Words vs Images

Ali Eteraz, in his post The War on Wordsmiths sees the increasing use of images as an assault on Wordsmiths: the poets, the short story writers, the memoirists, the novelists, the journalists. He fears that the image will replace the written word as the main form of communication in our technological world. But the war that he sees is of his own making:

Many of us express our sorrow, our resentment, our rage, by polemicizing against anything that leads to the death of the word. …we are engaged in a war (one that we are losing) to prevent the death of the word.

Images have been with us from the very beginning, as Eteraz himself states. But language, and specifically the written word, developed because the inherent limits of images could not express the overall richness of our human experience. When the first movies, without sound, appeared on the scene, it was very soon denounced as still-born. The moving images were actually found to be not communication very well on their own. It was only when sound (words and music) were added that it became an effective medium of communication. But to this very day movies are still no contest to actually lived experience. It simply does not contain the richness that all our senses provide us with.

The still image is even much less capable of providing a meaningful experience. It is without sound, movement, smell and taste. Seeing a picture of a girl in Afghanistan can at most evoke a glimmer of emotion in the viewer. But if the accompanying word do not tell us what it is about, it remains a shallow emotional experience. That picture can actually be very misleading without more information – it could be the daughter of a rich Taliban leader who is crying about her broken doll, rather than a distraught child who has lost her whole family in a bomb attack. And even if we were told that it is the later, the picture cannot evoke the same experience in us as a written report could.

The written word still has the power of description that images lack. Reading a description, by a competent Wordsmith, of Grandma baking apple tart in the farm kitchen can evoke in us all the smells of apples, cinnamon, butter, dough and lavender wafting in through the window. We can see the slanting light through the window falling on the sink, and through the door we can see Grandpa on the veranda, sitting in his favourite wicker reading the paper. As the Wordsmith describes her taking the baking tray from the oven we can already taste the yummyness. But most of all we can hear Grandma’s ruminations in her mind as she remembers an incident from long ago which wrinkles her face with a happy smile.

A picture of the same scene, posted on Instagram or Facebook, would give us only a fraction of the experience we got from reading about it. We would see a nice picture, for a moment remembering Grandma with fondness, maybe even fleetingly wonder how she is doing, and that would be the end of it. No smells, sounds, no tastes, no Grandpa on the stoep, no lavender outside the kitchen window. A very denuded experience indeed.

Ali, and many others, are fighting an imaginary war. Firstly, it is a very natural process of change that is happening. Nothing in this world stays the same forever. Secondly, if we are willing and able to embrace the change we can contribute positively to the dynamics of our situation by fostering a cooperation between the players, rather than fighting a war. The written word is very powerful. The graven image can be quite effective in communicating because it engages our primary sense, the visual. Put the two together and magic may be possible.


Ali Eteraz is the author of  Children of Dust.

Ali Eteraz

The Rotten Apple

News Flash

Apple found guilty of conspiring to raise e-book prices

Apple has been found guilty of conspiring with book publishers to raise e-book prices, in one of the biggest anti-trust lawsuits ever brought by US federal authorities, notes a report in The Guardian.

It says US district judge Denise Cote ruled yesterday (Wednesday) that the company played a ‘central role’ in a conspiracy with the biggest book publishers in the US to fix prices in violation of antitrust law. Executives from the companies would meet in the private dining rooms of upscale New York restaurants to bemoan the low prices charged by the e-books market leader Amazon, and what they could do about it, Cote said in her ruling, according to the report.

It states Cote ruled that damages would be determined at a new hearing.

Apple continued to deny yesterday that it had done anything wrong, and said it planned an appeal. The report says the ruling was not unexpected, as Cote had earlier suggested that Apple’s defence would fail, and the publishers – Hachette Book Group Inc, Macmillan, HarperCollins Publishers LLC, Penguin Group and Simon & Schuster – settled with the Department of Justice ahead of the trial.

Full report in The Guardian

James Clarke – New Titles

We’re very happy to have James Clarke on board as an author assisted by Shalva Publications. James is best known for his humour column Stoep Talk. Of the more than 30 books he has written about half are serious environmental stuff and the other half the funny stuff.

