Whose story, USA Today's Michael Wolff wonders, will replace "the dominant culture tale" provided by white men? "The women's narrative? The anti-one-percent narrative?" As far as I can tell, he's completely serious.
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): […]
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 […]
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, […]
Unlike a lot of critiques of Amazon from the publishers' point of view, Colin Robertson's article in the latest issue of the Nation (8/2-9/10) does describe actual bad behavior on the part of the online bookseller: Dennis Loy Johnson, co-publisher of the Brooklyn-based independent Melville House, is one of the few publishers who have dared to speak openly about Amazon's bullying. His story is far from atypical. In 2004 a representative of the retailer contacted Melville's distributor demanding an additional discount. Such payments are illegal under antitrust law, which precludes selling at different prices to different customers. Large retailers circumvent […]
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 […]
Veteran actor and activist Peter Coyote (SFChronicle.com, 5/30/09) writes about big media's overriding response to the "Largest Environmental Lawsuit in History–Silence." Taking a look at "the practices that are going on behind Chevron's carefully cultivated 'green' image" as they "drill for oil in the jungles of the Ecuadorian Amazon," Coyote does give credit to the Washington Post reporting of "several damning letters" like "an internal 1972 memo…instructing Texaco [now Chevron] officials in Ecuador to report only spills that attracted the attention of the news media." Nonetheless: This is a case of epic proportions, where our commons, the lungs of the […]
When Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez gave U.S. President Barack Obama a copy of Eduardo Galeano's book The Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent at last weekend's Summit of the Americas, the corporate media appeared to be caught off guard. In its initial report, CNN (Newsroom, 4/18/09) appeared to be completely unaware of Galeano's classic 1971 treatise on the history of European and U.S. imperialism in Latin America, failing to correct Obama's initial mistaken belief that the book was penned by Chavez himself. Both CNN (CNN Newsroom, 4/18/09) and AP (4/19/09) contrasted the immediate […]