Saturday, June 07, 2014

The Return of the Prodigal Son?

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl's release this week has posed more questions than answers, answers that will have to wait until Bergdahl speaks up about the 5 years he spent in Afghanistan as a prisoner. The debate over Bergdahl's actions and President Obama releasing 5 top Taliban captains, 3 in Intelligence and 2 high ranking military officers, have become tangled as anything where Obama is involved gets tangled, polarizing the nation and clouding Bergdahl's return to the United States.

Though the two incidents are connected, keeping the issues separate is important.  No sense tarring Bergdahl and Obama with the same brush.

Bergdahl walked off his post 5 years ago and was reportedly asking questions of people in the nearby town how to find the Taliban. He found them, but he may not have found what he went looking for. His sympathy for the people and his feelings about US military forces being in Afghanistan seem to be tangled together. What he felt when he walked off his post, what he was trying to do, and what he actually found are serious questions at the heart of the matter.

People all over the country have mixed feelings about Bergdahl returning home and he has been characterized as a traitor to his country. Traitors seldom get welcome home parades and people lining up to shaek their hands and pat them on the back. How could they when Bergdahl's actions have put him under a very dark and dangerous cloud? I sympathize, but at some point people need to be willing to sit back and wait for answers, listen to Bergdahl's story, and reserve judgment until he has faced a military tribunal.

I welcome Bergdahl home and I hope his health improves. He may not have found the welcome he expected when he walked off his post. He made a mistake.

There is also the possibility that Bergdahl has gone over to the other side and is now working for the Taliban as a sort of Manchurian Candidate. It is a possibility that cannot be excluded.

Trust is a hard thing, especially when someone tramples your trust under foot, as it seems Bergdahl did when he walked off his post to find the Taliban. Used to a different diet, he may simply have lost weight because food is scarcer or was less palatable to Bergdahl. The reports that show him cradling one of his arms could be a fake or it could be evidence of an injury. How many times have people allowed themselves to be injured or hurt or even shot and stabbed in order to give credence to the story that they were tortured or harmed? Maybe Bergdahl did try to escape because he became disillusioned by what he found when he encountered the Taliban or maybe that is another fake piece of the story so Bergdahl can come back to the United States and feed information back to his Afghan friends. All of this must also be considered.

Knowing all that, how can people not be reserved with Bergdahl? How can they trust him when he betrayed their trust -- or at least seemed to have betrayed the trust of his comrades in arms, his country, and his government? The Taliban is not beyond using such methods to gain the advantage. The Taliban created the fiction that an Afghan who was helping the US military in brokering a peace with the Taliban was actually a spy and had him arrested by the CIA. No Afghan peacemaker, no peace, and the CIA did all the dirty work. Is Bergdahl just another pawn in the Taliban's game? How will we know?

I read an article this morning that did its best to emotionally manipulate people by calling shame on Americans for not welcoming back Bergdahl with open arms and sweet forgiveness and blamed people for their cold reception of Bergdahl because of their hatred for Obama. That's going a bit far with the tar brush and feathers. Nothing like emotional manipulation to get your point across.

Obama's actions, though connected to Bergdahl, have nothing to do with Bergdahl and everything to do with releasing 5 Taliban captains to Qatar where Noorullah Noori has already said he will return to Afghanistan to continue fighting U.S. soldiers to force them out of his country. That was not a surprise and Obama, yesterday in Poland, already said he figured the released GITMO detainees would not stay in Qatar. Obama knew he was returning dangerous men back to the Taliban in Afghanistan by so doing. That constitutes actions that may finally end with Obama in prison for 10 years to life, as Judge Napolitano believes.

Obama ignored the law when he failed to notify Congress that he was spending U.S. tax dollars to send the 5 Taliban terrorists to Qatar and let them know he was trading the Taliban captains for Bergdahl. Once again, the focus is on Obama's actions and not Bergdahl. Obama ordered the release of the 5 Taliban terrorists and paid their way to Qatar with U.S. tax dollars without informing Congress of his plans. Using Taliban threats to kill Bergdahl if news was leaked is another red herring, especially since this deal has been in the works since December 2013. Good thing Obama didn't release the 15 Taliban prisoners at GITMO instead of just 5 or the American people would have stormed the White House and lynched Obama at Hell's Corner in front of the White House. 

