certainly worth a jar or two on a hot afternoon.
Abbot is among my current favourites - strong, tasty and traditional.
Of course the best pint around is London Pride, soon to be the only real ale brewed in the capital. And Fullers is a family company, still clinging doggedly to their independence in the face of interest from the big boys...
(I've got the tune on i-tunes. How can I post it?)
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
I'll have to go and calm down by the sea side again now. The only good thing about summer is you get to swim in the sea, one of the most therapeutic and relaxing things I can think of. Went to Walton-on-the-Naze on sunday and took to the water. Bliss.
Then I got to thinking of all the bodies of water I've swam in. I feel a competition coming on...
North Sea, English Channel, Mediterranean, Persian Gulf, Indian Ocean, South China Sea, Tasman Sea, Pacific Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea, Atlantic Ocean, Loch Lomond, Lake Taupo, erm..
Can anyone top that?
Monday, June 19, 2006
Anyway, last Saturday I was trying to explain the feature to my parents and they didn't understand it, so I got the Times and showed them that issue's example of the feature in question. Unfortunately, on that occasion the field of expertise turned out to be porn. There was a picture and everything.
I'm still not entirely sure my mother understands what I am going to be doing in the Times on Saturday.
Saturday, June 17, 2006
Friday, June 16, 2006
The book is about a London cabbie called Dave who writes a misogynistic, rascist, homophobic rant and buries it in his ex-wifes garden addressed to his son. Several centuries later his book is discovered after London is drowned from rising sea-levels by the inhabitants of the island of Ham - the only part of the city left above sea-level - and taken as a holy book.
The first reading of the novel was set in the near past and was about Dave picking up an american fare. The conversation and Dave's inner monologue are as you'd expect from a bigot and very funny.
After the readings there were some questions from the floor. After a few people spoke, one bloke sitting on his own with a fedora and a cane raised his hand and said,
'My name's Dave and I'm a cabbie and no cabbie would ever say those things'
Much heated debate ensued over the nature of plausibility and truth in fiction. Self defended himself vigorously with the pointed dissection of Dave's points like a seasoned barrister. Unfortunately, Dave's position descended into personal abuse finally calling Self and his like a cheroot-smoking, middle-class intellectual fancy boy.
Oh Dear. I'm afraid Dave the Cabbie only made Dave the Cabbie an only too plausible bitter, anger-filled figure. One-nil to Self.
We have signed copies in store now.
My uncle is a bloody maths professor in Zurich!
Why am I so totally rubbish with numbers?
Bah. Can't spell either. Hurumph.
Come on techy types! Invent a chip you can plug into my brain and make me a maths whizz/spelling geek...
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
We are going to be part of a series they do called Ask The Experts. The idea is simple and fun. Find a group of professionals (the experts) and show them some popular TV. (Think doctors watching ER) Then record the comments made by the experts to see how accurate the TV is. It's all for fun and very light hearted...
We are going to watch an episode of Black Books.
Trouble is, where most people think BB is a comedy, it is in fact a deadly serious documentary. Bookselling in small shops is EXACTLY LIKE THAT!
Did we really try and fight Scott Pack? Oh dear...
Monday, June 12, 2006
HALF PRICE STAFF
As fellow members of the FSB, I wanted to let you know about a very well kept secret that enables you to get high calibre staff at extraordinarily low rates - impossibly low you might think.
How would you like to employ people with:
- No National Minimum Wage
- No PAYE tax
- No employers NI
- No contract of employment
- No holiday pay
- No sick pay
There is a special, but little known dispensation written in to EC and UK law. This allows certain people to work in the uk without their employer having to comply with many aspects of the usual raft of employment legislation and regulations.
Many people who are in university courses all over Europe are eligible for this dispensation. The need to carry out work assignments as part of their training. This enables you to employ high calibre workers for just £7000 per annum - all in.
It's something that large blue chip employers have been benefiting from for decades.
...erm, where to start? I knew this kind of thing went on but when you become a boss yourself and are offered slaves in order to make a bit more profit...
(I refuse to link to these people but if you're the kind of person who likes seeking out extreme material on the web then here's the place to go: www.placement-uk.com)
2. Read one.
3. Fan yourself with the other.
4. And then when it's winter, you can burn them for warmth. Or rip them up and stuff the pages down your trousers for insulation.
Books: *so* versatile. You'd never get this many uses out of an electronic hand-held reading device.
Friday, June 09, 2006
Had anyone e-mailed or phoned or spoken to us in the shop about the reasons for our May book of the month being Summer in Baden-Baden and whether this had anything to do with where England would be based in the build up to the World Cup they would have won a SPECTACULAR prize...(just imagine whatever you most desire - that was the prize you could have had! Don't you feel gutted?)
