Edgy, underivative British author breaks with tradition by going electric
The Hay-on-Wye Literary festival descended into chaos then farce yesterday when edgy new British author Sebastian De la Proull broke with tradition and read extracts of his new novel from a Kindle, a type of electronic book.
This enraged the audience, comprised mainly of Guardian journalists, who hurled their blackberries and laptops at De la Proull before storming the stage to retrieve them and write their reports on the furore.
A bewildered De La Proull fled to safety but was eventually coaxed back by compere Alan Yentob. There were further delays however when the offending Kindle was taken to the Guardian Media Tent and the required pages printed out. With the crowd pacified, a clearly shaken De La Proull was able to read on from his novel, a trendy, underivative look at multicultural Britain.
Speaking later a Guardian journalist said, ‘We come to Hay-On-Wye for the words. But they need to be on the paper, it’s the spirit of the thing, you know? I’m no luddite, I have a Kindle myself. And a Sony e-reader. And an iPhone and iPod touch. I still have my first iPod classic and a Nano that i’ve had framed and mounted on my wall. But we come here to get away from all that, it’s an important lesson for us all.’
Guardian News and Media lost over £25m last year
Suitability of books as fuel called into question
By Richie Parentis – Straight from sixth-form to your national newspaper!
Long a topic of contention in the bookselling world, the practice of ‘re-listing’ is now under wider scrutiny for its role in the fuel shortages that have gripped Britain over the past couple of weeks.
As coal and gas supplies dwindled Pensioners and lower income families resorted to using books as fuel, only to find more than a third of estimated book supplies were drop-shipped re-listed phantom stock, totally unsuited for burning.
Re-listing is the process whereby an online bookseller lists another dealer’s book as their own and, in the event of a sale, simply orders from the original seller with the buyer’s details. Thus the innocent consumer searching, say, for Heidi’s Bedtime Stories: Erotic Quickies for Men and Women, at popular sites such as AbeBooks.com or Amazon, may see pages and pages of copies that, tragically, do not exist. Something people up and down Britain have just learnt the hard way.
The government has tried to deflect criticism for misjudging the supply of books. A statement issued today from the Department of Trade and Industry read: ‘We were informed that there were enough unsold copies of Yellow Dog and Shalimar the Clown to see us through the winter. We had no reason at all to doubt this.’
Though most have gone to ground, I was able to meet with a re-lister and get her side of the story. Joanne Downs has been re-listing and drop-shipping for the past two years but is now considering a change of career. Whilst she admits some responsibility for the crisis, she believes re-listers are being demonised. ‘I hold my hands up but people need to understand that we’re suffering like everyone else. We don’t have any books either, which is sort of the whole point.’
In a bold move that news agencies are calling a bold move, online retailer Amazon.com today took extreme measures to protect their market share by annihilating all of humanity – ironically enough on a day designated by booksellers as a celebration of the independent trade.
Roads leading out of major cities were empty as major city-dwellers rushed online to blog about the attack, including retail analyst James McMurphison, whose opinion I now pass off as if it were newsworthy: ‘What I’m hearing, what people are saying to me, is that this is a bold move. Beyond that, I don’t know.’
Humanity sent its champion, Johnny Depp, to offer Amazon our unconditional surrender, including a promise that all items that can be bought and sold are done so via Amazon, as well as new legislation on physical rights management that will mean that all consumer items are effectively ‘on loan’ from the Seattle based company.
Despite Depp’s effeminate good looks and interesting career choices, negotiators are, in private, pessimistic about his chances. Amazon have shown in the past that they can go years without making a profit just to ensure their market position and are well placed to survive in a world devoid of humanity.
Following on from the massive success of David Fincher’s Oscar nominated re-telling of the rise of Facebook, The Social Network, comes news of a film detailing the history of web uber-retailer Amazon and their founder, Jeff Bezos.
Directed by Michael Winner, The Anti-Social Network will mirror its predecessor’s Citizen Kane-like plot and suggest that Bezos’ business strategies were a result of being spurned by a beguiling bookstore owner, played by Lindsay Lohan; and a ravishing record store owner, played by RnB diva Rihanna; and a kooky Electrics store owner, played by Zooey Deschanel; and the owner of a Diaper supplier; and the owner of an Arts and Crafts store; and the owner of a DIY showroom; and the owner of etc. etc.
