When power takes life

Not hunger striking to die, but to live. Photo: Jan Sefti/Kurdistan Photo/flickr

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BY BAWER EKINCI

 

Life becomes resistance to power when power takes life as its object

                                                                                                    -Deleuze 

 
Approximately 1000 Kurdish political prisoners across Turkey have been on an indefinite hunger strike for the last 44 days, demanding freedom for imprisoned Kurdish leader Mr Abdullah Ocalan and the right to use Kurdish language in the public sphere. They say they will not end their fast until their demands are met.
 
Background: Denying the Kurds

Since 2009, when the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) achieved a remarkable success in mainly the Kurdish region and all other parts of Turkey in local elections, the Turkish government has jailed nearly 10,000 Kurds, including 6 deputies, 31 mayors, 96 journalists, 36 lawyers, 183 leaders of the BDP (in Turkish Barış ve Demokrasi Partisi), trade unionists, human rights defenders, as well as students and some 2,000 children. Thirty four Kurdish civilians were killed in the village of Roboski (in Turkish, Uludere) in a bombardment by mass destruction weapons launched from Turkish warplanes in late December of 2011.

Since 27 July 2011, Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan has been denied meetings with his lawyers, and has been held under total isolation in the prison on the island of Imrali.

The Kurdish language has been banned in the Republic of Turkey since its establishment in 1923. The Kurdish identity has also been denied by the Turkish state which categorized Kurds as “Mountainous Turks” until 1991. Yet, pronouncing oneself as Kurd or speaking in Kurdish in public and judiciary areas are subjected to penalties.

History: Hunger Strikes

The examples of hunger strike can be seen in different places in world throughout human history. Probably the first hunger strike, or in this case a death fast, was carried out by Zul-Kifl, an Islamic prophet who was identified with various Hebrew Bible prophets, most commonly Ezekiel. He and his friends had gone into a cave and announced that they would not eat until people started to believe in good and truth. If this story is true Zul-Kifl must still be suffering for his hunger, as people are still repeating the same old mistakes.

In the present day Turkish authorities have put a restriction on the supplements necessary for hunger strikers such as salt, vitamins, and drinking water. Most of the strikers had already decided to not take vitamin B which is essential for cell metabolism, and announced that they will not accept any medical intervention. However fasting may cause severe damage, including by the 40th day Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, a brain disorder due to thiamine deficiency.

The Prisons Watch Council of Turkey stated on the 43rd day of the fast that prison administrations not only put deliberate prohibitions on B1 vitamin access to prisoners on strike, but also subjected them to ill treatment and isolation torture.

On the other hand, BDP declared October 30 as a “day of resistance” and called on all Kurdish people to bring activities in the country to a standstill and to join actions in support of prisoners on the hunger strike. On the 30th Kurdish deputies and mayors will also begin a hunger strike in tents to be set up in cities.

Censorship and Ignorance

The hunger strike, and more importantly its two basic demands by Kurdish political prisoners, has unsurprisingly been ignored by the mainstream media in Turkey since the very beginning of the act. As the fast reached day 44, more and more Kurdish people and institutions as well as many other organizations supporting them have been staging demonstrations and hunger strikes in Turkey, Kurdistan and Europe to support prisoners on strike some of whom have turned their hunger strike to a death fast.

In a statement on the strikes, EU Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, Mr Stefan Füle (in charge also of the EU-Turkey Accession talks) stated that they are following the process, while Amnesty International in a recent statement called on Turkey to respect the rights of hunger strikers. However, the Turkish government continues to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to the strike while security forces severely attack prisoners’ families and people who also go on several-days long hunger strikes to support the prisoners’ strikes.

Prisoners on strike also announced that they will refuse to see their families during Kurban Bayrami, the most important Islamic religious festival of the year, which begins on the 45th day of the strike.

The hunger strike by Kurdish political prisoners should be seen as a protest action demanding not the improvement of their own living conditions, but to allow Kurdish voices to be heard by the world. In their own words, they are not doing this to die, but to live.
 

Podcast: Are you addicted to Facebook?

Addicted to Facebook? Illustration: Stanislav Petrov/deviantart

 
Join The Triangle’s Luke “Moonshaker”, Ray Ray and Antoni as they discuss the Facebook experience: everything from addiction and lying about birthdays to the most effective way to get robbed, thanks to one of the biggest social media networks today. The Triangle tries to unravel the mysteries of Facebook’s unwritten rules … and the strange people who wear jewellery to the gym.
 

