Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Are Waterstones as Mad as a Hatter?

Today I received a terse email from Waterstones:

“We see from our records that you have previously purchased an eBook from Waterstones.com whilst having a registered address outside of the UK and Ireland.”

Eight, actually. Oh, dear! What have I done? Broken some ancient ritualistic more? Driven sheep up the high street at Mickelmas? Sold a virgin a coloured headscarf? It gets worse.

“We regret that with immediate effect, we are no longer able to sell eBooks to customers placing an order from anywhere outside of the UK and Ireland.”

It’s a bank raid alert! Are granite-faced villains smuggling Bank of England layout plans hidden in downloaded Harry Potters? Is Alice’s Mad Hatter really crazy? Put that teapot down and raise your paws, rabbit!

Maybe Kathleen Winsor’s classic novel has been re-titled “Forever Amber Alert.”

But no. It’s just dear old Waterstones getting fusty again without thinking it through.

Let me explain: I live in Spain. One million expat Brits live in Spain. All read books in, wait for it, English. Now not all of them have an e-reader, but who’s to say they won’t in the future. It’s a safe bet a lot will if current trends continue.

They buy goods from a thousand UK companies from Lakeland to Marks & Sparks. Christmas will see the internet humming with goods to loved ones in Blighty. Millions of pounds worth, coming and going both ways.

But not from Waterstones, oh, no. They mince around with mealy mouthed phrases about ‘territories into which we can sell ebooks.’

Here comes a new technology product and immediately some Adolf wants total control. On the Internet, for heaven’s sake. Don’t they know those spooky airwaves travel over oceans and mountains? So the million English speaking Brits in the Iberian Peninsular must get their future downloads in their mother tongue from where, exactly?

Well, we’re already doing it. If I tell you where, these greedbags will try to stop it. I’ll give you a clue. It’s where you get all those aggravating spam messages for Viagra and the like. Now the e-book trade wants to drive book downloading underground, too.

Isn’t progress wonderful.

Is the Tate missing the point?

Ready to Wear 1999 by Angela de la Cruz. Short listed.

It's the annual Tate Britain shindig for the Turner Prize in December. Always controversial, it's a great way to see the work of up-and-coming artists, whether you agree with the winning choice or not. Edgy art, outrageous art and obtuse message art vie for the £25,000 prize.

What a pity, then that the organizers don't show the same entrepreneurial zeal the artists do. On press day the gallery tried to make photographers sign a contract stating that their published work "must not result in any adverse publicity for the Tate." Obviously, many refused to sign and walked away, including the Evening Standard, Reuters and the Press Association.

What are these people at the Tate on? Do they think that press cameramen decide what goes into their publications? There are Night Editors and Editors whose job is to decide that. The poor camera guy is lucky if they even talk to him. So the Tate can 'publish' whatever they like on their walls, including dead sheep in formaldehyde, but the press can't? Who has made the Turner Prize such big business? Pictures in the Tate catalogue? No, it's the press men and the huge publicity it receives annually.

Do grow up, Tate - there's no such thing as bad publicity!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Eat, Pray, Love & Talk

Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love, in which a divorced woman finds herself through a world journey, gave this speech to the famed TED conference. She entitled it "a different way to think about creative genius" and it's very entertaining and somewhat enlightening, too. She has a site here. If the movie is half as good as her speaking then it will be a treat.

For those who might not have found TED yet, he's not a man, the letters stand for Technology, Entertainment, Design, and these conferences, held each year in Palm Springs, Long Beach and Oxford, England, carry the title, "Ideas Worth Spreading." The speakers are inspirational figures from all walks of life and the podcasts are free on their site with many fascinating speakers. Well worth a visit.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Covering the Chile miners for only £100,000

What wonderful images came out of the Chile miners rescue. I watched in one sitting fascinated from 1 to 33. Utterly compelling news coverage.

However, the dear old BBC spent £100,000 sending 26 people to the mine shaft, set up camp two hundred yards away, along with the world's media - and proceeded to broadcast Chilean State TV coverage. The great images of the rescue capsule at the mine head and in the chamber with the 33 trapped men were all delivered by the government TV men. The presenter, Tim Wilcox, wittered on from half a mile away, forgetting his lines and standing looking at the back of a crowd of pressmen with insightful coverage such as "Maria is the mayor of the relatives encampment, if only you could see her. She really is a character, if she were here."

Meanwhile the stills boys were producing brilliant reportage photography such as this:

Hey, it's only license payer's money.