6: Changes in Media Technology Small and Large
You. You. Welcome. All to this session of, censorship, and information, control, during information. Revolutions, today, we are going to look at changes, large and small and information, technologies, and how they affect. Publishing. What can be sold what can be produced so today, we're going to be looking more on the information, control, and then the censorship end of the spectrum but everyone here is also very engaged with the censorship, end as well so, we have people who've worked on music people have worked on visual, media people who've worked on pornography people, have worked on television, as well as people who've worked on both fiction, and nonfiction books so, a lot of different perspectives on the production. Circulation. And commercial, viability of, different. Forms of media both. Literary and other creative works so. As our first ping-pong, volley today I wanted to invite, Patrick. And Teresa, to. Talk a little bit about the, tiny incremental. Changes, often forgotten that they've seen, book, publishing, undergo we're. All very familiar with discussions, of e-books and ebooks revolution, ating written, revolution, ating revolutionising. Book. Printing, and what's happening, and lots of melodramatic, discussions, about other books are dead etc. But these, are publishers. Who have seen many small, technological, changes. Pre. Ebook in fact as well as during ebook, in what. Is produced what can be produced what is sold but can be sold I think if we kick off with that then others will have exciting. Parallels, to draw on their artists. Well. In. This. Discussion. I was thinking about what censorship. I mean how. Much experience do I actually have with that and and I got, to thinking about what actually. Keeps. Words from getting out on the air earthen. Pages of books and mostly. What I've seen is is. Not. Censorship, the way that we think about another well Ian kind, of censorship but people, deciding, for, revision or even just assuming, without thinking about it that. The audience, ought, not or ought. Not see this or wouldn't, be interested, in saying this. Or. We. Couldn't possibly make, a profit, selling this, and, and, it's. A remarkable amount of. Of. Communication. Fails. To ever ever reach the public for. Those reasons and, we like to think that when we make those judgments, were right but. It's. Better to tell a story here's a quick one. It, used to there's they're still they're still gay, bookstores out there but. They should be a lot more it was a big thing and. One. Of the bits of fallout from that was. We started getting sales, figures, showing, us exactly, how, much science fiction and fantasy was. Selling through gay, bookstores, answer. Are really. Surprising, amount, and what, I watched was within just a very few months. Gay, content, go. From being something that the editor kind of mumbles about the books being presented for the first time to. A settling. Point that you put on your documentation. So the sales force will be clear on, content. Because what we knew from just this this one change that, we were getting information broken, out in particular way what. We. Have a huge audience there's some great editors are being chided by the sales force for not highlighting, LGBT. Etc, content which, was a huge change in took place over a period of a year or so. It. Was pretty rapid, can. I take. The. People. There's, a lot of sort of folk folk knowledge that's exaggerated, about various, recent, changes in book publishing and particularly in genre fiction publishing, but book publishing in general is I've, been working in the industry for over thirty years and when I was, first an editorial assistant at doubles, a book clubs in 1984, publishing, was in a total crisis and was everybody, was about to lose their jobs and nobody.
Reads And the. Usual panic which none of which was true. Destroy. But publishing Amazon is going to destroy book publishing. Nobody. In America reads books etc etc ebooks, are going to destroy book publishing. Almost. Nobody realizes what the biggest single change in the, conditions. And circumstances and. Channels, of, book, publishing and one with the actual biggest sociological. Impact. In, the last 50 years is the complete. Collapse of the. Mass-market paperback, distribution, networks that took place from about 1989, to about 1999, this. Is something that almost, nobody knows about it and it really really, changed, a great deal about how. American, society takes, in books um, I think a lot of people in this room are probably too young to remember that from about the late 1940s, to sometime the mid mid to late 80s most. Supermarkets, in the United States had large, paperback. Racks like 128. Pocket, and wire displays. And. They. Spin. For smaller stores like convenience, stores and recs. Halls pharmacies. Etcetera etcetera but and then their point is they. Didn't just sell you know time a torrid. Romances, and you know best-selling authors they sold everything um. You, know they sold Rachel, Carson's Silent Spring they sell elfin Alvin Toffler CG shock and Marshall McLuhan you know public public, affairs books books of informed. Opinion literary, fiction gore, Vidal. Whatever. Yeah. Basically. Um. III, keep. I could keep backing up on this history and telling it backwards but essentially. The. Mass-market paperback, as we understand, it was a revolutionary. Invention, it was really finalized. In the late 1940s, we'd. Had the technology since. The early late, late eighteen hundreds early nineteen hundred's to cheaply produce lots and lots and lots of cheap. Paper. Books, but they didn't become a primary ever. Know of actual book publishing, for several decades because, the small number of excellent retail bookstores, in the United States they're quite small number up, until after World War Two didn't.
Want To take them because you, know the, amount of vertical shelf, space spine out that would take like two 25 cent paperbacks they could sell a to, 95 hardcover, and that same amount of space so they weren't interested and. Attempts. At founding mass market lines we, found. So. The the big innovation, of the late 40s was that the people who invented. Modern, mass-market, paperback publishing essentially. Turned their backs on retail booksellers, and said, we're just gonna piggyback on the existing magazine, periodic, periodical. On newspaper distribution, networks we're gonna make our books as much like, periodicals. As we can gonna sell them in monthly list rather than seasonal, lists and. We're gonna offer the same terms that you know Harper's and look and Collier's and The Saturday Evening Post the offer which is retailers. Technic take X number of copies they tend the unsold copies they tear off the covers send them back for full credit at the end of the month at the end of a month exactly, that. Was wildly successful suddenly. There were books all, over bus. Stations train stations, drugstores. All kinds of non bookstore, outlets. Yes. One. Of my favorites, is that there were just a few hundred book stores in the country here I was born there. Were entire states that didn't have a bookstore in there it, was widely assumed, that most people were, not interested in reading that they. Certainly wouldn't want a wide range of books, and. And. And, so, you. Were lucky if there was a bookstore in your in your city I'm. So. Connected, to you yeah, quickly. And then when the paperback, when they actually came out with distribution, for paperbacks. What. Turned out was that was that there was a huge, appetite, for. For books about just about anything and they big closets they kept tossing stuff, out onto the paperback racks just to see our people actually going to buy this one boom, and. And and. Suddenly. We under, the. Way that we understand, people. And their intellectual lives no matter what kind of job they hold changed. At that point and.
