Monday, March 05, 2012

MediaWeek (V5, N10): The Monkees, PayPal, Self-Publishing, Jeff Bezos + More

I was never that aware of The Monkees but the passing of Davy Jones generated a lot of reminiscing.  Mrs. PND recalls the time her Dad brought home the record - unprompted - becoming 'cool' in the process and in the last few days she has DVR'd what must be 24hrs worth of the show.  Here some thoughts from Neil McCormick at The Telegraph:
One of the most remarkable things about the Monkees is that the show, like the band itself, was sophisticated enough to be open to interpretation. Watching those endless repeats in my teens, I formed further ideas of the pop process. The myth of the Monkees is one of the great myths of pop culture: the manufactured band rebelling against svengali manipulators, briefly shining before burning up in the fires of ego. We see the same story played out again and again in the “real” pop world, from the Bay City Rollers to the Spice Girls, but with The Monkees, we can watch it happen in repeat, from the zany innocence of the TV series to the mad rush of their self-immolating movie, Head, in which the band attempted to break free of their constraints by exposing their own essential fiction, but only ended up destroying the illusion that sustained them.
All of this is really sustained, however, by genuinely fantastic music that has, remarkably, stood the test of time. The miracle of The Monkees is that this exploitative, manipulative, derivative children TV series was underpinned by brilliant pop songs, written to order by some of the great writers of the era (from Neil Diamond to Goffin and King), framed in colourful arrangements that captured the happy essence of the band’s spirit, performed with conviction and emotion. Last Train To Clarksville, I’m A Believer, Randy Scouse Git, Pleasant Valley Sunday … these are songs of such dynamic originality they put the imaginary band shoulder to shoulder with the heroes they were imitating.
PayPal the censorship enforcer?  Stranger than fiction as PayPal says it will strike off certain self-publishers (Independent):
From now on, the firm said, it will begin aggressively prohibiting erotic literature which contains scenes of bestiality, rape, incest and under-age sex. Ebook websites that sell such works will have their PayPal accounts deactivated. "It's underhanded, unfair and ludicrous, and it bodes badly for the future of free speech and expression," said Juillerat-Olvera, adding that Demon's Grace is now banned by self-publishing sites.
Mark Coker, the founder of Smashwords, one of the world's largest such sites, said the announcement has so far caused roughly 1,000 of the 100,000 novels that he stocks to be withdrawn from sale. "Regardless of whether you or I want to read these books, this is perfectly legal fiction and people have a right to publish it," he told The Independent on Sunday. "It surely isn't for some financial services company to control what is written by an author."
Mr Coker said that attempting to enforce PayPal's effective ban is likely to be impossible. "They say they won't have rape, bestiality or incest presented in a way that might titillate. But deciding what constitutes titillation is completely subjective," he said. "The Bible has incest in it, and rape. Nabokov's literature does. Should we ban the sale of those books?"
Articles about Self-publishing and the death of traditional publishing are as freckles on a haole.  Here's an interesting take from Atlantic author Alan Jacobs
But one of the illusions most common to writers -- an illusion that may make the long slow slog of writing possible, for many people -- is that an enormous audience is out there waiting for the wisdom and delight that I alone can provide, and that the Publishing System is a giant obstacle to my reaching those people. Thus the dream that digital publishing technologies will indeed "disintermediate" -- will eliminate that obstacle and connect me directly to what Bugs Bunny calls "me Public." (See "Bully for Bugs".) And we have heard just enough unexpected success stories to keep that dream alive.
Well, here's hoping. But a couple of months ago I decided to dip my toes into these waters: I wrote a longish essay called "Reverting to Type" about my own history as a reader -- a kind of personal epilogue to The Pleasures of Reading -- and decided to submit it as a Kindle Single. Amazon wasn't interested, so I decided to publish it myself using Kindle Direct Publishing. I announced its existence to the world: that is, I posted a link on my tumblelog and tweeted about it. A few people downloaded it; some pointed out typos that I had missed, but that a copy editor surely would have caught. I thought about ways to promote it better but haven't been able to come up with anything other than becoming a self-promoting jerk on Twitter. Last time I checked it had sold 98 copies.
And from the BBC, no more boring waffle (BBC):
Buy an e-book through, say, a Kindle, and one of the first things you will notice is that the length of the text itself is nowhere to be seen. Unlike a hardback, an e-book doesn’t have to have 250 pages any more than it has to cost a set amount, or sit handsomely on your shelf. There are some great losses wrapped up in these facts. As far as actually writing a book goes, though, the digital format has one significant advantage over the physical: it is much harder to get away with producing boring waffle.
...
Buy an e-book through, say, a Kindle, and one of the first things you will notice is that the length of the text itself is nowhere to be seen. Unlike a hardback, an e-book doesn’t have to have 250 pages any more than it has to cost a set amount, or sit handsomely on your shelf. There are some great losses wrapped up in these facts. As far as actually writing a book goes, though, the digital format has one significant advantage over the physical: it is much harder to get away with producing boring waffle.
From the Economist:
Taking the long view - Jeff Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Amazon, owes much of his success to his ability to look beyond the short-term view of things.
Mr Bezos’s willingness to take a long-term view also explains his fascination with space travel, and his decision to found a secretive company called Blue Origin, one of several start-ups now building spacecraft with private funding. It might seem like a risky bet, but the same was said of many of Amazon’s unusual moves in the past. Successful firms, he says, tend to be the ones that are willing to explore uncharted territories. “Me-too companies have not done that well over time,” he observes.
Eyebrows were raised, for example, when Amazon moved into the business of providing cloud-computing services to technology firms—which seemed an odd choice for an online retailer. But the company has since established itself as a leader in the field. “A big piece of the story we tell ourselves about who we are is that we are willing to invent,” Mr Bezos told shareholders at Amazon’s annual meeting last year. “And very importantly, we are willing to be misunderstood for long periods of time.”
Could they have made Jeff's eyes more freaky in that image?

From the Twitter this week:

Librarians Feel Sticker Shock as Prices for Random House Ebooks Rise 300 Percent -

College Publishing Comes of Age: Highlights of the BISG Higher Education Conference (BookBus)

Jackie Collins experiments with self-publishing The Bitch Hilarious headline. So is "Queen of bonkbuster"

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