An American Editor

December 29, 2010

Question of the Year: Does Amazon Have Too Much Power?

Amazon is probably the largest bookseller, dollar-wise, in America and the world. Certainly, it is the largest ebook seller in America. And Amazon has spread its tentacles so that it is not only a bookseller, but it competes with publishers as a publisher.

Amazon has positioned itself so that, with the exception of the big publishing houses like Hachette, Simon & Schuster, and Random House, authors and publishers believe their books must be available for sale on Amazon or they will never make it. I have yet to hear of anyone cry, for example, that the failure of Barnes & Noble or Sony ebookstores to carry their ebook is a crisis. But we do hear and feel that panic when it comes to Amazon.

The result of this concentration of power is that Amazon is given the opportunity to censor. I grant that Amazon is free to decide what products it wants to sell or not sell; after all, it is not a governmental agency that must be neutral in the marketplace. But saying that begs the question because by agreeing with that proposition (i.e., Amazon is free to sell or not sell a particular book or genre of books), we are also saying that Amazon is free to dictate what an author writes, a publisher publishes, and a reader reads — at least if you are an author or publisher who believes that not being sold by Amazon is tantamount to writing death or a consumer who believes that the only place to buy a book is from Amazon.

Amazon’s Kindle has changed the worlds of reading, writing, and publishing. Although the change has been largely for the good — more books are being sold (and hopefully read) — there is also a dark side to the Kindle world. The dark side begins with a proprietary format that is designed to lock the average consumer into buying books only at Amazon. (Yes, I know that one can strip Amazon’s DRM and then convert the book to another format using readily available free tools; but most consumers do not do this and do not want to be bothered having to do it, thus the success of the Kindle. The Kindle is the market leader not because it is the best ereader but because of the ease-of-use with the Amazon ebookstore.) 

The dark side spreads to the way the device is designed; that is, it is designed to encourage users to be connected to Amazon’s servers and to automatically download updates. The problems with being connected and updates are that they allow Amazon to track the consumer’s buying habits and give Amazon access to the Kindle’s content, enabling removal or disabling at Amazon’s whim. Although a lot of Amazon fans say that Amazon will do no evil, that is really more of a wish and a prayer than a fact. Amazon has always put Amazon’s interests ahead of everyone else.

A more important dark side, however, is that Amazon uses such vague terminology that what was acceptable for publication and sale at Amazon today, may not be tomorrow — and there is little (actually nothing) that the consumer, the author, or the publisher can do about it. The only publishers with power in this battle are the big 6 publishing houses which between them publish probably 75% of all best-selling, money-making, books and whose refusal to supply Amazon with books could seriously affect Amazon’s bottom line (which is why 5 of the big 6 were able to force Amazon to accept the agency model).

In recent weeks more than one author has noticed the disappearance from Amazon of their books. The given reason was that the books violated Amazon’s terms of service but no explanation of what the violation actually was was forthcoming. Authors were left in the dark and consumers who had purchased the titles suddenly no longer had access to them (and apparently were not given refunds by Amazon).

For these shenanigans, I do not blame Amazon: instead, I blame the authors and smaller publishers who will do anything to be listed on Amazon and who then turn a blind eye when a fellow author/publisher’s books are dropped for some vague reason. The survivors hope that their turn will not come.

I also blame the consumers who are too lazy to do 2-click buying and will only shop at Amazon; consumers who are unwilling to spend a nickel more on a book at another store because Amazon is the lowest priced. Some day, in the not too distant future, that consumer attitude will haunt the consumers because as competition to Amazon disappears, the need/desire for Amazon to increase profits will raise its head and those low prices that everyone wants to grab today will no longer be available.

Once Amazon sees a decline in the growth of Kindle sales, that is, the point at which it realizes it has reached 99% saturation of its ebook market, I expect to see Amazon begin raising prices on ebooks. With millions of locked in customers, a simple 10-cent increase would generate millions more in profit, which Amazon shareholders will be expecting and demanding.

The Amazon success story in ebooks is much like the biography of a lemming.


December 28, 2010

Coming to Grips with Editing in 2011

In a few days, the calendar turns a new page and we move into a new year. For me, it will be a new fiscal year, as my fiscal year is the calendar year. This change got me thinking about whether 2011 will be better than 2010 and whether 2010 was an improvement over the Recession Years.