Quite. Wonderfully, well. So. Basically. This was this was a situation from the successful launch of the mass-market paperback in the late 40s all the way up to the mid to late 80s um yeah, shortly after the huge, initial success of mass-market. Paperback distribution, through non bookstore outlets the bookstores relented, and start selling them as well but. Still the the non bookstore, channels. Were the primary ones and this is and this is really important because the. Effect, that is actually persisted, for the last hundred years or so in America, about, fifty percent of American families ever, have a member who sets foot in a bookstore once, in a given year the other, 50% nobody, ever goes into bookstores basically, so. What happens to the kids the before. The invention of the mass-market paperback and and and its distribution, through non bookstore outlets there, was really very little opportunity for the kids and those other families to you know walk past a tempting range of books that they could afford for. 40 years. This. Is actually applicable there as well but for 40 years um, the. Kids of the of those families whenever, they were in a grocery store or a drugstore or whatever we're being exposed to you know the kinds of books I was just mentioning gore, Vidal now. In Mahler Silent, Spring whatever, you, know um along, with current bestsellers and genre fiction and so forth um I mean, I you know I grew up in the midst of all this I you. Know what I'm talking to science fiction audiences, I talked. About how when I was 12. Years old in 1971. I bought, a extraordinarily. Avant-garde. Literary, science fiction short story collection, called fun with your new head by Thomas M dish at the U totem communion, stir down the road, from me in Scottsdale, Arizona this. Is unimaginable. These days it's like saying I bought it an issue of the Hudson review at the 7-eleven it would not happen. But. It was totally routine the the thing about the voracious. Attached. To the periodical, distribution, system mass market distribution system was it would take it would it would take anything no matter how good and. Why. It ended, had nothing. To do with consumer. Demand this is really why I feel is this story it'll fall into the the. Purview of this this program it. Wasn't that Americans, suddenly stopped wanting to be able to buy a broad. Range of literary and and and genre. And popular, and nonfiction and and. Chemical. And. Trashing pornographic, and whatever books in their grocery store what, happened was a big a big sort of rationalization. Of of. Retail. Practices, and late the late 80s where the period were a lot, of regional. Supermarket. And other similar, chains started, going national I'm Albertsons. Um a. Safeway. Etc. Etc then, they, were going national and they were also harnessing. Much more sophisticated IT, to manage their inventories, and so forth um and, they, started asking why do we want to be dealing with this weird, I'm funky. Very, very, you, know locally. Based magazine. And periodical system yeah. Would basically, they're like eight hundred wholesalers, spread, around the United States some of them handled as much as like half of a state many of them handled territories. Like one quarter of Tulsa Oklahoma many of them were businesses, that were basically. Six. Six guys and and and six station wagons and whose basic, job was just getting periodicals. And newspapers and. Some paper backs into spinning spinning racks and wire racks and so forth and so on and, the. The, the the. Nationalization, of these chains and the application, of lots of much, more rigorous inventory, IT. Basically. Caused. A, sort. Of. Spiral. Of these. Wholesalers, merging with each other I mean you, know and supposedly, at least according to Tom Dougherty is the founder of Tor it started in Puget the speed of sound area was Safeway saying to the twelve. Wholesalers, that dealt with between Olympia. And Bellingham, Washington we, don't want to deal with twelve wholesalers, you guys figure it out we want to deal with one of you the others who'd sell to the other. Safely. Okay do, what we say and the winner the winner gave them a couple of extra points of profitability, so the net results of this is that as of now there's like one, wholesaler, in the country reader links that basically, supplies what paperbacks, actually do get into non, books they're outlets and it's, a very constrained, list it's. Just. That because they gave away profitability. And and book, distribution was already a very marginal business, they. They. Started going out of business so they just no they've merged into each other as they, collapsed, so, it's, what. Was going on I remember Teresa observing, it's sort of like watching the you. Know the monasteries, disappear, under Henry the eighth's there's a vast quantity of knowledge, on the ground that's just going away as these these, these companies sell to each other and bunch, of a bunch of people who've been doing this for decades very, skillfully, they all retire and.
You Can see you'd see that this the stupid application, of paperback distribution, happening also the 90s, while. Writers, and. I'm readers and, literary, people are although wringing. Their hands over their terrible, Barnes & Noble which is at that time was growing enormously. This. Is the real disaster that was going on in fact the growth of Barnes & Noble was actually a kind, of counterweight, to this and kept a lot of authors careers going. Because. The. Thing is that paperbacks, mass-market. Paperbacks were always a very tiny appendix, to the enormous, business of getting copies, of playboy and TV Guide up at all those grocery shelves. Yeah. And if you are if. You are a gigantic. Colossus, that Sutton that has suddenly come into being and is responsible, for like seven. Western, states. Distribution. And. And you know the people, who still have jobs or people who ten minutes ago we're running you know the equivalent of one quarter of Tulsa, Oklahoma. This. New territory doesn't. Mean you're gonna actually have happily to deal with their mental. Capital, or mental bandwidth you're gonna even look at ways you can simplify your job and that's how why, in in the 1990s, this incredibly, diverse ecology, of the, distribution, of mass market paperbacks, simplified. Into what was called famous author distribution, well you know you'd, have a much smaller wire. Rack and the grocery store would have like six, six huge, you, know one stripe per major author Stephen, King Richard North Patterson whatever this is this, is actually even before you know the Harry Potter and so forth so. Uh, it's. A it's a terrible. Story that I basically, set. Forth to point, out just how how. Many massive. Market failure failures, there are in modern American, literary. Intellectual. Publishing, etcetera life that, you know what the vast changes in who gets to who gets offered what who gets to buy what who gets to look at what. That. Have nothing to do with what anything anybody actually wanted, we, are back to a situation where still, only about half of American families ever go into a bookstore and those, kids don't you know they don't have the. Exactly. And you, could say well as Amazon, ebooks and all that but these things require credit cards lots of bright kids in those families do not have credit cards. Edward. Kidd looking at something really interesting and bright colored in the store while they're waiting for their mom or dad to finish bringing up at the register so for reason so. For reasons of just, little, marginal increases in profitability and efficiency we, basically, had, a kind of silent. Cultural catastrophe, um we, lost something truly. Great um and a, great, deal of book publishing including category publishing has gone back to being a carriage trade. Always. Working comics. That's. True that. Is the end of that rant. Perhaps. We can hear from our comics. Friends. On reflections. On similar, phenomena. Or different phenomena, know what happened you're spinning right yeah, well I was similar but. The difference being that the comic, book stores took, advantage of that so there instead, of having the, equivalent of a Safeway or a big retail chain now, we have thousands, of mom-and-pop stores so individual, entrepreneurs, who are selling comics and selling new comics and use comics I'm. Thinking about the technology and how, it impacts the publisher is thinking, not, so much on the print side or the or, the. Distribution. Side but. A couple of examples came to mind for me we did a book and I'm about, to swear so if that's going to offend you now's the time to cover your ears that was called. My president, says and it, was the Illustrated, tweets of Donald Trump done by a cartoonist. Named Shannon wheeler and, the. Largest. Online retailer. Who shares. The name with a famous forest would. Not, promote that book if we spelled, it out SH, I T but. If we spelled it out SH, asterix. T, then, it would go into their promotion, so, it was publisher, pornography. And the English language doesn't, want to use the word, and the title promotion, purposes yeah, so. It's. An. Interesting question is that censorship, well. Yes probably but, in, this case was it can we still get the point across and, do, the marketing that we want by everybody, knowing what the word is you, know so it's probably not, not. A dramatic. Version, of censorship and the the. Shannon, wheeler who did the cartoons was okay with making that change understanding. They was then going to open up the biggest market for for. For. Us as a book publisher and for him as an author, but. The other way that I, see technology changing.
