Archive for August, 2011

Seltzer Water and Venus

The things I learn.  I’ve been doing a watch through of Cosmos lately, and got to the episode on Venus.  I listened closely as Sagan recounted a history of the theories about Venus.  Naturally it started with the one I was the most familiar with, the theory that the cloud cover of Venus must be water vapor clouds (the only kind known to humanity at the time).  Therefore Venus must be a wet world, covered either with a primordial swamp or made up entirely of a planet-wide ocean.

I know I’ve talked about this theory before.  I’m even working on a story right now around the theory, and it’s a fun write.

But then it went on.  As we became more sophisticated in our science, humanity came to learn there was not water vapor around Venus, but that the cloud layer that covered the planet was, by and large, carbon dioxide.  However, just because one part of our knowledge of Venus was proven wrong doesn’t mean that we abandoned other parts.  People were still convinced that Venus was covered in an ocean, but with carbon dioxide skies.

So logically, there must also be a lot of CO2 in the water.

So therefore Venus must be covered by an ocean of seltzer water.

This is what I love about old scientific theories.  Sometimes they made fantastic leaps to answers that seem absurd to us today, but each was through a series of seemingly logical steps.  Clouds meant water.  Water meant oceans.  CO2 meant seltzer.  And they open up to us worlds that feel unimaginable, but at points in human history have been seen as “fact.”  Perhaps not by the world at large, but by anybody.  And these factual worlds make for just awesome story settings.

Adding now to my list of titles-first-plots-later stories:  Pirates of the Seltzer Seas.

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Eat This: America Eats Tavern

Typically I use the Eat This segments of this blog to talk about my own cooking exploits, but today it’s about eating exploits.  This weekend, as a belated second anniversary dinner, my wife and I had the opportunity to try the America Eats Tavern, the latest DC offering by our favorite restauranteur Jose Andres (yes, I’ve reached a point in life where I have a favorite restauranteur, and I’m actually okay with that).  His is the mind behind Jaleo, Oyamel, and Cafe Atlantico, the latter of which has gone away in favor of America Eats.  This means I’ve now sampled all his DC restaurants except Zaytinya and the ultra hard to get into Minibar (one day…one day).

America Eats is meant to be a companion restaurant to a display currently at the National Archives about the history of food and the United States Government, and its menu features a combination of American classics does the Andres way, and old recipes that have disappeared.  The highlight of the latter is the catsup menu that we did not have an opportunity to try, but features older versions of the modern sweet-and-sour sauce, including a thinner tomato version and a blackberry catsup that I would love to find the recipe for.  It’s also unusual for an Andres restaurant as it’s not built around small plates, though I have heard tell tales of people who treat the appetizer menu like a typical Andres menu.  Instead it’s built around five courses: Oysters, Appetizers, Soups and Salads, Entrees, and Desserts.

Neither my wife or I has ever developed a taste of Oysters, so we skipped straight to the appetizers.  I can’t pass up hush puppies, though I was tempted by the presence of a PB&J on the menu.  My wife had a vermicelli pudding described as the “grandfather” of modern mac and cheese.  Jaleo has proven Andres knows his way around a fritter, and the hush puppies reinforce that.  They were much lighter than a typical hush puppy, and had a fantastic corn flavor with whole kernels visible in each bite.  If I could have changed one thing, I would have liked a little honey in the butter, but unquestionably the best hush puppies I’ve had.  My wife’s vermicelli pudding was a light mac and cheese, but with angel hair pasta and Parmesan cheese, and a fantastic crust.  Really, the phrase “fantastic crust” is going to come up a lot in this review.  The kitchen was quite adept in making things crunch that other restaurants forget should crunch.

