virtualDavis

\ˈvər-chə-wəlˈdā-vəs\ Blogger, storyteller, flâneur. G.G. Davis, Jr's alter ego…
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Publishing Hatchet Job

Just over a year ago Digital Book World‘s Editorial Director, Jeremy Greenfield (@JDGsaid), helped “leak” a Hachette Book Group internal document reminding the team why traditional publishers remain relevant. The outline sparked a wildfire, igniting debate and speculation.

Perhaps we’ll be able to discuss their 12-month review soon. Until then, here’s a lighthearted mashup — a mostly-found ode to publishing past, curated with a graffiti poet’s irreverence — to help prime the pump.

Publishing is complex,
Finely tuned machines
Whirring behind the scenes
Despite calm, collected facades.
While uppity “self-publishing”
Is a misleading misnomer,
A slipshod hodgepodge
Of hyped-up author services,
Our full service publishing
Connects content creators
And content consumers
In meaningful, pedigreed
And value added ways.
We all but guarantee
Widest possible readership.
Have you forgotten how?
Here’s a helpful cheat sheet:
We discover outstanding
Talent (with jumbo platforms).
We cull the best from the rest.
We invest in our authors,
Funding their creativity and
Fueling content collaboration.
We invest editorial expertise,
In-house publicity gurus and
Spendy strategic marketing.
We leverage global retail
And distribution partnerships.
We’re a new market pioneer,
An agile, risk-taking innovator
Exploring and experimenting
Even when a positive outcome
Isn’t 100% iron-clad guaranteed
(Such as those gimmicky apps
And enhanced digital books.)
We build author brands and
Protect intellectual property.
We have nicely appointed offices
And lots of employees just like you
Because it’s worth it. You’re worth it.
Go, team, go! No, wait…
Stay, team, stay. Please?

Apologies to Hachette (who deserves credit for catalyzing critical if overdue debate about why traditional publishers are relevant in today’s publishing wild west) and Jeremy Greenfield who after all, was just the messenger. Actually, he’s an always-timely, almost always sage messenger who has emerged as one of the oracles of the Post-Gutenberg Paradigm.

Apologies as well to you, my tolerant reader. I’m a perennially curious flaneur, not an expert on the rise and fall of publishers. You’ll find no wonky wizardry here. I’ve taken liberties aplenty. My mission, after all, is to entertain, not dispense wisdom. For that you’ll have to hunt elsewhere… Sorry!

Afterward

Among the throng responding to Hachette’s internal memo, J.A. Konrath’s advice to publishers stands out.

Publishers should stop trying to convince themselves and others that they’re relevant, and start actually being relevant. Here’s how:

  1. Offer much better royalties to authors.
  2. Release titles faster. It can take 18 months after a book is turned in to be published. I can do it myself in a week.
  3. Use up-to-date accounting methods that are trackable by the author, and pay royalties monthly.
  4. Lower e-book prices.
  5. Stop futilely fighting piracy.
  6. Start marketing effectively. Ads and catalogue copy aren’t enough. Neither is your imprint’s Twitter feed. (Digital Book World)

Thank you, J.A. Konrath (@jakonrath) and thank you Hachette. A year later, where are we?

Print Books: Purge or Hoard?

Although I love my print books, e-readers, in one form or another, have become my primary reading device over the last few years. I barely touch my print books, although they are still beautiful and important to me. But they sit on my bookshelf as a decorative and intellectual art form… When I voiced my reluctance to ship my books, one of my editors, horror-stricken, said: “You have to take your books with you! I mean, they are books. They are so important!” The book lover in me didn’t disagree, but the practical side of me did… In the end, I decided to leave 80 percent of the books behind, donating them to bookstores and even throwing some old, tattered volumes in the garbage. Readers, what would you have done? (NYTimes.com)

Books

Image by henry… via Flickr

Old news. Familiar question. Sort of…

I just returned from the Writer’s Digest Conference where the question of jettisoning or clinging to print collections came up several times. No consensus, but an interesting question.