Oisin Is where. In, it's another example of self-censorship, which is when. Your we're. Really the technological, changes happened is the way that we interface, with our customer, and so. Even. Five years ago we had very little direct, interaction, with a customer it would happen at a convention, if you happen to be in a comic store it might happen there people, would write letters or send you emails but. With the advent, of social media where everybody is communicating, at all times our writers. And editors are, constantly. Faced with. Communication. From people, who say. They are consumers, and I think that starts to become part of questions are they actually consumers, or are they just people who are advocating, because you publish something that they don't like and where. I think that's troublesome, is is that if you are an editor for my company and you're working on a, comic. Book a Transformers, comic book or a Star Wars comic book and you're. You're constantly, being berated, on social media in a really, vicious way where you're being personally, insulted sometimes, you're being physically threatened, that. People people are not. Acting, with with traditional, social norms in the way that they're communicating with you does, that lead, writers. And editors and, artists, to self-censor because they don't want to put themselves in a position where. They're having. To face this online mod and as I said in many cases an online mob that is really not their reader or. Potential. Customer so in. One. Last example that social, media for us was we publish a series of comics on the Powerpuff. Girls which, was a cartoon that. Came back a couple of years ago and. One. Of the things that my company does to have commercial successes we do a lot of variant covers so the, content, will remain the same but there might be four or five different covers for collectors to collect and and, those covers can range a pretty, wide gamut, of content. So. For the Powerpuff Girls the license, or of. That of. That content who sold us the rights to do the Powerpuff, comic. Books wanted, to do a cover, that. Was examining, what the Powerpuff Girls would look like as real teenagers, as real superhero, teenagers, and not in this sort of manga style that they're presented, traditionally. In the cartoon. So. The editor of that book who was a woman, hired, a female artist to do a, representation. Of, the Powerpuff Girls as, teenage. Superheroes. There, was a retailer actually not far from here in Michigan who. Went online and, said. That this was we were sexualizing. The Powerpuff Girls so, he was bringing his own bias to this cover scene, sexuality. Work where no sexuality was intended, which. I can assure you from from, having spoken with both the editor and the artist, but. Because of social media he, was able to turn that, into a story that then, forced. The license order to come to us and say, we're. Not gonna allow you to distribute that cover so. That cover it was printed it was in the distribution channel, but we had to pull it because, this one single retailer said, that he saw it as sexualized, and he was able to make enough noise via. Social media to get the license or to say we, don't want to take that risk we don't want to risk if anything and so I think that that's where in. Modern, terms where technology, really interacts, with, self-censorship. In a lot of cases and in this case you. Know it's not it's commercial, censorship you, could certainly find that piece of art if you were to search for it online I'm sure you can find it online but. As far as actual physical distribution of that content, it was without any question sensor I do. Want to note that on. The ship. My president says you. Know them is Amazon insisting on an asterisk, in, yeah. Over 10 years ago there's a, philosopher. And academic philosopher named Harry Frankfurt, wrote a short quite. Funny but philosophically serious, book called on. And, which is in analysis of what what, we what we mean when we call something, it's, a great book it's a great book it was a it was a number one New York Times bestseller it was published by Princeton University.
Press Not IDW, Amazon. Didn't make, them put an asterisk on the eye nobody, did it didn't have an asterisk on the I will, show. Our. Power we're distributed, by penguin Random House so it's one of the largest. Publishers in the world but but, you're said they would have to just be clear they they would have sold the book if we kept it as my present oh I'm sure they just wouldn't, promote it right but, I just looked up this 12-year old book by Harry Frankfurt on Amazon just now and it's still got a promotional, price right I mean I'm just basically saying that you know there is there's. No discounting, of the price it's the there's, there's a caste system right, no question is a caste system but yeah we're not talking about promotion just so it's clear I'm not talking about the discounter price I'm talking about they. Have a complicated. Algorithm where you if you if. You buy into if you will allow them to buy into that algorithm, then, they'll promote your service and if essentially. Rise it in their search results it, is absolutely, a caste system you're right the more prestigious the more prestigious the publisher, the gamey or the stuff they can get away with yeah yeah because, it's it's it's it's covered. Under the rubric of art and culture not, not not sleazy. Stuff that's getting published for money yeah, much. Difference in those. To. Return to the topic of distribution. And and. How this has affected comics, and you know to a certain extent the broader culture it's. Interesting to note that Patrick. Was describing, the consolidation. Efforts, in the, paperback. Industry, in the 1990s, at the same time there was a collapse for, different reasons in. The comic book industry in, the 1990s that led from, comics. Being distributed by you, know something like a dozen you know regional, distribution. Houses to ultimately consolidating, under, one distribution house this, was largely driven by a. Corporate, decision that Marvel had made to acquire their own distributor, and selfless tribute sending. The rest of the distributors, and retailers kind of scrambling, to retain, the you. Know the volume. That was necessary, that was being lost by by, Marvel going away and it, created a catastrophe, to created a mess and it created a, need. For the industry to figure, out how, to survive. Under, a different margin, structure and so we started to see a, whole, bunch of you, know different experiments, in how publishing, worked you started to see the shift. Towards, book publishing, and the rise of the graphic novel format which is an interesting side effect you know that area the death of Superman. You know being a title. That in graphic novel form you know was kind of an unprecedented, bestseller, so you know put that over here you know in in one piece of thinking about the discussion. Moving. Into the consolidation, area the observation, that Teresa made about how, the, precocious kid, doesn't have a credit card to. Go online and, sample books. Coupled with the fact that you lost the number of comic book stores you lost a great deal of bookstores reduces. The opportunity for sampling of all kinds of content and I was that kid that learned, about stuff by going into Walden books and being bored at the supermarket, and going into those racks at Patrick's describing, so but those sampling opportunities, have really shifted into the, library, environment and, so it's very interesting looking, at the, contemporary. Climate, of where. Censorship, is happening, it. Also corresponds, to where those, without, the economic wherewithal, to, browse. Or, to, purchase. In these environments. Where you. Know distribution, is happening, are going, towards the library environment and that's where it's fascinating, to see the shift and censorship that's happened over the 17 years I've run comic book Legal Defense Fund where I took this job in 2002. Figuring. Well for, the rest of my life I'm gonna be the guy that defends creepy porno comics and I've.
