Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue

02/09/2013

Publishing’s Past Not So Hot – Let’s Take a Peek


What am I going to do with all these damn books?

Many people often lament the ‘good old days’ of this or that (publishing being the key word tonight). You know what I’m talking about. These types are usually victims of what I call ‘stunted time warp’. They remember a time that was simpler (and clearer) to them — not because it really was, it just seemed that way to them because they were too young, naive and had no accountability to understand what was truly occurring in the underbellies and backrooms to make things appear perhaps more simple, righteous and clear-cut on the surface (for the uninitiated) — AND as they physically grew and aged, their mental understanding and education RE those specifics did not. They are ‘stunted’ and therefore believe in things that live in the fantasies of their own minds and were never reality in the first place.

This post takes a little insightful look at the small (and not so small) publishers of the so-called ‘golden age’ of publishing and resurrects some literary works that have been forgotten, out of print or never appreciated as much as they should have been in the past due to draconian shortcomings in the so-called traditional publishing (TP) system.

Just what are these draconian shortcomings? The main ones, in this writer’s humble opinion, were and still are:

1) Continuously undermanned  (even the big houses) to handle the awesome workload of incoming manuscripts (both talented and not so talented) from millions of submitters. This is evident by the numerous and often rude original rejections received by tons of later-famous authors for their exact, later-published manuscripts. 

2) Assuming the reading public were/is too stupid to know what they wanted or needed to read or would enjoy.

3) Having the audacity to assume a ‘gatekeeper’ role to protect the reading public from what they considered ‘bad literature’. This is actually a form of censorship — And just where did these self-appointed ‘gatekeepers’ receive their God-like abilities? I was unaware of any universities awarding degrees in supernatural powers 🙂

4) Nonexistent to poor marketing for contracted newbies. (This one never made sense to me as the more invested in marketing the more return realized).

5) Promulgating, perpetuating an unsustainable publishing model for years.

6) Denying most authors a semblance of fair profit margin (except in rare cases).

7) Denying most authors a proper say in literary rights.

What model/system solves these problems and empowers writers? Digital (and POD for those who enjoy print more) self-publishing, of course.

Is this model perfect? Not yet; but, it is evolving more perfect everyday. (Was TP ever perfect?)

Does this new publishing and literary openness and freedom scare some? Of course. Especially those victims of ‘stunted time warp’ as mentioned above.

Will they adjust to modern publishing? Those that are true writing professionals will — just like those in the past have survived past publishing milestones that stunned publishing in totally new directions.

David Streitfeld , The New York Times, writes this:

Publishing Without Perishing

In the old days, life for small publishers was a hassle. The economics were such that copies got dramatically cheaper when printed in bulk, but then the books had to be stored, which was expensive. Finding an audience was the hardest part; some independent presses took years or even decades to sell out a modest print run.

Now books can be efficiently printed in small quantities, like one copy. Amazon, meanwhile, is happy to do the job of fulfilling orders. The stage is set to allow everyone to become his own Alfred Knopf.

James Morrison, a 36-year-old editor and graphic designer in Adelaide, Australia, is an old-fashioned book enthusiast, with around 10,000 books in his personal library. In 2007 he began a blog, Caustic Cover Critic: One Man’s Endless Ranting About Book Design, which showcases and evaluates new jackets. Like any inveterate reader, Mr. Morrison would stumble across obscure books practically begging to be reprinted. For instance, he read an account by the historian David S. Reynolds of “the largest monster in antebellum literature,” which was “the kraken depicted in Eugene Batchelder’s ‘Romance of the Sea-Serpent, or The Ichthyosaurus,’ a bizarre narrative poem about a sea serpent that terrorizes the coast of Massachusetts, destroys a huge ship in mid-ocean, repasts on human remains gruesomely with sharks and whales, attends a Harvard commencement (where he has been asked to speak), [and] shocks partygoers by appearing at a Newport ball.”

Mr. Morrison concluded that “the audience for an 1850 book-length Monty Python-style doggerel poem about a socially aspirant sea serpent is probably just me,” but how could he be sure? The Internet is all about weaving people together with even stranger tastes.

The critic has published about a dozen out-of-copyright volumes using Lulu, which does the printing, and Amazon, which does the selling and shipping. He dubbed his venture Whisky Priest in homage to Graham Greene, himself an enthusiast of uncommon and unjustly forgotten literary efforts. On the Whisky Priest list are the Batchelder book; a collection by Edith Wharton; “Artists’ Wives,” Alphonse Daudet’s stories about the war between the sexes; and Storm Jameson’s “In the Second Year,” a prophetic look at fascism.

