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Archive for December, 2008

2008 reading list

2008 BOOK LIST
(more…)

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I have been dithering with the sidebars, adding new links. I’d like to be able to link to more agents, but I’m still investigating those worthy of linkage. If you know of an agent whose blog you think should be represented in the appropriate link factory (to the right), feel free to leave a suggestion in the comments section. (This does not necessarily mean I’ll end up linking to said agent(s), but at least then I will have more possibilities to investigate.)

What I look for in agent blogs: regular updates, valuable information, posts related to crime fiction, and publishing news, written in a style that is businesslike but reasonably entertaining. There are other qualities I look for as well, but those are far more nebulous and harder to define — just like agent reactions to unsolicited queries!

HEARING: The Jesus and Mary Chain — STONED AND DETHRONED
READING: Michael Chabon — GENTLEMEN OF THE ROAD

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Yes, I know — I have been remiss in posting regularly (or posting with actual content) on this blog. Naturally, I have an excuse. I have been working madly the past couple of months to catch up on backlogged reviews for my other writing gig and finishing up various commitments related to my band so I can ring in the new year by officially starting back to work on the book that has been fermenting in the back of my mind all this time. (I actually started working on it a few months ago, but stopped when I realized I wasn’t really ready to write it yet.)

While I am here, however, I’d like to make an observation or two regarding the current state of doom ‘n gloom surrounding the publishing business. For one thing, it’s obvious (to me, anyway) that the publishing industry’s woes are awfully similar to the woes of the music business. In both cases, they are pushing a product that has become prohibitively expensive for the average consumer — whether it’s sixteen-dollar cds or thirty-dollar hardbacks, the people in charge of both industries don’t seem to grasp that this is a lot of money to the average consumer, especially in the case of books, which most people tend to read only once or twice. At least with a cd you can listen to it indefinitely (or until it dawns on you that the songs all the sound the same and the singer’s squeaky-clean voice has been rendered bland and soulless by overuse of ProTools and pitch correction), but even a really good book is something that you’re probably not going to read again and again. In that light, asking consumers to pay anywhere from twenty to thirty dollars for an item they intend to consume only once fails to take into account the consumer’s reluctance to spend that much cash for such a purchase. I keep reading that people in the publishing industry thought their industry would be recession-proof because books are “cheap entertainment,” but apparently publishing polliwogs (and especially New Yorkers) have vastly different ideas than the rest of the country as to what constitutes “cheap.” Thirty dollars for one item is a significant amount of money for me, and I suspect it is the same for most working-class people these days.

Another similarity between the two industries in their reluctance to embrace new business models that could potentially save them, out of fear of new technology or greed (depending on your point of view). The music industry had a brilliant opportunity in the early days of file-sharing to buy out the small handful of companies like Napster then in existence and to institute their own plan for the digital revolution; instead, they tried to ignore it, then squash it, only to discover it was beyond their control. Now that they would like to admit defeat and embrace digital downloads, the file-sharing community has exploded to the point where it’s physically and practically impossible to police.

Likewise, the publishing industry had the chance to embrace digital books early on and build an audience for them, but failed to do so for several reasons — partly out of technological concerns, but partly out of a lust for high profit margins. Even now, publishers continue to try to peddle e-books at a price not far removed from the price of hardcovers, which is absurd, since it costs far, far less to produce an e-book than a physical one. (Record labels have tried this economic model with digital downloads too, with disastrous results; they didn’t start achieving any kind of real success with downloads until they finally caved in and lowered the prices to something more reasonable.) If the publishing industry would make a serious effort to create an affordable e-book reader (the Kindle is nifty, yes, but way too expensive) and equally affordable e-books, they could completely transform their economic model within the space of a couple of years. Had they done this several years ago when the opportunity was ripe, they might not be in the mess they’re in now.

Of course, if the publishing industry wants to keep putting out physical books, they need to figure out how to deal with their ridiculous (and unprofitable) bookstore returns policy, too. On the other hand, at the rate things are going, soon there won’t be any brick and mortar stores left to return books (a dubious blessing, to be sure).

READING: Jose Saramago — ALL THE NAMES
HEARING: Haemorrhaging Fetus — PROCREATION… / TANGLED DESIRES

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War Metal Kitty listens to Total War while waging war against the canine hordes.

READING: Michael Chabon — THE YIDDISH POLICEMEN’S UNION
HEARING: Impaled Nazarene — DECADE OF DECADENCE

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