The Last Post

All good (and bad) things come to an end, and here I am, closing the doors on the 3rd and final Edinburgh ebook festival.  When I conceived of the idea three years ago, ebooks were very much a a marginal thing and writers publishing in that format were often ridiculed or maligned as being no more than ‘vanity’ publishers.  Now, three years on, ebooks are the battle ground in the mainstream publishing theatre of war – pricing.  They have truly come of age.  ereaders have become tablets and sometimes (too often) one finds ebooks priced even higher than their paper equivalents.  Who would have thought it? Who can justify it?   But then, war never made any sense, did it, and the only people who benefit from it are those in power, not the ordinary foot soldiers (in this case the average writer and reader.)

Hopefully over the past three years we’ve both documented some change, and more importantly offered opportunities for both writers and readers to find new ways of engaging in creative communication.  The goal was always to give readers a new and largely unmediated way to ‘find’ writing that they otherwise might never have heard of.  The seeds have been planted. I hope that virtual visitors of this festival are now more confident than ever about going out and finding writing that appeals to them rather than sitting back as passive consumers taking what is offered by those for whom creativity is little more than product.

I think my job is done. For the festival to ‘progress’ now it would either have to become more ‘commercial’ or be ‘monetised’ in order to reach a ‘wider audience’ or it needs to evolve into something beyond which I have the time and energy to create – a truly co-operative vision with a team of people equally committed to working hard towards a joint goal.  I can’t ask anyone else to take this on, any more than I could ask them to stay ‘holding the line’ as the rest of us retreat to a place of safety.  I couldn’t expect anyone else to put in the blood, sweat and tears into the festival that I have over the last three years. Certainly not for free.  Of course one can never rule out a ‘sequel’ but it won’t be me writing it.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the last three years as Director of the festival. I’ve learned a lot, I’ve met (virtually) a lot of very interesting writers and I think I’ve achieved the goal of offering informed choice to a wider audience for many of them. But festivals are ephemeral things. The virtual world is fast moving and mercurial in all respects. And it’s time to move on. Time for new things to happen.

So thanks for visiting and supporting the festival this year, and over the past years if you’ve been a regular.  And I hope your reading experiences have been all the richer for what we’ve shown you.

Cally Phillips.

Please note.  You have only today to catch up on any events you’ve missed. From tomorrow we shall have disappeared into the ether. That’s virtual festivals folks… like live theatre they are ephemeral things.