 
Related posts: Like me … plea$e; Hoist with their own petard
 

Choosing the hijab

“There is a strong peaceful feeling in my heart I cannot explain with words when I wear it.” Photo: ~fueart/deviantart

 

BY CLAUDIA RUSMAN

 
We live in a nation where multiculturalism comes into place and different cultures, religion and faith come into practice. In a world where Islam is the fastest growing religion, different perceptions are made, especially in our mass media.

Throughout the years there has been a focus of different perceptions of Muslim women wearing the hijab in our Australian society, and endless media debates. This has created a controversy to the whole Muslim community and predominantly to Muslim women. It is said that it hides an identity and that no choice are given to them.

Australia is becoming a full population of immigrants from different countries in the world and is known to be a “dream country”. A nation with government officials and supporting their citizens, they believe this is the right to life. Although there are other countries that are very restricted from their beliefs and many people grow differently according to their lifestyle, their way of upbringing and thinking is diverse. Islamic countries such as Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Iran, strongly follow their beliefs and must consent to the rules. In this context, the full covering, known as the burqa is mandatory to all women. However, for those living in Australian society there are different perceptions of wearing the hijab in the mass media.

The hijab is the most common type of Islamic dress, which covers the woman’s body, leaving only her face and hands visible. Muslim women believe the hijab is an act of modesty and righteousness. It is a responsibility that they hold in life and a crucial choice to make.

Eighteen-year-old student Sakinah Khairuddin from Malaysia – a country where Islam is the largest practised religion – is an example of this trend. She started wearing the hijab when she was 13 years old as an occasional exercise, but without fully understanding the reasons behind it. Indeed, she admits it was “more of a culture thing … I felt different and excluded from the majority of my friends in Malaysia.”

Over the years, she never had an unpleasant experience wearing the hijab in her home country, but arriving in Australia three years ago, she wondered if people would see her differently. Certainly, she did not know what to expect from the public as a ‘hijabi’. “I believe Islam is a true religion and this is why I take a [step] further to wear the hijab full-time,” she said. “By wearing the hijab, it has enhanced the faith that I have in Islam, and I’m very proud of my decision.”

For some individuals, the decision to wear a hijab is about educating an individual through their own beliefs, in which there have been negative remarks in the media based on a sense of identity or not allowing the opportunity to make their own choices based on their appearance. The news media are the main source of information on Islam for the Australian community and today’s media is now more influential than ever. This is where different perceptions dwell; individuals have different opinions and views on the topic of Muslim women wearing the hijab.

In 2001, the September 11 attack was one to never be forgotten in our lives and the biggest attack in history. This caused a worldwide hostility towards the Muslim community, and tension resulted from the media coverage. “The one that struck me the most was on September 11, and for few years later, there were people who would stare at me with dislike looks on their face or shout to me using rude words,” said Mahsita Sari. A 28-year-old Indonesian national who moved to Australia independently as an International student to study Engineering at the University of New South Wales, Mahsita started wearing the hijab 14 years ago. In the aftermath of September 11, she was walking through Hyde Park, in the Sydney CBD, when “a group of men in their car sprayed fluid on me and shouted rude words at me.”

Yet despite this and recurrent media controversy, she has not thought to reverse her decision since. There were a variety of influences which led her to this decision: “There is a strong peaceful feeling in my heart I cannot explain with words when I wear it.” She believes that modesty in Islam for women means guarding her chastity and faith. “The one thing that changed was and is I am more interested in learning about Islam and no longer interested in party, dancing, music and activities that do not have a meaning to it.”

Sari says the media have a pivotal role to play in fostering understanding and acceptance of Islam. “Some media try to be objective and that’s great,” she said. “However, a number of them have no basis to their story and clearly have an agenda to stir the community. It is sad to see this and sometimes it upsets me – however, I [also] realise that at the end of the day, I would make [a] far stronger impact to the people around me through their perception of my actions, characters and speech.”