Starting from the past and moving forward, a look back on the Recession Years shows that they were not so terrible for me. Yes, business was down; yes, I lowered my rates to remain competitive; but even so, I did quite well over all. What the Recession Years meant to my business was that I had less need for additional help, which was clearly not good for those who relied on work from me, and that I paid less for the work I did provide.

This past year, 2010, was a significant improvement over the Recession Years. Business was up and I was able to provide work for more editors than during the Recession Years, but not for as many editors as in the years preceding the Recession Years. Unfortunately, what I could not recover was the price level. To remain competitive, I had to maintain my prices.

The coming year, 2011, looks brighter yet. I doubt I will be able to raise my prices, but I expect to see a greater volume of work. But even here competition is forcing changes. I expect that I will have to offer more services albeit without a concomitant increase in price. This remains to be seen.

I expect 2011 to be a more competitive year than any previous year. An increasing number of people are hanging out their shingle proclaiming themselves as freelance editors. This trend, which has been going on for a number of years but has spiked in the past year or so, seems to be fueled by the ebook evolution. Some commentators have noted that with the rise of self-publishing of ebooks, more authors will need editorial help. Unfortunately, this misreads, I think, the evolving market.

A trend that I am sorry to see, but which is gaining rapidly, is the trend to not make use of editorial professionals. I read more comments by authors saying that the economics of self-publishing preclude any kind of professional help, assuming they want that help to begin with. I also see an increasing number of authors who believe that all they need is spell-check — no other editorial help is required for their books. And I have seen in the past few months an increasing hostility toward editors because the editors do the job for which they were hired — correct grammar and spelling, question incoherence, and the like, but the authors think they speak in the voice of a god.

But most concerning of all is the increasing number of small publishers who are following the author trend. Several have commented that they have stopped hiring editors because what they pay a professional editor can be the difference between a book being profitable or a money loser in the short-term. Besides, they often add, readers don’t really notice when a book is well edited. (Isn’t that the desired end result?)

So where will editorial services be in 2011? It is a mixed bag. I see increased work for my company yet declining work for editors over all. The ebook evolution that should be cause for cheer for editors, may, in fact, be cause for gloom, especially for those editors who do not master the skills needed in an ebook world, which skills are supplemental to — not in lieu of — those needed for print books.

In a way this reminds me of the transition from paper-based editing to electronic editing that occurred in the 1980s and early 1990s. I remember how resistant many editors were to that change and when they finally did make the transition, they learned only barebones skills — they didn’t master the new skills. It isn’t unusual today to speak with an editorial colleague only to discover that the colleague’s grasp of the hardware and software used in their business is minimal. (I still remember attending a class on copyediting where the instructor told students that learning to edit on the computer was unnecessary because no one was doing electronic editing. Of course, all my clients at that time were happy to load me up with work because I was doing electronic editing and few other editors were doing it.)

Where will you be in 2011? Do you see a bright future for yourself and for editing in general? Do you think editing is a dying skill? Share your thoughts.

December 24, 2010

A Boost to My Pocketbook, But a Pain in My Heart

Filed under: Politics — Rich Adin @ 8:14 am
Tags: , , , ,

The recently enacted tax extension compromise was good for my pocketbook but bad for my children’s future and thus worries me greatly. It also makes me worry about the backbone of our Democrat politicians.

Why does it make me worry? Because of the 2% reduction in the employee Social Security contribution.

Let’s consider history a moment. Ever since Franklin Roosevelt introduced Social Security legislation, it has been under attack from the conservative right. The reasons have varied but ultimately it boils down to what distinguishes Republicans from Democrats: Republicans believe that the only safety net that government should provide is for the wealthy, a class they dream of joining, whereas Democrats believe there should be a safety net for those who are not wealthy and never will be wealthy. This is a fundamental philosophical difference and one that will become a chasm wider than the Grand Canyon in the Congress soon to be seated.

Over the years the right’s attack on Social Security has been thwarted. The most recent defeat was the plan to privatize a portion of Social Security. Can you imagine the mess most of us would be in had that plan come to fruition a few years ago? But now the Democrats have helped drive the first nail into the coffin of Social Security as a safety net. If there is one thing that can be said about Democrat politicians, it is that they are clueless.

