Thursday, May 31, 2012

July 2012 intake for Silverfish Writing Programme

The next intake for the Silverfish Writing Programme will be on 14 July 2012, and run for 10 Saturdays from 10.30am to 12.30pm, and will be opened for registration in early June 2012. The past few programmes have been extremely popular and we have had to turn away many late inquiries, because the maximum number of participants we can accommodate is 10(ten). So we encourage those who are interested to register early, and avoid a last minute rush. (Please, also, tell your friends who are interested.) The registration fee will be RM1000.00 per participant for the full ten week programme, but an early bird discount of 10% will apply until (and including) June 30, 2012.

The world is full of stories. Humans are the strangest of all animals. We may miss meals (ask your teenager buried in a book or your aunt or mum hooked on a television soap) but not our stories. Even in famine stricken zones, while people wait for the food trucks to arrive, they tell one another stories to keep alive. In war zones, where life is in danger every single minute, people cannot resist telling stories. All religions have tons of stories that are constantly repeated. Stories are part of our very being, our claim to be human.

We are surrounded by stories every waking minute of the day. When we turn on our radio or television to listen to the news, or to watch a drama or sitcom or even a cooking show, when we open our newspapers or surf the net for news, when we go to the movies, to a dance, listen to a song, or look at a painting, when we go to the office, pitch a proposal to our boss, our clients, meet our co-workers when we relax over tea and gossip, or tell them about our day, or listen to their stories. When we read books, we read stories. And stories will make us laugh or cry or angry, and dozens of other things. We will love characters or we hate them. Good stories never leave us indifferent. We have a desperate need to tell stories in whatever form. That’s why some of us want to become writers: to tell our stories. But what do publisher's want?

That's what the Silverfish Writing Programme is all about: what publishers are looking for.


AFCC: Malaysia as Country of Focus next year

Mr Ramachandran, Executive Director of the National Book Development Council of Singapore, announced on Monday, 28 May 2012 that Malaysia will be the 'Country of Focus' at next year's Asian Festival of Children's Content (AFCC). Now in its fourth year, the AFCC is held annually in Singapore to promote Asian content for children. More than 80 sessions were organised during the Festival covering topics on writing, illustrating, editing, translating, apps for children and critique sessions. Book launches and author signings added to the buzz and there was also an inaugural rights fair. An estimate of more than 700 people attended over 80 sessions held over the four days while total attendance from the public at various events were estimated at 3000. Sixteen countries from Asia, South Africa, UK and US were represented at the AFCC. This year's country of focus was the Philippines which made a strong showing with 10 speakers, a stand showcasing books from the Philippines accompanied by musical performances. Norhayati Razali, officer at the Kota Buku, a body set up to promote the Malaysian book industry, said the Kota Buku is pleased to play a leading role for Malaysia's participation at AFCC 2013 which will be held from 25-28 May 2013.

Picture shows Malaysian artist Yusof Gajah and his wife, Zakiah with Norhayati with Mr. Ramachandran. Yusof Gajah was an invited guest at the AFCC, and conducted his popular picture-book workshop in Malay, as he did last year.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Why is Apple settling in Europe but not in the US?

The latest news is that Apple has offered to settle its e-book price fixing charge in Europe, but vows to fight a a similar battle in America because the charges against it by the Department of Justice are "simply not true". reports, Apple Offers E-Book Settlement: But Only in Europe, "The technology company was initially tight-lipped about the US case but last week broke its silence to declare itself innocent and paint itself as a hero for breaking Amazon’s “monopolistic grip”. It said the iPad’s bookstore “fostered innovation and competition ... However, it has taken an altogether different approach in Brussels. JoaquĆ­n Almunia, the European Union competition commissioner, said he has received settlement offers from Apple and all the publishers other than Penguin."

One speculation (by contributor, Tim Worstall) is, "As to why the settlement in Europe I have a sneaking suspicion it’s because of the size of the potential fines," implying that Apple might be trying to stave out a potential hefty fine. Maybe. But I am inclined to think that Apple is gambling on Europe being more sympathetic towards it because it genuinely thinks it is promoting competition, and saving the world from the likes of Amazon.

It is in Europe's DNA to side with the underdog, to protect workers and small businesses (known, derisively, as socialism in America), especially in an industry it gets very emotional about and regards as a cultural heritage. When Amazon implemented free shipping in France, it was found to be in violation of a law that disallowed unfair discounting of books. Amazon already has a reputation for being the bad guy in Europe. Apple might genuinely think that it would get a fairer deal across the pond.

In the US, Amazon's practices are seen (by some) as morally wrong but not illegal. Scorched earth business practices are legal in America; as long as consumers 'benefit', jobs can be bangalored, and small businesses shuttered. The stated goal of antitrust laws is "consumer protection", which critics say does everything but.

All that might be changing, though. Wendy Milling says in another story in, The DOJ's Mugging Of Apple Reminds Us That Antitrust Is Theft, "The absurdity of the Department of Justice’s latest antitrust charges against Apple has prompted a long overdue re-evaluation of the validity of antitrust doctrine." She adds, "If an e-book seller (Amazon) charges a price so low it takes a loss on its e-books to gain market share, no charges are filed. If publishers (HarperCollins, Penguin, etc.) agree to an agency model that decreases their total revenue on e-books, charges are filed."

Will Apple be instrumental in changing the world yet again?