Saturday, July 21, 2007

Move over MySpace, Shelfari's in town!

Amazon seems to have their hands in many pies these days. They're latest adventure is a site called Shelfari. The company's own mission statements reads, "Shelfari introduces readers to our global community of book lovers and encourages them to share their literary inclinations and passions with peers, friends, and total strangers (for now). Shelfari was the first social media site focused on books, and will continue to innovate as it brings together the world's readers. Our mission is the enhance the experience of reading by connecting readers in meaningful conversations about the published word."

The site was launched in October 2006, but after poor user response, Amazon pumped money into the program and has now found a surge in popularity for authors to promote their work and to link into reviewers who have pages up, as well as publishers promoting their author's work. MySpace was originally a place for musical performers to meet, but soon saw an influx of users of every kind, including authors, publicists, publishers and book reviewers. Those people are now flocking to Shelfari because this is a literary dedicated service.

Not only are industry professionals using this as a marketing tool, but those valued readers are filling their "My Shelf" pages with books from their bookshelves from home. And why not? This site also offers a tracking facility whereby users can add private notes on who they've lended their precious books too...the borrowers name, date of lend and expected return date...just like at the library! And each book users link to shows how many other people are reading that book, including those from the user's list of friends. Click on the book to see who else is reading the book. By clicking onto their user pages users can request friendship links, join discussion groups and send notes...ideal ways to join into a public or private discussion of shared interests.

Of course, because this is an Amazon adventure, each book listed on Shelfari is linked to Amazon for purchase. Here's where they get really sneaky. Anyone familiar with Amazon's affiliate program knows that if you sign up and link your addiliate number to the book you want to buy you will get a commission on the sale of the book. Any online shop that links to books do this to earn money. Commissions are a great thing if the site linking to Amazon has a lot of buyers. However, Shelfari has linked their own commission generating account ID to the amazon links so Shelfari earns the commissions rather than the person who's listed the books on their Shelfari shelves or the buyer, who's undoubtedly a Shelfari user as well. Remember...Shelfari is part of Amazon! So basically, Amazon is earning themselves commissions at their own company!! Do I smell conflict of interest here??

Regardless, Shelfari seems to be blazing a trail across the internet, picking up users along the way at a pace similar to a snowball rolling down hill at a hundred miles an hour. Why it's taken so long for interest to pick up is unknown. Perhaps an added marketing campaign or just that Amazon has now aligned themselves with Shelfari? Who knows!? But whatever they're doing, it must be working...oops! Just got email and guess what? Two more invites to Shelfari! LOL

So have I succombed to this phenomenon? Of course. There's nothing like a good bandwagon! I signed up my reviewing website for now, but will add my author website eventually. Click on the reading lady image (Charles Edward Perugini's Girl Reading) to log in, or click SHELFARI to log into My Shelf. I had joined MySpace a good while back and immediately found it cumbersom and annoying, and full of YouTubes (not ideal for someone on dial-up). This week alone I have been hit no less than ten times by invitations to join Shelfari. After ignoring the first couple invites, assuming this was some form of spam, I logged in to see what all the fuss was about.

Compared to MySpace, Shelfari has a basic appealing color scheme, links are easily navigable and, sure, it's a great way to connect with friends and make new ones. Similar to Yahoo Groups, there are message boards dedicated to every genre and subgenre imaginable. There's even an added option to leave your friends notes on their pages, or to send notes privately via email.

Now that I've gotten used to how the program works, keeping in mind this site is still working in beta version, there is a large segment of authors being overlooked. Simply said, if a book is not listed on Amazon, it doesn't get on Shelfari. Many electronically published authors whose books are only on sale via their publisher's websites for electronic download will miss the boat on Shelfari. I'm sure they will rectify this eventually, but for now, those authors may want to push their publishers to start listing their e-only books on Amazon to get listed on Shelfari...and to generate more sales of course.