Been, Horrified. To find that now I'm the guy that is defending, mainstream. Young, adult graphic, novels for young adult readers stuff like drama, by Reina Telugu Meyer stuff like this one some are by, the cousins Tamaki and part, of this corresponds. To the fact that the sampling, environment, where people are accessing, this content, is the, public library this is where the kids that don't have the credit cards are going. To, access, this kind of material, they're being able to access comics. Material, which were low value speech for, half-wits. And children, in the 20th century into, being you know quasi, respectable, because the, economic, model for publishing shifted. In the, late 90s and early 2000s. From the, periodical. Format, as a kind of bastard child of the magazine, into. The book format, you. Know which became a little bit more viable making, it possible, for this stuff to move into a library environment in the first place so those, convergences. You know happened, and ultimately, have positive results but what you're seeing right now is. A. Climate, where you know, we've gone from really. Being concerned, about protecting, the. Outer fringe. Of expression. The right of adults, to access, adult. Material, to. People expressing concerns, about, the. Welfare, of my not the traditional let's protect the children, from nude, images, let's protect the children, from, the, explicit, adult the depiction, of sexual content. But, - let's, protect, the children, from the ideas, that I don't want my children to be raised around such, as the chaste kiss and drama of Irena toga Meyer such as the discussion the frank discussion, of miscarriage, with no visual depiction, in this, one summer and so it's, a constantly, evolving. Set. Of circumstances. That corresponds. With the, distribution. With. The changes, in technology and, with, the venues. Where, those, that do not have the means can access, materials, it's a fascinating and. Constantly evolving, problem. Climate you. Know it's, so interesting how, analogous, the, process, that you guys have described, is to what. Happened in the recorded, music industry, between. The 1990s, and the 2000s, so, exactly, the same, consolidation. In in, on the distribution side led. To the you, know for most, of the 20th century recorded, music was sold in the u.s. in mom and pop shops independently. Owned neighborhood. Based shops, that. Were, organized. In, terms of you, know the dedication. Of floor space around. Discovery. Around sampling. Around. Investigation. And then and. You. Know kind, of serendipity, and each. One area did different none of them at a massive. Library but each of them carried a different and distinct library, and that's why you'd have multiple, music. Shops in even. In a single relatively, small. Economic. Zone and then, in the in the 1990s, at this massive, consolidation. Of distribution, and all, of a sudden there's these growth this. Growth of these nationwide, and sometimes international. Music. James town, records hfv, Sam, Goody and. What. They do is they also not only standardize, you. Know their inventory, so, it's identical, no matter which shopping, mall you go to walk. In the door but. They also nationalize. And to a certain extent internationalize. Endcap, promotion, so, exactly the same, handful, of X are better, receiving. Millions of dollars in promotional, dollars, from. The record labels are being promoted within. The the retail environments, in all these stores but, then something really interesting happens, which is about. They, have this kind of like 5 or 10 year window and. Then the. Big-box, retailers. Sorry. That's a tie what years in that 5 to 10 year window, which. Say, that cancels. That, the. Late, 1980s. To the late 1990s, thanks. And, then. Yes, so what happens is it's in the mid 90s, or so you get the big-box, electronics. Retailers, and. Generals, to get Walmart, Costco. Best. Buy Circuit, Steve. Using. That infrastructure, that consolidated. Distribution, infrastructure, that the big-box music, retailers, had had pioneered to.
Put Them out of business because, they start selling music at under wholesale as, lost. Theater to bring people in the door and by, the year 2000. Walmart, is the single, largest retailer, of recorded, music in the world, they, controlled something like the third of the entire American. Retail. Model and they. Started it with exactly the same kind of censorious. Policies, that you guys are describing on the book side where, they would tell record labels not because of. Necessarily. For you sexual, or violent, content but on the basis of values, we, don't like the. Song is about we don't like the art of this album cover guess. What intro labels you have to change it want us to stock and if you don't stock it yet, and. So this is the role only white people are allowed to sing about outlaws in black people you know it's evil rap music and it's contributing, to that and. You're absolutely right, rappin and hip-hop and R&B were, the primary targets, of the censorship in. That era and it was only the it's, okay so the next phase that happens, is the real estate booth. Following. The dot-com, crash in, the early 2000s. Increases. The cost of recorder. Real. Estate by, sometimes. Three hundred five hundred percent. For. Per square foot all, of a sudden the big-box retailers. Don't. See any weight. In using. Music, as a loss theater and all, of the dedicated music stores go out of business they all went out of business in 2006, 2007, Tower, Records HMV, Sam Goody they, all folded the, state, costs and because they were having their lunch eaten by these other guys so, all of a sudden it's like 2007. There's no place to actually if I recorded. The, mom-and-pop shops got filled by the music. Conglomerates. The music conglomerates, got put out of business by the brick mortar. Big. Boxes, and the boxes deprioritize. Music because they, needed to use. DVDs and video games which actually had a higher margin, on them then, then music and, so everybody starts to buy online that's exactly, the moment that that that Apple blows up but. That prolific, creates a crisis that I don't think you have in the book industry which. Is the decoupling, of the, product yeah where instead of selling out them so all of a sudden they're selling singles, and. Of course most consumers, only want two or three singles off of an album which, means that the demand. Drops overnight, by 50 65, %. I'm. Reminded. By these of all. Of these different factors which are really about how changes, in distribution, and especially. Standardization. Of distribution. Means, that instead, of you. Know a thousand. Different books. Or different albums each of which sells 100, copies you. Instead have 100. Books or 100 albums which each sell a thousand, copies so that you have maybe. The same amount of stuff, being purchased by people but. Far fewer different. Titles whether it's different novels or different. Artists, or and, the same can happen with film and the. Effect of that on art the effect of that of what's produced, is substantial, it reminds we have an anecdote from an author friend of mine a, plumber. Had come to her house to fix the plumbing and while.
