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Jim Cox Report: January 2011
Dear Publisher Folk, Friends & Family:
One of the perks I've enjoyed most about my role as the editor-in-chief of the Midwest Book Review has been the perfect position to observe and occasionally comment upon the publishing industry trends of the past 30+ years.
Just this past month I was the guest (via telephone) on the Boston radio/podcast show "Speak 2B Free" and asked to discuss the phenomena of self-publishing, among other aspects of the contemporary publishing scene.
Two weeks ago one of my long time friends (and the man who served as the director of my old television show "Bookwatch"), Richard Russell, forwarded to me a commentary on the "deindustrialization" of America by Clark McClelland. That commentary -- which also included some pithy insights directly germane to the book publishing industry -- was so cogent and so much a reflection of my own thoughts and researches on the subject that I am going to reproduce it here in its entirety. Following which I'm going to add a few comments of my own.
Changes Are Coming: Things We'll Be Saying Goodbye To
Whether these changes are good or bad depends in part on how we adapt to them. But, ready or not, here they come.
1. The Post Office. Get ready to imagine a world without the post office. They are so deeply in financial trouble that there is probably no way to sustain it long term. Email, Fed Ex, and UPS have just about wiped out the minimum revenue needed to keep the post office alive. Most of your mail every day is junk mail and bills.
2. The Check. Britain is already laying the groundwork to do away with checks by 2018. It costs the financial system billions of dollars a year to process checks. Plastic cards and online transactions will lead to the eventual demise of the check. This plays right into the death of the post office. If you never paid your bills by mail and never received them by mail, the post office would absolutely go out of business.
3. The Newspaper. The younger generation simply doesn't read the newspaper. They certainly don't subscribe to a daily delivered print edition. That may go the way of the milkman and the laundry man. As for reading the paper online, get ready to pay for it. The rise in mobile Internet devices and e-readers has caused all the newspaper and magazine publishers to form an alliance. They have met with Apple, Amazon, and the major cell phone companies to develop a model for paid subscription services.
4. The Book. You say you will never give up the physical book that you hold in your hand and turn the literal pages. I said the same thing about downloading music from iTunes. I wanted my hard copy CD. But I quickly changed my mind when I discovered that I could get albums for half the price without ever leaving home to get the latest music. The same thing will happen with books. You can browse a bookstore online and even read a preview chapter before you buy. And the price is less than half that of a real book. And think of the convenience! Once you start flicking your fingers on the screen instead of the book, you find that you are lost in the story, can't wait to see what happens next, and you forget that you're holding a gadget instead of a book.
5. The Land Line Telephone. Unless you have a large family and make a lot of local calls, you don't need it anymore. Most people keep it simply because they've always had it. But you are paying double charges for that extra service. All the cell phone companies will let you call customers using the same cell provider for no charge against your minutes.
6. Music. This is one of the saddest parts of the change story. The music industry is dying a slow death. Not just because of illegal downloading. It's the lack of innovative new music being given a chance to get to the people who would like to hear it. Greed and corruption is the problem. The record labels and the radio conglomerates are simply self-destructing. Over 40% of the music purchased today is "catalog items," meaning traditional music that the public is familiar with. Older established artists. This is also true on the live concert circuit. To explore this fascinating and disturbing topic further, check out the book, "Appetite for Self-Destruction" by Steve Knopper, and the video documentary, "Before the Music Dies."
7. Television. Revenues to the networks are down dramatically. Not just because of the economy. People are watching TV and movies streamed from their computers. And they're playing games and doing lots of other things that take up the time that used to be spent watching TV. Prime time shows have degenerated down to lower than the lowest common denominator. Cable rates are skyrocketing and commercials run about every 4 minutes and 30 seconds. I say good riddance to most of it. It's time for the cable companies to be put out of our misery. Let the people choose what they want to watch online and through Netflix.
8. The "Things" That You Own. Many of the very possessions that we used to own are still in our lives, but we may not actually own them in the future. They may simply reside in "the cloud." Today your computer has a hard drive and you store your pictures, music, movies, and documents. Your software is on a CD or DVD, and you can always re-install it if need be. But all of that is changing. Apple, Microsoft, and Google are all finishing up their latest "cloud services." That means that when you turn on a computer, the Internet will be built into the operating system. So, Windows, Google, and the Mac OS will be tied straight into the Internet. If you click an icon, it will open something in the Internet cloud. If you save something, it will be saved to the cloud. And you may pay a monthly subscription fee to the cloud provider.
