Sam van Zweden




Amazon GoodReads Merger

I’ve just heard the news that online bookselling giant, Amazon, have bought my favourite reading website, GoodReads.

I’m sure we all know about Amazon, and how far and wide its tentacles reach. As a bricks-and-mortar bookseller, places like Amazon are the bane of my existence, but also a kind of necessary evil. In Australia, you’re looking at paying about $35 AUD for a hardcover book, $26 AUD for a paperback. Larger format, glossy things like cookbooks are upwards of $50 AUD. I understand that this makes reading books that you own an activity for the moneyed-up. I’ve just looked up a deckle edge, new release hardcover book on Amazon: $14. While it makes my job harder, I think the problem really lies with the processes that set books in Australian stores at such high prices, not the fact that places like Amazon exist. If anything Amazon’s making owning books possible for students and part-time workers, rather than just those on high salaries.

The company that Amazon have “acquired”, GoodReads, is a website that allows readers to track their reading. Readers can enter data about books they’re reading (where they’re up to in their current book, their thoughts as they read, star-ratings when they finish) as well as taking note of books they’d like to read in future, and connecting with their friends. Readers can compare their favourite books with their friends’ favourite books. And the service that I worry might be affected the most by Amazon’s finger being in the pie – GoodReads offers recommendations based on your reading habits, and what you’ve rated highly in the past. When there’s no business being driven behind this feature, I love it. But when there is? I worry. I’m imagining a direct link to buying the book, which is great, but it also means we’d be linked straight up to Amazon, and most customers wouldn’t question this twice. Customers would just be funnelled straight from one service to another – and customers’ reading mode will be encouraged toward the Kindle. Not just eReading, but this particular brand of eReader.

And because of the nature of GoodReads, Amazon are getting their hands on a heap of information that readers are willingly loading onto the website.

I am just guessing here – only time will tell exactly what changes will come into play because of this merger. 

The thing here isn’t that I have a problem with Amazon, but that we should all be a bit worried when business concerns come into the domain of services that aren’t trying to sell us anything. Or… weren’t.

A Perfect Day

Yeah, the sky’s blessedly blue outside for the first time in forever, but that’s not what I’m talking about.

It’s the end of the holidays for me – I’ve found them to be long, but productive. It’s only taken me about 7 weeks, but I’ve finally figured out how I would (try to) spend each and every working day if I were a full-time professional writer, in order to get shit done. For the last week or so, on days when I haven’t worked, this is what I’ve done.

I’d wake up early. Well, early for me: 8am, maybe 8.30. This still gives me two hours of quiet writing time before my boyfriend even thinks about consciousness. I check my email and Facebook, but only out of the neurological need – I don’t spend a long time on there. If there’s stuff to reply to, I do that later in the day. I update my GoodReads account with what I’d read the night before.

I read a short story. This week I’ve been chewing through the contents of Tiny Epics, which has been sitting on my shelf for over a year now. I regret not reading it earlier. Likewise with Bel Woods’ Get Smart which I read last week in page seventeen #8. That girl can write! What do your days look like to produce such brilliance, Bel?

After my short story, as per my writing goals, I read an essay. It’s not always pertinent to what I’m writing, but I’ve been learning an awful lot. Did you know that stabbing a lobster in the head doesn’t actually kill it? And that lobster deaths are a big point of concern for the RSPCA? And I never knew anything about Peter Porter, but now I do, thanks to Clive James – weird to read a dying great write about a dying great.

I write morning pages. These are at least three pages (so, for those of you who can’t convert longhand ideas into tech-speak, that’s about 750w) of whatever. They’re the pages where I supposedly get my brain warmed up to write my way into brilliance. Usually it’s just me pondering story ideas, brainstorming or bitching about how I can’t be arsed doing the dishes.

I do a writing exercise. Also, as per my writing goals, I’ve done one every day so far. It’s been fun. Out of six days, I’ve only had one day turn into something I feel I could follow up. But that’s still a higher hit-rate than when I wasn’t doing an exercise every day.

I work on a WIP.

I work on something that potentially can make me some money. I know that writing for money isn’t the point; I’m not trying to turn all my writing into a money-making scheme – that’s dumb, and would take the enjoyment out of it. I’m trying to find places that I can make money for doing something I enjoy more than my current job. I’ve been writing some copy for Weekendnotes, a guide to things you can do on weekends in Melbourne. It’s fun – it’s not exactly lucrative, but I’m enjoying the experience, and it’s really good exercise for banging things out on demand.

I do any business stuff I need to do. These last few weeks that’s involved getting an ABN, making an invoice template, posting submissions. Looking for comps and new publications I’d like to submit to happens during this time too.

Lastly, I catch up on my Google Reader feed (which is looking comparatively clean at the moment), and I blog, if I’ve got something worth saying or sharing.

Usually this whole routine takes up most of a day. Some days I don’t get around to all of it. As you can imagine, I sometimes get stuck in one piece or another – if it’s a good exercise, or a long story or essay, or if I find myself venting something worthwhile in Morning Pages…

But I feel like finally, after faffing about for six weeks, I’ve figured out how to execute a truly productive day. Now I go back to uni and that’ll jumble everything up a bit, but I’ll be trying to keep at least a few days a week like this.

What do your writing days look like?

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