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The Amazon Reign

[I wrote this Monday and sat on it. Since then every news peddler on Earth has beaten the bejesus out of me on it but so what? Here it is, updated.]

I’ve got a couple of horses in this race, considering I work at Bloomington’s last independent bookseller, the Book Corner, and I’m a book author. When it comes to buying a book on Amazon or copping it at our humble establishment, you know which way I’ll nudge you.

Mind you, I’m not four-square against things like online retail or e-books. I buy eyeglass frames, shoes, undies, and — yes — books via my MacBook. In fact, I’ve even published an e-book. I don’t make a big deal about it, though, because it wasn’t very good. Nevertheless, I’ll e-publish again.

But Amazon? Bah.

The world’s largest online retailer — on which everything up to but excluding the air that you breathe (and don’t hold your breath that that won’t change soon) is for sale — is waging a very public, very bloody war with one of the world’s largest book publishing outfits, the Paris-based Hachette. The two gargantuan companies are battling over who gets to set the price for the books you want to buy through Amazon.

Meanwhile, all but a precious few authors continue to count their pennies and eat at least one meal of ramen noodles a week.


A Typical Author’s Midnight Snack

The book racket operates thusly: Let’s say the the Godly Press is putting out the latest bestseller, My White Heaven, the story of some bratty kid who claims he died and went to heaven while in surgery, survived the ordeal, told his preacher dad about it, and now the old man is making the rounds telling us Obamacare is a fascist plot and sodomy is being taught in our public schools. Godly Press sets the price for the book at, say, $16.95. The book is then offered through a national distributor like Ingram which offers little guys like the Book Corner a 40 percent discount. So, we pay $10.17 for each copy of the book.

We, then, can charge you the full suggested retail price for the book and make a tidy $6.78 for every copy sold. Or we can offer it at a retail discount, say 1o percent, meaning you can buy the book from us for $15.26. We used to offer nice little discounts like that at the Book Corner but then the attractive and charming staff threatened owner, Margaret, with bodily harm if she didn’t bump our yearly wages up over the six-figure mark. Now the Book Corner has discontinued its discounts and we booksellers dine on filet mignon and caviar nightly.

BTW: big retailers like Barnes & Noble and national grocery chains get much, much, much sweeter deals from Ingram and the publishers themselves, ergo their ability to offer 25 percent discounts and more on big bestsellers.

Anyway, the publisher sets the price but allows the retailer to charge whatever she or he wishes.

Oh, and another thing: the less distributors and publishers charge for wholesale product, the more the vast majority of authors suffer in terms of royalties. A penny may be an insult, but a half cent is an atrocity.

And that’s how things used to work in the e-retail racket. Hachette and other publishing houses would set prices for e-books and then Amazon would discount that figure as it saw fit. Only Amazon claimed it couldn’t bear to live anymore if forced to sell books at such low prices.

So now Amazon wants to be able to set prices even higher than the publisher’s suggested figure, ergo making the online retailer tons more dough while still snowing the consumer with 25 percent discounts. Amazon is so dead set on this course that it’s shunting Hachette’s books aside because the publishing house refuses to play along. In fact, Amazon has even gone so far as to advise customers to go somewhere else to buy Hachette books.

That’s serious, babies.

Amazon Corp. HQ

Amazon’s Proposed Corporate Campus Biosphere In Seattle

Acc’d’g to the Guardian US, millionaire Hachette authors like Stephen Colbert and James Patterson are screaming to high heaven at Amazon to be reasonable. Of course, the more Amazon charges for books, the more Colbert and Patterson make. Those guys are going to sell no matter what their books cost. If Amazon gets its way, though, lesser-known scribes will suffer even more than they do already because — let’s face it — who’s going to pay $18 for an e-book by Michael G. Glab?

Hell, I doubt anyone in my own family would pay that much for a book written by me. I would’t pay that much for a book written by me!

Anyway, the other day the LA Times ran a nice rundown of who’s who and what’s what in this pissing match. And the Guardian continues its coverage of the contretemps with the news that the two august firms are now badmouthing each other publicly.

