Marketing blitz

October 16th, 2012

You just need to turn on the idiot box nowadays to be given an array of advice. On a food channel, it goes ‘Now we put in the X brand ginger garlic paste…this paste is highly fresh, made from natural ingredients’ and on it goes. Switch the channel and you have Amitabh Bachchan trying to fullfil every whim and fancy of KBC contestants albeit with much grace.

Switch the channels some more and, as of now, you will find Karan Johar and the young brigade of ‘Student of the Year’ giggling or showing off their six-pack abs. Everywhere you see there is bombardment of celebrities and brands in your face. And that’s not speaking of the multitude of ads in between.

Switch off the idiot box, go online and you will find these very people claiming your wall for themselves. Only respite is that it’s not as long drawn out as the TV. The multiple fan pages, company pages, contests and promotions on Facebook, make up more than half of the news feed of an average user. However, on the other hand, one gets a chance to happily revel in AB’s reply on your birthday wishes. On the all-hailing Twitter, it is the same — your chance to connect with the who’s who of Bollywood, tennis and pretty much all sectors.

Did people ever talk about dilution of brands, celebrities? Of course, they did. But tell that to the 30 lakh plus followers of AB or the 8.3 million-plus followers of Sachin Tendulkar on Facebook. I guess, it just feels nice to get a piece of the pie.

In all this marketing mela, authors are not far behind. You will find plenty of authors on Twitter. You have Nicholas Sparks quizzing you about his books on Twitter, Paulo Coelho with his one liners, Amitav Ghosh and many others.

Is it a good phenomenon? The elusive chance of getting to interact with people you look upto, seek their advice, pour in your admiration and the rest? Maybe. Maybe not. For me, I miss the reclusive writer. Wonder if he has also succumbed to the glamour of marketing.

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Library dreams

August 24th, 2012

I was really excited about Sunday. Not just because it was my weekly off but because I was going shopping, book shopping. So, I landed in a mall and headed straight to Crossword, ignoring the dozens of sales promotions that kept cropping up in front of me (With some difficulty, I must say). It would seem that I had taken the Crossword motto of ‘Wear the old coat and buy the new book’ to heart. But then I had not bought a book for long and was craving to pick up a nice one, putting my name on the front, caressing the pages, and settling down with it. I had built the happy ending in my head.

And then I entered Crossword.

Crossword had a sale going on too, which was why I was there in the first place. It turns out my money isn’t fond of books, only I am. Anyway, the sale was a disappointment. I couldn’t find ‘the’ book that I wanted and it went downhill from there. I was made to spell out Ray Bradbury’s name thrice and then had to enter it myself, only to be told his books were not in stock. I could have clubbed the staff with a bat at that point. My happy dreams were crashing down. But, I was not going to give in. I took the escalator downstairs and entered Landmark. This time my dreams were crushed. I couldn’t buy Bradbury and instead limped home with a single book.

Unhelpful staff and a handful of authors in stock that was the curse of the big bookstore. As Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan will tell you in You’ve Got Mail.

E-books are the next big change in the literary world, so much so that they are being called the fiery contender that could dethrone print from the mantle. And sure enough there are converts who are happily reading books on their e-readers, authors who have relented to having e-books published (J K Rowling), and publishers who are launching enriched e-books (mix of text, audio and video) to save sales. Even in India where e-books are at a pretty nascent stage, Penguin India recently announced launching an e-book range. Also, Amazon launched its Kindle store in India this week.

So, where does that leave the humble physical book?

Well, if you were to listen to publishers, physical books are going nowhere for decades. Yes, e-books are growing at a fast pace but they are being treated as a parallel economy to paperbacks and hardcovers.

I am no fan of e-books. What I don’t get about this e-book rage is how can one get over the joy of holding a book, of lining them up on your book shelf, of flipping through the pages. As John Makinson, CEO, Penguin Group, once said, “I think, and I think this is especially true in India, people have a very special romantic attachment with the book. They like to browse it, buy it, put it on their shelves, share it.”

I am definitely a romantic when it comes to books. It has been a dream of mine and many book lovers I know to have a library at home. I love rearranging books on the two shelves I have so far, it is such a joy. Don’t tell me I can build an online book shelf. What am I supposed to do with that, stare at the images?

And I am not really a technologically challenged person. I am a member of Goodreads and a plethora of other sites, and I read articles online, only I can’t read e-books.

It’s not that I don’t get the advantages of e-books. I know, I might not find physical books as easily and I may have to pay more for them, but Mr. Bezos it is not inconvenient to turn the pages of a book, it is more inconvenient to rub your eyes over and over while reading an online version.

So, if you are among those who like e-books, great. If not, don’t give up on that library just yet.

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