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Edinburgh Book Festival 2014: Oh! the stories they told

Authors, comedians, intellectuals and writers from all over the world poured into Scotland’s magnificent capital city, frankly, to promote their latest books at the Edinburgh International Book Festival (EIBF). MediaTainment Finance (and its publisher JayKay Media Inc) attended the event to see if the print medium and the creativity that drives it are really dying in the digital age. With titles available in both print and e-books, and authors with social-media accounts, the packed festival proved the art of writing books is far from torn to pieces. The (mostly celebrity) authors regaled audiences as they recounted the inspiration behind their books published just before the festival or the latter part of this year. Below, catch up with the authors we saw, including eminent journalists (Lynn Barber; Bonnie Greer; Ian Bell); popular comedians (Omid Djalili; Dave Gorman); Scotland’s finest (Alexander McCall Smith; Irvine Welsh); plus gothic, grime and gritty-crime specialists (Kate Mosse; Cilla and Rolf Borjlind; Gordon Ferris).

imageLynn Barber

Lynn Barber: Infamously known as the Demon Barber of Fleet Street (formerly the address of Britain’s national newspapers), her celebrity profiles in respectable heavyweight papers will go down in history for skewering the personalities of the rich and famous in a way that made sensationalist tabloids blush. Yet, here she was at the festival looking as genteel as a lovable grandmother promoting her memoir A Curious Career (Bloomsbury). Barber admitted she had an auspicious career start as her first profile interviews (for soft-porn magazine Penthouse) included two of the 20th century’s iconic public figures: the eccentric surreal-art pioneer Salvador Dali, and Gore Vidal, one of America’s literary giants. She said the most awkward interviews were with Marianne Faithfull, the singer-songwriter and 1960s “It” girl; UK actor Martin Clunes; and Spanish tennis champion Rafael Nadal. As she explained: “I don’t like actors and I don’t like sportsmen because there is already too much newspaper space given to them. And I don’t like doing those married to famous people, or those related to victims.”

imageIan Bell

Ian Bell: theScottish award-winning journalist ripped apart the career of Bob Dylan… music legend, singer, songwriter, poet, artist, actor, film director, a difficult man. The paperback edition of Time Out of Mind (Mainstream Publishing/Random House), the second part of his acclaimed two-volume biography of Dylan, is named after the singer’s 30th studio album. At the festival, the book became the centrepiece of his discussion with the Dylan aficionados at the sold-out venue. They listened to, agreed with and challenged what he had to say about the man known as (“the spokesman of a generation”). Bell, who agreed Dylan would have disputed that description, was obviously enthralled with the genius while baffled by his numerous faults. Most of those shortcomings, he argued, were totally needless. For a report on Bell’s musings at the festival, read online music magazine Rockol.com.


(l-r) Rolf Borjlind, Cilla Borjlind, moderator, and Gordon Ferris

Cilla and Rolf Borjlind; and Gordon Ferris: During a panel session called Pulse-Quickening Suspense, about the nature of crime fiction, the Swedish couple Cilla and RolfBorjlind (“the king and queen of Scandinavian crime”) read extracts from the translation of their new opus Spring Tide (Hesperus Press). They left the audience in suspense about the fate of the pregnant woman who is buried alive up to her neck on a beach as the tide slowly rises…when her water breaks. The former TV scriptwriters admitted they loved the God-like power novel writing gave them over the books’ characters. “The reasons for writing novels: we wanted to be God; we wanted total control of the characters, their environment, what they say, what they do. No one can say we can’t do this or that (as they do with TV productions) because they don’t have the budget.” Ferris, famous for his Glasgow Quartet, said: “I write the crime genre for exploring human beings on an intense landscape. You get that sense of the pressure cooker.” His new book is Money Tree (Merula Books).

imageOmid Djalili

Omid Djalili: The English stand-up comic and acclaimed character actor (he plays a slave trader in Ridley Scott’s Oscar-winning epic Gladiator) has written a hilarious memoir about his childhood between “posh” Kensington in London and Iran, where his parents originate from. The excerpt he recited from the autobiography, Hopeful (Headline Publishing), was probably the most scatological piece of literature read out during the festival. But, given the context, it was very funny and the audience loved it.