Remember when the Bush-era tax cuts were enacted by the Republicans? What was the key to getting the tax cuts passed? It was the assertion that the cuts were temporary and would expire. The U.S. treasury would not lose those hundreds of billions of dollars forever. I suppose another key was the fanciful and fantasy belief that by giving the wealthy more money to spend, it would all trickle down to the middle and poor classes. Trickle is not what I would call what occurred; I feel more like a Robert Maplethorpe exhibit than the recipient of wealthy largesse.

So here the tax cuts are set to expire and what is the Republican hue and cry? To not extend the tax cuts would be a tax increase and they are adamantly opposed to a tax increase — even if just on millionaires and billionaires. I have to tell you how glad I am that the Republicans fought so bravely to maintain the wealthy’s ability to have both winter and summer homes and a Tiffany Christmas. But that is beside the point.

The point is that 42 Republicans stood together, united in refusing to do any of the countries business unless the wealthy got their tax cuts extended, with the preference that they be made permanent. What do you think will happen next year when the Social Security tax cut is supposed to expire?

It is like a perfect storm in the sense that the Republicans, with the help of Democrats, can accomplish two goals in by casting one stone. How better can they destroy Social Security for the future than to deprive it of finding, just as they plan to do to the health care reform measures. And when Democrats howl about how Social Security will be under financial threat, the Republicans will stand tall and united yet again in opposition to anything that smacks of a rise in taxes, which returning the Social Security tax rate to its 6.2% level would clearly be.

Of course there is the possibility that Republicans won’t object because basically the tax is a regressive tax on the middle- and low-income classes, not on the wealthy, but I doubt it. I expect that at some point the Democrats will realize they have been snookered yet again and my generation will be the last generation to collect Social Security as a safety net in old age.

I am always amazed at how ruthless Republicans can be and hapless Democrats are; I keep hoping that Democrats will suddenly get hit over the head with the frying pan and it will jostle their minds sufficiently to see that if they really want to be champions of the middle and lower classes, they need to give Republicans a dose of their own medicine. Alas, I expect that will never occur because Democrats tend to be leaderless.

This year was the 75th birthday of Social Security; I doubt we will celebrate its 100th.

December 16, 2010

A Musical Video: Learning Grammar the Easy Way

Sometimes the best way to learn grammar is to use senses other than our eyes. Consider the following videos —

for conjunctions:

for interjections:

for adjectives:

for predicates:

and for prepositions:

It would have been much easier to learn grammar had teaching videos like these been available when I was in grade school. Alas, I had to learn grammar the hard way.

Sometimes I get a manuscript that is so grammatically bad that I get tempted to embed a video like those above that gets the point across without my having to come right out and say, “Your manuscript is an insult to English!” Of course, diplomacy wins out and I neither exclaim my exclamation nor embed a video hint.

December 13, 2010

Missing the Editorial Boat Redux

I received several private comments regarding my Missing the Editorial Boat article, with all demonstrating that the primary point is being missed.

What is it that packagers offer American publishers? They offer (1) complete (or near complete) production services at a price that is less than what it would cost the American publisher to do the same work in-house and (2) convenience. It appears that readers grasped the first concept but not the second, yet it is the second that is the most important for editorial freelancers.

Traditionally, an in-house production editor would have x number of books that he or she would have to shepherd through the production process in a year. As the publishing industry consolidated in the 1990s, the in-house production editor’s workload increased. Instead of having to occasionally hire a freelance editor, for example, hiring freelance editors became the norm, a necessity even — yet the in-house production editor had to monitor each hired freelancer’s work. What happened is that the role played by the in-house editor changed from editing to managing.

This workload increased greatly as the years passed and the demand for more profit by the parent company had to be met. It reached a point where the in-house production editor could no longer manage all of the titles for which he or she needed to be responsible in order to meet the corporate bottom-line goals, in the sense that the production editor could no longer properly manage all of the individual freelancers needed to be hired to get the work done. In addition, freelancer costs were rising.

