Feminist Author Pat Cadigan offers an astute commentary on the publishing industry

Pat Cadigan (author of Dervish is Digital, Synners, and Tea From an Empty Cup, mystery novels set in a digitized cyberpunky world of win!) issues a call to arms for book-lovers everywhere. She writes:

This is not a rant about how much better things were in the good old days, the candy bars were bigger and the people were nicer and you kids blah blah blah. It’s not a rant about how culture today is trash next to what we used to have. We are losing our culture. Why? Because too many books don’t sell themselves. Because a fucking corporation can’t be arsed to work for a living. Because, like a spoiled supermodel, they don’t get out of bed for less than a million dollars an hour.

She’s writing in response to Tobias Buckell’s discovery that Borders will NOT be restocking his work, unless Sly Mongoose continues to rock the sales. What Cadigan’s describing is a serious issue. It’s not that there isn’t a long history of feminist SF — it’s that it’s not retained in a way that’s easily accessible to the everyday reader. That’s one of my conflicts as a reader/reviewer. I really WANT to situate feminist/womanist SF in a longer history, but at the same time, I want to talk about books people can actually get their hands on. It’s a conundrum. Plus, I don’t always think Amazon’s the answer. While it’s convenient, I think it takes away from the magic of browsing and discovery.  Oh, ambivalence, thy name is Maria, lover of books. :-/

ETA: Cadigan offers some follow-up here: http://fastfwd.livejournal.com/362297.html.

Comments

  1. says

    I’ve gone and looked at the business journals to verify my impressions from my casual following of the book business, and Borders is oodles and oodles in the hole and had to be bailed out by investors hugely back in March/April. Massive debt, no profits, stocks that were 1/6 of Barnes & Nobles – and B&N refusing to buy them out & rescue them, too.

    So what they’re doing is plugging leaks frantically on a sinking ship, trying to stop themselves from hemorrhaging cash further, and this (anything done by Borders in the last year, like installing “Channel 1″ type TVs, too) indeed not to be taken as anything more than post-iceberg Titanic maneuvers. Close to the situation K-Mart was in when their suppliers would no longer fill orders for eg dog food and put them on a cash-only basis when they went bankrupt a few years ago.

    *Why* Borders stumbled in such a way as led to this floundering around the past couple years…well, we’ll need to hear insider stories. But I expect a combination of Enronesque shenanigans and AOL-Time Warner foolish hubris will be revealed.

  2. says

    I’ve gone and looked at the business journals to verify my impressions from my casual following of the book business, and Borders is oodles and oodles in the hole and had to be bailed out by investors hugely back in March/April. Massive debt, no profits, stocks that were 1/6 of Barnes & Nobles – and B&N refusing to buy them out & rescue them, too.

    So what they’re doing is plugging leaks frantically on a sinking ship, trying to stop themselves from hemorrhaging cash further, and this (anything done by Borders in the last year, like installing “Channel 1″ type TVs, too) indeed not to be taken as anything more than post-iceberg Titanic maneuvers. Close to the situation K-Mart was in when their suppliers would no longer fill orders for dog food and gallons of milk and put them on a cash-only basis when they went bankrupt a few years ago.

    *Why* Borders stumbled in such a way as led to this floundering around the past couple years…well, we’ll need to hear insider stories. But I expect a combination of Enronesque shenanigans and AOL-Time Warner foolish hubris will be revealed.

  3. The OTHER Maria says

    Do you think Cadigan is being unfair by pointing out the impact this hole-plugging is having on SF? To me, it seems like she’s highlighting a pre-existing trend (while she’s focusing on Borders, it seems that her worries about the disappearance of backlists points to a larger trend) and that even tho Borders is doing it in this case, it’s not the only big box book store that does it.

    Hmmmm. I wonder if B&N does the same thing.

  4. draconismoi says

    Maria, lover of books, I share your desire to browse. I am all about the browsing…..it’s just more fun. Browsing online is much harder since they do an unnerving amount of data-mining and yet somehow never manage to catch the ‘feminist’ thread in my reading selections….

    Currently I am blessed to have 3 (THREE!) Scifi/fantasy/horror independent bookstores in my area. THREE!! And as such I haven’t noticed the existence of any chains….but I will be sure to drop in, and remind them that with the plethora of awesome independents in the Bay Area, they are competing with a whole different class of people, and should adjust their selections accordingly.

    And can I also rant about the growing trend to publish bloody everything in trade paperback or hardcover?! gah! I have neither the physical space nor account balance to indulge in those editions. I recently discovered ebooks (much easier on the space aspect) only to learn that ebooks are priced at the same level as the bloody hardcovers! Ridiculous!

  5. photondancer says

    draconismoi, I have exactly the same problem with the preponderance of trade paperbacks and hardbacks these days. I thought that being bigger and using more paper, they must surely cost more to publish and so the whole thing didn’t make sense. When I looked into it a bit, I found that paper is supplied to the publishers in a standard size (guess what size) and it’s actually cutting it down to mass paperback size that costs money. So what with the GFC and a general trend for people to buy fewer books, this may explain why larger size books have become the norm. The ridiculously high ebook prices are presumably their way of trying to win back the profits they used to make.

  6. says

    Here’s another reason why I’m all for electronic books: they don’t need to go out of print, they don’t need to sell thousands of copies to keep them on the server. Discover an author and want to read earlier works? Download her back catalog!

  7. photondancer says

    I went to a couple of sessions on e-publishing at the recent Sydney Writers Festival and a publisher talked about doing exactly that i.e. adding links to buy the author’s other works at the end of the ebook. What she didn’t say was that they would/could probably only do this for books they had copyright on. And at another session an author was seething over the fact that his first book was out of print and he couldn’t offer it as part of his back catalog because (being inexperienced) he had signed away copyright in certain countries. e-publishing has wonderful potential but they need to come up with a sensible copyright model first.

    And it’s kinda nice, in a perverse way, to find that it’s not just Borders Australia who are unhelpful jerks.

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