15 March 2011

Pies Are Square?

No pi yesterday — it was 14.03, and I couldn't find a way to make the time 15:93, even for insular Yanks who don't know how to write the date...

  • Borders bankruptcy update: The usual nonsense in these kinds of proceedings is accelerating. What a surprise. Yee ha.

    First up, there were lots of landlords and utilities filing various objections last week. Although from their perspective what they're trying to do is protect their own interests, from a system perspective what they're trying to do is cut in line — to evade the order otherwise required by the bankruptcy process. As usual, almost the only beneficiaries from this will be the lawyers, as they fritter away the bankruptcy estate's assets arguing over assertions that historically have less than a ten percent chance of success in a multistate retail-sector bankruptcy proceeding. The key point is that these arguments — and, if they succeed, bullying cutting in line — will ultimately hurt the creditors at the back of the line. That's right: The authors.

    Meanwhile, some publishers are starting to make reclamation claims on the stock held by Borders... which just validates the view of bookstores as consignees, not sellers. In particular, Source Interlink (PDF) and Thomas Nelson (PDF) are asking for their stock back. What this means for future shipments to the stores is still to be determined.

    Presuming, that is, that there are any. As I predicted back at the beginning, Borders Group is beginning the "don't kill the goose" dance with creditors by threatening to close up to 75 more stores — this time, all "superstores." Again, this is typical maneuvering from the Big Firm Bankruptcy Playbook... which should remind you all too much of the FBI all-purpose terrorist playbook from Die Hard, and we remember how well that turned out for Nakatomi, don't we?

  • Meanwhile, the American Library Association has taken a public and semiofficial stance against HarperCollins' limitations on e-book lending. This particular brouhaha leads to two further questions that nobody appears to be asking... yet. First, what does this imply about the number of times a non-library purchaser can lend an e-book? Presuming, of course, that the "thou shalt not lend" EULAs in most e-books are enforceable in the first place (you did read the EULA, right?) — a dubious proposition at best — what mechanism will publishers use? Second, and more disturbing, does this imply a move toward a limited number of times that an e-book can be read in the first place, using parallel durability of physical copies as an excuse just as HarperCollins tried to this time? (And let's hope that H'wood doesn't get any bright ideas about putting use-counters on BluRay disks, which would be trivial...) In any event, that ALA's position statement is welcome, if somewhat overdue. I bet that they won't pay the fine, though.
  • In the Great White North, the Glob and Male is concerned about two separate issues facing Canadian publishing. First, there's the periodic questioning of the protectionist "local owners only" crap that hasn't stopped one particular Canadian publishing group from becoming a 400kg gorilla in its market segment; category romance (small-r) readers know exactly whom I'm referring to. (Maybe it's just francophonia that's causing the problem, considering advice from the French government that publishers act like a cartel... against another cartel.) In the end, it's just more of the same old "all politics is local" bullshit offered in support of economic activities that can't compete, so they embrace protectionism and monopolization without recognizing the irony inherent in doing so.

    And pity the midlist author (as usual). Just because the midlist doesn't seem relevant to MBA/accountant perspectives doesn't mean that it's not the foundation of the business, though...

  • Then, too, in a simultaneously disturbing and fascinating opinion, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals (which essentially covers that part of the West that remains "wild"... plus Utah) issued a horribly cramped and misguided opinion on whether Secret Service agents had qualified immunity for violating the First and Fourth Amendment rights of a man who expressed dismay at then-VP Cheney's statements on Iraq (PDF). Admittedly, there needs to be some immunity involved, and the protester did actually touch the Vice President. The opinion is, however, strangely devoid of context — such as recognition of George III's administration's records of suppressing dissent (in the Tenth Circuit in particular, no less) — which calls into question the validity, and even soundness, of the court's determination of what facts are relevant to determining qualified immunity in this particular circumstance.

    Not to mention the bizarre way that US jurisprudence requires suits to be against particular government officials "in their official capacity," instead of against "the gummint" — that's how we ended up with Gideon v. Wainwright, in which Gideon sued the warden by name and not "the system." It's also how we end up with the Bivens doctrine (Bivens v. Six Unknown Federal Narcotics Agents.

Enough for now. Back to the sickbed and to dealing with the remoras and their midterms and upcoming spring break and...