No, we don't leave Americans behind on the battlefield, but that is not the point here with Bergdahl. He chose to leave his post to find the Taliban; he wasn't captured at his post. He did not fall in battle nor did he die attempting to save one of his comrades on the field of battle and ended as a hostage. He CHOSE to leave his post. He CHOSE to join the Taliban. He CHOSE to turn his back on his friends, his family, and his country. Bergdahl's father knew of his son's beliefs and feelings and told him to go with his heart. Bergdahl's heart was obviously not with the country that people would have us all believe he is returning to with relief and joy. That is part of the problem and why people are backing away from the Bergdahls, and not just because Bowe's father called down an Islamic blessing when addressing the country from the White House standing next to Obama. A person's religious beliefs are his own even when they make people wonder whose side the Bergdahls are on. Mr. Bergdahl certainly did not do Bowe any favors there and may be a good part of the reason why people are angry and turning their backs on the Bergdahls and on Bowe, the suspiciousness of Sgt. Bergdahl's actions aside.

No, people's anger at Obama and Bergdahl stem from separate actions. Do not mistake that. Forget all the emotional manipulation and look at the situations dispassionately, examine the facts. Most people were angry at Obama long before he traded 5 Taliban captains for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. Those people, and the growing number of people who bought the whole hope and change mantra, have been angry for a while and every one of Obama's actions serve to deepen the anger and the rage that Congress has not impeached him or put him on trial for treason and malfeasance in office.

Bergdahl's actions as they come to light create a different kind of anger in people who believe in this country and loathe deserters. Bergdahl has not been committed of desertion, but if he is, it is a good thing war was never declared in Afghanistan or he would be put to death, cutting short the celebration of the returning prodigal son, and that may be what Bergdahl is, the proverbial prodigal son. Or he may be a traitor and an agent for the Taliban. The facts are not all in.

Until they are, welcome home, prodigal son, but be ready to answer for YOUR actions as Obama will have to answer for HIS actions. Though you and Obama are connected by circumstance, the future awaits the truth -- and the verdict. Trust must be earned, Sgt. Bergdahl.

As for Obama, he never had my trust and earning the trust of the people who have been lied to, cheated, and disillusioned may never return.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Moving House

My Uncle Bob suggested I get a 20-gauge shotgun since I nixed his first two suggestions: a dog and a man. It isn't that I don't like dogs or men, but that I'd rather not take on the responsibility for either.

They need so much time and attention and I"d rather spend my attention elsewhere. Besides, they have to be fed, watered, and walked on occasion and I'd rather not be held to that kind of schedule. They get so cranky and fractious when they don't get their twice daily walks. They are such creatures of habit and prefer to stick to a schedule.

The only schedule I will deal with is the schedule I have to follow when working for my employer, and, if things go well, I won't have to do that much longer. Once I get my cottage (or cabin) industry up and running, I will quit and work only for myself.

I'll need a rifle for hunting and I called Beanie to have her ask her husband, Dan, what he things would be a good all around hunting gun. I think I can safely rule out an elephant gun since there are no elephants at the altitude.

Yes, I have hunted, but not in many years (dare I say, decades?), but I remember how. I might even take up bow hunting or just archery for the exercise and to hone my abilities. You never know when I might need to fend off an attack of zombies, which reminds me I need to find a way to keep the deck clear of zombie incursions.

I'll have to hire someone to rig some kind of barrier on the stairs leading up to the deck. If they can't get through, they can't get to me and I can sit on the deck and pick them off at will. These things must be figured into future plans.

Now there is when a generator would come in very handy, especially if I put it in the crawl space where it's surrounding by cement walls. Maybe a ladder or stairs down into the crawl space. It's unusual in that you can actually stand up down there and would provide protection and a great panic room. Supplies could be stored down there.

So much to do, so many plans yet to be made, and a wide open future filled with possibilities. Yes, Jeff, I am still giddy.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

The Wind From One Door Closing...