Chatting Asked, her what she did and she said I'm a novelist and he said how, many novels, have you published and she said nine and, he said how many have, been made into a movie, and. She said none of them have made into a movie and he said oh you, must be incredibly unlucky. To. Have had to. Have had nine. Novels, out and none of them made into a movie but if the only books, you ever see are the ones that are in a rack at a grocery, store almost. All, of them, say now amasian, major motion picture on them, or soon to be a major motion picture because, that's, what gets into those magazine, racks so, for somebody whose main book. Consumption. Was that space. It appears. Suddenly, as if almost all books are movies whereas. A few, decades earlier, instead. You had the. Same number of books in any given. Grocery, store but, a much wider range of books overall, grocery stores only, a few of which are a movie. And and that's a very telling sampling, of how. These changes. In distribution affect. Not only what, our art is out there but even people's perception, of what art is out there and he genuinely thought, there were only that many a year. I do want to make just, one point of clarification I, actually think that for. For. The. Book publishing is in pretty good shape aside from the stuff I'm talking about that, certainly. In the genres fantasy and science fiction that Teresa and I work in we're. Having a real where, we're having a real golden age of brilliant authors becoming. Quite commercially successful people, like NK jemisin and John Scalzi etc. My. Concern is not about the, the health of the art it's more about the the health of the, cult of the society, the fact that we really are simply. Turning our backs on and walking away from that those fifty percent of American families that I'm, from the kids and those families the grown-ups. They've made their choices I'm not worried about them but it's their it's their offspring, that well. It bothers me because I remember being a you. Know nine year nine year old who was fantastically. Affected by the ability to buy you, know Delavan year olds up by a huge. Range of things for ninety five cents in grocery. Stores it. Was it was a tremendous. Cultural benefit, that, has just evaporated, for no good reason well the scale of mass promotes. The kind of homogeneity, this is what we're doing well that's the thing. The Golden Age of the mass-market, paperback did not promote homogeneity. It promoted. A vast diversity it was when it was that was consolidated. Into. Exactly. You. Get the same number of sales I think. That more people read, when, there's that greater variety so, this is gonna catch their eye, but. But but when it collapses, in when you get a smaller number of choices fewer. People buy fewer books or. Comics. Or magazines, or, music. For that matter yeah it's worth saying that there are sort. Of. There's. A history of social science research that goes into these kinds of questions. About. Diversity. Of readership. The. Different, ways in which, communities. Often. Not, metropolitan, communities but I'll. You. Know in second-order, cities and things like that. Pick up what, varieties, of textual, material there are and. Make. I think culture out of them and, this this, sorry. And. And. To. Some extent this it's, a literature. That seems to exist an account of perpetual present and nobody's, really written. Very much about its. Development, in its internal. Sort. Of. Evolution. Of research strategies, but, I think one. Of the interesting source, points for it actually is a. Moment, in the mid 20th century running. From roughly I, would, say the late 30s, to the late 50s, when there, was this kind of concern almost a culture about. About. Something like the demoralizing.
Effects Of. Bad. Circulation paperbacks. Combined. With things like comics, and and. Also tabloid newspapers, which went through their their peak, production, period in the, mid twentieth century so in the UK where I come, from newspapers. Were sold in absolutely, phenomenal, amounts in the mid 20th century, and. There was a kind of this moment, of concern that, working-class. Audiences. Especially might. Be seeing a dramatic, homogenous. Asian of their culture. Because it was thought by by. Academics. Essentially, that they. Were reading like. Pulp. Fiction. Comics. Tap. Tabloid, newspapers, and. Nothing. Else and and. It was thought that this was this was going to kind of wipe out what, had been, a. Romantically. Pictured, notion, of working-class, cultural, diversity. And. The. The in the UK the founding. Study. Of this is actually. A book that's had tremendous, cultural influence by, a man called Richard Hoggart who at that point was a minor. English. Literature professor, I think the University of Hull if I remember right who. Went off into working-class. Communities, and actually. Just asked you know what are you reading on what are you doing with the reading that you're carrying, out and, he wrote a book called the uses of literacy, which, I think has been in print constantly. Since. It came out in the early 1950s. And. One of the interesting things this is, your obscure fact for the day so, one of the interesting things about the uses of literacy, is that Hoggart, wanted, to say something, about, the. Ways in which, working-class. Readers. Creatively. Sort. Of. Imaginative. Lee engaged with, forms. Of literature that were often portrayed, as merely, trash. And. The. The genre, that he he picked on was American. Detective novels. Which. Were being imported in large numbers and sold at. Places like market, stores in. Britain, in the 1950s and. He. Was told by the copyright, owners but, he couldn't actually, quote from, real. Pulp. Fiction novels, so. Invented, some and so. So follow, it through this book and if you know that he's inventive actually quite funny there. Are all these quotations. From. American. Sort of pulpy detective, novels that, Hoggard has actually conjured up at his own imagination. And, they're given titles, and one, of the titles is death, Death Cab for Cutie. That. Book is it originated, the entire sort, of social, science. Just like scientific tradition, going. Into exactly these kinds of questions that we've been raising. Here about modernization. Diversity. The. Relationship. Between as it were. Working-class. Communities, and. Mass. Produced literature. Which. Is a coverage to that kind, of research tradition that's a kind of sits, in the background, somewhat, and isn't isn't, addressed. By non-specialists, as much as it might but. It's also. Something. That I've mentioned, several times in this series Orwell's, essay on the Prevention of literature, which we read which. Has so many complaints, about the constraint of the press which feel exactly, like the complaints about constraints, on the press that people make now but, it also has a lament. About the death of reading and the death of published, paperback, books and. That this is caused by the consolidation, of publishing among a few hands, and he's complaining about this again in the later 1940s. So the consolidation, process and, their, proliferation, and consolidation. And then a new proliferation. And a new, consolidation. Is something that's been a constant, not. Only, of, what's, been happening over the past century. But. Also of what people have been very conscious, of happening. And affecting, publication. Over the past century. And over and over it's been discussed in often apocalyptic. Terms as different. Waves of consolidation, have happened each of which have genuinely. Had a huge effect on what's produced, I, tend. To be an optimist and long read about these things it's like you know well, one of the many. Apocalypse. As I've watched book publishing go through in the last thirty years is that the sudden the, although, long foretold death of borders you know the second biggest change the actual net results of the death of borders was an enormous increase the number of indie bookstores, because.