He has asked ShalvaPub’s help to resurrect his out of print books by publishing them as ebooks. So far we have done 3 of his humour books:

The Yellow Six – an autobiography which recalls the mostly true and hilarious escapades of six vaguely intrepid Boy Scouts in England during World War 2.

Sex for the Terribly Shy – which takes the Mickey (if you’ll forgive the expression) out of magazines that dish out advice on sex. He claims their editors fail to realise how their sex articles badly shock many, like himself, who were brought up during last century.

Golf – The Funny Side – To understand the evolution of the game read James’ fascinating history of golf which has been widely acclaimed by historians worldwide and far beyond.

For more than 20 years James has been collecting information and anecdotes about the game – mainly contributed by readers of his offbeat daily newspaper column Stoep Talk. Some of it is almost believable and a lot of it terribly useful for those who have to speak at raucous golf club prize-giving ceremonies.

     Yellow 6 Cover 150x200       Sex Cover 132x200     Golf Cover 132x200


A weird thing about South African ebooks

Our mission is to help authors publish their books electronically. As an author who has self-published three books, I have been lucky to have the help of Johann van Schalkwyk, who is far more techno-savvy than I am. We both love the written word and our complementary skills have led to the creation of Shalva Publishing.

While publishing my books, we discovered a quirk of South African ebook platforms and services. Most South African ebooks are vastly overpriced! Often a locally produced ebook costs more than its printed counterpart. We found many SA ebooks selling for more than R200 and numerous cases of an ebook priced above R300 (exorbitant!) whereas a printed copy might cost about R200 (merely expensive). We think this is a weird situation. The lack of overhead costs related to printing, shipping, and shelf space should make ebooks cheaper and more accessible than print books. The inflated local prices mean that fewer South Africans, both readers and authors, appear willing to switch to ebooks. We contacted a few people to try and find out why this situation has occurred and the answers ranged from, basically, “I wasn’t aware of this” (sounding like “I’m not interested”) to “It’s the other person’s fault.” Eish!

In developed countries, epublishing has started to outperform the printed book trade. Many indie (independent) authors make a living from selling their work electronically without printing a single copy. Our aim is to bring the South African trend in line with this international picture. Yet the whole point of epublishing is that you’re not bound to a geographical location. Readers can access your book from anywhere in the world within hours of it being listed on a platform. It should make no difference whether you list on a US-based platform like Amazon.com or on a local one like Kalahari or Exclusives. We believe that the price of your ebook should be similar everywhere, not selling for a few dollars on a US platform but costing several hundred rands on a local platform. Marketing logic suggests that lower prices will attract more readers and so earn you more royalties.

What we do

At Shalva Publications we offer a service to writers who want to take full advantage of the emerging market in ebooks. The frustrating days of submitting your manuscript—the result of long hours of hard work—to publisher after publisher, only to wait for months and then receive a string of rejection letters, are over. Today anyone can publish their work and make it accessible to readers across the world in a matter of hours or days.

One of our services is to convert a manuscript into ebook format and then listing the title on the international ebook retailing networks. This process involves technical know-how that many writers feel unable or unwilling to master. Shalva covers the technical aspects of creating an ebook at a nominal fee, leaving the writer free to focus on the actual writing. Using our ebook listing service, you can establish a direct link with your potential readers and know that your work is immediately available to them in the full range of ebook formats.

Several factors may determine the success of an ebook. Affordability is important to readers in today’s economic climate. Some authors do not realise that the ebook market lets you make a good profit even if you sell your work at a low price—because lower prices mean that you can attract more readers. Another important factor is the quality of your work. If your writing is of a high standard and readers find the content intriguing, your book could become a bestseller. But if the writing is poor and the content does not interest most people, the book will quietly slip into obscurity—whether it was printed conventionally or epublished. The point is that with ebooks, your readers will decide on the merit of your work, rather than some god-like editor with a hangover in a plush office on the 13th floor of a huge publishing company somewhere you’ve never visited. As an ebook author, your readers will largely determine whether or not your book succeeds.