This winter/spring is “out with the old, in with the new” time for me, so I’m lightening my load in as many ways as I can. My 2012 word-of-the-year? Agile. I’ll revisit this in the months ahead. Am I throwing too much too fast for you to follow my line of reasoning? Yes, I am. Concept still jelling. Actually the concept and the conviction have jelled, but I’m still sorting through how to explain my mission. Dump nonessential baggage and travel light. Simplify. Cut the crap. Chase the dream… As you can see, I’m still in beta on this!

Nick Bilton‘s July 27 post, “Print Books: Should They Stay or Should They Go?” cuts right to the chase, and I suspect that his decision to pare print down to 20% of his collection will be an increasingly common phenomenon.

I’m not there. I like digital, but I’m a sucker for ink and paper and bindings. I’m passionate about marginalia-filled white space and flattened relics which tumble out of books instantly transporting us back to an orange poppy in Big Sur or a teenage romance. I’m not ready to swap my bookshelves and floor/windowsill/desk stacks for a slim digital facsimile. Not yet. Purge I will, but not the books. Not now.

What about you? Do you feel the urge to purge?

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Storytelling from Cave Fire to Kindle Fire

Storytelling from Cave Fire to Kindle Fire

Storytelling from Cave Fire to Kindle Fire (image by virtualDavis)

Isn’t digital storytelling just enhanced storytelling? It’s just the newest chapter in humanity’s quest to improve the way we tell stories. We instinctively yearn for better communication, for storytelling innovation. And yet digital books, audio books, multimedia books tend to meet resistance despite their obvious appeal.

New scares old. Old doesn’t quite understand new. Or doesn’t want to…

In “Is It A Book, Is It A Movie…No, It’s Movie-Book!” we get a glimpse at the book world’s awkward response to digitally enhanced storytelling.

Many eBook writers shy away from multimedia publishing, preferring instead to stay with straight text… An eBook that features multimedia is not an eBook, they say. It’s… an app… What IS an eBook with multimedia? Can we continue to call an eBook an eBook knowing that now it may feature multimedia? … What about audio books? … [Or] movie-books… (Technorati Entertainment)

Let’s call it digital storytelling. Or storytelling in the digital age. Maybe we should just call it storytelling, because — no matter how resistant the publishing industry and book critics and schools and libraries may be — the public is embracing (and will continue to embrace) storytelling in all of its innovative new forms.

Let us imagine the first time a storyteller added innovative new technologies to their bag of tricks. Picture the proverbial caveman standing by the bonfire with his family, talking about the hunt from which he’s returned with a week’s food. In telling the story of creeping up on his prey, he describes his cautious steps, following the fierce Bigmacosaurus, slowly, quietly all afternoon. Until afternoon turned into evening. As daddy caveman describes the fall of night he slowly extinguishes the campfire leaving his wife and children sitting in the dark around the glowing embers. They pull closer together, absorbed in the story. Now dad begins to pace around them in the dark as he speaks, so that they are never quite sure where he is, and he begins to breath deeply, hoarsely, imitating the sounds of the Bigmacosaurus. And suddenly he leaps across the embers and pretends to drive his spear into the Bigmacosaurus, just barely illuminated as he writhes on the ground, bathed in the dull red glow of the embers.

The end.

“Time for bed, cave kiddies!” he bellows. But they don’t move. They cling to their mother, scared to death.

So dad adds kindling and blows on the embers, resuscitating the fire. Within a few minutes the interior of the cave is once again illuminated. The children are less afraid, but still too nervous for bed.

“But what if the other Bigmacosauri followed you home?”

“Yes, what if they come and get us tonight while we sleep?”

