When Reality Kicks Back

I really didn’t feel like writing a post today, but I seem to have misplaced all my guest posts.   (Yeah, if you sent and it hasn’t run, send again.)  Which leaves me with…

Well, yesterday this was doing the rounds of our circles: Sales, Earnings Fell at PRH in 2016.

First of all, what doesn’t this mean?  It doesn’t mean Random Penguin is in serious trouble.  Not yet.  It doesn’t mean the entire edifice of traditional publishing is going away, either.

Look, at this point, just like Hollywood is mostly supported by foreign releases of the movies that don’t do too well here, traditional publishing is owned and propped up by European media houses who, if I read the situation right, don’t even understand how obsolete they’re becoming on this side of the pond.

(It’s a thing.  Americans took to the internet — and ebooks, and all the subsequent stuff — like Americans.  I don’t fully get why we behave so differently from the rest of the world.  Portugal is one of the more wired countries in Europe, and yet there aren’t any political blogs that compete with the media narrative — my mom wants one, d*mn it — and there aren’t any aggregators with the kind of instapundit pull.  And definitely books published by “non official” publishers don’t have the same appeal.  I think it is because at the heart of it, the rest of the world are classists, trained from an early age to respect authority.  I sometimes find myself explaining interactions in old books or movies to my kids or husband, and realizing I understand a lot of it at an instinctive level just because I grew up in Europe.  It never took with me of course, which is why I’m here, but it “takes” with the vast majority of people.  Obviously.)

Anyway, I think the European overlords of publishing houses have no fricking clue what is going on with reading here.  Note that all the official publications still lie about it.  And the trend is masked with things like the adult coloring book thing, which has kept Barnes and Noble afloat for the last 10 years or so.  We went in before Christmas, looking for something for Robert.  We found it.  It was a book of Drawing prompts.

In fact, the part of Barnes and Noble that is still books is mostly what I would call “novelty books” — drawing prompts, writing prompts, ten things you can do to make your house smell better this afternoon, and adult coloring books.  A LOT of adult coloring books.  By comparison the fiction section, let alone the science fiction section, was almost impossible to find and paltry.

Which is okay.  I mean for years I went to Barnes and Noble and the only thing I bought were the sort of Barnes and Noble Published books like “ten tales of knights and dragons.”  Only of course, now that’s not such a good business, because all that stuff is on the net.  And their fiction still disappoints me, which is why I started buying from Amazon the year it started up, when it sold only books.  Because books were published that I wanted to read, they just didn’t get SHELVED at my Barnes and Noble.  Which is why now that the coloring book thing is receding, B & N posted a loss (I think 16%) OVER CHRISTMAS.

But hold on to that “Books were being published.  They just weren’t shelving them in my Barnes and Noble so I could buy them.”

Because that’s what this post is about.  Reality and the limits of manipulating it.

Barnes and Noble isn’t going away tomorrow, there are fifty shades of bankruptcy in the west before you even have to face you shat the bed and should change approaches.  They’re not close to that yet, or if they are they think they can fix it with more cowbe– toys.  And “lifetsyle” gifts like mugs and reading lights (not needed since I got the backlit kindle.  Never mind.) Yes, I believe they will eventually go the way of Borders, and it will be sudden and terrible when it happens, but I don’t think we’re close to it yet.  On the other hand I could be optimistic.  I’ve been so in the past.

The publishers are even less going away tomorrow, because frankly, the non-fiction side is still very profitable and besides they get money from Europe.  Mind you some of their lines might disappear with an earthshattering kaboom very suddenly, and I’ve heard rumors that better connected people than I expect it “in the next five years.”  Could be.  Could not be.  I don’t know.  Indie has moved both faster and slower than I expected.  The establishment has certain resources, including money to weather slow periods (which they don’t seem to realize is now permanent) and a lot of magazines and papers willing to do its bidding so it seems like it will recover TOMORROW.

Which is the other point of the post.  We’ll get to that.

First let me take you to a time far away, where there were no mega bookstores.  No Borders, no Barnes and Noble, none of the others, either.  The biggest ones were two or three branches of a bookstore in a big city.

These businesses were managed the way such things are managed.  You hired people who like books.  You eventually promoted them to managers.  And then you had managers who liked books.

To communicate with these people who loved books, you had book reps who loved books. I met some of these before the great layoff.  These people read the books and pushed them at the bookstores with attention to “Well, old Joe who has a bookstore at the back of his feed store in rural Colorado has done pretty well for science fiction in the past.  So, this book I just read which knocked my socks off will interest him.”

The system worked pretty well.  Look, no one was going to get massively rich from running a bookstore.  And writers still worked on a hit or miss basis.  But there was always the possibility of a surprise bestseller.  You might not appeal amazingly to your publisher, and you might stand outside the narrative they’re pushing, but if you’re a fan and you love the genre you’re writing in, well, some rep or even a bookstore owner might read it, love it, and handsell it to everyone, and word of mouth spreads…  So, in a way writers could sell to the public bypassing gatekeepers.

This didn’t make the gatekeepers happy for several reasons, the first being that after several mergers the houses behaved like normal corporations (which could be titled “death by bureaucracy”) and so an editor got incentives to accurately forecast how a book would sell.  Yes, your career could, justly, be ruined by giving millions to an author who no longer has a book in him and who writes something pathetically poor, but it could also be ruined because that book you bought for $5k had a runaway bestseller run with a hundred reprints, because it threw all the schedule out, and why didn’t you foresee this?

The second was ideological.  Yes, I know, but look at this: The ‘Postmodern’ Intellectual Roots of Today’s Campus Mobs.  The problem is most NYC editors and under editors, and yay onto the lowest copy editor are exquisitely well educated in the liberal arts, through which in these days runs a strain of believing that narrative creates reality.  They were told (I was too, and this was 30 years ago) it’s all narrative.  So changing narrative changes reality.

Join to it the aesthetic considerations that have proliferated since WWI, the belief that art, particularly writing, must be “to bring about equality and justice” and that this is its marker of quality, now that we’ve discarded “classical allusions.”  (Neither is a marker of quality.  The quality is ALWAYS ludic.  If you fail to entertain people today, you won’t be one of the great writers of tomorrow.)

Houses wanted to make sure the right things sold, in the right amounts, partly because their severely underpaid employees viewed their job as a way to “educated the public” or “bring about a better world.”

So they were dissatisfied with this system of small bookstores that could — and did — create unexpected bestsellers.

Fortunately for the publishers, a new system emerged.

Barnes and Noble and Borders and the other megastores were helped in their rise by massive discounts from the publishers.  They could do that, because the megastores took orders from publishers, publishers could completely predict (control) what sold, by laydown and display, and the volume and lack of wastage allowed them to save money.

So they connived with the megastores in killing indie bookstores.  And the megabookstores deluded themselves that the secret to their success was this computer program that “predicted” how much a book would sell.  They — like most people who put faith in a computers as computers — didn’t realize this was highly manipulable by laydown from the publishers.  For instance if you started a trilogy and the publisher only pushed two books per bookstore, you’d sell one, maybe (chances are the other one would be stolen, or misshelved or whatever, and at any rate it might not be found)  then for the next book, the bookstore orders one.  And for the third they don’t take any.  Never mind.

What happened in practicality is that the bookstores filled with books no one wanted to read.  Mostly it filled with whatever the crazy trend of the moment was.  For instance, this historical/hardboiled and cozy mystery reader, in one trip to the store, found herself facing shelf after shelf of what could only be termed “Sex in the city” mysteries.  All single women and shoes and a lot of sex.  I MIGHT have bought one or two of those (though I was never big on the series) but faced with ONLY that, I screamed, ran and went to Amazon to buy the latest of the historical mystery series I was following.

Which is the point.

Even without Amazon, they probably would be on a spiral down, though maybe slower, because reading addicts got to read.

The telling line in that article about Randy Penguin is “the lack of a major bestseller.”

You see traditional publishing had got really good at manufacturing those, from above.  The whole system above was called “the push model” and it worked for REALLY BIG BOOKS.

If Dan Brown’s book was everywhere, people bought it, if nothing else out of a feeling they wanted to belong.

That kind of mega bestseller supported them, and they could afford to buy a ton of smaller books that practically didn’t get distributed.  They didn’t need to be, after all. They were filler.  The pay out came from the big bestseller.  Which could be manipulated to succeed with enough publicity.

The system failed them — incidentally with the last Dan Brown — and there was much whining that the push model didn’t work.

The problem is they can’t retool without hiring a bunch of reps who actually read and push what they enjoy, and not what managers say.  And that’s not a model they can implement with a huge corporation, which has to CONTROL things top down.

Which is how big corporations are like big governments: both need a measure of control from the top down to survive, and both hit the inefficiencies of the command and control as opposed to the free market model.

The thing is that reality is not the push model; it’s not command and control.

At the end of everything, no matter how much you push a product, no matter how much you pretend all books are widgets and it’s just the matter of pushing one to make it a bestseller, no matter how much you tell yourself that reality can be shaped by narratives…  In the end, reality kicks back.

I.e. you can push and you can market, but in the end, if the readers don’t like your product, you’re hosed.

Sometimes the dogs just don’t like the food.

Look at this sad tale, and consider it is but a miniature representation of what is going on in society at large.

When a large segment of the population or the self proclaimed elite insists on ignoring reality, they are on a road to nowhere, with a really interesting tour of various historical horrors along the way.

And all we can do is build under, build around, build over, so we can take the weight when the structure falls.

Be not afraid.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

358 responses to “When Reality Kicks Back

  1. All hail Amazon and indie press. I rarely darken a brick and mortar store these days do to the lack of choice. Always been that way for my tastes sadly. Used to be able to make occasional trips to the Big City to pick up what I was looking for. Now I am in said big city and there’s nothing around that carries what I WANT NOW! Been a long time dying.

    • I hadn’t thought about it, but I don’t think I’ve set foot inside a bookstore within the last two years, and only then because I was looking for Spanish-language children’s books for the nieces and nephews that I was having trouble finding on-line. Couldn’t find them in the bookstore either, so I looked a bit harder and did find them online, where I ordered them.

      • I will usually hit airport bookstores before long international trips- it’s usually good to have a non-battery backup in case the Kindle goes down.
        Typically I look for history, and 75% of the time do fairly well.

      • I try to buy from stores when I can because I like the chance to browse.

        • I like that too, but the “local” (It’s within 60 miles…) B&N seems determined to remove anything of interest to me… so, so much for them. And I’m not aware of anything else around except a religious bookstore in town which doesn’t appeal to me either, but I presume at least has a better focus on what it it is doing.

      • It’s been over a year since I last set foot in a B&N. Luckily, I am blessed to be in a town with two GREAT indie SF bookstores, Uncle Hugo’s and Dreamhaven, both of which I browse on a fairly regular basis. Plus another strictly used book-and-trinket seller.

      • I go there when I want journals over books. They have a better selection than even most of the office supply stores. Though that may have changed. (I have enough ‘journals’ to last me a while so it’s been a bit.)

        Sadly, I usually swing through the actual book section and there’s usually a resounding ‘nothing worth it’ or that I don’t already have. And since I’m in a house that’s about the size of an apartment space is at a premium. At least blank, lined books hold no unpleasant surprises.

  2. It’s an interesting race, innit? The early marxists defined the institutions to command and control: education, entertainment, government. But the world moved on, even while they were on their long march. And now, they’re looking for the large institutions (facebook, youtube) to impose control. But as the ease of moving on to a new alternative when the old one is controlled increases, and the ease of creating smaller, more tailored perspectives increases, how far down can the top really afford to fragment its attention?

    • From watching W.O. Cassity, it seems that they are having a heckuva time trying to infiltrate and suborn Gab. It’s wonderful hearing of them f(l)ailing.

  3. I stopped buying paper books when I bought my Nook.

    I stopped buying ebooks from B&N when they stopped allowing me to download epubs from their website.

    When I buy an ebook, I load the file into Calibre and serve it onto my mobile device from there. It used to be that downloading an ebook from B&N was easier than downloading it from Amazon. It isn’t, anymore.

    • I’me moving that way myself. It makes me a little nervous, though. I want to know what happens when the institution you bought from goes tits-up, and how secondary sales might work. If you have an ebook, what do you actually own? So far as I know, there’s no case law yet.

      • When it’s downloaded to my hard drive and backed up offsite, it’s mine, no matter what some corporate shrinkwrap license says.

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          True, but there’s a question about “selling” your ebook.

          • I don’t buy those for resale. One compensation of the lower price, I s’pose.

            Almost makes up for the lack of ability to protest a writer having gone hard left by burning large piles of his books. It just doesn’t work the same with e-books.

            • So how does one protest against an eBook? As you say, you can’t “burn” them. I suppose you can post negative reviews; but as we’ve seen with President Trump, negativity can be its own form of advertising. DDOS attacks on distribution sites, hacking and modifying/deleting the files are all illegal activities. On the other hand, the cost of not buying them is felt directly by the author since you’ve mostly cut the publisher out of the loop; but to validly protest a book, you should have at least read it (unless you’re a progressive and have been taught to protest anything at the sound of a bell, regardless of whether you know anything about it or not.)

