Tuesday, 21 June 2011


No romanticism. This was the old country and I’m not talking about Ireland or some fairy tale shit like that. This was East London. You could smell the air; fuck me, you could see the air. It was thick with chemicals blowing down the River Lea like a cloud of invisible death. Paint from Matchbox, paint from Berger paints, chemicals and all sorts of shit, like toxins and god knows what, from a myriad of companies that regularly flushed their waste into the river. This was our playground. On a baking hot summer’s day you’d walk in the long grass, being stung to fuck by nettles and you could smell that rich concoction of pollution. But along the river there seemed to be a connection somehow with the country. Not that we ever saw the country, but it felt like it. The heat of the sun somehow seemed magnified, maybe it was the water or maybe it bounced of the mishmash of factories that lined the edge, vying for space and offering the only employment you were likely to see...if you were lucky. Some of the buildings were already ghosts, pale imitations of a former glory. Broken windows letting light into the darkness within. They became the hunting grounds, the kingdoms and palaces of our dreams...of our imagination. It was either here or the bomb sites from world war two. They still existed 30 years after the Nazis surrendered and the Japanese paid the price for not surrendering quickly enough. Burrowed out holes in the ground, brick walls still standing somehow, more through dogged stubbornness. Like yellowed teeth in an old man refusing to have dentures. These houses ran the back of the park. All you had to do was jump the railings and a new world opened up. It was an adventure for kids ignorant to the death and destruction that caused these labyrinthine burrows of connecting cellars and partially collapsed houses. Sometimes you would find stuff. The odd coin, a penny or a bunch of newspapers or letters. Lives ripped from this world in a flaming inferno of violence dropping from the sky onto the shit hole houses. Many said Hitler done us a favour. He at least enforced some modernisation on the area. Now it’s the Olympics, but god help us if we actually see or talk to anyone from the area. Fuck’s sake they won’t even put the marathon route through East London for the shame of exposing the area to the world. We had freedom though. Only ourselves to care about. No paranoia about perverts or non-existent child killers. We ran the playground the full length and breadth of where our legs would take us without a care for boundaries or private property. What was private anyway? It was our world. Shitty it may have been but it was ours and in a way we was proud of it. Fools to ourselves. Escape came in our imaginations and if that wouldn’t do the trick there was always a pint or two of larger down at the social club – even though we were kids. We fought like soldiers on school trips – not that there was many, but we stood no shit from anyone. And we fought like warriors among ourselves. Sometimes all you could do was fight. Pain the constant reminder that you was alive. This was my playground and I called it home...I still do.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Is the eBook market reaching maturity in the UK?

Something is happening in the world of publishing as it appears the major publishers are finally reacting to the aggressive pricing of eBooks at Amazon by self published authors and independent publishers. This weeks top 20 only 8 titles prepared to take titles over £1. This is great for readers but a worrying sign for smaller publishers and independent authors who have led the way with pricing on eBooks so far. Karin Slaughter’s eBook exclusive ‘The Unremarkable Heart’ is priced at 44p and publishers Cornerstone is clearly going to make a killing. The good news here though is that entrepreneurial authors such as Louise Voss and Mark Edwards continue to give the big boys a bloody nose with their higher priced independent published novels ‘Catch Your Death’ and ‘Killing Cupid’. This is undoubtedly encouraging news for authors and smaller publishers. At the start of this year we ran a trail with pricing our books at under a £ and under a $ at Amazon and while initially successful we simply were not generating the income form the sales to make the venture worthwhile after Amazon took their 70% for the pleasure of hosting and selling. Being left with 30% of under a £ (or $) to distribute is not an enjoyable experience for the publisher or the author.

There is an interesting juxtaposition faced by independent publishers and authors and that clearly is that unless you are achieving sales in the 000’s it is commercial suicide to under-price. Our trial has ended and we have set our eBooks at £2.08 and $2.99 in the hope of maintaining and increasing sales through a price differential. The market is currently flooded with books under a £ and there are some truly excellent titles their from major publishers and independents as well as self-published authors. However, eBook readers are showing in response that they are prepared to view the playing field in a far more open way than they would if they were in a book store. Mark Edwards and Louise Voss have clearly shown that if pitched right eBooks can become viral. Something which is virtually impossible in the bricks and mortar world of traditional publishing.

We may regret increasing our eBook prices but there has to become a point where the eBook reading audience has reached maturity and become comfortable with buying new titles instead of expecting to download them free or having a less pleasurable experience through downloading pirated eBooks on torrents (along with a lot of other hidden viruses, trojans and malware). I think we have passed that point. Clearly readers are prepared to consume eBooks and to do so as voraciously as they do their paper counterparts, so the market needs to establish the true worth of an eBook without alienating this growing sector of consumers.  We must be aware the large publishers can undercut any price the independents care to set, so my thinking is that we should now be leading the way with pricing which actually reflect a serious business model for eBooks. Giving away 70% to Amazon or any other store is not a true working model for independents and I dare say not for larger publishers either (Though I would be surprised if Cornerstone are surrendering 70% rrp). By the same token pricing eBooks at a level close to the paper version is insanity and a reflection of nothing more than avarice by the publisher.

I think the market can bear a pricing model which is more consistent across the board. This would be beneficial all round and allow authors such as Voss and Edwards to truly financially benefit form their fantastic sales. I think eBooks will settle at around £2.99 as the market matures, this may be a year or two away but we have to be prepared to test boundaries and sometimes react before the larger publishers.