Dad takes a charred branch from the fire and proceeds to draw a picture on the cave wall. In the crude illustration a hunter with a spear crouches in tall grass beside a herd of Bigmacosauri. He explains to his children that he discovered the heard around mid-day, far away. He draws the sun directly overhead, and adds wavy water to portray the lake located half a day’s journey from the cave. Then he moves down the wall and draws himself in the mountains pursuing a single Bigmacosaurus, the sun much lower to the horizon now. He explains to his children that he successfully split the heard, forcing the biggest Bigmacosaurus to run toward the mountains which lay between their cave and the lake. He draws a herd of stampeding Bigmacosauri running off into the distance where the sun sets on the far side of the lake. His next drawing is of the the hunter right next to the Bigmacosaurus, spear high in the air about to plunge. A crescent moon is high overhead. He explains to his children that he wanted to drive the Bigmacosaurus as close as possible to home so that he could minimize the distance he would need to carry the meat. He explains how hard it was because wild Bigmacosauri are scared of cave men and don’t like to come near them. But daddy cave man succeeded, and now they have plenty of food. But the next time he wants to hunt a Bigmacosaurus, he will have to go all away around the lake to the far side where the sun sets. He draws one last picture, looking across the vast lake at tiny Bigmacosauri no larger than ants speckling the horizon beneath the setting sun.

The children have fallen asleep in their mother’s arms, so the parents carry them to their beds and tuck them in.

So far, nothing’s unusual about this, right? Just another evening at the cave.

But when the parents tuck themselves in, the cave man’s wife rolls over to her husband to whisper.

“I don’t know what you thought you were doing tonight, extinguishing the fire, making all those beastly noises, reenacting the hunt, drawing on the walls. Look how much you scared the children.”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare them so much. I always tell them stories…”

“I know. Stories are good. But all that other stuff, it’s just, I don’t know. Not right. Can you just stick with storytelling? Just words?”

“Yes, dear.”

“Thank you. Good night.”

“Good night.”

But the next day the cave kiddies beg for a story. “Like last night, daddy. Not the boring old way.”

“Yes, like last night. Pleeease?”

Mother grimaces.

Father looks at mother and shrugs.

Fast forward. YouTube, Audible, Vook, iPad, Storify and SoundCloud blur past. From cave fire to Kindle Fire… Onward!

Post-Gutenberg Paradigm

Johannes Gutenberg entry clipped from Wikipedia

Johannes Gutenberg… introduced modern book printing. His invention of mechanical movable type printing [circa 1439] started the Printing Revolution and is widely regarded as the most important event of the modern period. It played a key role in the development of the Renaissance, Reformation and the Scientific Revolution and laid the material basis for the modern knowledge-based economy and the spread of learning to the masses. (Wikipedia)

Gutenberg’s printing press introduced a practical, cost effective means for the mass production and distribution of books permanently revolutionizing the accessibility and control of information and ideas. Forgive this run-on sentence for a run-on idea. A half millennium later digital publishing is once again revolutionizing the production and distribution of information. I refer to this transition as the Post-Gutenberg Paradigm, and I am attempting to curate some of the digital content related to publishing in the digital age below. I welcome your input. Please contact me with additions and feedback.

We’re plunging headlong into the post-Gutenberg era, and it’s a thrilling, alarming and somewhat unpredictable ride. The wild west of content creation, packaging, interface and distribution. The familiar and profitable Gutenberg Paradigm that has guided content creators, consumers and the publishing industry through the decades (through the centuries in some cases) is becoming increasingly obsolete. A new paradigm is emerging. What follows is a digital scrap book of one man’s adventure in the post-Gutenberg era, an attempt to curate the artifacts of my social media journey.


Smile! I’m blogging you…

Smile! I'm blogging you... (image of and by virtualDavis)

Smile! I'm blogging you... (image of and by virtualDavis)

I remember seeing a t-shirt for sale once that said, “I’m blogging this.” Nothing more. Just a black t-shirt with bold white lettering across the front. I’m blogging this!

I should have bought it. It would make people laugh. People who know me. Especially the ones who don’t quite get it. Blogging, I mean.