She also emphasises the media’s role in sowing the seeds of ignorance across swathes of the Australian community, inciting intolerance over the value of acceptance. “I think they are not comfortable to learn and accept the truth as-is,” she said. “They are confused how to handle people who are radical, and to express their anger and fear they try to influence the greater community with what their limited knowledge has to offer. Muslim women are easy targets because they distinguish themselves as Muslims and they are women who simply very unlikely to strike someone on their face.”

With different media perceptions, this leads to a simple question. Would this be an ongoing issue for years that would be difficult to tackle down in the media? Or does religion have too much influence in politics involved? A woman has every right to feel beautiful and comfortable regardless of their religion.

Also by Claudia Rusman – The end of Ramadan: Eid Mubarak

Natalie’s Story

“I could never find enough people to love me.” Five young people attempt suicide in Australia each day. Photo: ~rOckFaiiry/deviantart 

 

BY SHANNON LUXFORD

 
Natalie West is like glue.

She holds others together without any concern for herself. What she went through is something no person should have to go through. She describes it in an email as “a horrible reality to bullying and depression, whereby one cannot cope any longer and finds the only way to escape is through self-harm”.

Teenage suicide is ever-present in the minds of many teens, bringing them down to their knees in desperation to escape. More young males commit suicide than young females. But that doesn’t mean that teen female suicide doesn’t exist.  Each year in Australia around 100 teenagers take their own lives. However that figure doesn’t represent suicide attempts. It is thought that at least five teens attempt suicide in Australia each day.

Natalie West is 20 years old. She used to have blonde hair. Now it is fading to brown and thinning. She was 15 when she first contemplated escaping from reality. It became so intense she was hospitalised.

“I was home sick from school and on Facebook with one of my closest friends, who I thought would keep my thoughts safe,” she said. “I told them about how I was feeling and ultimately what I was considering. Although I never did feel like taking my own life that day, but intended to do so in the near future. However my dear friend did not realise this and contacted my mum.

“Mum then phoned me, distressed, and told me not to complete what I was thinking and that she loved me. She made her way home and so too did an ambulance. I’m not sure who contacted the ambulance but mum arrived before they did and instructed me that they were coming.

“I couldn’t look at her and I ran up to the bathroom and locked myself away. Mum thought I was trying to commit the act. I was just trying to clear my head. I was crying and curled up in a ball.

“In the meantime I heard the ambulance pull up and mum told them I was upstairs in the bathroom. I was truly trying to clear my head and my emotions so that when I opened the bathroom door they could see that I was okay and that I was doing no harm to myself.

“But this isn’t what happened. After some discussion through the bathroom door I opened it to find my mum in tears. All the emotions came back and the ambulance officers took me away to the hospital.

“I just couldn’t communicate with them to tell them that I was fine. I was just too overwhelmed with emotions.”

When they arrived at the hospital, they had isolated Natalie from her mother.  The room was plain, and painted white and with only a chair and a single bed.

“They didn’t put me through any tests,” she said, “they just sent in a therapist to talk to me. Once we finished talking, they let my parents in to see me and then sent me home.

“They just told me that I needed to see a counsellor for a few weeks so that I could speak to someone about what I was going through, rather than bottling it all up and waiting for a new explosion.

“[The therapist] could tell that I was never going to go through with it. My emotions were unstable [but] not due to the suicide circumstance.”

Her mother, who was still terrified, kept telling her that she loved her.

“Although I knew I could never take my own life in the end, just her words kept repeating in my head and made me realise that I was accepted and loved.

“My dad was scared, as he had just lost his father he wasn’t sure if he was going to lose his daughter as well.”

Many elements of Natalie’s life at that point seemed to be taking the ones she loved from her. “I just couldn’t handle that. Although I knew death was always coming for my grandfather I never knew how strong I would have to be for others.”

Seeing her dad and other family members grieve was when she knew she had to be the glue. But the pressure of holding it together emotionally and physically was too much when people started bullying her and isolating her from groups within high school.

“Although I have always had true friends I could never find enough people to love me. That is when I had a school day off and started to truly contemplate my existence,” Natalie said.

“[I felt] confined, isolated, taunted, regret and depressed.

“In some forms of self-harm I felt relief.

“[My friends] seemed to accept that I had dug myself into a hole, but they had no idea of what was truly going on. I’m quite sure a few speculations were made during that time as to what was really happening.”