The Borders, had been dead the existence of borders and all those towns had been basically. Just making it just not quite possible, to get an Indy bookstore started and that sudden absence created, a ton of opportunity, I don't want to say we're doing I, don't want to sound like some kind of free-market evangelist. Because that's, but but, but that was a good. Example of of the, cycle of consolidation, and being followed by a cycle of proliferation that, you're talking I. Remember. When when when. Home. Desktop, computers, were first starting with them available and, there's a lot of questions about what. Sure. You can sell these to people but what are they actually going, to do with them you know maybe it's like well, your wife can. Keep her recipes, on them or something but but but really you, know what what what do people need with computers. Because. People people don't think like a good science fiction writer yes. Computers. And then the. Inability connecting. Connecting with the Internet and suddenly, there, is this insane, proliferation. Of, you, know there'd be some guy out there with it with the nondescript, job who'd put up a website discussing. Every. What. Is it every, imperial. Dynasty, in, the history, of the world you. Know or. People. In 1980, were unable to foretell, the the growth of of. Entire. Genres, of fanfiction devoted, to wrapping Roy Orbison, and cling film. Before. Before, the Internet there there were no. Commercially. Published sources. Of, slash. Which. Is a major. Taste. In erotic, literature for, women and that was completely non served except, in these very hard. To find small. Nicias and god. There's a lot of bit online now, one. Of the really interesting proliferation. Issues right now is that there, is, more, content being produced on a regular, basis now that perhaps at any other time in human history there's, more content than there are channels. For the content to flow through. Yeah.
Risk. Everybody's. Talking about things like. Comics. And massive mass productions. Paperback, literature and things like that which are all very interesting risk, of kind, of breed back to the level of the totally boring. You. Know I live, in the academic world and that. Has a publishing, industry, of its own which, has its own peculiar. Character. So. One, of the things about that is that we. Tend to assume that print. Print runs for, books over, the year over the over. Printing. Generally, go up, but. In fact, the average print, run for an academic monograph, now is, lower than, it was for, Copernicus, in 1543. I, don't, I love us time I look was about May no more, recently, writing but the last time I looked was maybe five years ago and it was down then to about 350. Or 400 copies yeah at, which point you almost. Might as well just photocopy. You, know something extended off to your friends. And. This is coupled with a couple of two other things one of which is that if you do a PhD now. It's, very likely that the. Academic publishing world will. Dictate. To you that. You embargo, your. Your dissertation. Digitally. So, you might send out physical, copies of it paper copies can still distribute but. The digital copy which and these things are born digital now so they often include you. Know things, like color illustrations. The, digital copy has to stay completely secret, and they'll, be like one third month which is logical library system. Somewhere, so. The publishing industry basically. Prevents. The circulation, so. I I, actually have a tragic, personal, story about that Adrian. But. When I got my dissertation when, I finished my dissertation and, got my doctorate in 2007. You, know I wrote a dissertation about remix, culture which was a kind of exciting, new subject. At the time and. And. Mike. Diversity, the University of Southern California, created a kind of digital repository. Of our dissertation. So that was not, something we could embargo, I, wanna, sell it as the book and. Read. Estero offer it to post, a link to my dissertation on, boyborg and. And. I so I asked a bunch of friends who were more, senior academic. What. Should I do should I let. Worry, boeing-boeing. It you know to use, the verb version, of the word or. You. Know I asked. That he don't so that I have, a better chance of selling it to an academic publisher. And most, of the academics, I spoke to said under, no circumstances. Should you let. / he puts that on - bling boy and then, one Brent miner got names even if I do not and you guys might know the worker said. At the time no, no you, totally get famous you should totally do it and I, didn't take severs advice. And. And. So I told Corey thanks but no thanks don't, post, my dissertation and then, I, you. Know went on the academic, publishing circuit, and ended. Up selling, my book at umass. Press where, Seba was serious, editor, so. I didn't do myself any favors by not buying. The dissertation to be posted online and, and I think that's the you know that's I to this day you know twelve years later I regret, that decision. But. I I think you're. Absolutely not. Thousands, academics, are faced with that choice if you've, just spent years. Work, on the most important project of your life if you're going to keep.