But I didn’t buy it. I liked the idea, but I wanted to edit the message slightly as follows:

Smile! I’m blogging you…

On the one hand, it’s humorous, and on the other it’s an increasingly relevant disclaimer. The “fine print”. Not just for me, but for all bloggers. All journalists, storytellers, writers, artists, etc.

What do I mean by relevant? We are photographing and video recording and quoting each other around the clock nowadays. Look at the ubiquity of blogging, micro blogging, YouTubing, Facebook-ing and Google Plus-ing. We are busy documenting our lives as well as anyone else who flits across our paths.

I walked down Madison Avenue this evening as a man filmed all of us. Not a news reporter, but a plain clothed civilian. John Doe. Or Juan Sanchez… Why was he filming us? What will he do with our stolen souls? Thievery! Or not…

Smile! I’m blogging you…

One of my favorite English language writers, Michael Ondaatje, returns again and again to the theme of thievery in his writing. It’s a large part of storytelling. I suspect many writers, artists, etc. ponder the idea.

I prefer to think of storytellers as borrowers, not kleptomaniacs. We borrow characters, scenes and plots. We borrow the smell of bacon cooking three doors down, the sound of a cello being practiced (badly) somewhere on the other side of an overgrown juniper hedge.

Vicente Huidobro (1893-1948)

Vicente Huidobro (image via Wikipedia)

Not all writers admit that they are recyclers, borrowers or thieves. Chilean poet Vicente Huidobrodeclared, “The poet is a little God.” He aspired to invent worlds of words out of thin air and ambition. I invite you to evaluate his success.

With the advent of widespread social media it’s easier and more enticing than ever to collect and curate the perfect pair of eyebrows, the seemy backstory, the unpredictable twist of fate, the melodic denouement peppered with the fragrance of jasmine and fireworks on a summer evening… All from the comfort of our own desktops. Or smart phones. The 21st century storyteller is everywhere you are.

Of course, flanerie still serves the storyteller well, but his boulevards have been extended exponentially. I am an unabashed flaneur, but not just in the Baudelarian sense. I’m an urban flaneur, but I’m also a rural flaneur. I’m a café and sidewalk flaneur, but I’m also a digital flaneur. And I’m collecting and curating 24×7 (to the occasional regret of my bride and friends, I hesitate to add.)

I apologize. I understand that not everyone wants to be onstage all the time. Not everyone wants to have their almost lofty soufflé or their offkey arias recorded for posterity. I get it. I’m with you.

But, I can’t resist. You’re interesting. Not just your eyebrows and your bacon and your cello practice and your seemy backstory and your perennially deflated soufflé and your upside down melodies. You.

But rest assured that mine is an imperfect lens, a distorted microphone. I won’t steel your soul. I promise. I can’t. It’s yours as long as you choose to nourish it. I will borrow liberally, borrow, not steel, and I’ll do so with a sometimes distorted, always playful filter.

Will you lend me the mischievous glimmer in your eye when I ask you what you want for Christmas? Will you lend me the fierce gate, knees high, hips restrained, stride impossibly long that I remember from the first time I watched you walk toward your airplane when heading back to New York City from Paris? Will you lend me your hurt and confusion and quirks and dreams?

I’ll do my best never to betray you, and I’ll always resist your soul.

I promise.

virtualDavis Caricature #2

virtualDavis Caricature #2

virtualDavis Caricature #2

Remember the last caricature experiment? This next virtualDavis caricature was created by a gifted digital artist who goes by konko on fiverr. He was a friendly fellow and I’m considering having him create some additional images, this time of non-virtualDavis subjects. Vanity be damned! You can check out some examples of konko’s digital artwork in his online portfolio.