In this virtual world, you can access your music or your books, or your whatever from any laptop or handheld device. That's the good news. But, will you actually own any of this "stuff" or will it all be able to disappear at any moment in a big "Poof?" Will most of the things in our lives be disposable and whimsical? It makes you want to run to the closet and pull out that photo album, grab a book from the shelf, or open up a CD case and pull out the insert.
9. Privacy. If there ever was a concept that we can look back on nostalgically, it would be privacy. That's gone. It's been gone for a long time anyway. There are cameras on the street, in most of the buildings, and even built into your computer and cell phone. But you can be sure that 24/7, "They" know who you are and where you are, right down to the GPS coordinates, and the Google Street View. If you buy something, your habit is put into a zillion profiles, and your ads will change to reflect those habits. And "They" will try to get you to buy something else. Again and again. All we will have that can't be changed are memories.
19 Facts About The Deindustrialization Of America That Will Blow Your Mind
The United States is rapidly becoming the very first "post-industrial" nation on the globe. All great economic empires eventually become fat and lazy and squander the great wealth that their forefathers have left them, but the pace at which America is accomplishing this is absolutely amazing. It was America that was at the forefront of the industrial revolution. It was America that showed the world how to mass produce everything from automobiles to televisions to airplanes. It was the great American manufacturing base that crushed Germany and Japan in World War II.
But now we are witnessing the deindustrialization of America. Tens of thousands of factories have left the United States in the past decade alone. Millions upon millions of manufacturing jobs have been lost in the same time period. The United States has become a nation that consumes everything in sight and yet produces increasingly little. Do you know what our biggest export is today? Waste paper. Yes, trash is the #1 thing that we ship out to the rest of the world as we voraciously blow our money on whatever the rest of the world wants to sell to us.
The United States has become bloated and spoiled, and our economy is now just a shadow of what it once was. Once upon a time America could literally outproduce the rest of the world combined. Today that is no longer true, but Americans sure do consume more than anyone else in the world. If the deindustrialization of America continues at this current pace, what possible kind of a future are we going to be leaving to our children?
Any great nation throughout history has been great at making things. So, if the United States continues to allow its manufacturing base to erode at a staggering pace, how in the world can the U.S. continue to consider itself to be a great nation? We have created the biggest debt bubble in the history of the world in an effort to maintain a very high standard of living, but the current state of affairs is not anywhere close to sustainable. Every single month America goes into more debt and every single month America gets poorer.
So, what happens when the debt bubble pops?
The deindustrialization of the United States should be a top concern for every man, woman, and child in the country. But sadly, most Americans do not have any idea what is going on around them.
For people like that, take this article and print it out and hand it to them. Perhaps what they will read below will shock them badly enough to awaken them from their slumber.
Here are 19 stunning facts about the deindustrialization of America:
#1 The United States has lost approximately 42,400 factories since 2001. About 75% of those factories employed over 500 people when they were still in operation.
#2 Dell Inc., one of America 's largest manufacturers of computers, has announced plans to dramatically expand its operations in China with an investment of over $100 billion over the next decade.
#3 Dell has announced that it will be closing its last large U.S. manufacturing facility in Winston-Salem, North Carolina in November. Approximately 900 jobs will be lost.
#4 In 2008, 1.2 billion cell phones were sold worldwide. So how many of them were manufactured inside the United States? Zero.
#5 According to a new study conducted by the Economic Policy Institute, if the U.S. trade deficit with China continues to increase at its current rate, the U.S. economy will lose over half a million jobs this year alone.
#6 As of the end of July, the U.S. trade deficit with China had risen 18% compared to the same time period a year ago.
#7 The United States has lost a total of about 5.5 million manufacturing jobs since October 2000.
#8 According to Tax Notes, between 1999 and 2008 employment at the foreign affiliates of U.S. parent companies increased an astounding 30% to 10.1 million. During that exact same time period, U.S. employment at American multinational corporations declined 8% to 21.1 million.
#9 In 1959, manufacturing represented 28 percent of U.S. economic output. In 2008, it represented 11.5 percent.
