Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Talking Of Books

publish #01
publish #01 (Photo credit: mediamolecule)
As usual, my fears were unfounded. I had a blast yesterday talking to pupils from the Dubai American Academy. I took them on a quick run through some proofs of 'McNabb's Mantra' (TM), the Book of Kells vs Caxton's first print; 'hot metal' typesetting vs DTP and CDs vs the iPod. The Mantra?

Quality becomes irrelevant where technology improves access.

I frequently argue with people who say they want to 'curl up with a good book' and couldn't imagine reading without the sensual quality of a book, the feel of the paper, the smell etc.As you may have guessed, I think this is twaddle. I have read more books in the year since I acquired a Kindle than perhaps at any time before (65 books bought and read in 2011). Because the Kindle gives me access to any book I want, when I want it. Instantly. And because it's the words that transport me, not the carrier medium. The quality of a book is in the words and as long as they're legible and the carrier is convenient and pleasant to use, I don't really care what the carrier medium is.

We then segued into the transformation of publishing, how disintermediation is looming like a Balrog over the publishing industry - and how I'd picked this time of Fear and Loathing to try and get published. And then we moved onto self publishing and, inevitably, Olives.

There were no questions at the end, then one timid hand went up. And then they came thick and fast. How had I researched the book? What made me want to write a book in the first place? Is there any money in it? Why did I pick the Middle East? Why 'a violent romance'? My favourite question came last: "You mentioned you hated school. Why?" I got my first belly laugh with my impersonations of my schoolmasters who were, in the main, a thoroughly eccentric lot, but it was an impromptu impersonation of a Sikh crane driver that had 'em howling...

I came away impressed with the Dubai American Academy. It has a massive library and a keen librarian. It's a big school, some 2,400 pupils, but there's a happy, busy vibe to the place I liked instantly. The kids were fun, much more engaged than I'd feared (and nobody threw anything at me) and bright as buttons. During my introduction onstage, I learned that last year they'd had Jefferey Deaver in to talk to 'em, so no pressure there. But I think I'm safe in saying Deaver didn't use the word 'masturbate' during his talk. Know your audience, Jeff. Know your audience.
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