Soon I’ll share another fiverr caricature, an image that endows me with a fatter but tougher look. Until then, you might want to invest five of your own hard-earned ducats in a personal caricature to adorn your holiday card. Or your business card? Might be a handy way to let clients know you don’t take yourself too seriously. Of course, if you’re a surgeon or an attorney, you might want to pass on this genius idea. Back to the drawing board…

I’m not sure what I like so much about caricatures, except they seem to offer a self-deprecating way of looking at ourselves. And that’s categorically a good thing!

Have you ever noticed how many realtors include their photograph when advertising the properties they are listing? It’s weird. If I’m looking for a house, use that extra space in your ad to show me the kitchen, the back yard, the bathrooms. We’re in love with our own images. In the age of social media, we eagerly post pictures of ourselves all over the place. I’m no exception. Google keeps track, so there’s no denying it. But — despite frequent advice to the contrary — I tend to post goofy pictures of myself. Snapshots in quirky hats are a favorite. In other words, I try not to take myself too seriously, inviting others to chuckle when they see my photos. If I ever run for president, this may come back to haunt me, but I see it as being a bit like caricatures.

When I was young, there used to be a Mexican restaurant in Plattsburgh, NY called the Tijuana Jail where caricatures covered the ceiling. Diners who frequented the restaurant were eventually memorialized in exaggerated cartoons for the amusement of others. Both of my parents were up there, looking about as silly as they’ve ever looked. I never asked them, but I’d guess they liked being up there on the ceiling for everyone to laugh at. And probably all of the others did too. I hope so.

Sarah Kay: Seth Godin’s Last Domino

Seth Godin's Last Domino: Publication of Sarah Kay's poem "B" marks the end  of the year long Domino Project.

Seth Godin is turning the page on The Domino Project following publication of Sarah Kay's poem "B".

“Projects are fun to start, but part of the deal is that they don’t last forever.” ~ Seth Godin

A year after Seth Godin launched The Domino Project he’s calling it quits. He summed up the takeaways in his post, “The last hardcover” which merits more rumination (preferably with several friends including an author, a publisher, and editor, an agent and a bottle of eighteen year old Laphroaig,) but absent the minds and the bottle of Scotch at 9:00am in my study, I’ll limit myself to an invitation and a few amuse-gueules.

First off, why’d he quit? What did he learn. And why’d he do it in the first place?

“The plan was to build a publishing imprint, powered by Amazon and filled with thoughtful books by inspired authors.” ~ Seth Godin

Right. So it was an experiment, Godin’s a laboratory for testing “what could be done in a fast-changing environment. Rather than whining about the loss of the status quo, I thought it would be interesting to help invent a new status quo and learn some things along the way.” (“The last hardcover”) Did you catch that? Godin stepped away from the traditional publishing world which had become increasingly bogged down in neigh saying and resisting the rapidly evolving publishing industry in order to help reinvent the publishing industry! That’s an ambitious experiment by my yardstick. And by his own estimation, it was a largely successful experiment.

It’s worth noting that even envisioning, announcing and launching The Domino Project was a successful experiment. The impact was real and the aftershocks are still tickling the tummies of the publishing industry. But catalyzing debate, driving change and incubating/publishing “twelve bestsellers, published in many languages around the world” is only part of the equation, you can bet on that. Savant Seth’s projects are rarely so tidy. They have tentacles and afterlives… He’s experimenting again. Authors need closure. Start a book; finish a book. Go on to the next. You can be sure that the phoenix already incubating amidst The Domino Project ashes will rise again, will rise soon, and will awe/shock many.

Prime time to reference Sarah Kay‘s short poem B, The Domino Project’s dazzling caboose and one of TEDTalks’ most riveting performances. Did you see it?