#10 Ford Motor Company recently announced the closure of a factory that produces the Ford Ranger in St. Paul, Minnesota. Approximately 750 good paying middle class jobs are going to be lost because making Ford Rangers in Minnesota does not fit in with Ford's new "global" manufacturing strategy.
#11 As of the end of 2009, fewer than 12 million Americans worked in manufacturing. The last time fewer than 12 million Americans were employed in manufacturing was in 1941.
#12 In the United States today, consumption accounts for 70% of GDP. Of this amount, over half is spent on services.
#13 The United States has lost a whopping 32% of its manufacturing jobs since the year 2000.
#14 In 2001, the United States ranked 4th in the world in per-capita broadband Internet use. Today it ranks 15th.
#15 Manufacturing employment in the U.S. computer industry is actually lower in 2010 than it was in 1975.
#16 Printed circuit boards are used in tens of thousands of different products. Asia now produces 84% of them worldwide.
#17 The United States spends approximately $3.90 on Chinese goods for every $1 that the Chinese spend on goods from the United States.
#18 One prominent economist is projecting that the Chinese economy will be 3 times larger than the U.S. economy by the year 2040.
#19 The U.S. Census Bureau says that 43.6 million Americans are now living in poverty and according to them that is the highest number of poor Americans in the 51 years that records have been kept.
So, how many tens of thousands more factories do we need to lose before we do something about it?
How many millions more Americans are going to become unemployed before we all admit that we have a very, very serious problem on our hands?
How many more trillions of dollars are going to leave the country before we realize that we are losing wealth at a pace that is killing our economy?
How many once great manufacturing cities are going to become rotting war zones like Detroit before we understand that we are committing national economic suicide?
The deindustrialization of America is a national crisis. It needs to be treated like one.
And to underscore the above: 11/9/10: The largest private employer in Saginaw, Michigan will soon be the city government of Beijing, as a 104-year-old unit of General Motors will be sold to new owners from China. The $450M purchase received little attention this summer, but it is a landmark deal - the first time Chinese investors have bought a U.S. industrial operation of such scale and history.
What Mr. McClelland has so meticulously spelled out is dead-on accurate and holds profound implications for authors, publishers, wholesalers, distributors, booksellers, librarians, reviewers, publicists, and the general reading public.
Digital publishing will eventually supplant print publishing. In some specialized areas of the publishing industry it already has. For example, large encyclopedic, multi-volume, library reference works have pretty much now evolved into online databases with subscription fees.
eBooks are a rapidly growing percentage of the book market. Witness the advent of Google eBooks which has been established as a major competitor to Amazon.con in that particular sector of the book publishing industry.
This transformative trend of digital printing gaining market share over traditional print is on-going and increasing year by year. The driving force behind it is a combination of the simple economics of book publishing and the relentless advancement of younger generations for whom electronics are as natural to them as breathing, compounded by the dying out of older generations whose traditions and life experiences are those of the hand-held, page-turning, print books they grew up with.
As additional note -- I can't remember the last time I reviewed one of those expensive coffee-table art books that wasn't printed outside the USA. The reasons for that are these very same "deindustrialization" trends that Mr. McClelland has so clearly spelled out and illustrated.
This particular article has finally convinced me that I'm going to have to adapt the Midwest Book Review into considering ebooks for review. But what the parameters of this will be needs a great deal more thought to what the guidelines will have to be.
Currently out of 76 volunteer reviewers I have one reviewer willing to take on ebook assignments. It's clear that in the not-so-distant future I'll need to significantly expand that resource.
Incidently, Mr. McClelland has given complete permission for anyone to share his commentary in their newsletter, blog, website, etc.. Just be sure to give him the usual credit citation when doing so.
Now for showcasing four new "how to" titles for writers:
The Writing/Publishing Shelf
A Skeptic's Guide to Writer's Houses
University of Pennsylvania Press
3905 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-4112
9780812242928, $24.95, www.upenn.edu
To follow in the footsteps of another is what many do for inspiration. "A Skeptics' Guide to Writer's Houses" is a unique and humorous guide to the house museums of famous authors throughout the country and presents an unusual array of thoughts and opinions on the writing cultures reverence of these locations. With plenty of humor, "A Skeptic's Guide to Writers' Houses" is a unique blend of memoir, travelogue, and literary work analyzing the subculture of it all.
