Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Customer Asks me to Help Her with her E-Reader/Talking Up Chia Mieville's Embassytown.

One thing I've noticed is the tendency for folks to use brand names to reflect the generic item has continued to e-readers.  They are telling me that they have bought or will buy "kindles", not "Kindles."  Right now, Amazon's probably pretty happy about that, but it will eventually drive them crazy, as it can lead to loss of trade mark.  That's why one refers to Band-Aids as "Band-Aid brand sheer adhesive anti-boo-boo strips" if one knows what's good for one. 

I have resisted the trend to be the e-reader educator in the market.  I have very smart bookseller friends who are doing this, such Matt at McLean and Eakin (Michigan), Nicole at the Bookworm of Edwards (Colorado) and more locally, Lisa at Books and Company in Oconomowoc. Can't I be a little cantankerous and tell people to just learn how to download your own books?  Do you think this last step is going to make casual customers jump through the extra hoops to avoid a Kindle, and jump through the extra hoops of a Nook or Sony Reader?  The question is not entirely rhetorical.  I'm really asking.

But whether I offer the services or not, this is what it's going to come down to. That's just the kind of store we are.  And one of my customers already asked her to be walked through the process.  Should I feel like a friend of mine did, who was asked to train the new employees when his job was outsourced?  Can I be convinced that I will somehow be able to pick up enough of this business to sustain the store?  I'll get back to that--meanwhile I have to go figure out how to download an ebook to a Nook.

Oh, and also learn how to scan my drawing.  I took a picture instead.  Sad, isn't it?


Embassytown is out this week!  Jim Higgins' review last weekend in the Journal Sentinel praised Chia Mieville's new novel as "the most engrossing book I've read this year, and the latest evidence that brilliant, challenging, rewarding writing of the highest order is just as likely to be found in the section labeled Science Fiction as the one marked Literature."

High marks is an understatement. I'd paraphrase, but why not just give you the publisher's descriptive paragraph.

"Avice Benner Cho, a human colonist, has returned to Embassytown after years of deep-space adventure. She cannot speak the Ariekei tongue, but she is an indelible part of it, having long ago been made a figure of speech, a living simile in their language."

When distant political machinations deliver a new ambassador to Arieka, the fragile equilibrium between humans and aliens is violently upset. Catastrophe looms, and Avice is torn between competing loyalties--to a husband she no longer loves, to a system she no longer trusts, and to her place in a language she cannot speak yet speaks through her."

One critic described this subgenre as "linguistic sf."  My sister Claudia would be very excited to hear about such a thing.  And of course you know our buyer Jason is very excited as well, not necessarily by the sub-genre of linguistic sf, but by the novel Embassytown itself.

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