But unlike the semi-tragic ending of The Social Network, Winner promises us a happy finale where Bezos annihilates his lost loves and their businesses, uttering his popular and sinister catchphrase ‘And you’re done!’
Whereas Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was less than enamoured by his recent portrayal, Bezos, who resides on a throne constructed entirely of office chairs, has given the movie his blessing – providing Amazon is supplied with the DVD release at 10% of the RRP and 70 years before their competitors, marginally better terms than they’d usually demand.
Before his tragic and mysterious death earlier today, we caught up with famed nonagenarian book dealer Eustace Rashburn to get the inside story of his life in bookselling and his remarkable entry into the trade…
I suppose my entry into the trade was, on the whole, unremarkable. I took the route favoured by most bookmen of my era: that of being abandoned as a baby in the aisles of my local bookstore. There were few of my contemporaries who didn’t get their start in this way. Though I think I was luckier than most, as my parents chose for me J.J. Comusterball’s Colchester shop. A quiet establishment but one whose rats would rarely bite and whose stock was free of the most virulent fungi – a serious hazard to the nascent lungs of the budding bookman.
Even so, growing up amongst the books was a hard life. So much so that when I finally revealed myself to Mr. Comusterball at the age of seven, I was in quite a state: malnourished, covered in dust, suffering from severe foxing. Comusterball, possessed, as he was, of advanced years and unaccustomed to surprises, dropped dead at the sight of me and since he had no employees or living relatives, the running of his shop fell to me.
Nowadays one would blanch at the idea of a seven year old owning a business but it was, as it was, a different time. Some would say a better time, a time when a young man could strike out on his own and make something of himself. Not me though. I ran that business into the ground in less than a week, unable, as I was, to work the cash register or to speak.
It wasn’t long before the London trade got wind of the situation, descended as they were wont to do, and began picking over my choice stock. Now, I’d like to make something clear, whilst the iniquities of the trade have been well documented – I refer, of course, to the rings or how booksellers would frequently enter a competitors premises in the guise of an affable Drunk and ‘deface’ the stock – to my mind bookmen were, and remain, the most noble of fellows. Thus when a sharp eyed employee of the esteemed dealers Horatio Swabbit seized me up, intending to sell me as ephemera at Sotherbys, I can only believe it to have been a genuine mistake.
Nevertheless there I was: catalogued and ready to be shipped to auction, when suddenly I had the good fortune to be felt by Swabbit’s senior director Baldwin Schnap – who was, of course, a veteran of the Boer War, where he had, of course, lost both eyes and both testicles in a boating accident. It was he who decided to hold me back from auction so that I might serve as his eyes until such time as medical science would make it possible to harvest me for parts. His faith is in the speed of medical advancement was robust, if misplaced.
Once again I was back where I’d been every day since birth, living and working in a book store. Only now, freed, as I was, from the burdens of running a shop, I could finally enjoy the subtle delights of a fine used book store. Then Baldwin got the leash. But still, it was a nice week.
I cannot say that my apprenticeship with Baldwin Schnap was an altogether happy one but I took solace in the first rate education I was receiving. That and the vain hope that one day he would ask me to serve as his testicles. Alas the ways of the human heart are a mystery to me, but it was enough to sustain me through those weeks and months and years. Books came, books went, people came and people went. Even Balwin Schnap passed on, coveting my organs to the last, clawing at them from his death-bed. Seasons change, birth and rebirth, it was ever thus. Until one day everybody just left and never came back.
I later learnt they’d moved to some larger premises and had forgotten to pack me. An oversight to be sure but fate has a funny way of giving people what they want, even when they daren’t admit it to themselves; seventy years after my first failed attempt at running a book store it was time to try again. Rashburn Books was born.
You may say that I’ve led a sheltered life and that my opinion counts for nothing but I truly believe there’s no finer life than a life spent in books. They’ve been my faithful companions even before I could read. They’ve provided me with sustenance and warmth, shelter and rudimentary tools. Then, when you can read, some of them are actually quite entertaining, I speak of course of the Hardy Boys. And new ones are always turning up. Why just this morning a lady brought me a 1545 Hypnerotomachia Poliphili that her mother received as a prize in a village fete. I can show it to you if you like.
Eustace Rashburn 1915-this afternoon