(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘publishing

“I spend too much money on books, many of which I will never read. I know that already. I certainly intend to read all of them, more or less. My intentions are good. Anyway, it’s my money. And I’ll bet you do it too.”*…

‘Twas ever thus. As Denise Gigante eaplains, nineteenth-century New York City was filled with books, bibliophilia, and marginalia…

By the nineteenth century, readers were feeling lost in a sea of print, and though this feeling was not entirely new, it was exacerbated by new print technologies and cheap reprints flooding the literary marketplace….

In New York in the 1840s, books and printed matter were everywhere. Up and down Broadway, boxes of used books cluttered the sidewalks. Newsstands stocked papers, literary journals, and magazines, while street vendors hawked the latest serialized novels by Dickens: “He-e-ere’s the New World—Dick’s new work. Here’s the New World—buy Master Humphrey, sir?”

From storefront windows, new books appealed to pedestrians with siren songs of entertainment and instruction at bargain prices, while literary annuals, gift books, and illustrated editions catered to an expanding American readership. New steam-powered rotary printing technology invented in New York in the mid-1840s revolutionized the print industry, rolling out thousands of pages per hour, while other innovations, such as stereotype printing, enabled a boom in cheap reading matter…

When technologically-enhanced supply met increased demand: “Choice Reading,” from @laphamsquart.

See also: “The value of owning more books than you can read.”

* Nick Hornby

###

As we read on, we might note that it was on this date in 1865 that a notable volume joined the parade of new books described in the article linked above: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (and here) was written by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson– better known as Lewis Carroll– went on sale in America for the first time (a revised edition of the first British version). Copies of the first U.S. edition, with illustrations created by John Tenniel, sold out quickly; the volume has never gone out of print since.

First edition cover (source)

Written by (Roughly) Daily

November 26, 2022 at 1:00 am

“Let there be bass”*…

Sometimes, it really is all about that bass…

A recent study in the journal Current Biology found that people danced 12% more when very low frequency bass was played.

The study was done by scientists at the LIVElab at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, who wanted to see what musical ingredients make us want to dance.

“We look at things like what kinds of rhythms most pull people into that steady beat that we groove along with, and what kinds of interesting, syncopated, complex rhythms make us really drawn in and want to move more,” said Daniel Cameron, a neuroscientist and the lead author of the study.

Now, the lab for this experiment wasn’t the classic fluorescent lights, white coats and goggles setup. Instead, the LIVElab space was converted into an electronic dance music concert, and EDM duo Orphx performed live for volunteers adorned with headbands that had a motion capture sensor.

The lab was equipped with special special speakers that can play a very low frequency bass, undetectable to the human ear. The set lasted about an hour, and researchers introduced that very low bass every 2.5 minutes, and found that the concertgoers moved more when the speakers were on – even though they couldn’t hear it.

“It’s the inner-ear structures that give us a sense of where our head is in space,” he said. “That system is sensitive to low-frequency stimulation, especially if it’s loud.”

“We also know that our tactile system, that’s our sense of touch … is also sensitive to low-frequency stimulation, low-frequency sound.”…

“And that’s feeding into our motor system in the brain, the movement control system in our brain,” Cameron said. “So it’s adding a little bit of gain. It’s giving a little more energy … from that stimulation through those systems.”…

What makes us dance? It really is all about that bass,” from @NPR.

For more on ultra-low frequency sounds and their effects, see “How low can you go?“; and lest we think this phenomenon restricted to humans, “Watch These Rats ‘Dance’ to the Rhythms of Mozart, Lady Gaga, and Queen.”

Leo Fender

###

As we go low, we might recall that it was on this date in 1792, during George Washington’s first term as president, that the first edition of The Farmer’s Almanac was published.  (It became The Old Farmer’s Almanac in 1832 to distinguish itself from similarly-titled competitors.)  Still going strong, it is the oldest continuously-published periodical in the U.S.

Almanac

source

Written by (Roughly) Daily

November 25, 2022 at 1:00 am

“There is only one recipe for a best seller and it is a very simple one. You have to get the reader to turn over the page.”*…

Turns out, as Jordan Pruett explains, that while page-turning is necessary, it’s not sufficient…

In 1983, William Blatty—author of The Exorcist—sued the New York Times. His lawsuit alleged that the Times had incorrectly excluded his latest novel, Legion (a sequel to The Exorcist), from its bestseller list—the coveted ranking that purports to show the books that have sold the most copies that week in the United States. According to Blatty’s lawyers, Legion had sold enough copies to warrant a spot on the list, so its absence was due to negligence or fraud, for which Blatty was entitled to compensation. The Times countered with what might sound like a surprising admission: the bestseller list is not mathematically objective; it is editorial content, which is protected by the First Amendment. The court ruled in favor of the New York Times.