imageDave Gorman

Dave Gorman: The English comedian/raconteur read from the first chapter of Too Much Information: Or: Can Everyone Just Shut Up for a Moment, Some of Us Are Trying to Think (Ebury Press). The book is his take on life in the digital Age, an era of data overload. To give a chronological context to his views, he recalled seeing the first colour television, then reading his first email, followed by watching the UK’s first five TV channels, making his first mobile phone call, receiving his first text. As a music fan, he reminisced about the days when buying a physical album involved a real commitment. “You forced yourself to like every track because of the huge financial commitment” made in buying it. But, referring to the iTunes and Spotify cultures, he added: “When it comes to music, I am jealous of the kids of today. Today, more music is consumed than ever before and they listen to a wider range of genres.” He was also astonished to learn that his 18-month-old niece has already had more photos taken of her for social media compared to pictures taken of his 75-year-old dad during his lifetime.

imageBonnie Greer

Bonnie Greer: It was rather disappointing that part of the festival moderator’s description of the American intellectual included news that she was a topless dancer at one point in her rather rich and eventful life. Today, she is an in-demand commentator on UK flagship current-affairs TV shows Newsnight Review and Question Time. But she was at Edinburgh to unveil her memoir A Parallel Life (Arcadia Books), share the lessons she learned from a harsh but loving upbringing, and relate the hardship she endured over the years in her “rags to cultural riches” story. In the book, she analysed Freddie’s Dead, a song from the soundtrack to the 1972 Blaxploitation movie Super Fly. For Greer, the lyrics also turned out to be an appropriate metaphor for the police’s unlawful killing of young Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri earlier this year and the long-running riots that followed. She recalled similar insurrections after the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King and that of Robert Kennedy the same year. She remembered her young life surrounded by police officers with guns and later learning about the FBI’s official list of “agitators”, included the Black Panther who challenged police brutality in the 1960s. But, she said, her generation refused to be intimidated because “we didn’t want to end up like our parents and grandparents, cowering with fear”. However, like then, what the Ferguson tragedy showed was the ongoing power of the US’ pro-gun lobby. Greer said the US constitution’s Second Amendment about the right to bear arms has been adopted as a God-given right. And despite its abuse by racists and criminals to attack the innocent, she pointed out the pro-arms lobbyists had a frighteningly powerful political argument. “Since it was God who gave the right to bear arms, to take that away was to take on the Almighty.”

imageAlexander McCall Smith

Alexander McCall Smith: The queue snaked around the block of the festival’s site and the venue was packed for the very popular Zimbabwe-born McCall Smith, already famous for introducing the world to the endearing No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series. Described as “prolific, funny, humane”, McCall Smith had the audience in fits of laughter, especially as he gave more background information on Bertie, the precocious Italian-speaking six-year-old from the series of novels that started with 44 Scotland Street. “Bertie is one of my favourite characters,” McCall Smith told his thoroughly charmed fans. “Bertie’s problem is his mother. Edinburgh has a problem with pushy mothers. It is a geographic issue. And the government is aware of the problem.”  The author has brought out romance novel The Forever Girl (Random House). This followslast year’s commission to rewrite Jane Austen’s Emma as a contemporary tale for the Austen Project. He is also writing the libretto for Blunt, an opera based on the infamous Cambridge Four spies. As if not busy enough, he is the trustee of The Great Tapestry of Scotland, the world’s longest, which officially went on display in September 2013.

imageKate Mosse

Kate Mosse: No, not the British supermodel Kate Moss (which has no ‘e’ at the end). This Mosse is a literary sensation famous for her bestselling mystery novel Labyrinth, which has been translated into almost 40 languages since its publication in 2005. She was at Edinburgh to promote The Taxidermist’s Daughter (Orion Books), a mystery thriller set in 1912 England and published in September. After reading an extract, she said it is one of her most gothic books featuring crows, jackdaws, and magpies making eerie appearances in the plot. As part of the pre-publication marketing, a booklet (pictured below) promoting the novel was distributed to the festival’s attendees.



Irvine Welsh: the Scottish author of Trainspotting, a seminal novel of disaffected youth with a movie version that made stars out of Ewan McGregor, Johnny Lee Miller and Robert Carlyle, was back in his native Edinburgh. Currently, a US resident, he came to show he had lost none of his defiant streak in The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins (Jonathan Cape/Random House), his latest novel. He told the EIBF audience it was the first time he has written a story from the female characters’ point of view: “I don’t think there is that much of a difference between men and women.” He said the book was influenced by the US’ obsession with food, body image, and success, “the way the British are with the weather”. He also disclosed he “listens to music by making a playlist for each of the characters (he portrays)”.

Text: by MediaTainment Finance
Photographs: by JayKay Media Pix

Clerkenwell Design Week: the Brazilian brothers and other diiizzy delights

Forget the forthcoming FIFA World Cup…at least for the moment.

Brazil was a fulcrum at this year’s Clerkenwell Design Week, three days of feasts and festivities by international design firms hosting insatiable design fans and fiends during 20-22 May 2014 in London. And the Campana brothers, Brazil’s celebrity design duo, became the centre of attention.

