Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Biography author Neal Gabler levels on the loss of financial stability for average Americans in long Atlantic piece

A well established writer, Neal Gabler, who authors big non-fiction (biographies like “Barbara Streisand: Redefining Beauty, Power, and Femininity (Jewish Lives)” (2016) and “Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination” seems to be the kind of author whom Author’s Guild wants to protect, making his living and supporting a family with a complicated advance system from traditional publishers.

So Gabler opines a booklet-length piece in the May 2016 Atlantic, “The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans”  The subtitle is “Nearly half of Americans would have trouble finding $400 to pay for an emergency. I’m one of them.”  He explains how liquidity of average middle-class Americans  has declined since the 1980s, and even more since 2003, partly because of the 2008 crisis, backed up by Pew Research data.
It’s harder to people with “average Joe” skills to keep up as they get paid less as jobs are automated, and as the financial services industry leverages their reduced purchasing power with debt devices, which particularly blew up with the subprime mortgage crisis.  People who take on responsibility for raising families are particularly vulnerable to “stuff happening.”  Childless professionals may be better off (and this plays into older forms of debates about LGBT) but could be shocked by eldercare.

Above, Gabler talks about “The Art of Biography”, almost like a professor in freshman English.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Don't depend on Amazon forever to sell or list your books, one consultant advises

Here’s some advice to self-published authors: “Beyond Kindlebuild your own distribution network” rather than depend on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and third party outsourcing for retailing forever.

The article gives a comparative example of how musicians depended on Myspace ten years ago – until Facebook overtook it. Today, many musicians and composers prefer Bandcamp to Amazon to sell their DVD’s, CD’s or mpeg files.

Most authors and indie filmmakers build their own cookie cutter sites to sell their product, and usually include a blog. I’m unusual in offering so many blogs and manuscripts “free” (for those who don’t want to pay). Some people don’t like that. “It’s free.”  Like the public library.  You can’t compete with that.

This means offering Paypal (which I actually do) and credit cards yourself (which I don’t yet do, but may soon) and negotiating all the PII and SSL issues.  The article doesn’t talk about whether authors need https for the non-commercial parts of their sites, but that’s a coming thing.

The big concern seems to be that no site, however popular now, can be counted on to last forever, or to remain as accommodating to newbies forever, even with disk space for entries of negligible cost.  As a business matter, “it’s free” can’t last forever, and at some point anything has to start paying its own way in life

Thursday, April 14, 2016

"Church Refugees", by Packard and Hope, examines why the faithful become "dechurched"

Authors: Josh Packard, Ph. D. and Ashleigh Hope

Title: “Church Refugees

Subtitle: “Sociologists reveal why people are DONE with church but not their faith
Publication: Loveland COL Lifetree Group, 2915, IBSN 978-1-470702791-8, 144 pages, paper, seven chapters

Amazon link.
I can remember, when I moved to New Jersey in the fall of 1972 to start working for Univac, attending a Methodist church in downtown Caldwell and getting an old fashioned landline phone call from a welcoming committee member glad to meet a young adult who still “goes to church”.

The book focuses on people who remain solid in a religious faith (as we usually understand it, with a specific denomination, especially protestant) but who leave the established church because it no longer meets their needs.   The authors call them “dechurched”.  The book reports a formal study of over 100 interviews, which are often quoted.

One page 7, the book distinguishes between the “None’s” and the “Done’s”.  The “Nones” claim no religious affiliation, but the “Dones” have reached the end of their roads in the established church.
Chapter 2 pays particular attention to “community”, which provides a place to belong (as in Martin Fowler’s book, Aug. 27, 2014). Community provides context for the personal development of self-giving love, of placing value on a relationship with someone who actually depends on you, a fundamental process in civilization which, if short-circuited, leads to instability and mass movements (Hoffer’s book. March 6, 2016).  Ever heard the idiomatic phrase, "I'm done with you."
Chapter 3 talks about what seems to start the undoing of a traditional congregation: excessive bureaucracy, what the Rosicrucian order AMORC (April 7, 2007) called “churchianity”.

But later, the book gets into boorish behavior by some congregation people, often seeming judgmental of others.  Think about it.  I may have an opinion about what would be well for you to do with you  life, and I may be “right”, but you will resent it if I barge into your life and tell you what you should do.  Who am I to say?  Pope Francis, for example, has admitted that the established Church does not give him a warrant to behave this way with people.
From pages 89-91 the authors discuss ideas like “collective difference” in motivating faith-based behavior, as compared to “religious individualism”, where people may invent their own theologies (which the authors name “Shelaism”) , sometimes merging it with science and cosmology.  But a community cannot be sustained from so many individualized accounts of the internals of a faith.

The authors also talk about the tendency of many more conservative congregations, present in almost every denomination, to condemn homosexuality.  In the past, personal homosexual practice was condemned, long before gay marriage became a real public issue.  Why the sexual orientation and personal practice of others becomes a concern for people in a church has always presented a bit of an enigma.  Modern interpretations of various passages of scripture (Leviticus, Romans, Corinthians, etc) hardly provide much of an explanation.  I think people face hardships, see connection into marriage and family and to church through family as a necessary adaptation to the demands of the real world for personal and social resilience; but it is much easier for people to accept their own accommodation and sense of sacrifice if they have confidence that others in their midst have to make the same psychic “sacrifices”.   Beliefs about what others outside the home are likely to be allowed to do seem to provide a context for marriage that makes it more interesting to some people.

There is a long interview of Packard by Rob Wilkerson on YouTube.

The book is the subject of a Wednesday night discussion series at the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC.

Monday, April 04, 2016

"The Drinkable Book" would not make sense on Kindle, because its pages really purify water

A group called “Water Is Life” offers, in partnership with Theresa Dankovich and Carnegie Mellon, “The Drinkable Book”, which is a physical book of pages which become water filters when pulled out.  The pages are also printed with information about water purification.

The “Drinkable Book” would not make sense on Kindle, but there is a related “Drinking Water Book” by Colin Ingram on Kindle.

The Drinkable Book was presented on Fareed Zakaria GPS on Sunday.

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Children's book authors rush to replace book collection of Michigan child whose home is destroyed in a fire

I’ve not been very active in the mechanics of selling or distributing physical hardcopies of books, although I do order more hardcopies from Amazon than I do Kindle.  That’s largely because of the non-fiction and policy nature of much of my content, although this may change soon somewhat.  Yet, I keep finding more stories of people, especially children, needing books for literacy project reasons, or, in this case, replacing a loss after a fire near Jackson, MI.
This news story by Leanne Smith reports the efforts by authors (mostly children’s) to replace the book collection of Heidi when fire destroyed her family home.  I don’t recall hearing another similar story about such focuses activism from writers.  The story was carried Saturday night on WJLA's News Channel 8 in Washington.