              Hmmmm. You know, the worst review I can give an author is, “Your book, “The Blah Blah Blah of Blah”, was so boring I couldn’t finish the first chapter and I’ve been using it to prop up the end of my workbench for the past 6 months.”

              • (Oh wait, you can’t even use an eBook to prop stuff up with it.)

              • … negativity can be its own form of advertising.

                Yep. Imagine the effect if a new Hoyt, Kratman or Correia novel got slammed by He Who Need Not Be Named (although I see references to him on almost every bag of kitty litter proclaiming CLUMPS).

                I recall an old story about a politician calling a candidate standing for lower office and offering either to endorse or condemn him, “whichever helps most.”

            • You can go to http://www.siotw.org/modules/burnaquran/ and burn as many copies of the Koran as you like….

              And that’s the first site I got from my search. It’s not the one I first heard of and looked at years ago.

      • That’s exactly why I won’t buy a book where I can’t put the file on my hard drive.

      • As an anti-copyright person, my “pat” answer is that this is why copyright is evil; but as a law-and-order person (along with being a practical person), I have to obsserve that we’re stuck with copyright law as it currently (and as it will some day) exist.

        The practical person in me can’t even say “don’t buy DRM stuff”, because sometimes the stuff you want or need is only available as DRM stuff. The general sense I have, though, is that people in general are slowly and gradually coming to an understanding of the problems of copyright, and are slowly drifting away from it….

        • Michael Houst

          I like copyright. I like copyright the way it was set up the first 20 years after the Constitution was ratified; not the way it is today.

          • I don’t want to get into copyright wars here (I generally don’t want to start a contentious argument, and the problem is exacerbated by the fact that it took several years and reading hundreds of pages to get to the positions I hold today)…

            But I can *certainly* agree that we’d be better off by far if we had the copyright regime of 1799 than that which we have today.

            • Eh, I’m not a fan of current copyright, though I’d be willing to have a “corporate copyright” where they pay an increasing yearly fee to keep Disney from lengthening the copyright terms to absurd levels. I like the “short term plus renewal” option, or “lifetime of author plus reasonable period of time to raise dependent children” if that’s the best you can get. This eternal copyright thing is ridiculous. My kids shouldn’t rest on *my* work, and my grandkids certainly shouldn’t!

              P.S. They finally proved that “Happy Birthday” is out of copyright (and probably wasn’t *in* it to begin with), so the folk making book by suing everybody for singing it in public have gotten shut down.

              • And Disney can deal with that mouse by trademark unless they cease use – and if they do, why foist copyright, really? Yeah, I agree – I can see “lifetime + age to majority” as a maximum limit (and that’s more generous than I really believe it ought be). And yes, I will deal with 8some* DRM, but in general it means “Don’t Read Me.”

                • Trademark would prevent new, unauthorized, works with Mickey Mouse. It wouldn’t protect Disney works that would enter public domain. It’s enough to make Scrooge McDuck say “You shouldn’t be so greedy, Mickey.”

  4. Anyway, I think the European overlords of publishing houses have no fricking clue what is going on with reading here.

    I believe they do not get independent publishing at all. They probably think that we don’t read, or, at best, that we certainly don’t read as or what we should.

    The Spouse and I caught an interview on C-Span’s book TV in which Dave Barry, a long well established writer, commented that he didn’t think independent was really a viable thing, and started on the usual comments on how tradition publishing helps the author. Then he paused and added, ‘except for science fiction, they seem to have found a way.’

    Yeah, I don’t think those on the inside of traditional publishing, here and abroad, have a clue of what is happening.

    • Romance writers are now starting to indie– and doing extremely well. I have a friend doing it now. She has started her own publishing house and her husband does her marketing. Works really well for them.

      • It is ‘Katy bar the door’ for traditional. Once the first couple/few genres work out how to they can best do indie the flood gates should open.

      • Correct me if I’m wrong, but as genres go, isn’t Romance the big one in terms of sales?

        If it goes very indie, that’s the game right there.

        • Yes it is the big one. Also they have a group that has been big for years. Plus they welcome anyone who wants to learn to write and will train them. None of the other genres have that by the way. Romance Writers of America

          • I met Rita Gallagher years ago, and she did a seminar with our writers group. I still have copies of her tapes.

            • My friend encouraged me to get involved with that group, but by then I was too sick. Now I have found good places for me so I am not as pushed to go there. 🙂

        • It’s going indie. I’m finding more and better indie romances. Same with mystery

      • I’m surprised it took the romance writers this long. Besides being huge, the market also looks highly competitive, at least from the outside.

        • It is highly competitive and takes a long time to break in– when you do get that first Harlequin (they usually start there) you get extensive training in marketing. My friend found that it was very useful and sent her rocketing– I read the occasional romance.. not really into it now. I think she grants her successes from going that way.. Now though she and her husband came to the conclusion that indie was a much better option. They did one series there HOT (military Romantic suspense) and they are doing really well.
          She is also a military spouse (husband retired)… which is how I know her.

          • Judging by the books on display in the local grocery chain there is high demand for Romance — the jobbers stocking those racks aren’t likely to waste space and time on stuff that doesn’t move; they can’t afford to sit on idle inventory.

            The competitiveness of the market may slow the move to Indie, however, because without established brands the selection can be embarrassingly large and unruly.

    • At least he acknowledged the science fiction crowd. A lot of authors ignore them at best.

    • I was browsing around CSPAN2, planning to look for a link to Mr. Barry’s interview … when I found this on their schedule for Saturday 9PM:

      The Crisis of the Middle-Class Constitution
      54 minutes
      Professor Ganesh Sitaraman, an advisor to Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), says that the Founders didn’t address the threat of income inequality in America because they lived during a time of relative economic equality.

      HeadDesk! HeadDesk! HeadDes …
      I’m gonna need a bigger desk.

      • Oops. I was sure I had slashed the second Blockquote.

        At any rate, this 11PM program might be an appropriate palate cleanser:

        Reagan Rising
        1 hour, 24 minutes
        Craig Shirley examines Ronald Reagan’s path to the presidency, from his failed attempt to secure the Republican nomination in 1976 to his presidential victory in 1980.

        Mr. Shirley’s book on the Readan challenge to Ford in 1976 was excellent.

      • The Dave Barry program:

        https://www.c-span.org/video/?423701-1/depth-dave-barry&start=6773
        Relevant portion, I believe. From Transcript:

        Well, if i gather the question is how do you go about getting a book published and then how do you get it reviewed and how do you get get it distributed, there are basically two ways to go and i hope i don’t offend anybody when i say the way not to go is to self-publish. I say that because it’s easy to do. Many people do it. You pay money and they publish your book, the problem with that is almost impossible to get a self-published book distributed anywhere, reviewed anywhere, so many of them out there and there’s basically no quality control. I’m not saying that they are bad. I’m just saying the way the industry is set up for better or for worse, people don’t review them. Bookstores don’t stock them, so you end up with a stack of books in your garage and you can maybe sell them to your friends but that’s as far as it would go. Unfortunately, that’s the way it is. Maybe i’m behind the times, maybe there’s some internet way and i assume there is to get your books known and if there is i retract everything i just said. I’m just saying from what my experience is. So the way you — the traditional way to go and there are a lot of flaws in it and people have been critical of it is to get an agent. Agents are kind of like the gatekeepers. Most of the time will tell you they won’t take you on, but they get it to a publisher and that’s the second gatekeeper and then editor there will either decide to publish it or not publish it. The advantage of that is if they do decide to publish it, an organization that has sales staff, has promotional people, they can get your people distributed, they can get your book reviewed, maybe, a more professional job than most writers are able to do for themselves. That said, i know there are people particularly in science fiction [and Fantasy] who are able to reach huge audiences some way i don’t know about and get a huge amount of cult interest in a book that’s maybe self-published. I should stress that. The way i described it is the way the traditional way maybe that — it’s more difficult and less likely but —

        Barry clearly misses the changes in the industry since he entered and became a NAME whose phone calls to agents and editors get taken.

        • Oh, sweet baby Jesus, still going on about “no reviews, can’t get into bookstores, a stack of books in your garage?” Dave, baby, it’s not 2005 any more. Make it returnable, offer the distributor the discount and your book will be distributed like any other book.And as for reviews, Dave – there are all sorts of places to get reviewed.
          Sigh. It’s as if the last ten years never happened to Dave.

            • Free signed copy if you buy my player piano.

              • How much for the piano? We have a grand piano and an electric organ, three guitars, a violin, a clarinet, two cellos, a djembe, an autoharp, a recorder . . . I’m sure we need a player piano. I don’t see any of those around this house at all yet. We can’t be missing instruments like that!

          • Feather Blade

            Or heck, publish your boos print-on-demand thru Amazon or something. No reason to have stacks of anything anywhere.

            …I wonder if the scenario Barry describes is why some random woman was handing out free copies of a novel, yesterday on campus – author had a print run and boxes in garage, and needed the real estate for something else.

          • It’s as if the last ten years never happened to Dave.

            They didn’t. He sits atop the pinnacle of the old biz and hasn’t had the curiosity to pay attention to the sand running out from under that structure. Publishers are wooing him, praying he can produce the best-seller that keeps the House afloat another year.

            He represents the dinosaur brain not realizing he’s bleeding out through a cut in the leg.


            Not Dave Barry.

            • Nah. The bleeding dinosaur would be the publishing industry that’s supporting Dave. Dave’s success is helping the publishing industry ignore that there’s a problem.

              Dave’s the King of the Mountain trying to predict who’s going to replace him at the top. And not in a “I’ve got to fight off the next contender” sort of way, but just general curiosity on his part. He expects that his replacement is going to do what worked for Dave. Because he’s up on top and occupies a pretty safe niche (Dave Barry is pretty close to unique in a good way), he’s able to get by without needing to pay much attention to the trends in the industry. His comment about science fiction indicates that he knows that there are things going on that he’s not aware of. But since he himself isn’t in any danger (people aren’t going to stop buying Dave Barry books any time soon), there’s no incentive for him to take a closer look at how technology is changing the publishing industry.

            • In some ways, I’m surprised that he’s been able to notice that something interesting has been happening in Science Fiction….

              • The Martian got pretty visible fast because of the movie deal. Dave Barry may not be paying attention to the publishing industry (because what he has works), but he’s always shown a certain knowledge of pop culture, and it was a big Hollywood movie.

        • Yep. Most people older than I are stuck in that place.

        • From the Barry review I saw this: “the way not to go is to self-publish. I say that because it’s easy to do. Many people do it. You pay money and they publish your book, the problem with that is almost impossible to get a self-published book distributed anywhere, reviewed anywhere, so many of them out there and there’s basically no quality control.”

          And I thought, “Huh, this interview must be from 2000, before the Kindle really took off, and you didn’t have to pay anything to get it published, and people are now earning six figures a year, and even a nice five-figures, through self-publishing.”

          So I click on the link and see this: “First Aired:
          Mar 05, 2017”

          Oh. My. God.

          • ALMOST all the bestsellers are like this. Kevin J. Anderson isn’t’, but…

            • Doesn’t that just dovetail nicely with the first part of yesterday’s post?

            • We saw much the same reaction when informing Beloved Spouse’s father about the cancer diagnosis. In his world, cancer was not a “threatening but treatable” condition, it was The Big C, was a sentence of death. Or the stepmother’s first experience of CNN thirty years ago: if news was on in the afternoon something important must have happened.

              You seem the same thing with older engineers incapable of imagining the profession without slide rules.

              • You seem the same thing with older engineers incapable of imagining the profession without slide rules

                I came into Engineering just as cheap calculators were replacing slide rules. Engineers are all about improving productivity and the calculator was an excellent productivity improver for all engineers. Only the desktop PC has proven better.

                The ONLY older engineer I knew who did not use a calculator was an old professor I had in thermodynamics who did not use a slide rule either. He was a lightning calculator who could mentally interpolate steam tables to 5 decimal places in his head faster than we could do it on a calculator.

                • I own my father’s slide rule; he had it for his work getting an Associate’s in Electronics just before calculators took over everything*.

                  I have a PhD in mathematics, and it bothers me that I haven’t been able to learn how to use my Dad’s slide rule. Part of it is that I don’t really have anyone to help me (my Dad had passed away before I developed a real interest in the slide rule); part of it is that I simply haven’t sat down and practiced until I became comfortable with it….

                  It also bothers me that I don’t know how to use an abacus, although I still need to get around to buy one….make that two — while I prefer the Japanese style (1 “5” bead and 4 “1” beads), I’d like to learn the Chinese style too (2 “5” beads and 5 “1” beads; this can be used for both base 10 and base 16 arithmetic).