Since the negotiations between Amazon and Hachette have made the news with authors chiming in on both sides, the old Chinese curse has become a reality. We do indeed live in interesting times.

We also live in times that are lagging far behind the 21st century and the technological age. The Big-5 publishers, Hachette, included are working with the old publishing model, even though these media conglomerates have gobbled up every major publisher, and have become mega-corporations with tens of billions of dollars in business and profit every year. Though they claim to be preserving the future of publishing so there will always be books, it's rather like a member of the 1% claiming to understand what it is like for the middle and lower classes of people getting by from paycheck to paycheck and wanting enough disposable income to buy the books they want. In short, that dog won't hunt.

In easier to understand words, the 1% does not have a clue.

Make no mistake, Hachette and the other members of the Big-5 belong to the 1%, as Barry Eisler writes in The Guardian. As Eisler states, "[The Big-5] have done all they can to try to keep the prices of books artificially high, which hurts consumers and costs authors money. They have a record of zero innovation. And they've run the industry for decades in a way that has benefited the few while stifling new opportunities for the many."

James Patterson, multi-million dollar author and employer of a cadre of writers to help churn out 13 books a year, has bought some pretty expensive ads to brand Amazon the bad guy. Did I mention Patterson is a Hachette author? No smoking gun there.

Patterson decries the loss of Mom and Pop bookstores when he should, as Eisler put it, "...reconsider their anti-Amazon ideology, which at root is an attempt to stop the evolution of publishing itself. Because indie authors are the mom-and-pop shops of publishing. And the 1 percent's war on Amazon risks turning us into collateral damage."

Despite this war on Amazon and Hachette claiming to the victim of Amazon's bullying (at least as seen by author, John Greene ), a great opportunity is being lost. This is the 21st century and we live in an age of technological marvels with the life span of a mayfly. In order to compete and stay in business, bookstores need to move with the times, do what Amazon has done, and remodel their businesses. It's time to stop relying on returning thousands of books for full refunds, as they have since the Great Depression when publishers needed to keep bookstores open to sell books, and find a new path through the wilderness. One thing bookstores can be certain of is that books are not going away any time soon.

Amazon puts the customer first and that is what has taken Jeff Bezos's business from his parents' garage into a billion dollars international business. Bezos saw the future and he used technology to create a new business model, one that Hachette and the rest of the Big-5 want to dismantle.

Small bookstores should ask what customers need and want and make that happen. One bookstore turned an old mansion into a haven for customers with niches and nooks and comfortable spots to kick back, relax, and read. They made their store a comfortable place to enjoy a book for an hour or three. It's a step in the right direction, but doesn't go far enough.

How about charging stations for cell phones, tablets, eReaders, and laptops? Charge a small fee for the convenience.

Download stations for eBooks would be a good idea. No charge, just a secure line to do business from whatever store the customer chooses. The customer will repay the owners by spending more time in the store and end up buying books. Owners could also get a license to offer eBooks on every platform available for reading eBooks and offer accessories, skins, and trade-ins (or trade-ups) for all devices. Give customers a sample of whatever book they're considering or bundle print and eBook at a good price. The technology is available, so why not move with the times?

There are machines that print books in minutes, so why not buy a few and offer to print a customer's book in the store? The Espresso Book Machine would be perfect for that, and there are machines from other companies so you can shop price and availability.

Why not have a repair shop for laptops, tablets, and eReaders? Carry the parts and make repairs while the customers waits -- and reads. Another option would be to offer a loaner while their machine is being repaired. Think outside the box.

Host author evenings and round tables. Be THE place to go to discuss books and genres with published authors, beginning with local authors. Be a favored spot on a book tour. Offer classes in writing and editing for hopefuls and provide a comfortable setting for meetings. Start a book club or host other book clubs at the store. The possibilities are endless.

Instead of hanging signs predicting the Death of Books or the End of Books, strike out into the future with a new plan and forge a future in the ever changing print and digital world. The end is not near unless you have no vision and want to, like Hachette, blame Amazon for all your troubles. Closing one door doesn't mean being stuck in limbo or dying a slow and painful death. Another door will open, but one has to have the vision and guts to make a new door.

