Dec 16, 2022Liked by ken whyte

Super list of books. I voted for Manifest Destiny and have Funeral for a Queen on order at my local Indie Bookstore. Love this site. A retired NF librarian

Gail B

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Tx for the ChatGPT redux. In my view, the in-depth journalism you mentioned is 95% gone from media. I stopped reading mainstream media years ago, because I felt that everything I was reading was just government and industry press releases, re-hashed by junior interns who know nothing about the subject, and have not interviewed anyone who does.

Essentially, media is produced by human ChatGPT bots, trolling the Internet, and cobbling together paragraphs that just repeat what the other Chat bots said. Media using mechanical bots doesn't change anything for me. Kind of same for many books. Most Harlequin Romances could be written better by a Chat bot.

All the same, thank you for taking the pulse of your authors, and paying for their food and rent.

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Always an interesting read Ken. I made art furniture for 40 years, and my impression was that my American clients were much more understanding of Art, and supportive of paying for it.

As for the grant scene, you need a paradigm shift. The grants are just another industry subsidy, and I mean subsidy of the bricks and mortar store industry, not so much yours. To create the shift, I think small publishing needs to bust the balls of the retailers about the 60% cut, and the whole "returns" issue, which is so 20th century. The grants may help you meet payroll next week, but the bigs are using them to keep you down, by keeping their share up.

It reminds me of friends of mine who are a small distillery. They don't sell through the government liquor store, who take 60% and want huge volume. Interestingly, they don't sell to restaurants, who are all "carteled" in a Mafia like exclusive sales arrangement in their location. They are definitely a niche, and survive on direct sales.

Good luck Ken. I admire your perseverance.

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Someone needs to make bumper stickers that read:

Il faut

que Monsieur Brault


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Gosh Ken, you are such a good writer. This is my favourite of your columns. You might consider making this column, the film, the collapse of journalism, and the evolutionary predilections of octopi, into a book. I've always loved the phrase- "ink stained wretch". Perhaps Jason is an ink stained angel.

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The Colour of Ink is just wonderful. Jason inspires me daily. You're right, my career in magazines has been sadly truncated - sadly, because I loved it with all my heart. Now I write my somewhat obscure books but, since I intend to bury them in my grave with me, they must mean something. I'm not going to bury an eblast for a corporate company in my grave, so there is that.

I had the fabulous pleasure of working with Jason at Rogers and he changed my life forever.

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"If libraries need more money, make the case to government. Quit screwing creators."

Governments, Universities and Foundations employ huge numbers of well-paid small-time politicos, culturecrats and “socialists” to administer poverty level grants and awards to selected creators. Big Sister ensures that only club members get recognition and prizes. Voluminous reams of insider academic narrative far more verbose than actual artifact defend their seemingly altruistic positions.

Maybe it is high time the ‘system’ gets taken down. Perhaps it is politicos, academics, small time power mongers and culturecrats who are screwing creators and keeping them poor?

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Hi Ken, could you please clarify if Book Tok has increased publishing sales, or just their niche market share? It sounds like book publishing sales are down 1%, but Book Tok driven sales are up 43% in their niche.

I guess that would not make Book Tok "the last engine of publishing growth", merely a successful sales model. Maybe we're saying that without Book Tok, overall sales would be down 10%? I guess some more numbers would help. cheers

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My comment below got me thinking about Libraries, Kenneth. Where your concerns fall down, is that you are assuming that every person of means will only either: buy a book at retail when it comes out, or take it out from a library. That sounds like "black or white thinking" to me.

People don't have space in their house to buy every book they read. People buy a book when they love it, and want to own it, and even lend it, (if only to family members with a written return contract).

You can't know what you love, until you try it. People go on dates before they marry.

I don't think libraries affect book sales at all. Marginal books read in a library won't be bought, but were unlikely to get a customer to drop $28.00 on anyways. Good books, will be borrowed, and this will help them spread. Books stand or fall on their quality, not their availability, through whichever channels.

For instance, I grab a lot of music off YouTube. If it is Beatles music I already bought elsewhere, I don't pay. If I deem Sir Paul to be comfortable, I don't pay. New artists, I listen to for a while. If I like them, I go to their website and purchase their music.

The radio doesn't play anything I'm interested in, because it is totally captured by the big music corporations. Where else can I find the good stuff?

I can't afford to pay $15 for a "CD" of everything new. Who could? I have my music budget, and I spend it on the people I like the most, leaning to new artists who need the money.

Let the libraries fill their shelves with Stephen King novels. He's not troubled. Let the libraries try out a few newer authors a year, to help them spread their work. Libraries operate in parallel with bookstores, not in competition.

Think about Shakespeare, Ontario. Tiny little town, with 5 antique shops. They aren't in competition, they have formed a hub.