When all is said and done, even after Amazon nukes all of Paris in order to destroy the rump state that is home to Hachette, 99 percent of the authors you know and love will be collecting their coins in a jar against the inevitability of one of those income-less months. So I don’t give a damn who wins.

If you do, and want Amazon to triumph, here’s a petition entitled Stop Fighting Low Prices and Fair Wages.

Run Him Out Of Town

Speaking of dough, if you want to kick in to the Mike Cagle kitty, he’s got a gofundme site up now. One of B-town’s most pop. bachelors, Cagle has given the raspberry to his former employer, Cook Medical, and will be setting off for the the Portland’s Lewis & Clark College to study law.

He’s hoping you’ll find it in your heart to pitch in so he can afford to move his yacht, his matching Bentleys, and his solid gold bathroom fixtures to Oregon where he’ll live the life of a poverty-stricken student for a few years.

I figger, Why not? The dude wants to practice do-goody-good law and, heaven knows, we need more shingles like that around these parts. Plus, contributors will get a piece of Cagle art for their largesse. C. has been a crackerjack cartoonist for lo these many years although he expects to lay the pen and the brush down while he hits the books.

Cagle Art

Cagle Scratch



The Pencil Today:


“Never loan a book to someone if you expect to get it back. Loaning books is the same as giving them away.” — Douglas Coupland


This Petraeus scandal is another one of those affairs wherein everybody involved is a flat out jerk.

Honestly, who would want to be involved with any of these chowderheads?

Consider this laundry list of reprobates and their peccadillos:

  • An aging general who leaves his plain, matronly wife parked at home while he bonks a hot babe

Petraeus & Broadwell: Puffing Their Chests Out With Pride

  • A “reporter” who gives her subject both literary and literal blowjobs and who threatens her perceived romantic rival via email
  • Social climbers who throw Champagne-and-caviar bashes for Army brass but also run up huge debts, who weasel their way into a 28-motorcycle police escort just to make a splashy arrival at a Hallowe’en party, who brag about a phoney-baloney diplomatic title, who use that phoney-baloney diplomatic title to attempt to squeeze millions of dollars out of a Korean businessperson, who purchased a ritzy mansion but haven’t made payments on it for years. who set up a questionable charity and then used proceeds to purchase lavish dinners
  • High military officials writing letters of reference in the custody battle of a parent who has been determined by a judge to be lacking in honesty and integrity and who tried to trump up a physical abuse charge against her ex-husband by inducing her 3-year-old son to lie to authorities
  • An FBI agent who sends beefcake pix of himself to a woman the agency will eventually investigate


It reminds me of the OJ Simpson murder trial. Every single person connected with that case was a dope or a social climber or a sociopath or the sire of the Kardashian beings. I couldn’t stand any of those people.

Well, except one. Kato.

Can I Testify?

Kato Kaelin was the only un-detestable soul in the bunch. I mean, he never pretended to be anything more than what he was — a dingbat, celebrity-junkie, coat-holder who had the bad luck to be at home when he heard a thump on his bedroom wall.

I wonder if there’ll be a Kato in the Petraeus case.


Okay, Indiana, you voted for Mitt Romney and elected a Republican governor. And the statehouse is still firmly in the control of the GOP.

What more do you want?

Oh, this: Republican state senator Dennis Cruse will introduce legislation that, in the words of the National Center for Science Education, will be a “permission slip for teachers to bring creationism, climate-change denial, and other non-science into science classrooms.”

A Proud Member Of The Indiana Legislature?

What next, the crucible?


A middle-aged couple walked into the Book Corner yesterday, appearing as if they’d been transported suddenly to another planet.

I tried to make eye contact but they both averted their gazes. They didn’t seem to be potential shoplifters but one can never tell so I kept an eye on them.

Plenty of folks who’d never been in a bookstore in their lives wander into the Book Corner. We’re across the street from the Monroe County Courthouse, where folks who live in such far-flung locales as Bean Blossom township come to pay their property taxes.

They consider a voyage into downtown Bloomington to be akin to visiting Rome. They step into the bookstore tentatively as if concerned that some questionable books sold therein might contaminate them. Within moments they relax, after being assured they won’t be assaulted by members of the Red Brigade.