With Hollywood using it as a side theme to some movies, suicide is becoming more visible in the media. Movies such as Imaginary Heroes and The Chumscrubber have suicide as a main plot line. Even the hit TV show Glee focused on the issue in one episode, to the extent where it overwhelmed the rest of the story.

“I think they seriously need to consider another way of displaying it,” said Natalie. “They have somewhat made it look fashionable when indeed, it is the complete opposite. I would never wish anyone to experience it.

“Until bullying can be completely eliminated, children will always consider and sometimes achieve taking their own life.

“I have never really talked about it to complete strangers but on many occasions people have asked me for advice. I have told them my own story and told them that in the end, it’s not worth it.

“Although you may find relief, your family and friends never do.”

Five years after her experience, Natalie can now see her life getting better with each and every day. After completing her HSC, she was accepted into the University of Wollongong to practise and become a primary school teacher.

“To be able to teach and allow students to learn is my true passion,” she said.

“There is not one day of the year that I think back to my other life and consider doing that again. I have my lovely and truly wonderful boyfriend, who also makes my life so much better.

“My parents are so much more accepting and understanding of my needs and are better able to accommodate them. All in all, I can see my whole life. I have plans for a wedding, children and a full career that no one can take away from me. I am truly happy and I look forward to each, and every tomorrow.”
 
 
LINKS:

Lifeline Crisis Support: http://www.lifeline.org.au/Get-Help/Facts—Information/Lifeline-Services/Lifeline-Services

Beyond Blue: http://www.beyondblue.org.au/index.aspx?
 
 
PHONE:

Lifeline: 13 11 14

Beyond Blue: 1 300 224236
 
 

Like me … plea$e

Money can’t buy you love, but it can buy you likes. Illustration: ~Metalni/deviantart

 
In our first-ever STM podcast, NICK CAVARRETTA broaches the subject of bands buying facebook likes with Chris Penney from Glitter Canyon, who bought 1000 likes for his band’s page, and Matthew Carpenter from GetWithSocial.com, who sells facebook likes to anyone who is willing to pay for them. This is a common practice, but who is to decide if it’s white hat or black hat marketing? Is there a fine line between the two, or is it simply a case of real vs fake?
 

 
Since this podcast was made, facebook started deleting bots and Glitter Canyon lost the 1000 followers they bought. Other bands are sitting on 0 likes per day in their public like stats, which is a sign that they also bought facebook likes. This happened just after facebook introduced their advanced page post targeting option.

Will non tech-savvy promoters care about social media numbers in then end, or will people start listening to music again and making their own decisions?

 

I love you, Mum

STORY AND PHOTOS BY AMANDA PARKINSON

 

The phone rang, I was busy. The phone rang, I was still busy. The phone rang, I didn’t notice. The phone rang, I answered it.

As I sat laughing with a friend, ignoring my phone, a woman – a woman I call mum – sits numb, desperately trying to contact me.

“The cancer has spread; the doctors can’t do anything,” she said.

There is chaos but I am still. I hear silence but my thoughts scream. My breath abated, tears begin to tumble. I have been broken, my smile stolen and searing pain feels like it is trying to rip through my chest. I am raw. I am exposed.

Her cancer, like a fire, started small with a lump in her breast. Doctors removed it and doused it in chemo. Four months later four more lumps sprung up like spot fires. Doctors act aggressively with a double mastectomy, confident this will extinguish the disease. Three weeks later, a lump – secondary cancer – doctors can do nothing now.

Knowing there is a death sentence mounted above your loved one’s head feels like watching the innocent walk death row. It renders you helpless; you are simply a subsidiary spectator. There is no happy ending to this story, I am sure my mum wishes I could find a silver lining. The truth is I wish it was me.

When? Where? Why? We don’t have any answers. All we know is her time is limited, our time with her drastically shortened. The only answer is to tell her every day that I love her. To not let anger fuel my fear. For now all I have is knowledge that life is short, so it must be lived.

 

 

LINKS:

The Cancer Council’s Pink Ribbon Day, raising money for breast cancer research: http://www.pinkribbonday.com.au/

Breast Cancer information and support: http://www.cancercouncil.com.au/breast-cancer/?gclid=CNON5OP–rICFRBJpgodeTAAYQ

 

Charles & Camilla: Down Under in 2012

The Duchess of Cornwall and Prince of Wales in 2005. Photo: Bill Braasch/flickr

 

BY CAROLYN CASH

 
The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall will visit Australia in November as the Queen’s personal representatives during the Diamond Jubilee year.

