A Classic From Passive Guy

Passive Guy is a master of  the calm and gentle put-down. This post of his today in response to a very precious article in the New York Times is a classic of the genre:

PG’s first impression is that this is a classic NYT piece full of status signaling. Refined people support authors like Preston and quaint little indie bookshops and understand that Amazon is irredeemably unfashionable.

Preston’s “little shack” in the Maine woods is complete with “a picture of the Dalai Lama, a high-speed data line and a copy of Thoreau’s ‘Civil Disobedience,’” where he “summers” signals that Preston is the right sort of person, one refined enough to focus on the finer things in life, as compared to the grubby capitalists in Seattle who are only interested in serving “hordes” of consumers who obviously are not the right sort of people at all.

“Consumers,” the Times carefully informs its readers, are beneath contempt, interested only in “cheap” books, certainly not the class of books the Times would ever review. Democracy is fine, but the rabble need to know their place.

The Change.org petition supporting Amazon “is a rambling love song to the retailer. Signers sometimes append invective decrying the New York publishers for having the audacity to reject novels.” Obviously the whole Change.org group are lower class, not the sort of people for whom theTimes is meant. It goes without saying that New York publishers are exactly the right sort of people, holding back the teeming hordes from book stores and sensitive readers.


Because, of course, Amazon treats writers very, very well, much better than Hachette does. Hachette is clearly the abuser of authors here, despite what its pet authors have to say.

When a self-published author sells an ebook on Amazon, Amazon will pay the writer 70% of the sales price, assuming the ebook is priced properly to maximize sales and profits.

When Hachette sells an ebook on Amazon, Hachette will pay the writer 17.5% of the sales price at most, which is then reduced to 15.8% after the agent’s commission.

Amazon pays authors on a monthly basis. Hachette pays authors every six months.

Amazon shows authors exactly how many books they’re selling, the sales price and how much they’re earning from each sale in nearly real time, including graphs that clearly help the author understand sales trends.

Hachette royalty statements are at least 90 days out of date when they arrive and largely impenetrable. Hachette doesn’t prepare its royalty statements with a quill pen, but they are a paean to the best of 1960′s mainframe computer technology.

PG could go on.

Former Hachette authors could go on for much longer.

Current Hachette authors who have complaints are advised to shut up if they want to keep receiving their insultingly small royalty payments.

Passive guy is always a lot of fun…I wish I could remain as calm when I’m ticked off!

This Is The Kind Of Competition Publishers Want

A very interesting post from author David Gaughran:


This Is The Kind Of Competition Publishers Want.

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.

Amazon regularly gets slated for purported anti-competitive actions, but it has done more to create the digital marketplace than any other company. It has also done more to open up that marketplace to vendors of all shapes and sizes than any other company. Small publishers and self-publishers, for the very first time, have a level playing field with large publishers.

In other words, Amazon has fostered huge levels of competition that rarely get spoken about. Because Big Publishing doesn’t want actual competition. It hates actual competition.

As Gaughran notes, Big Five Publishers and their apologists may complain endlessly about Amazon as a force which fosters a lack of competition, but that’s only because they liked it better when there was no competition to challenge their cozy and very profitable little club…

Some Reader Reviews of Wallis Budge: Magic and Mummies in London and Cairo

From Waterstones:

Matthew Ismail’s entertaining biography of Wallis Budge portrays him from childhood until death and aftermath. Scholarly research and excerpts from original sources clarify some of the controversies which still surround Budge. To me the book understates Budge’s legacy in the interest of fair coverage. But the portrait speaks for itself telling of a talented man of great ambition, an underprivileged boy who grew up to be a scholar, a prolific writer and consumer of books. I can’t help but compare him to Howard Carter whose learning and accomplishments belie his common beginnings but who never quite overcame his lack of nobility in the class conscious British society of the early twentieth century. Magic and Mummies’ afterword by a contemporary museum insider leaves a strange impression, reminiscent of scholars in Budge’s day who seem tainted by small mindedness, perhaps jealousy, anachronistic judgement, I can’t put my finger on it but it’s definitely counter to professionalism. The look at human nature complexities alone makes this a good read. You couldn’t make this stuff up.

