31 October 2011


I'm knife-down in the virtual jack-o-lantern at the moment dealing with deadlines. I really have done the next post on the HathiTrust matter, but it needs one more pass and paying clients come first...

In any event, I do need to put one rumor as reported to me from over the weekend at WFC out of my misery. Contrary to statements made by someone who should know better, it is simply untrue that most (for any reasonable value of "most") of the major book distributors (for any reasonable value of either "major" or "book distributors") in the US and UK are "operating in bankruptcy." Simply put, there have been no such bankruptcy filings in the US (or insolvency proceedings or requests for winding-up orders in the UK) regarding any of the top four in either jurisdiction. But:

  • If the speaker meant "perilously close to bankruptcy and probably headed there," at least one of the four US "major book distributors" had its best year in the last decade last year, and another was close.
  • If the speaker meant "operating under a 'bankrupt' business model," that speaker needs to learn not to misuse technical terms. It may not be defensible in isolation... but the problem is that the various barriers to entry will keep it operating long after its internal economic efficiency, absent oligopoly rents, would have sent it to bankruptcy proceedings in the cold eye of economic efficiency (but, one must note, did not).
  • If the speaker meant "financially nonsustainable," then the speaker needs to somehow account for all of those oligopoly rents being imposed and retained by the distributors. We could begin with their rampant mistreatment of small accounts, like independent bookstores and authors buying for resale, combined with their frivolous filing of collection suits that often result in default judgments...
  • On the other hand, if the speaker meant "morally bankrupt," that's no surprise at all... as to virtually the entire publishing segment of the entertainment industry.