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November 2006 - The Publishers

So we managed to do autumn to death in the last edition, but what on earth's happened in the last couple of weeks then?  The weather's turned cold, all the leaves fell of the trees one night, the central heating's been turned on, and by the time you read this the clocks will have gone back.

That opening statement, incidentally, is designed to be read and understood by all my regular devotees in the northern hemisphere, but will probably go straight over the head of all my antipodean fans, who are probably just getting the prawns out of the fridge, ready to throw the first one on the barbeque.

My apologies, then, to all of you lucky enough to be south of the equator.  Perhaps you'd like to put this edition on hold for a while and read it again next April?

I can tell when the nights draw in, you see, just by looking at my viewing figures for this place.  In the last month, it's clear you've all been spending far more time indoors, in front of your computer screens, reading my every word of wisdom.

I'd never have thought, fifteen years ago, when Nick Harvey's Comment was first published as the written word, that it would ever have such a huge following all over the world.

I'd certainly never have considered such a possibility twenty-eight years ago, when the first radio edition went out, in a blaze of indifference, to almost tens of excited listeners.

I wonder what Mr Aitken and Mr Harmsworth thought when their first editions hit the news-stands?  Were they certain of their success and happy in the sure knowledge that they'd soon be the Lords Beaverbrook and Northcliffe?

What would they say now, I wonder, with daily copies of the Express and Mail online, on the internet, for everyone to read on a screen, rather than off paper?

And what would they think of these cheeky upstarts, like Nick Harvey and everyone else in the world, publishing all their own material for the whole universe to consume and enjoy at just the click of a mouse?

I was reminded by a correspondent recently, a Mr G of Manchester, that this written word stuff is pretty out-of-date now, in any case.  He was suggesting that I should join all the other pensioners in delivering my message into a camera nowadays, via this strange YouTube phenomenon.

I've only ever done one edition of Comment to a camera, way back in the eighties, when a radio edition was caught on video as well.  It's not a pleasant sight, I can tell you, madam, so perhaps it's not a very good idea to pursue it any further.

But it's certainly true that the printed word is rapidly being overtaken by other forms of delivery.  It's also true that the days of nearly all publishing being in the hands of a couple of privileged lords are long gone; with anyone and everyone now having a crack at the job.

I was reminded of the impending demise of the print medium the other week, when that bastion of printed Englishness, the Radio Times, popped another three pence onto their cover price, now making it come in at only two pence under the pound.

My goodness, I remember when the thing was just three old pence a week, let's see, that would be about one-and-a-half pence in this new-fangled money.  That was in nineteen-fifty-three; which works out as an increase of ninety-six-and-a-half new pence in just fifty-three years.  That's disgusting!

And, not satisfied with just ripping off poor Mr Reader with another price hike, the quality of the thing definitely deteriorated in exactly the same week.

Firstly, that week's edition was stuffed with far more useless advertising flyers than previously, so you had to go and hold it out over your brand new, micro-chipped wheelie bin, of which more in a later edition, and shake it violently to remove the bulk of the anagram of carp contained therein.

One additional item of carp, in the form of a postcard sort of thing, was fixed in with that horrible, sticky glue which joins all the pages together once you've extracted the item of advertising from the page.

Why on earth they have to do that totally escapes me.  After all, they intend you to remove the postcard-type thing in order to send it off.  You're then left with just the blob of glue to annoy you by attaching all the wrong pages together.  Utter stupidity!

A further item of carp was actually made of cardboard and was inserted in between some of the pages, to make it totally impossible to fold the magazine back on itself and open at the pages for the day of the week you happen to be on.

This cardboard has little perforations so you can remove a little of it fairly easily, but the middle bit is still left behind, trapped between the staples to cause ongoing grief until you manage to rip the whole lot out completely.

Talking of staples, by the way, did they change their staple supplier the same week as they put the price up, I wonder?  The middle two or three pairs of pages keep coming away and falling out of the magazine over the last few weeks as well.

Mind you, on further, detailed examination, under the Nick Harvey, Acme microscope, it might not be the staples at all.  I think it might just be the paper that's now become thinner and, therefore, weaker.  It's no longer got the strength to hang on to the staples, so the middle pages just fall out.

Thank goodness we're not usually at home on a Sunday evening, as there's no hope of finding out what's on the telly that night.  Those are the pages which cascaded into the brand new, micro-chipped wheelie bin, of which more in a later edition, together with all the advertising carp.

Goodness me, was that a bijou Nick Harvey digression there, by any chance?  Do you get the impression that I'm not overly impressed with the Radio Times since they banged the price up again?  You could just be right, madam!

Well, it just goes to prove the ever changing state of the publishing world, does it not?  At least your average computer screen isn't held together with staples, and doesn't fall to pieces the moment you try to read the bit of text about Sunday evening's programmes.

I think this Nick Harvey chap's going to continue as a semi-Luddite, however.  I'll stick to the bashing of the jolly old fingers on the jolly old keyboard once a month and avoid going in-vision on the YouTube thing.

In any case, at least there's a bit less confusion with the written word, isn't there?  If I were to do Comment in-vision, I'd have to find the right language, accent and dialect to suit my huge mass of fans all around the world, wouldn't I?  It was all right about twenty years ago, when the whole thing was nice and local.  I could do it in a broad Wiltshire accent if I wanted to, and nobody would have complained.

Does anyone know whether the great boffins of the scientific world have yet come up with an online translation engine for the spoken word on an internet video?  If not, perhaps that could be the next Nick Harvey project; something to keep me out of trouble through the long, cold winter nights.

Yes, I shall plan to share my time through the next month or so between designing this wonderful video translation machine and writing December's exciting edition of Comment.

I shall, therefore, report back to you on the progress of the former, during the latter.  And the latter will be along, promptly, on December 1st, so please don't be late.

Better get on with it then, I suppose.  Catch you next month, when I might just mention brand new, micro-chipped wheelie bins again.  Right, I'm off, where's me drawing board?

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