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Librarian Blog

Trial will tell

The American-Statesman is reporting today that an anti-trust trial is starting in New York against Apple, among others.

The government contends Apple conspired with publishers of e-books to set prices.

No doubt.

I don't know whether Apple was an instigator, but I do know that there's something very funny about e-book pricing, especially how high those prices are.

I've written about my dismay over the cost of an e-book in this space before, but did not know at the time about this lawsuit.

The government is right to go after the big boys in publishing and Apple, if the evidence points in that direction, because the reading public has definitely been and continues to be ripped off.

Amazon started setting prices at $9.99 for e-books. That was certainly not low, given the cost of "publishing" an e-book. But, now a lot of e-books offered by Amazon and others are priced at much higher rates than that.

There's just no justification for those prices.

That's not what the government case is about, but maybe it should be.

Wacky pricing

Just in general, I don't understand how books are priced by publishers.

I haven't a clue why a hardback version of a best-seller might cost $30 at the store and online, but the e-book version is $10. How do they come up with that?

We just received the new Bernan catalog. Bernan publishes government books, like "The Social Security Handbook" and the CIA's "World Factbook."

And I really have a hard time understanding Bernan's pricing.

That "Social Security Handbook," for example, is priced at $69, and it is 715 pages. That is about 10 cents a page. The "World Factbook" is also 10 cents a page or $83 for 850 pages.

But, get this: "The Almanac of the Unelected 2013: Staff of the U.S. Congress" is 49 cents a page or $299 for 715 pages. What?

"The Budget of the U.S. Government Fiscal Year 2014," whch is what the president proposes, is 232 pages in length with a price tag of $39 or 17 cents a page.

And "Washington Representatives Spring 2013," which is the "pre-eminent source for information on the individuals and firms in the Washington, D.C., area," is 13 cents a page or $269 for 2,014 pages.

The "Social Security Handbook" is available in an e-book version. But the price is $68.99, compared to, as I mentioned above, $69 for the paperback.

Does any of this make sense?

-- Carroll Wilson

Circulation Librarian

Finally smelling the roses ...

It's just taken 13 years for Stephen King to wake up.

In the year 2000, he jumped on the e-book bandwagon and allowed publication of a novel in digital format only, selling it online for $2.50.

Now, he's backing off.

He told The Wall Street Journal recently that his new book, called "Joyland," will not have a digital version.

"Maybe at some point," he's quoted as saying, "but in the meantime, let people stir their sticks and go to an actual bookstore rather than a digital one."

Wonder if that means the book will not be sold via Amazon, since that is not an "actual" bookstore in the traditional sense.

This is not a quibble.

King owes the publishing world more than an offhand comment. He perrsonally helped kill off America's bookstores.

So, it's a little late.

Except, then, it is all about getting a bigger cut of the cover price, isn't it?

-- Carroll Wilson, circulation librarian

Looking back

It seems reasonable that I've never heard of "Stoner," a novel by John Williams.

It was published in 1965, when I was just graduating from high school and was heading off to read the likes of Shakespeare, Hemingway, Faulkner, Milton, Dickens -- folks in the great Western literature tradition.

Other than college-required materials I basically read nothing on the best-seller list from 1963 through 1980. Heck, I didn't even watch anything on television from 1972 through 1980. I was in two graduate programs.

So, no wonder I missed "Stoner."

Everyone else did, too, apparently.

Publishers Weekly recently reported, though, that "Stoner" is back -- at least overseas.

It's the No. 1 best-seller in the Netherlands. The Ducth edition, out in 2012, has more than 100,000 copies in print. And it's moving quickly in the rest of
Europe.

Nobody knows why, except to say that it's a "perfect" novel about a man who gets out of school and goes to work.

It was highly praised when it first came out, and then quickly forgotten.

Now, I have the time. I just need to find the book.

Fortunately, I can take advantage of inter-library loan. So I have ordered "Stoner."

You can, too. Just drop by the library.

Tapping into the past

By Carroll Wilson

Circulation Librarian

For years as a newspaper editor I tried to figure out how so many minor typos and similar errors got into print.

I did a number of experiments where I tried my best to control all the variables, and I finally concluded that the error rate increased when we moved to computer screens, away from typewriters.

I never did find any scientific evidence or study results showing this to be the source of the problem. But, I still firmly believe that there is some sort of disconnect between the working brain and the computer screen that keeps normally error-free people from seeing the mistakes they make. The same sort of problem keeps copy editors from finding errors in the work of others.

I'm certainly prepared to be shown that I have been wrong.

One other effect of the move toward computers and away from typewriters was this: reporters' work was less organized and longer when generated on a computer rather than a typewriter. It was as if they became less thoughtful as they joyously typed away on their stories.

So, I found it interesting that NBC Nightly News reported yesterday evening about a writing teacher in California, I believe, who has his kids do their composing, not on laptops, but on typewriters -- old-fashioned typewriters.

It seems that, like me, he believes that the kind of device affects the end product, and when the device is a computer the end product is not better but worse.

I think people are just more deliberate when they use a typewriter. They're more careful. They're more thoughtful, too.

How nice to know someone somewhere agrees with me.