Next course.  I got a watermelon salad with crab cake.  The crab cake again had that nice crust, just a slight char to the bottom that seals in all the flavor.  Unfortunately the sauce served with it was a touch salty for my taste.  The salad, however, was the star of the plate, and I almost wish I’d gotten twice as much of that instead of the crab cake.  The salad combined four cubes of sweet in-season watermelon, pickled rind, microgreens, and goat cheese.  Followers of this blog and the Eat This segments already know my opinion of goat cheese.  My wife had a peanut soup, a thinner version based on an old recipe.  She enjoyed it, but in her words wasn’t surprised the recipe had gone out of favor.

On to the entrees.  We passed up a two-person steak called the buffalo tomahawk, but saw several, and if you want some steak absolutely get it and split it.  It’s a full pound of buffalo that starts purple when it goes onto the grill and gets served with a giant bone handle, thus the name.  Instead my wife got the short ribs and I got the Lobster Newberg.  It’s hard to really heap additional praise on lobster.  It is, afterall, lobster.  It was served with an interesting side, almost a large crouton with chopped lobster meat in the middle and a poached quail egg on top.  The short ribs, again, perfect crust.  There was a crunchy char on the outside, with the meat inside as tender a piece of beef as I’ve tasted.

Then…dessert.  Two weeks ago, closer to our actual anniversary, we went to Jaleo in Crystal City (have I mentioned we love the Andres restaurants?).  When the waitress there heard we had reservations for America Eats she insisted we had to try the cheesecake.  That’s one of my go to desserts on a menu anyway, so I went into the dinner already knowing that’s what I would get.  It was entirely unlike a cheesecake I’ve had before.  The filling was the texture of whipped cream, the crust was like a graham cracker crumble, and the whole was garnished with raspberries.  It was an absolute dream.  My wife got a Vermont dessert called “sugar on snow” which, in its simplest form, is maple syrup served over snow or crushed ice.  In Jose Andres’s head, it’s that but also with maple candy, brown sugar cane, and other little fruity and sweet surprises hiding under the small mounds of shaved ice.

I can’t overlook the drinks menu, which has seen just as much thought go into it as the food.  I had a classic cocktail called a Milk Punch, made with citrus juices and brandy.  My wife had a Moscow Mule served in a proper copper cup.  But perhaps more interesting were the non-alcoholic drinks.  Several classic sodas, including Cheerwine and Moxie, are available.  There are a selection of classic soda fountain drinks.  My wife picked a Dublin Dr. Pepper from the former, I picked a lactart from the latter.  Dublin, for those who don’t know, is the last Dr. Pepper bottling plant using the original recipe.  It’s like what you remember Dr. Pepper tasting like as a child, when the flavor was new and everything seemed more intense.  The lactart was a lactic acid soured drink with a fruity flavor and good two inch head of foam.  I have an uncanny ability to find the pinkest, frothiest drink on any menu, alcoholic or not.

We spent the evening seated at what would be, for my money, the be the best table in the house.  The entire restaurant is built in what feels like an old row house, so it’s a very vertical space with lots of half floors.  The kitchen is on the second floor, and there are two dining rooms each a half floor up before Minibar at the very top.  We were on the half floor above the kitchen, right on the railing, so we had an eagle eye view of everything being cooked, as well as a view of every bit of food going one more flight up the stairs.  Even had a server stop and show us what he was carrying up when I looked clearly interested in the fizzing glass on his tray.  Very well done on his part.

I’m gushing, I know.  In the end, the meal and the atmosphere give me no reasons not to gush.  It was the big things, and even the little touches, like checks delivered as bookmarks in classic volumes rather than the traditional leather bifolds.  By my understanding it’s a short-term space, keyed around the Archives exhibit.  So if you get the chance, please go.  Reservations are tough, we got ours a month in advance and even then had to settle for 5:45pm on a Sunday, but they’re certainly not Minibar tough.

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Google+ Double Down

First, a video posted last week on the official Google+ YouTube channel:

What’s that sound you hear when you push the play button?  That’s the sound of Google+ doubling down on their real name policy.