You have to be sharp in the indy bookselling came. I know I keep banging on about it but it's not just us - you can all be involved too...
So keep your wits about you and watch out for more "hidden" and "secret" prize-winning opportunities.
Thursday, June 08, 2006
There is one good spot for overtaking though. This morning I was waiting by the lights at the bottom of Kennington road. Typically every cyclist who came behind pulled in front of me until I was at the back of a group of about 15. When the lights went green off we went. Some guys who fancied themselves set off at a pace and everyone else just sauntered on. Kennington road is just shy of a mile long and 2 lanes so you've got plenty of time to build up. By half way I'd passed everyone. It was great. I felt like Steve Ovett at the back of the pack in the 1500m with one lap to go and slowly but surely just leaving them all for dust. I know it's childish and blokey but I don't care. You've got to take your pleasures where you can find them.
But as for the psychopath... waiting to pull onto Herne Hill, a road with some seriously fast traffic, a man passed in front of me cycling one-handed (not good at the best of times). In the other hand he was holding his daughter! She was sitting on his knee! His leg was going up and down! He had his spare arm wrapped around her waist holding her on! He had NO control! He should go to jail for recklessly endangering his own childs life!
Not much about books but I'm looking forward to this coming into the shop soon.
Monday, June 05, 2006
Lovely little seaside town, favourite spot of one Charles Dickens. Bleak House is there on the cliffs and there's a musum and everything. (Of course we didn't go. I have to confess to an A-Level induced loathing of Dickens. I like some of his essays, Night Thoughts in particular, but the novels I find hard work. I'm saving them for my later years.)
We paddled, I drank plenty of good Kentish Ale, we read (I'm reading The London Hanged by Peter Linebaugh, Mary is loving Flea Palace by the brilliant Elif Shafak) we ate fresh meat pies. We saw Peter "Mr London" Ackroyd twice!
I'm not surprised Peter Ackroyd likes Broadstairs. It is stuck in a little Victorian timewarp but not a dull Victorian timewarp. There were all sorts there. Not just old ladies clustered round the bandsatnd (though they were there) but loads of lager swiling lads and ladettes too - a real cross-section of London life...gone to the seaside...
We will be back.
Did I mention the meat pies?
Friday, June 02, 2006
Why (at time of writing) has Matthew's profile been viewed 55 times when Adam's and mine have only been viewed a precisely equal 32 times each? What is so interesting about Matthew? Why doesn't everyone want to know about me the most? Why why why why why? How am I supposed to get to sleep now? I will have to resort to drugs or alcohol, or if that won't work, reading a couple of pages of WG Sebald. It's not fair to do this to me, you know.
I Disagree. Or as the mobile ad at the moment goes, how much time have you got?
Rather than bore you with some rambling entry I thought I'd offer a few bullet points in response to the Iain Dale piece and it's comments:
- I wish Second Hand book buyers would realise that a book has to be bought new at some point in order to become second-hand (That's you Mr. Chap of a certain age with a rucksack on. Just what are you carrying in that thing? You know who you are)
- There will always be independent bookshops. Every generation of bookseller will throw up a few idiots who think they could do a better job or are pathologically incapable of being fastracked up the greasy pole of management. (Naming no names)
- WE'RE NOT OVERPRICED! 99.8% of our stock is the same price as every other terrestrial retailer.
- It's true, if every independent bookseller went bust then there wouldn't be any great material change to the consumer. However, I had a dream a few nights ago where I was living in a totalitarian state. I was really enjoying it too as I didn't have to make any decisions, I was told what to do and had no responsibilities. At the end of the dream after the regime had been hunting down middle-aged ladies in tracksuits I found I was now a target. I was machine-gunned to DEATH. There is a message there somewhere.
- A**z*n cannot live by books alone (Home & Garden!? Electronics & Photo?!) C&P are not in it for the riches folks.
- Supermarkets are NOT faster, better, cheaper.
- I understand why Waterstones gets better discounts than us and the reasons they snaffled up Ottakers. I don't mind this. I would however like longer credit terms - 90 days please. After an initial cashflow bottleneck longer terms wouldn't affect the publishers at all. It would be something they could offer us small fry without affecting their P&L as there will always be a continuous supply of sales and re-ordering. They do it for A**z*n.
- I think the Da Vinci Code would have been much better if it was written in bullet points. Sort of avant-garde don'tcha think?
Erm, I think that's enough for now.