Ee-By-Gum

Like the puddings, this bizarre sequence is of the Yorkshire persuasion—it expresses surprise, as in “Ee by gum, your pants are on fire!”

It’s a kind of Brexit OMG, and like Chinese or Arabic words, has no agreed Western spelling. A popular form was ‘ebagum’, which probably makes it closer to the Yorkshire accent—gum here should be pronounced, er… I gave up finding an easy explanation, but this is much better, and so topical—a Yorkshire Christmas song.

After Rhodesia fell, and Joshua Nkomo became president of Zim, some Brit wag realized that when you spelled Mugabe in reverse, it became Ebagum—a bit of a fad for the Chatham House brigade—perhaps the new dictator had dark Yorkshire origins.

Now that Mugabe is finished, the Observer (the Ugandan one, that is) has come out with a marvelous quiz to entertain you during the duller  moments of midnight mass. I failed it miserably the first time round, but I persisted, because the newspaper awards a certificate for those who triumph—sadly, I received an image file that proved to be empty—Peter Wibaux is likely to finish his days awardless, but I’ve undoubtedly got a brand-new killer virus on my computer.

So, before my screen comes down with river blindness, I’ll press on. In between my scribblings for The Hourglass, I wrote a children’s book. Seven stories—one for every day of the week—they’re not the most conventional stories you’ll ever read, and include a different take on an old tale, now billed as ‘Yak and the Beansprout.’

Folk Tales for Future Dreamers was a lot of fun to do. With kids, you can truly indulge your imagination, because small children know anything is possible.

But you can’t write a children’s book without illustrations, so I hired someone to do those. And when you have the illustrations, you have a digital problem to solve.

One of the illustrations for Yak and the Beansprout.

Digital books don’t scale—the comfort of using an app, or a Kindle, sacrifices image resolution, but most importantly, it means images get resized in strange ways. Something that looks fine in iPad landscape mode will look small, squeezed, and stupid on an Android phone.

So the digital metaphor goes one step further, and allows you to do exactly what a mainstream publisher or a magazine does—prepare your files, produce images using high-quality resolution, correctly position everything in your preferred layout, and print a book.

If you use Amazon for this, they throw in a distribution chain, so you can use them to market your product—you can leverage your book’s digital version by enabling the Look Inside feature, which lets customers browse, and you access their cloud facilities, including user feedback and author notes.

Amazon’s CreateSpace brand is by no means unique, but it allows you to easily provide your reader with the analog experience, which many readers like. The proof, of course, is in the pudding, so rather than test all this with Folk Tales, where about twenty high-quality color images will exist, including a full cover and spine design, I tried it with Clear Eyes.

CreateSpace is fascinating because it started life as a web operation for publishing movies, music, and books—actually, it began as two separate companies, CustomFlicks Labs and BookSurge. Amazon bought the pair of them in 2005. After that, they had to deal with legal action because they wanted to charge independent publishers to print their books, or else the ‘Buy it Now’ button would vanish.

I hadn’t delved into the acquisitions side of Amazon, but it’s an amazing list, including Alexa in 1999—a number of the corporations Amazon purchased held patented methods for tapping into the internet, including distributed sales platforms, and others just held reams of data—this is a great example of how much Big Data is worth commercially.

The old-school version of Clear Eyes turned out pretty good, and although the book is priced fifty percent higher than the Kindle version, it still has a far more competitive price than The India Road, so we’ll try next with the kiddies’ book and see how we fare.

Of course, Amazon rolls out products to all their outlets, so you can buy Clear Eyes in Canada, Germany, or the UK—from that perspective, the fifty percent markup is a pretty good deal for an author, compared with the classic publishing model: I suspect the Literary Agent class, which I have found to be both arrogant and underwhelming, is in for a rough ride in 2018.

But this is a festive article—I wish my readers very happy holidays, a Merry Christmas—if that’s your thing, and a splendid reason for good wine, good food, and good fellowship with friends and family. Speaking of which…

As I meandered through the Dark Web in my quest for ee by gum, fate blessed me with the above—I leave it with you as my yuletide gift, as we join in a final farewell to Roy Moore.

The India Road, Atmos Fear, Clear Eyes, and Folk Tales For Future Dreamers. QR links for smartphones and tablets.

 

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