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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Go, JK, Go...

Can anyone explain to me what GOOD is going to come from J K Rowling hanging up posters at her book signing of that kid that went missing three months ago in Portugal?
You think large crowds of 10 year old kids are going to go, "Oh, hang on a second, when I was passing through southern portugal on business a few weeks back, I REMEMBER seeing a suspicious looking man and a small blonde child, I shall go to the police immediately"?

The sentiment is, of course, admirable, I wouldn't be churlish enough to deny that. Plus, it will give useful publicity for the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, but I've read several versions of this story in the press today and in none of them does anyone actually attempt to properly explain what it is they hope to achieve in terms of solving this particular case. Apart from (dare I say this?) more publicity for the book launch and yet another opportunity for the tabloids to indulge in media mawkishness.

'Posters of missing Madeleine McCann are to be made available to book retailers around the world at the request of Harry Potter author JK Rowling.
She has arranged, with the help of her publishers, for a poster to be made available for book retailers worldwide.
The posters will be available around July 21, the publication date of the final Harry Potter book.
Madeleine, of Rothley, Leicestershire, disappeared from an apartment in Praia da Luz, in the Algarve, on 3 May.
The poster will display images of Madeleine and a link to the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children.
Ms Rowling said she hoped thousands of people around the world will see the missing girl's image as they queue for their copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
She said: "I fervently hope that posters displayed prominently in shops all over the world when the new book comes out will help find Madeleine McCann and will help raise the profile of the many other missing children in different countries."
The author has made her request for bookshops to display the pictures through her 65 international publishers.
The McCann family said they were delighted that the world-famous author is launching the poster campaign on their daughter's behalf.
Madeleine's mother, Kate McCann, said: "We are overjoyed by this generous offer and would like to thank JK Rowling, her publishers and book retailers for all they are doing to help.
"Madeleine has the first three Harry Potter books and first three DVDs. Like most other children the world over, she loves the stories."'

On an only marginally related subject, I am, however, glad to see J K flexing her muscles elsewhere.

For a long while, the publishing world was immune to the Mafia-like buying power of our nation's great supermarkets, and as a result, a meagre number of independent bookshops (you know, actual real life shops that sell books) were able to survive on the high street while all around them fishmongers, greengrocers and butchers were closing their doors.

However, as anyone who bothers to open their eyes will see, the supermarkets now control more or less everything we buy, and so over the past several years they have cheerfully been eating into the publishing world too. One of their best tricks is to force publishers to give them their best selling titles as loss leaders - books like the Harry Potter series. Asda then sells them at half their hardback RRP, while smaller bookstore chains and independent stores are obliged to sell them at their cover price.

That banging sound you can hear, people, is the last nail being driven into the coffin of independent bookstore retailing.

JK Rowling, however, is different to most authors (which makes Bloomsbury different to other publishers), on the basis that she's probably the only living author who is actually powerful enough to take on the supermarkets and tell them to fuck off:

'The publisher of the final Harry Potter book has cancelled an order to supply 500,000 copies to Asda supermarkets.
Bloomsbury said it had taken the decision because it had not been paid by the chain.
But Asda claimed the publisher was unhappy that it had criticised the book's price tag of £17.99.
It has assured UK customers the issue will be resolved in time for the book launch on Saturday, although Bloomsbury said "dialogue has not opened yet".
Asda spokesman Ed Watson told BBC Radio Five Live the chain - owned by US giant Wal-Mart - was not aware that the deal had been cancelled, and said the chain's criticisms of Bloomsbury's pricing policy was behind the decision.
He added: "It just seems funny that after we expose the potty Potter price hike, Bloomsbury are trying everything they can to stop kids getting hold of Harry Potter at a price they can afford."
Bloomsbury marketing director Minna Fry said the order had been cancelled due to "invoicing issues", but acknowledged the firm had been annoyed by Asda's comments.
She said: "Asda have had a problem with our pricing of Harry Potter for a while now, and they sent out a very aggressive press release saying that we were ripping off children.
"We think at 608 pages, £17.99 is extremely good value."'

Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury's: these companies want to own our entire lives, from what we eat, to what we read, what we wear, even to where we live (Tesco Mortgages, for fuck's sake? Thirty years ago the idea would've been laughable...). The only thing that can truly stop them chewing up and homogonising every aspect of our world is for us as consumers to actually reject them and the hideous lie they propogate that what they give us is 'value', and is 'cheap'.

What they do, and I don't apologise for any hyperbole, is systematically and ruthlessly destroy livelihoods and societies. They do this purely through shareholder greed, in order to fuel their own unstoppable, pointless growth for its own sake. If supermarkets were human and slavishly consumed everything they saw before them until they became giant and grotesquely obese, we'd say they were sick, wouldn't we?

Therefore it is almost - almost - as heartening to see Bloomsbury (and indeed, any sector of the business world affected by the supermarket monster) fighting to hold onto their business as it is to see local schools fighting to stop their playing fields being turned into Tesco carparks.

If you don't want supermarkets to own your world, you've got to fight for it...

1 comment:

Ron said...

You know, not to trivialize the poor missing girl, but did they ever find the guy from Iron Butterfly? He's been missing for years. She should put his poster up. I wonder how well that would go down.