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07/27/2012

Amazon: Exploding Revenue, Tiny Profit


Exploding Revenue

Amazon’s second quarter numbers reflected $12.8 billion in sales — but a chump-change net income of $7 million (now,I wouldn’t mind a profit of $7 million, but, against sales of almost 2000 times that amount I would be in the dumps 😦

Of course, for those that didn’t know (and I was one), these numbers are status quo for Amazon.

The reason ? Amazon is re-investing revenues in its future expansion plans. That’s a lot of do-re-mi for expansion, no ?

David Streitfeld, New York Times, has some interesting insights and forecasts:

Amazon Delivers on Revenue but Not on Profit

Leaping revenue, little profit.

That is the long-established Amazon story, and those who expected to hear it again Thursday were not disappointed.

The company reported sales of $12.8 billion, up 29 percent, in the second quarter while it eked out net income of $7 million, or a penny a share.

Those results essentially matched expectations. Analysts had estimated the Seattle-based retailer would earn 2 cents a share, down from 41 cents a share in the second quarter of 2011.

In what is becoming a routine warning, Amazon said that profit in the current quarter would remain elusive. Revenue might grow as much as 31 percent, the company said, but it was expecting a loss. Losses at Amazon were routine in its early years but in recent years it has made a profit, albeit a small one.

This would be devastating news from some Internet companies. But Amazon bulls were unfazed, saying the retailer was investing, as always, in the future.

“If they keep this up, there’s a good possibility that you’re looking at shopping malls going the way of the record store and the bookstore and the video rental store,” said Jason Moser, who covers Amazon for the Motley Fool investment site.

Amazon shares Thursday were up $3 to $220 during regular trading. The stock is trading only about 10 percent below its record high, with a stratospheric price-to-earnings ratio of about 170. In after-hours trading, shares continued rising.

Since its founding in 1994, Amazon has been focused on broadening its product and customer bases, not pumping up its profit margins. And the growth has been tremendous — it is now one of the country’s largest retailers. Even in North America, its most established market, it has been growing consistently more than twice as fast as the e-commerce market as a whole, a Forrester Research report released Thursday noted.

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09/26/2011

Amazon Jumps From Passive E-Readers To Active Tablet Computers With ‘Kindle Fire’


 

Throw Some KINDLE on that FIRE!

Amazon has decided to do battle with Apple in the tablet computing world … “A” vs “A” so to speak 🙂

In an effort to stay more relevant in the rapidly changing tech universe, and not to fall prey to obsolescence (as did AOL), Amazon is trying to go more 3-dimensional by stretching from the digital retailing/e-reader biz into the more active and multifaceted tablet computing arena.

David Streitfeld  in The New York Times:

Amazon Has High Hopes for Its iPad Competitor 

SAN FRANCISCO — One after another, like moths to a flame, technology companies have been seduced into entering the market for tablets. Apple made it look so irresistible, with 29 million eager and sometimes fanatical consumers snapping up an iPad in the device’s first 15 months.

But neither Samsung nor Motorola nor Acer could beg or borrow any of Apple’s magic. Research in Motion, the maker of the BlackBerry, said it shipped only 200,000 of its PlayBooks in three months — about what Apple sells in three days. Hewlett-Packard, which flopped this summer with the TouchPad, was the latest to get burned.

Now comes a final competitor, the best-placed challenger of all: Amazon.com. The retailer is on the verge of introducing its own tablet, analysts predict, a souped-up color version of its Kindle e-reader that will undercut the iPad in price and aim to steal away a couple of million in unit sales by Christmas.

A competition between Amazon and Apple tablets will be a battle that pits the company that created the first popular e-reader (and set off a still-unfolding revolution in how books are consumed) against the company that created the first popular tablet (and set off a revolution in progress about how entertainment and other media are consumed).

Both companies are riding high, racking up record revenues and seeing their stock market valuations cruise to new peaks. Each has ample resources to enjoy a pitched struggle for people’s attention and their wallets.

Whichever company triumphs, said the Barclays analyst Anthony DiClemente, “the consumer is going to be the winner.”

“The fact that Amazon is making such a huge investment might make Apple come back into the market at a lower price point,” he suggested. “What’s to prevent them from slimming down the iPad?”

Most tech companies like to keep their cards close to their vests, but Amazon, like Apple, strives to render the whole deck invisible. It has, though, scheduled a news conference in Manhattan on Wednesday, and the speculation on technology blogs and among analysts is that the tablet will be unveiled.

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