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Coffee shop? Really?

February 13, 2011 6 comments

Imagine my surprise, when my new boss led me in between and behind old buildings and under a boom gate for our first team meeting over coffee. Coffee shop? Where? Is this some peculiar initiation ceremony for writers?

Squeeze through a little gap to get around it, or just go under it. All in the name of coffee...

What was even more surprising, was that we couldn’t get a seat. It was packed.

Wooden bench seats & tables inside and coffee machines screaming their own happy tune. Brisbane's hip new place for caffeine.

What does this say about Brisbane’s sophisticated coffee-drinking set? Would you like to get mugged with your coffee, or would you like your coffee in a mug?

Now that I’m back in the city working, after a long stint in the burbs, I’d appreciate any tips on places to go. Do you know of any cool places?

P.S. This place is somewhere around Elizabeth St Brisbane. Have fun trying to find it!

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4,000 Thank you’s

January 8, 2011 Leave a comment


This week, my little blog surprised me by clocking its 4000th visit, so I thought it a good time to say, thanks for swinging by (and coming back). I hope 2011 treats you well.
Smiles,
T.

E-books & the death of book stores

November 9, 2010 5 comments


With the arrival of e-books, people in publishing are deeply worried about:
A. the survival of brick ‘n mortar book stores; and
B. the future of traditional paper publishing.
What the conversation is missing, is the consumer.

What do consumers want?
Do they want paper books to continue as they are?
Do they want physical book stores?
Do they prefer e-books and e-stores?
Can they continue to have both?
Will they mind waiting longer to get Print On Demand books, instead of just taking something off a shelf?
What about the cost of books and e-devices?

In this post, I’ll focus on the effect of pricing and invite your thoughts.

The price of books & the death of book stores

The price of books in Australia is always a contentious issue. They seem expensive and yet, very few authors can live off their writing and book sellers are bleeding. People in all aspects of publishing live modestly. There’s lots of love, but not a lot of money. Why?

Book shops are diversifying more into gift lines and coffee, since book selling is becoming uneconomic due to:
* on-line selling;
* predatory discounting practices of department stores; and
* e-book retailers because (in Australia) brick ‘n mortar stores aren’t able to sell e-books (why?!).

I’ll briefly touch upon the main players in the price wars.

Parallel importation?
Over a year ago, book sellers, led by Dymocks, thought that parallel importation would save them. The New Zealand uptake of that policy proved disastrous. You can’t have eggs without chickens. Killing local publishing to save local book selling is at best, wonky thinking.

Predatory pricing
Big department stores sell books cheaper because they demand around 70 per cent off from the publishers, and they use cheap books to lure more people into the store to spend money on other things (to offset the discount). This dynamic works for consumers until the competition is killed off, then prices go up and choice goes out the door. It’s not competition; it’s a killing field.

GST
In Australia, GST is applied to all stages of a book’s production. No government has been open to dropping it. Economists tell me it’s because book sellers will apply the GST savings to their own bottom line and not pass it on to consumers.

So the choice is: GST revenue to the government to churn and burn, or leave it in the industry so that more businesses can keep their doors open (and possibly, pass on price reductions to consumers in the line of normal competition?). Frankly, I would’ve thought that an “Education Revolution” (to use a Labor Party slogan) might’ve included books.

E-books will be the final blow to Aussie book stores, unless…
E-books are currently retailing around $9.99 on Amazon and according to Michael Hyatt, there’s no likelihood that prices will sustainably drop below that point. E-publishing and e-distribution, perhaps surprisingly, doesn’t deliver big cost savings.

I think that once publishers work out all the other funky things they can do in the e-world, prices will eventually go up because they’ll be producing more on-line content to sell their books. Publishers will rise from the ashes of burned out book stores insofar as they’ll be selling directly to online consumers.

In America, e-books are rapidly gaining popularity. The Aussie uptake has been slow and the publishing industry has been reluctant to respond to the new paradigm. Australia doesn’t have the population to shoulder massive market changes as readily. That being said, we can’t put it off any longer.