                  And while I generally know how to use a TI-89 calculator, it bothers me that I haven’t done much with it since buying it while in graduate school. I have the impression that such calculators work best for statistics and calculus, but I once tried going through my old calculus book from the beginning, and it bored me enough that I stopped that experiment. (But it does make me wonder if it would be better if I were to open the book randomly, or find ways to explore calculus topics that aren’t covered in modern-day school, or any school for that matter….not necessarily something fantastically difficult…just something different from what I’ve done before…)
                  ——
                  *That’s a fun story in itself — to this day, it drives me nuts when people say “Don’t be like the slide rule business, who were improving their product until the calculators took over” because (1) slide rule technology is far different from electronics technology — it’s a technology where experience isn’t going to be easily transferable; (2) several calculators have been tried before, and flopped; indeed, HP *themselves* were caught by surprise by the popularity of their first calculator (the one that killed the slide rule), and (3) there’s an argument that computers, and finite element analysis, did more to kill slide rules than calculators did — between pushing the technology for computers making calculators possible, and the fact that computers can do things that neither calculators nor slide rules could do (a calculator is, after all, mostly just an electronic slide rule)…basically, I don’t see how slide rule makers could have prepared for the “inevitable” that wasn’t so obviously inevitable.

                  • It was a VERY fast changeover, starting in 1974 and completely done by 1975.

                    • It was so fast that while I’ve used slide rules, the engineer, who was in a class behind me, never did.

                    • I learned how to use a slide rule in 1972 while I was a junior in High School. The math teacher when he found out I was intent upon going to Engineering School, sat me down on a couple of Saturdays and taught me how to use it properly. The SR-50 came out in 1974 for about $200. I gave up beer money for a couple of months and bought one, put my slide rule in a drawer back home and only pull it out to show kids what we used to have to do.

                  • It bothers me to realize I’ll probably never need nor buy another programmable calculator. My current shirt-pocket calculator is the inexpensive Casio fx-260 Solar, with my cheat sheet laminated with tape to the inside of the cover.

                    Slide rules were good for fast, close enough, calculations, but for anything exacting you converted it to logarithms, cranked through the calculations with an adding machine, and converted back the results.

                    I don’t think computers did more to kill slide rules than pocket calculators, because when the transition started computers were still expensive. Even pocket calculators were expensive. But pocket calculator prices plummeted quicker than computers, and you could do work as exacting as with a one-volume set of log tables, and much faster.

                    • There were truly no desktop computers worth using when calculators replaced slide rules. Sure there were kits for primitive computers with no screen and no keyboard and the input/output medium was punched tape. remember this was in 1974-75. The most powerful computers were huge monsters that needed a huge air conditioner to keep cool. The campus computing center was literally the coolest place to hang out in late spring to late fall in Austin.

                • My apologies — I am of an age that when I refer to “older” engineers I mostly mean dead ones.

                  I keep forgetting that.

              • Most of the senior engineers I know don’t wish for slide rules, but just for an inverse decimation of the biz grads who make us spend half our time (and thousands of dollars a week) chasing metrics while lying to customer about the product by making a narrative.

              • “In his world, cancer was not a “threatening but treatable” condition, it was The Big C, was a sentence of death.”

                Depends on the cancer, these days. Pancreatic cancer still is a sentence of death; lung cancer usually is (because the symptoms don’t show up until Stage III or IV; they’ve developed a Medicare protocol* that has yearly chest x-rays for smokers, on the theory that the radiation danger is more than offset by the chance of catching lung cancer early enough to do something about it.) But prostate and thyroid cancers, for instance, are considered highly treatable, and even melanoma is good if you catch it right away.

                *A year or two after my dad died, dammit.

                • Feather Blade

                  they’ve developed a Medicare protocol* that has yearly chest x-rays for smokers

                  Which, of course, doesn’t help people who don’t have that kind of risk factor, because if you don’t smoke, obviously you’re at no risk for lung cancer. /sarc.

                  What’s that? Your lungs can just up and decide to kill you even if you haven’t been smoking? The devil you say!

                  *shakes head*

                • Breast cancer is very treatable now too. My wife finished her treatments almost a year ago and is now aiming for her second straight cancer free body scan at the end of April. It was rough, but CTCA put it into at least hard remission, if not cured it.

                • Pancreatic cancer is a death sentence in the long term, but treatment can still prolong life by many years.

                • And much depends on situation. I know of two women whose hysterectomies for fibroids revealed Stage I cancer in the pathology report, and who needed no further treatment.

              • As MomRed put it (remission 10 years next month), If you get cancer, the odds are 100%. Until then, your odds are very low [unless you have a family history, et cetera.]. A friend of mine’s aunt refused chemo in 2011 because she could not believe that it was no longer as severe as it had been when her husband tried it in the early 1980s. Changing what you know that ain’t no longer so is hard.

            • I think what upsets Dave the most is that the bestsellers are books HE wouldn’t buy. Therefore the wee peasants shouldn’t be allowed a say in what they like. I personally make fun of Fifty Shades of Grey, but let’s not forget that it started as an indie book(Twilight fan fiction) that took off with folks who craved that stuff. I don’t have to like a book to know that it has mass appeal.

            • And this belief at least partly explains TradPub’s CFIT.

              (For the non-pilot and non-immediate friend of pilots: Controlled Flight Into Terrain. AKA “Crashed into rocks as if they meant to do that.”)

      • An adviser to a Democrat senator, huh? Why am I not surprised.

      • Oh really?

        Sigh. Let’s see.

        Aside from the Southern slave owning aristocracy, which the left must be aware of since they spend so much time complaining about it and seeing that their names are removed from anything to which they are attached?

        There were towns in Massachusetts which declared themselves free, the town councils arguing that liberty meant that they should control their lives and not some outside group of rich landowners and businessmen back in Boston.

        There was a rebellion of tradesman and small farmers in Pennsylvania within the Revolution in the early summer of 1776, whose leadership included Thomas Paine. It successfully unseated the government led by John Dickinson which had been elected that May. The claim of those who rebelled was that the rich landowners were the only ones with any power in the colony.

        And a whole area of the New Hampshire Grants (claimed by both New Hampshire and New York after the French ceded it to England at the end of the French and Indian war) that declared itself the Republic of Vermont, and introduced universal adult male suffrage.

        • ok let me make a smart remark on this one

          they work so hard to get those names removed from everything and everywhere so that people won’t notice that their families were known affiliates of said person.

  5. BobtheRegisterredFool

    Narrative changes reality is magical thinking.

    The attempt to implement it is a magical ritual.

    Why is this not seen as an act of violence, and responded to as appropriate to such?

    It is not simply the number of people who have been tricked into going along.

    Many people are confident that it is not a magical ritual that works.

    Why? Because there is extensive evidence that narrative does not control reality. We have an extensive historical record of regimes which used their influence over speech for self promotion, yet failed to make themselves immortal and perfect. We extensive records of narrativist regimes in current times, which have not actually controlled reality. We have the results of engineering, which is almost explicitly entirely a rejection of narrative, and a focus discovering practical methods to change reality in specific narrow ways.

    • Narrative changes reality is magical thinking.

      It is taking what has worked in some circumstances and extrapolating it to all circumstances.

      Example: Publishing did not get a whole big bunch of people with Dan Brown, or the whole industry of counter-Dan Brown that sprung up with it. It was more than enough to pay their bills and keep them going down that road.

      Eventually they are going to find out that ‘narrative changes reality’ is no more a truth with universal application than the idea that because something behaves in a particular manner on earth it will do so in zero gravity.

    • scott2harrison

      For a couple of years now every so often I have posted a comment about finding the “narrative controls reality” belief in a friend. I had not realized that you, Sarah, had encountered this in your education and rejected it thoroughly. The idea is so crazy that I could not get my mind around it actually being taught systematically in schools. It seems that every time I think that I have found the craziest, most moronic thing that educators can do, they prove me wrong.

      • This article is the first time I’ve seen it formulated as “narrative controls reality”. Previously, I have seen what could be described as “reality is consensus”. The first time I encountered that, I bounced so hard it was like I ran into a rubber fence. I had to run into it several more times before I realized that there were actually people who believed it, rather than it simply being a weird philosophical exercise.

    • Yep – The Nazis tried that too. The pushed the meme of the Tausendjähriges Reich (“Thousand-Year Reich”), which suggested that Nazi Germany would last for a thousand years. Indeed I remember seeing a show that stated once Hitler used the term and one of his fawning deputies said (I approximate) But no, Fuehrer, TEN thousand! Some other objected to that ‘spell’.

    • Self-delusion. “Act as if the change you desire has taken place.” is a self-help line. But that’s about a person changing themselves, not the world. Yet it seems to get applied as if it worked externally. It does not, at least not long term. It might be possible to “fool all of the people some of the time” but that time passes. Reality might flex a bit – but it’s elastic and will spring back.

      • Easy to disprove that mantra. Assume you desire to be able to fly by flapping your arms, and then ‘act as if the change you desire has taken place’ by then finding a tall cliff or building and jumping off and flapping your arms wildly.

        You’re still gonna go splat, no matter how much you believe otherwise. Same goes with believing in things that got against reality in other ways. Sooner or later, splat.

        • Lo these many years ago, my brother once told me that the human mind created the physical environment. He assured me that the mystical masters of Tibet had mental powers such that one of them, if he happened to come to our house, could walk across the dining room right through the table simply by disbelieving that the table was there. So I said, “Bob, we don’t need a mystical Tibetan master to test that hypothesis. Just find someone who’s never visited our house before, blindfold him, lead him into the dining room, and ask him to walk across ‘this empty room’.” Bob didn’t talk to me for the rest of the day.

      • As they deem themselves flawless it only makes sense to demand the World change. God knows it is certainly flawed.

  6. ” there aren’t any political blogs that compete with the media narrative — my mom wants one, d*mn it — and there aren’t any aggregators with the kind of instapundit pull. And definitely books published by “non official” publishers don’t have the same appeal.”

    That would be because over there going against the narrative means either the national government or the EU are backing the narrative and have the laws on the books to haul competing bloggers to jail. The Left has tried it here, but so far that pesky 1st Amendment has gotten in the way.

    Which is why the Democrats tried to overturn it.

    Europe also has a more highly developed network of thugs both Islamic and otherwise who can remove anyone who manages to stay within the law. And the government is aiding and abetting; Geert Wilders got run off the campaign trail because he had an Islamic terrorist slipped into his government provided security detail. That infrastructure isn’t quite here in this country, but it’s rapidly evolving. I mean, paying people to assault your political opponents only got going with Trump; give it a couple more years and they’ll have an entire paid network in place.

    And of course the 1st Amendment doesn’t apply to “private businesses” who implement their own censorship schemes.

    It’s coming. Look at what happened to Glenn and UT; at what happened to Milo; at what’s happening to Trump with his own Executive Branch. The only reason that Trump didn’t get the Wilders treatment is he kept his own private security in addition to the Secret Service.

    There’s hope. But there’s also reality. And the pattern is very clear.

    • paying people to assault your political opponents only got going with Trump

      Nonsense. It is a longstanding American Tradition, one guaranteed to Labor Unions and often employed by state Party Machines.

      Frank Capra was a very successful populist filmmaker — if that sequence about the kids’s attempting to distribute their papers hadn’t been believable it wouldn’t have made the cut.


      “Get the boys out. Kill it.”

  7. I get what you’re saying, but let’s not over-romanticize the small, independent bookstores either. There’s a reason that the big megastores managed to put them out of business, and it wasn’t just because of a conspiracy with the publishers. The thing about small bookstores is that they’re, well, small and thus don’t have the shelf space to stock all that much. If you like what the majority of people in your area like, all well and good, but if you don’t, you’re pretty much out of luck. I spent my childhood dealing with those bookstores, only occasionally being able to find what I was looking for, and enjoying trips to places like the Tattered Cover or even Boulder Bookstore as rare treats. Then the Barnes and Nobles and Borders and even Media Plays of the world started to spring up. Suddenly, something even better than Boulder Bookstore was on every corner, and I could go in and find rows and rows of science fiction and mystery rather than one or two “genre” shelves in the back. Yeah, there were also things in there that I didn’t like, and often those were the things being “pushed,” but there was enough space that it didn’t matter: the things I liked made it in too.

    Then, of course, the stores started to focus more and more on their “secondary” materials, and eventually turned into a Waldenbooks with a coffee shop and stationary store attached, and the megastores lost what had appealed to me about them in the first place. Then, I quit going. But I think that while they lasted, there was plenty good about the big stores.

    • My experience of the small independent store may be colored by the region I was in when i noticed; I was in the Baltimore-Washington corridor, and shopping mostly in DC and its suburbs. That was the ‘Crown Books is killing the independents’ narrative era. My observation was that the independent bookstores that were closing were mostly run by Liberal Intellectual types who ordered what was well reviewed by THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS, knew next to nothing about any of the genres, and had no opinions that couldn’t be changed by one short article in THE NEW YORK TIMES. Their shelves groaned under the weight on ‘Social Justice ‘ claptrap that no literate person would have touched with a ten foot pole, or even a twelve foot Swede. Crown Books selection sucked suppurating moose crank, but it was a major step up from these idiots (who, BTW, could not be relied upon to actually do ‘special orders’ unless you pestered them every day).