Their Royal Highnesses will visit Longreach, Melbourne, Adelaide, Hobart, Sydney and Canberra where they will meet farmers, members of emergency services and young people during their busy six-day programme. The Prince and the Duchess will also attend the Melbourne Cup on Tuesday, 6 November.

According to a source from Clarence House, the Prince and the Duchess will participate in many community-led celebrations of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, acknowledging the remarkable service of the Australian Defence Force. The Prince will renew old friendships and form new ties, as well as introducing his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall.

NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell welcomed the announcement on Tuesday, 18 September 2012.

“This visit will excite a lot of people and it’s fantastic they have chosen to come to Sydney,” Mr O’Farrell said.

“The visit will attract worldwide attention and it will be a great opportunity to again showcase Sydney as Australia’s premier city,” he said.

Australian Monarchist League (AML) and Australians For Constitutional Monarchy (ACM) members are also eagerly looking forward to the royal visit.

This will be the Prince of Wales’s fourteenth visit. He visited in 2005, focusing on environmental initiatives, sustainable fishing policies and urban regeneration projects during his last visit in 2005. Prince Charles also visited in 1977 for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, and in 1978 to attend former Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies’ funeral.

Prince Charles attended Geelong Grammar’s Timbertop School for six months in 1966, but he returned for his first official visit as the Queen’s representative to attend former Prime Minister Harold Holt’s Memorial Service in December 1967. Holt disappeared whilst swimming at Cheviot Beach, and was presumed drowned.

This will be the Duchess of Cornwall’s first visit to Australia.

Program details and locations will be made public closer to the visit.

However, this isn’t the first royal visit to Australia this year. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge recently spent three hours at Brisbane Airport before boarding a Singapore Airlines flight bound for London on Wednesday, 19 September, after a successful tour of the Far East and the South Pacific.
 
LINKS:
 
Commonwealth Visits in 2012: http://www.thediamondjubilee.org/commonwealth-visits-2012#
 

Down and out in Sydney

Sorry, we’re closed … approximately 105,000 Australians are homeless. Photo: Shaina Bloom

 

BY SHAINA BLOOM

 

You’re soaked to the bone. The coat you had for seven years has finally worn out, tearing at the seams and providing almost no protection. You try and sleep but the wind is slapping against your face. In an attempt to shield yourself, you’ve buried your face on the stone pavement, but its effectiveness as a pillow is dubious. You can’t remember the last meal you ate and your stomach grumbles at the mere thought of food. You don’t remember night being this dark. You don’t remember feeling this alone. You are homeless.

There are approximately 105,000 homeless people throughout Australia. In New South Wales alone, the 2006 Census put the figure at more than 27,000. Of these, there are nearly 4,000 who are sleeping rough on our streets.  In a nation of such prosperity, many have expressed alarm at the stubbornness of these figures.

Governments have consistently reiterated their commitment to solving the issue. One of Kevin Rudd’s first moves after his 2007 election victory was to visit homeless shelters and report on the findings. As a result, Mr Rudd said that by 2013, the number of homeless would be cut by 20 percent, and that figure cut by a further 50 percent by 2020.

Yet although this push saw $5 billion invested in the fight against homelessness, the government has yet to come close to meeting its goal.

The latest national Census figures, dating from 2006, recorded an overall increase in the number of people who sleep rough since 2001.

Part of the reason for this is that homelessness is not a standalone issue. It is a problem which often goes hand-in-hand with mental disorders, substance abuse and other medical issues.

The Australian Government’s Institute of Health and Welfare stated that more than $120 billion is spent annually on health in Australia. Mental health ranks third in this distribution, with some $6.1 billion being spent on the cause. Despite this significant spend, it is unclear how much of this goes towards the people who undoubtedly need it the most.

There are services available for the homeless with mental disorders. However, in a 1997 survey conducted by ACCESS, some 32.4 percent of respondents did not know where to locate such services. Engagement with these services was also a problem – some 29.5 percent stated they were unable to afford them, while 27.1 percent did not properly understand how to seek the service. A further 16.5 percent sought to use the service, but were denied access.

