07 September 2009

Unofficial End-of-Summer Barbecued Link Sausages

Labor Day, eh? Time to throw a vegetarian on the barbecue; remember, The Complete Vegetarian is a cookbook!

  • Giving the excuse (if given at all, that is) of tough economic times, publishers are cancelling books... again. This should remind those who were paying attention a few years back — both of you — of the excuses offered by publishers in the face of the purported "crisis" allegedly caused by "excessive returns" after changes in inventory practices at the chain stores coincided with yet another wave of distributor consolidations and failures. In short, the offered excuse doesn't reflect reality; it reflects 20-20 hindsight on whether the particular books being rejected are now good business deals (I haven't noticed Dan Brown, to name one late-to-submit-an-overdue-manuscript author, getting pulled from the publication schedule).

    It would be interesting to see a bestselling author pull a contract for which he/she believes he/she was underpaid from a publisher because the editor's letter, or the copyedit, or some other aspect of the post-manuscript-submission publishing process, was late, and that lateness interfered with the author's schedule. Goose, meet gander...

  • The three people who read this blawg regularly may have noticed that I frequently make comments on "the economics of x" when discussing x. That unfortunate phrase is really just a shorthand, partially imposed by common usage and partially a result of laziness, for "economic implications and complications related to x" without being quite so longwinded... like this introduction. I commend for your consideration Nobel Prize-winning "economist" Paul Krugman's comments on the history and state of economics and, from a couple of months farther back, a much longer piece in The Economist entitled "What Went Wrong With Economics" (and four diverse companion pieces in the same issue).

    And I leave you with this thought: Much of the difficulty with considering "economics" and "economic principles" comes from an indefensible, imposed-by-doctrine distinction between what economics calls its own field and the more-general field of power relations — as if, without any supporting data, someone had drawn a line and proclaimed that "smaller than this and it's all quantum mechanics; larger than this and quantum mechanics doesn't matter"; and meanwhile, entropy rules while Maxwell's Daemon drools! For extra credit, consider the relationship of this disturbing analogy to intellectual property generally and the publishing and entertainment industry specifically.

  • In the world of law, the rule of law, and jurisprudence, the "right to trial by jury" meme as a means of checking potential abuse by judges — who are, however honorable, at minimum symbols of the status quo's power structure — may be somewhat less meaningful than one would think... if, that is, juries are no better than judges at discerning the "truth." At least in the UK, some scientific studies question whether juries understand "dishonest" in a way consistent enough to reach any result.
  • Some time after 10am Eastern Daylight Time (GMT-4) tomorrow, I'll be lifting my self-imposed embargo on specific, substantive analysis of the Google Book Search settlement. It's not going to be pretty; and it's going to return to the ability of the representative plaintiffs and their representatives to adequately represent the author class's interests. Hint: There are substantial legal and ethical barriers to what has been done thus far being approved... and that's the least of the problems.