a place to call home

15 01 2012

ever since i arrived back in Sydney, friends have asked me variations of “so, how are you finding Sydney?”, the question loaded with the understanding that I left Sydney nearly 12 years ago, never intending to return without a very good reason.

i’ve explained to some that i’m viewing my unexpected return to Sydney as a transitionary step, wherein all the things that I hate about life in Sydney will serve to motivate me to keep this step a short one, say, two to three years, until I finally make it to the one place in the world I actually want to live.

it’s worth noting here that some people can’t fathom why I have no desire to go do the ‘live and work overseas for a few years’ thing, as Jon is planning to do.  well, likewise, i can’t fathom why some people would prefer to live in Sydney.  fine, whatever.  most of the time i just roll my eyes or smile amiably and STFU, because frankly the differences are relatively minor, compared to so many other places in the world.

unexpectedly, this relocation to Sydney – provoked by Jon’s job offer – has brought me a bigger step closer to not just the NSW Northern Rivers, but the ability to live anywhere whilst still doing my work, than I had first anticipated.  by coming to an arrangement to continue providing tech-support to two Melbourne clients simply as a means to ensure continuity of a base-level income until I establish some new clients (presumed to be in Sydney), in one step I’ve laid a big part of the groundwork toward having location-independence already.  previously I’d always assumed that location-independent income would have to come from something else (eg. iApp development).

two leads/introductions facilitated by a close friend for further Sydney-based work/clients have fizzled out to nothing, both incapable even of saying ‘sorry, nothing we can do to help at this time’ even via the impersonality of email.  i just don’t understand that.

a third lead morphed into a far more tangible opportunity to work for another IT support organisation, if i were willing to put aside my self-employed independence and, sooner or later, hand over my clientele to it.  having just made the realisation that I’d partially achieved location-independent income status, I wasn’t about to self-sabotage that any time soon.  nor would this job afford me the time or headspace to continue this process.

so I’m left hoeing my own path.

Jon’s new job is going as well as hoped, which is a relief.  i’m glad i made the move with him up here, to continue our path-of-uncertain-length together.  i like the place we’re living in, even though it’s not a direct 1-to-1 conversion of ‘Socio-Economic Location Value’ from where we lived in Melbourne.  for that privilege of living in, say, Newtown, we’d have to pay an extra $150/week rent, at least.  or live under a near-perpetual flight path.  fuck that shit.

i *hate* myself for the way I’ve put on so much weight in the past comfortable year, having somehow allowed myself to not choose a new gym when we moved in together in a new area too far from my old gym.  naturally i don’t expect or get any positive encouragement from the Sydney Establishment there.  but that is about to change, i guarantee it.  (rest assured though, some Sydney people will misinterpret this as some desire on my part to be more Sydney-like.)

and, despite not having any previous desire for pets, we now have two gorgeous ginger kittens adding a surprising amount of joy and entertainment to our home.

with all this so far, i’ve apparently lost my personal integrity (for moving back to Sydney, i assume), had my masculinity questioned (by uber-house-proud gay men living in Sydney, no less), my financial status looked down upon (“oh, you’re living in Dulwich Hill, the OUTER inner west, that’s not really the inner west, you know!”), and a bunch of other gratingly superficial judgements presented as substitute for conversation, all from people who, frankly, I know can be better than that.  of course the flip-side is that i’m probably just being teased a bit and need to grow a thicker skin – a skin thickness I never seemed to need in Melbourne.

so it would seem my viewing life back in Sydney as an uncomfortably motivational transitionary step is working just fine!



Australian Book industry, retailing & parallel import restrictions (PIRs)

5 01 2012

the Australian Book Industry Strategy Group released its report a couple of months ago, and Bob Carr, board member of Dymocks, lays down a baseless dismissal of it on his Thoughtlines blog, and while he’s at it takes a few snide shots at a few book industry types, including Henry Rosenbloom of Scribe Publications, who rises to the bait adequately (I get the feeling these two have been barking at each other from opposite sides of a flimsy fence for several years now).