They Hang Out In Bookstores, Don’t They?

Anyway, this particular couple did the tentative two-step as well. By and by, they felt emboldened to separate, he to thumb through outdoor sportsmen’s magazines and she to search for something.

Eventually, she approached me, presumably after convincing herself I wouldn’t snatch her and do a Patty Hearst job on her. She asked for a Becca Fitzpatrick book in the Hush, Hush Saga teen romance series. I figured she was hoping to buy it for a 12-year-old daughter. I was wrong.

A Hush, Hush Saga Book

“I love these books,” she said. “There’s a whole bunch of ’em. It’s like a series or somethin’,”

“Well, that’s good,” I said, trying my damnedest not to let myself think snarky thoughts.

You make snap judgements about people when you work in a bookstore. Some buy books with titles like “Applied Concepts in Differential Equations.” You immediately come to a conclusion about the entirety of their lives. Same with those who buy Stephen Colbert books or that new biography of Peter Criss, the drummer from Kiss.

Reading Material?

So, noble soul that I am, I labored not to conclude that the woman was a dummy. Lucky for me I did.

“I’m just learnin’ how to read,” she volunteered.

I was speechless.

“Can you believe it? I’m 44 years old and I never learned how to read.” She said this almost matter-of-factly.

“Well, that’s fantastic,” I said.

“Uh huh. My husband’s teachin’ me how to read. He said we’re gonna do this no matter how hard it is. He said, ‘You better learn how to read. It’s time.'” There wasn’t a hint of embarrassment in her tone — if anything, only pride.

She explained that she’d be back in about a month, after she and her husband got their next check. Then she could buy some of those teen romances.

Sometimes when people want to buy junk books like “How to Read the Tarot,” I console myself about the transaction by thinking, Well, at least they’re reading. Plus, they’re buying from us so we’ll stay in business that much longer.

This woman wasn’t the first 40-something to buy a teen romance for herself. And normally I need to console myself when taking an adult’s money for this kind of kid lit. But the next time the woman comes in, I’ll be proud to sell her a couple of Becca Fitzpatrick novels.

Meeting her was the best thing that happened to me all day yesterday.

The only events listings you need in Bloomington.

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

MUSIC ◗ IU Auer HallDoctoral Recital: Elena Paradies on organ; 5pm

MUSIC ◗ IU Ford-Crawford HallDoctoral Recital: Yoon Won Shin on piano; 5pm

MUSIC ◗ IU Sweeney HallPerformer Diploma Recital: Michael Miragliotta on trombone; 5pm

MUSIC ◗ Bear’s PlaceThe Matt MacDougall Quartet; 5:30pm

LECTURE ◗ IU Memorial Union, Whittenberger Auditorium — “What Are Friends For?: The Adaptive Power of Social Bonds, Presented by primatologist Joan Silk of Arizona State University; 5:30pm

FILM ◗ Monroe County Public Library –“The Line“; 6pm

MUSIC ◗ The Player’s PubBuilt for Comfort; 6:30pm

STAGE ◗ IU AuditoriumMusical: “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas“; 7pm

MUSIC ◗ IU Ford-Crawford HallEarly Music Institute Chamber Music Concert; 7pm

PHOTOGRAPHY & VIDEO ◗ IU Latino Cultural Center — “Akadoi Epera: The Embera’s Hope,” By Alexandra McNichols-Torroledo; 7pm

MUSIC ◗ Muddy Boots Cafe, NashvilleKara Barnard & Chuck Wills; 7-9pm

MUSIC ◗ IU Musical Arts Center, Recital HallSenior Recital: Abigail Kunkel, mezzo-soprano; 7pm

FILM ◗ Boxcar Books — “No Vietnamese Ever Called Me Nigger“; 7pm

FILM ◗ IU Cinema — “The Motorcycle Diaries“; 7pm

LECTURE ◗ Monroe County History Center — “Saving Indiana’s Old Barns,” Presented by Justin Smith; 7pm