      The independent bookstores in the area that actually had a point of view did ok, at least until the very late 2990’s, when I left the area. Two or three mystery bookstores, one technical bookstore in the heart DC (that Borders referred people to, because they knew damn well their corporate structure meant that orders of obscure technical manuals took a long time), a Military History bookstore over in Georgetown. all doing fine. The ones that closed were all run by people who seemed to be more interested in being thought Intellectual than in actually, you know, selling books

      • Indeed. Even worse in the SFBA, where all the independent bookstores were owned by Commies. Except the esoteric specialists like Shambala. Cody’s is gone now, and I think Moe’s holds on because they own the building and sell expensive rare books to support the used texts and trades. And this is in Berkeley!

        Bookstores are so inefficient for finding something you know you want as opposed to random browsing in hopes you’d get lucky and find something previously unknown.

        And now used books are such a drug on the market that boxes of dollar books sit outside every surviving bookstore. To my vast amusement, I recently saw a fat pink-haired sjw type pawing through one picking out the Gor books!

    • sure. I’m not romanticizing. Chinook in downtown col Springs was a very bad book store, though indie.
      The thing is, there were GOOD indies too. But more importantly, it wasn’t all under control of the publisher and didn’t allow them to delude themselves that they COULD control it.

    • Thing was, by their very nature small book stores had to be specialty stores. Because of that limited shelf space they focused on niche markets, which certainly were often popular best sellers either in general fiction or in specific genres. The true attraction of the big dogs when they came along was their ability to offer one stop shopping across multiple genres. And yep, when they started pushing just certain books and switched to kitchie crap and cafe service they lost the one thing that made them worthwhile.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

      I was living in the Detroit area when I heard about this one Independent Bookstore closing.

      The owner was blaming the Big Stores (B&N and Borders) for him having to close.

      The problem is that I had visited his store – once.

      Parking near his store was extremely difficult and when I got into his store his selection of books (especially SF/F) was poor.

      So while he was “correct” that the Big Stores “forced him to close”, they did so by being easier to visit and by having a much better selection.

      Oh, a few years later I heard about how the “evil” Amazon was destroying the Independent Bookstores as said by publishers and people at Barnes & Noble (Borders may have been gone by then).

      I started laughing. 😆

    • I think mega-bookstores were great at offering variety…in the beginning. But as they ran the indie-stores out of business, they began to act like any monopoly and limit choice.

      Sure, there are bad indie stores, but there are some great ones that have greater variety than mega-stores.

  8. “Even without Amazon, they probably would be on a spiral down, though maybe slower, because reading addicts got to read.”

    What this reading addict does, when I can’t find anything to read (or something else to do, like go for a walk, or work in the garden), is write. The large quantity of reading material available on KU is directly related to the small amount of writing I’ve been doing recently. (Maybe I should cancel KU, LOL!)

    • For reading addicts, Bookfinder(.com) is a wonderful source of books that were published before the whole industry turned into liberal claptrap. Of course, you do need somebody to point you at out-of-print authors worth reading, but reading addicts usually network pretty well.

  9. Speaking as one with extensive experience in the area, retailer bankruptcies are not as forgiving as you suppose, unfortunately. If you have individual stores that are losing money, bankruptcy can be an effective way to shut those individual stores down — or negotiate appropriately with a landlord who still wants you as a tenant. When the entire system is bleeding and/or the business model is broken (i.e. Amazon has eaten your lunch), the next thing you tend to see is “going-out-of-business” sales as there isn’t a huge tolerance for restructuring retailers. Much like with Borders, I expect a big bang, not an incremental death. For better or ill, most retailers cannot afford to blow 2 seasons in a row … and Christmas is historically the biggest retail season. Given how Nook has tanked more recently, I will say B&N does look to be doomed. (Which does make me very sad on a personal note.)

    • I went to my local B&N–1st time in several years– and it struck me as being like a large Hallmark. It was also seriously empty. I mean, I went on a Saturday morning and there were two people working in the store and I was practically the only customer!

      • (Nods) The Barnes and Noble in my hometown is usually busier than that, but I’ve almost never seen it packed, or anywhere close.

      • I find my local B&N a pretty good source for remaindered books.

      • My regional B&N is still 50%+ books, probably 30% junque, and the Nook nook. I think their manager is an Odd, both in terms of him personally and the company as a whole. Their regional books section is relatively enormous.

        • The Barnes & Noble on US Route 1 outside Princeton, NJ remains one of my favorites, though I get there maybe once every other year. Even almost twenty years after having moved away it still has large sections for sci-fi and mystery, an awesome computer science (e.g. Donald Knuth’s complete series!) and programming section, decent science area, etc. It probably helps that it sits within scant few miles of a major university and several major science and technology employers (pure research, R&D, hospitals, high-tech manufacturing, etc.).

          • (e.g. Donald Knuth’s complete series!)
            I wasn’t aware he had finished it.

            • OK, technically they had all the published volumes in the series. I think one more volume (4c?) has come out since.

              • Michael Brazier

                Volume 4A is in print, and likely what you’re thinking of. 4B is in progress, with a big chunk on SAT solvers available for review. Who knows if Knuth will live long enough to write 4C and 5.

    • Evil Rob, who works the corporate side of inventory control for a major company, told me that Borders was going to die a good year or two before they actually announced the total closure of all their stores. The key piece of information was that they had started being late in paying their suppliers. For a major chain, that’s the start of the death spiral. So pay attention to the business news, and if that piece crosses your radar, start arranging funds and transportation for any fixtures you want. (Their bookshelves aren’t as nice as Borders, but they’re still far superior to the pressboard crap often sold for way too much money.)

      • While in December you will see lists of various things of the past year get published, in January we get the list of things to look out for in the coming year. Borders had made the annual ‘top ten companies to watch for financial failure’ for several years before they finally went down the tubes.

        Right now the most prevalent companies on the death watch lists are big department stores. K-Mart has become the most recent perennial, and Sears has now joined it.

        • K-Mart and Sears are now the same company. Since 2005, I think.

          • Sears Holding operates both Sears and K-Mart, as well as DieHard and Kenmore. They are selling off Craftsman. They had acquired Lands’ End, but I believe they spun that off a few years ago, with contract to continue to carry the mark at Sears for a period of time.

            • And J.C. Penney’s… the local one is profitable, but not enough so. And I only went there for dress shirts – and the last time, the selection (including their own on-line) was unimpressive. Just this morning I ordered a couple shirt through Amazon… Amazon is not “killing Penney’s”, Penney’s is busy committing suicide.

              • JC Penney started going down the tubes back in about 1974-1976 when they decided to emulate Sears and get into the auto repair / parts business. They offered a battery replacement guarantee… and my family got a total of 6 free batteries in two separate cars over the next 15 years. They really should have known better.

        • The ironic thing is, as a finance newsletter that I read mentioned this AM, 100 years ago, Sears was Amazon: Mail order stuff that you could not get locally, shipped to your door, and they had everything.

          It is notable that many Victorian homes in the West were mail ordered from catalog, prefabbed with all the Vic fiddly bits back east in sections that would fit on rail cars, and shipped out for local assembly and buildout. I have seen pages from the Sears Roebuck catalog listing just such houses.

          So why did Sears, with 100 years of experience doing mail order, not take one look at Jeff Bezos’ new venture and immediately either eat his lunch or just buy him out? The corporation that was Sears in the 1990s had been deliberately and intentionally changed by generations of corporate management to move away from mail order and become just another store at the mall, such that they had no relevant context for evaluating Amazon. And so they too will fail to dust.

          And now Amazon is nudging towards setting up physical retail stores.

          • Part of the Sears problem was that shipping was a distinguishable cost, while millions of dollars of inventory sitting in stores idly was less observable.

            Of course, never discount the element of corporate smugness pride in being able to proclaim “ours are the biggest and best stores!”

          • The ironic thing about Sears is that it stopped distributing a mail order catalog in 1993; Amazon was founded in 1994. Of course Sears stopped doing mail order because it had become a negligible part of its business by then. Another irony: Sears was one of the founding companies of Trintex way back in 1984, which was later renamed Prodigy, a pre-public-Internet online service. Online shopping was one of its components, yet Sears wasn’t the biggest retail success on Prodigy, a flower company was.

            • I used to buy stuff through Sears’ mail order system. Up into the 1980s their shippers would deliver the package to their store, where you could pick it up “for free.” Then they started charging the same for store pickup as for mailing it to your house. Then their catalog prices for everything stepped up noticeably higher than their store prices. They went from “not really a bargain” to “you have to be kidding” prices.

              Sears’ catalog department died because they led it into the stall, held the humane killer to its head, and pulled the trigger.

              Some years ago Sears set up a web site, sort of like a cross between Amazon and their old catalog system. I bought items from AK-47 parts to obscure plumbing supplies there… but it was miserable to navigate, dog slow, and infected with Flash and Javascript. Even with decent prices, it simply wasn’t worth the trouble.

              • Meanwhile Wal-mart has a free “ship to store” option for many items. The irksome thing (for me) is having to wait until 10 AM to be able to pick things up – from a place open 24 hours a day. It’s “getting a box” NOT “cutting items to order.” If Amazon does real 24-hour local service… *BOOM*.

                • Some ship to store stuff is inter-store transfers tho, or brought over from the warehouse.

                • and also: amazon’s next day service needs lots of debugging, i had one package get lost and another take three days.

          • In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Sears decided to go “upper middle class.” They offered slightly more pricey goods. The problem was that the 1970s saw the rise of the discount stores. By the time they figured out the obvious, it was too late. They purchased an ailing KMart to make inroads into discount sales, and proceeded to treat KMart like Sears, with predictable results.

            Some weeks ago, in a larger town, my wife put in to go to KMart. She wanted to look at a KMart line of something. I ambled back toward electronics only to find it missing. So were a number of other things. We were in need of alcohol swabs and were going to buy a box there. Except they didn’t have them. The items they did have showed signs of being on the shelves a long time, and were all over priced. So was what my wife wanted to look at, priced so high we left.

            The parking lot was practically empty, a bad sign. The automatic doors didn’t work and signs directed customers to the manual doors. That, with lack of inventory, had us thinking that the store was on the next round of closings. We were surprised to learn it wasn’t.

            We drove to the town’s Walmart and had to hunt to find parking space. The store was jammed. Prices were lower than KMart’s, too. We got what we needed and left.

            That’s been on my mind ever since. Logically KMart needs to rebuild it’s customer base, and the only way to do that is to drop prices below Walmart. Actually, KMart could eat Walmart’s lunch right now by instituting simple things like price matching, which Walmart no longer does.. They’re going to take a bath while they roll back prices, but they’re already taking one now. If that doesn’t cover their nut, close the poorest performing stores until it does and use that inventory instead of having a huge close-out.

            I won’t hold my breath. If Sears had a clue, it wouldn’t have gotten into this fix decades ago. If they hadn’t figured it out with the first round of store closings, they won’t now.

            Just like modern publishing.

            • We had a K-Mart. They built a big new store in the mid-80s. They never turned on all the lights. I’m pretty sure nobody ever swept the floor the entire time. You had to edge around loaded pallets blocking the aisles. At least 50% of the floor space was filled with poorly-made-in-Ethiopia rapper clothing; not a big seller to the local demographics. And they didn’t take checks, this being the age before debit cards.

              A few years ago they finally closed. Nobody much cared…

            • They’re going to take a bath while they roll back prices, but they’re already taking one now.

              It may be too late for K-Mart to make the changes.

              Sears Holding recently announced it may not be able to pay all of its suppliers in time, having posted yet another year of negative cash flow (better than some previous years, only some 1.5 billion). This may explain the absence of product you saw. I don’t think they even have the monies to ship to other stores. They have been steadily closing down stores and are to about a third of their peak locations. I am not sure there is room remaining to take a ‘temporary bath.’

              • I recall skimming an article a few months ago, discussing that a large portion of the problem Sears is experiencing is a matter of the cash required to meet their pension liabilities.

                Put “sears pension obligations” in your search engine and you’ll see a wealth of reporting on this.

            • > the 1970s

              …also saw the Energy Crisis and Little Depression. It wasn’t like the 1930s, but times got suddenly and unexpectedly hard for a whole lot of people.

              In the early 1970s Sears was only open two hours a day, five days a week. And you had to grope around in the half-dark, because they left most of the lights off to “save energy.” They went from that to “upscale” when most of their customers were still struggling to get by.

              Not a good time to for that kind of rebranding… their older customers still thought of Sears as a department store that suddenly got way expensive, and their newer customers moved off to K-Mart, Magic Mart, and Wal-Mart.

          • Sears wasn’t the only interesting mail order seller, just the biggest. I was looking for some obscure-ish parts for an old car recently, and tripped over J.C. Whitney online. Which struck me as in some ways parallel to Sears nowadays.

