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Wednesday News: Antitrust concerns for Comcast merger, China’s book banning, Publishers Weekly talks about diversity with publishers, and Walt Whitman’s advice to Oscar Wilde

Wednesday News: Antitrust concerns for Comcast merger, China’s book banning, Publishers...

According to the 16-page submission, the merger will reduce competition by providing Comcast with over 40 percent of the market for broadband internet services, and make it easier for the incumbents to hobble “over-the-top” challengers like Netflix by congesting their internet traffic.

The document, signed by antitrust experts from across the country including Columbia’s Tim Wu and Stanford’s Mark Lemley, comes as the FCC decides whether or not to approve the $45 billion merger, which was announced in February. A decision is expected in 2015. –Gigaom

China has detained a prominent scholar who helped blind dissident Chen Guangcheng flee to the United States two years ago and has banned books by eight writers in an escalating crackdown on dissent.

Guo Yushan, a founder of the Transition Institute, a think-tank that researches business regulations, reform and civil society, was detained on Thursday, his wife, Pan Haixia, said.

More than 10 police officers took him away along with his laptop, wireless router, mobile phone and iPad, she said. –Reuters

The panel drew a small but lively audience that, while more diverse than most industry gatherings, inadvertently highlighted one concern among many attendees: the people with the power to address the issue of diversity in the industry are not making it a priority. Only one senior publishing executive from a Big Five house attended the panel with the majority of the audience consisting of editorial staffers. There was only one person from marketing, cited during the program as a key department for providing support to a diverse list. –Publishers Weekly

The real subject of Whitman’s conversation wasn’t literary form; it was how to build a career in public, with all the display that self-glorifying achievement requires. We can deduce that with confidence because the first thing Whitman did when he reached his den was to give his guest a photograph of himself. Whitman had pioneered the idea that a writer in search of fame should fashion himself as a literary artifact. When Leaves of Grass was self-published in 1855 it did not have Whitman’s name on the title page; instead, it had his portrait on the preceding page, showing the author standing tall in workman’s garb, his collar open, his left hand in one pocket of his slacks, his right resting on his hip, his bearded head topped by a hat set at a cocky angle, and his eyes meeting the reader with a stare simultaneously casual and challenging. No writer had ever presented himself to the public this way, let alone so intentionally. (Or with a visible button fly.) This frontispiece is now considered, the scholars Ed Folsom and Charles M. Price write, “the most famous in literary history.” –New Republic

Thursday News: Death comes to Archie Comics, Comcast’s anti-trust challenge, Kobo’s new president, and Denmark’s Yahya Hassan

Thursday News: Death comes to Archie Comics, Comcast’s anti-trust challenge, Kobo’s...

Comic book icon Archie to ‘die heroically’ – I have to admit that this is pretty clever, although I’m guessing it’s going to make some readers feel manipulated. Although the Archie comics that continue to feature Archie, Veronica, and Betty as teenagers continue to keep all its main characters alive, the series “Life with Archie,” which represents Archie’s grown-up life, will be portraying his death this July. Pretty tricky, Archie Comics.

“Archie dies as he lived — heroically. He dies saving the life of a friend, and does it in his usual selfless way. Archie has always been a representation of us — the best of us. Our strengths and our faults,” Goldwater said. –New York Post

Antitrust issues abound as Comcast explains Time Warner Cable deal in the Senate – This is a really interesting analysis of the case Comcast is trying to make to Congress about why it should be allowed to purchase Time Warner. Comcast is currently the largest cable tv company in the US, and Time Warner is the second largest. Comcast claims that horizontal competition will not be affected by the merger, and the government is interested in making the harder-to-support case that there are vertical antitrust issues that weight against the merger. However, as this piece points out, the issue is much larger than that of cable tv providers — it goes back to that fundamental question of who controls the broadband market. This potential deal also directly implicates net neutrality.

As my colleague Stacey Higginbotham explained yesterday, this deal isn’t really about cable, but about broadband services. It is not about a choice of cable company, but instead about deciding who will control the the pipe of information that comes into our home alongside our gas and electricity.

And it is on this front that the antitrust issues are most profound. If Comcast and Time Warner Cable merge, the combined company could control at least 40 percent of the country’s broadband market. –Gigaom

London Book Fair 2014: PW Talks with Kobo President Michael Tamblyn – This interview with Kobo’s new President and CCO Michael Tamblyn may be of particular interest to those whose content was transferred from the now-defunct Sony Reader Store to the Kobo Store, who lays out some of his strategy for Kobo and his perceptions of the ebook and e-device market. Not surprisingly, Kobo is looking at the self-publishing market, which Tamblyn claims account for about 10% of daily unit sales. He also seems to be pretty focused on keeping Kobo centered in the e-reader business, not branching out to tablets.

If you look at the development of Kobo over time, we started as an apps only company which then figured out that devices were a great way to acquire customers, so we succeeded in building a lot of devices and released them into a lot of markets, and then figured out how to get partners selling those devices, in a lot of different territories. Now, we’re coming back with a greater focus on the content side of the business. Now that we have all of our partners putting devices on shelves and putting them in customers hands, how do we get those partners more engaged in the promotion of the digital titles that go on those devices? How do we get bricks and mortar locations promoting more digital in more ways? So I’ve been spending a lot of my time looking at the publisher, author, and title side of the business. –Publishers Weekly

Lashing Out in Verse – I have to admit that I’ve been a little bit obsessed with this story for the past week, seeking out videos of Hassan’s poetry readings, even though I don’t understand much Danish, the language in which he produces his work. For despite Denmark’s reputation as the happiest country in the world, Hassan provides a much different view, one that suggests much more complexity and social stratification than is often perceived by or presented to outsiders. At only 18 years of age, the Danish-Palestinian poet is making a controversial name for himself as both an artist to be reckoned with, and a force of political and social rebellion that has earned him both substantial popularity and criticism.

A rapper before he became a poet, Mr. Hassan caught the attention of Johannes Riis, the literary director of the Gyldendal publishing house, who met him through other Danish literary figures. Mr. Hassan then wrote some 170 pages of poetry over the course of several months before publishing the first 800 copies of “Yahya Hassan” on Oct. 19. Sales took off after an interview in the Danish daily Politiken whose headline, containing an expletive, quoting him on his hate for his parents’ generation. He describes a disciplinarian father who hits him and his siblings and eventually leaves to marry a second Muslim wife, and he criticizes his mother and other relatives.

He finds particular fault with the ways their lives in Denmark are circumscribed — as are those of so many modern immigrants — by clinging to the remote control that brings satellite TV, in this case Al Arabiya and Al Jazeera, to their living rooms. The images of life in the poorer parts of Aarhus, the port city where Mr. Hassan lived with his family, are bare and dirty. The language used to describe his various brushes with state institutions is rife with expletives. –New York Times