Posts Tagged ‘book’

One of our Balloons is Missing

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

Readers of my recent blog postings might be forgiven for thinking that all I do is powerboating, which couldn’t be further from the truth. True, I did many thousands of miles around the world and on a number of other trips some years ago on Spirit of Cardiff. True, I also have another circumnavigation record attempt coming up later this year. But most of my career as a journalist has been spent travelling the world engaging in all manner of activities in pursuit of a good story.

One of our Balloons is Missing

One of our Balloons is Missing

“One of our Balloons is Missing” is an anthology of some of my more colourful stories, published at the moment purely in an electronic edition. In it you can read how I became the first journalist to fly in a hot air balloon in Soviet Russia (which gave the book its title), how I rode at 90mph in a four-man bobsleigh down the Olympic Bob Run in St Moritz, and you’ll find out what it’s like to descend 100 feet to the bottom of Windermere in the English Lake District in a high-tech submersible.

My 14th book, nearly 30 years in the writing, but less than a week from conception to Amazon’s Kindle store. Now that’s progress!

“One of our Balloons is Missing” is available from the Amazon Kindle store, price £3.16

P-pick up a P45

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

With the WH Smith / Penguingate travel guide saga still simmering along, book publishers Penguin UK have announced they are to make 100 people – that’s 10 per cent of their workforce – redundant. It adds up to the biggest cut by any of the top UK publishers.

And yet according to chairman and chief executive John Makinson, the cuts are not about the recession, rather about “preparing for the future that is full of enormous opportunities”, adding that Penguin is “in extremely good health” and “performing fine”.

If laying off 10 per cent of your workforce is what you do when your company is in extremely good health, I’d hate to think what Penguin might do when they get into difficulties…


Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

I don’t know about you, but I find airports pretty dire places on the whole. One of my few respites is browsing around WH Smith, looking at travel books, the latest novels, along with newspapers and magazines. But for the time being I’m going to be steering clear.

Recently WH Smith did a deal with book publishers Penguin to stock only their foreign travel guides in their outlets in UK airports, railway stations and motorway service areas. On the face of it this might not seem that significant, but see how many other booksellers you can find in these places. Which means that if you happen to be passing through and decide you want to make an impulse purchase, the only choice you have will be from Penguin’s imprints of Dorling Kindersley, Rough Guides and Sawdays Guides. If you have a hankering for Lonely Planet, Bradt, AA Guides, Michelin, Insight, Berlitz or Frommers, it’ll be tough luck.

So in other words, what has happened is a stitch-up. Or in more legal terms, it’s anti-competetive. From the consumer’s point of view it’s a raw deal. Your choice is seriously restricted, particularly as the coverage afforded by the Penguin guides is far from universal. WH Smith argue that they’re making life easier for you by restricting choice for the “time-pressed” traveller. But honestly, how many time-pressed people do you see milling around airport terminals? I see zillions bored out of their skulls.

The British Guild of Travel Writers, of which I am a member, has been involved in writing to the Office of Fair Trading, lobbying ministers and generally making a noise about it, but many other organisations have too, including the Society of Authors. It could possibly be having an effect, as both WH Smith and BAA (for whom WH Smith are the sole booksellers) have hinted that the arrangement may be reviewed. But that strikes me as a bit of a cop-out while the heat is on.

WH Smith might be the only place in a BAA airport where you can buy a travel book, but they don’t have that luxury in the High Street. So if you feel sufficiently outraged at having your choice restricted, and want to make your voice heard in the Penguingate saga, do it with your feet!