Thursday, September 13, 2007

This that and the other

Cory Doctorow is usually a source of good sense, and in Locus magazine he has an article about the virtues of giving away books online. It's not the first time he has argued this case, and he assembles such quantitative data as are available on this issue.

Hmm. This one will run and run, I think.

Publishers Lunch refers to a row rumbling in academe. The University of Michigan Press reportedly acts as distributor for the UK's Pluto Press. One book put out under this arrangement is Overcoming Zionism, by Joel Kovel. And it turns out that some 'members of the university community' have 'serious questions' about the book. Which means, in effect, they want to ban it, and, if they had their druthers, burn the entire stock and preferably pop the author on top of it.

Ah me. If this wasn't so funny it would be tragic. And vice versa.

Later. Seems that the U of M has decided, grudgingly, to resume distribution of the book in question. For one thing, their contract requires it. But the authorities in question can hardly be said to have covered themselves in glory on this one. They end up, frankly, looking like a bunch of ignorant deadbeats. Do they know nothing about the concept of free speech in universities? Not to mention the first amendment.

Publishers Lunch also highlights another classic example of twisting and squirming. An Oregon newspaper wonders whether it really should have mentioned a reporter's book in quite the way it did.

But I thought that was the whole point of working for a newspaper. If you can't depend on your employer to give you a bloody good plug when the book comes out, what's the point? You might as well be a schoolteacher.

The Tonto Press blog prints some correspondence which constitutes an absolutely classic example of how not to approach a publisher. I think the Press is a bit too kind to the sender of this nonsense, frankly. I think we should be told his name.

Blogging By and About Authors is part of the CyberBookBuzz range of services. It comes up with some interesting stuff, for instance this review of a book about clearing permissions -- something of a nightmare.

Did you know, for instance, that many old TV series cannot be sold on DVD because the task of getting permission to use the background music in the new format is just too complicated and difficult? I read it on the internet, so it must be true.

* provides a link to an article on the web site of the Institute for the Future of the Book. This is an exceptionally interesting, if speculative, piece on ebook readers, the future role of publishers, and all like that.

Suppose -- just suppose -- that instead of the endless conglomeration and concentration of power into ever fewer and fewer hands, which has been the story of the last few years, we get instead a vast distribution of authority, a garden in which a million flowers flourish. Wouldn't that be fun?

Along the way a point is made which was made here a while back, namely that readers neither know nor care much about publishers. Authors, they remember; book titles they remember too. But publishers? Nah. Not interested.

I recently mentioned a new book on why we read what we read, by Lisa Adams and John Heath. Now they have started a blog on the same subject. They seek to 'analyze culture through bestsellers'. And the best of luck to them. (Thanks to Dave Lull for the link.)

Vivek's iUniverse-published non-fiction book, Lies, Lies, and More Lies, is a defence of Hindu nationalism. Whatever else may be said about the book, it is pretty clear that it is well written. Take a look at the lengthy info on

The 20th Independent and Small Press Book Fair will take place on Saturday, December 1 (between 10am and 6pm) and Sunday, December 2 (between 11am and 5pm) at the New York Center of Independent Publishing, 20 West 44th Street, between 5th and 6th Avenues, in Manhattan. More detail here.

Further to my post about the Souvenir Press, Mr Hecht tells me that actually The Cooler sold well, and in lots of countries, and the author did two more books for Souvenir in similar style. These had 'really astronomical earnings' before Markstein was enticed by the Bodley Head, and then by Pan, and lastly Hodders; but he never touched the same earnings in those places and died at a comparatively young age.

Which just goes to show. Stick with the guys who treated you right in the first place.


Anonymous said...

While he can't offer much hard evidence on the advantages of giving away books free online, Doctorow lays the case out nicely. I look forward to hearing more about this.

I'm flattered that I've had a good number of folks download mine (free) and either enjoy it in its entirety or purchase a copy after reading bits. My book is hardly one hungry agents would lust for--horrors, it's fiction, to start--it just provides a wee bit of good reading, regardless of how readers do it.

VFPDissident said...

More than 550 book titles are in danger of losing their only American distributor--the University of Michigan Press--as a result of the controversy over Overcoming Zionism. Read more here: or

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