Showing posts from June, 2011

The Wonders of Self-Publishing: Midlist Authors Take Heart!

Image by Luca Effe via Flickr
Not everyone can be John Locke and sell one million copies in five months. Not everyone can be Amanda Hocking and make several million dollars in one year, of course counting in the advance she got from a legacy publisher after her brilliant bout at self-pubbing YA paranormal romances (btw, a very high-selling genre).

But there's a lot of space out there, in the e-book market, and while Amazon's Kindle is still king, the Nook and others are fast coming in, feeding market growth. And we can expect Apple and others to give us soon more iPad-like products that will make the "enhanced e-book" a reality at some point in the near future! With enhancement (i.e. adding video, music and other extras), you can expect yet more people to be attracted to the pleasure of reading.

Because that's the single big difference the digital revolution has brought (and is bringing) to publishing: it is expanding the number of readers.

True, it i…

Change Afoot in the United Nations? The Election of FAO's Director General Raises Questions

Jacques Diouf Image via WikipediaAfter 18 years at the helm of FAO, Jacques Diouf, Senegalese, is about to step down. A new Director General, Jose Graziano da Silva, a Brazilian, was elected last Sunday, amid the general indifference of the world.

I witnessed the proceedings, and I can tell you that something has changed over there in FAO. You're probably thinking it doesn't matter to me and what is FAO anyway?

FAO (full name: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) is not exactly nothing. It is historically the biggest and oldest of the UN specialized agencies.

Founded in 1945 and focused on food and agriculture, forestry and fisheries (as its name implies), it has been undergoing a harrowing process of so-called "reform" - along with the rest of the United Nations since the mid 1980s, when the Scandinavian countries first called for reform.

Reforming the UN is one of the things our politicians, on both sides of the Atlantic, like to do best. Portra…

Greek Default = Eurozone collapse = Great Recession Once More

Image via Wikipedia
The domino effect of a possible (probable?) Greek default is with us.

First Greece defaults on its debt, next the European banks, foremost among them the French and German banks but also the European Central Bank, are hit.

Next in line, the other insolvent countries in the Eurozone: Ireland, Portugal, Spain and, yes, Italy too.

Finally, through the holdings of American banks in Europe coupled with the business of derivatives and credit swaps (intended to provide insurance against sovereign debt defaults, starting with Greece), the financial tsunami  hits the American shores.

This can mean only one thing: a return of the Great Recession. The feared "second dip" becomes reality.

This nightmare scenario is not a figment of my imagination. Unfortunately, it is very real - and explains why the Eurozone finance ministers , in their latest meeting in Luxembourg, have issued an ultimatum to Greece: austerity, or else no bailout money.

The requirements are tough:…

Amazon at Risk: its Kindle Platform can be Spammed!

Image via Wikipedia
Amazon is at risk: because it's so easy and cheap to publish on Kindle, anyone does it, including spammers. They get public domain content (free) and repackage it with a new title and cover, and voilà! Readers are taken in and buy something they could have had free. And the Kindle is awash with spurious, useless content.

Not good for Amazon's reputation in its primary market: readers.

But the damage doesn't stop there. Writers also are hurt by some smart alecks who re-publish the more popular ebook titles under a new title, author name and cover, just changing slightly the text so as to avoid any out-and-out plagiarism (and that's when they're careful...)

But it's piracy nonetheless...and it's beginning to give a bad name to Amazon's Kindle - including among writers. What was a golden opportunity for writers to go down the road of self-publishing isn't looking so good anymore.

This story was first picked up by Reuters and then e…

Israel, Palestine, Jerusalem: How will it end?

Image via Wikipedia

The Palestine-Israel question has been with us for decades now, it's part of the scenery. Can you imagine watching TV or opening your morning paper and not find news about it? Unthinkable!

It's like that picture of a bomb that keeps exploding and re-exploding endlessly...

