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Thursday 7 September 2017

Much the same

What goes around comes, around. Aware of my absence from these pages for quite some time I picked up the threads with a tweet that bounced into an email this morning with a sense of deja-vu.

Amazon and the big publishers apparently having a bit of a barny about ebook pricing. Amazon's VP of Kindle Content, David Naggar, in the Daily Mail suggested the publishers drop their ebook prices to match the 99c price tag offered by the self-published and Independents on Amazon.

It didn't go down well and the Daily Mail and the Bookseller take the story further.

For me, it was like picking up an old chestnut. The shine had gone and the familiar wrinkles and dark tones were there, nestling in the palm of my hand.
A familiar tale and one that could be easily discerned as settled into two halves, Indie Self and Big Pub.

Yes, 99c can sell, and it does. However the danger lurks in the price that the Indie is undervaluing the work.

Stack it high and sell it cheap has lifted more than one supermarket or trader to a dominant place in the market, but that wasn't the thing that made me smile.

Publishing is a game of two halves, Independent and the Big publishing houses. Bill Shankly, the legendary manager of Liverpool once said about football being more serious than a matter of life and death. To paraphrase and shift the context slightly, he was commenting on the dedication needed to succeed.

The analogy can be transferred; Now, there are a handful of major publishing houses, and within their corporate body are the remnants of many smaller publishers, whose names linger like ghosts as imprints of the commercial giants. Consumed in the drive to survive and succeed.

I digress slightly, the analogy that came to mind is occasionally attributed to the early days of sport's coverage on the radio, but may be much older.

Back to square one.

As far back as the Nineteen Thirties, Association football, soccer, was regularly covered by the BBC and a helpful grid was provided in the Radio Times magazine, dividing the pitch into numbered segments, and during the game the announcer would report that play had moved back to square one. Urban legend tagged that as the original of the phrase.

I don't really think Football can take the credit here, although it's a good one for the pub.

The tradition of football commentary and the distortions of language that accompany it have become a part and parcel of the English language. The Plain English Campaign, an organisation focused on the demolition of gobbledygook have a variation of their gobbledygook generator dedicated to the language of the football commentator.

There is a traditional children's favourite that goes back to the late 17th Century that begins and ends on Square One, a much more likely originator.

Hopscotch; the numbered boxes can be chalked, scratched in the dirt or the sand, perhaps painted on to the schoolyard. The player moves along the squares, starting at one and progressing to the highest, which can be either eight or ten, and then returns to number one.

Having been away from the blog for a while - pretty much most of the summer. Coming back to it has a similar feel, of going back to square one,  and the ebook pricing discussion reinforced the feeling.

I may be exaggerating, but it's how I feel right now, so, here we go again.
What is the optimum price for an ebook, assuming it doesn't come free.
How much does the price of an ebook influence your appreciation of the quality of the work?

Something for the experienced and the aspiring independent to weigh in the balance, and I'm not sure their is a wrong answer to either of them.