It Secret an effort to, to. Develop. Your career or are you going to try to share it with the world which is the only reason that you spent the time and energy on it in the, first place and that's, tragic and my, PhD advising I try to teach, my students, to thread that needle but, it's a very difficult balancing, act yeah. It's the, trouble is that if you're a PhD student you have no. You. Know sway with, these. Industry. Types and and. And. They are is increasingly, more or less gateways, into. Or. Gatekeepers, for, academic. Careers and, at the same time of course the actual price of the monographs they do issue goes. Up and up and up and the issue there in fewer and fewer copies to, the extent that I somewhat. Cynically come to think that the business model of academic publishing is aimed, at an end point where they publish zero books as infinite price, I, don't. Want to I don't want to make, a brief for the predatory, practices. Of academic publishers, but. I, do, want to point out the one of the things that I think is driving. The. Smaller. And smaller print runs is that is that is a technology that people are very excited about fifteen, or twenty years ago under, the general rubric of print on demand. The-dream yeah, the great failed dream was that the book every bookstore would have the giant print-on-demand, device, and you would going you know but program. You know the book you wanted into it I would spit out a fully printed. Everything. That's. Right yeah but in, fact the suite of technologies called, print-on-demand what a wound up being was a but, a way, that that. Established, incumbent, regular old publishers, could could print. Books in much smaller runs, economically. Without it but without the unit cost being astronomical. Yeah 25 years ago to print, 250, copies of a hardcover you'd be paying five, or ten dollars a copy which is related, which is just not not economically, possible. Now you can do it for something like 3 or 3 bucks a copy. And. The other thing going on is that where, housing costs are going through the ceiling so if you're if it's, possible to print fewer copies and you can save on warehousing costs you can always print more copies if there's more demand I think that's that's, the logic it's it's a terrible thing but I think that's. Terrific. Lee dissimilar, that what they do to what has happened to comics business perhaps Ted you just need to you know the viability of low print runs in our field and you know just the the fact that there's so much content including some really strange archival, choices being done or you know very specialized, low, audience, at a high price point yeah we do that from an academic perspective we, do a number of books that are about the history of comic strips in the United States and about the history of comic books mostly. In the United States and it's. It's, complex. Printing the books are typically oversized. So in the case of some of these books they might literally be two or three feet tall but many of them printed on the other side of the Pacific yes of all. Asia printing, which is, certainly. From a from a labor, cost perspective. Much. More economical, than trying to print here in the states and and a little bit from a cost of goods pure cost a good standpoint as well but. But the tech where the technology, really came in there is the ability to. Scan. And, reproduce. Previously. Produced works so, there. Was a famous there was a famous cartoonist, actually here in Chicago, named, Chester Gould who created Dick Tracy and we. Had published, at, this one we published I think somewhere around 25, volumes, of Dick Tracy. Which, is and, our intention is to publish his entire body of work and we're, able to do that because the technology now allows us to scan those strips and eventually. To be able to print those books like, I said that are fairly complex, printing. Projects they're not there. They are on specialized paper they. Have ribbons, they, have a dust jacket so, it's it's it's an expensive, proposition to go into that kind of publishing and not, something that you could do really. In any kind of effective way even ten years ago so so. I think it's interesting that you know it from a from, a historical, standpoint technology, allows us to examine things that, we might not have been able to examine before, as.
Far As print runs go the. Comic, book business is. Not, as price sensitive, so we are. Able, to charge a little more for content, then maybe, some of the some, of the sort of peer publications, if you would so, a comic book typically, now is 399, it's. Not uncommon for a comic book to be 499 there are many versions that are $7.99 or 999, so, this is a this is an expensive form of entertainment when you look at how much Netflix cost you for a month right so if you're looking at $7.99. Or $9.99 for Netflix and you have you, have more content and you could ever possibly consume, in a lifetime and you could spend that same amount on one single comic, book it's a very different, consumer. Choice and so for. Better or worse comics, or you know they they still appeal primarily to. Collectors, and so there is that a, little less price sensitivity. But. You also get a specialization. In terms of audience that's not terribly dissimilar, from the numbers that were. Being described with the Academic Press I mean you really can yeah I mean I think I think you know I hear you say that because I suspect. That not, the, graphic novel form but the true traditional, comic book form meaning what we all think of is the 32 pages of, the lot being the single issue that, as. We're speaking today is, is, potentially, at its lowest print, runs ever, where. Where that's being made, up is the digital versions and then the collected editions which we which we call graphic novels and so the graphic novel format can. Have tremendous success where you can sell hundreds, of thousands we we. Publish a book called March which is the autobiography, of John Lewis and it, was never available as, comic, books whose only ever been those graphic novels unfortunate. To sell thank you and been fortunate to sell hundreds. Of thousands of copies so they, unlike a National. Book Award it wanted actually yeah worth it was the only graphic. Novel to win a national award, so so. Anyhow I think the, comic book version you can make the same argument that you made with Academic Press that this is the worst time to be publishing.
Traditional. Thirty two-page comic, books but, the upside is is that we had this other version where we collect him into graphic novels and have broader distribution can, I ask you a question. To. Me okay, something that has, puzzled me for a long time about the comics industry, and. I've heard that it's changed, to some degree I don't know how much nobody ever cites me numbers. For. A while I worked at Valiant Comics and, I was shocked. Down to my toenails when, I found out that they didn't reprint, issues that sold well, yeah. And. There. Are so many perverse, disincentives. Built. Into that. Such. A heavy periodical, business and at, the retail level is being refreshed. Every single week so every Wednesday they're wiping out what was there before and then putting everything new and so it's, hard and it's hard to get the. Book back in print fast enough to be able to Rack reactive, demand because your graphic novel is maybe. Six, months away and so and if it takes you six weeks to get a second printing now, with that said we you, know my company and other comic publishers there are occasions, where you do second printings or third printing but. It's it's, much more the exception than the norm what's, the matter if you're not not, able to get it there fast enough to take advantage of it okay. In the market the market is just then moved on to whatever is out this week so, not looking back as much so there's an interesting case right now where you may have heard that DC. Comics had a issue. Of Batman where they showed Bruce Wayne's penis, we, got a copy for, the class. So. DC took, a lot of slack you all know about it you probably weren't didn't, know much about Batman comics until you heard Bruce, Wayne's penis was in a comic but so. They got a lot of national attention not necessarily, that I suspect they wanted to get but, at least people we're talking about that and they were talking about my comics, but they made the decision when you think of it is they made the decision even though there is unbelievable. Demand for that comic if you have one it's worth like 50 bucks now. They. Made the decision not to do a second printing even. Though there is significant. Demand they could probably sell a hundred thousand copies that they if they wanted to but they made they made the decision not to.