The Blatty case draws attention to a fundamental truth about bestseller lists, one that often gets forgotten amid the drama of their weekly publication: they are not a neutral window into what the public is really reading. Rather, they reflect editorial decisions about how and what to count. Changes on the list might reflect changes in counting procedure, rather than changes in the market. Despite their lack of neutrality—or, perhaps, because of it—these editorial and counting decisions can have a big effect on which books and authors get the honor of appearing on the list; in turn, they shape the public’s perception of what it is reading and what it should consider reading next.

In this piece, I want to explore one way such decisions have affected the Times list over its almost 90-year publication history: the separation of sales by book format (hardcover, paperback). In the 1950s and 1960s, the fact that the Times exclusively publicized hardcover sales meant that some of the most popular novelists of the time rarely appeared on the list, because they made most of their sales in paperback. Today, the Times publishes distinct lists for different formats, and the content of these lists often reflects status hierarchies associated with different genres and communities of readers.

It turns out, then, that “bestseller” is a more complicated category than you might at first think. Though its name seems to refer to something very straightforward, there are all sorts of weird historical factors and counting choices that affect whether a book might make the cut. Given the influence of the Times list, it’s worth examining the effects of the choices made when assembling it, and what they can tell us about the kinds of information about books we consider valuable…

What’s in and what’s left out- @pruett_jordan brings the data: “What Counts as a Bestseller?” in @PublicBooks.

* Ian Fleming

###

As we (re-)count what counts, we might recall that it was on this date in 1955 that The Return of the King, the third and final volume of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, was published. While it never made the bestseller list in its hardcover edition, the trilogy has become a classic– and a bestseller– with over 150 million copies sold.

source

Written by (Roughly) Daily

October 20, 2022 at 1:00 am

“When you read a book, the story definitely happens inside your head. When you listen, it seems to happen in a little cloud all around it, like a fuzzy knit cap pulled down over your eyes.”*…

Audiobooks are on the rise. Karl Berglund explores what that might mean to literature, literacy, and the business of publishing…

For an increasing number of people, reading means listening to streamed audio files through a smartphone. The audiobook has a long history, of course, but what is new is its commercial impact: For the first time, audiobooks can no longer be seen as a niche market. Now, the audio medium competes with print books and ebooks for the attention of book readers in a large and diverse range of national book markets. Most people in the book trade believe that the audiobook share will continue to grow in the coming years. According to the Association of American Publishers (AAP), 8.1 percent of the revenues of the total US book trade in 2021 came from audiobooks. This figure can be compared to ebooks (11.6 percent), but also to change over time: in fact, it is audiobooks—in contrast to all other book formats—that have shown a rapid and steady increase over the past ten years.

The audiobook boom is altering the book business and reading culture. It provides opportunities for people to read more and in new ways, but it also affects how “reading” can be understood. In highlighting the complexities of popular fiction reading, Janice Radway once famously objected to the metaphor of consumption when equated with reading. Reading is not a passive thing, she claimed. I agree, and a multitude of readership scholars have convincingly proved this to be true: reading is active, participatory, social.

But thanks to audiobooks, we might need to update this reasoning. In fact, some of the audiobook practices surfacing indeed seem to be exactly this: passive. One can easily pose the argument that the rise of audiobooks is a sign of an ongoing crisis of our book culture, where people no longer actively engage in books but lend them half an ear as a mere distraction while doing something else. People are reading while doing the dishes, driving, working out, sleeping, etc. Can such practices really be regarded as reading? In any case, passivity must be a problem for literature, right?

In one sense, it is true. But it is also not true, since print-book sales are not dropping when audiobook streams are skyrocketing. Perhaps audiobooks are not primarily competing with print books and ebooks, but with podcasts and other audio media? If this is so, audiobooks could be regarded not as a threat to our book culture but, rather, as a defender. Well, I don’t believe that to be the case either. But I do believe that audiobooks are about to fundamentally change our reading habits.

In fact, what appears to be happening is rather that people are expanding how they make use of books. Or, if you will, expanding what reading is, and what it can be…

Read on for Berglund’s explication: “Audiobooks: Every Minute Counts,” in @PublicBooks.

Tangentially apposite (albeit not your correspondent’s sentiment): “Good riddance to long books.”

* Robin Sloan, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

###

As we muse on metamorphosis, we might spare a thought for Edwin Abbott Abbott; he died on this date in 1926. A schoolmaster, theologian, and Anglican priest, he is best known as the author of the classic 1884 novella Flatland (c.f. also here and here)… a book that it’s hard to imagine consuming aurally…

source

Written by (Roughly) Daily

October 12, 2022 at 1:00 am

“Man is the only animal whose desires increase as they are fed; the only animal that is never satisfied.”*…

(Roughly) Daily readers have encountered Henry George here before. An economist who wrote late in the 19th century, he was hugely influential in his time and into the early 20th century. Indeed, his philosophy was the inspiration for (original) version of the game Monopoly. Michael Kinsley argues that we should take another look…

So, you’re a Silicon Valley billionaire and you’ve already got the private plane. What you need next is a philosophy, something to live by, and to help finance, and—most important—to use to explain or justify yourself. Don’t just grab the next philosophy to come along. Chances are that will be Ayn Rand and her extreme form of capitalism, which she called objectivism.

