On Reading…

I’m incessant book reader, it’s rare to find me without a book somewhere near. I can generally be found perched somewhere, Kindle in hand, immersed in an imaginary world dreamed up from the imaginations of those far more creative than myself (notwithstanding my own book writing attempts). My habit got so bad that a couple of years ago I chose to switch to an ebook reader (the aforementioned Kindle) to use while feeding my addiction because it allowed me to carry multiple books at one time without causing back aches and meant I could continue to build on to my well over a 1,000 book library without needing to buy a larger house (a genuine concern at the time). eBooks allowed my addiction to grow to further and further heady heights. Suddenly, if I finished a book while out and about I wasn’t stuck, I could buy another one and start reading seconds later. The hours I spent reading dizzily spun even more out of control and I’ve loved every second of it.

Never again would I be afraid to try a new author because now I could download free samples allowing me to read a couple of chapters and try things out. Nothing is worse than buying a book based on reviews or the back cover description and getting it home only to realize the writing is so appalling that you can’t make it past the first few pages. Never again would I be forced to make the decision to part with my precious books because of lack of shelf space, they can all be stored on one small device or online.

However, now I feel like I’m stuck in the middle of a war and I’m nothing but fodder. Here I am, a passionate reader. For the entirety of my life books have been one of my best friends, as pathetic as that may sound. I’m fairly certain I’ve seen more of the interior of books than I have that large glowing ball of light up in the sky. But I’ve become a second class citizen in the realm of books.

Publishers have decided that I’m not worthy of reading books the day they come out unless I want to go back to dead tree versions. Instead I need to wait, because ebooks are second class citizens. Ignore the fact that the majority of ebook readers are generally the passionate types who love books, we don’t seem to matter. I guess they think we love books enough that we’ll buy those we truly want no matter the format. They ignore the fact that it’s not a hard cover vs. paperback kind of debate. eBooks are a completely new medium that deserve completely different treatment and they need to move with the times.

Well no more. I love books. I have a very long list of authors who I previously would have purchased their most recent book the very day it came out, and that list keeps growing every time I discover a new author (made so much easier by my lovely reading device). But I’m being thwarted by publishers who won’t allow that behavior.

I don’t think publishers are going to listen to anything but money, so that’s what I’ll speak with. If the ebook doesn’t come out the exact same day as the initial release…too bad. I’m just one person, but it’s better than none. Maybe if they see an overall drop in sales of a book when they delay the ebook launch it will mean something.

Publishers, please don’t get caught in the same stupid abyss that the music industry has been and refuse to recognize the digital medium or try and restrain it. I’m never going back to non-digital versions. It isn’t a pricing decision (I can, have, and probably will again discuss that topic, though, so don’t think price doesn’t come into play with ebooks). I don’t see ebooks as an alternative to hard covers or something like that. It’s a convenience choice, it’s a delivery preference. Just as I don’t want CDs cluttering up my house and I want to be able to carry hundreds of them with me easily, I want the same for my books. You don’t see the music industry trying to impose restrictions on when the digital version of an album is released vs. the hard copy, do you? Don’t tell me that the music industry is behaving better than the publishing industry! That’s just sad.

You Don’t Own Me!

Because I work in the email marketing industry, I spend a lot of my day thinking about spam. It’s not really the happiest topic and it’s also not all penis pills or blatant phishing attempts. A lot of perceived spam out there seems to come down to a genuine disconnect between what we as people explicitly ask to hear about and what they as marketers think we want to hear about.

As someone who stands in the middle I’m often the arbiter of these disputes. I’m the person who puts the brakes on those attempts to send completely irrelevant information out to lists and who has to have those amazingly difficult conversations with people about how they may see it as being relevant and recognizable, but the people on their list may not. It’s tougher than it sounds.

After spending many, many hours looking at the issue and debating with end users over their attempts to send out emails that simply aren’t meaningful to their lists and their subscribers I’m starting to think that part of the problem is that feeling of ownership. If everyone would just take a step back and realize that these aren’t your lists, that these are human beings who may (or in some case may not but that’s another story) have asked to hear from you about a specific topic. That doesn’t give you ownership over that address. It doesn’t mean you can suddenly send them anything you want because they once upon a time expressed interest in your company or your product. You don’t own them.

Maybe it harkens to that distasteful area of list purchase and rental. Where you were “buying” addresses or “renting” their usage for a certain amount of time. Well those addresses certainly didn’t belong to the sellers either. Email addresses are not a commodity to be bartered and sold. Let’s stop thinking about them that way. Don’t think of a list as something you want to blast to. Think of it as having a conversation with people. You want that conversation to be relevant to what they asked for. You aren’t shouting into an empty room just hoping and praying someone, somewhere, is listening to you. Have some respect.

Growing Up

Today I got the sad news that one of my last remaining piercings was going to have to come out. Of course I could let it heal and re-pierce it. But, could I actually do that? Getting random bits of your body stuck with a needle all in the name of “it looks/feels cool” when you’re in your late teens or early 20s is one thing, when you’re rapidly approaching 30 it’s another thing entirely. All I could think was “I think I’m a bit too old for that” and then “but why?”

I’m not really that different than I was at 21 when I got said hole added to my body. Sure, I’m a few pounds heavier and I live in the suburbs now, but I still delight in dying my hair random colors. Halloween is still my favorite holiday. I don’t know how mature and responsible you can really call me. When did I hit that sudden barrier where it seems a waste of time and money to get a piercing? When did I get that old? Will the hair color be next? Will I give up metal and alternative rock for easy listening?

It’s probably just personality and pain tolerance shifting with time. But I’m feeling like an fuddy-duddy right now.

Opting In vs. Not Opting Out – A Little About Email Permissions

Part of my job involves talking to people about list permissions and it can often be a difficult conversation. When are you allowed to spa er contact your mailing list? Well the general rule of thumb should be if they’ve explicitly and directly *asked* you to contact them about that topic. And yes, I’m saying that should be the general rule no matter what, not just if you’re using the company I work for to send with.

A few things that doesn’t mean. It means you can’t say on a form “if you don’t want to hear from me click here” or say later “they can always just unsubscribe” and add them anyway. They need to explicitly opt-in first by checking a box saying something like “please add me to your mailing list” or explicitly asking you to add them to your list. You want everyone on your list to have explicitly asked to hear from you. Quality over quantity. The happier your subscribers are the more engaged they are. And the more engaged they are the more likely they are to click links, make purchases and walk away with a positive opinion about your company.

So just remember. Set the bar high for your opt-ins. Don’t try and add everyone and their cousin to your list. Make them ask to be added. Because if they truly want to hear from you…then they truly want to hear from you. Sure your list might be smaller than if you tried to add everyone you possibly could, but those are the people who truly want to hear what you’re saying.

Things I’ve Learned While Watching Top Gear

We’ve been on a bit of a Top Gear marathon lately. This has mostly been instigated by both a lack of other things to watch and my odd growing obsession with the show and luckily we have 14 seasons to work through, so it’ll take at least a few weeks to catch up completely. I can’t help it, watching those blokes do insane things in often insane cars is a blast. It leaves me dreaming of driving Porches or Zondas all night. It’s also caused me to learn a few things.

  1. Americans get all the crappy cars. I’d like to move to Europe just to be able to buy the cars they show every week. Even the less fun hatchbacks are much more awesome than the ones we get over here.
  2. I’m easily encouraged to drive like a maniac. It doesn’t take much watching to make me want to drive super fast and attempt handbrake parallel parking.
  3. I have an inexplicable crush on James May.
  4. I’m never going to be happy with the car I’m driving.

That’s all. For now.

Boring I know.