Are dead trees coming back into fashion?

According to geekwire in this article “the number of paper books sold went up 2.4% last year (2014), including at Amazon and all types of bookstores”. 2.4% doesn’t seem like a lot but for an industry that has been plunging down a cliff for some time, it is quite considerable.

I can remember ranting on this blog about how the book publishing industry, especially the Australian one, deserved to die because of its shortsightedness on e-books. I still pretty much agree with everything I’ve said there especially where an e-book is released months later than the US and costs twice as much: a completely justifiable reason for pirating it as far as I am concerned.

So why have I bought 6 hard-covered books in the last 2 months when the last time I bought a paper book, never mind hardcover, was probably over ten years ago?

There are a couple reasons, one being that I’ve been moving myself out of active/connected media for some time now. But the primary one as every salesperson know is the winning combination of quality and cost. The Book Grocer has a shop just around the corner from where I work and it has a winning business model: every book costs $10. Price checking them on the internet and I find the kindle editions to be usually MORE expensive. Also, there’s the Readings bargain table which has a similar price point and is now on my tram line since my move.

From an industry perspective, this is possibly one of its death rattles that such a pricing situation can emerge. I can’t see it being sustainable for that long but I fully intend to take advantage of it while it happens and in the meantime, I am more than happy to support an Australian company like the Book Grocer.

Anyway, for those interested in the quality of hardcover books now available, here’s a few that I’ve managed to easily find:

Calcutta: Two years in the city by Amit Chaudhuri. (the kindle edition is $4 cheaper than the hardcover Readings)

Heaven on Earth: A Journey Through Shari’a Law from the Deserts of Ancient Arabia to the Streets of the Modern Muslim World by Sadakat Kardri. ($10 hardcover from the Book Grocer)

Sex And The Citadel by Shereen El Feki  ($10 hardcover from the Book Grocer) – a great look at current issues around sex from women’s perspective in Egypt

On Saudi Arabia: Its People, Past, Religion, Fault Lines–and Future by Karen Elliott House ($10 hardcover from the Book Grocer)

This is not to say I’ve stopped reading on the Kindle either mind. I’m slowly making my way through the meandering masterpiece of a memoir set in Istanbul by Orhan Pamuk. The Kindle edition is only $8 but the illustrations and incredible photos makes me wish I had bought it on paper, in hardback.


I remember reading a book about writing a while ago in which the author talks about when a writer finds himself writing (or an editor reading) interminable passages to do with mists, fogs, white rooms, blank fields, empty plains, pristine seas. He called it the white room syndrome. A sure sign of an empty mind struggling to fill itself, of a writer with the desire to write, to capture the wild euphoria of ideas sparking further ideas but lacking the initial spark.

The last week has been me pretty much feeling like this.

Ok, I have had a nasty flu, one which wrings me out by 3pm and leaves me without an appetite for food or any activity but reading or watching crap sci-fi/fantasy and i’m ready for it to be over now but it seems that this has started up my latest sci-fi/fantasy reading binge.

For reasons I dont want to go into, I alternate between cycles of reading nothing but non-fiction and feeling engaged and analytical about well everything and periods of burying myself in the SF/F genre during which my brain activity sinks to mollusc level.

So far, in the last week or so, I’ve:

Read the latest Harry Potter which I found really really tedious and would have made me feel like I’d been ripped off if I’d actually bought it instead of stolen it from the web. But the ending was kinda cool and I’m hoping for a dark side HP next go, someone who actually uses spells that do the kind of things that Stephen Erikson’s mages can do and maybe a couple of Arnie-like one liners at some point, as in ‘Draco, you mo-fo’ or ‘Suck my wand, baby’ or well, you get the idea.

Read one of the latest Pratchett’s discworld novels “Going Postal”, a rant about the dubious business practices of monopolistic telecommunication companies, the destruction of venerable government owned postal institutions, the possibilities of renationalising essential infrastructure, the evils of international finance and the corruption but inevitable requirement of government regulation. Pratchett appears to be beginning to resemble the Mike Moore of the genre much as I like Pratchett (and detest Moore).

Read the latest instalment to the severely anti-heroic, very darkly funny and quite nasty but unfortunately somewhat self-indulgent sir apropos of nothing series which ends in a nuclear cloud devastating all of the main characters bar the protagonist (hoorah!). If only he wrote better.

Read a by the numbers gallant knightes, ye olde merrie fantasie kingdome bodice ripper from Luis McMaster Bujold titled Paladin of Souls where everyone is so wholesome and there’s such prime American moral rectitude behind it all that it made me wish for a similar nuclear armageddon ending preferably very close to the author’s home. Gah. There’s a scene where the heroine jerks off a ensorceled sleeping hero or I think she jerks him off but is written so tastefully that it’s like reading about your Aunt Martha dunking her arnott’s biscuit in tepid tea.

But almost all is forgiven because I am currently reading the fantastic “Jonathan Strange and Mr Norell” by Susanna Clarke. It’s like Charles Dickens or Jane Austen has discovered the neverland of faeries and mages. What has been sucked totally dry by too much modern fantasy is now invigorated by great witty writing and well-turned characters with better turned names. And it’s her first novel!

So, it seems that this binge will go on a little longer.


Last night, I sauteed a lamb chop with onions, garlic and some red wine, steamed some brussel sprouts and brocolli and had a tumbler of scotch to go with it while the cat gave me dirty looks for being home so infrequently. Not that it’s appetite has been affected.

For obvious reasons (or maybe not), I felt like I was in a Murakami novel with the only elements missing being some Rossini on the hifi and a pot of spaghetti on the side.

I hadnt thought about Murakami in ages but I have always identified with his main male characters especially the ones from A Wild Sheep Chase and Dance, Dance, Dance. Perhaps it’s time to read Norwegian Wood.