I’ve been on Google+ for just under a month now, and I’ve yet to receive any official harassment over my use of two initial in place of my real first name on my account.  But I also came online between the time that Google was under initial fire over their heavy handed assault on pseudonyms on their service and this new restatement of their policy.  I’m not sure how thoroughly they’re looking through accounts looking for people like me, but it would seem a trivial matter to make a bit of code that would spit out all accounts with two capital letters as a first name.

So are they looking for me?  I don’t know.  Will they find me?  I can’t say.  Will they care?  That’s obviously the most important of the questions.

Part of the problem is an apparent internal contradiction in their own name policy.  At first they offer the ability to use a nickname as your first name:

Google+ makes connecting with people on the web more like connecting with people in the real world. Because of this, it’s important to use your common name so that the people you want to connect with can find you. Your common name is the name your friends, family or co-workers usually call you. For example, if your legal name is Charles Jones Jr. but you normally use Chuck Jones or Junior Jones, any of these would be acceptable.

But later (emphasis mine):

If you use your full name, you’ll be able to connect with people you know and help them find you. Names that consist primarily of initials or those that include indications of membership in professional, educational, societal or religious entities, such as “Dr.”, “Rev.” or “JD” are not allowed in the first or last name fields. Names that include more than one language script aren’t allowed either.

So name variations are okay, except when they’re potentially not because they “consist primarily of initials.”  That word, “primarily,” is an odd choice.  Especially as opposed to a word like “entirely”.  Does a first or last name replaced with letters end up “primarily” made of initials?  There’s rumors of some clarifications of this policy allowing the use of initials as long as they are the correct initials, but this is me looking directly at their stated real name policy, which really is where they have to clarify issues.

There’s a bit of a war of words online that has heated up again due to the restatement of policy.  I’m not trying to be part of that here, largely because I’m using a pseudonym for marketing purposes, not for any actual worry of online harassment caused by me linking my online and offline personas (whatever that means anymore…and interesting that Firefox spell check doesn’t consider persona as a word that can be pluralized).  As with the last time I wrote about the policy, I can understand these concerns, and this isn’t a field that I’m going to wade into because I’m just not qualified to talk about it.  I’m also not trying to equate me wanting to use DL instead of David to create a little online separation from other David Thurstons with someone trying to escape physical abuse and still try to enjoy online social media.

There are plenty of people defending Google in this case, espousing their right to make people sign up for their service however the hell they want to.  And that’s perfectly correct.  I also have the right to ban anyone here from commenting if I don’t like their user name, their content, or the like.  And in both cases, people have a right not to use a website if they don’t like the terms of service.

But that doesn’t mean that people also don’t have the right to speak out against those terms of services if they disagree with them.  And here’s where the issues hit.  Yes, Google has the right to control their user base, but they’ve become so big and are trying to link so many products together that to not listen to concerns on issues such as the pseudonym issue is going to make them look tone deaf, and will ultimately drive people away from their services.  Will it be enough to hurt the company?  Perhaps not.  But I would hope that a company founded around the concept of “do more evil” would care about something other than the bottom line when making decisions like this one.

And in the end, it’ll still likely come down to a judgement call by someone, because the only thing that an algorithm can flag is plausible sounding names.  They can search for symbols, search for key words that are unlikely parts of names (common vulgarities, say), search for initials, but in the end someone using the pseudonym *BunnyLover12* is going to stand out while someone using the pseud0nym Ezekiel Spaulding will fly under the radar.  That means, in the end, that the pseudonym policy can only ever be unfairly or unequally enforced by Google unless they require some personal verification from the word go to make sure that everyone is exactly who they say they are, rather than relying on tracking people down who are already signed up and using the service.

So I will persist on Google+, largely out of a curiosity to see what will happen to my account, probably using it lightly as though tip toeing over uncertain terrain.  If I survive the next two weeks, especially with the double down in effect, I’ll see it as a tacit approval of my account name, as well as a tacit approval of accounts using their first and middle initials in place of a first name.  And if I get hit with a change name order?  Oh, you’ll hear about it, don’t worry.