Conclusion
So, what will e-books do to the price of books in Australia? Not much, it seems, unless the government removes the GST from the equation and revises competition law. With the GST in place, more people will shop on-line to avoid it and brick ‘n mortar book stores in Australia will continue their rapid decline in the face of anti-competitive practices by bigger players.

People will go to book shops to have coffee, browse inside books and then purchase them (either in paper or electronic format) elsewhere, online. That’s not a sustainable business model. Book sellers had better come up with something new, quickly, to value-add to the experience of loving books.

While $9.99 for an e-book is up to half the price of a traditional book, you have to buy the e-reader as well. And even though they are coming down in price, will you be buying one for your kids this Christmas? They aren’t so forgiving when dropped. And how many e-books do you have to buy to make up the savings as against the cost of the device?

I’m not against e-books. I’m not advocating for them, either. I love what’s inside books and where those books take me. People should have a choice. I just hope that the Australian government and industry get the balance right, before our favourite book shops bleed out.

QUESTION:
What do you wish you could tell the government or publishing industry in Australia? Do you think book shops will survive?

N.B. I encourage all respectful views. Feel free to disagree, without being disagreeable. No-one has all of the answers. Sharing is caring.

Review: Life As We Know It (Heigl movie)

November 1, 2010 Leave a comment

Yours Truly was recently treated to a birthday movie by the Ladies.

Admittedly, I enjoyed the movie, but couldn’t remember the name of it when asked. (Sign of age-related memory loss, or a movie in need of a more memorable title – I’m not sure.) All I could remember was that it was a movie with Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel and that they were made guardians of their mutual best friends’ baby, Sophie. And Heigl and Duhamel are easy to look at. And the baby was a good actor. Or, was that the other way around? Never mind.

It was a good brain-in-the-bucket, romantic comedy. It pressed all the right buttons, building tension, making the audience laugh and cry, although there were one or two EWWW moments (like when they had sex in the deceaseds’ bed). I would’ve preferred if the script-writers had found another way of bringing the leads together, without killing off the baby’s parents, because it did put strain on the viewers and stretch the credibility of the characters and story, just a tinsy bit.

Holly Berenson (Heigl) and Eric Messer (Duhamel) are introduced to viewers as victims of a set-up date which goes wrong: they are polar opposites and hate each other at first sight. They keep crossing paths, being on their friends’ wedding party, then becoming godparents to Sophie. A car accident kills Sophie’s parents and leaves her in the care of Holly and Eric.

From there, the story follows the structure of a typical romantic comedy plot and follows the trajectory of two single, self-absorbed people who suddenly become parents. There are a lot of poo and spew incidents which give good laughs, especially (methinks) for those of us who’ve experienced something similar.

Poo jokes don’t get old when they make you recall your own special baby poo incidents. One of my own involved Dear Husband offering to be helpful (WARNING WARNING WILL ROBINSON) and taking our first child for a nappy change. For his comfort, he turned the change table around. With nappy off, he gave the gassy one a bit of help, gently pressing knees up towards abdomen, only to spray green poo all over the curtains. So helpful. So, maybe part of the enjoyment of this movie involved reliving one’s own parenting dramas. No Sleeping? Check. No eating? Check. Parents going mental? Check. Cue: empathetic laughing.

In the middle of the movie, I did wonder whether I was having deja vu or another senior’s moment, when I was sure I was back in the Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin movie, “It’s Complicated”. Similarly, it involved the leading lady being wooed in her own patisserie in the middle of the night, letting go and learning to be loved while doing some manic baking. Then, the leading lady has not one eligible man after her, but two. Then they get stoned. Marijuana must be back in vogue.

Were there similarities, or was I 'in the wrong cinema'?

Does it matter that it follows the rom-com formula and that it borrows substantially from “It’s Complicated”? Not really. “Life As We Know It” delivers the happily ever after and that’s what the viewers are expecting.

(With special thanks to: Antonella, Tina, Donna, Jen, Deb, Helen, Leanne, Suzie.)

Categories: Movies, Review, Writing