24 March 2008

The Madness of March

It's a grumpy Monday here in Sharkville. Four thousand (directly attributable) deaths in Iraq and no exit strategy in sight. Politicians continue to prove that they are the perpetual "Me Generation;" no matter their age(s), they and their handlers make kindergarten recess look sedate, well-behaved, and mature. My alma mater wins yet another basketball national championship and gets fifteen seconds on a halftime report... because my alma mater continues to act like a university that happens to have an athletic program instead of a minor-league feeder system that sends its kids off to class during the time that coaches are lining up recruits.

  • Over at GalleyCat, Ron Hogan rightly wonders why US book covers seem less imaginative than UK book covers for several current "multigenre" novels. He says:

    Put it another way: For those of you reading this who aren't science fiction fans, which of the two book covers above would more effectively motivate you to at least check out the flap copy, maybe even the first couple pages, if you saw it face-out at a bookstore?

    Oh, dear. Ron, I thought you knew better. In the US market, the cover isn't for the potential reader, or at least not primarily for the potential reader; it's for the chain and distributor buyers. And since chain and distributor buyers are completely uninterested in shelving books in more than one part of the store, they won't care, and in fact will be less impressed by a cover that accurately represents the book's content than by a cover that accurately represents the part of the store in which their own prejudices — since, as a group, they're not themselves readers — will place the particular widget.

    I'm not bitter about this. Just pissed off, because it results in some truly awful cover art over which the authors have no control, and the editors only very little more (such as this book, which is entirely about strategy and in which none of the main characters ever approach a personal weapon... which is a shame, because the art director and cover artist should have been shot). Here's a hint: Sales material needs to be pointed at people who will actually buy the damned thing, not at consignees between the publisher and the buyer. Unless, of course, you're actually interested only in the numbers shipped to consignees, as PW's current entry in the cover-design column implies.

  • On Friday, Professor Patry noted that sometimes Israel stands up to US pressure — this time in an IP context. What I find more interesting in this context is that it's not the creators of IP who are pushing for the more-restrictive measures, but their patrons (linking in to my ongoing attempt to demystify the definition of WFH). This has interesting economic, theoretical, and artistic implications going far beyond the "information wants to be free" meme... which, like most memes, misstates what is at issue and then overstates itself.
  • Also last week, but this time at Madisonian, Professor Yen notes a tying proposal for unlimited downloads with the purchase of an iPod. This, again, implicates the patron/creator divide... and an area of antitrust law that is getting increasingly complicated. The story at Ars Technica and the various reactions have touched on the Micro$oft/Internet Exploder litigation as the paradigm, but that's really quite inapposite; instead, the paradigm remains International Salt and the various photocopier disputes. Nonetheless, it points out that there is much more than mere copyright at issue.
  • It's "dangerous to use common sense" to try to resolve a patent issue at a preliminary stage, even under common law (or, at least, in a common-law jurisdiction). This is the same reason that one should not proclaim that "fair use says I'm immune" in a copyright dispute: it depends on the facts, not just proclamations of abstract values.
  • Another item from somewhere else to which the publishing industry needs to pay more attention: It's the buzz, stupid, not the immediately extractable licensing fees (or contractual concessions). And yes, I'm talking to you, Bertelsmann and Hachette and Pearson.