New censorship is about money, not ethics
By Ariel Bogle
As we have been discussing on MobyLives, publishing is awash with instances of arbitrary censorship. For example, here by Apple and here by Paypal. It is apparent that journalists and editors are no longer afraid of big government, but quake before big business and big money. Private bodies whose influence is both far-reaching and hard to predict.
Nick Cohen argues in The Literary Review for a new way of thinking about censorship. To begin with, Cohen asks why challenging writing about economic crises is so rare, given there are thousands of articles about the foibles of politicians.
“You no more hear writers and broadcasters admit that they are frightened of investigating investment banks than you hear them admit that they are frightened of challenging the founding myths of Islam. We cannot puncture our own myth that we are fearless seekers after truth, even though, if we honestly owned up to our limitations, we might force society to confront the fact that modern censorship does not conform to old models. It is a mistake to think of repression as repression by the state alone. In much of the world it still is, but in Britain, America and most of continental Europe the age of globalisation has done its work, and it is privatised rather than state forces that threaten freedom of speech.”
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What happens when more writers have the option of a one-stop shop: agent, publisher and bookseller.
Monopoly vs. Diversity
By Dennis Johnson
Are publishers still needed? Or, as Amazon’s self-published authors would put it, are legacy publishers still needed? Well, they must be, or why would Amazon go to such lengths to build a publishing program — down to the detail of buying expensive retirees who used to run big houses to lend it an air of legitimacy.
But that means writers and readers are dealing with a company that’s imitating the thing it says they don’t need anymore. A thing that it actively denigrates, like calling publishers legacy or traditional publishers — i.e., casting everything as old versus new, and, of course, old is bad. But it’s not about old versus new, or for that matter, print versus digital. It’s man versus machine, and diversity versus monopoly.
Can Amazon sell a lot of books? You bet. They really do know how to develop algorithms that can move just about anything. Good books, bad books. Beautifully edited, completely unedited, edited by chimpanzees – it doesn’t matter. The numbers, they brag, speak for themselves.
Is Your Local Barnes and Noble Going to Close Down?
By Dennis Johnson
We’ve written before — and before that — that Barnes & Noble seems to us to be enacting some kind of end-game, at least as far as books are concerned. Our thinking has been that the company is making moves that are geared toward becoming some other kind of retailer, where books play a minimal role, and there are no brick and mortar stores at all.
But in a commentary for the Motley Fool, Rick Aristotle Munarriz predicts something worse: bankruptcy.
Mynarriz starts with an observation we’ve made here before: “Watching its rival Borders liquidate this summer should have been its opportunity to grab market share, just as the cavernous book-selling superstore has benefited when smaller bookstores have had to board up and move on.” But as he observes, they didn’t go after that market share.
And now, says Munarriz, it’s too late. Soon, he says, “the demand for gargantuan dedicated bookstores will dry up.”
Reactions to Amazon‘s anti-sales tax maneuvers in California, where Governor Jerry Brown just signed into law a measure calling for the company to collect sales taxes, just like every other retailer in the state, have become volatile.
As numerous reports have noted, Amazon has decided to violate the law — which went into effect last Friday — and is refusing to collect taxes.
As Andrew S. Ross reports in a San Francisco Chronicle story headlined “Amazon, Overstock thumb nose at California tax” …
So, I went online Friday looking to buy a copy of John Kenneth Galbraith‘s “The Affluent Society & Other Writings, 1952-1967.” Thought it might be timely to revisit the Harvard economist’s distinction between “private affluence” and “public squalor.”
Barnes & Noble‘s website was selling it for $26.53. Total, which included California sales tax: $28.79. “Total Before Tax” at Amazon.com: $26.40. “Estimated Tax To Be Collected: $0.00.”
… In other words, screw you, California, and your laws.
As a Los Angeles Times report observes, companies only pay state taxes quarterly, which means Amazon doesn’t have to notify the state until October that it is not obeying the law. “Such defiance sets up a major legal battle by this fall,” says the report.
As publishers, we love getting good blurbs for our authors. At their most basic, they’re a simple marketing tool: for readers not familiar with an author, seeing a quote from another author they’re familiar with offers a way into a world they might not have exposed themselves to otherwise.
But there’s a trick to getting blurbs. It involves fostering the right relationships, leveraging contacts, calling in favors, and sometimes just plain extortion. Often enough, savvy readers understand this and no doubt many of them resist blurbs for just this reason.
As has been previously noted in this blog, all across the UK tomorrow, there are numerous activities planned to protest some of the most draconian cuts in public sector expenditure since the Suez crisis. …read more
Today’s the day Borders is supposed to go back to some of its biggest client publishers and explain to them again — in detail this time — how it’s going to not pay them. And the companies who heard them out the first time have told Borders they better have a real plan this time, and it better be good….read more