The Writer's Guide to Psychology
Quill Driver Books
2006 S. Mary Street, Fresno, CA 93721-3311
9781884995682, $14.95, www.quilldriverbooks.com
The human mind is one of the most difficult thing to understand, and it's so easy for a writer to get it wrong. "The Writer's Guide to Psychology: How to Write Accurately About Psychological Disorders, Clinical Treatment, and Human Behavior" acts as a resource explaining the finer details of these disorders and what a writer should know before diving into writing such characters. Hoping to dispel commonly used tropes such as raving lunatic serial killers, the truth about schizophrenia, the problem with hypnosis, and much more. Explaining how to make psychopathic characters work, "The Writer's Guide to Psychology" is highly useful and highly recommended resource.
Cherie K. Miller
Wisdom Creek Press
5814 Sailboat Pointe NW, Acworth, GA 30101
9780981875613, $14.95, www.wisdomcreekpress.com
The career of writing can be quite daunting to get in to. "Writing Conversations: Spend 365 Days with Your Favorite Authors, Learning the Craft of Writing" is a writing advisory guide from Cherie K. Miller who seeks to give aspiring writers tips and tricks, as well as wisdom and advice for picking up their craft and sticking with it, and getting your work to the next level through an agent or publisher. "Writing Conversations" is a thoughtful and useful guide for those who want to keep themselves on task.
300 Days of Better Writing
c/o Precise Edit
1866 Plaza del Sur, 138 Santa Fe, NM 87505
No one is going to get better at writing without practice. "300 Days of Better Writing: A Daily Handbook for Improving Your Writing" is a guide for daily exercises to improve one's writing in a gradual manner, encouraging clarity, good grammar, and conveying one's thoughts and opinions effectively. For anyone seeking a daily writing exercise book, "300 Days of Better Writing" may be the guide for them.
Finally we have "The Midwest Book Review Postage Stamp Hall Of Fame & Appreciation" roster of well-wishers and supporters. These are the generous folk who decided to say 'thank you' and 'support the cause' that is the Midwest Book Review by donating postage stamps this past month:
Nadia (Brooklyn, New York)
Robert N. Gable
Ruby Cavanaugh Koerper
Linda Jump -- "Ethan Egret's Family Album"
Mike Kearby -- "A Hundred Miles to Water"
Katie Willmarth Green -- "Sierra Summer 1874"
David Drum -- "The Richest Family in America"
Nancy E. Gill -- "Shine In Your Own Way"
Irene Magers -- "Last Train From Berlin"
Paul Peter Jesep -- "Credit Card Usury and the Christian Failure to Stop It"
Terra Sancta Press
Parker Book Company
Nada y Nadie Publisher
Science Fiction Trails
Bold Strokes Books
Web of Life Children's Books
Bolchazy - Carducci Publishers
Dane - Nish Publishing Company
Tracy Foote -- Tracy Trends
Woody Woodhall -- Allied Post Audio
Sylvester Charles -- Life Source Publishing
James N. Zitzelsberger -- Moki Lane Publishing
Teresa Ascone -- Alaska Portfolio
Ken Cofrfman -- Stairway Press
Kelly Garrett -- Inkwater Press
Bunny Hull -- Dream A World
Cheryl Kirking -- Mill House Press
Patricia Shih -- Shih Enterprises Inc.
Kylea Taylor -- Hanford Mead Publishers
Katherine Pearson -- Pearson Publishing Company
George C. Connolly -- Crosswinds Press
Richard A. Kuffel -- Expert Publishing
Steven M. Ulmen -- Eagle Entertainment USA
Wendy Kehoe -- You Come Too Publishing
Karen Villanueva Author Services
Maryglenn McCombs -- MM Book Publicity
Elizabeth Waldman Frzier -- Waldmania!
If you have postage to donate, or if you have a book you'd like considered for review, then send those stamps (always appreciated, never required), or a published copy of that book (no galleys, uncorrected proofs, or Advanced Reading Copies), accompanied by a cover letter and some form of publicity release to my attention at the address below.
All of the previous issues of the "Jim Cox Report" are archived on the Midwest Book Review website. If you'd like to receive the "Jim Cox Report" directly (and for free), just send me an email asking to be signed up for it.
So until next time -- goodbye, good luck, and good reading!
Midwest Book Review
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James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
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