Exclusively created chairs, stools, sofas, and other furniture by Sao Paulo-born Humberto and Fernando Campana were on show at The Crypt of the Order of St John, a former church converted into an exhibition venue for high-end craft in London’s design district Clerkenwell. They were part of an exhibition by edra, the Italian furniture manufacturer, and its London retail showroom the .IT All About Design.

The creations by the Campana brothers (see pictures below), including Corallo, Jenette, Cake Stool and Banquete Dolphins in Leather, are virtually expensive works of art designed to be talking points in any room and decadent magnets to collectors with money. The Cake Stool alone was picked up for US$31,000-plus at auction last year.

Alternatively, as an edra spokesperson explained, they are extraordinarily smooth and soft to touch and comfortable to sit on. This is due to the manufacturing techniques, which sees each seat built by hand with soft toys, leather, pieces of wood, strings of wool, from the ground up (as opposed to using upholstery to cover solid chair-shaped metal or wooden frames).

More on the Campana brothers’ work and edra here.

Banquete Dolphins in Leather (by Campana Brothers)

Banquete Dolphins in Leather (detail)

Cake Stool (by Campana Brothers)

Cake Stool (detail)

Grinza (by Campana Brothers)

Grinza (detail)

Corallo (by Campana Brothers)

Corallo (detail)

Favela (by Campana Brothers)

Favela (detail)

Leather Works (by Campana Brothers)

Leather Works (detail)

Jenette (by Campana Brothers)

Jenette (detail)

Also check out Clerkenwell Design Week (CDW), which featured a host of design delights and yummy sights for sore eyes.

CDW’s own magical Yellow Brick Road was the multi-coloured Tile Mile, an infinity mirror installation by Russ + Henshaw and Turkish Ceramics at the St John’s Gate arches in Clerkenwell 

And more…



And for some original heritage antique design…

Story by MediaTainment Finance (www.mediatainmentfinance.com)
Photos by JayKay Media Pix (www.jaykaymediainc.com)

Exclusive White Paper: Building The New Digital Content Market

JayKay Media Consultancy joined forces with London-based Boutique Editions, the international contract publisher, to produce an exclusive white paper on the new but forceful trend in high-quality original online video content and the implications for the global TV industry.

The client: MIPTV/MIPCOM, the annual international TV and creative content events in Cannes; it recently launched MIP Digital Fronts to cater to the YouTube-generation of blockbusting online video shows and the producers that have had traditional Hollywood studios watching their backs.

The result: Building the New Digital Content Market, almost 30 pages of facts, figures, data, video, articles and exclusive interviews with the top industry players

Brazil Music: Focus of Midem 2014 Outside The Box white paper

The roots of a country’s culture must lie entrenched in its music. And the same applies to Brazil with its universally loved samba, bossa nova, carnivals and beach parties.

This, however, is not about stereotyping. Brazil is home to a serious music business as the international industry will learn at the 48th edition of the Midem event in Cannes this weekend (1-4 February).

From the late legendary Renato Russo and 2012 global singles best-seller Michel Telo to the new-generation sounds of Criolo, Daniel Murray and Zemaria, Brazil is a rich source of recorded and live music acts.

And the business side is supported by a plethora of enterprises, ranging from the Rock in Rio festivals to the Som Livre record label.

To learn more about the music and entertainment biz in Midem’s latest Country of Honour, Latin America’s biggest economy and the opportunities available there, log into the Midem-published Outside The Box, a joint content-marketing series of White Papers supplied by JayKay Media Inc’s MediaTainment Finance.

The current edition features a Special Focus on Brazil. Read on http://www.midem.com/en/explore-the-library/whitepapers/outside-the-box-7/

Ja Ja Ja Festival 2014 - Nordic-Music DeLights

The inaugural Ja Ja Ja Festival celebrating the best in emerging Nordic-music talent was hosted at The Roundhouse in London on 8-9 November courtesy of the Nordic Culture Fund and Nomex (Nordic Music Export). For two nights, that corner of north London was mesmerised by the ethereal sounds and atmospheric performances of up-and-coming artists in one of the world’s most productive regions for rock and pop. Below is a gallery of Broke and their apocalyptic punk music, NoNoNo vocalist Stina Wappling, and indie-pop group KidAstray in action.
@jajajanordic #jajajafest 

JayKay Media Pix (via Ja Ja Ja Festival at The Roundhouse)

Gallery: Luck - The Ace of Spades

JayKay Media Pix deals its hands with playing cards and throwing dice.
The Ace of Spades, Diamonds, Clubs, and Hearts as you’ve never seen them before. For more, look at the whole Ace of Spades package

Brian May and Roger Taylor, two founding members of legendary rock band Queen, at Imperial College, London, to unveil the plaque commemorating the venue of the band’s first concert - at the university in July 1970. Achievements since then: 300 million records sold, including 18 No. 1 singles, 16 No. 1 albums; and owners of hits like We Will Rock You, The Show Must Go On, Who Wants To Live Forever, Radio Ga Ga and A Kind of Magic.