            I remember as a teen looking through a J.C. Whitney catalog, and realizing that you could order almost all the parts you’d need to build a new Ford Model T from scratch. ‘Way above my budget, and likely a good deal more expensive than finding a good running T at the time. And no, it was not during the years that the T was in production; that ended two year after my father was born.

        • Outside of hardware Sears was a crappy store. They sold inferior merchandise at inflated prices. They sold Craftsman tools which were excellent and appliances but everything else was feh sold at designer prices.

          • Emphasis on were excellent. I had a set of tools I got in 06 that were solid. I broke the 1/4 ratchet and had it replaced in 2012 and flimsy as heck. Harbor freight seems better tbh.

            • My old boss, who swore by Craftsman, soured on the brand in the late 1970s as they produced shoddy circular saws. Well, more shoddy than the old metal-framed Craftsman. I remember when he went through two brand new Black and Decker circular saws in one morning. He went to Makita and never looked back. And when B&D bought Dewalt, he literally almost cried.

              • I’ve had decent luck with the earlier stuff but no longer my first option outside of adding to C3 collection vs restarting. And I swear off B&D. Bought a masonry bit to install a dryer vent. 40 min to drill. Replaced with an Ace store brand and done with next three holes in 5 min.

              • I recall Pa, sometime in the 1980’s telling me to “watch South Korea” as they were then were Japan was in the early 1970’s. I recall folks going on about “cheap Jap(anese) junk” but by the late 70’s or early 80’s Toyota and Honda were kicking Ford’s sorry tuchus in passenger auto quality. (“Why do you drive a [DISDAIN]foreign car [/DISDAIN]?!” “I stopped buying ‘American’ cars and I stopped having to constantly fix cars.” Granted, owning a Vega [or Pinto] will sour one severely.) I wonder if, maybe, China is getting to that point… and then I think of the government of China and have severe doubts.

                • “Why do you drive a [DISDAIN]foreign car [/DISDAIN]?!”

                  At one point The Father-in-law inquired why we were not buying an American built car? This lead to a discussion of what portion of any car with an American mark was actually built in America.

                  • Jay Leno once in a monologue said he wanted to buy an American car, but should be buy the one built in Canada or the one built in Mexico?

                    (My “foreign” car was built in the USA… alright, California, but still…)

                  • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                    There was a humorous (to me) article that I read years ago on why Japanese cars were making inroads into the American marketplace but American cars were not making inroads into the Japanese marketplace.

                    The Big Thing that jumped out to me was that Japanese automakers were making cars to be sold in the US while American automakers were trying to sell the same cars in Japan that they sold to Americans.

                    I happened to know that the Japanese drive on the “wrong side” of the road.

                    Thus Japanese cars made to drive in Japan have the driver’s seat on the right side of the car while Japanese cars made to drive in the US have the driver’s seat on the left side of the car.

                    IE The Japanese automakers knew what the American marketplace wanted while the American automakers didn’t know what the Japanese marketplace wanted. 😈 😈 😈 😈

                    • So…
                      The Japanese were building passenger cars.
                      The US makers were building mail trucks.

                    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                      😆

                    • Japanese roads are, if I understand correctly, somewhat narrower than is convenient for American wide bodies, and parking is also an issue.


                      The Japanese took to heart Edward Deming’s arguments for constant improvement while Detroit wouldn’t take his phone calls.

                    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                      Won’t surprise me (about the US wider cars).

                      But the “putting the driver seat” on the wrong side of the car likely was an even bigger problem and more correctable.

                    • Indeed, roads, parking places, garages – even living spaces are smaller in Japan than in the US. Even in my off-post apartment, the sink and kitchen countertop were about four inches lower. It seemed to me that furniture in Japan was about 3/4th size.
                      I owned a little Japanese Honda Mini while I was assigned there. Right-hand drive, of course. But I could sit in the drivers’ seat, and reach out my left arm … and brush the inside of the passenger-side door with my knuckles. And I am not especially tall ( 5-5 1/2). Even transport vehicles in Japan were small. A standard-sized American car in Japan was an unwieldy behemoth.
                      Oddly enough, spaces and vehicles in Korea were not that mini-sized. American-sized cars fitted in very well. And furniture wasn’t that dinky 3/4 size.

                  • And remember, the Department of State considers 90% Canadian or Mexican content as “Made in USA.”

                    That’s not precisely the definition the average citizen would expect…

                  • in the case of Toyota or Honda, about the same percentage.

  10. Somebody, I don’t remember who, pushed one of the Dan Brown books at me. This was before THE DA VINCI CODE hit screens and maybe before it was published as a book. I read about one chapter. It struck me that in terms of vocabulary and attitude it was remarkably similar to the worst of the DOC SAVAGE pulps I’d read in the 1970’s (during the pulp reprint boom), but with a good deal of the sparkle gone.

    WhenTHE DA VINCI CODE hit theaters there was a wash of ‘we have no ideas of our own and David Attenborough isn’t answering our calls’ ‘documentaries’ about the ‘theories’ in the damn book. I knew just enough about various old heresies (Father once held the Lynn Thorndyke Chair in The History of Magic and Experimental Science) to know that a) none of this was new b) none of this was particularly well founded. I concluded that Brown was, as my first impression had suggested, a bad imitation of Lester Dent, who had been in turn a poor second to Maxwell Grant.

    Nothing I have encountered since has tempted me to change my mind.

    • I found the Da Vinci Code fascinating when I was 16 and uneducated when it came to actual Church history and apologetics.

      It wasn’t until I picked up Angels and Demons shortly afterwards that I though “waaaaaaaait a second here….” and started doing my own research into it.

      Dan Brown is a hack.

      • He isn’t even a very GOOD hack. Maxwell Grant (I.E. Walter B. Gibson, mostly) was a hack, but he had the sense to know that The Shadow was a more interesting character when nobody knew who he was (The publisher insisted otherwise), and he could describe the play of shadows outside a gangsters’ hideout in such a way that you KNEW The Shadow had just sneaked across the lawn, without actually coming out and saying so. But he recycled phrases a lot, was bad at character development, and generally grades out at slightly better than Edgar Rice Burroughs.

        Lester Dent had only occasional flashes or better-than-mediocre writing, and the Doc Savage novels are only slightly better written than the first SUPERMAN comics. Better than Brown, though.

        • In defense of Gibson and Dent, their publishers didn’t demand quality work, they demanded x pages a week of publishable work. Given leisure to write those authors may have been competent, possibly even good — or at least, may have been before having their writing chops busted from being forced to resort to cliches, recycled phrases and stereotypical phrases in order to meet weekly output quotas.

          As for character development … that wasn’t what the audience sought or cared about.

      • Dan Brown is a hack, but at least he’s an entertaining hack. His ridiculous conspiracy theories are interesting enough–and seasoned with enough suspenseful scenes–that at least you’re rarely bored while reading through one, even if you’re also laughing at the sheer absurdity of it.

        • I don’t know; I found him tiresome. But I have this reaction to conspiracy theories; I read ILLUMINATUS at an early and Impressionable age, and now conspiracy theories make me giggle.

          Really interfered with my enjoyment of X-FILES, I can tell you.

          • I’ve read the Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons (the latter for a book club I was in). I rather enjoyed Angels and Demons (mostly because I’d already read the other, and knew what I was in for).

            The worst part of the books is the “The story is fiction, the facts are facts” disclaimer in the front of the books. Ah, no, your facts are also fiction.

        • I discovered once that my boss’s sister evidently took him seriously. Unfortunately, while I was aware that he was writing… ahistorical fiction… I had not (and still have not, I’m afraid) cared enough to assemble refutations, so I held my tongue instead of making statements I couldn’t back up.

    • I read The Da Vinci Code because everyone kept raving about it. I was underwhelmed. The plot was simplistic(in my view), and I knew the outcome about 50 pages in. Kind of easy to figure out who the villain is when you only have three or four main folks in the narrative.

  11. …they are on a road to nowhere…

    I’d would rather they not crowd in the mountains of North Carolina.

    “The Road To Nowhere”, as most local residents call it, is a 6-mile scenic drive into the North Carolina side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park where it dead-ends. It provides spectacular views of Fontana Lake and the Appalachian Mountains and was originally named “Lakeview Drive”, but since the road was never completed (as the government promised) residents, who were forced to leave their homes in order for Fontana Dam to be built, gave it the name of “The Road To Nowhere”. This road was originally to be built to provide the many residents, who gave up their land for the Fontana Dam project, access to their ancestral gravesites.

    From Western NC Attractions — http://www.westernncattractions.com/the-road-to-nowhere/

    • I read all four of his books at the time. Easy reads, and mindless. Finished the fourth one and realized that they hall had the same plot point. Protagonist finds evidence of conspiracy, has to fend off “killers” solves mystery in time. Read a book called “Holy Blood, Holy Grail” (I think that’s what it was called) way before the DaVinci Code, and caught that plot point in there. Unfortunately the first book was based on fraudulent documents. Anyway, once I realized Brown was essentially a one trick pony, I ignored anything else about him.

      • From the very little bit I read (less than a full chapter? Maybe a full one?) Brown doesn’t even have ONE trick.

        • BobtheRegisterredFool

          There’s a fanfic community which, due to the nature of some of the canon stories, tends to run into huge problems juggling a bunch of characters and factions. One day one of members started diagramming Dan Brown plots because they thought the formula might be applied to solve those problems.

    • Anonymous Coward

      Cue the music …

    • Sigh. Yeah, my mother and all her family were forced to move with some inadequate compensation when the government built the dam.

  12. I went through a phase of Romantic Suspense because even the used bookstores had the crazy main publishing offerings– and the Romantic suspense were the only ones for a few years that had new and interesting ideas. I am so happy for the indie-publishing phase. It has brought my reading sparkle back… Plus I get to write … It keeps me busy and out of trouble.

  13. ” I don’t fully get why we behave so differently from the rest of the world.” We were settled by the unhappy where they were, the looking for a new start,
    and those looking to reinvent themselves. Or so it seems to me.

  14. Rolling hard to the Left …

    Why the Obamas got big bucks for their book deal
    Now we may have a better clue as to why Penguin Random House, controlled by the German media giant Bertelsmann, was willing to pay a reported $65 million advance earlier this month for dual memoirs by former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama.

    In its year-end statement released Tuesday, Markus Dohle, chief executive of Penguin Random House, said the lack of a “new breakout mega-seller” in 2016 was one reason sales and earnings were lower last year at the world’s largest publisher of consumer books.

    Revenue at Penguin Random House tumbled 9.6 percent, to $3.6 billion, while earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization dropped 3.6 percent.

    It is not that Penguin Random House was absent from bestseller lists, but its breakout hits — “The Girl on the Train,” “Me Before You” and “After You” — were all carry-over best-sellers released the previous year.

    Penguin Random House retained world rights to the two memoirs.

    Dohle said in a letter to employees, “each of you will be able to share in these publishing experiences through our globally coordinated publication of both books in all our territories.”

    No publication date has been set for either book.

    How publishing books guaranteed to not make their advances helps is left unaddressed. Doubling down on failing strategy doesn’t even work for alcoholics, drug addicts or compulsive gamblers.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      They may trust Gallup popularity polls enough to think that Obamas will get them sales.

    • But how much will they pay Bill Ayers to ghostwrite this one?

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        Amazon has Farewell Speeches by Michelle and Barack from Random. On March 15 Amazon released The Wit and Wisdom of Barack Obama by Barack and Peter Jennings from Castle Printing Company. (The cover says #1 Bestseller, but Amazon has no reviews, and the sales ranks are: Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #153,550 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
        #36 in Books > Literature & Fiction > Essays & Correspondence > Speeches
        #54 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Essays & Correspondence > Letters & Correspondence
        #286 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Biographies & Memoirs > Leaders & Notable People > Presidents & Heads of State)

      • I doubt it matters. Most will be bought in bulk by Unions, Soros, Steyer and the DNC to give as premiums to donors: “Today Only! Donate $250 and receive FREE this handsome deluxe edition of With A Pen And A Phone! Contribute $1,000 and get a personally autographed edition!”

        They’ll make perfect gifts, especially for those Trump supporting relatives.

        Nobody, not even (especially not even) reviewers, will be expected to have read the damned things. Doorstop City, Arizona.

  15. Following the occasional articles on The Passive Voice, I think one reason the European market is so different is that the publishers managed to install their rent-seeking for dead tree books before the electronic revolution could really take hold there.

    By the time they managed to do the same here, sort of, with “agency pricing” – ebooks were already firmly established as a good alternative, and far less expensive than dirty paper. Their sales of paper products went up, slightly (that, mostly, thanks to Amazon saving them from their own stupidity by changing their discount strategies) – but not to the level they were before, and their sales of electrons went down more than the tiny bump in old-style books.

    If the VAT were equalized – and the special carve-outs for brick and mortar stores eliminated – I believe that our European cousins would most likely start migrating too. Albeit from about the same place as the US market was in 2010 or a bit earlier.