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New #flashathon Information

It’s been two weeks since the initial announcement of #flashathon, and last night was the first chance I could get together with my co-conspirators to work on the plan.  Then things exploded, and I’m still trying to sort it all out.  Basically I’ve come up with an idea that several people see a lot of potential in and are going to try to make as successful as possible.

It’s exciting and intimidating at the same time.

So the new details.  We’re going to officially break down the levels of participation into three badges:

  • 2-5 hours: Barefoot
  • 6-11 hours: Topless
  • 12 hours: Full Monty

Yes, we’re going full steam ahead with the dual meanings of “flash”.    We may also give out additionally badges throughout the following two weeks, as we all have time to sleep, take deep breaths, and actually read those stories that are posted.  We’re not sure exactly what those badges will be.  Some we’ll make public, if people want to try for them.  Some we might keep secret, or even make up on the fly.  Because it’s working for everything else so far.

Through some string pulling and massaging of networks we’re also going to see how many “guest cues” we can get through the course of the event, people other than myself who will offer up an inspiring couple of sentences and the word for that hour.  This is the part that intimidates me, but I’ve got a short list of people and am leaving the bulk of this to those with far better networking skills than I.  Hopefully I’ll have some names to announce in September.

We’re deciding how best to host the event.  My plan was through a series of posts on this blog, which should be able to handle a traffic spike of the type I’m expecting.  Unleaded will be the emergency fallback site.  I’ll make sure all posts are tagged to the Flashathon category (and keep that as clean as possible of other posts) and will keep updating the tab at the top.  Today’s update will include some disclaimers.

Date and time still hold.  October 22, Noon-Midnight eastern time.  I’m hoping to get a fun crowd of people!  C’mon and join us!

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Fortnightcap: With Apologies

With Apologies

A Fortnightcap by DL Thurston

Creative Commons License

Ah how the sake did flow.

We’d gathered for a celebration in the great hall, among the jade and gold sculptures and tapestries that hung along the walls.  It was a room that promised decadence, and we delivered.  The battle had been long and hard, many good men lay dead on the fields.  Around me were the surviving samurais, cloaks stained in blood.  The blood of enemies, the blood of friends, their own blood, it all mingled together into dried brown stains.  Their swords were clean, they’d seen to that.

We drank to their brothers, we drank to their foes, we drank to the lord of the shogunate, lost in the battle and assumed dead.  But his land was secure, and in his place his son would rise and rule.

It had been an honor to fight along side them.  To see them in action.  To follow their code and defend their lands.

Again the servers went to the giant cask rolled out for the celebration, plunging ladles farther and farther down, bringing out more of the sweet drink that fueled the festivities.  It had a bite, but it was a pleasant one trimmed with the taste of plums.

Finally the cask was emptied, and the samurai and their attendants lefts one by one until there were just three of us left enjoying stories that translated past our language barriers, laughing at jokes that we couldn’t understand.  I’d hoped for one more drink, and looked down into the cask, hoping there might be just a few drops of the sweet rice wine left.  I was aware it was from the private reserve of the feudal lord of these lands, the man they toasted, intended only for his lips.  None had thought twice about opening the cask, to celebrate his life and mark his passing.

I looked deep, but alas it was gone.  As were, when I looked up, my friends.  Instead there stood the man we toasted, the owner of this hall, the owner of the sake, not dead but triumphantly stained with the blood of his enemies, limping into the hall.

That’s when I learned a lesson the hard way.  There’s nothing more dangerous than standing alone, staring down the barrel of a shogun.

Fortnightcaps are biweekly experimentation into short form fiction. All Fortnightcaps are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. So if you like the story, please feel free to link people back here. And if you didn’t, maybe the one in two weeks will be better.

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Anthologius Interruptus

Before anyone freaks out, this isn’t about either of the anthologies I’m currently in line for, nor any anthology I currently have a submission off to.  Rather it’s about my first experience with anthology publication, one that rather surprised me.  And one that’s come to mind now that I’ve executed my second ever publishing contract.