More recently, Down and Out in Sydney undertook a comprehensive survey of 210 homeless people aged between 17-87 years in inner Sydney. Their findings exposed the prevalence of mental illness in homeless people in Sydney estimated at 75 percent, compared to 20 percent in the population as a whole.

Clinical psychologist Renee Mill has worked in her private practice in Edgecliff for 23 years. “My clinical observation is that 99 percent of homeless people suffer from mental illness,” she said. “They definitely go hand-in-hand. It is their state of mind and inability to function in normal society that makes them homeless.”

According to Mill, the tendency may also go the other way. “Homelessness may be a contributing factor in people who have a disposition for mental illness,” she said. “If there are several factors, homelessness and the others could trigger mental illness: for example violence or rape, poor nutrition, lack of sleep, exposure to extreme temperatures and discrimination.”

Mill says that while mentally stable individuals will take offers of help and shelter, “no matter what you offer homeless people, they will soon move out and go back to the streets.” Adding to their problems in this context can be a sense of paranoia – “[they] avoid what they perceive as entrapment.”

Despite an annual spend of some $6.1 billion on mental health, Mrs Mill affirmed that it remained insufficient to tackle the scale of the problem, especially in the context of providing quality treatment facilities and research. “Recently the government reduced spending, so mentally-ill patients are only eligible for a rebate for ten sessions with a psychologist, which is not nearly enough,” she said.

The Federal Government’s Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs acknowledges the lack of use of the homelessness services, stating that they only provide accommodation to 14 per cent of those who are homeless each night.

On an average day 12,300 people will be accommodated in services funded by the Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP). However, approximately half of all those who do seek new emergency accommodation will be turned away.

“Under-funded, incomplete, fragmented, and poorly monitored community-based services make community services inaccessible to many people,” wrote Susan Parker, Lucy Limbers and Emma McKeon in a report on behalf of the Mental Health Coordinating Council in 2002. “The homeless mentally ill arguably have suffered most as a result of these shortcomings, having multiple needs for intensive and ongoing support.”

Related story: The price of homelessness

LINKS:

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare: http://www.aihw.gov.au/home/

Australian Census Homelessness fact sheet: http://www.abs.gov.au/websitedbs/censushome.nsf/home/factsheetsh?opendocument&navpos=450

City of Sydney Homelessness services: http://www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/Community/HomelessnessServices/Default.asp

 

The Reading Revolution

Books: facing the biggest revolution since Gutenberg invented the printing press. Illustration by ~vladstudio/deviantart

BY VPOPR

For most people writer’s block means an inhibition that prevents them from putting pen to paper.

But for prolific writer, painter, Mambo illustrator, Mental As Anything and Dog Trumpet musician Christopher O′Doherty (better known as Reg Mombassa) it was a technological roadblock that lead to a two-year delay in unleashing his electronic book Cranium Universe.

“Previously the software was too prehistoric to support the format that I wanted,” explains the softly-spoken Reg over coffee in the two storey empty nest he shares with wife Martina and rag doll cat Puss in the leafy Inner West of Sydney.

Critics, reviewers and his publisher HarperCollins are all keen to point out that Reg’s eBook, which follows his coffee table biography The Mind and Times of Reg Mombassa, has been worth the wait.

From the very first Reg’s book leaps off the ‘page’ as he personally introduces the work and invites readers to explore 15 audio-visual clips that showcase his song writing, poems and paintings with three interactive galleries.

“You can touch the picture and get a dozen more images than those specifically for the text,” enthuses Reg, who is dressed in his uniform white shirt, black beanie, peeling black jumper and black trousers.

“Enlarging the image gives you that gallery experience of being able to see individual brushstrokes and pencil marks.

“Unlike a print book, which may have lost the colour and lustre in the printing process or choice of paper stock, with an eBook the screen resolution is as good as watching an art show on TV.

“You can also see me ranting about things, explaining the songs, doing some quick drawings on the spot,” grins Reg, admitting that he is ‘technologically challenged’ and doesn’t own as much as an iPad.

“The whole digital world is slightly mysterious to me. Obviously all my stuff goes through a computer but my wife, who’s my assistant, does all that. Or my children, comedian Claudia, painter Lucy or hip-hop artist Darcy who designed my website. I guess if I didn’t have them I would have to engage with computers a little more.”

