Friday, 7 December 2012

Dodging behemoths

Issue 100 of the quarterly review magazine New Zealand Books is out and I was pleased to have been asked to submit an article about the ebook as artifact. I wrote with conviction and enthusiasm for what I'm doing here on Rosa Mira Books and for the opportunities that digital publishing provides. However I admit that the ebook itself as a tiny non-pictorial icon on a desktop, unless and until it is opened and read, is less than appealing. Much depends on the reading device and the attitude of the reader. Even more depends on content.

'Content' is what gives my work hours purpose and pleasure, as I read and discover exceptional writing, help its author to polish it up, and publish it in a digital form that does it credit.

'Content', until it's dealt with in a discriminating manner,  is both wheat and chaff. Today I've come across two or three articles lamenting, for example, 'The Mighty Zon''s bid for world domination of the e/book market. In its haste and greed, Amazon has thrown wheat and chaff (beans and pods might be a more fitting metaphor for the home gardener) in together. And this might be the point at which independent publishers, small and cheeping from their various outposts, begin to regain credibility and value for discerning readers. "Amazon inspires anxiety just about everywhere, but its publishing arm is getting pushback from all sorts of booksellers…" The NY Times article goes on to name stores refusing to sell Kindles, and booksellers refusing to stock Amazon's publications.

In her blog this week, author and editor Anne R. Allen describes the knots that large publishers have recently tied themselvs into, trying to stay afloat and relevant: "HarperCollins, moving to more ebooks, is closing one of its biggest warehouses, and seems set to gobble up Simon and Schuster.  And Simon and Schuster has launched a new scary-scammy self-publishing wing by teaming up with the vanity publisher Author Solutions. Yes, the Author Solutions which was recently acquired by Penguin, which was recently purchased by Random House."

Now, where am I going with this? I'm going towards small, discriminating e/book businesses trying to hold their heads up and put out fine work in the shadow of such behemoths as Amazon and Penguin-Random-Pearson. I came across Seraph Press today, not digital, but putting out a handful of finely produced volumes by NZ poets, most recently The Comforter by Helen Lehndorf. It is possible to buy books online elsewhere than Amazon, even if you run a Kindle. For example, meBooks stocks a wide range of ebooks by New Zealand authors, including Rosa Mira's. But if you want to support a small publisher, see if you can buy directly from their site. That helps them immediately and directly. It cheers them up, too. Please let me know of any small, selective digital publishers out there in the wider world. I'd like to point them out here.

Talking of knots, whose is the tail beside Ratty's? What happened to Lily? And what is the marketing department up to?

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