Let the world choose sides while Hachette and the rest of the Big-5 pretend to be victims of Amazon's innovation and forward thinking, but make a future that is all yours. It sounds like such a great idea, I may find some like-minded people and buy a bookstore going out of business to start my own. The future is here now. Be a part of it, change with the times, but don't complain if you get run over standing goggle-eyed while the train hits you. You've no one to blame but yourself.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Defining Bully

As negotiations between Hachette and Amazon heat up, writers have taken up the gauntlet on both sides and battle it out on in cyberspace and in print. Notable Hatchette authors (James Patterson, Scott Turow, and Nina Laden. Many Hachette authors and other interested parties from the Big-5 have labeled Amazon a bully. For writers and people with a good command of the English language, it seems they don't understand the definition of bully.

Merriam Webster defines a bully as a blustering browbeating person; especially :  one habitually cruel to others who are weaker; a hired ruffian.

Amazon does not fit the definition. Hachette is one fact of a 200-year-old mega-corporation. That would be the stronger of the two parties. One could say that Amazon has clout when it comes to book distribution, but there are other distributors, like Barnes & Noble.

Independent bookstores are also suitable venues for books, especially of the ink and paper type, and Hachette could continue doing business with those smaller distributors as they have since the Great Depression with the same contract that allows bookstores to return books months, even years after they were shipped. Doing business in the same old manner (fixing prices, 90% returns, and draconian contracts with authors) is what Hachette is doing its best to protect as it take the vanguard in the war between the Big-5 and Amazon.

Amazon does have clout, but Jeff Bezos continues to do business the way successful retailers always do business - by putting the customer first. Some books have been showing up at Amazon stores that formerly had their pre-order buttons removed, but that move was store policy when delivery of an item cannot be guaranteed. Once again, Hachette comes out the bully in that scenario since delaying shipments to force Amazon to knuckle under isn't working quite as well as they had hoped.

The Department of Justice has ordered Amazon and Hachette not to discuss negotiations until an accord has been reached. Amazon has kept mum and, on the surface, so has Hachette, except that no one muzzled the PR department at Hachette which is busily demonizing Amazon in the press and in letters to their authors to force Amazon to heel. Once again, Hachette looks the bully. Remember the definition: blustering, browbeating, habitually cruel to others who are weaker, hired ruffian. There is no doubt the employees in the PR department at Hachette and the Big-5 are earning their salaries with glee and laughing all the way to the bank. Demonizing the opponent is always such fun.

I tell people that when a discussion or debate descends to the point where one of the participants criticizes the opponents, slings mud, and begins calling names, that person is on the ropes and losing. Since I have yet to see anything from Amazon or Jeff Bezos while Hachette supporters and the PR department churns out claims of Amazon bullying the Big-5, I'd say that once again Hachette is doing the bullying.

What people seem to forget (one of the many instances) is that the money to fight and demonize Amazon comes from people buying books written by authors under contract to the Big-5. Authors get a very small piece of the pie unless they are proven international best sellers who have also sold movie rights and whose books are shipped in the millions for readers to buy and download, it would seem far smarter for Hachette and the other members of the Big-5 to pay more money to authors and less to PR departments engaged in mud-slinging. But what do I know? I haven't had a Big-5 publisher pick up any of my novels.

Instead of spouting the party line, it might be in authors' best interests to consider self-publishing or negotiating better contracts with the Big-5 or simply signing up with Amazon to get 70% of the publishing pie and monthly royalty payments where they can track their actual sales instead of being paid twice a year and getting publishing statistics that have been adulterated. After all, isn't 70% of the pie better than 25% for digital and 15% to 20% for print and being paid every month instead of twice a year?

Well, publishers take on more of the risk and can print more books? Publishers have editors and cover artists and all kinds of services that the average author doesn't want to have to deal with? You know what? Those services can be hired out for less than the Hachette and the other Big-5 charge for just being themselves.