“There are plenty of things that I have trouble understanding, so I write poems to figure things out. Sometimes the only way I know how to work through something is by writing a poem. And sometimes I get to the end of the poem and look back and go, “Oh, that’s what this is all about.” And sometimes I get to the end of the poem and haven’t solved anything, but at least I have a new poem out of it.” ~ Sarah Kay

I understand this as if I’d written it, spoken it, myself. I wonder, wander and write to figure things out, to discover and ponder and sometimes even untangle the mysteries and adventures which swirl around me. Sometimes, not often. But at least I have the poem, the story, the journey. I suspect that Godin nodded his shiny pate when he first heard Sarah Kay explain what compels her to create poetry. I suspect that he realized Kay’s poem was the perfect way to conclude an experiment that had succeeded before it began, an experiment that discovered more mysteries and more adventures than it untangled or resolved. Whether a book, another project or a still unfathomable experiment, I’m confident that Godin’s next experiment will both awe and shock in the tradition of the best poets and oracles.

Until then, I offer you several remaining bite-sized-but-brain-busting amuse-gueules to challenge your own experiments.

“The ebook is a change agent like none the book business has ever seen. It cuts the publishing time cycle by 90%, lowers costs, lowers revenue and creates both a long tail and an impulse-buying opportunity. This is the most disruptive thing to happen to books in four hundred years.” ~ Seth Godin

“There is still (and probably will be for a while) a market for collectible editions, signed books and other special souvenirs that bring the emotional component of a book to the fore. While most books merely deliver an idea or a pasttime, for some books and some readers, there’s more than just words on paper. Just as vinyl records persist, so will books… because there’s something special about molecules and scarcity.” ~ Seth Godin

“If you’re an author, pick yourself. Don’t wait for a publisher to pick you. And if you work for a big publishing house, think really hard about the economics of starting your own permission-based ebook publisher.” ~ Seth Godin

“Publishing is about passion and writing is a lifestyle, not a shortcut to a mansion and a Porsche. Bestselling authors are like golfers who hit holes in one. It’s a nice thing, but there are plenty of people who will keep playing even without one.” ~ Seth Godin

By the time you read this post, the publishing industry will have already changed again. It’s changing that fast. Faster! If we learn nothing more from The Domino Project it is to stop lamenting, denying and resisting. Start inventing.

“This world is made out of sugar. It can crumble so easily, but don’t be afraid to reach out and taste it… never stop asking for more.” ~ Sarah Kay

I invite you to stop whining and start inventing!

Buggy Microsoft Mail Merge

Microsoft Office 2008 (for Mac) is driving me craaazzzyyy!

Microsoft Office 2008 (for Mac) is driving me craaazzzyyy!

There is a bug in MailMerge for Office 2008 where all the names of the categories don’t show up by name; so you may see no text next to some of the checkboxes. It’s highly aggravating if your mailing list happens to be one of the categories that doesn’t show up. If that’s the case, the only solution I have found is to try each of the checkboxes, one at a time, and see which one has the number of records that matches your mailing list. So yes, trial and error. (How To Use Mail Merge in Office 2008 for Mac to Print a Holiday Mailing List on Labels)

Mail merging on my old DOS box in the 1980′s was pretty easy. Mail merging on all of my PCs in the 1990′s was easy. Even a handful of Mac mail merge experiences during my college years working on the student lit mag and summer jobs as a dock boy on Lake Champlain were pretty effortless. Old technology. Straightforward. Painless.

But I’ve been trying to print labels for our holiday cards using Microsoft Word (as part of the Office 2008 suite for Mac), and I’m seriously ready to start mashing things… What the heck?!?!

How can one of the simplest processes personal computers solved decades ago be sooo clunky? I couldn’t even find decent instruction within Word or Entourage (aka Outlook, where my addresses are stored) and had to hit up Google for step-by-step guidance. And I quickly realized that my question and frustration is not unique.

What is going on here? Is this a sign of the times? Have we allowed mail merge for print to slide by the wayside because nobody’s interested in paper anymore? Is Microsoft behind the national trend away from a self sustaining postal service? Is this another hint of the global digital-only future?

