December 21, 2012
Smoking pot in our undies while fighting the bad guys to the death: A year in reading from MobyLives!
by Kevin Murphy
It’s been a terrific year here on MobyLives, with dozens of insightful, odd, and entertaining stories. Thanks to all of our readers for so much enthusiasm and feedback.
That feedback, plus a quick Analytics review of our traffic, tell us you enjoy a curious blend of industry news, celebrity smiting, photographs of scantily-clad authors, and, of course, our tireless efforts to shed light on the corrosive business practices of Amazon, Google, Apple, et al.
So while MobyRests until the new year, here’s a breakdown of our most popular — i.e., most trafficked — stories from the year to tide you over.
Happy holidays, and remember, That Whale is Out There, Man!
— CAN JAMES FRANCO BE A BESTSELLER?
Franco’s first book, a collection of stories called Palo Alto, was reviewed negatively almost everywhere, and it has been far from a commercial hit for its publisher, Scribner. According to Nielsen Bookscan, which tracks about 70 percent of U.S. booksales but does not currently track ebook sales, the book sold just 16,000 copies in hardcover and 7,500 copies in paperback. Sales have also slowed significantly since the book was released in October 2010: last week, the book sold just 75 copies, according to Bookscan.
— PODCAST: AMAZON FROM A TO Z
Last week, Melville House co-founder Dennis Johnson participated in “The Great Amazon Debate,” a podcast hosted by The Naked Book. Also included in the conversation is publishing consultant Sheila Bounford; Rob Nicholsof independent UK publisher Constable & Robinson, and Financial Timesjournalist Barney Jopson. Topics discussed include Amazon’s role in the publishing marketplace, its possible malfeasance, attributes, and how, for better or worse, the company is responsible for changing the infrastructure driving today’s consumer experience.
— SLIDESHOW: WHEN GREAT AUTHORS PICK UP THE BRUSH
Sometimes even great writers need an escape from the restrictions of language. Here are some examples of what happens when authors switch words for images …
— SLIDESHOW: WRITERS IN UNDERPANTS
On a recent afternoon, in the middle of some research for an upcoming book, I fell down a Google rabbit hole and landed on a Polish blog post with the delightful title (according to Google Translate) “Writers in underpants.” You might expect to find Ernest Hemingway or Truman Capote in such a gallery, but who knew there were shirtless photos of Franz Kafka? Or Melville House author Imre Kertész? What other surprises could be found out there? It’s a hard job, but someone had to do it, so I conducted my own survey. Now, as we bid farewell to yet another all-too-short beach season, here’s our own look back at the best in bookish beefcake.
— THE BOOK INDUSTRY HAS A NEW HERO, AND IT’S … MICROSOFT?
The American book industry — and, in a sense, the world book industry — got another major player yesterday when it was announced, amidst swriling rumors that Barnes & Noble was going to sell off its Nook division (which would have signaled the beginning of the end of its brick-and-mortar business) that instead, B&N’s Nook business had taken on a major “strategic partner”: Microsoft.
— SLIDESHOW: WHEN WRITERS ATTACK … OTHER WRITERS
Wordsmiths, obviously, should know how to sting other writers. But some have proven especially good at it. Herewith, the ten historic barbs we think the most notable and the story behind them, plus a bonus …
— REACTION TO AMAZON RETRIBUTION AGAINST IPG SPREADS QUICKLY, BUT BIG SIX REMAIN SILENT
The news that Amazon.com has removed thousands of ebooks from the Independent Publishers Group (IPG) — the distributor for hundreds of small presses — in retribution after IPG refused to give Amazon as big a discount as they demanded exploded yesterday, and drew concern from around the world.
“I am shocked at this use of power and monopoly and I am afraid they will try to do the same here too,” says Alessandro Gallenzi, managing director of British publisher Alma Books, in a Bookseller report headlined, “UK publishers’ ‘concern’ over Amazon e-book removals.”
— NEWSFLASH: MEN CENSORED THE BIBLE
According to a report on Discovery.com, male editors of early drafts of the Bible made a rather startling cut, according to several Biblical scholars: They cut almost all mention that God — Yahweh — had a wife.
The theory was first proposed by historian Raphael Patai in 1967, and new reasearch by Oxford scholar Francesca Stavrakopoulou backs it up: her name was Asherah.
— FRAT BOYS BURNING TEXT BOOKS TO CELEBRATE GRADUATION BURN DOWN FRAT HOUSE
A group of fraternity brothers from Lousiana Tech University burning their textbooks in celebration of the end of the school year are believed by local authorities to have caused a fire that burned down their fraternity house.
— “ONE OF THE BIGGEST SCREW-UPS IN THE HISTORY OF BOOK RETAIL”
A recent Simba Information report (subscription required) “posits that the decrease in the number of bookstores that we saw in 2011 did not lead to a corresponding growth in ebook sales,” notes Brian Howard in a story for Book Business magazine. “This suggests that the showroom effect — where customers discover books at a bricks-and-mortar store and then buy them online — is real, and etailers have a vested interest in the success of physical bookstores.”
— SLIDESHOW: TEN MARIJUANA LOVING AUTHORS
The news of the seizure of three packages carrying roughly 11 pounds of marijuana being shipped to the good folks at St. Martin’s Press has spread far and wide. It engendered a #potlit thread on Twitter and a sea of snark-filled posts about the publishing mishap.
We too want to contribute to this rigorous discussion the only way we know how: A slideshow.
— FORTY-FOUR STORIES ABOUT OUR FORTY-FOUR PRESIDENTS
Most everyone knows George Washington as the first President of the United States and the boy who, after chopping down his father’s cherry tree, claimed, “I cannot tell a lie, Pa.”
That this claim is widely discredited has not diminished its popularity or the assurance that a strong moral register was, and remains, at the core of our country’s character.
But surely there’s still more to Washington than what’s been fed to us in books and by politicians, surely his dark moments held him back as much as his shining moments carried him forward …
Kevin Murphy is the digital media marketing manager of Melville House.