Posted in Rants & Raves

The Death of the Publishing Industry

IMG_6340The title should read “buying printed materials can be the death of me”. T and I recently encountered a rather annoying situation when attempting to buy the latest issue of Game Informer magazine in Las Vegas. This involved a very excited man whose work was featured in one of the few print publications on gaming left in the industry, enthusiastically seeking one copy to purchase. And it ended with a very frustrated man going home to calm himself down by eating directly from a tub of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.

Our online research showed that Game Informer could be purchased at a GameStop outlet so we drove down to one about 15 minutes from where we live. There, we were greeted with brusque hostility from their retail staff. Let me qualify by setting the situation – there were less than 10 customers in the store looking over cartridges (or whatever they call those things now), no queue at the counter and 2 ladies talking to each other behind it. It didn’t look like they were stock-taking or doing anything that needed immediate attention. Right in front of us, there were maybe 10 copies of the magazine we wanted but instead of being helpful, we were asked if we had a GameStop membership (yes they checked their system against our phone number), then told to upgrade it or subscribe to it for a year and there’s no way to just buy one copy. I could think of so many ways of relaying this information without turning us off. Firstly, try the words “I’m afraid it’s not within our policy” or “I would love to help you but I do not have the authority to get around the system”. Rather than “no, you can’t” and “that’s how it is”. Secondly, they could’ve at least pretended to try rather than give us a blank stare that seemed to communicate a “so those are your options. What’s it going to be?”. I offered to pay for a year’s subscription but by then T was so miffed at their outward nonchalance that he refused it – thus denying a genuine and willing shopper. To end it all, there was no “is there anything else I can help you with” gesture, just looking at us as we turned our backs to go. Those are stock and standard courtesy phrases in retail. You don’t have to mean them but not even bothering to do the minimum required is simply unacceptable. We were not holding up a line, there were 2 of you behind the counter so if 1 was attending to us, the other could keep watch on the physical store – is that so difficult? We wanted to BUY one, not sponge one off because “hey I’m in the magazine”. IMG_6104

We ended up driving around for hours – to another 2 different stores which sell magazines, getting the phone numbers of another 2 then calling them (while sitting on a very comfy double papasan chair in Pier 1) but ultimately going home empty-handed.

T and I own a bunch of gadgety things from our personal computers to smart phones – we also have an iPad and 2 Kindles. He is subscribed to car magazines and I have 4 home and fashion magazines subscribed. We are constantly reading, embracing both digital and pulp. And we have consciously kept our favourite books to pass down to our future children (if we have any). I’ve always loved the library, books, literary culture and the art of writing regardless of genre or content – even frivolity in the rags. I come from a generation that grew up without computers or the Internet – our parents took us to libraries to look up information, we knew how to use the Encyclopedia Brittanica etc. As a teenager, I mail ordered magazines from overseas through the post office using money orders and I READ about music to imagine what bands sound like. If it weren’t listening to the radio, to sample music, I would go to a shop and request for a cassette tape to be played – 30 seconds first song of side A and 30 seconds of last song of side B only. I had to count on Smash Hits to fill me in on the rest so that I can decide if I would part with the princely sum of SGD10 to hear the entire album.

So much of the art of writing is lost through our instant and digital culture. I revere writers who can ignite my imaginations with plain text and stir up emotions with adverbs and adjectives plucked seemingly effortlessly from the air but these days, I mourn their loss with badly written yet scandalously popular blogs that titillate.

I went to school to learn how to teach English and Literature – which I did for 5 years in Secondary schools in Singapore, and then 3 years teaching a creative writing course in an enrichment centre. Yet ironically, I did not myself attempt to write outside of academia. I’ve been told I write clearly but my style is too obtuse for anyone to relate. I took that to mean that I could edit for grammar and syntax but I should not attempt my own prose.

What this piece of verbose rambling is, is pointing at people who inadvertently cause the demise of the print industry – bad sales people who make feeble attempts to sell despite the fact that they have many actual physical copies on hand, digitisation of publications for convenience, louts who tout pirated books (I’ve seen entire black & white photocopies of Lonely Planet guides in Khao San, Bangkok for USD2) etc.

And where there’s the anti-hero, we must have someone to provide a glimpse of faith in humanity. With this, I refer to Mike (of Game Informer) who saw my tweet about our futile attempts to buy a copy of the magazine and swiftly takes action by offering me solutions then sending a copy of that dastardly publication to our house! PR and Social Media saves the day! My husband is now happy again. He had wanted his “own spanking new copy to frame up or something” (quote verbatim). IMG_6341

It is a good read and to be honest, when he first said he wanted to buy Game Informer, I laughed hysterically and responded with infomeryounosaydaddymesnowmeI’llgoblamealickyboomboomdown… Because I just didn’t know what it was. Now that I’ve had a chance to read it though, I feel sorry for the editorial team putting the magazine out. It is hard enough to get people to purchase physical print copies of your work and it just doesn’t help that frontline staff from your parent company retail outlets isn’t making more of an attempt to promote it.

T is happy with his multiple copies of the magazine featuring his work and I’m very grateful for Mike who saved the day. A paid subscription to the magazine might be in the works – gawd knows I need me some schooling in video games especially being the wife of a game developer. And apparently Game Informer is considered one of the the last bastion for printed game magazines (also the best)… Maybe when T has forgotten the GameStop episode.