This was several years ago, right after my now wife and I moved into our first apartment together.  I know because I was still using the desktop that has now been doubly replaced.  I crafted a short story during a writing exercise called Sleep, an odd little story told entirely through dialogue about someone struggling with insomnia.  It was an oddly quick write for me, the whole thing really just gelled in my head when I got a prompt card that said “insomnia.”  I submitted it to CVS to beta read, and it came back largely clean.

Then someone pointed out an anthology called Until Someone Loses and Eye, looking for dark humor.  It fit, so I sent it off.  Right as I was about to give up on hearing back, I got the word.  The story was accepted.  First short story ever submitted, first short story ever accepted.  I didn’t really know what I was doing at the time.  I saw a bunch of the writers actually had websites, I didn’t.  Heck, I didn’t even know how to get it published under a pseudonym at the time, if it went to print the byline would have been “David Thurston.”  I got a contract in the mail, filled it out and sent it back the same day, I was just that damned excited about the whole thing.  The next step was to be something called edits, but then the unexpected happened.

I never heard back.

I’m not sure exactly what happened to the anthology.  The website for both it and the publisher eventually vanished.  I don’t even remember the name of the publisher, and I’m only about 80% sure I’ve got the anthology name correct (I think even they altered the wording slightly in different places).  The contract specified that after a year the rights would revert back to me, which happened without any real to do.

See, this is something that never occurred to me.  I never realized that an anthology might just evaporate, never come to be.  They were supposed to be these magically guaranteed things, you got accepted, and then a few months to a year later your story would be in print.  It was an odd lesson to learn as a young writer as it’s a lesson I never thought needed learning.

After that I stopped sending short stories out for the longest time.  This wasn’t due to the anthology cancellation being a bad experience, it’s just that I didn’t see myself as a short story writer then, wasn’t working on any, and thus didn’t have any to send out.  I only really had one story older than Sleep, and that’s actually the one that I just signed a contract for, though after many revisions.

I wonder if this will be less of a problem going forward in the digital world, more anthologies are being planned as ebooks with only secondary print publication.  Strikes me that there’s less to go wrong, less to get in the way of publication, but that’s only me looking from the outside of the process.  But it does happen, and often enough that other writers I talked to about the experience weren’t surprised to hear the story.  But I’m telling it again anyway, just because I haven’t in so long, and because perhaps someone out there will read this who operated under the same misconceptions I did years ago.

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Why Not To Help

I learned my lesson this weekend, and I learned it hard.  I was helping my wonderful wife work on the plot for her new book when, in a series of random statements, I brought together the monster for the book.  And let me tell you, it is the ultimate monster for a time travel book.  From what we were able to tell doing some online research, it’s also a fairly unique idea (I’m never for a second pretend there are any truly unique ideas anymore, at least ones worth actually using).

So what did I ultimately do?

I, the horror writer, created the best monster I’ve ever created…and gave it to someone else.

This.  This is why you should never help anyone, or ever agree to participate in brain storming or plot noodling sessions.

Alright, no, I don’t really mean that.  But it’s one of those odd dangers that comes with participating in any kind of brainstorming session with other writers.  Sometimes you’ll end up letting a good idea go, and sometimes a great idea will flow back to you.  Some of the best elements that I’ve put into stories were ones that my wife gave me, ideas I would have never had on my own.  It can bring out new ways of connecting ideas together, new approaches to ideas.  As writers we’ve always got to be open to other approaches, which means understanding that we’ll occasionally give up a beautiful idea.

Yeah, that’s stuff that really shouldn’t even need to be said.  Help.  Accept help.  Oddly, it does.  But this post also serves a more sinister purpose.  It’s going to be step one towards me guilting the hell out of her if she takes this awesome idea but never finishes the book.

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Sale!

Yes yes, I’ve bounced from Twitter to Google+ and now to here with this news, but it’s big damn news, and I hope I never stop getting this excited about selling a story.  Not sure if I can say who the sale was to quite yet, I feel it’s the editor’s prerogative to announce author lists.  I can tell you the anthology was the one that short listed me in July (for those who know which anthology that was), and it’s currently apparently around 85% full, so a final announcement should come soon.