    Of course, there are other factors too. Casual air travel is down; sales in the airport kiosks are dwindling. Business travelers find it far more convenient to have everything, including any books for relaxation, on the same electronic device as they use for everything else. (And people who have to travel for business, whether by air, train, or their own vehicle, seem to be the ones that are fueling most of the increase in audio version sales.)

    The big publishers have forgotten (if they ever truly knew it in the first place) that people do not buy books. They buy X hours of entertainment (or Y amount of information they can use, for nonfiction). When they can get the same quantity of X entertainment or Y information in a different product, at a cheaper price, and in a more convenient format, they will (statistically) choose that different product. There are always the “kooks” – e.g., the ones who get their thrills from inhaling the ink fumes within the familiar confines of their bookstore cloister; and, of course, the semi-rational ones whose hopes for an easy current and future livelihood depends on the market continuing to work in such a way that their services are a requirement. But, these are a small and shrinking market segment. Like Ned Flanders with his mall store for the left-handed, it’s a segment that (probably) can be profitably served, but not with a business model that has such a huge overhead.

    *****

    Addendum thought, here. These days, Ned would probably try to start his store with a cheap storage unit and an Amazon merchant account – and get wiped out by even cheaper knock-offs of his widgets from Red China. Sigh. If the ChiComs ever figure out a way to produce barely acceptable English fiction, but at a price of, say, two bits for a download – we Indies might face a bit of a problem. Nah, never happen – or could it?

    Sorry for the length here, maybe I should have sent it to Sarah as a “guest post” – this tends to happen when I’ve had no sleep for 24 hours, and coffee just makes me more long-winded…

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      Actually, there are licensed translations of Chinese language web fiction available now.

      • Probably should have said “English memed” fiction (or, better, “American memed”).

        I read quite a bit of the translated fiction, at least those where people I trust say it is a good translation. (Japanese and Indian works, the same.)

        But even with my fairly extensive study of those cultures in non-fictional works, I find it difficult to simply enjoy those pieces. All too often, I think “Now why would any sane society think that way?” (No, they are quite sane – by their culture, not mine. And my culture is quite insane, in many places, from their viewpoint.)

        Our hostess has addressed this problem many times, from intense personal experience. And Portugal is far closer to American than any of the Asian societies.

        • I’ve felt for some decades that the Japanese are probably the closest thing to an alien culture we will see until we actually encounter extraterrestrials.

          I find the parallels between they ways they misunderstand Catholicism and the way we misunderstand Buddhism particularly funny.

          We mostly DON’T misunderstand Shinto, since we don’t know enough about it TO misunderstand it.

          • Doesn’t prevent most of us from trying to fit it (Shinto) into our own box, though. I know far better, but the hand clap still strikes me as the same thing as, say, a Catholic making the sign of the cross when they pass an image of Christ. It takes a mental leap to remember that it is not (and that I really don’t understand at the gut level what is going through the mind of the character doing it).

    • “Ned Flanders with his mall store for the left-handed”

      Pier 39 in San Francisco had a left-handed store for decades, which did pretty well since it was a tourist trap location, so they’d continually be getting new left-handers to love the idea of scissors or other tools suitable for left-handed use. I think they closed a few years back, no doubt due to the availability of such tools on the internet.

      • I think that bolsters my argument. Reach enough of the total market – and even a tiny fraction of it that is interested in your product can support you.

        This is something that successful retailers do understand. You don’t find many IKEA stores in small rural towns – but are quite likely to trip over a Walmart or two while passing through. A small fraction of a big total market is just as profitable as a big fraction of a small total market.

        The gatekeepers have survived so far, IMHO, by selling their wares to the small fraction of the total market that likes being clumsily preached at. But there are Indies these days that are just as good at clumsy preaching as the big-name writers (and many who are better) – and sell their wares for less. Much less than the Big 5 can, so long as they stick with their traditional business models.

    • “If the ChiComs ever figure out a way to produce barely acceptable English fiction, but at a price of, say, two bits for a download – we Indies might face a bit of a problem. Nah, never happen – or could it?”

      Anime.
      Also, Korean and Taiwanese soap operas.
      These things are getting BIG here in North America because Hollywood has left such a gaping hole in the market.

      What the hell is there on TV if you don’t want to see DemocRat propaganda? How It’s Made, House Hunters, reruns of Monster Garage. That’s about it. There’s not much outside The Narrative anymore.

      Except anime and Korean soaps. They have their own tropes and narrative of course, but it is a different one and it isn’t aimed at denigrating -my- culture.

      • Feather Blade

        Speaking of which, I am currently enjoying a Chinese TV series called “Ice Fantasy” via Netflix.

        The costumes are gorgeous, I’m pretty sure the plot is interesting (it’s subtitled and I’ve had it on in the background while doing other projects, and the story appears to use more European fantasy tropes than Chinese fantasy tropes (I am actually hopeful that the main characters will not all die horribly at the end).

      • > How It’s Made

        Even allowing that the production crew might not be native English speakers, some of their narration contains megadoses of WTF? For example, referring to welding as “soldering”…

        • Try Modern Marvels. They might be better. I’d be very wary of the History channel. Their stuff is ahistorical.

          • Their stuff is ahistorical

            Worse than that. It’s all crap! I used to watch the History Channel religiously when they did history. Now it’s all Pawn Stars and antique hunters and associated “reality” shows. If I by chance catch a Modern Marvels re-run I have not seen, I’ll watch it, otherwise I just do not watch TV any more.

            • there is no History on the History channel. H2 had the older good shows, and it is now Vice. Horrendous stuff there now.
              I think I hit a MM rerun some weeks back, but they are rare.
              How It’s Made sometimes has questionable stuff because either the manufacturer told then something false, someone added something and didn’t know what they were talking about, or the editing changed what was going on v. what the narrator was told what was going on. I see many mistakes on the show, but find them less annoying than those found watching Mythbusters.
              I watch MavTV, most of the time, then it’s Science (prefer How It’s Made, and How the Universe Works/Was Made or the like, They can have the stupid NASA Files/What On Earth wannabe Ancient Aliens junk.) and then it’s occasionally Animal Planet (River Monsters) and Nat Geo. with Pursuit or Sportsman as occasional views.
              I watch almost as much Brit motorsports TV on the weekends now as I do anything else.

              • I have found some watchable items on the Smithsonian Channel, especially if you lower your bar for things like Mighty Ships and Aerial America. National Geographic Channels has also provided some pleasures.

                My favorite non-news channels are CSPAN2 (Book TV) and Off.

          • Sadly those seem few and far between. I remember when it was almost nightly. Plus deep sea detectives. H gone downhill.

        • C’mon, admit it: one of the biggest attractions of “How It’s Made” is thinking how much better the show would be if they used Raymond Scott’s “Powerhouse” as the music. . .

      • I’ve never run across a subtitled telenovela. Doesn’t mean they aren’t out there – but if they don’t do that, they may be missing out on an even bigger market than they have now in the US. From the few plot lines I’ve seen, they should also be popular among the non-Spanish speaking (or non-Portugese speaking, for those coming out of Brazil).

        • Rich Rostrom

          Telenovelas are huge in large parts of the non-Hispanic world. Eastern Europe and Africa, that I know of.

          • ??? Are those actually “telenovelas,” though, or the same things with their own language and cultural referents?

            (Whether you call them “daytime dramas,” “telenovelas,” or whatever – it seems that the basic genre is going to be ever popular, whatever the culture. The same thing with “Romance” in literature – although a random person from Poughkeepsie will most likely have problems getting into one written by someone from Osaka. Same notion, completely different background for the plot.)

            • *bursts out laughing* Telenovelas exported from South America, and dubbed in Filipino, were a HUGE thing for … I want to say a decade or so. To the vast amusement of myself and my parents, I read out loud an article in the newspaper (which, at the time, reported news!) that noted that crime rates actively DROPPED during the time Marimar was showing.

              Everyone was too busy watching TV – and the news broadcast showed crowds of people sharing a single television, some powered by someone’s car battery, or outside their local sari-sari mini grocery store.

              • Someone did a study here that showed business activity drops when certain highly popular soap operas were on.

                Not sure of its statistical validity, but anecdotally – when I worked in an HMO clinic many years ago, most of the doctors had the same spot on their schedules blocked off every day.

                I thought for a while that it was for maybe a staff meeting or some such, until I wandered into the break room one day – they were all watching “Days of Our Lives.”

      • Food Network, especially the competitions (Chopped and Cutthroat Kitchen are special favorites).

        • Being a rather creative type in the kitchen myself, I enjoy the Iron Chef enormously. (Alas, not being in shouting distance of the skills and experience enjoyed by Chef Flay, much less Chef Morimoto, I have the not so occasional disaster…)

          The to-be-architect daughter tells me that she will someday get me a kitchen just like that one, with all of the gadgets and equipment. I’ve told her that unless she can also supply the back room staffed with the cleanup minions, she should skip it. It’s a nice fantasy, but…

          • It appears they’re bringing it back, with Alton Brown.
            I can pretty much watch Alton Brown in anything.

            • Oh, you are so right. I used to watch Good Eats at least half just to see the skits with the “Government Inspectors” – or especially the “Empress Ming in the Kitchen Kitsch Store.”

              (Okay, she wasn’t called that, but that is always how I thought of her. He found some of the most hilarious “actors,” funnier than most Hollywood “comedians,” just by drafting his friends and associates.)

          • I want to see the Iron Chef crew do at least one, “On a really small budget” episode, though. “Your secret ingredient is zucchini. You have $20 and this abbreviated list of spices and kitchen staples to work with. Now Go!”

            • There was something – it wasn’t Iron Chef, though. Where the chefs had to work with ingredients that the grocery stores throw out (bruised tomatoes, slightly wilted asparagus, whatever). Things that they would never allow in their own kitchens.

              Impressed me that they managed to get it done, just like people in real home kitchens (at least mine, where it has to have actually gone bad for me to not find a use for it).

    • ebooks were … far less expensive than dirty paper

      Hah! Considering the publishers screamed for years that paper costs were what was pushing their prices up and up and up, the number of ebooks that are priced about even with paper ones is still enormous. (And some of them are actually more expensive than the paper ones for some bizarre reason.)

      Also, some of us do “buy books”. Though I do a lot of e-reading nowadays, I still like to sometimes have a bit of paper in my hand. Or on my shelves. It’s just nicer sometimes. (And, sometimes, I have to have paper, as I occasionally work in a secure area.)

      • Erm. I plead lack of sleep – I was too harsh re people who still carry books around in “singles on paper.” I admit to a different feeling myself with an old-fashioned volume (although the ink does nothing for me). For one thing, when necessary, they do make a far more satisfying and less expensive “thunk” against the wall…

        But – on the other hand, I am a self-admitted dinosaur. I’m a former application developer and I’ve just barely been dragged, kicking and screaming all the way, into using Windows 7.

        (Strange image… Your last observation gave me a vision of a time in the future, reading the latest Hoyt subversion on badly mimeographed pages behind doors locked and barricaded.)

        • What do you do now? You said that you are a former application developer.

          • Trying to become a writer. Not hard enough, or well enough, IMHO.

            For some reason, creating code from a blank slate was easier. But I’ll get there, I’m stubborn, I am…

            (Former mostly because I have a bad tendency to see reality, and share it. Not the best thing in most shops these days.)

      • I still prefer physical books. Reading fiction is my downtime from the screen.

    • > do not buy books

      I’ve always hung on to mine and read them to death, but *most* of the readers I’ve known in meatspace might keep half a dozen favorites. Maybe. The rest get given away, left at work, or thrown out. I’ve met a number of people who, once they read a book, would no more consider reading it again than they’d consider re-using a wad of toilet paper. They’re done with that book forever.

  16. I think I bought more books at 7-11 convenience stores than anywhere else. Back in the ’70’s when I discovered Heinlein I got almost all of his juveniles from a 7-11 in southern Maryland. They had their rack of paperbacks with one or two displayed, and I’d buy them. Next time I dropped in there would be a couple more, and I’d buy them. I’d always look at the “also by” page for more titles, not realizing at the time how prolific RAH was. I finally went to the Library of Congress and made a list. While I bought everything from Time Enough for Love on as new releases at bookstores and through book clubs, I still have fond memories of whoever the store manager was that said to themselves, “Someone’s buying this Heinlein guy, I guess I’ll stock some more titles for him.” That was also where I bought most of my junk food reading, along with airport magazine shops…

    • I worked at a Borders before the last decline, when the signs were there but Corporate hadn’t quite stamped out everything yet. One of my coworkers started a monthly Game Day, where they’d take over the cafe and run three or four tables of role-playing adventures. The games section, manga, and science fiction sections got larger as this drew in that market. Corporate was not happy, which shows why Borders eventually died. It brought in customers, it brought in money, who the hell cares that it wasn’t the same as all the other stores?

      • Truly bizarre. The point is to get money in your till. That’s the whole point of any commercial store. You sell stuff to customers and they give you money. Cash, checks, debit and credit cards.