Mail merge should be easy. If for no other reason than businesses need it. Real people who send out mass mailings, invitations and holiday cards need it. Come on, it’s mail merge, folks. I know it’s “old school” and inevitably obsolescent. But not that “old school”! Not that obsolescent! I mean, I’m not asking for bug-free Morse Code or windless smoke signals…

Here’s the thing. I want my word processor to be able to talk to my address management software, and I want to be able to spit out labels. Or envelopes. Or — gawd-for-flippin’-bid — actual, mail merged letters without bugs. Without pulling my hair out. Without wanting to chuck my Mac out the window and cardiopulmonary resuscitate my creaky old Dell just to send out holiday cards. It should be easy. Intuitive. Quick. Bug free!

Thanks to the Ivanexpert.com, I’m stumbling forward, though not 100% successful yet. Thanks to my bride getting our holiday cards off the to-do list and into production, I’m fumbling and grumbling. Thanks to you, tolerant reader, I’m feeling vented and decidedly better. Have a nice day, and happy holidays!

Mindfulness and Flânerie

Just another listless dreamer...

New Yorker marginalia by virtualDavis via Flickr

Linda Hollier’s Mindfulness and The Flâneur examines a topic near and dear to my heart, soul and senses: flânerie.

I’m honored to be mentioned and grateful because she inspired me to update my Metro Flaneur post with a list of my favorite flanerie miscellanea. But ego and overdue “housekeeping” are just the tip of the iceberg.

Ms. Hollier (@lindahollier) is positing an insight that intuitively resonates truth to me, but which I’ve never before heard.

Speed, whether online or offline, is a characteristic of the modern world. The flâneur reminds us to set the pace of our own lives.

Cast as a character in the 21st century drama of life, the flâneur thus begins to play the role of consciousness. (here2here)

Amen. The pace and the scope. Flânerie demands an elasticity of time and space. Freedom to meander, to lose oneself in the other, perhaps even to become the other without fully detaching from self. For a while.

Anthropologist Grant McCracken reflection on Joy Walking comes to mind.

It’s a little like joy riding, except we’re not stealing cars, we’re stealing moments. Joy walking happens when we leave the house or office and start walking. We don’t have a plan. We just go… We step in and out of people’s lives. Couples in love, couples at war…  The tiny courtesies and rudenesses of public life… The key is to get out and about. To get away. To see what you can see. Steal a moment. Make it your own. (PsychologyToday.com)

Ms. Hollier’s suggestion that flânerie and conscioussness may overlap is intriguing, an idea worth passing along to my mother who’s a student of Buddhism and a proponent of mindfulness. Let’s see if I can get her to weigh in. Stay tuned.

Off to meander the digital meadow with the mingling masses…

Update:

Great news. My mother, Melissa Davis, shared her impression. Thanks, mom! Here’s what the wise lady thinks:

Mindfulness, flaneuring and turtles

Reading this after an abbreviated mindful yoga session with Jon K-Z (on tape), I am delighted to chime in. Linda Hollier’s reference to turtles on leashes reminds me of walking with a 2- or 3-year old, a great flaneur opportunity. I recently grandparented my 3-year old granddaughter for a week which required walking her to preschool and back in Georgetown, a fascinating place where equipment and men with shovels were digging up the ancient trolley tracks. Took us forever – which was as good as it gets – even better than a turtle because she had a couple of feet more within her purview AND she asked questions!

Years ago I read a NYTimes op ed that shared the unscientific findings of a city dweller observing adults accompanying small children around a neighborhood in Manhattan. She reported that the majority of them pushed strollers which ensured timely arrivals wherever the adult was headed. She contrasted them with the handful of adults who walked – meandered – alongside their youngsters, stopping to examine every interesting flower or bit of flotsam along the way. She pointed out that there was nothing more important for a child that age to do than poke along – and through – every curiosity.

I think flaneuring is like drawing, something we are born with but that schedules and school steal from us. I agree that mindfulness – being totally present in the moment – goes hand in hand (or leash) with flaneuring. I am not surprised that so many people wonder if they ate, lose their keys, forget names, obsess about how stressed they are given the mindless speed that propels them through their days. A little daily flaneuring would sort them right out! (Melissa Davis)

Amen! Way to go, mom. Just goes to show that my decision to meander the digital meadow with the mingling masses yesterday restored the cosmic balance, inspiring my mother to opine. Perhaps I should meander the soggy non-digital meadow this afternoon?