Yeah, I hate being so cagey.  Except a small part of me doesn’t.  I’ll have a more complete announcement as soon as I can.

So that means this week I got the cover art and contract for Steam Works and now this news.  This has easily become the best week in my budding writing career.

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I was going to work on my novel, I really was

Look.  I even opened it up and added 900 words to it and everything!  And they were good words, as free of filtering as I’m capable and with nice sensory details while a character is trying to will himself to not go insane.  And it was a lot of fun getting back to it, even if I couldn’t remember a character’s name.

But see, here’s the problem.  Yesterday when driving into work I was listening to a podcast from the day the Atlantis landed.  That got me thinking about the future of manned space flight, and that a beta reader for one of my stories actually felt it was unbelievable that NASA was behind a manned spaceflight event in the story.  I’d meant to take “NASA” and “Houston” out of the story, but listening to the banter between mission control and Atlantis and thinking about that comment…it just got me bummed out about the future of space exploration.  I’ve already written that post, so I’m not going to get all maudlin about it right here.

Later in the day the news broke: there was new evidence of water on Mars.  This is the kind of big space news that tends to get me really excited, but when I was already bummed out about space it just made me realize that, oh sure, there was water.  But what else?  Where’s my Barsoom?  I was promised a Barsoom!  With canals, and intelligent life, and a breathable atmosphere.  And all the wonderful things that old pulp science fiction taught us about the solar system.

It was a golden age for the solar system.  Mars was inhabited.  Venus was a swampy world filled with dinosaurs.  There were gremlins on the moon.  The earth was hollow and inhabited both inside and out.  A planet orbited on the other side of the sun from us, right where we couldn’t see it.  The only bad news was for Phaeton, the poor demolished planet whose civilization was destroyed.

I have a series of stories that exist largely as titles that travel to many of these places.  Some of them have the earliest bits of plot outlined.  Others are just titles.  Yesterday I decided I needed to get to work on one of them.  Because I wanted a planet that was the way the late nineteenth century imagined it.  And there’s just not the right Kickstarter project getting ready to do that in reality, so fiction would have to make do.

So, see, I really had intended to walk away from short stories for a while and get back into my novel, but the short stories just pulled me right back in.  This new one is called The Ghosts of Venus, and is currently at 1400 words long.  And I’m loving it.  Loving it more than I’ve loved a first draft in a long time.  So that’s my new project, get this story written, and then decide where to go next.  Perhaps back to Capsule, or perhaps on to one of my other pulp title stories and hook up with the Mummies of Phaeton, the Devil Dogs of Inner Earth, or the Madmen of the Moon.  All of these have concepts behind them, all of them will be told one day.

Because sometimes you just want to make your own worlds.

Venus photo by JPL and NASA, released to public domain.

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Playing Dirty vs Playing Stupid

First, some required reading.  The Chicago Tribune has an opinion piece up looking at how publishers should be tackling declining print sales in the light of eBook readers.  Give it a read, it’s what I’m about to talk about.

Back?  Okay, good.

There is so much I reject about the premise of this piece that I hardly know where to start.  Perhaps breaking down my objections into a list.

Point the first.  Publishers don’t act as a monolithic force.  They just don’t.  They haven’t.  And I suspect they won’t.  And there’s never in my memory been a campaign generically for books.  That doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be, but it’s such a vague thing to be selling to the American public.  The comparison made in the article is to the pork council sitting down and raising pork’s public acceptance with their “Other White Meat” campaign.  But here’s the differences.  Pork is a much more specific product than books.  And there is a single monolithic entity that represents the entirety of the pork industry within the United States.  Books are not pork.  If anything books are meat, or perhaps food stuffs in general.

