Went along to MPH's annual Hi-Tea with Local Authors yesterday, part of the book chain's Support Local Authors Month. (Turned up a bit late because I had to take a cat to the vet first, in case anyone was wondering why the grand entrance half an hour into the session!) There turned out to be a discussion about e-books in progress with writers Shoba Mano (below left) and Lydia Teh (centre, chairing the discussion), and editor Eric Forbes. And the Booker room was absolutely packed.
I'd already missed Shoba's talk which should have been interesting because she uses e-books (as well as print copies) to distribute her work and is clearly passionate about the possibilities. Eric and Lydia had clearly done their reseach but had less personal experience to draw on. The drift of discussion seemed to be, this possibility is out there, but it doesn't seem to be influencing our buying choices in Malaysia just yet. (Indeed, the biggest battle is to get anyone to read anything - e or non-e!)
Sad. Because I reckon that many local authors could sell their work (non-fiction especially) to an overseas market in this format. How many of them, though, have even established an online presence?
After that the session seemed to lose focus somewhat. (Shoba sent round an e-mail later which expressed her dissatisfaction on a number of counts. I can sympathise, though perhaps she could have been more diplomatic.) I think it wasn't really a topic that local authors and audience couldn't really relate to, and perhaps better kept for a writer's circle meeting.
Feng-Shui diva, Lillian Too (whose books have transformed me into an expert in balancing yin and yang, and the redeeming powers of nine goldfish in a pond) added words of wisdom about writing and getting published, before having to make an early exit:
Make sure you have a damned good book and it's properly editedshe exorted. (What charisma! I want to hear this lady speak again!)
Dato' Ng, CEO of the MPH publishing group, putting discussion back on track, highlighted the Ministry of Education's failed e-book project and predicted that e-books will come, but never take over from the printed word.
(My personal prediction is that print-on-demand books, where you go into a bookshop to get a physical book made from a digitally stored source, will become an increasingly important part of the book trade. And yes, the demand for e-books will grow as the technology becomes cheaper and the idea catches on.)
The tea afterwards was an excellent opportunity to meet up with writing friends and make new contacts. (Pictured above, the local authors.) Afterwards, I bought books (how could I not?) and then had a lovely long bookchat with Eric over frosty lemon tea at Delicious.
Do read Lydia's account of the event.
You might like to check out the account on Ted's blog of the previous week's fun and games and intrigues at Sembang-Sembang Bersama Penulis Melayu: MPH's event for Malay writers. Nisah Haron's account of the same event is here.
Conclusion: interesting things happen when you stick a whole lot of writers of very different genres in a room together! (And it isn't always pretty.)