SPORTS ◗ IU Assembly HallHoosier men’s basketball vs. Sam Houston State; 7pm

STAGE ◗ Ivy Tech Waldron Center, in the Rose FirebayDrama, “The Rimers of Eldritch“; 7:30pm

STAGE Ivy Tech Waldron Center, AuditoriumComedy: “Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps“; 7:30pm

COMEDY ◗ The Comedy AtticJames Adomian; 8pm

MUSIC ◗ IU Musical Arts Center All-Campus Band, Brett Richardson, Trae Blanco, and Christopher Dortwegt, conductors; 8pm

MUSIC ◗ IU Auer HallLatin American Popular Music Ensemble: “¡Anda Jaleo!“; 8pm

MUSIC ◗ The BluebirdDavid Nail; 8pm

MUSIC ◗ IU Ford-Crawford HallMaster’s Recital: Jeong Hoon Lee on flute; 8:30pm

MUSIC ◗ Max’s PlaceAndrew Simmerman Trio; 9pm

MUSIC ◗ Rachael’s CafeRadar Eyes, The Constants, Jerome & the Psychics; 9pm

MUSIC ◗ The BishopMount Carmel, Charlie Patton’s War; 9:30pm

MUSIC ◗ Max’s PlacePretty Boy Freud; 9:40pm

MUSIC ◗ Max’s Place Ampersand; 10:30pm


ART ◗ IU Art MuseumExhibits:

  • “Paragons of Filial Piety,” by Utagawa Kuniyoshi; through December 31st
  • “Intimate Models: Photographs of Husbands, Wives, and Lovers,” by Julia Margaret, Cameron, Edward Weston, & Harry Callahan; through December 31st
  • French Printmaking in the Seventeenth Century;” through December 31st
  • Celebration of Cuban Art & Film: Pop-art by Joe Tilson; through December 31st
  • Threads of Love: Baby Carriers from China’s Minority Nationalities“; through December 23rd
  • Workers of the World, Unite!” through December 31st
  • Embracing Nature,” by Barry Gealt; through December 23rd
  • Pioneers & Exiles: German Expressionism,” through December 23rd

ART ◗ Ivy Tech Waldron CenterExhibits through December 1st:

  • “Essentially Human,” By William Fillmore
  • “Two Sides to Every Story,” By Barry Barnes
  • “Horizons in Pencil and Wax,” By Carol Myers

ART ◗ IU SoFA Grunwald GalleryExhibits through November 16th:

  • Buzz Spector: Off the Shelf
  • Small Is Big

ART ◗ IU Kinsey Institute GalleryExhibits through December 20th:

  • A Place Aside: Artists and Their Partners
  • Gender Expressions

ART ◗ IU Mathers Museum of World CulturesExhibits:

  • “¡Cuba Si! Posters from the Revolution: 1960s and 1970s”
  • “From the Big Bang to the World Wide Web: The Origins of Everything”
  • “Thoughts, Things, and Theories… What Is Culture?”
  • “Picturing Archaeology”
  • “Personal Accents: Accessories from Around the World”
  • “Blended Harmonies: Music and Religion in Nepal”
  • “The Day in Its Color: A Hoosier Photographer’s Journey through Mid-century America”
  • “TOYing with Ideas”
  • “Living Heritage: Performing Arts of Southeast Asia”
  • “On a Wing and a Prayer”

BOOKS ◗ IU Lilly LibraryExhibits:

  • The War of 1812 in the Collections of the Lilly Library“; through December 15th
  • A World of Puzzles,” selections from the Slocum Puzzle Collection

ARTIFACTS ◗ Monroe County History CenterExhibits:

  • Doctors & Dentists: A Look into the Monroe County Medical Professions
  • What Is Your Quilting Story?
  • Garden Glamour: Floral Fashion Frenzy
  • Bloomington Then & Now
  • World War II Uniforms
  • Limestone Industry in Monroe County

The Ryder & The Electron Pencil. All Bloomington. All the time.

The Pencil Today:


“The fight is never about grapes or lettuce. It is always about people.” — César Chávez


I stomped into Soma this morning like a bull in a coffee shop. Man, I was ready to lay into the Republicans for their union-busting triumph yesterday in the Indiana statehouse.