So while Pork: The Other White Meat worked, I don’t think that Meat: It’s Made of Animals or Food: That Stuff You Eat is as workable of a campaign.  And that’s partially the problem with the idea.  The piece is looking to create an awareness campaign for a broader category of commercial goods than has ever been made before.  Perhaps the closest example is Microsoft launching general “buy a PC ads,” but in the end those still boil down to being ads for Windows, not ads for PCs in general.  Any attempt to more generally advertise a broad market sector is typically done buy a retailer.  You don’t have a conglomeration of companies saying Movies: Come Watch Them!  No, you get AMC Theaters advertising.  You don’t get Electronics: Plug them in and Use them!  No, you get Best Buy or HHGregg ads.

Which really comes into point the second.

Point the second.  This isn’t a publishers issue, this is a book sellers issue.  The fight here is not publishers vs Kindle.  Publishers ARE Kindle.  Yes, there are now channels open that allow for easier direct publication of titles onto the Kindle, but those are a miniscule share of the market right now.  Books are made available for Kindle by publishers.  And in the end, publishers still make the money from them.  In some cases they’re making MORE money due to slightly less overhead.  So there is absolutely no financial advantage to a publisher advertising against the Kindle, much less publishers as a broad category doing so.

This is a book sellers issue.  If you want people advertising FOR books and AGAINST Kindles, it’s going to have to come from the brick and mortar stores.  This isn’t Publishers v Kindle, it’s Book Sellers v Amazon.  Just as it has been for the last decade.  Sure people are buying books directly from the Kindle, but I see no solid evidence that the sales losses are coming predominantly from retail sellers rather than from Amazon themselves.  If it is, as I suspect, “hurting” Amazon paper sales more, then it’s a net wash to the book sellers, and it means Amazon is probably pushing more product in the end (don’t over estimate the power of impulse buying).  If it is coming from the book sellers, the remaining behemoth is already fighting back with the Barnes & Noble Nook.

So in the end what we’re left with might not even be book sellers vs Amazon, but independent book sellers vs a tag team of Amazon and Barnes.  Which really has been the state of things, again, for the last decade or so.  And it’s a fight a lot of them initially lost.  But plenty have their niche, but that doesn’t mean that books are a niche product, which brings me conveniently to point the third.

Point the third.  Books won’t become vinyl unless they’re treated like vinyl.  Yes there’s still a market out there for records, actually honest to god literal records rather than “records” as a term for any music.  And the piece talks about them.  Talks about the audiophiles that love them.  But here’s the trick.  Even with audiophiles loving records, they’re a niche market.  Super niche.  You don’t have big box record stores anymore.  Big box music stores maybe carry a few dozen, usually hidden where only the chosen know where to find them.  Modeling books after vinyl when trying to craft a campaign to “save” books really just says that books have already lost.

They haven’t.

The death of Borders isn’t the death of books, it’s a result of years of mismanagement and ignoring problems at hand.  It could have happened to almost any company.  However, since it happened to a big box book store at the same time as the rise of Kindle makes it easy to paint this as Electronics-1, Books-0.  But that’s not right.  That’s not the score at all.  Barnes and Nobles, which actually approached the change in the book selling market intelligently, is doing just fine.  Their stock isn’t where it was, but it certainly isn’t falling into the abyss.  Those independent stores that survived the advent of the Big Box are fine.  Books are fine!  People want them, people buy them.

Do they buy as many?  Perhaps not.  But let’s get back to impulse buying.  People now have the ability to buy books right at their fingers.  Someone with a 3G Kindle can, on a whim, buy a book almost everywhere.  This is going to increase sales.  Yes, they’re electronic sales, but people are going to be reading, and they’re going to look for books when they want to continue on a certain subject or author and it’s not available electronically.  This isn’t the death of books.  Books aren’t in trouble.  Books don’t need some slick new pro-ecology message to stay alive, some new ad campaign.

Books: Those Things You Read.

Book sellers just need to be smart, they need to recognize that selling electronic readers is selling books.  And many have.  And they’re doing fine.  Borders killed itself, but the industry lives.

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