20 August 2012

A Less Than Filling Platter of Link Sausages

Still scrambling with move-in, etc., so this is a rather sparse platter for nearly a full week. Just pretend that the parsley is more than a mere garnish.

  • Three negative views on the Pearson/Penguin acquisition of Author Solutions all rather soft-pedal the situation. Carla King, at NPR, says that authors should care, and probably object; the founder of Smashwords continues the ill-considered "traditional publishers suck" meme while not making completely clear that he's not exactly disinterested; and agent Jane Friedman objects that taking this seriously is going to require a massive cultural change at Author Solutions... toward actually serving authors. Of course, all of that assumes that authors who were silly enough — after all of the public warnings, and after the Authors' Guild's abandonment of its consitutuency in, oh, 2005 or so — to sign up with Author Solutions in the first place.

    Or, I suppose, you could just claim that e-books are all-or-nothing, and ignore that some projects call for each presentation and distribution system. Then, ignoring reality seems to be the thing that the publishing segment of the entertainment industry does best!

  • This is all just "careerism," in a certain sense — a sense that assumes without argument that copyright is "necessary". The real problem is not with the imperfection of copyright — and imperfect it is — but with the lack of workable alternatives. If we assume that authors (and other creators) need not support themselves with their works, we're also assuming that the progress of the useful arts and sciences is adequately served with a creative class that is either creating during leisure time (as they have "day jobs") or dominated by patronage. If we assume that authors (and other creators) must be able to support themselves with their works, but cannot have a private property interest in those works, we're also assuming a different kind of patronage — probably governmental or quasigovernmental in nature. For all of the flaws of the free-market-for-works system — and they are legion — they're less extreme than any of these alternatives.
  • As the inestimable President-and-Dictator-for-Life Scalzi notes, the issue of writing unfavorable book reviews is making its periodic reappearance, particularly via this piece in the NYT. As usual, Salon begs to differ, more because it's the NYT than on anything substantive.

    I guess I disagree with just about everyone about the purpose of reviews, as opposed to marketing materials. The first rule of reviewing books must be to ignore the marketing materials... because in contemporary publishing (indeed, back well before the days of media conglomerates), it is highly unlikely that the person(s) who made the marketing materials had read the damned book, even in unedited manuscript form. Reviews are not auxiliary marketing materials, and the only loyalty of a reviewer must be to his/her literary integrity. On one tentacle, that means that a reviewer must be scrupulous about avoiding conflicts of interest... and avoid the temptation to advance his/her personal feud with the author, or the editor, or whomever, under the guise of a review. (That cuts out about half of the negative reviews in the NYT right there.)

  • Selling snake-oil — a phrase that, for those who don't know, refers to con men akin to Professor Henry Higgins who sold remedies that just did not work — seems to be relatively easy. It's just another variety of magical thinking, which is usually a lot easier than dealing with adverse facts. Those watching the train-wreck we call "election season" should also keep this in mind, as well as the prescient (or perhaps just omniscient) thoughts of Paul Simon:

    Sitting on a sofa on a Sunday afternoon
    Going to the candidates debate
    Laugh about it, shout about it
    When you've got to choose
    Every way you look at it, you lose