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Showing posts from January, 2015

Why Italy is a Basket Case

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This is not going to be a cheerful post. I love Italy - but the fact is, Italy is shooting itself in the foot. There is a very good reason why Italy's economy isn't going to get better anytime soon: overall, since the 1970s, Italy's entrepreneurs haven't believed in what they were doing here, in Italy. They haven't re-invested earnings from their businesses - what has happened, I don't know. Did they take the money they earned and ran abroad with it, buying chalets in Switzerland, apartments in London, beach houses in Florida and investing the rest in hedge funds?

Maybe. I wasn't able to uncover what Italians do with the money they make through their businesses. But if Thomas Piketty, the author of Capital in the 21st Century is right, what he says is deeply disturbing.

And discouraging.

Here is his data, comparing savings in selected countries, actually the most advanced, industrialized countries in the world (the table is in Chapter 5 - this is a screensh…

"The End of Power", Mark Zuckerberg's Choice

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Why would the world's most famous billionnaire, Mark Zuckerberg, pick Moises Naim's erudite book, The End of Power, as his bedtime reading in January - and at the same time create a book club on Facebook that drew 250,000 members over just two weeks?


The first answer is: wow! 250,000 in 2 weeks is surely a sign of power. Publishers (and authors) take note.

The second is a little more complex. As the UK Guardian commented, the 'year in books' kicked off with Mark Z.'s announcement that he would read one book every other week in 2015 and everyone rushed to buy the first book he chose to read, Naim's latest opera magna.  The effect was instantaneous: the book flew to the top of best-selling non-fiction on Amazon - I checked today, it's #1 in both "international and world politics" (hey, what's the difference between these two terms?) and "History & Theory" (never knew there was such a thing, does it mean the theory of History or th…

Am I Charlie?

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The horrific murders of journalists and artists at Charlie Hebdo and the later dramatic events that caused further deaths have shaken the world. Yesterday on TV, it was a marvelous sight to see so many people walk in the streets to manifest solidarity with the victims and show attachment to the sacred principle of freedom of expression. The scale of demonstrations reminded me of the events around Princess Diana's death.

Among the many things that were said online and off, one remarkable quote from Voltaire stands out and was often re-tweeted:
"I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it." I have never read Charlie Hebdo, their kind of humor - the little I have seen of it - doesn't make me laugh. Actually, extremism in any area of the arts has always made me very uncomfortable. So what Voltaire says here is exactly the way I feel.

But there's another Voltaire quote that, I believe, adds an interesting twist thou…

2015: New Challenges in Publishing

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Now that the dust has settled on 2014, we begin to see what 2015 will bring. Is the e-book market crashing? Too soon to say, but there are some worrying signs of trouble. Here are the most likely:

1. A growing glut in books. The fast growth in titles in the Kindle Store will continue unabated: in August 2014, the number of books available was around 3.3 million, now, six months later, it's getting to 3.7 million (as per the data available in the Amazon Associates search box; I just checked, the exact number of e-books is 3,647,578). At this rate, expect it to get close to 5 million by the end of this year.

2. Adding to the overflow in everyone's Kindle is the fact that traditional publishers have now woken up to the market-effectiveness of low-priced e-books.

That's a big change for 2015. Low prices and going free were the marketing strategies of choice for indies - no more. And Russell Blake was one of the first to catch on to this change (see here).

Big Publishers are n…