PR departments do more than sling mud at Amazon. They also handle marketing and advertising. The funny thing is that the mid-list authors, the publishers' bread and butter writers, get very little of those services. Well, you might say, they don't sell as many books. That's true, but think how many more books those same midlist authors would sell if they got the kind of service that the big names get? And how little a slice of the royalty pie they would continue to get. Marketing and advertising can also be hired out - for less than Hachette and the Big-5 charge as the cost of doing business. Looks like the bully here is pretty obvious. The bully isn't taking lunch money, just the lion's share of the pie and leaving the crumbs to the authors without whom publishers would cease to exist.

Writers have been looking at this publishing thing from the wrong perspective and perspective is everything. It's the difference between seeing your spouse go down on someone else or just picking up the pieces of a broken glass.

All of the services that Hachette or the rest of the Big-5 can be bought for far less than what those same publishers charge and the author retains all the rights. Hachette and the Big-5 have convinced the world (that old PR department working over time again) that they are necessary because they have all the cards, rather like a card sharp stacking the deck when playing a bunch of rubes and marks, and just as lucrative -- for the publishers.

The world is changing, but entrenched publishers aren't changing with it. They spread the word that the end of the book is here and the sky is falling because they're not pulling all the strings while they downsize and use MBAs as editors and continue to suck the marrow out of publishing. What difference does it make if a book sold is digital or print? Digital takes up less space and requires one file sold repeatedly while print books are buried in landfills because bookstores haven't sold them and send them back for a full refund. Where is their ecological conscience? Where is their loving care of the environment as they chop down forests to make books that fall apart in 5 years or less on the shelves or end up in a landfill in New Jersey?

Publishers care about their bottom line, the same bottom line that gives them all the power and the rights while they pay slave wages to authors, negotiating the best deal for themselves and not for the writer. Publishers have no interest in being fair, but they will bully the rest of the world into believing they are the victims here.

They are not victims.

Publishers are parasites that have gotten sleek and fat off the hard work and dreams of others while skimming more of the cream off the top.

Authors need to start caring about the future, not only the future of their bottom line, but the future of books and the world in general. They could revolutionize the business by taking the strings into their own hands and doing business for themselves. Hire out the cover art, editing, marketing, PR and still keep more of the royalties than you're getting with Hachette and the rest of the Big-5 mega-corporation publishers. Sell your books in digital formats and use Print-on-Demand for hard cover and paperback books. Fewer books will be published at the outset, but you won't be stuck with bookstores sending books back for a full refund to be pulped and put into landfills. You can hire a manager or a boutique agency to do the heavy lifting while you write and still get more of the royalties than you are getting now.

Books won't die unless we kill them. Unless we, the writers, stop writing them. Unless we allow Hachette and the rest of the Big-5 bully us into giving up and giving in. The bully wearing the $5000 Italian suit and $6500 Italian shoes with the custom made silk shirts and designer ties and accessories is not on your side while he shares his 3-martini lunches with his confederates. The bully is never on your side.

Can you see who the real bully is now? Bully for you.

Bully when used as an adjective means excellent.

Home at Last

The proverb goes, The wind from a door closing opens another door.

If I ever doubt those words all I need do is remember what happened this week.

I called about an apartment in Divide, CO. While speaking with the landlord, Mike, we discussed application fees (a way to make money on properties without ever having to rent it out) and my plans 2-3 years down the line, which was to save enough money to buy my own home where I can paint walls or change the carpet or do whatever needs done without having to get permission or be constrained by a lease. I can't burn down the house, but then I never intended to. I need a place to live.

Mike said I should talk to his father, David, who had a property in Florissant he wanted to sell. David would carry the mortgage and I could rent to own. Could he give his dad my information and have him call me? Yes, yes, he could -- and he did.

David wanted to know if I minded being out away from town. Did I mind being secluded?. Could I handle living all alone? Would I be happy in a situation like that?

It was quickly clear this was what I wanted. As soon as I got off the phone, I searched and found the property and lots of pictures, one of which is above. The house has 3 bedrooms, 2-1/2 bathrooms, a barn turned into a garage that could withstand a nuclear attack, and a shed and it all sits on 3 acres of land. Wooded high desert land. Land with trees and space and it is heaven.

