Saturday, December 01, 2012

The next intake for the Silverfish Writing Programme will be on Jan 19, 2012, and run for 10 consecutive weeks (except for holidays) from 10.30am to 12.30pm, and will be opened for registration on Dec 1, 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). We have to date received 30 inquiries already. So we encourage those who are interested to register early, and avoid a last minute rush. (Please, tell your friends who are interested, too.) 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) Jan 1, 2012.

The world is full of stories. Humans are the only story telling animals on the planet. 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.


The Retail Superpower

Booksellers Resisting Amazon’s Disruption says a report by David Streitfeld in The New York Times. “Amazon inspires anxiety just about everywhere, but its publishing arm is getting pushback from all sorts of booksellers, who are scorning the imprint’s most prominent title, Timothy Ferriss’s The 4-Hour Chef."

It is indeed rich that Amazon requires brick-and-mortar bookshops to display its titles so customers can browse through the books before buying it online from them. Why would bookshops want to do that? Has book selling come a full circle then? Barnes & Noble will not carry Amazon’s books. Other large physical and digital stores, too. “Many independents ... will do nothing to help ... a company they feel is hellbent on their destruction.” Touché.

On another front, Walmart and Target have stopped selling the Kindle, worried that it’s a Trojan horse. So, why are these two retail giants nervous?

Trojan horse

In the book world there is one superpower. (The Penguin-Random House merger potentially creates another, but that’s left to be seen.) It’s amazing that after all these years Amazon is still said in the same breath as books, although Amazon has been selling more than books for so many years now. It started as a bookshop in 1995 and didn’t make money for 5 years, until the investors got nervous, and it diversified. It’s current catalogue includes DVDs, CDs, MP3 downloads, software, video games, electronics, apparel, furniture, food, toys, and jewellery. Amazon is a departmental store, and has been one for a decade.

There is a rumour that Amazon wants to get into the wine business. After that what? Cheese and crackers? Well, anything really. In the sixties, before the days of the supermarket, mother would draw up her monthly grocery list, telephone the store, and have the orders delivered or readied for pick-up. Is it inconceivable that Amazon has not seen that opportunity? A market of 300 million, all to themselves? You don’t think Amazon could be that unscrupulous?

The future is digital; it’s time brick-and-mortar stores get used to that. So what are they to do? If the likes of Walmart and Target are smart, they’d produce their own stripped down version of the Kindle, dedicated for shopping at their stores, and give them away to their customers. Alternatively, they could develop shopping apps for Android and iOS.