Rand has a lot going for her, to be sure. First, you may have actually read her in high school and may have been genuinely influenced. Second, in a nutshell, she rationalizes greed, which you have nothing against. Third, she was into mildly kinky sex—something else you may have in common. Fourth, she was associated in some way you don’t quite follow with Alan Greenspan, who is respectability itself, whatever other Rand enthusiasts may have been up to.

But you’re too late. Ayn Rand, who never was really undiscovered (The Fountainhead became a movie, starring Gary Cooper as a heroic architect, a few years after it was published), has by now been thoroughly re-discovered. According to James Stewart (the prominent business journalist, not the even more prominent actor), writing in The New York Times, President Trump says Ayn Rand is his favorite writer and that The Fountainhead, her pulmonary embolism of a book, is his favorite novel. Travis Kalanick, the onetime Übermensch of Uber, is on board, as is (liberal foodies, please note) John Mackey, co-founder and C.E.O. of Whole Foods.

My dear billionaire, you need an economist almost no one has heard of. One who addressed the most pressing problems of today, which do not include the insufficient greed of rich people. But one who was not completely out of sympathy with rich people, either.

May I nominate Henry George (1839–97)—economist, pamphleteer, journalist? Once famous, he is now widely forgotten. He described himself as a man who came out of the great American West, which he did—but only after he got there via Philadelphia, where he was born. He later moved to New York City, ran for mayor, and attracted 10,000 people to a political rally (but lost nonetheless). He made the best-ever short defense of free trade: You wouldn’t fill your harbor with rocks to keep out goods your citizens want to buy, would you? Well, that’s what you’re doing when you slap tariffs on imports.

George’s masterwork, published in 1879, was Progress and Poverty, which set forth to explain how “increase of want” could go hand in hand with “increase of wealth.” Thus George took on precisely the question we face today: not the general question of poverty or inequity, but why specifically are middle-class incomes stagnating, and incomes of people at the bottom falling, while those at the top continue to rise?

George was no vulgar Marxist. You might call him a “supply-side socialist.” All products of the economy, he reasoned, are ultimately derived from three sources: labor, capital, and land. What else is there? Labor and capital are both productive. Put them to work and you end up with more. But land is different. As the man said, “They aren’t making any more of it.” When you work for an hour, you increase society’s wealth (and your own) by an hour’s worth of wages. When you save a dollar rather than spending it, you increase society’s (and your own) wealth by a dollar. But when you buy a piece of land for $10,000 and sell it for $20,000, you haven’t increased the total wealth of society by a nickel. Yet the price of land keeps going up, up, up, as the population increases and society grows richer. Where does that money come from? It comes from the pockets of the other two factors of production, labor and capital.

George distinguished, in other words, between the capitalist who is truly productive and the capitalist who is simply a “landlord.”… You’ve got to think of “land” as a metaphor for all unproductive forms of capitalism. Much of the financial industry, for example: hedge funds, private equity, I.P.O.’s and I.R.A.’s. Some might defend finance as an industry that makes the making of what other industries make more efficient. But when you read that Goldman Sachs is getting some enormous fee for fuck-all or that two companies are merging that unmerged a few years ago and will unmerge again in a few years, you gotta wonder…

Henry George’s theories might have something to offer people who want to put their money to good use today: “The Obscure Economist Silicon Valley Billionaires Should Dump Ayn Rand For,” from @michaelkinsley in @VanityFair. Eminently worth reading in full and pondering.

* Henry George (who, to Kinsley’s observation that he might be considered a “supply-side socialist,” also said: “Laissez faire (in its full true meaning) opens the way to the realization of the noble dreams of socialism.”

###

As we return to first principles, we might recall that it was on this date in 1996 that Oprah Winfrey launched Oprah’s Book Club (with he then recently published novel The Deep End of the Ocean by Jacquelyn Mitchard). In total the club recommended 70 books during its 15 years in its original (Oprah Winfrey Show form), and has subsequently been revived via OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network, O, The Oprah Magazine, and Apple TV.

While the selections have occasionally generated some controversy (e.g., Michale Franzen, James Frey), they have for the most part been warmly– and enthusiastically– received, adding massive sales to the chosen titles. Indeed (per Business Week), publishers estimate that her power to sell a book is anywhere from 20 to 100 times that of any other media personality.

This year, Oprah was awarded the PEN/Faulkner Literary Champion award, which “recognizes a lifetime of devoted literary advocacy and a commitment to inspiring new generations of readers and writers.”

Eckhart Tolle joins Oprah to discuss his book A New Earth, which went on to sell 3,370,000 copies (source)

Written by (Roughly) Daily

September 17, 2022 at 1:00 am

%d bloggers like this: