07 August 2006

No Truth or Beauty, Either

Yet more miscellany. (Given the nonsense going on around here, it's hard to put together more than 200 words on a given topic.)

  • First we thought the Chihuly suit had settled, at least in part; now, we see that it hasn't. I'd make more snide remarks about "people who run businesses making glass houses shouldn't throw stones," but that's just too obvious, even for me. Although I seldom miss the front end of a one-and-one on purpose, that's one I'll pass up.
  • It looks like the sextennial "excessive returns" cycle is starting up again. This time, the first hints are in England; Waterstone's (the new monopolist owner of Ottakar's) is claiming that it needs to return and replace 30% of Ottakar's stock before Christmas so the stores can be better focussed on carrying what customers want to buy. Of course, this is also a chicken-and-egg situation. As a serious bookbuyer, I can't count the number of times I went into a bookstore, browsed, found something interesting, and was inspired to instead buy something else (related or otherwise). The less said about managerial attempts to make the former management look bad and itself look exceptionally capable, the better. (And no, I won't ask for a pardon for my cynicism; a trip to any Waterstone's, even the US-airport-stall version, should disabuse you of any notion that Waterstone's understands anything other than the book-as-a-commodity model.)

    And, of course, this is going to lead to lots of whingeing from publishers about returns, further attempts to increase the reserve against returns, lower royalty payments, and more accounting shenanigans. Just peachy. The UK seems to lead the US market by about two royalty cycles with this nonsense (or, at least, it has since the mid-1970s), which shouldn't really surprise anyone given the Briticized ownership of US publishers.

  • With more than usual speed, the Observer notes an academically oriented conference devoted to Harry Potter. Of course, the article writer can't resist a few digs at fan fiction; neither can she resist taking a few digs at conference attendees, however "respectful" her article is supposed to be. (Aside: Don't claim to have been an "English student" on the basis of "not-read[ing] Milton and not-read[ing] Spenser"; maybe at some schools one can get away with "not-reading" in a literature class, but certainly not in any English department I've studied in.) The "more than usual speed" comes because this sort of thing has been going on since, at latest, 2003; three years isn't too bad, is it?