Friends of mine have asked me repeatedly to blog about it, and so far I've always resisted. I just didn't think I could add anything useful to the debate. Or suggest a solution. Whatever solution is suggested, there's always somebody ready to shoot it down.

Just look at what happened to President Obama when he recently tried to suggest that peace negotiations could resume using as a starting point the 1967 Israel-Palestine border lines. Perish the thought!  Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu who was then on a visit to the US blew up and manifested his discontent in a speech to the American Congress where he was met with a standing ovation.

Still, the EU is pushing a peace p…

Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad: A Slow-burning Masterpiece?

Jennifer Egan Image via WikipediaWhy did Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad, published in 2010, take off so slowly? But take off it did, first to the top 10 on the New York Times Bestseller list. Next it unexpectedly beat out Jonathan Franzen's Freedom for the National Book Critics Circle Award. And this year it was crowned with the prestigious Pulitzer Prize awarded by Columbia University. Soon it is to be adapted into a TV series by HBO.
Is this a slow-burning bestseller that is going to rise and rise, until it becomes, a few years or decades from now, a classic masterpiece?
I was curious and recently decided to join a Goodreads group to read it (it's being read by Goodreads during the whole month of June). It was a fascinating experience, sharing my feelings as I went along with other very dedicated readers, most of them women in the middle of their career and/or young mothers.  Most of us felt a little uncomfortable with the way the novel begins: it comes at you…

The Bondholders are Strangling the World Economy!

Credit Crunch Image by HappyHaggis via Flickr
Bondholders of the world, beware, you are under attack!

Nobel Prize economist Paul Krugman has just come out with another brilliant article, this one on the "rule by rentiers", as he calls it.  Great term! At least one French blogger (see article below) was thrilled by the use of this French word. Of course, what Krugman means are bondholders - and the credit rating agencies that "oversee" sovereign debt.

Krugman in his article doesn't mention the credit rating agencies by name, but the reference is implicit. By rating a country's debt, like for example Iceland or Greece, and lowering it repeatedly, sometimes down to junk status, they signal to bondholders that they should stay away from bonds issued by those countries. Result? Those countries have to pay a much higher interest rate to refinance themselves, which means it costs more to carry the debt (and run the government), causing untold pain to the average,…

E.Coli Disaster: Germany vs. Europe - Where are we going?

Loss! Image by Xtream_i via Flickr Germany has repeatedly turned against Europe. Last year, after Angela Merkel dragged her feet for three months, the Greek debt problem that could have easily been resolved within Europe, exploded, rocking the Euro-zone and putting at risk recovery from the Great Recession, even in the United States. In the breach Germany created by its testy tardiness, the IMF wiggled itself in, vying with the European Central Bank for a prime role in the bailout of Greece - those were in the heydays of IMF Director Dominique Strauss Kahn, when he was still toying with the idea of displacing Sarkozy as President, and Greece provided him with a perfect opportunity to show his face in Europe.

Now, with the e.coli disaster that has claimed so far the lives of 31 European citizens (all Germans, one Swede) and caused painful sickness in thousands of others, including some foreigners who had recently traveled to Northern Germany, the Germans have done it again. We were trea…

Amazon vs. Book Stores: Another Crushing Victory?

Amazon may well be the Next Big Publisher, but it is already one of the biggest book distributor, both for printed books and ebooks, if not the biggest. Does that spell out the end for your traditional corner bookstore?

The rumour around the blogsophere leaves little doubt as to the answer: Amazon is not only the biggest online bookstore but could well become the biggest bookstore in the United States, period.

We've all heard how the Kindle, introduced only three and half years ago, has changed the parameters of online book sales.

This year, the company is expected to sell 17.5 million devices for a total $ 2 billion: not bad! And for us over here in Europe, it has come out with a really good model (see pix above). It can be used anywhere without having to remember passwords etc to link into a local Wi-Fi system: the 3G model works no matter where you are. And whenever you feel like it, you can tap into the Kindle Store from your device and buy anyone of the million titles availabl…