From Amazon:

I like to read memoirs about accomplished people, especially those who weren’t born with the silver spoon. This is the next best thing to a memoir because original letters to and from Budge take us back to the late 19th and early 20th century events of a commoner who rose to success in Assyriology and Egyptology through sheer talent and drive. Unlike contemporary specialist scholars, Ernest Budge was not singular in his vision. He learned multiple languages both living and dead, worked full time for the British Museum, yet wrote over a hundred books, and maintained a social life soliciting the upper crust all the while honoring his marriage to a fine lady.

Magic and Mummies reveals Budge’s life via archived documents to paint a kaleidoscopic image of an extraordinary man, no genius but talented and driven to exploit his own abilities for the benefit of the rest of us, judging by his texts and priceless acquisitions for the Museum. He was a friend of Lord Carnarvon, of King Tut fame, and was on good terms with Maspero of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, as well as native antiquities sellers who provided ancient grave goods to all the collectors of the day, like Petrie and Amelia Edwards. Experiences in Egypt, the Middle East, as well as London during the Great War all the way up to Budge’s death overlay a context on this complex man who told stories of a haunted mummy, a spirit experience and a prophetic dream. Not your typical Doctor of Literature. Prepare to be enlightened.


[Ismail's] research offers an informed perspective for sifting through the opinions about Budge that pop up online. Budge came alive for me as a highly dedicated servant to the British Museum, even when in the line of fire. I enjoyed being privy to his personal ethics and friendships with rich patrons. Considering his humble beginnings, I admire his rags to riches success that he thoroughly earned. I expect I will reread “Wallis Budge: Magic and Mummies in London and Cairo” for the fun of it; this book stays in my collection.

Tower Books:

Apparently in the days before email & cell phones people sent letters back and forth even locally the paper trails to and from Budge are fascinating. Seeing how he reported to the Museums trustees and how he related to society gave me insight into what made him tick… He cant be summed up simply, as his varied book topics suggest: Egyptian hieroglyphs, Coptic dialect, Assyriology, Christianity, Hebrew history, fetishes, mummies and a cat named Mike, to cite a few. He must have been fun to talk with because he sure is entertaining to read about!


Coke Studio @ MTV: A Great Pop Music Experience

My latest discovery on Spotify is Coke Studio, India, and I really love it. Coke Studio India derives from two immediate antecedents: Coke Studio Brazil and Coke Studio Pakistan. The Pakistani programpioneered the musical fusion concept that has reshaped popular culture in the country and inspired an international franchise. The innovative format – which has been scaled to Indiathe Middle East and, most recently, Africa – combines Pakistan’s myriad musical influences, from eastern classical and folk, to contemporary hip-hop, rock and pop.”

Here’s a sample:

The great thing about this music is that it is truly fusion music: it incorporates aspects of Indian music and aspects of Western pop to create something that is new–at least to me. As an Indian expat in the US says of Coke Studio, Pakistan:

Coke Studio to me has scratched an itch that I have long had. At its best, it draws upon the Indian classical tradition of improvisation by the musicians, as well as the Western classical tradition of structure and arrangement, where the producer uses his creative vision to harness the raw musical energy into a cohesive piece of music. It is a demonstration of masterful studio-craft by the producer, Rohail Hyatt, and the musical chops of a house-band nonpareil, together to create an underpinning for each song, which although produced to the hilt, still has moments of total spontaneity.

I’ve been listening to this music now for a few weeks. I look forward to listening to the African and Middle Eastern programs at some point, as well.

Creativity vs. Quants

An interesting post from The Passive Guy–especially his telling remarks about the habitual conflation of publishers with the authors they publish…

PG disagrees with the idea that big publishers are creative and Amazon is not.

On the publisher side of things, he thinks many people conflate the creativity of publishers with the creativity of the authors they publish. Authors are definitely creative. Publishers not so much. At best, a good publisher recognizes creativity in others. Average publishers just look for knock-offs of successful books.

Creativity vs. Quants.