Not, To do that again I suspect because they got this. Unwanted. Attention. We've. Already got the attention they might have to take money off yeah I thought they were publishers. They're. A media company yeah no that's true yeah they're. Primarily their, owners. Of IP that's so much of the money yeah that's. That is spent for issues of that will goat it, will go to to, not. Not to the publisher, or the creators of it but, to, downstream. 100%. It helps some comic book shops absolutely, if they have something that is a hit that people that, have been allows them to take risks on other things so you know comic stores and comic publishers the. Comic stores are different than than. Book stores because book stores order on a returnable, basis so they have very very. Low risk when, they make an ordering decision, comic, book stores, order, on a non-returnable, basis, which means that if they buy, it and it doesn't sell they, can't return it it's their problem it's their a mistake and so because, of that they have to be very risk-averse, and where, they can take where they can get the money to take risks as things like this Batman comic that then allows them to have more cash flow that allows them to take bigger commercial, risk yeah. In the case when that comic, came out, our. Local comic, shop who, supplied all of the comics for our exhibit, emailed me to, say hey do you want me to save you this Batman they're, going to censor it it's gonna be a thing and, I said yes which is why the class has one but he said that was absolutely, the big seller of that month and. And was the you know the only sort of moment. Of yes absolutely, every copy of this we ordered his soul who you need to get more. What if we can short. Turn a number. Of the comments people have made have reminded, me of. How. The. It's. It's not always transparent, where. Flexibility. Does and doesn't take just in the, plan of a publisher, or the production, process. Of a book and, you'll often encounter something such as X. Amount of this has sold and it was a big hit logically. They should be printed, and from. The outside you say of course they would but from the inside you know you, know you have to book time on the printing, machines, X months in advance and, the publisher only has X many bookings and, all of these other details are visible from the inside that I'm semi aware of just from hearing, you know people, who are publishers. And printers chat about and that then different publishers are also aware of two different degrees and one, of the elements, of academic publishing that I think you. See less in the small print runs than in the, policy. Toward dissertations, for example, is that, one, of the virtues and purposes. Of academic, publishing is that it is through. Grants. And subventions. And, money, coming from universities. Buffered, from the need to be, commercially, successful. In the large scale right there is money there so. That when somebody prints, an absolutely. Invaluable. Hittitology. Book. Which, the eleven, people who care deeply about hittitology. In each country, desperately. Need you. Want to be able to produce a hundred and fifty copies of this book because, it's an important valuable book it needs to go into libraries, it needs to be there for people and a grant is what makes that possible and this. Is wonderful, because it protects, these works and it means that no matter how obscure, the academic, topic, brill, or somewhat, other publisher, usually, Brill will, step forward and produce the. Very small print run of the book that needs to happen but, it also means that academic, publishers, don't, have the same pressure as other publishers, to start. Adopting or even investigating. New avenues, so, I've often had friends, ask me hey why does X academic, publisher not make an e-book of Y book and I'll, go talk to X, academic, publisher because I will know X academic, publisher and I'll say why, haven't you made an e-book of X book and that's a row it's, difficult, we don't have read it and I'll say if you made one people, would buy it and you would make money and they'd say. Really and. I would say yes I, didn't know you books make money yes. Ebooks, make money if you produce ebooks, you would make money from them and, I mean we do have to pay us yeah step.
In For each pixel. Ebooks. Are pure profit yeah but yeah there are these others that some economists have, never had, to go near, because. The grants are there and the grants need to be there but it's interesting to see where the, pressures, of the, market being even, slightly palpable. Has. Some benefits, even while it's also indispensable. To be buffered from them but I would love to hear others, of you comment on the sort, of invincible, infrastructural. Back-end, issues, of you, know logically, the printer should produce more of a but, here, are all the invisible reasons. Well two things to the right. Right. Now we actually are in in, in trade hardcover. And paperback publishing. In one of those squeeze points, I mean I buy right now I mean this month next month probably the next three or four months we're, basically I'm due, to various, printing, and binding companies, buying each other we. Have, a sudden. Shortage of, printing. And bindery time so everybody's. Being. That's. All mass market stuff now this is but, so. You know everybody's. Being having. To be very disciplined about getting their their, stuff, to the printers and binders exactly, the time when they send three months earlier they're going to and so forth and so on this. Will hopefully resolve, itself in. A broader sense I there's, there's corporate. Conglomerate, publishing and there's corporate conglomerate publishing I mean one of the reasons I can't, speak to the pressures. On people at Harper, Collins. Or Simon. & Schuster. Ran, into penguin which I refuse. To call pendent penguin Random House and they should've called a random thing what every one of the industry calls of that but. A Mac Mac, well we have one fantastically. Good piece of luck which is what we are completely privately owned the entire global. Conglomerate, is owned by two siblings Stefan, about Holtz break and his sister, and. So, we don't have to meet and any quarterly, earnings expectations or, basically. What. Stefan says is what we do and if he says and. Program I'm not expecting, to make any money for five years it's totally experimental, and speculative we're gonna see if this works that's, fine you can say that and nobody, can say no so, we do a bunch of experimental, stuff. Over. All. Oceans. Rise empires fall, and it gets easier to put books into print. Three. Things that are always true. The. It. Doesn't get easier to sell them but it gets easier to put a cell. Basically. Okay. Here's, here's publishing, you have to there has to be the reader there has to be the distributor, there has to be the publisher, there. Should be an author somewhere, and. They. Have to come together if.
The Readers don't know to go and find books it, becomes. Very hard to sell them if you don't have the. Distribution. System the. Books do not get out to where readers can discover. Ability, yeah, you. Don't have discoverability, etc, and so it so they all have to happen simultaneously or. At least they need to creep forward very. Very slowly each one of them so that they kind of keep pace with the others, but, it is it. It's. Another reasonable or lower print runs it just it gets easier, and easier to put a book into print once, upon a time you had to be, there with the stick and you'd, be putting bits, of handset type into it and. That. Took a very long time you also had to collate by hand. Hot. Lead made. Everything a lot faster, and. It. Led to much larger media. Conglomerates, because the machinery was expensive and so, you to, to keep ahead of your competitors you, would buy the bigger machinery, but then you needed more customers, so, that you could sell, everything they were producing. The. Huge. Chain the other huge change that's not distribution. That happened was the invention of offset printing. And. What offset printing meant was that you could reproduce a book without having to completely reset, the type all you needed was the image of the page, probably. Lose a little resolution, but but it's the the same thing that let. You. Much. Easily and, and. And and. Then. Within that the, whole process has been getting faster, and easier and, and, just a whole lot slicker and one of the interesting side effects of this is that the. Results, of the, changes of, Technology and. The in the thrift of technology, is that you're having, an expansion. Of the, diversity, of expression, that is possible, and so it, might well be that. You, know for, every. Possible. Subject,