eBooks Don’t Get Pulped

March 17, 2009

Thanks to @bookoven on Twitter for pointing this out to me:

Philosopher’s book pulped after objection by Christopher Hitchens

An objection from Christopher Hitchens has forced Penguin to pulp a forthcoming book by philosopher John Gray.

Hitchens was concerned about a line in the introduction to Gray’s new essay collection that suggested that after he briefly experienced the torture technique of waterboarding, in which water is poured repeatedly over a prisoner’s face, he defended the practice as part of the global struggle against Islamic fundamentalism. After learning of his objections, Penguin admitted that the line was a mistake and that Hitchens has been consistently opposed to torture.

Emphasis added by me.

They were correct to pulp the run. I saw Hitchens undergo that torture on video and read his article about it. How such a contrary conclusion could be drawn from those is baffling.

Yet the point is this: Had we been living in a world where books are primarily electronic — with print souvenirs following later — there would have been no need to delete an entire book to make a single correction.

This Is Called Contempt

March 16, 2009

Sci Fi Channel Aims to Shed Geeky Image With New Name

“The name Sci Fi has been associated with geeks and dysfunctional, antisocial boys in their basements with video games and stuff like that, as opposed to the general public and the female audience in particular,” said TV historian Tim Brooks, who helped launch Sci Fi Channel when he worked at USA Network.

Mr. Brooks said that when people who say they don’t like science fiction enjoy a film like “Star Wars,” they don’t think it’s science fiction; they think it’s a good movie.

“We spent a lot of time in the ’90s trying to distance the network from science fiction, which is largely why it’s called Sci Fi,” Mr. Brooks said. “It’s somewhat cooler and better than the name ‘Science Fiction.’ But even the name Sci Fi is limiting.”

Well now wait one damned minute here.

You knew what the hell the connotations of “Sci Fi” were, yet you created a channel despite the fact you hated the very people who would flock to watch it?

Now I understand why the channel turned into shit in the 90s and I tuned out:

We spent a lot of time in the ’90s trying to distance the network from science fiction

This is the attitude that’s sending newspaper after newspaper into a death spiral.

This is the attitude that’s sinking traditional book publishing.

This is the attitude that’s sending us all into the abyss with a global Quadrillion dollar fraud.

This is the attitude that must be strangled to death and never, ever be allowed to live again.

You See? You See? Your Stupid Minds! Stupid! Stupid!

March 16, 2009

That classic line from twisted genius Edward D. Wood. Jr. perfectly characterizes what apparently transpired at a panel called New Think for Old Publishers at the SXSW conference.

Read these and laugh — or cry.

Booksquare: New Think? Not So Much

Medialoper: Traditional Publishers Crash (and Burn at) SXSW

William F. Aicher: Really New Think for Old Publishers

That last one I must quote from:

I want to discuss a bit the bigger point the publishing industry doesn’t seem to be getting — they no longer hold the keys to the kingdom.


The Puppy That Will Eat The Publishing Dog

March 16, 2009

Westport publisher has the ‘skinny’ on the credit card mess

Like Clover Leaf, thousands of other independent publishers have sprung up nationwide, said Terry Nathan, executive director of the Manhattan Beach, Calif.-based Independent Book Publishers Association, which was founded 25 years ago. Many of them share Randel’s preference for efficiency, Nathan said.

“The large publishing houses can’t react in time to trends and marketing needs,” he said.

Emphasis added by me.


More “Skinny On” books are coming this year. A book on success is set for a May debut, and one on federal income taxes is scheduled for publication this fall, Randel said, adding that the skinny series will be available digitally for the Kindle electronic reader and iPhone in the near future.

Emphasis added by me.


Why is it so difficult for the dying dinosaurs of print to see the time advantage of eBooks?

Welcome To America, Thank You!

March 15, 2009

This is not entirely eBook related, but it does touch on why newspapers are dropping dead and why some fiction — and most mass entertainment — is such utter crap.

And it’s an excellent essay that really, really needs to be read by as many people as possible:


When we live in this reality where a redhead white woman can throw down about Tupac with a hip hop Asian kid who can walk into a bookstore and get briefed about the proper pronunciation of Tananarive from a hipster white guy who first learned about the Beast of London from a Chicano low-rider. It’s a crying shame.

Big Nanny Has Gone Insane

March 15, 2009

The New Book Banning
Children’s books burn, courtesy of the federal government.

It’s hard to believe, but true: under a law Congress passed last year aimed at regulating hazards in children’s products, the federal government has now advised that children’s books published before 1985 should not be considered safe and may in many cases be unlawful to sell or distribute.

Emphasis added by me.


Burning Books for Consumer Safety? Really?

— via Twitter from @panhistoria

2009: Massive eBook Changes Ahead

March 5, 2009

I had a dream last night. I dreamt there were massive and sweeping changes in the field of eBooks. That everything we had known and expected had been totally and utterly changed.

Then I woke up to this news:

Fictionwise acquired by Barnes & Noble

Look at how little money it took:


Barnes & Noble Acquires Fictionwise

New York, New York – March 5, 2009 – Barnes & Noble, Inc. (NYSE: BKS), the world’s largest bookseller, announced today that it has acquired Fictionwise, a leader in the e-book marketplace, for $15.7 million in cash. Barnes & Noble said it plans to use Fictionwise as part of its overall digital strategy, which includes the launch of an e-Bookstore later this year. In addition to the closing purchase price, Fictionwise may receive earn out payments for achieving certain performance targets over the next two years.

Headquartered in New Jersey, Fictionwise was founded in 2000 by Steve and Scott Pendergrast. Barnes & Noble intends to keep Fictionwise as a separate business unit and the founders will continue to operate the business.

With a minuscule $15.7 million in cash, Barnes & Noble has just escaped the Tower Records future it was facing.

This will probably go down in business history as one of the smartest acquisitions ever.

What will happen now?

Barnes & Noble will do what Borders has never done: promote the hell out of eBooks as if their life depended on it.

I would expect the Fictionwise URL to pop up on printed receipts at Barnes & Noble stores.

I expect Barnes & Noble to offer Fictionwise/eReader Gift/Pre-pay Cards.

I expect Barnes & Noble to to finally put in eBook form all the print books they’ve published. (Why isn’t The Stones of Summer in eBook?)

Most of all: I expect Barnes & Noble to soon sell a hardware eBook reader that will have eReader built-in.

Amazon, you now have competition.

Sony, this is not a good week to be you.

Borders, your doom awaits.

Yes, big eBook changes this year.