The solution was the packager who offered to undertake the management burden as well as the production burden at a price that was often less than the publisher’s current costs. The packager’s lower cost came about in two ways: first, by moving the mechanical production outside the United States to developing countries where costs were significantly lower. And second, by putting the burden of meeting that lower cost on the freelancer; after all, the packager’s in-house costs, although less than that of the publishers it dealt with, was/is still a fixed cost. The cost of the freelancer, however, was/is a flexible cost.

Conversations with publishers tell me that the packager situation is less than ideal and that quality of output has declined, but there is no viable alternative for the publisher. Publishers are still being squeezed between costs and profit demands, so they are trying to publish more books with fewer in-house staff. And it certainly is less than ideal for editorial freelancers who get price squeezed. But the convenience factor, when added to the lower bid price of the packager, makes packaging a sensible choice for publishers. Take away the convenience factor, and the packager is not necessarily the best alternative.

Just so it is clear, the convenience factor is the convenience of having a third-party manage all of the freelancers the publisher needs to get the books edited. Packagers have undertaken the role of the in-house production editor in this regard, and now, when a publisher sends a book or several books to a packager, the publisher only needs to speak with one person even if there are 15 freelance editors working on the publisher’s books. This is convenience, as well as a lower cost to publishers.

The idea behind partnering is to level the playing field as regards convenience. There still needs to be price competition, but that is another matter. To get to that point, freelancers first need to overcome the hurdle of convenience.

Think about the editorial boat article in that light.

December 10, 2010

Missing the Editorial Boat

Here’s the question of the decade — at least for us editors: Are editors missing the editorial boat?

I can hear you mumbling “what in heck is he talking about?” I’m talking about the changes that have occurred in editorial work between the 1970s and the 2000s and whether editors are still stuck in LP mode while the rest of the world has moved to CDs and MP3s.

In the 1970s (and before, as well as into the early 1980s) most of the larger U.S. publishers were American owned and had a stable of freelance American editors that they called on. In addition, the Internet was still being birthed and the world was a far away place. This invited and encouraged many of us to give up corporate jobs, especially low-paying publishing jobs, and become our own bosses. And many freelancers touted on any number of forums that they were free and would never work for someone else as an employee again.

Yet the world moved on. Many of the American publishers bought other American publishers and eventually were absorbed into even larger conglomerates who were based in Europe. These American publishers now had different masters with different outlooks. No longer was the outlook American centric; it became global and increasingly driven by the need to increase short-term returns for global investors.

Many experienced editors who have worked through these decades have commented on the changes seen in editorial quality as the push came to lower costs and increase profits. Where American publishers hired American editors at reasonable rates in the beginning, the pressures created by bottom-line thinking changed that so that publishers increasingly were no longer hiring editors directly but outsourcing the complete production cycle. The rise of the packager.

Packagers, who now dominate the editorial process, get their business by providing a low-price bid to a publisher that includes the complete production package — editing, composition, and even printing. Yet these packagers usually only do the latter two functions in-house; they outsource to freelance editors the editorial aspects.

All of this is OK until one thinks about how the packager’s bid is aligned. If the packager outsources the editorial function but keeps in-house the rest of the production process, the packager, like other businesses, wants to maximize the profit of the in-house work and minimize the loss of the outsourced work. Yet the packager has to create an attractive price to win the publisher’s work. So the method is to externally provide a bundle price but internally separate out an allocation to outsourced and the in-house functions.

The result is that minimal sums, as minimal as can be gotten away with, are allocated to the outsourced editorial function. And of the sum allocated, the packager keeps a portion as its profit, as packagers are unwilling to either take a loss or simply break even on any facet of the work.

So with this going on in the background, what changes have been seen in the world of freelance editors? As I look at my colleagues, what I see is exactly the same approach to business today as was the approach in the 1980s. In this regard, I think editors are missing the editorial boat.

Yes, we have changed in that we now work using computers rather than editing on paper, but that really isn’t much of a change. It’s like changing from goose quills to ballpoint pens — the tool has changed but not the approach. But even that change is only a partial change. Most freelancers have rudimentary knowledge of the tools they use and refuse to spend any money on tools that are not absolutely required.

