May
17
2014

Are Birmingham's Books Right for Washington, D.C.?

Laura Ingraham (cc photo: Vicki Timman)

Shouldn't more people know about Books-A-Million behaving as if it were the Koch brothers' chain of bookstores?

Aug
03
2012

Gore Vidal: FAIR Event, 1990

In the first few years of FAIR's existence, Gore Vidal referred to us a "noble, doomed enterprise." He meant that as a compliment, both to our work and to the immense task of challenging the myths and propaganda served up by corporate media. In 1990, Vidal appeared at a FAIR function in Los Angeles with founder Jeff Cohen. Here is a recording of the evening; Vidal's remarks start at about the 12:30 mark.If you'd rather download the recording, you can do so here.  

Aug
02
2012

Smearing Gore Vidal, Then and Now

Gore Vidal for Congress

–A 1977 New York Times review (4/20/77) by Christopher Lehmann-Haupt of a collection of Vidal's essays: So we are left to speculate over the psychological implications here, and to conclude that Mr. Vidal's animus toward everything from West Point to the American Establishment–not to speak of academicians, who are, after all, instructors–boils down to an unresolved hostility toward his father, further evidence of which, some would argue, is Mr. Vidal's cheerfully admitted homosexuality. –A New York Times piece by Sam Tanenhaus (8/2/12): Mr. Vidal, whose disdain for American vulgarity was tinged, some said, with antisemitism and dislike of the "lower […]

Jun
19
2012

Turning Down a Free Palace for Everyone Requires a Very Good Reason

Imagine an amazing new invention that allowed anyone to duplicate any existing building, using no resources. However, the law requires you to pay for such instant buildings, at about the price of those made the old-fashioned way, on the grounds that allowing everyone to live in their ideal home for free would make it hard for architects to make a living. Relatively little of the money paid for the new houses, though, goes to architects–or even to their great-grandchildren, many of the actual architects being long dead; most of it, rather, goes to builders and real estate agents, even though […]

Apr
13
2012

Are Apple and Publishers Helping Readers by Ripping Them Off?

Apple iPad (cc photo: Tom Raftery)

The Justice Department alleges that Apple's collusion with book publishers to fix ebook prices has cost readers $100 million. So why are so many news reports on the anti-trust suit suggesting that the Apple/publisher alliance is actually good for consumers? The New York Times' David Streitfeld (4/12/12) warns: Amazon, which already controls about 60 percent of the ebook market, can take a loss on every book it sells to gain market share for its Kindle devices. When it has enough competitive advantage, it can dictate its own terms, something publishers say is beginning to happen. Likewise CNN's Doug Gross (4/11/12): […]

Mar
30
2012

The One Graph That Explains Why Copyright Is Too Long

Infinite Copyright Is Killing Culture

From Matthew Yglesias (3/30/12), one simple chart that illustrates why copyright terms are way, way, way too long for the good of the culture: Books published before 1923 are in the public domain; we read a lot of them (based on Amazon shipping figures). Books published in the past 10 or 20 years or so are in copyright, but are still in high demand; they're making a lot of money for publishers and are encouraging a supply of new books. Between these two periods, there's a vast desert of books that are still in copyright but are in very low […]

Feb
15
2011

Would the Bard Have Survived U.S. Copyright Law?

A New York Times op-ed today (2/15/11) by Scott Turow, Paul Aiken and James Shapiro ("Would the Bard Have Survived the Web?") uses William Shakespeare as exhibit A in their case for copyright, noting that theater flourished in 16th century England because playwrights were able to make money by charging people to enter their theaters. This they translate into a sweeping argument against attempts to reform copyright law, disparaging a handful of law professors and other experts who have made careers of fashioning counterintuitive arguments holding that copyright impedes creativity and progress. Their theory is that if we severely weaken […]

Jan
18
2011

CBS News Still Covering for Ronald Reagan?

In his new book, Ron Reagan says he saw early signs of Alzheimer's disease in his father, Ronald Reagan, while the late president was still in the White House. When he said as much on ABC's 20/20 last Friday (1/14/11), he infuriated many on the right, including his older brother Michael Reagan. Over the weekend, the older Reagan son took to Twitter, writing over the course of several messages, "My brother seems to want [to] sell out his father to sell books…. My father did not suffer from Alzheimer's in the '80s…. Ron, my brother, was an embarrassment to my […]

Dec
09
2010

Dubious Math in the Case for Amazon's 'Evil'

In AlterNet's article "Is Amazon Evil?" (12/8/10)–reprinted from the Boston Review (11-12/10)–the description of the economics of e-books is seriously dubious. Reporter Onnesha Roychoudhuri writes: If Amazon had asked publishers what they thought about locking in e-book prices at $9.99, it would have been subjected to a chorus of outrage. That's because the math behind publishing is seldom in a publishers' favor. The sale of a $20 hardcover nets a large publisher about $10. Royalties run the publisher about $3, and the costs of printing, binding, and paper are a further $2 (more for low-volume titles). Take $1.20 for distribution, […]

Nov
19
2010

Chris Hedges Was Supposed to Write a Book About the Media…

I caught this story at Single Payer Action. The account is based on a talk veteran reporter Chris Hedges gave recently at the Sanctuary for Independent Media in Troy, New York: "Knopf –which, of course, like all of these large publishing houses is owned by a large transnational corporation–asked me to write a book on the press," Hedges told the Sanctuary for Independent Media last month in Troy, New York. "The advance was pretty low–I said no. But after giving a talk at the Ford Foundation, they said they would kick in the money. And I agreed to do it." […]

Sep
28
2010

It's Publishers' Greed, Not E-Books, That's Pinching Authors

Jeffrey Trachtenberg, writing for the Wall Street Journal (9/28/10), reports in "Authors Feel Pinch in Age of E-Books" that electronic publishing is ruining authors: It has always been tough for literary fiction writers to get their work published by the top publishing houses. But the digital revolution that is disrupting the economic model of the book industry is having an outsize impact on the careers of literary writers. Priced much lower than hardcovers, many e-books generate less income for publishers. And big retailers are buying fewer titles. As a result, the publishers who nurtured generations of America's top literary-fiction writers […]

Jun
14
2010

It's Apple's Party, and We're Just the Guests There

Media Detector, a New York Times blog, has a post today (6/14/10) about a comic book adaptation of James Joyce's Ulysses that Apple is insisting be bowdlerized before it can be turned into an app for the iPad–replacing an image of a bare-breasted "milk lady" with a close-up of her face. While calling Apple's decision "disappointing," artist Robert Berry told Media Detector he did not feel "remotely censored by Apple." "It's their rules," he said. "We're coming to their dinner party at their house." When you watch TV on your Sony television, you're not attending a dinner party at Sony's […]

Apr
20
2010

Unlike Amazon, Publishers Understand Authors–and How to Rip Them Off

Ken Auletta (cc photo: JD Lasica, socialmedia.biz)

In a lengthy New Yorker piece (4/26/10) about the Amazon/Apple battle over e-books, Ken Auletta paints some familiar heroes and villains: "The [publishing] industry's great hope was that the iPad would bring electronic books to the masses–and help make them profitable. E-books are booming…. But publishers were concerned that lower prices would decimate their profits." If Amazon gets away with selling e-books for $9.99, Auletta quotes one publishing CEO, "to my mind it's game over for this business." Amazon is depicted as controlling and mercenary: Many publishers believe that Amazon looks upon books as just another commodity to sell as […]