Bob’s suggestion:

Here’s the better course. Let the market work. Allow Australian bookshops to purchase books from the cheapest source, an overseas or a local publisher. Liberate them to compete with overseas sites that don’t pay a GST when they sell books into the Australian market.

as i said in part 2 of my ‘Seeing REDgroup’ posts, i agree, it’s naive folly to ask for the Australian government to drop GST on book sales. (instead, in this era of rapidly growing citizen importation from offshore online retailers, Australian Customs should be drastically lowering the duty &/or GST exemption threshold (from its current $1000?), back to similar or lower levels prior to the introduction of the Liberal Party’s GST, and slapping a GST invoice of every box that comes into the country from offshore retailers.  in other words, welcome to Part 6278 of Globalisation.

but the most infuriating aspect of Bob Carr’s argument is that he has no answer to the reality that a substantial proportion of the income that Australian publishers – and their authors, and printers, etc – derive from the parallel import restrictions would be lost by their abolition!

i posted a comment in reply to Bob’s post, and another commenter summed up my argument nicely (if a little incredulously).  check it out.  i wanted to reply, but for whatever reason further comments on the post have been disabled.  i don’t like my argument either, but my point is, what’s the solution?

ideologically i hate the notion of the PIRs (which if you don’t know, force Australian retailers to buy books – be they Australian or from overseas – from Australian publishers, rather than directly from overseas publishers, resulting obviously in a substantial increase in the shelf RRP), just as much as i hate the notion of territorial copyright, but it’s not as if PIRs on books is unique to Australia.  The USA and UK, who have similar restrictions, would just love it if Australia dropped its PIRs and all our book retailers bought directly from them – its one less middleman in the RRP equation that gives them more cream on top.  They’re not even thinking about dropping their own PIRs, btw!

undoubtedly books would be cheaper in Australia if we didn’t have the PIRs.  but at what cost?  at what consequence to Australian publishing and authors?  many, if not most, Australian-authored books serve mainly an Australian audience.  as such, throwing them to the ‘wolves’ of USA-based authorship deals, whose figures are based on the assumption you’re aiming for the USA or UK-sized markets, rather than Australia’s comparatively minuscule market, just doesn’t add up to a viable income.

having lived through, and successfully come out the other end of REDgroup Retail’s administration period, i’ve become keenly aware of how easy it is to destroy a business – even a profitable one, and how difficult it can be to re-establish it.  my involvement was merely as a minor creditor, a supplier of IT consulting services to one small business within REDgroup.

despite being a viable entity, the liquidity it needed to see through its next 12 months disappeared last February, never to be seen again (and, surprise surprise, none of those ultimately responsible for REDgroup’s pathetic failure, nor those who owned it, were held accountable or liable for is major debts – everyone else, including me, had to pay for their failure as supposedly competent capitalists).  what followed was a nervous six months of limbo and delicate negotiations to find a new owner for this theoretically profitable business, so long as their pockets were deep enough to fund it over the hump of its annual income cycle.

but it wasn’t just the REDgroup group of companies threatened (and most of them liquidated), and not just small-fry creditors like me effected – it was the entire Australian and New Zealand book and calendar retail ecosystem effected.

this is why i get rather pissy when ideologues like Bob Carr (and several “you tell ’em, Bob!” fans on his website) blithely condemn Australian book publishers, authors, and printers to dire and immediate threat, simply to achieve a “free market” economic ideology (removal of the PIRs) – despite existing in an industry where there is no such level playing field to start with, without coming up with an actual, demonstrable solution or alternative means to support Australian publishers and authors.

sure, eBooks and offshore online retailers (of physical books) are taking an ever-larger bite from Australian publishers & authors lunches anyway, and will – probably within 5 years – kill many of them.  but what’s the point of abolishing the PIRs, other than to THEORETICALLY lower Australian book RRP prices (far from guaranteed, given the New Zealand experience)?  who in Australia benefits from forcing this change in one short sharp shot, when the passage of a few short years will afford at least the opportunity (admittedly no guarantee) of a more organic adaptation of the industry to the quickly shifting landscape of book retailing?  why not give the Australian book industry the opportunity to get its eBook shit together, and allow eBooks several more years to overtake paper books sales, in a way that’s viable for Australian publishers and authors within the scale of Australia’s market?  by then the PIRs will be irrelevant anyway, but the industry will at least have had the years needed to transition.