"The more I think about it, the more geeky I realise I am," I said to Timo today. Having just returned from Eastercon, it's no wonder I've not floated down to "somewhat normal" yet.
"What, you're surprised by that?" Timo replied.
"No, what I mean is that there are a few things I'd always taken to be my little quirks, which I now realise are traits shared with many others. This sounds so naive, but I really didn't think that there'd be so many people for whom having complete sets of things, or having such sets categorised and organised in some specific way would be as important."
I'm not a collector; not exactly. There are very narrow areas in which I'd say it's important to have the set for its own sake. Mostly that happens to me with books.
Today, whilst dusting the shelves (and looking for Timo's copy of Coraline, which Neil Gaiman's comments during the Darker than Potter panel made me want to read), I spotted a pattern.
The book series for non-SF/Fantasy fiction, say, by a Finnish crime publishing house, are uniform in colour and typeface, but don't have numbers on the spines. Same goes for "modern classics" and, upon further inspection, all other mainstream fiction series we have knocking around. Hmm.
Whereas - most of the SF/Fantasy book series are numbered. Even "...best new SF" uses this device, even though it might have made sense to print the actual year for which these are meant to be the "best" collections for. Instead they've sequenced using numbers. And the numbers are big on the spine too; it'll be really obvious if you've missed one.
I wonder if this is a deliberate attempt by marketing departments to tap into the geeky tendencies of the target audience for these books. If it is, it's working and I'm impressed.
Something else that's impressed me - Neil's business sense and his ability to use it in subtle and effective ways. Coraline did get mentioned rather a lot during the con and what do you know; it's due to be released as a film soon. And if you're quick, you can still download a free copy of American Gods from his website (but expect to feel the urge to buy it afterwards - the sales of this book have gone up significantly since the freebie offer).
Someone asked Neil: "Since you record and sell audio books, does it bother you that these have been made illegally available via peer-to-peer download services?"
He replied by asking how many people in the audience had found their favourite author by buying a book they knew nothing about, apart from the blurb on the cover. Some hands went up. He then asked: "How many of you found your favourite author for free; through borrowing a book, or by some other means?" A forest of arms shot up.
"See?" said Neil.
By doing this sort of thing, he is clever on so many levels. Instead of demonising potential fans, he works with them. Instead of struggling upstream against the inevitable changes in how the market and technology is evolving, he swims with the current and uses it to his advantage.
I've got into the habit of listening to podcasts and audio books whilst sat at airports waiting for delayed flights, or trying to relax in uncomfortable hotel rooms. I found Stardust as an audio book on iTunes, narrated by Neil - and am now tempted to buy it. Can't decide whether it would be silly, considering I have it as an actual book (now also autographed; thank you very much!).
There is no way I'd use a peer-to-peer service, just in case you're wondering.