The largest hurdle that freelancers have to surmount is the idea that working alone is the way to work. Packagers have gained their stranglehold because they offer a single stop for a publisher. The publisher’s costs are reduced because the packager handles all of the production aspects and the publisher no longer needs to maintain high staff levels. Freelancers need to learn and adopt the packager lesson: Freelancers need to think in terms of working as a group and offering their services as a competitive group. Freelancers need to make themselves attractive to publishers by becoming low cost-low maintenance yet high-quality service providers.

If freelancers think downward price pressure is a burden now, the further behind the editorial boat leaves us, the greater the downward pressure will become, especially as editorial skills are increasingly thought of as a commodity.

Something to think about as we contemplate our editorial futures, and something to address in the new year.

December 8, 2010

The Google Wars: Taking the First Step

The first salvo in the Google Wars occurred with Google’s opening of its long-awaited, but greatly disappointing Google Books. In yesterday’s post, Will You be a Googler?, I suggested how things might be, a Christmas of the Future so to speak. But if Google plans to be a real presence in the digital book world with something more than poorly scanned public domain books, it needs to put on its battle gear and get moving toward the front lines now. What follows is one suggestion for first battle orders.

What is it that Google has that no other competitor to Amazon (i.e., no other pbook or ebook competitor) has? Well, there are several things, but most important are the name Google, which is both a noun and a verb and thus ubiquitous in the online world, and the financial resources to do battle on equal terms. The former we need do nothing about; the latter we need to spend.

Let’s move beyond the basics that Google needs to address — the poorly designed Google Books website. That is easily cured; Google can hire any computer-literate high schooler and get a better design. What is not so easily cured is Google’s lack of reputation as the place to go for books. And that is the area of greatest need.

In one online discussion, someone asked whether the Kindle has become the kleenex of ereading devices; kleenex in the sense of a generic name for all devices. I know that when people see me reading on my Sony, the first question asked is, “Is that a Kindle?” How valuable to Amazon is that association of Amazon-Kindle-ebooks?

So step one for Google is to adopt a hardware device as a Google device and for that I nominate the Sony PRS-950. A partnership between Google and Sony is the way to go because the Sony gives more reading real estate and superior ergonomics and build quality when compared to the Kindle. But simply adopting the 950 is not enough.

As part of the adoption process several things need to happen, the most important being these:

  • Sony needs to rewrite the firmware so as to open up the Internet capabilities of the 950 to more than just the Sony ebookstore
  • Google needs to create a modified version of its Chrome browser to work on the 950
  • Google needs to underwrite part of the cost of the Sony 950 so that it can be sold competitively priced to the Kindle
  • Google needs to arrange for the Sony 950 to be usable anywhere in the world

Given a choice between a Sony 950 and a Kindle 3G, with easy-to-use ebookstores with similar content available, I think people would choose the Google-Sony 950 more frequently than the Kindle.

Yet that is only the start. Google needs to attack Amazon where it is most vulnerable, which is in book selection. Right now it is clear that the difference between the Amazon and Google (and Barnes & Noble and Kobo) ebookstores is the difference between Tweedledee and Tweedledum. Yes, there may be scattered titles that one has and the others do not, but for the most part, each has an identical inventory available. (Pricing is a different matter and not one that needs to be addressed at this point.)

But Google can give Amazon a run for its money in exclusives — and it should. Remember when Amazon announced that certain forthcoming books from popular authors would be available exclusively at Amazon for 6 months to 1 year? We haven’t heard a lot about that recently but it is time to stoke the exclusivity war with Google plunging in. And Google offers something that Amazon doesn’t and can’t — search engine ranking. Entry in Google Books can be made to appear in the number 1 position on a search results page.

If I were Google, I would approach the top 25 authors in multiple categories — romance, fantasy, science fiction, historical novels, etc. — and offer an exclusive Google Books deal (I can think of lots of terms that would be appealing to authors to induce them to sign on, but we can save that discussion for another day).

I would also offer an inducement to readers to buy the Google-Sony 950. Buy one and pick 10 ebooks from our vast catalog of ebooks. If the agency folk scream about it, reverse the order: Buy 10 ebooks and get the reader with our compliments.