As Reg talks Martina taps away at the computer in her office-cum-lounge room next door surrounded by her crime fiction novels and Reg’s books on art, space, monsters, history and astro- and quantum physics.

“I like books and I will be sad if they ceased to exist,” says Reg. ”But I think it’s like vinyl records there will always be a niche market for them. My previous book was $75 but for something like this with a complete CD of music the documentary aspects, hundreds of pictures and words well it would be about $400 not $11.99 which is very good value.

“It’s definitely better than a printed book it’s got a lot going on that enhances the reader’s experience which is why I think Cranium Universe breaks the eBook mould. Currently people are reading old style books on an eReader, but what my book offers is a mixture of documentary, a music CD, a video and old style text book with print and pictures – it is the future.”

Sitting at his round mosaic kitchen table surrounded by an old amplifier, silver guitar, today’s newspapers and a stack of CD’s while flicking through a hard copy manuscript of Cranium Universe it’s obvious that Reg’s book could never have existed or been done justice in print – but is it truly an eBook?

Once upon a time it was easy to tell. The eBook traces its current manifestation back to 1970s prototypes, with the portable PARC Dyanbook the first specifically designed to display books. In 1992 Sony launched its Data Discman eReader, which uploaded specialised books designed for specific audiences from CDs.

Moving on to wider genres and audiences, eBooks were still limited by being in essence a .PDF version of pBooks (paper books) and even with the incarnation of a digitised format allowing charts and pictures, the eBook remained fairly static when read on a Kindle, Sony Reader, iPad or smartphone until recently.

In the 2010 edition of The Oxford Dictionary of English an eBook is defined as ‘an electronic version of a printed book’. Now, thanks to books like Reg’s, eBooks offer an array of interactive features such as videos, music CDs, games, animation, interactive games, and learning software. It’s possible now to hover over a word for a dictionary definition or a pronunciation lesson, and to bookmark a spot so the book falls open at the right page without having to crumple a corner.

Writing eBooks has never been easier either, thanks to software such as Apple’s free iBooks Author which opens the gateway for artists, animators, game designers, photographers, videographers and educators as well as traditional wordsmiths.

Storytelling now invites the reader to interact with a story on a level beyond the pleasure of reading, too, largely thanks to new software. In a bold move earlier this month, Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling launched her Pottermore Web store, where shoppers can find encryption-free eBooks no longer tied to one eReader.

Australia, India, the UK and the US lead the global eBook early adoption rates, according to a research report released in March 2012. Almost half of all adults with Internet access in Australia have experimented with eBooks, according to a Bookseller and Publisher report earlier this year (July 2012 issue).

In the UK, Kindle customers are now buying more eBooks than all hardcovers and paperbacks combined. The Australian Multi-Screen Report (May 2012) figures illustrating the fast adoption of smartphones and tablets in Australia (by 50 per cent and 15 per cent respectively) we could see the same surge of eBooks here. Research conducted by OzTam and Nielsen forecast that tablet use among online Australians will more than double this year to 39 per cent, while smartphone ownership is expected to reach 64 per cent.

Editor Carol George, who launched Penguin’s Digital Imprint Destiny Romance in August this year, says books are facing the biggest revolution since Gutenberg invented the printing press in the mid-1400s.

“It happened earlier than most people thought it would, but Australians have adapted really quickly to this new format and eBooks are proving a perfect match for romance readers,” Carol says. “Not because eBooks suit one genre over another, but because romance readers are singly the most voracious readers of any type of reader. So it’s hardly surprising that they’ve been the early adaptors of eBooks, often buying ten eBooks a week.

“Of course it helps that eBooks are a quick and convenient way to purchase, read and keep the books you want,” she adds. “They can be downloaded in a matter of seconds and you can store thousands of eBooks on a single device without having to lug physical books around. It’s also meant that rural communities have a wider range and choice now that they can access the biggest library in the world as everything is online.

“Or for people whose eyes are failing libraries don’t always offer a large array of large print size of books so being able to increase the font size and use backlighting is a huge advantage making reading so much easier.”

From a trade perspective there are several advantages to eBooks. Because production costs are lower,  books are cheaper, which may help shore up the losses made by pBooks that have caused bookstore chains such as Borders to close their doors.