Photos: JayKay Media Pix

UK TV-commercials producers and the tech-finding mission

Today (4 March), a group of creative stars land in Silicon Valley on a tech-finding mission, courtesy of the UK’s Advertising Producers Association (APA).

The mission, which continues until 8 March, will bring some of the TV-commercials sector’s best minds to the homeland of innovative media technology.

A delegation of 27 UK-based production companies, including RSA Films, Framestore, Bigballs Films, The Mill, Stink, and Cut+Run will be joining the APA to exchange ideas, learn best practices and forge business partnerships with next-generation media groups like YouTube, Google, Facebook, Lucasfilm and Apple.

“Many brands and digital platforms want better, high-quality video content and we want to make sure they are aware of the APA members’ work,” says Steve Davies, the APA’s CEO. “We’re also going to Silicon Valley to learn how technology is evolving and how it will help our production companies offer new possibilities to clients and agencies who want to communicate with today’s digital-savvy consumers.”

The constantly forward-looking APA has organised trade missions to India (2011) and China (in 2009) to inform the two mega-emerging economies of the skills UK production houses have to offer.

In Silicon Valley, it is now addressing the global digital economy. In that environment, technology is extending video distribution from the still traditional TV platform to social media; mobile apps; Internet-delivered IPTV; OTT (over-the-top) TV services like Netflix and BT Vision; catch-up TV forums such as Demand 5 and ITV Player; Microsoft’s Xbox Live games network, Virgin Media’s TV Anywhere, and video-sharing giant YouTube.

These digital-media channels are increasingly snatching a share of the US$517.7bn that advertisers will spend globally on media this year (ZenithOptimedia).

These channels’ content is consumed by viewers at home and on the move on smartphones, tablets, PCs, game consoles, and new connected-TV sets. They are equally being monetised with video advertising and APA members want to apply their creative skills to the emerging new digital environment.

JayKay Media Inc business journal MediaTainment Finance is a sponsorship partner of Beak Street Bugle, the APA’s online newspaper.


2013: It’s the E-bookonomy year, stupid!

The creative industries should open their eyes and take a closer look at the still clunky dull-looking e-reading devices. They are gradually turning into the predominant digital mass-media distribution channel, and 2013 could be the year in which we see that happen.

It doesn’t take a genius to grasp that, with the right words in the right context, the printed text wins the race to move hearts and minds in the art of storytelling.

Even in our digital age, from mobile texts to text books, from the Bible to digital billboard ads, from the facts in Forbes magazine to best-selling erotic fiction Fifty Shades of Grey, the written word still gets us turning heads and pages. No falling off a creative fiscal cliff here.

40 Years of Queen is a massive physical coffee-table book published last year. It features everything there is to know about Queen, the flamboyant British rock band and one of the most influential rock-music brands ever.

In December, the digital arm of its publisher Carlton Books released an e-book version for Apple’s iPad or iPad Mini, the portable computer tablets that can be converted into e-books using the iBook software.

40 Years of Queen is described as “the most advanced interactive music e-book in the market”. It has photos, audio interviews with members of the band, puzzles, animation, copies of handwritten lyrics and letters and links to tracks on Apple’s iTunes store. And while the book’s original print version costs £30.00, this interactive digital treasure costs only £9.99.

As Queen guitarist Brian May told UK trade magazine The Bookseller: “Technology is causing us to rethink once again and rediscover what a book really is and what it has the potential to be.”

The multi-content device
The digital-media sector has been so obsessed with finding the ideal platform for selling only music or only videos to paying consumers, it is failing to see the one thing all music, video, movie, games lovers will still pay for - a good read.

The book-publishing sector itself, however, is beginning to get the picture. It sees there is no need to market one digital-device type for watching videos, another for music listening, and yet another for reading books.

By being dismissive of e-readers, makers of smartphones and video-friendly tablets allowed Amazon.com, the pioneering online seller of physical books and e-books, to develop the increasingly popular Kindle e-reader in 2007. It has since used the device to disrupt old and new media businesses.

