Sunday, September 10, 2006

Pause in posts

There will be no further posts on this blog until Monday 18 September. However, before I depart, here are a few brief items.

Madame Arcati, fast becoming a must-read, continues to put up extraordinary stuff, including a 7 September pen-portrait of a Sunday Times man. (I'm not even going to mention his name. Or his job.) I just hope Madame has a good lawyer.

Next, a brief word about Waiting for Godot. Just over a year ago, I mentioned that Mrs GOB and I had been to see Sir Peter Hall's production of this Beckett piece at the Theatre Royal, Bath. Well, this year Sir Peter brought the play back again, with the same cast.

Last year we saw the very first performance of this production, and I commented at the time that the cast would, in due course, get a lot more out of the text, particularly in relation to the humour. This year we saw almost the last performance in the run, and there is no doubt that much had been achieved. I would say that the overall effect was nearly 100% better.

Sadly, the run has now finished, but I suppose it's just possible that the same cast might appear in it somewhere else. Definitely worth seeing if they do.

Waterstone's used to borrow Amazon facilities for their online presence, through the simple expedient of putting Waterstone's at the top of the page instead of Amazon. Now, however, they've decided to do their own thing.

I think I commented a while back that this seemed a very ambitious scheme, and one which would require a considerable investment of time and effort. The new online presence is now available for business, but it's going to be some time, in my opinion, before Amazon need to worry.

I started, as I normally do with Amazon, with the advanced-search page, and immediately Waterstone's facility proves to be inferior. There is no way, for example, to search for books published by a particular publisher in a given year. The keyword search doesn't help either: type HarperCollins into the key word box and you get 137 results -- only a fraction of HC's output.

If you do manage to locate a book, e.g. my own How and why Lisa's Dad got to be famous, you get no cover picture, although Nielsen Bookdata certainly have one, no facility for readers' comments, and no obvious way for the publisher or author to add an extract. Things, presumably, can only get better.

Oh, and if you're used to whacking return after you've entered your search data (in advanced search), you'd better unlearn that habit fast. Here you have to mouse-click on Submit. Really useful.

Finally, several bloggers (the first I saw was Galleycat) have drawn attention to an article in the Bookseller. Here Alex Peake-Tomkinson describes the endless joys of working as a work-experience girl and editorial assistant in more than one UK big-time publisher over a three-year period. The first job she was given, naturally, was to read the slush pile.

Don't miss this one; it's is a real peach, believe me.


Anonymous said...

I found it interesting that your book is "despatched" in a week. I'm never shy about admitting I'm behind in grammar (I cheated my way through) and was interested to see it's a good word. "Unspatched" is not, however.

Hope His Grumpiness gets some deserved rest.

Anonymous said...

Oh dear me, fancy thinking that anybody could replicate the Amazon touch !!

Sheesh, get real, the new Waterstone's website would only be in beta were it not for the fact that the internet alliance between the two had removed Waterstone's identity and they had to get the new website on line pdq.

Webmasters make changes on an ongoing basis ; tweak and fine tune until they have a beautifully unique website.

The new Waterstone's website is intended to run alongside their high street shops to ensure a strong presence from a major terrestial bookstore. It will work, it might take a few weeks, but it will evolve into a really effective sales outlet.

As an indie I have every faith that Waterstone's will get there : we live in a world which demands immediate gratification and often thinks that Tesco and Amazon have reached a plateau of excellence without going through periods of development.

My one hope is that Waterstone's will forget trying to compete with Amazon and Tesco on price and concentrate on providing a quality service which of course is available in most indie bookshops.