So what do you think? Have you visited Shelfari? If not, log into their site and check it out...SHELFARI . If you have, come by My Shelf and drop me a note. Better yet, send me a friendship request. One can never have too many friends =-)


Saturday, July 07, 2007

Bunratty Renaissance Faire

We attended the Bunratty medieval faire Saturday, 30 June. We didn't like the weather down here, but my contact in the park said "come on up" so we did. The day was actually very nice, even though the national weather service was calling for winter-like rains. We took the dogs with us and they loved it. We had a really good day in the park. I just wish I could say the medieval faire part of it was.

Basically, this is how it went. They opened a cattle pasture at the back of the park, roped part of it off for a medieval battle and had a few "ye olde tents" around the perimeter of the field, which included a livestock area with various hunting birds, a fox, hedgehogs, Irish hare, pigs and a couple Irish Wolfhounds. The rest of the space was for walking around...mostly spectators. Because of the numbers of spectators and the level battle ground, there wasn't really anywhere to see the battle unless you were at the front ropes. The performance lasted all of about 15 minutes.

The tents were all privately owned by the performers and doubled as changing rooms and sleeping tents at night. Some tents were also open for trade. There was someone there repairing armor and another chainmail, another selling jewelry, another selling wooden kiddie size swords and shields, another tent open for displaying authentic recreations of weapons and garments, etc. They weren't big selling areas...nothing much bigger than a standard card table, but the wares and trades were interesting.

And yes, there were wet cow patties all over the field. Ireland has gotten a lot of rain in the last couple weeks and Friday night there was one heck of a downpour in the Shannon region so everything was pretty soggy.

There were supposed to be tents set up at the castle itself, but there was nothing there. The only place the medieval stuff was happening was in the cattle field at the battle. The cattle field was so far back in the park it almost wasn't part of the park, and a long walk to get to for such a short program. I think we spent about an hour overall in that area, but performers were scattered all over the park sightseeing and eating...then the big battle, followed by loads of photo ops for parents to get their kids' pictured with the performers. Then we looked at some of the tents displaying their wares and looked at the animal area. The rest of the afternoon was spent walking around the park, looking in some of the cottages, having lunch in the tea room and fending off lonely tourists who wanted to grope the dogs. OK, so the dogs loved it =-)

Anyway, I wasn't expecting anything big and spectacular, but I was expecting more than what was there, to be honest. There weren't any horses whatsoever actually. No royalty, no cooking demos, no crafts people demonstrating, none of the stuff one would usually expect at a faire. Really strange that Bunratty would advertise such an event then have the performers only stage a short mock battle...between the O'Brien and the Fitzgerald clans...and to have the Fitzgerald's win....incidentally, the O'Brien's once ruled the Shannon region and owned Bunratty Castle, so it seemed fairly insulting to me that the park would allow the Fitzgerald's to kick the butts of the O'Brien's on O'Brien soil.

And don't get me started on the amour and weaponry. It all may be recreations, but there were warriors from every era all fighting together. Some participants weren't even wearing all the gear from one era, but bits and pieces from all of the medieval years and just wore what they liked. There were guys in full face buckets to beanie caps. One guy wore a helmet so new it was as shiny as if it had just come out of a box...of Star Wars gear! Looked just like a chrome Darth Vadar helmet.

As for swords, one guy had a sword that was supposed to be a type of broad sword but the blade was wavy from hilt to tip. I've only seen daggers like that, but I'm not sure either are authentic recreations.

The group performing were all part of the Fingal Living History Society who were down from the Dublin area for the weekend. This group is similar to the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) who put on a really authentic event that includes demonstrations of many of the traditional crafts such as spinning and weaving, cooking demos, jewelry making and other "need to know to survive" crafts and chores. And yes, battles, often including jousts and more than just two sides battling. They're run like a medieval tournament event with everything that goes along with it.

Traditional Ren Faires allow spectators to join in the fun if they wish, including renting costumes and at least participating in gaming. But the one at Bunratty was purely spectator-only, which made the overall
experience very bland.

We did have a lovely day over all though. What we did see at the battle was pretty OK. Not brilliant, but entertaining. But unless they organizers put a little more backbone into the next event, we'll probably give it a miss.

Below are a few more pictures just for fun. Enjoy!!