Amazon has challenged the traditional brick-and-mortar book stores and won a place in bookselling history. Astonishingly, it has also grown into a fearsome book publisher and a revered conduit for the increasing number of self-publishing authors. Thanks to Kindle, they can sell directly to consumers without needing a gargantuan printing plant to churn out paper books.

Moreover, the newer Kindle Fire, a mini multi-functional version of the Kindle, not only accesses e-books, but also digital music, streaming movies, social games, mobile apps, social media and email via the Internet. The content is stored on ‘cloud’ servers, enabling access anytime, anywhere, anyhow digitally.

As avid readers take to their Kindle Fire, the strategy is to spur the impromptu purchase of music, videos, games, and more books while online.

OK, global sales of single-function e-book devices will start declining rapidly from its peak of 23.2 million units last year, according to a report by IHS iSuppli Research. Makers of e-readers, however, must realise that book-loving consumers just might want to interact with other content on the same device.

Investors targeting e-readers
NOOK, the e-reader created by US bookstore giant Barnes & Noble, now has offshoots called the NOOK HD and NOOK HD+ tablets, which enables users to read books as well as stream movies, TV shows and other content apps.

Like the Kindle Fire, NOOK (which launched in the US in September and is already in the UK) makes its apps compatible to other reading devices and tablets, including Apple’s iPad. Their users can buy e-books and other content from NOOK online stores. That Microsoft, the software giant with digital- entertainment ambitions, invested US$300m in Nook last year indicates how the e-book business is luring investors.

Other ambitious e-reader brands are supported by companies experienced in media and entertainment. Kobo (anagram of the word ‘book’), Canada’s leading e-reader maker, was sold by Indigo Books & Music to Japanese global conglomerate and e-commerce website Rakuten a year ago.

Rakuten has invested in TV broadcasting (Tokyo Broadcasting System), owns a baseball team, led a US$100m investment round in social-media darling Pinterest, and operates Wuaki.tv, a Spanish video-on-demand service.

Sony Corp, a global entertainment conglomerate, owns a line in e-readers. South Korea’s iRiver Story e-reader is made by an electronics and entertainment group founded by former Samsung executives.

It was when major book publishers noticed how the erotically charged Fifty Shades of Grey, licensed to a tiny Australian independent publisher, was shooting to the top of the New York Times fiction e-books chart, that they realised reaching e-book readers generated cash.

Vintage Books, part of Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, paid US$1m for the rights. To date, the Fifty Shades trilogy has sold more than 65 million copies worldwide as hardbacks, paperbacks and digital files.

E-reading films, TV and music
This success contributed to Vintage’s owner Random House, a subsidiary of German media conglomerate Bertelsmann, going one step further with its e-book ambitions. It has announced plans to merge with iconic UK publisher Penguin to form the world’s biggest consumer book-publishing group.

The enlarged Penguin Random House is expected to use US digital-media agency Smashing Ideas, a Random House subsidiary acquired in 2011, to develop apps based on TV programmes adapted from Random House books. The programmes will be made by Random House’s TV-production sister company FremantleMedia. Meanwhile, in December, Penguin’s owner Pearson grabbed 5% of NOOK’s business for US$89.5m.

Other book-publishing enterprises have started making imaginative use of e-books and their reading devices. As mentioned earlier, the UK’s Carlton Digital has made rock band Queen’s music available via an interactive e-book featuring links to iTunes. Before then, a small UK publisher Bedford Books had used the same music-links strategy for The Biographical Dictionary of Popular Music, which was published in May.

NBC Publishing, part of the US’ NBC TV network, recently decided an e-book on iPad was more user friendly than an app for the second-screen experience accompanying Grimm, the fantasy crime TV series.

As far back as 2010, Penguin Book joined forces with TV producer/distributor Starz Entertainment to issue the first e-book tied to a DVD release. Purchasers of Ken Follett’s epic fiction The Pillars of the Earth in the iPad e-book format could watch a trailer of the star-studded eight-hour TV drama produced by Germany’s Tandem Communications. An Amplified Edition allowed readers to access regularly updated videos based on the book and the series.

The year of the e-bookonomy
The e-book economy might not be firing our imaginations the way streaming videos, premium music services, and social mobile games are doing. But while a book publisher is unlikely to ensnare a games player to read a bestseller via a games console, a games publisher has a pretty damn good chance of getting an e-book reader to take a shot at its latest digital release, and listen to the soundtrack, and watch the film, and many other things…

The writer Juliana Koranteng is editor/founder of business journal MediaTainment Finance and newsletter TechMutiny. An analysis of Amazon.com’s overarching ambitions to dominate anything that can be sold online and its evolution into a dominant bookseller and publisher is in Issue No.10 of MediaTainment Finance (www.mediatainmentfinance.com).