- An interesting look at the problem of fixed costs in e-book pricing opens a door for discussion, but doesn't quite have the courage to walk through it. The real problem is that many of the costs that publisher accounting (particularly that accounting that makes its way into acquisition decisions via management-imposed cost-sales/profit-and-loss spreadsheets) is based almost entirely upon fiction — fiction not good enough to make its way out of the slush pile. For one thing, many of the purported "fixed" costs are, in fact, variable... and even when allocated, are not allocated the same way ex ante and ex post. For example, I have yet to see any c-s allocation of marketing and sales support in either trade fiction or trade nonfiction come within 25% of the actual, fully extended product-limited expenditure. That's no way to run a company that purportedly exists on thin margins...
- Just like costs are not fixed, neither is infringement. My only feline friend the IPKat ponders — for patents, but the reasoning for copyrights is the same — the problem of how to deal with infringement that crosses borders. It's not an easy question, by any means... especially when one tries to apply similar reasoning to freedom of speech and libel tourism.
- Charlie Stross (following along from others) ponders the (long overdue) death of genre. I say "good riddance: 'genre' is a marketing device, not an evaluative framework." Remember, most decisions as to a work's "genre" are made by people who have not read the work in question (or Aristotle's Poetics), and are matters of commercial convenience. The reason that one cannot find, say, Directive 51 in both the "Science Fiction and Fantasy" and "Thriller and Intrigue" categories in every bookstore (and library) is that it would be inefficient for staff and stock-tracking to have it in both places. And the less said about the twin ghettoes of "children's" and "YA"/"teen", the better. As the almost incomparably wise Ursula K. Le Guin said about forty years ago (and this is only a mild paraphrase), Philip K. Dick's works should be shelved in alphabetical order near those of Charles Dickens. If the dragons, unicorns, and rocket ships on the cover aren't enough "categorization" for the potential reader, so be it.
Then there's the issue of writers who write more than one "kind" of novel or related nonfictional work; consider the span between Orwell's Burmese Days and 1984, or between Huxley's Crome Yellow and Ape & Essence, or between Russell's The Sparrow and Doc. All in all, "genre" is much less meaningful than damned near anything else about publishing. As an illustration, try definitively stating the genre to which The Tempest belongs... remembering, too, that the text we have of that play was pieced together after the fact by asking the actors to repeat their lines for a transcriber!