But my screed will have to wait. Just for a moment, mind you, but wait it will.

I purchased my customary pint of life-giving joe (which is really my ever-ready first priority on any given day) and strode purposefully to the cream and sugar bar to make the drug palatable.

There I saw Soma’s Toastmaster General, Smiling Kevin Sears.

“You look like a man who’s got something to do,” he observed.

“Yer damned right,” I said as I sweetened the pint. “Those goddamned Republicans aren’t gonna know what hit ’em.”

“Alright,” he said. “but let me ask you this first.”

“Go ahead,” I said, hoping my tone conveyed my urgency.

“What do people value more,” he asked, “their car or their connectivity?”

This? (The General Lee)

Suddenly and for the moment, I forgot all about my rage. I honestly didn’t know the answer.

Or This? (The Phone Car)

Smiling Kevin explained that he’s wondering what to do about his investment portfolio. Should he continue to sink his dough into oil and transportation stocks or should he transfer at least some of his wealth into telecoms?

So, Smiling Kevin’s finances aside, I put it to you, loyal readers. What’s more important to you — your hot rod or your smart-assed phone?

Remember, I’m from Chicago so I encourage you to vote as often as you like!


Now, then. The Republicans.

Okay, babies, you’ve got your anti-union legislation.

The GOP Has Discovered A Better Way Than This To Crush Unions

And that’s because you’ve got your Indiana General Assembly.

And you’ve got your Indiana Senate.

And your Indiana governor.

And your two US Senators from the Hoosier State.

Oh, by the way, you’ve got your entire US House of Representatives, too.

And your Reagan/Bush/Bush US Supreme Court.

And, for chrissakes, you’ve got your own 24-hour TV public relations agency.

And, let’s be honest, you’ve got your own race.

Party Faithful

So if I hear one more of you sons or daughters of bitches complain about how the liberals or socialists or feminists or Black Panthers or NPR reporters or Sharia Muslims or any other bogeymen that you want to scare the couch potatoes to death with are taking over this holy land, I’m gonna scream.

And I’m gonna do everything I can to get everyone I know to scream.

Book it, babies.


So Steve Llewellyn didn’t spend all his college days staring out the window or eating lunch. Of course, he was a grown man when he took some Communications and Culture classes at our hometown reformatory. He paid attention when he heard about the Iris Film Festival.

A few years later, after working on “The Trouble with Boys” as a cinematographer, he nudged director Chris Rall and screenwriter Tony Brewer and told them to enter their video opus.

And so they did. And it was accepted. And, this coming Saturday, TTWB will be screened along with 17 other works of cinematic genius at the IU Cinema.

(l to r) Rall, Brewer, & Llewellyn

Here (direct from the Iris FB page) is the complete lineup:

  • “Lester Kannon” by Graham Walsh
  • “Project Z-6463” by Chris Eller & Sophia Parkinson
  • “TTWB”
  • “Petie Stewart, Manny Pacquiao’s Biggest Fan” by Duane Busick
  • “Black & White” by Sahar Pastel-Daneshgar & Emily Erotas
  • “Fertility 2.0” by David Ross
  • “Dance of Souls” by Caz Tanner
  • “Two Crowded” by Peter Johnson
  • “Lorelei” by M.C. Madrigal & Ryan Miyake
  • “A Song for the Undertaker” by Josh Tuthill
  • “The Single Mother” by Jesse Lacy
  • “The Woods” by Austin Gardener
  • “Gloom” by Jackson Van Meter & Ryan Smythe
  • “The Keeper” by Mark Johnson
  • “Reflection” by Kevin McClatchey
  • “DADT: A Film from America” by Kaleb Basey
  • “Imprints” by Javier Ramirez & Maggie Rossman
  • “Food Fight” by Laura Caldie


Have you heard the Stephen Colbert interview with Maurice Sendak yet? Click on their photos for the link and enjoy.

Sorry kids, I can’t embed the vid — you know, copyright issues and all. Trust me, though, it’s worth the extra step.

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