        Krogers has a slightly different mix of items for sale in different locations. Different neighborhoods have a different mix of customers who buy differently.

        • We see the same dynamic at our local grocery chain(s). The stores with high percentages of Jewish residents in their neighborhoods are the place to go for Kosher coke, matzoh and the like, while the location next to the apartment complex serving mostly Indian immigrants offers a fine selection of ingredients for that cuisine.

          Even the area Walmart groceries have somewhat different selections of beans, spices and sauces according to whether there is a significant Hispanic population in their vicinity.

          • WalMart near certain military bases has a large supply of German brands, for the homesick spouses and troopers who got used to Maggi, Dr. Oetker, and Tschibo, among other things.

          • Back in 2003 I was at a gathering in Raleigh and volunteered to make dinner instead of all of us eating out. Several of us piled into a car and went to the grocery store, where we found everything except garlic. The store manager said they didn’t have any.

            The fourth store we tried had some whole garlic in oil; I bought that. But none of the major chain stores normally had *any* kind of garlic; from cloves to garlic salt. It wasn’t that they were out; they didn’t carry any at all. But they all seemed to have the same dusty bottles of fennel and cumin, that I’ve never had any use for…

            I wondered about that for years; I could see one chain having a glitch in their supply algorithms and deciding not to carry garlic, but three? Then I found out that most of those stores don’t actually own any of the inventory on their shelves, even the store-branded stuff. It’s all owned, and often placed on the shelves by, one or more food vendors, who sometimes own the shelves as well. Chances are they were all stocking condiments and produce from the same vendor.

        • But it wasn’t their idea. They also didn’t like the GM planning his own author events. (Possibly that’s partly because he knew that market and got some very right-wing authors in.)

  17. this blog has reminded me of one of my recent pet peeves, about top down control … or, how can the CEO’s of major corporations, making millions of dollars per year, BE SO STUPID
    ***PET PEEVE ALERT***
    I am referring to the recent problems with Sears, and the not so recent problems with J C Pennys, and Montgomery Wards.
    Amazons is eating their lunch (and breakfast, dinner, supper, and snacks).
    wait…….. what? Amazon is a mail order company. Their catalog is a web site. did not these three companies (among others) invent mail order? have they not been doing mail order for over a hundred years? should they not be dominating the internet.
    one of the problems these three had was the cost of the catalog (which they gave away). that problem was solved with a web site.
    the CEO’s decided not to go in that direction (i.e. their past), and stay with only brick stores. while drawing millions in wages + bonuses. while the stock holders shares become worth less and less.
    why they chose to do so is more than I can fathom, but the had the tools at hand, a century worth of knowledge and experience of doing —exactly— what Amazon has done. and they are now facing the void.
    The major book publishers are facing the same void, with less experience and knowledge.
    Amazon is now looking into brick stores. should it become successful, I can predict that the only two stores in most towns will be Walmart and amazons
    ——————–note: making predictions are hard, especial about the future.

  18. Ah, Borders. I worked at the Englewood store in between 2001-2004, when the early signs were there but good corporate management (which wasn’t there) could have changed the course. At one point, our GM fell in love with the Christopher Moore book Lamb and got copies for everyone on the staff who was interested. Everybody on staff pushed it, causing an anomalously high spike in sales. The end result is that Mr. Moore himself came and had brunch with us (before the store opening on a Sunday) and gave us all signed copies of his next book, Fluke.

    Apparently he wanted to be a horror writer, and turned to comedy when his writers’ group kept giggling at his descriptions of blood and gore.

    I heard from people who were in Borders closer to the end that Corporate started having Push Books, which were determined by Corporate and each store had metrics to see if they were selling the Push Book enough. Naturally, the staff not only hated this, most of the Push Books were dreck.

    You can’t impose that sort of thing from above. You have to let it happen.

    • “I heard from people who were in Borders closer to the end that Corporate started having Push Books, which were determined by Corporate and each store had metrics to see if they were selling the Push Book enough.”

      So, were the corporate boys being bribed by publishers, or were they just that stupid?

      • Embrace the power of “And.”

      • So, were the corporate boys being bribed by publishers, or were they just that stupid?

        “You cannot hope to bribe or twist (thank God!) the British journalist. But, seeing what the man will do unbribed, there’s no occasion to.”

        Just a minor substitution to apply that to your question. Think in terms of mis-aligned incentive structures. Editors were no longer being paid for producing good books, they were being rewarded for hitting their sales targets. The reading public being what it is, there is surprising little demand for good books; what we want are entertaining books. It is fortuitous when the two coincide, but forced to choose entertaining always beats good.

        Editors, publishers, Fine Arts Majors, OTOH, get awards and insider praise for good, even though their values for good may differ from any objective, much less popular, values for good.

      • “Why not both?”

    • Neither Lamb nor Fluke were among Moore’s better works, IMHO. But I’ve bought copies of “The Stupidest Angel” for gifts.

      • How did you feel about The Serpent of Venice? I rather adored that one. Shakespeare, Shylock, AND Otello with Lear’s Fool was delicious.

      • I have an ARC of “The Stupidest Angel.” “A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror.”

        • Besides tickling my funny bone, for some reason the underlying structure of the story was quite visible for me. Normally I don’t pay attention to stuff like that, but in that particular book it was easy to see how Moore strung all the pieces in logical order, everything neatly slotting together. I got almost as much fun out of watching that as the story.

    • I had problems with Lamb (read for my book club). I felt like it was supposed to be a romp, but was much more of a trudge.

      And mentioning having sex with goats every three pages (like clockwork) doesn’t make a book funnier.

  19. Dan Brown? What’s happened with his latest?

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      It isn’t obvious to me. He has a new book out next fall, it seems to have been a while since his last one, and he recently seems to have published a YA edition of Da Vinci Code. This last does kinda seem desperate.

      • scottsaxbury

        He got a lot of reviewers pointing out it was the same story, again, with awkward writing, shallow research, and pedantry. He also got a movie out of it, though. Which got the same sort of reviews. And currently has a review score of 19% on Rotten Tomatoes. Still not quite at the 3% level of Battlefield Earth, but give him a few more novels, he’ll get there.

        • The only reason I bought Battlefield Earth was because it had battle scenes at the Air Force Academy, where I was at the time (well, a few years after it came out, anyway). Now there’s a paperback you can use a bookend!

          • A friend of mine thought that series was *wonderful*, and bought all of them, and tried to get me to read them. I trudged through a couple and gave up.

          • scottsaxbury

            Didn’t mind the book as much as the movie, but still wasn’t great. Part of that may be just because of Hubbard himself, have bad family history with his cult.

    • Several years ago. I think five or six. Nothing. Just no one bought it. And they’d staked their continued existence on it. So there were several mournful articles…

  20. I stumbled across the Doc Savage books in the early ’60s; must have bought 75-100 of them.

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      I have some of the Sanctum Books reprints with the original illustrations.

    • Anybody remember Perry Rhodan? I loved it when I was 13. It was refreshing change from ’70s doom and gloom. I was born at the end of 1961.

      • Yah, I remember Perry, even though I wasn’t a particular fan of those books. I don’t know why, except they didn’t seem up to the Doc Smith and Jack Williamson space operas I’d already read.

      • I had a nearly complete set, but mostly because I read *everything*.

  21. I’m trying to avoid filling in details of a picture depicting Reality* popping a beer and kicking back in His recliner.


    *Didn’t Steve Ditko include Him in Dr. Strange?

  22. “So changing narrative changes reality.”

    I always laugh when I see this. I’ve been laughing at it since those retards wrote it and started pushing it in Anthropology all those ancient years ago. It can be refuted in one sentence: The map is not the terrain.

    Yes, changing the narrative changes PERCEPTION in humans. It changes what you think about what you are seeing. But, and this is the killer, it does not change the thing you are looking at. You can look at a bear and see Gentle Ben, but what you think does not change what the bear is going to do. It is still a bear, and its drives and needs remain the same.

    So yes, changing the narrative can change human behavior… for a little while. But the new behavior creates unforeseen -consequences- which have to be dealt with. Humans are problem solving machines. You hand us a problem, we solve it. SJWs decide that in the future ALL restaurants will be Taco Bell, we learn to make our own sushi and chicken tikka.

    • Sort of the same way I heard an earnest environmental historian explaining to a gaggle of worshipful undergrads how observing a wildlife refuge (we were in a duck blind, looking at a large wetland) changes the wildlife refuge. Just by looking at it, as well as when people take samples of the soil or capture, band, and release birds. Somewhere Werner Heizenberg was face-palming. At least her later bit about be careful where you sample, because something might have been there in the past (in this case a homestead cabin that compacted the soil and so on) made far more sense.

  23. That business about perceiving signals of class and hierarchy is interesting, and I will have to think about it.

    I had a parallel realization a few years ago: That there has been a change from the ethic of chastity, which divides women into “those who belong to a particular man” and “those who don’t belong to any particular man, so any man can use them who wants to” (kind of like the Roman distinction between private land and public land like roads), to the ethic of consent, which says that *all* women are available only insofar as they choose to be, just like men; and that the famous rape scene in Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, which always perplexed me, is there because Rand is making dramatic use of the ethic of chastity—because even though she *believed* in the ethic of consent, she still instinctively *thought* in terms of the ethic of chastity, enough to get a charge out of defying it. Once I intellectually recognized it as a pattern, I could see better what was going on in fiction that assumed it.

    On a different note, the whole thing about corporations as engaged in socialistic central planning is apparently central to the modern theory of the firm. The idea is that you have islands of central planning surrounded by a sea of markets, and the size of the islands is limited by the extent to which the efficiencies of central planning make up for its inability to provide enough information for decision-making. So when a big corporation gets trimmed back by the market, well, that’s a market economy making corrections, and it’s a good thing, however much the corporate planners hate it.

    • As for corporate planning … there has developed, among Baseball statheads, the concept of BABIP (Batting Average, Ball In Play) that attempts to distinguish luck from performance. Much corporate planning is like that; their success derives more from putting the ball in play than anything deliberate on their part. Doing a rain dance does little to bring about rain, but doing it at the right time can do a great deal about the perceptions of others regarding your ability to promote rain.

  24. Christopher M. Chupik

    I remember back in my bookstore days when we got in about 30 hardcover copies of some silly anti-Bush novel. We sold maybe 2. Then there was that Traveler book by “Twelve Hawks”. It was gonna be YUGE . . . and at our store, at least, it collected dust on the shelf.

  25. Reading all the discussions here about books, publishers, and ebooks. Anyone here ever read “Cyberbooks” by Ben Bova? Read it back in the late 90’s and thought about designing one. Unfortunately I was far too late to do that. 🙂
    https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/908230.Cyberbooks
    He talks about how prophetic it was and how it wasn’t about the ebook itself but the publishing industry as a whole. may have to track it down and re-read it.

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      Never read it, but I remembered the cover and premise when I saw Baen offering e-books around the turn of the century.*

      *Yeah, it sounds strange, but I guess we have to start calling it that now.

  26. They could probably pull their chestnuts out of the fire just by checking Amazon Best Sellers for what they should buy and finding ways to trim expenses.

  27. Sales reps are the ‘surface area’ of a business, they are the ‘outside’ and will generally have a better grasp of what is actually going on that those who are inside. That doesn’t mean they are always right, but wise management will seek out their perceptions rather than drive everything via top-down planning. (Today’s ‘big data’ obsession will certainly make the excesses of top-down micromanagement worse than they already are”

    • I worked part time for a big box retailer for many years. When I first started, in the distant past of 1994, department heads decided how to set up shelf displays and space, and where to put the product, as long as all the product was put out. And individual stores decided how much to order of each product, except for a few large buys from corporate which came to the store regardless. When I left last year, because it stopped being fun, every shelf had to be set to the plan that came down on high from corporate. If a new item was shipped in to the store, it didn’t go on a shelf until someone in store planning decided where it went. And stores can vary orders a tiny bit from what the computer tells them to order, but try to go outside the parameter… well, you won’t be allowed to.

      A few years back my wife and I saw some school supplies at a BJs we wanted to get for the kids, and waited until payday. And went back and they weren’t there. Well, schools had started all over the south, and the bigwigs in corporate saw this and pulled all remaining inventory for all stores off the shelves because they had a return guarantee with the wholesaler, and it was all returned. It was another week before school started up here.

      I know that when I lived in Maine not that many years ago, schools all had a week off during potato harvest season. Central planning for everywhere from one spot doesn’t account for regional variations. Central planning would require Florida to have as many snowplows per thousand miles of road as Illinois, and require Illinois to post hurricane evacuation routes.

      • Classic case of chain stores in Florida carrying snow blowers, courtesy of a ‘push’ inventory system.

        • There’s a Fred Meyers in Florence, Oregon that carries snow saucers year-round. It’s right next to a sand dunes state park.

          Obviously, there’s a chain that doesn’t have its head up its butt.

