Sunday, December 29, 2013

A Parable for Christmas

Once upon a time there was a big-time Referee, who worked in the Premiership. He had done his stuff with all the great teams and even, a few years ago, refereed the Cup Final at the old Wembley stadium. He was pretty pleased with himself and his life.

One weekend he had a day off, so took his dog that Saturday morning and went down to his local park. There, he saw a bunch of kids having a kickabout. He liked football, so stopped to watch. He was enjoying it, but then, before long, something happened. One of the youngsters went steaming in on another in an energetic tackle. 'Foul!' the man yelled and went running onto the pitch. He couldn't help himself. 'You're doing it wrong,' he screamed. 'There are Rules, you know!'

MORAL of the tale: the Referee is similar to all those people who log onto the internet and find books offered for sale, often by amateurs and first timers. They like reading and check the offerings out. But then, they can't help themselves. 'This is wrong!' they yell, steaming in. 'There are Rules, you know!' They are confusing internet publishing and Traditional Publishing. They imagine that it is roughly the same thing, and that it should operate by the same Rules. It isn't, and it doesn't.

If anything, internet publishing is most similar to eBay, not Traditional Publishing. On eBay, people offer all sorts and manner of things for sale. If you come across it, you might be amazed. 'This is rubbish', you might think. So what? The ethos of eBay is that 'One Person's Rubbish is Another Person's Treasure'. Anything can be offered, and if people don't want it, they move on. They DON'T feel compelled to shout and stamp, and warn people about the quality of the goods. That isn't necessary. Everyone trying to buy something knows it is their duty to check the stuff out and make up their own minds. No one – NO ONE – takes on the task of being the Publishing Police and imagining that their good taste is the same as everyone else's.

These people aren't needed. They are interfering and should keep their opinions to themselves.