Thursday, 31 March 2011

How my e-reader is making my life easier

A few weeks ago I wrote a blogpost about how travelling with a Kindle wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. On a short flight to London, I was asked by the air stewardess to switch it off upon take off and landing (I didn’t have the heart to tell her I was unable to; it goes into sleep mode itself after a period of not being used.)

Some readers commented that in fact it was my fault (yes, I’m looking at you @anseoamuinteoir); I had complained because it ran out of battery when I wanted it, and was not able to use it for the entire duration of the flight, unlike a paper book.

So I promised I would write another article to balance my previous one. In fact, it was terribly easy to come up the advantage the Kindle/e-reader has to offer.

I’m currently in Ljubljana, Slovenia, attending the World Book Summit and meetings with the Federation of European Publishers (FEP). I’m the Irish representative to the FEP and we have meetings around Europe five times a year.

In advance of the meetings, the FEP staff email several documents to the representatives; the agenda, any relevant court rulings, lots of potential amendments to Bills across Europe, so the pre-meeting reading material can amount to close to 200 pages. I often frantically print these documents a day or two before the meeting, and read through them at the airport(s) and on the plane. This can be terribly messy unless you’re terribly organised (I’m not) and results in pages falling down, and never being able to find the right document during the discussion about that particular topic.

Then along came Kindle.

The ability to be able to email the documents to myself has radically changed my modus operandi. As each document came into my inbox, I immediately forwarded it to my Kindle, and would read through it at night before resuming my novel. By the time I got onto the plane, I was able to read through complex court rulings quite easily; the Kindle is a pleasurable reading experience. I could then take notes in comfort; not needing my cumbersome laptop, or flicking through 200 pages of unsorted paperwork. I can easily find each document on the Kindle.

Some people mistakenly think publishers fear the digital age; that we are luddites who only deal in paper editions of books. This is clearly not true.
I’m sitting at a riverside cafe in Ljubljana writing this on my laptop, enjoying the warm sunshine, listening to my ipod, with my Kindle stashed in my bag while I wait to attend the FEP meeting. The technological revolution keeps evolving and changing, and making people’s lives easier and better. I thoroughly embrace all new technologies, as does my company, Maverick House.

Maverick House is converting its back catalogue to e-books at the moment; our catalogue consists of about 100 books, so it will take some time to see the entire list there, but we are doing simultaneous editions of every book we’ve published since this year. The next book Maverick will produce as an e-book is The Templars and the Shroud of Christ, by Vatican historian, Barbara Frale which will also be published in a paperback in April 2011.

As a publisher, I am often asked how e-books will affect publishing. The truth is that publishers want people to read; it doesn’t really matter what format it’s in. If people read, whether it’s on an e-reader or a paper book, it doesn’t really matter. We produce content and we disseminate it to an audience to consume in whatever way they want. The important thing is that people continue to read, especially the next generation. If we lose a generation and they don’t embrace reading, then we will lose a generation of writers. In order to write, and to write well, the most important thing is to read.

As for me, I’m currently reading a novel on my Kindle, which is light and easy to transport (the novel has about 500 pages in the paper edition). I also have a stack of books on my bedside locker, one of which will be my next reading choice.

Books and e-readers will continue to live side by side, and e-readers will continue to improve with each release. I don’t know how people will read in the future and the truth is I don’t care, as long as they are reading. And Maverick House will continue to keep up with technology and cater for our readers.

Monday, 21 March 2011

New blog by Paul Garrigan

From Coward to Muay Thai Fighter

What happens if a middle-aged ex-drunk decides that he wants to learn the toughest fighting art in the world?

In three months time I intend to step into a ring and fight Muay Thai. This is going to be the toughest challenge I’ve ever faced and the prospect of a physical confrontation both thrills and scares the hell out of me. Many of those who know me think I’m mad to even consider such a risky venture, but this just feels so important to me.

For many years I wallowed in alcoholism. I believed this to be the easy path through life. Of course I was wrong about this; my attempt to skip hardship brought me through hell. It did teach me at least one important lesson though; the easy path does not take me anywhere I want to go. I’ve found that life is about achieving dreams and to do this I need to keep pushing my limits. A famous saying in martial arts is that the only person we are really fighting is the person we were yesterday.

From Coward to Muay Thai Fighter

I’m not a natural fighter – quite the opposite in fact. I can usually talk my way out of trouble; I’d rather be viewed as a coward than deal with violence. On the couple of occasions when my words were ineffective the fight didn’t last long. An attacker never needed to hit my twice; after the first blow I’d roll up into a ball. The threat of violence terrifies me but I’ve found that wonderful things can happen when I face my fears.

It’s a bit ironic, but despite my terror of confrontation I’ve been obsessed with martial arts for most of my life. I began practicing Kung-Fu in my early teens. Bruce Lee inspired my efforts and I wanted to be just like him. It turned out that the ability to defend myself in the gym wasn’t always transferable to the outside world, but my love of martial arts has remained consistent. I’m convinced that it was lessons remembered from martial arts that eventually helped me find my way back from addiction.

Muay Thai is the toughest martial art in the world. They call it the science of eight limbs because you can attack and defend with every part of the body. Years ago I attended a training course in Ireland led by Master Sken; a Muay Thai champ that is credited with helping to bring this martial art to Western Europe. He impressed the hell out of me with his speed and power. During my years living in Thailand I’ve seen many more Muay Thai fighters in action and my respect for this fighting art has increased. Looking at these fights I would fantasise that it was me in the ring; I assumed that I was too old to make this a reality.

The urge to learn Muay Thai persisted until eight months ago when I made up my mind to follow this dream. I signed up with the nearest gym to my home in Bangkok. The training is tough, but the fact that I’m now middle aged isn’t too much of an obstacle. Sure, I’m never going to be a Muay Thai champion but there is more to martial arts than this. Over the next few months I’m going to increase my training until by July I’ll be training full-time in preparation for the fight. Even though I’m in my forties, and alcohol abuse almost destroyed my body and mind, I’m working towards the highest level of fitness I’ve ever experienced.

Sharing My Muay Thai Experiences

Not only do I plan to fight Muay Thai but I’m also going to document the experience. I intend to demonstrate how achieving dreams is still possible even after we have taken many wrong turns in life. I want my wanderings into Muay Thai to be inspirational, or at the very least entertaining. This fighting art is an important aspect of Thai culture and I’ll share what I learn from the inside. There are now many westerners who are interested in coming to Thailand to learn Muay Thai and I hope my experiences will be of interest to them too.

My first book Dead Drunk dealt with my experiences of escaping addition at a Thai temple. Defeating alcoholism saved my life and getting my account published was as dream come true - I’m proud of both achievements. Fighting Muay Thai is a different type of challenge. I’m going to have to push myself physically and mentally beyond anything I would have previously considered possible. It is going to be tough. If all goes to plan there will be a book in 2012, but in the meantime you can follow my progress at