One more thing I would do in the this initial battle, and that is create exclusive ebook packages. The packages could be special omnibus editions of a single author’s work or it could be a themed collection that combines a major author’s work with similar type works from indie authors. I actually prefer the latter because it would expose readers to more authors. But imagine being able to buy a Dean Koontz backlist title along with 6 similar-genre titles written buy indie authors for the price of the Dean Koontz title. Granted this would require a lot of cooperation among authors but such a scenario could be a win-win for the indie authors, Dean Koontz, and Google, as well as for consumers.

Special omnibus editions would fit within the Agency 5’s hopes to sustain a viable competitor to Amazon. There is no reason, for example, why the first 3 novels written by Tom Clancy, for example, couldn’t be packaged into a single, special, Google Omnibus where readers could buy 3 for the price of 1 or 2. It is in the interests of publishers to help create a real competitor to Amazon, especially now that they should be recognizing that Apple isn’t the answer and is unlikely to ever be the solution as opposed to a future problem.

At least this would be a start down the competitive pathway. Will Google do anything more than what it has done (i.e., announce and open Google Books) remains to be seen, but this is the one hope right now of creating competition in the book world.

December 7, 2010

Will You be a Googler?

Yesterday, Google Books opened for U.S. residents. This is the long-awaited bookstore, although after a browse of it, I’m not sure why. The question that remains to be seen is whether this bookstore will be very competitive and whether it will challenge Amazon.

Also in yesterday’s news was the rumor/announcement that Borders, in conjunction with the private equity group that currently is keeping Borders afloat, plan to make a bid for Barnes & Noble. This will be interesting.

But the two bits of news really belong together.

Google Books has one thing going for it: it will be a way for independent bookstores to provide an ebook service to their customers. Powell’s in Portland, OR, has already indicated it will be partnering with Google Books. But a look at the Google bookstore doesn’t leave me chomping at the bit to buy books from it, whether print or ebooks.

Try finding customer service. I had difficulty finding it and, more importantly, had difficulty determining whether Google Books is a cloud-only service or a combined cloud-download service. The former I would never buy from (unless I absolutely had no choice) whereas the latter at least gives you the option of maintaining a copy of your purchase on your desktop. But what happens if I purchase a book only to discover after purchasing it that it is not downloadable, something that appears very easy to do at Google Books? Trying to get your money back and have the book removed from your cloud-based library looks to be a herculean task, in contrast to the ease of access to customer service at Amazon, B&N, Kobo, and Sony, to name a few competitors.

There are lots of problems with Google Books. One would think that a company as resource-rich as Google would hire better specialty designers, but I guess even money doesn’t cure the hit-or-miss school of design.

Yet, I suspect that in the not too distant future most of us will become Googlers, that is, buyers of books via Google Books, unless we become Amazoners. I think that the foretold shakeout of the ebook retail industry has just begun. Here’s why and what I would do —

I’d like to be sitting on the cash — note it is cash — that Google is because I would now take the steps necessary to thwart Amazon and Apple’s ebook business. First thing I’d do is buy B&N. Google can do it for cash; Borders can’t compete, Jobs doesn’t believe in reading and so won’t compete, and Amazon could never buy B&N and get past antitrust concerns. And no matter what Leonard Riggio thinks, a serious bid for B&N by Google would be insurmountable by Riggio. It isn’t exactly like he has been such a great leader in recent years that private equity would simply line up and beg him to lead a takeover.

Second, I would put Borders out of its misery. Buy it and merge it into Google Books. The only real value to Borders is its customer list.

Third, I would approach Sony and offer a deal for its ebookstore. I doubt Sony could resist any reasonable offer, especially if Google made a deal to scrap the nook device and help Sony make its devices more price competitive. The reality is that the Sony devices are probably the best dedicated reader devices available except that they cost so much more than the Kindle, nook, and Kobo (and other third-party devices), they can’t get the kind of traction in market share they deserve. Combine Google financial power with Sony technology and suddenly you would see a truly competitive ebook market.

Finally, comes Kobo. The Kobo device isn’t something I would write home about; it’s OK but not a class leader. But the Kobo ebookstore is a different story. If the ebook race were to be decided simply on the quality of the ebookstore and customer service, the race would be between Amazon and Kobo, none of the other major players would even be a blip on the horizon. Kobo is aggressive and provides customer service at the vaunted Amazon level. So what I would do is see if I couldn’t partner with Kobo, perhaps pay a fee to bury the brand and merge it into the Google Books brand but have the Kobo personnel essentially run Google Books.