As I checked out costs and amenities (restaurant, bank, grocery store, etc.), I figured out I couldn't afford to pay the monthly amount he suggested and I would have to tell him no when he called the next morning, which I did. That's when he told me he would put the rate at a price I could afford. "I have enough money; I don't need to sell this to make money. I will work with you to make sure you can afford it."

I was flabbergasted. He would work with me . . . and he did, first by hooking me up with his realtor, who lives in the area, so I could get a better grasp of the costs of living up there. The costs are half what I'm paying here in Colorado Springs. I could go to town every 1-2 weeks and do all my running and chores at that time, just like when I lived up at the cabin in Tabernash. I can live with that. The realtor hooked me up with a mortgage broker who would help me establish credit and get the best deal for buying the house. There is no rush since David will let me pay him until that happens. Susan Vineyard, the realtor, will also help me get a USDA government loan to buy the house. Since the barn is now a garage, that will happen now.

Out of a call for an apartment I now will own a house, my own cabin in the mountains, which readers of this blog know has been my dream for many years, a dream that is now a reality.

I have plans for the property, like building a guest house that can be rented out to vacationers and where friends and family can come and stay when they visit. Yes, I have 3 bedrooms and 2 baths, but there are some people I can only take in small doses. A guest house is ideal. I want to install solar power and connect to the grid so I can sell my power back to the electric company and make a little money and help cut my own electric costs. I might even eventually install electric heating, which would be feasible with solar power. There's a lot of sun available in the mountains all year round at about 10,000 feet where I'll be living.

The first purchase on my list is a generator. I'll have to save for that, but I will have it before the end of the year. The deck furniture for the wrap-around deck can wait, and so can furniture for the other 2 bedrooms, living room, and dining room. Those can wait.

There are grants to check out. Hoity-toity told me about a government grant to grow trees on the land. I have plenty of land and trees already grow there, so that is an option. There are a whole lot of options for me now that I didn't have 2 weeks ago, or even 6 months ago, when this house went into foreclosure. I still have to move, but not to an apartment or some house that isn't even remotely close to what I need or want. I'm moving up into the mountains to my own cabin and eventually I'll be able to fill all of those cabinets in the kitchen. So much more is possible now than was possible 2 weeks ago or even 6 months ago. Of course I will have to deal with fixing the roof or buying a new furnace or hot water heater, but not for a long time since this house was built 6 months ago. I think, considering the garage will withstand a nuclear attack, that this house and its appliances and roof will last at least another 10 or 20 years. This house has a crawl space under the house you can stand up in. Yes, I am certain this house will last and I will be a homeowner with a mortgage and a credit rating at last -- still living on a budget. I might even be able to get back to writing and publishing more books.

Anything is possible because I will be home at last.

That is all. Disperse.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

The Kris Kringle Formula

One of my favorite holiday movies is Miracle on 34th Street and one of my favorite scenes is where Kris Kringle in his lovely Santa Claus suit tells a mother that she can buy what her son wants to find under the tree Christmas morning by going to another store. The mother, played by Thelma Ritter (one of my favorite character actresses), is dumbfounded and says that from now on Macy's will get her business though she has avoided them in the past. Kris's actions are in the true spirit of Christmas and if Macy's will send people to other stores, like Gimbels, then Macy's just won a new customer.

That is a long way of getting into the point of this post, which is about Amazon. Amazon has built their business on giving customers what they want, even when it means offering third party sellers and telling them to go to Barnes & Noble or wherever customers can find what they want and need. The Big-5 publishers don't have the smarts of the Macy's owner who adopts Kris's policy and puts out a big book to show where products Macy's doesn't carry can be found elsewhere. The Big-5 publishers want to keep the lock on sales and distribution and pricing and keep authors from breaking out and going it on their own.

With the rise of boutique and small publishers, the Big-5 publishers began to lose their grip, but when Amazon came out with the Kindle and sales of eBooks went through the roof, the Big-5 claimed that would be the end of paper book sales in hardback and paperback. Except none of that happened. Yes, sales are down from previous years when all the books available were in paper form, but books are still getting out and books are still being read. Business has never been better for small publishers and readers alike. What's not to like about people buying and reading more books even if it is in digital form?

