Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Cockroaches From Space Redux

Shares of Barnes & Noble Inc. jumped in premarket trading on Wednesday, after the nation's largest traditional bookseller said it is exploring strategic alternatives, including putting itself up for sale.

Shares rose $3.26, or 25 percent, in premarket trading to $16.10.

But Credit Suisse analyst Gary Balter said finding a buyer may be difficult.

Ahead of the Bell: Barnes & Noble on the block

I’ve read a couple of books recently.

I read the novel “Dimiter,” by William Peter Blatty, and I read the non-fiction pop science “Bursts,” by Albert-Laszlo Barabasi.

I didn’t buy them. I didn’t even check them out from a library. A couple weekends back I sat in a library all Saturday and read the Blatty book and last weekend I sat in a library all Saturday and read the Barabasi book.

I’m a big fan of William Peter Blatty but I didn’t much like Dimiter. And I thought Barabasi’s book was downright idiotic. ( “There’s not much difference between human beings and pollen grains suspended in water.” Yeah. Thanks for the insight, Albert-Laszlo. )

It doesn’t surprise me that nobody wants to buy books any more. And it certainly doesn’t surprise me that nobody wants to buy a bricks & mortar store that sells books


It has become popular to blame the death of editing and editors on the internet. But years before the World Wide Web even existed I got an earful about the modern profession of editing from some editor at a publishing house who was rejecting one of my novel manuscripts.

She predicted the end of editing and publishing as we know it but she based her prediction simply on the business dynamics of giant conglomerates.

When publishing houses, she said, were standalone companies they were run by businessmen who had some engagement with books and publishing. The businessmen to one extent or another took issues of quality into consideration when they made decisions about what books to publish.

When publishing houses become tiny, almost trivial divisions within giant entertainment conglomerates the businessmen making decisions about publishing have no engagement at all with books or publishing. Their only focus is getting their division to generate a profit for the next quarterly meeting.

If some market research says that a certain demographic wants to read a memoir from, say, Dolly Parton, the publishing division of a conglomerate will publish a memoir from Dolly Parton. If some celebrity has a high Q-score then the publishing division will publish a book by that celebrity—or by someone paid to write for the celebrity—containing any content at all, just so long as the celebrity agrees to put their name on the book. If the movie division of the conglomerate has a film coming out then the publishing division will publish a novelization of the film even if everybody knows nobody wants to read it because just having the covers out there on shelves is advertising for the movie.

People very quickly realized that “books” as the word has been traditionally used have ceased to exist. Books were replaced by targeted “product” designed to exploit this or that market opportunity. And people, for the most part, don’t want to get involved with that kind of crap.

So books have died and bookstores are dying.


So she rejected my manuscript but she said she liked it and she said were it up to her she would have published it. After listening to her monologue about the death of editing I couldn’t even point out that she was the editor for the imprint and I thought it was up to her because she had just explained to me that she was the ‘editor’ but all of her decisions were shaped by the business dynamics of the giant corporation around her.

It’s a weird fucking world when an editor rejecting a manuscript is sadder than the writer getting rejected.

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Editors Comma Having Been Cut Down Comma

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