Price difference on magazines disappears

I've always been irritated by the difference in Canadian and U.S. prices on many things, including magazines, and at the excuses that's it's due to complicated issues like the currency imbalance and increased distribution costs in Canada. The recent jump of our dollar to 10% above it's U.S. counterpart brought a renewed focus on this issue, and renewed consumer complaints about these overpriced products. Granted we're back at parity now, but we're still annoyed at the differences.

Now U.S. publishing giant Hearst (Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Seventeen, etc.) has eliminated the problem - the separate U.S prices are gone from the copies they send up here. The Canadian price is still higher, you just don't see the difference. Hearst said this was done "to eliminate any confusion in the marketplace". So it turns out it wasn't so much the up to 30% difference on various magazines that bothered us all, it was just us simple Canadians being confused as to whether we were being ripped off or not.  I'm so glad that's been cleared up.

If you'd like to thank Hearst for this, I'm sure Jessica Kleiman, Vice President, Public Relations would appreciate your feedback.

Musings in the sun

I was downtown the other day - had taken a few Tech wall pics, visited the camera store my fav salesman had moved to, bought a slip-on case for my new Nikon P5000, and stopped at the Lieutenant's Pump to quench my thirst. I sat there in the sun watching the world go by, sipping a Keith's, and mused on semi-retirement. "Semi" meaning I often "do" more than when I was gainfully employed, but is it work? A common definition seems to be:

To exert oneself physically or mentally in order to do, make, or accomplish something

From that you'd think even I- sitting in the sun and wondering if my pension check came in yet- was working. But the assumption seems to be that it has to be a job, employment, someone (other than Canada Pension) has to be paying me. When we are in a full time job, it's a convenient label for people to use to pigeon-hole us - I work for Bell, I work for GM, I'm a broker, I'm a carpenter, whatever. Retirement often means the freedom to lose that specific focus, rather than being controlled by a structure for our 7.5 hours a day there is freedom to blur that focus and throttle back that drive. Which seems to annoy some - they expect people to have the same focus and drive in retirement. Set up a schedule, get down to "work", and master golf, or photography, or that shelf of books, or that home renovation. Doesn't bother me, some days I do get a lot done on a "to-do" list, some days the list gets re-written at the end of the day to be just "hang out and smell the flowers". Putting everything you ever wanted to do on a to-do list can be daunting at first, until you realize very few things on there are "have to do", most are up for grabs as to which you'd prefer to do, with the balance saved for your next re-incarnation.

I've thought of some labels to simplify things for others - Renaissance man, advocate of urban art, social activist, semi-retired gigolo - none are a complete fit. But they do provide a starting point, if anyone is so inclined. Maybe I can suggest my catholic tastes by saying I'm an Eclectic Circus, feel free to join me in the ring. Or take off, eh?

BTW- CBC Radio1 Sunday Morning just had a discussion on book reading, that there are clubs and celebrities and books telling us not only what to read but how to read it. It's apparantly no longer just enough to pick up a book and try it. And supposedly even harder to admit to someone that you tried a book, and couldn't get into it, or didn't like it. The other person often wants to "fix" you, implying the failure is because you're a little slow, or lazy, or didn't know the right way to approach the book. Rather than just let you move on to the next one in the huge pile of books we all seem to have acquired. I joined BookCrossing a few years ago - under the naive assumption that while I would acquire some books to read, I would give away far more from my bookshelves. Silly me. But I did meet some interesting people through the group, and did get some good books I would otherwise have missed. We meet monthly, exchange some books, and chat about not only the books but life in general. And commiserate with each other over the growing piles we all have labeled "to be read".

Harry Potter and the Half-baked Prince

No, this is not a review. I was thinking of doing that from the copy I found on the bus Friday,  but then read that the Globe and Mail backed down on theirs. In case you can't view the pages, the gist of it was: papers were served on The Globe and Mail, enjoining us from publishing a promised review by Sandra Martin of the latest Harry Potter book. We had stated yesterday that we intended to post the review on just after midnight and print it in today's edition of the paper. Raincoast Books, the Canadian publisher of the book, asserted that such a review violated an injunction granted, without anyone else present, by a British Columbia court last Saturday morning.

That injunction stemmed from the apparently accidental sale of 14 books by a B.C. grocery store. (Lawyers for Raincoast say injunctions have also been granted in other countries, including the United Kingdom and Australia.) The injunction requested and granted to Raincoast is sweeping. It restrains "John/Jane Doe and anyone who is given notice of the order from unpacking, displaying, reading, distributing, offering for sale, selling, exhibiting in public or without the express consent of the Plaintiffs possessing Harry Potter # 6 prior to 12:01 a.m. local time on July 16, 2005."

That's right: Raincoast and Madam Justice Kirsti Gill rendered illegal the reading of a book without permission.

The paper decided at that late stage to not fight it. The injunction referred to irreparable harm being done- really? 10.8 copies million copies to be printed in the US, almost 2 million in Canada, and someone how all those little kids are suddenly not going to show up because a reviewer revealed the ending? Does anyone care what the reviewers say about this release?

"Dear, we have to leave soon to line up so we get a copy at midnight"

"Sorry mom, I read that Anthony Holden in The Observer said a few weeks ago, [her books]are 'Disney cartoons written in words.' I don't want a copy anymore, aren't there any good Canadian authors we can buy?"

Not! It's a massive marketing machine - Harry Potter books, dolls, brooms, wands, movies, parties.... catapulting a single mother from welfare to a a billionairess. But with such a complete package, is there any room left for kid's imaginations? Where's the fun now in dressing up your brother's Barbie doll in GI Joe clothes and hacking the hair off for a Barbie goes butch party? An article in the local paper isn't impressed with the fluff, saying "a childhood full of Harry Potter books guarantees nothing but an adulthood full of John Grisham, Tom Clancy, and Stephen King". But at least it gets kids started reading, it's up to parents to keep the momentum up.

I must admit my reading list isn't that sophisticated lately either - piles of books waiting to be read, only so much time for them. At work I'd get new projects thrown at me every few months, with stacks of technical documents to read - and to write. So some Tom Clancy was nice. But I don't have that excuse, now that I'm semi-retired. I've collected a mixed bag of books from Bookcrossing, most waiting for me to read and release - or just pass them on. I need to remind myself of the busy vs productive difference. I have added the G&M to the morning paper pile, New Scientist every week, some blogs to follow - before you know it the cat's looking for her lunch. Especially after I've stayed up late the night before watching an art film. Ack! Ack! Ack!

Update July 19 - you can even watch Rowlings sign the first copy of the book.