What's not to like is that paper and ink and paperback books with about a 5-year shelf life is not to like when Big-5 publishers have had the monopoly for so many decades -- and centuries. Authors going independent is nothing new nor are vanity publishers, but the likelihood of such authors getting any real fame and fortune out of the process, outside of Mark Twain or Jane Austen and the like, is like playing Roulette. The house always wins, and the Big-5 in their various earlier guises as smaller publishers before being gobbled up by conglomerates and media factories, held house odds. They were the House.

David Gaughran of Let's Get Visible had a lot to say about the Big-5 publishers' PR machine and what isn't being told by the media (owned by Big-5 publishing media services) about Amazon. Hatchette certainly is not going to pat Amazon on the back, offer a cigar to Jeff Bezos, and sign the current contract on the table. That would be their death knell. People would be able to buy Hatchette's books from Amazon at discounts that would cut into unlimited expense accounts and 3-martini lunches. You would think that the point is to get people buying books and reading more, which is what is happening, and not about the profitability of a $10 billion media conglomerate like Hatchette sending out PR bulletins that demonize Amazon.

David Gaughran writes, "The funny thing is readers don’t seem to have any problem finding books they love. Any readers I talk to have a time problem – reading lists a mile long and never enough hours in the day to read all the great books they are discovering.

The real discoverability problem in publishing is that readers are discovering (and enjoying) books that don’t come from the large publishers. What these publishers have is a competition problem not a discoverability problem." (The bolding is mine.) 

More writers are making the leap into self-publishing, but not at the diamond-studded rates of vanity publishers. Like the song says, "Sisters [and writers] are doing it for themselves," and they are doing it in increasing numbers.

Yes, there are some bad independently published books, but there are also some real dogs put out by the Big-5 too. I thought Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror was just such a bomb -- and so did the critics in spite of a media blitz worthy of Stephen King or David Baldacci and a PR budget that beggars the imagination of even the most well-heeled independent author. The Big-5 can afford it; they've been living off the backs of their solid and hard-working midlist writers for decades and exploiting those same authors' back-list shamelessly while giving very little to the authors, pleading poverty and low numbers. Well, if the Big-5 would put as much effort in midlist writers with a wide fan base even on the lukewarm advertising and promotion offered, they would make even more money, but those CEOs and fat cat Big-5 publishers with their golden parachutes and 7-figure incomes with bottomless expense accounts don't have the sense of R. H. Macy faced with Kris Kringle's manner of doing business so that kids get what they want under the tree Christmas morning. Those CEOs and fat cats are all about the bottom line and the black ink on their side of the balance sheet and to hell with authors, without whom they would cease to exist.

The thing is that the big publishers have sold the idea that it is their know-how, lakes of ink, forests of pulp paper, distribution, and marketing know-how that sells books and authors would be lost without them -- except authors are proving they don't need the Big-5 to make it big in publishing. Not everyone makes the kinds of money that J. A. Konrath or Amanda Hocking have made, but the field is opening up more and more as Amazon helps 99-cent book authors to rise above the pack and make their books worth reading and buying. It's the same idea that has always been true, it is more profitable to sell your product to 1000 buyers at $1 a pop than to sell 1 product for $1000 a pop, especially in this economy as we stand on the brink of a worldwide economic reset where countries are going bankrupt.

There are still reporters like Jeremy Greenfield who buy into the demonization of Amazon and dire predictions for the future of books, but the truth will out. The proof, as my Gram used to say, is in the pudding. And I know she wasn't the first or the last to repeat that phrase. Jeff Bezos and Amazon continue to prove that if you give the customers what they want, they will buy, and they will come back to buy more. Amazon offers everything under the sun from their own warehouses and from third party sellers right on their website and they don't play favorites with marketing algorithms so that their products get a bigger share of the space, no matter what you've been told or what the PR machine of Hatchette and the other Big-5 publishers and their media conglomerate owners pays millions to say. Judge for yourself and buy where you will. Amazon isn't the only game in town, but at least they play fairly with their customers. They also do not hold authors hostage. Can you say that of Hatchette or the other members of the Big-5?

Maybe it's time to follow Kris Kringle's formula and make sure the customers (the readers)-- and the authors -- get a fair shake.