With eBooks there is no need to print a physical hard copy. Errors can be quickly and inexpensively remedied rather than destroying a print run, and there are none of the headaches associated with warehousing, distribution routes, territory releases or a physical inventory, or with potentially unsold books to be dealt with.

“It’s a truly exiting time to be in publishing,” says Carol. “Thanks to eBooks the possibilities are endless and we are just at the beginning. Several publishing companies are already experimenting with different formats selling a chapter a week, publishing a 500-word short story linked to an episodic in its own way.

“EBooks have opened up publishing in many ways. Writers who may not previously have landed a book deal can now be published because we now have lower overheads. With a print book you have to work out your print run budget, if there’s a market, distribution etc. with eBooks you can just get them out there.

“I’m not saying publishing standards don’t apply – they do. But we can take risks with authors and publish faster. Here at Destiny Romance we publish two eBooks a month and we’re looking at a couple of those titles lending themselves to a print version early next year.

“It’s a really exciting time for publishers, authors and readers to connect,” says Carol, who believes that the real joy of reading lies within the book itself, not its medium.

In Carol’s opinion reports of the pBook’s death are greatly exaggerated and should be given the same amount of credibility as the belief in a paperless office, or claims that TV would kill off radio and DVDs would close down cinemas.

“EBooks and pBooks can healthily coexist and compliment one another. People will just begin to discriminate between the books they want to read on their Kindle and the books they want to keep on their shelves. For me my library will never go.”

While Carol, who’s just finished reading Regency Romance writer Eloisa James’ Paris in Love and The Ugly Duchess, still prefers to luxuriate in the bath with her pBook she says her choice of format comes down to the experience she wants.

“In terms of reading something fairly quickly, or absorbing a manuscript fast, or looking at 50 submissions at the moment that have to be read I would go to an eBook.

“But if it’s a book that I want to spend time with, born from personal desire rather than reading for work, then I am more likely to read the physical book because I still like the whole tactile experience the design turning pages smell of the paper.

“That’s why print book will never ever die,” Carol says emphatically. “Because even though a child can interact with an eBook or iPad they cannot replicate the adventure excitement and thrill of turning over physical pages. There is something in that tactile physical experience of the sensual feel of paper, the excitement of opening a book, cracking open the spine that eReaders cannot offer.”

Avid reader James Schwier, 34, a sub-editor at The Sydney Morning Herald with a penchant for crime detective novels agrees.

“I like owning the book and I would never get rid of my library. My mum and dad at home in the UK still have boxes of my books stacked away in their home because there is something intangibly better and more aesthetically pleasing about a paperback or hardback with its well-designed cover and the smell and weight of the book itself.

“PBooks may have the same stark black and white pages of an eBook but there is something a bit cold and impersonal about my Kindle.

“Having said that my Kindle’s broken at the moment and even with a stack of physical books by my bed I am having withdrawals and resorting to reading through the Kindle reader on my phone,” says James, who ‘owns’ 150 eBooks “all located in the Cloud somewhere”.

James’ collection includes Ian Rankin’s Wire in the Blood series and classics such as Dracula and the Count of Monte Cristo which being out of copyright were free to download.

“Having always been a big reader what this technology offers me is greater access to a broader range of books and authors that I wouldn’t necessarily have heard of that I can purchase at the touch of a button.

“I just wish eBooks had been around when I was at uni having to wait until another student had returned the text book that our whole class needed for to write an essay.

“These days though eBooks haven’t impacted on my reading pattern. I do a combination of eBooks and pBooks based mainly on convenience and will choose to read a title for the mood I am in rather than what type of book it is.

“Although when my wife Melissa and I went away on holiday I stored my books on the Kindle rather than lugging them around in a separate backpack.

“The convenience and relatively low cost of eBooks, compared to pBooks, certainly gives people the potential to read more but if they actually do or not I don’t know.

“I’d like to say that there will always be a certain market for hard copy books but then that’s because I grew up reading pBooks. For children like my four-year-old niece flicking through her iPad, reading on their Kindle will be the natural thing for them,” says James.

“While the future of books will be electronic,” says Reg Mombassa, “ironically if the human race ceases to exist because of some disaster the only books to remain will be those from 3-4,000 years ago on stone or clay tablets because eBooks can’t exist outside a digital world.”

Read more about Reg Mombassa’s Cranium Universe here.