Conservatism misunderstands "Competition" and "Cooperation". Here's a review of Suzanne Simard's Finding The Mother Tree (published by Random House), which covers this topic better.

https://www.focusonvictoria.ca/forests/63/ cheers mate

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Always a good read, Kenneth. Another thing that hasn't changed, is so called "Free Market Publishing Capitalism", despite their name, has always hated "The Market" deciding what books or publishers will stand or fail.

"Free Market" capitalists still prefer suppression of perceived competition- always libraries, or in our day Amazon, and industry collusion around control of content, supply and demand- in our day, media concentration in the hands of bigger and bigger corporations, in 1940s, his "birth control" process, which amounts to Censorship, and teeters on the Eugenics that were popular in his day.

The trouble with Eugenics, was: "who was to define whether a child should live or be snuffed out? On what criteria?" For Book Eugenics: "Who defines what is a "good" book, or who is a "good" author?"

One option, is for the "market" to decide. Parents have "too many" children. Publishers publish "too many" books. An ecologist would say "Go ahead!"- natural selection will cull out the linguistically sturdy from the ideologically infirm, the ugly from the beautiful, the pedestrian pamphlets from the timeless literature.

Another option, the one capitalism always seems to prefer, is for billionaires to buy up the industry, just like they've bought print and TV media up. In the 1940s, his shadowy group of cigar smoking old men in a club sit around "weeding out" the bad influences. I find the irony perfect that some author tried to break in on that process, because he had a book he'd written!

The Press is free if you own one.

Self publishing, libraries, and small presses are good "book ecology". Diversity is strength. "Adapt or die", and all that.

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I worked in Payroll at a large manufacturer in Canada (of course, now gone). I found a Payroll record from 1917 in the paper files - listing everyone required to pay the new and temporary income tax. I assume that when the company began to put Payroll on its mainframe in the 1960s, everything was kept as they copied the info from the previous card file system where everything on an employee was listed for Payroll use and for calculating pensionable service. That information was used.

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Your comment about "Maybe not the first head of the Book CRTC, but the second..." made me smile, and reminded me of Galadriel telling Frodo: "Oh it would start well, if I were to take the One Ring, but it would not end well". That's why Gandalf referred to her as one of "the Wise", and he didn't include the ACP in that group.

Most of the details the ACP are suggesting sound like folly, but the taxation part makes sense. Why not skim off 5% extra of multinational book profits in Canada and re-invest them in the locals? Even to provide a pool you could use for low interest financing for Canadian content. "0 down and 0% financing until the book has been in stores for a year". (This might be a bit dangerous).

That leads me to something with so many less details, and so many more benefits. The corporate tax rate for non-small business is 28%. That means most middle class people are paying a higher rate than Amazon, and don't have Amazon's legal and accounting team to bail them out. Amazon is probably paying 5% net tax, especially when you factor in how they've strong armed Canada Post into practically free shipping, subsidised by citizens paying $24 to ship a standard box from Victoria to Vancouver.

The fossil fuel and forestry extraction industries don't pay any tax, they make net subsidies.

Worse yet, humans pay tax on income. Corporations pay tax on profits. Imagine saying to Revenue Canada: "Sorry guys, my mortgage rates went up, the transmission dropped out of my car, and my wife needed some expensive cancer drugs not covered by OHIP, so as my expenses are up, I will only be paying you 7% tax this year".

Raising the corporate tax rate to 60%, (for companies grossing over $100 miliion), and closing the tax loopholes and shutting off the subsidies, would allow Canada to pay down its national debt in short order, which would make us less vulnerable to IMF style "austerity", and free up a lot of money for social housing, Health, ecological restoration, electric cars, you name it. In fact, subsidising the Canadian book publishing industry.

Governments are at their best when they drop the details and look at the big picture.

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Regarding Shephen Rubin's publishing career, clearly he takes J.K. Rowling's advice seriously, "There's a lot of money in bestsellers, that's why I write them".

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another fine issue, honest as the day is long. I sent on your famous piece about libraries to many, as I am a retired reference (Nf) Librarian and will forward this one too. I worked as a librarian for over 40 years in a public library, and let me assure you, we were not paid well. Indeed, we unionized only after mis-management honchos nearly broke the library and instead fired senior, junior and everyone in between to save their sorry asses before city hall. We unionized in order not to lose our jobs. I watched people in other professions make piles of money and none of us ever did. Nothing like other professions.

I do understand your point about borrowing rather than purchasing books. Still I purchase those I want from my Indie bookstore (including Fraser's on the week of the Queen's funeral) but please do not think librarians have hefty pensions or enrich themselves at the expense of authors. In Niagara, where I live, only four out of 14 libraries have unionized staff. That tells me much, and I hope you as well understand librarians are committed folk --- to books and more.

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What are the chances that authors would stop appearing at libraries on book tours and just at bookstores?

I buy books, I don't borrow them.

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