06 December 2006


We use mostly salsa and custom-made sauces around here — especially if it's hot enough to bite back — but it's time to catch up on some miscellaneous items of the last few days.

  • Once in a great while, the New York Sun fails to resemble its UK namesake: It prints a thoughtful article. This time, it's about the non-demise of the book in favor of the e-book. I'll consider the bare possibility that e-books might begin to even equal the market for paper books when I can safely expect to read an e-book at the beach, in the bath, or wherever... and not have to worry about the bloody battery running out.
  • Cultural imperialism is both fun and profitable. Just ask Disney. On the other hand, it may not be quite as insidious as one might think.
  • More bloviating on "plagiarism" in the NYT leads to a Marxist sort of question. Is it just barely possible that the relatively recent rise of "that bestseller stole my book" suits in the consciousness of the creative community (and, for that matter, the public) reflects a perceived, or even actual, reaction to unfair income distribution? Exhibit A: The royalty percentage on trade books ordinarily increases after achieving certain copies-sold targets (this is usually called an "escalator" or "sales split"), which seems to favor the bestseller. Economically, it is purportedly justified by the recovery of sunk and other fixed costs in the first few thousand copies sold of a given book... but that's a hyperformalist accounting interpretation reminiscent of Pirandello with little relationship to actual effort put into a given book.
  • Speaking of warped publishing economics, consider this book on the subject (I've found Greco's previous work relatively reliable, if too-often dismissive of the niche nature of publishing economics) or this "special report" at Forbes.
  • Meanwhile, the form of art (and novels) continues to change. Some commentators either decry or celebrate author-provided bibliographies in novels without stopping to consider the legal function of such a bibliography: By acknowledging influences, an author goes a long way toward deterring the kind of suits mentioned in the previous item. On the one hand, the absence of a purported source from the bibliography is evidence (not proof) that the author did not consult that source, especially if the bibliography appears to be carefully prepared. On the other hand, the presence of a purported source in the bibliography will force both the author and the publisher to take more care in ensuring permission or fair use. (Maybe not enough care, but more than none.)
  • Then there's the question of who should be in charge. It appears that the Getty Foundation has decided that its new director should be not a businessperson, but a museum curator. On the other hand, some claim that merely being a great musician isn't enough to be an orchestra member any more (if it ever was). I shudder to think of what would happen if teaching skill were to be expected of authors...

And remember, there are exactly fifty-seven communists in the Department of Defense, and our prospective Secretary of Defense is experienced in dealing with them.