Wednesday News: AU v. Amazon; Wine Train apologizes to book club; Knopf editor talks editing; and a dad says yes to dolls for his son
Is Amazon Creating a Cultural Monopoly? – As much as I admire the tenacity of the Authors United group, their singular fixation on Amazon feels more and more like publisher pressure by proxy. I remember Jon Sargent trying to make the value argument about Agency Pricing – that more valuable works should be priced higher to reflect and cultivate their higher value. Or something along those lines. Frankly, I found the logic pretty unimpressive, in large part because I think publishers have been so disconnected from readers and therefore unable to articulate a definition of value that demonstrates an understanding of the “market” as more than an economic abstraction. And the AU authors who are trying to convince the Justice Department that it’s really good for creative production to foster higher prices feels similarly disconnected.
None of this is to suggest, however, that the Department of Justice would have a strong case against Amazon if it were to sue the company and apply Authors United’s reasoning. One reason pricing has been such a popular method of measuring consumer welfare is that it’s easy to quantify: a three-dollar jar of peanut butter is objectively better for consumers than the exact same jar priced at five dollars—forty per cent better. While it may be attractive, on a philosophical level, to argue that Amazon is bad for us because it makes our culture poorer, measuring that effect would be difficult, if not impossible. How would one go about valuing an unpublished masterpiece by an unknown author? This is further complicated by the fact that Amazon makes it easy for authors to self-publish and have their work be seen, without having to go through such traditional gatekeepers as agents and publishers; Amazon might argue that this allows for more free flow of information and ideas. Furthermore, U.S. law is concerned with diversity in media, Crane said, but that tends to be regulated through the Federal Communications Commission, not the Justice Department. –New Yorker
Wine train apologizes to black women’s book club after allegations of racism – Well, that crisis communications manager must have finally gotten through to the Wine Train management, because the company has both taken full responsibility for how the book club was treated and promised diversity training for their staff. As someone who has been involved in public relations for quite a few years, I had those two things at the top of my wish list for the company’s response. Now we’ll see if they actually do what they’ve promised.
For those who are still confused about why this was so quickly called out at a racially motivated incident, I encourage you to read this explanation of microaggressions from the American Psychological Association. A lot of discriminatory behavior is a product of negative stereotyping, like the way white men partying boisterously after a sporting event are often referred to as “revelers,” but black men doing the same are always in danger of being called “rioters.” Stereotypes can unconsciously affect the way people perceive things, spurring different reactions to the same behavior from people of different races, cultures, genders, etc. People’s actions don’t have to be intended as racially motivated to have a racially discriminatory effect, and there is definitely a racially discriminatory effect in this situation.
“We accept full responsibility for our failures and for the chain of events that led to this regrettable treatment of our guests,” Anthony “Tony” Giaccio said in a statement, which was sent to The Post.
Giaccio said in his statement that he has spoken with Johnson and apologized for her group’s experience on the train. He also wrote a letter to the club, apologizing for the company’s “many mistakes and failures.”
“We pride ourselves our hospitality and our desire to please our guests on the Napa Valley Wine Train,” the letter stated. “In this instance, we failed in every measure of the meaning of good service, respect and hospitality.”
In the letter, Giaccio promised to make sure employees received more diversity and sensitivity training, and invited the club back on the train as his personal guests. The chief executive also noted that train employees were “insensitive when we asked you to depart our train by marching you down the aisle past all the other passengers” and said the company “erred by placing an inaccurate post on our Facebook site that was not reflective of what actually occurred.”–Washington Post
How Does a Book Editor Work? – If you’ve ever wondered how an editor at a major publishing house (in this case Knopf) approaches the acquisition and editing process of a manuscript, you might find this interview with Jordan Pavlin interesting. She’s pretty up front about not wanting to take on books that need too much work, whatever that amounts to, and while I don’t doubt her dedication to her authors is genuine, it also serves the business interests of the publishing house. I think this is one of the reasons corporate editors often get the short end of the stick, wedged between the corporations need to make a profit and the creative work of bringing a book to completion. Speaking of the business side, Pavlin explains how she works that part of the arrangement:
Pavlin: Well, the first thing is that I need to be able to speak about these books with clarity, and intelligence, and excitement, so that our sales reps will know how to pitch them to booksellers—and so that booksellers, in turn, will want to present them to consumers.
So, the first part of my job is really about inspiring people in-house, at Knopf, in every department—but especially our sales reps—to read the book and to share my excitement about it. It’s my job to try to galvanize every department into seeing the same potential, and possibility, and importance in each of the books that I’m publishing and presenting. So, that means talking to people in the marketing department and the publicity department, and sort of just being a tireless advocate—you know, making sure that the jacket is right, that the jacket is setting the novel up in the most effective and telegraphic way. –Slate
Dad Cheers When Young Son Chooses Ariel Doll, Makes Heartwarming Promise for His Future—Watch Now! -So apparently this guy’s a filmmaker, and the whole video has a little bit of a performance vibe to it, but I still think the message is great, and to see a father stepping up and publicly declaring that he supports his kids in choosing their own life and all that entails, even if that means his son buys an Ariel doll, is pretty cool.
“I trust that by the time they realize the world isn’t as accepting as mommy and daddy they’ll have such a solid foundation that nothing will shake their stance to fully, and unabashedly be themselves,” Mikki continued.
Nobody’s perfect, though—Akai’s dad also dropped this “tidbit of truth: “As much as I support my boys to express themselves, I admit to deleting Disney’s Frozen theme song from our playlist. I just could not hear it again!” –E! Online