Friday News: The “Average” Barbie, the dark side of Kickstarter, the art of re-reading, and Harlequin’s declining revenues
The New Barbie: Meet the Doll with an Average Woman’s Proportions – Remember the artist’s rendering of what an “average” Barbie would look like? Well, Nickolay Lamm decided to take his vision and make it a reality, raising $95,000 on Kickstarter to design and manufacture his own doll. to be advertised with the slogan, “Average is beautiful” (do you think we could circulate something similar for three-star reviews?). Lamm has the backing of the former vice president of manufacturing of Mattel, the company that has long made the Barbie, whose sales are currently in decline, and that connection will hopefully pair Lamm with a manufacturer who can produce a high quality doll. Frankly, I hope the Lammily kicks Barbie’s artificially skinny ass.
In a recent interview with Fast Company, Barbie lead designer Kim Culmone vigorously defended the dolls ridiculous measurements, arguing not only that it wasn’t responsible for instilling negative body images in young girls but also that it was necessary to get clothes on and off the doll’s body with ease. “I’ve heard that argument before but I find it odd,” Lamm said. “There are female action figures who are full bodied, and clothes fit fine.” –Time
Kickstarter Fail: Artist Raises $51K to Publish Books, Burns Them in Alley – And now we peer into the dark side of Kickstarter, with the story of John Campbell, a webcomic artist who raised more than $51,000 for a book based on his online comic, “Pictures for Sad Children.” Campbell did, in fact, produce the books, at a cost of about $30,000, but apparently did not have the money to ship them all, and in addition to having some of the Kickstarter money go to the IRS for back taxes, had to spend more of the money on a plastic-bound dead wasp for the inside of each book. Reading Campbell’s story, it sounds like this is more than a failure of money or Kickstarter, but it’s also a reminder that a Kickstarter investment is largely speculative.
Campbell said he successfully mailed 750 to 800 books, while another 150 were undeliverable and returned to him due to old addresses. He plans to burn the rest of the books that have been sitting in his apartment in boxes for over a year.
Two weeks ago, the stress of not being able to afford to mail the books prompted Campbell to burn 127 books behind a dumpster in an alley behind his apartment.
Campbell said burning the books was “like a weight lifted off of me.” –DNAinfo Chicago
Re-reading: The ultimate guilty pleasure? – This is a nice piece on the art of re-reading, from its changing pleasures as we get older, to speculation about its intellectual and emotional benefits, to the question of how many people do and don’t re-read, and why. Is re-reading only habitual among genre fiction readers? I hadn’t really thought about re-reading as something to remark and reflect on until I read this article. Playwright Samantha Ellis has even written a book, How To Be A Heroine, based on her longtime interest in Wuthering Heights.
Scientists have weighed in, too, citing the mental health benefits of re-reading. Research conducted with readers in the US and New Zealand found that on our first reading, we are preoccupied by the ‘what?’ and the ‘why?’. Second time round, we’re able to better savour the emotions that the plot continues to ignite. As researcher Cristel Russell of the American University explained of re-readers in an article published in the Journal of Consumer Research, returning to a book “brings new or renewed appreciation of both the object of consumption and their self”. –BBC Culture
Revenue Declines Continue at Harlequin – Revenues at Harlequin have been on the decline for the past five years, and profits declined 27% from last year. Given Harlequin’s range of books/lines and perception of the reader as their customer, this is not great news. Harlequin has blamed competition in digital book pricing, but I’m thinking the crappy royalty arrangements can’t be helping, either, especially as more Romance authors turn to self-publishing.
In its report, Harlequin blamed ebook prices in North America, specifically, “increased discounts being offered on digital sales of other publishers’ bestselling titles.” Outside of North America, “growth in digital revenue was insufficient to offset print declines.” –Digital Book World