Related articles:

Gutenberg, Meet Amazon

Johannes Gutenberg (c. 1398-1468)

Johannes Gutenberg (Image via Wikipedia)

If you write or in any other way participate in the world of book publishing you’ll enjoy reading “Amazon Signs Up Authors, Writing Publishers Out of Deal“. Wait, enjoy is probably the wrong word for what some will feel… Angst, perhaps?

It’s an update on Amazon’s publishing inroads. Major inroads!

Of course, Amazon execs are playing down their recent victories, and they’re dismissing traditional publishers’ doomsday moans and groans.

“It’s always the end of the world,” said Russell Grandinetti, one of Amazon’s top executives. “You could set your watch on it arriving.” 

He pointed out, though, that the landscape was in some ways changing for the first time since Gutenberg invented the modern book nearly 600 years ago. “The only really necessary people in the publishing process now are the writer and reader,” he said. “Everyone who stands between those two has both risk and opportunity.”(NYTimes.com)

Risk and opportunity. Amazon risks pissing off the old guard while gobbling up their lunch. But I, as a storyteller/writer/reader/listener/watcher, the increasingly intimate writer-to-reader relationship that stands to grow stronger, closer and less complicated. Right?

Not so fast, suggest some critics.

Amazon’s publishing program… positions Amazon as agent, editor, and publisher… putting Amazon in direct competition with the world of publishing.(ConsumerReports.org)

And this full frontal assault stands to complicate writers’ situations, at least for a while. Kiana Davenport’s story serves as a warning to writers who try to straddle the opportunity with one foot in traditional publishing and the other in the Amazon world of publishing. I suspect her story is not unique.

Davenport’s infraction was ostensibly innocent enough. While Riverhead Books, a division of Penguin, prepared to launch her novel, The Chinese Soldier’s Daughter, she attempted to beef up her platform by self publishing Cannibal Nights, a collection of twenty year old short stories, as an Amazon ebook. Penguin promptly spanked her by pulling her book deal and demanding that she return her $20,000 advance.

“They’re trying to set an example: If you self-publish and distribute with Amazon, you do so at your own risk,” said Jan Constantine, a lawyer with the Authors Guild who has represented Ms. Davenport.

The writer knows her crime: “Sleeping with the enemy.”(NYTimes.com)

While Amazon is busy rewriting the rules of book publishing the old guard is lashing out, trying to preserve an increasingly unsustainable business model. Time is a reliable resolver of such conflicts, and though we may one day lament certains aspects of the transition, making examples of industrious, self-promoting authors strikes me as a desperate and futile exercise.

As Amazon accelerates it’s challenge to traditional publishing do the opportunities outweigh the risks? Or should self-publishers cower in fear?

I conclude with a thoughtful (but unfortunately unacredited) reflection posted at Instapundit:

Amazon isn’t getting rid of publishers, it’s becoming a publisher. This means the group that controls the distribution also controls the content selection. Not exactly a blow for the Army of Davids in my opinion — when all the publishers are gone, who will publish the books critical of Amazon? Bottom line: It’s not getting rid of middlemen, it’s just muscling them out so it’s the only middleman. It does however reveal that in the age of digital publishing, discoverability and promotion on the digital storefront is the only thing that actually matters. The role of publishers in curation is almost totally abrogated to the sellers. When anyone can publish a book, it’s no longer the publishers that are the gating factor to what we read, it’s the digital storefront. It’s a very interesting shift and definitely good news for Amazon and the like. (Instapundit)

Hat tip to Kathryn Reinhardt for referring the article, “Amazon Signs Up Authors, Writing Publishers Out of Deal“, to me.

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