      • Years ago, I read a newspaper article by an Army officer who had served in Vietnam in an armored unit. He said that the supply officers and NCOs felt a strong sense of personal responsibility for ensuring that their units had the right spare parts needed to fix the tanks…UNTIL a new inventory management system was put in place. After this, the unit supply people felt responsible only for properly filling out the forms on parts usage, so that the system could decide what to send them.

        Wish I could find that article again…

      • Central planning would require Florida to have as many snowplows per thousand miles of road as Illinois, and require Illinois to post hurricane evacuation routes.

        When Illinois needs to evacuate ahead of a hurricane it will be too late to post the routes!

        • The remains of Hurricane Andrew didn’t prompt evacuations in Wisconsin, but I recall it being overcast with the clouds going the wrong way for a day or three.

          • Though it did soak us pretty good at a scout campout near Champagne IL on Sunday morning just as we were tearing down camp after breakfast…..

  28. Of course Americans adopted the Internet. We invented it. And when you’ve got a continent-spanning country, fast communications comes in handy.

    The interesting story has been how much it’s changed business. It’s killed the local bookstore, but also the local hobby shop. On the other hand, you can order precisely what you want online, instead of settling for what’s available locally. Great for niche businesses.

    • Local hobby shops were dying well before the internet. Every one of my friends built model planes as a kid. None of my kids have ever shown the slightest interest in it. Same with their friends. I knew 2 other kids in HS (of 400 per graduating class) who had small model railroads on a 4 X 8 sheet of plywood in their basements. Asked my kids. Model railroad? What’s that?

      Hobbies, at least the ones that required a hobby shop, are fast disappearing. RC planes and boats used to require hours to build and assemble and get right. Now, you buy one off a shelf, play with it until you get tired of it, and off to a storage shelf somewhere in the house. There’s no time investment in it.

      • Too bad the business hasn’t been translated into miniatures and tabletop gaming – the kit makers might not survive, but the hobby shops might with “painting spaces”, classes, etc.

        • The big local hobby shop tried that, along with adding big sections for RC and then drones, but then the senior generation retired and the location came up for redevelopment. There’s a much much smaller barely stocked store of the same name that I ran across last year, but visiting was a very sad experience. They did have a cluster of gaming tables and stuff for miniatures off to one side, and I hope they can keep it going.

        • There’s a local-ish hobby shop that has an adjacent space that is at least as big as the shop itself, and probably bigger. They hold not only gaming events and lightsaber training but miniature fairs, like the dealer room at a convention. I think they’re doing okay.

      • Yep. Same with model rocketry……

        • Which got a real decline when the engines got classified as explosive devices after 9/11.

          • Just one more way terrorism (and the reaction to it) has taken the fun out of life.

          • We actually beat the BATF on that one. They never imagined that two little organizations (National Association of Rocketry and Tripoli Association) with a total membership of less than 8000 had the money and persistence to beat the federal government in court. The blunders of the agent in charge of that fiasco did not help the BATFE(ces) cause in court either.

            He also totally underestimated the persistence of a bunch of rocketry geeks who will spend hours poring over blueprints of old launch vehicles to get scaling details just right.

            The next fight is getting the government to change the classification from hazardous substances so they can be shipped by mail again. The smaller engines can be, but anything bigger than a “D” class engine gets expensive from shipping surcharges.

            • I remember ‘D’ being the largest engines. I can get ‘E’ and ‘F’ locally at hobby lobby…

        • That and decreasing areas to launch. Town I grew up in you could be fined for not letting FD know and potentially paying for detail. Nearest dedicated field was hour and half away.

          • I never had that problem either here in Illinois or back in Texas. I launched in parking lots or bare dirt. Still do. The local jr high lets me launch here. Lots of open space with football fields, corn fields, and playgrounds…..

      • > local hobby shop

        We had one. It’s still around. It sells at retail plus 25%, apparently to parents and seniors who never cottoned on to the “online” thing. I wouldn’t have thought the local area would have had enough clueless customers to support them, but they keep hanging on.

  29. When reality kicks back– Find a scapegoat, kill the messenger.

  30. In the big corporate world, you don’t get blamed if you stick to the safe and proven- even if that road is going to take you right off the cliff.
    But, if you’re that weirdo with the new weirdo ideas, you’re lucky if you even get a bit of a chance. And even then, they’ll be ready to pull the plug at any hint that you’re not going to be a massive success.
    Which is why most innovation tends to come from the little startup guys.

  31. I used to go to three independent (or tiny chain) book sellers in Silicon Valley in the 70s through Y2K. One died (as I recall) when Barnes and Nobel opened a megastore–I liked them for book signings I got my copy of Footfall signed, and talked laptop computers with Jerry when the HP110 was new. (Hmm, Footfall reminds me to get that composting book. Also, ways to deal with journalists. [VBEG]). Printer’s Inc in Palo Alto was still going when I left, but it’s now gone. Timing implies it couldn’t survive megastores + Amazon.

    The third was Computer Literacy Bookshop. As best as I can tell, it died from sellicide. The Infogalactic article says they sued an outfit called Cbooks.com for trademark issues, and ended up selling out to them. Somebody got the idea to rebrand as Fatbrain, evidently because the original name was too hard to understand. The minichain got sold to Barnes and Noble, which killed it off. I visited it as Fatbrain once, and the sales droid thought it was a pretty cool name. Sigh. At one time, they had 90% of my tech book purchases–the Santa Clara U bookstore was horrible for stocking required/useful books.

    In Klamath Falls, after the demise of Borders, dead tree books come from a few specialty shops and book sections of WalMart and Fred Meyer (owned by Kroger; one stop shopping with fairly nice stuff).

    • I used to regularly hit Computer Literacy Bookstore and Printer’s Ink; both were closer to work than home, so I had an excuse for dropping by on my way home now and then.

      Then they were gone.

    • I lived in Klamath Falls from 1977-83.
      Back then, there was an independent bookstore downtown called Treeland Books that my friends and I would frequent (for Sci-Fi and Dungeons and Dragons stuff). There was a bookstore in the Jefferson Square mall (a corporate store, perhaps Waldenbooks?).
      And that was about it, other than the library. No Fred Meyer existed there yet, so there wasn’t really a wide variety of places to look for books (Pay-Less drugs had a few, K-Mart had a few, but not much.) The good places to look for books were, of course, in Ashland and Eugene (1 hour and 4 hours away).

  32. WILLIAM REEVES

    Ummm Amazon is a bigger corporation than all these publishers put together . It ain’t the corporate structure…It’s publishing culture .

  33. There was a Baen Barfly named Pam “Pogo” Pogianni–I’m not sure I spelled her last name right. Oh well. Moving on. She was at a library and a book rep was talking to the librarian and showing her a catalog. “You’ll want this, and this, and this.” Pogo saw a book in the catalog, one not recommended by the rep, and said “I’d like that one.” The rep folded the catalog up and didn’t mark it.

    The force-feeding goes a long way to explaining why a large segment of publishing is in trouble.

  34. “Be not afraid.”
    There’s a reminder I always need.

  35. How come I see no mentions of that wonderful budgeting aid, your local public library?

    • er… because the post is about traditional publishing. Also, I’m not used to a library that’s not a homeless shelter, anymore.

      • Our library doesn’t have the homeless problem, but it seems to have become a free daycare center.

        Since they have almost none of those “book” things, and are surly about doing ILL, and it’s a Prohibited Area, I haven’t been there in a long time.

      • What I am finding interesting is that in my city and my local area, the library has a security guard on duty. Talk about a WTF moment when I first saw them. The area I am in is mostly middle income and higher class people. A few sketchy blocks but no homeless situation in the area that I have seen.

        • Sometimes I think the security guard thing is just a status symbol. “Look at us! We’re important!”

        • They have a security guard for the same reason your local school has cops on site: there’s several generations of young thugs who will pull whatever they can get away with.

        • I recall reading that some library will not let parents drop off their child and leave; one MUST remain.

        • They have a security guard so there’s a Uniform present. This is because the librarians are not authorized to perform the security function. They are not allowed to tell noisy jerks to shut up, the guard does that.

          Should actual Trouble occur, the guard’s function is to call the police. Because the guard is not authorized to actually -do- anything. He is purely for show. The cops do stuff. Guards hide in the back with the librarians.

          In the event that the Trouble is a visible minority or other protected class, the cops will not do anything either. They’ll evacuate the library and let the Protected Class Individual go nuts until he/she/other gets tired and can be led away without a fuss.

          White middle class males get the taser plus pepper spray plus knee on the neck.

          Welcome to Canada.

          • So… chainmaille (short out that TASER) and wraparound glasses (spray shield, at least partly) should be standard attire?

            • Feather Blade

              I am told that they make motor cycling sunglasses that seal to the skin around their outer edge, and you can get the lenses in prescription. Looking at someone wearing them, you hardly notice that they aren’t regular sunglasses

      • Ouch. Good point about the homeless shelter thing. Also brings up the fact that libraries have yet to come up with a mechanism to purchase and distribute indies. There are lots of nice new ways to borrow ebooks (Overdrive is my favorite, because I hate reading via phone apps), but so far ebook collections have been limited to traditional publications. I’ve proposed that we try to make some kind of deal with Kindle Unlimited at my institution, but so far our administration has been uninterested.

      • The main branch of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County has far too many homeless coming in to use the bathroom facilities for hygiene and find a climate-controlled place to nap. It does detract from the library experience. I have to remember to use the restroom before heading there, and unless it is reference material the books always come home with me rather than sitting and reading.

  36. Great post on this subject. I also found the traditional publishing industry to set in its ways. My father and I increasingly look outside of traditional publishing to find good reads.

    Didn’t the Martian start as a self-published work at first and go on to get big?

  37. I might be late to this party, but this seems related: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hz1dfDTH6Dk

  38. I, personally, am looking forward to the collapse. We might get back to choice, originality, a marketplace of ideas. In all areas. Not just books.

  39. Maybe your mom should start her own political blog? Seems like she can get in on the ground floor. . .

  40. Which is why now that the coloring book thing is receding

    Part of me so wants to give thanks for this but all I can think it protends is that adult will be further downgraded from where “adult” means “coloring books”. If you want to be an adult learn to draw and if you want to be over 18 and color just admit it and join the littles community (and I say this as someone who dated someone who identifies as a little…but to the degree she does she owns it).

    • I can see it as a niche for stress but nowhere near the extent it is around.

    • Oh, Herb. Good to see you. Worried because of the fire in your area.

      • I’m good…it was on my commute if I drive in (I usually take the train but had driven in yesterday) and I passed it about 45 minutes earlier.

        We’re lucky in the fire personal saw it immediately and got the road closed…traffic is a mess but no one is safe.

    • *finger waggle* there is a place for them. In my kingdom in the SCA we have ‘charters’ which are, essentially pre-printed award scrolls for commonly given out awards that just need to be painted and a name and signature added. There are quite a few people who are very good at (and enjoy) painting charters who never move on to other artistic things. Some, like my husband, lack the knack for drawing, and lack the time to develop it, but really want to do SOMETHING artistic. Others lack the desire to go further. Then some, like me, who move on to doing full illumination from the ground up (though I am still on baby steps with calligraphy.) I think part of the craze is the coloring books were permission to do something artistic without needing to become an ARTIST. It’s something that can be put away easily without guilt then resumed without the whole ‘but I should FINISH that project’. But that is a personal theory, I’m not sure how it’ll stand up in the long run.

      • I’ve painted a charter or two in my day 🙂

        That said it is a rare SCAdian who doesn’t have some crafting skill.

        I think part of the craze is the coloring books were permission to do something artistic without needing to become an ARTIST. It’s something that can be put away easily without guilt then resumed without the whole ‘but I should FINISH that project’. But that is a personal theory, I’m not sure how it’ll stand up in the long run.

        Maybe, I’ve also heard people say they are meditative.

        What worries me is I have heard people who think it makes them an artists just like I’ve heard people who think being good at Rock Band makes them a musician. As an entry drug in the, “hey, I can do this…maybe now I can try X” they have a place. However, observing other trends I can’t help but see them as evidence of the trend to dumbing down adulthood.

  41. Pingback: When Reality Kicks Back | The Passive Voice | A Lawyer's Thoughts on Authors, Self-Publishing and Traditional Publishing

  42. Speak for yourself. There are a whole line of science coloring books I adore. We utilized them for home education:

    https://www.amazon.com/Botany-Coloring-Book-Paul-Young/dp/0064603024

    There are also Zoology, Biology, Microbiology, Anatomy, Physiology, The Human Brain, Geography, …

  43. OK, the completely unexpected is harmful to corporations. For anyone but the handful of approved bestsellers to sell lots of books is unexpected. Got it. It’s like the scene in “WKRP in Cincinnati in which Mrs. Carlson is explaining to Johnny Fever why she is turning her son’s hit rock station into a dull news station, something like, “the failures don’t harm you, the failures have a necessary part in your budget, as long as you plan for them, as long as you dictate which programs fail.”