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Book News: Can McSweeney’s Save Newspapers? (and More)

  • Panoramic Numbers: Can McSweeney's Panorama save the struggling newspaper industry?

    Time magazine calls it "a graphic designer's dream."

    It is easy to read and aesthetically pleasing....Every piece of reporting is factual and accurate, and McSweeney's tendency toward honesty...give [sic] it a we're-on-your-side tone rarely seen in print.

    The San Francisco Chronicle's Mission Blog has similar praise:

    Beyond the plight of the American farmer, the Panorama is flooded with delightfully fun how-tos....Whimsical pieces of art lead the reader through a maze of ramen-perfection, roasted lamb and saliva-laced corn mush, making the eye as hungry as the stomach.

    The New York Times live-blogged the paper's distribution and the Los Angeles Times interviewed Dave Eggers on what he hoped it would accomplish.

    Meanwhile, The Awl crunches the numbers to determine the financial feasability, and determines some fuzzy math:

    There were 218 contributors. So say everyone — everyone, from William T. Vollman to Stephen King — got paid $250 (to use a nice round number) for their contributions, whether it was a drawing or a 10,000 word piece of reportage. (That may not be a terrible average — although that rate, for a 10,000-word piece, works out to be a payment of $1200.) That's $54,500.

    But some of those 218 contributors were artists. Another way to look at it: overall, the paper contains very roughly 350,000 words: that would be $42,000 at 12 cents a word.

    At that average-per-piece, which is presumably pretty low, that leaves a bit more than $38,000 for the seven full-time staff members (and, as the paper notes, copy-editing, equipment and "one lamb").

    Except, there was for illustrations a total budget of $15,000. This leaves a maximum of $23,000 for the staff, who would have been paid $3200 each for their labors.

    This means that, if the publisher worked on the paper for four months, and the remaining money were divided equitably, and none of the other dozens of people working part-time were paid at all, he would have been taking home $800 a month.

    Hmm. I know some people who don't take home a whole lot more than that, but I can imagine that's pretty low for a newspaper publisher's salary.

  • Screwed and Unscrewed: Writing for The Huffington Post, Matt Stewart accuses publishers of screwing their best customers by delaying the eBook releases of major book publications.

    Anybody who has an iPhone can tell you about terrific apps and songs they've bought impulsively, with three clicks, which they never would've bought had they had to wait. By denying the value of e-books, S&S, Hatchette and HarperCollins will make it harder for their power-readers to buy from them, to champion their books, to spread literary joy quickly and easily.

    That's right: they want to make it harder to buy their product.

    Did nobody object when this idea was brought up? Seriously?

    On Moby Lives, Melville House publisher Dennis Loy Johnson retorts:

    Readers and publishers alike need to stop envisioning books as just "content." In many ways, the digital revolution makes the back-end invisible and therefore hard to quantify, monetarily. Does anyone ever think how expensive it is to run the massive Google server farms? Or the enviromental impact of the billions of cell phones, ipods, and e-readers (not to mention computers), that last for only a couple years and are not recyclable?...Publishing works the same way. A book is not just content and production. We're not the enemy here, we're just trying to feel our way forward to an unfamiliar future — and in an unfamiliar present. I'm not saying you have to agree with all of our decisions, but a little informed support please?

  • E-Money: Today, Sony announced a partnership with News Corporation, another huge conglomerate, to publish its business journals on the Sony Reader.

    The Wall Street Journal plans to offer two versions of its content for the Sony Reader, the companies said at a press conference in New York. One will cost $15 a month and includes a morning edition of The Journal, delivered through the wireless capabilities in some Reader devices or through a computer connection. The second offer, The Wall Street Journal Plus, will cost $20 and adds a "comprehensive update of the day's world and business events after the close of the markets," the company said.

    News Corporation will also offer subscriptions to a daily package of material from MarketWatch for $11 a month. Sony will also offer subscriptions to The New York Post, also owned by News Corp., for $10 a month.

    "We feel we're riding to the rescue of news," said Howard Stringer, Sony's chief executive.

    Not that Sony doesn't get a little boost from the deal, themselves. Hey, everyone wins!

Book News Round-up:

÷ ÷ ÷

Brockman is the head writer for the daily Book News posts on the Powells.com blog. In his free time he's hard at work on his fictional memoir, which changes titles daily.

The views and commentary posted by Brockman are entirely his own, and are not representative of the whole of Powell's Books, its employees, or any sane human being.

Books mentioned in this post

  1. The Turn of the Screw (Dover Thrift...
    Used Trade Paper $1.50
  2. McSweeney's Quarterly Concern #30:... Used Trade Paper $7.50
  3. Making Money (Discworld Novels)
    Used Mass Market $4.50

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