Friday, January 19, 2018

Huffington Post cuts off unpaid self-published contributions

The Huffington Post is ending is unpaid self-publisher’s platform, the New York Times reports, here. The reason is, well, fake news and the cluttering of the debate in the past two years.

But I had not been aware that HuffPost had accepted “self-published” contributors.  It still might accept some authors, but only if it thinks it can afford to pay them.

Also, this Personal Tech story in the New York Times casts a much more positive picture on book self-publishing, and mentions that some self-publishers (like Milo Yiannopoulos) now publish other authors. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

"The Population Bomb": How a book can unintentionally give repressive governments excuses to do what they want

The Smithsonian Magazine has an interesting interpretive article about a 1968 book, Paul R. Ehrlich, “The Population Bomb”. I remember scanning this on the bus when I was in the Army. 

The article indicates that the book had a tremendous but misleading influence on the future of world population growth, causing repressive birth control policies in authoritarian countries (maybe even China’s one-child policy).  The article notes that it is consumption per person that matters as much as population itself.  That ties in to the current debate on climate change, which Trump wants to deny.


It’s interesting that a single book can have so much worldwide influence. Sometimes well-meaning authors give authoritarian leaders excuses to do what they want. 

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Stephen King explains how Donald Trump could get elected

Stephen King on Donald Trump (in the Guardian): “How Do Such Men Rise? First as a Joke”, link

What follows is like a short-film screenplay, where King hauls in some of his fictional characters from his novels, gives them truth serum, and asks who they voted for and why.

The childishness and low cognition of them is shocking. 

Also, on MLK Day, there was an outdoor used book stand at Foggy Bottom Metro, selling mostly African-American material books, out in the cold.  

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Midwest Book Reviews sheds light on how authors should get reviews

Recently, Pam Daniels (author of Robert LeBlanc’s book “Silent Drums” [my Wordpress review]) mentioned submission to Midwest Book Review, and I thought I would pass along the site.

My own immediate reaction is that my most recent book is already four years old (from early 2014), and the first is over twenty years old.  But I would consider working with a review company in advance of the novel I plan for this year.

The site (the company is located in Wisconsin) is set up in old-fashioned way, with frames, and links to a lot of articles with somewhat repetitious content.  My own older sites were set up this way.

The site has a low opinion of some of the self-publishing companies and of vanity publishing in general, and says it prefers small presses (which tend to stress local and iconic topics, or specialized writing like poetry).  But it also says you can apply to work for them as a book reviewer. 

Sunday, January 07, 2018

NYTimes has booklet-length front page story on intelligence failures with respect to North Korean "speed"

The Sunday New York Times has an alarming front page booklet-length story by David R. Sanger and William J. Broad: “U.S. Miscalculated the Nuclear Progress of North Korea by Years”, with subheadline.”Flawed Estimates Rank as One of the Biggest Intelligence Failures”, link here

But Mike Pompeo of the CIA criticized this assessment on CBS’s “Face the Nation” today. 

I tend to agree with the NYT.  It seems that Kim had a lot of black market help from other post-Communist nations. 

Friday, January 05, 2018

Is self-publishing starting to implode under criticism?

Here’s a provocative piece from a conservative-to-libertarian site, “Way too many books are being published”.  But open self-publishing has become one reason. About two-thirds of the new books offered today are self-published.  It’s not reported what percentage are print-on-demand.  (416,000 books were self-published in 2013;  300,000 by traditional;  most traditional need to sell about 10,000 at a min.)

It reminds me of a time in the mid 1960s when we thought “too many people are going to college”. And there was a draft.

I do wonder how well self-publishing-assist book publishers business models will hold up – the sustainability issue.  Starting around 2012 I started getting calls asking my why my old books from 1997/2000 and 2002 were no longer selling.  Well, even with most trade books (with certain exceptions like Harry Potter) that tends to be the case.

Note the BookScan (doesn’t look at ebook) from Nielsen – it knows how well your self-published books have sold (or not).
Intellectual Takeout seems to make a curious point for a libertarian site:  people need to share more goals in common and belong more.  That’s Charles Murray’s theme in “Coming Apart”. 

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Trump seeks to block publication of a book about White House with Bannon's leaks

In an move that sounds like totalitarian censorship, Donald Trump’s lawyers are seeking a cease-and-desist order against author Michael Wolff and publisher Henry Holt regarding the publication of the upcoming book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House”.  The Washington Post article by Josh Darsey and Ashley Parker is here.   CNN Money reports on it here

The title of the book is provocative in that it invokes Trump’s threat against North Korea (“fat little rocket man”) 

But the “objectionable content” in the book has to do with Steve Bannon’s “telling” and Trump’s break with him.  Apparently a cease and desist was sent to Bannon too about breaking his employment agreement. 

Some attorneys are saying that this action constitutes "prior restraint".  The publisher says it intends the release Tuesday.  I have a pre-order on Amazon.

Author's Guild has weighed in as Trump's threatening to sue a journalist "is what dictators do" (Guild statement). 

Monday, January 01, 2018

Timothy B. Lee's "Gentle Primer" on Bitcoin

Timothy B. Lee has a booklet-length article on Ars Technica, “Want to Really Understand How Bitcoin Works? Here’s a Gentle Primer”.  Gentle indeed.  It takes time to follow this.  (This is the "right" Tim Lee;  he is "Binarybits" on Twitter.) 

This would have taken a long time to write.  Lee explains the Blockchain (which any advanced alien civilization will also have come up with), and the importance of public and private cryptography. These things don’t matter a lot until people want to do things under the covers.  It also depends on robust peer-to-peer computing (with all affiliated security risks from using it).

My own perception is that it is a good idea for any retired investor to have a small percentage of holdings in digital currencies, and learn how to use them.  Maybe 1% of liquid assets is a good target. I plan to look into this in 2018.  

Tim's own website "AboutMe" page has some interesting comments, especially March 25, 2012, and June 4, 2016, which I think was directed at me and my own books, not Tim (whom I met in Minneapolis, and who helped set up my 1999 lecture at the University of Minnesota; I also spoke at Hamline in 1998).

Update: Jan 3

There is increasing concern about the energy consumption (and fossil fuels, especially in China) for bitcoin mining.  Would solar plants solve this?