07 April 2011

Link Sausages Bordering on Idiocy

  • Here's an indirect demonstration that Borders will never be able to emerge successfully from bankruptcy: Even when talking about how tough it is to be a small publisher, publishers get the math wrong for their own businesses. Now this was in the Grauniad, so perhaps the math error in stating that £4 – £0.82 = £2.18 is a copyediting error at the newspaper (which is ironic enough on its own, given that the writer — the publisher of a small imprint — explicitly talks about paying more for an above-average copyeditor, else there would be "typos and a bad reputation"). That, however, only masks the equivalency claimed between the real costs and a £2.50 fulfillment (shipping and handling) charge... which implies (based on current Royal Mail rates) that Linen Press prints monster-sized books, which is inconsistent with their retail pricing, and for a small press with limited inventory like Linen Press handling costs should be lower anyway.
  • And more directly, of course, one must consider the varied opinions on how the meeting of Borders' creditors went yesterday. Publishers' representatives are claiming that Borders' plans are unrealistic, while Borders' representatives are claiming that the talks were "constructive" and leading toward a profitable future. The landlords' representatives are, as a group, keeping quiet... because if there's one trade sector more prone to dodgy accounting than the entertainment sector, it's real estate, and the landlords would be winners no matter what (if, that is, the accounting is honest — and usually even when it isn't). The results of today's hearing should be interesting!
  • Meanwhile, Kris Rusch indirectly states why the Kmart/Borders model of "category management" won't suffice to make Borders a profitable venture. The short version is that (ignoring, for the moment, the vast and overriding flaws in the data-gathering process) what data has been collected points most directly to author-specificity — not category-, publicity-method-, price-, or anything else — as actually driving book sales... and these days, there aren't a whole lot of true, bestselling authors who do not have works that are arguably in more than one category (and, in many instances, for single works!). Consider, for example, UnnamedClient, whose works include both overtly YA and overtly urban fantasy (and overtly adventure science fiction), but for which most of the individual works also would fit comfortably in other parts of the bookstore. In short, UnnamedClient is — all by her/himself — a "category" at least as coherent as "romance" or "horror" or "New Age and inspirational".

    It's not just the commercial publishing model in NYC that's broken, kids; it's the entire chain between author and reader, in a self-devouring festival of parasitism. Or zombies, as the case may be... except that there are few braaaaaaaaains to be found among those who continue trying to force old square pegs into 1990s round holes (let alone today's star-shaped ones).

  • Here's another nonparticipant's view of the GBS settlement rejection, and what it might "mean." Of course, my own perspective is yet more different; to only slightly mangle Churchill's words, intellectual property regimes both formally and effectively controlled by democratic governments are the worst possible way of encouraging creativity and progress... except for all of the other systems that have been tried. (Which is not to say that that's what we actually have right now, but it's at least the ideal for what we have right now.) No real system can be perfect, or can anticipate perfectly its own evolution in response to changes in context. Trying to pretend that any system would not create negative externalities is complete BS. That premise is what is behind Ms Goodhand's remarks... and it's a premise that I thoroughly agree with.