Ultimately, I think the only ebook bookstore survivors of the major brands will be Amazon, Google, and Kobo. Sony’s ebookstore isn’t bad, but Sony hasn’t got a clue how to promote either its reading devices or its ebookstore. B&N and Borders are mismanaged; B&N does do some great promoting but drops the ball after the promoting. Borders doesn’t seem to do anything right. Apple is really a nonentity as regards ebooks. It’s hard to become a real competitor when the only person who matters doesn’t believe in reading.

Google Books is the unknown in the lion’s den. Google certainly has the fiscal resources to take on Amazon, which is the key player today, but whether it has the vision and the stamina to do so remains to be seen. If we begin to see improvements in the Google bookstore, especially in customer service options, and see Google make moves to create a true competitor to Amazon, then many of us may well become Googlers. Until then, I think Google Books will be last in the race.

December 2, 2010

Going Backward in Leaps and Bounds

Filed under: Politics — Rich Adin @ 9:37 am
Tags: , , ,

Over the course of my voting life, which has been decades, I have ranged from independent to Republican to Democrat in terms of party registration, but I have always voted for the persons I thought were the best qualified regardless of their and my party affiliation. I think that will change in the future.

There is nothing I find more distasteful than tyranny — whether it be tyranny of the majority or of the minority. I have always considered our triad government the best of current systems, yet today the Senate Republicans have disabused me of that belief.

Yesterday, 42 Republican Senators threatened to close down the Senate unless their demand for the renewal of the Bush-era tax breaks for everyone, regardless of income, is enacted. One would think that the only thing America has on its plate is tax cut renewal. There is no concern, for example, for the jobless who can’t find work and whose benefits are about to expire — the “99 weekers.” Instead, there is concern for people whose incomes exceed $250,000 and who might have to pay an extra $500 in taxes, people who have jobs and aren’t facing homelessness and medical problems for which they have neither medical coverage nor money.

Even bills that they have already voted in favor of, such as the bill to expand FDA powers to protect our food supply that Republicans overwhelmingly supported earlier this week, are being threatened by the cabal of Republicans. Basically, the Republicans are saying that giving money to their millionaire allies is significantly more important than even protecting the average American’s food supply. Or the new START treaty to make the world a less dangerous place — a treaty that Republicans and Democrats alike, who are no longer in office and no longer worried about political contributions support. There is something significantly wrong with this line of thinking.

Mitch McConnell and the 41 other Republican Senators have shown what buffoons they truly are with this latest threat to shut down the people’s business. First, they cry that the past election sent a message to politicians that getting the deficit under control is the number one priority of the American people. Consequently, no spending will be allowed to occur on their watch absent a corresponding cut somewhere else. OK, if that is the message, then where is the corresponding cut being made for the $700 billion dollars that extending the tax cut to those who earn more than $250,000 will add to the deficit.

The Republicans used to be a party of great thinkers and people who cared about the overall welfare of America as a country. It has become a party of limited thinking and sound bites. This is not to say that the Democrat party is a great deal better, but better it is than the Republican party.

Unfortunately, the ones who will suffer will be us, the average citizen, not the wealthy elite who make up the U.S. Senate. I think the time has come to test the resolve of the 42 Republican senators. The Democrats should introduce bills and try to bring them to a vote. Change the rules of the Senate.

Do I, as a citizen who isn’t receiving the bribes the politicians are, care about some arcane rule that lets a Senator object to a bill and by doing so prevent its coming to a vote? I don’t; I think it is time for the majority to also not care and get on with the business at hand.

How does any sane person think we can eliminate our deficit without some combination of tax increase and spending cut? No economist from any side of the spectrum thinks it is possible, yet 42 Republican Senators think it is. I’m waiting to see how this miracle will come about.

In the mean time, these 42 Republicans have convinced me to never vote for a Republican again. I don’t expect to agree with everything any candidate for office espouses, but the one thing I cannot abide is when a politician determines that protecting his or her money sources is more important than taking care of the country’s business — and that seems to be the message the Republicans are gleefully sending to me.

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