Tuesday, December 29, 2009

It Sucks to be a Dinosaur

Two items that at first glance seem unrelated, but upon further review, go hand-in-hand, really grabbed my attention this past week.

1) Amazon announced that ebook sales outpaced sales of physical books on Christmas day, and,

2) Publishers' Lunch announced that "Much-admired Canadian indie McNally Robinson Booksellers has entered bankruptcy and will close two of its four stores immediately.

It's not like the closing of two bookstores should really come as much of a surprise to anyone, at least not anyone who has been paying attention. Bookstores all around the world have been closing faster than it seems possible for a couple of years now. The combination of a poor economy and the abundance of competition from the internet, television, movies and music for people's free time has seen book sales take a slow decline for years.

People who love to read will always make/find the time to indulge their hobby, and those are the people who have been served by the bookstores which have remained profitable enough to stay open.

Now, however, many of those hard-core readers, the ones bookstores have always catered to, have begun to make the journey into the brave new world of digital reading. The advantages are many: you can shop for your latest read without ever leaving the comfort of your home, you can carry your entire library with you wherever you go, you can adjust font size instantly to suit your particular needs, just to name a few.

The problem, of course, for bookstores is obvious. If I'm a hard-core reader, and I don't have to come into your store to support my habit, where the hell are your sales going to come from? And how will it be possible to make enough sales to maintain economic viability?

No less a writing giant than Stephen King estimates that by the end of the upcoming decade, electronic books will account for forty percent of fiction sales and twenty-five percent of non-fiction sales. Quibble with his numbers if you wish, but in only a matter of a couple of years the debate has changed from "Will e-books ever be a viable option for readers?" to "Just how much of the market share will e-books gobble up?"

Another question, maybe the most important question, to consider is this: At what point will it become un-feasable for brick-and-mortar bookstores to survive, economically speaking? Will it be when e-book sales are five percent of the total? Ten? Twenty-five?

I wonder if the dinosaurs saw the end coming, and if so, what did they think?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

My Top Ten Methods of Procrastination

Considering how little time I have for writing and how much I enjoy doing it, it's kind of surprising how much time I spend doing other things instead of writing. This thought occurred to me out of nowhere as I was busy taking a "Name That Movie Car" Facebook quiz.

I got an 87% on the quiz, by the way.

After a little diligent introspection - and more time spent not writing - I have determined that these are the Top Ten Ways I Spend My Time When I Should Be Writing:

10) Working.
This one comes in at Number Ten even though it is by far the biggest drain on my potential writing time because, well, let's face it, it keeps me and my family from having to surivive under a bridge abutment. If I had to support everyone on my author's income our lifestyle might be a little different. After all, it's hard to buy groceries with a complementary magazine subscription and two free t-shirts.

They are pretty cool shirts though.

9) Doing laundry.
This may not seem like a big deal and if you think that, then you've obviously never raised three teenagers, two of whom are girls. Doing the laundry is a way I can help with the running of the house without doing too much actual damage. Now, if you know me, you know one of my daughters is off at school, which cuts down on the laundry significantly, but we also have a two year old in the house, so it's kind of a wash. Get it, a wash?

8) Watching Sports.
I love sports. I love sports so much that I spend an inordinate amount of time watching them when I should be writing. In the summer I watch the Red Sox and then when that season ends I think about how much extra time I will have to write. Then the Patriots, Bruins and Celtics seasons are in full swing and I end up watching just as much sports as I do in the summer. What's wrong with me?

7) Texting my daughter at college.
I only learned how to text a couple of years ago and now it seems I spend half my life with my thumb up my . . . I mean with my thumb on my phone's keyboard. I'm not as good as my daughter's boyfriend, who can text without looking, but I'm good enough to waste plenty of time doing it.

6) Taking silly quizzes on Facebook.
I think I may have mentioned this one already. Suffice it to say, Movie Cars aren't the only subject I've proven knowledgeable about in quizzes. For example, just tonight I discovered I truly am an '80's kid.

Unfortunately I turned 21 in 1980. Yikes.

5) Checking my email to see if I've gotten any acceptances on short stories and/or novel queries and submissions I have out.
This one is almost the same as writing, since it involves my fledgling writing career. The problem is if I spend too much time doing this and not enough time writing, eventually there won't be anything for me to send out and then wait breathlessly to hear about. I believe this is called irony.

4) Cruising friends' Myspace and Facebook pages.
It's interesting to see how some people seem to update their status all the time - "Going to take a dump now, be back in a few!" - while others seem to have totally forgotten there are those of us who are living vicariously through them. It's interesting in a I-know-I-should-be-writing-so-why-am-I-doing-this kind of way.

3) Blogging.
I suppose technically this could be considered writing, but a novel it ain't. On the other hand, when I hit it big and write that blockbuster bestseller, undoubtedly everyone will flock to my blog to see what I was like before I became famous and turned into a huge asshole. The joke is on them; I already am!

2) Watching Castle on TV.
It's fun to see how a successful author is portrayed, tongue-in-cheek-wise, on this ABC series, and I have to admit it would be pretty cool to be Rick Castle. This is a guy wo knows how to procrastinate - by solving murders! Although I do have to wonder: After running around New York all day catching killers with Beckett, how does he find the time and the energy to write?

1) Playing Scrabble on Facebook.
I'm addicted, okay? I can admit it. My name is Al and I'm an addict. There, I said it.