Sunday, August 17, 2014


They'd come around and
They'd ask
"You finished you
2nd novel yet?"


"Whatsamatta? Whatsamatta
That you can't
Finish it?"

"Hemorrhoids and

"Maybe you've lost

"Lost what?"

"You know."

Now when they come
Around I tell then,
"Yeh. I finished
It. Be out in Sept."

"You FINISHED it?"


"Well, listen, I gotta go."

Even the cat
Here in the courtyard
Won't come to my door

It's nice.


Saturday, August 9, 2014

Amazon sent me a raven to protect the Realm

Dear KDP Author,

Just ahead of World War II, there was a radical invention that shook the foundations of book publishing. It was the paperback book. This was a time when movie tickets cost 10 or 20 cents, and books cost $2.50. The new paperback cost 25 cents – it was ten times cheaper. Readers loved the paperback and millions of copies were sold in just the first year.

With it being so inexpensive and with so many more people able to afford to buy and read books, you would think the literary establishment of the day would have celebrated the invention of the paperback, yes? Nope. Instead, they dug in and circled the wagons. They believed low cost paperbacks would destroy literary culture and harm the industry (not to mention their own bank accounts). Many bookstores refused to stock them, and the early paperback publishers had to use unconventional methods of distribution – places like newsstands and drugstores. The famous author George Orwell came out publicly and said about the new paperback format, if “publishers had any sense, they would combine against them and suppress them.” Yes, George Orwell was suggesting collusion.

Well… history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.

Fast forward to today, and it’s the e-book’s turn to be opposed by the literary establishment. Amazon and Hachette – a big US publisher and part of a $10 billion media conglomerate – are in the middle of a business dispute about e-books. We want lower e-book prices. Hachette does not. Many e-books are being released at $14.99 and even $19.99. That is unjustifiably high for an e-book. With an e-book, there’s no printing, no over-printing, no need to forecast, no returns, no lost sales due to out of stock, no warehousing costs, no transportation costs, and there is no secondary market – e-books cannot be resold as used books. E-books can and should be less expensive. (falta mencionar writing and editing: el trabajo real. btw, books can't be resold within the Amazon realm)

Perhaps channeling Orwell’s decades old suggestion, Hachette has already been caught illegally colluding with its competitors to raise e-book prices. So far those parties have paid $166 million in penalties and restitution. Colluding with its competitors to raise prices wasn’t only illegal, it was also highly disrespectful to Hachette’s readers.

The fact is many established incumbents in the industry have taken the position that lower e-book prices will “devalue books” and hurt “Arts and Letters.” They’re wrong. Just as paperbacks did not destroy book culture despite being ten times cheaper, neither will e-books. On the contrary, paperbacks ended up rejuvenating the book industry and making it stronger. The same will happen with e-books.

Many inside the echo-chamber of the industry often draw the box too small. They think books only compete against books. But in reality, books compete against mobile games, television, movies, Facebook, blogs, free news sites and more. If we want a healthy reading culture, we have to work hard to be sure books actually are competitive against these other media types, and a big part of that is working hard to make books less expensive. (dice que promueve competition, pero la batalla es por eliminar la competition que compite incluso en definir sus propios precios).

Moreover, e-books are highly price elastic. This means that when the price goes down, customers buy much more. We've quantified the price elasticity of e-books from repeated measurements across many titles. For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99. So, for example, if customers would buy 100,000 copies of a particular e-book at $14.99, then customers would buy 174,000 copies of that same e-book at $9.99. Total revenue at $14.99 would be $1,499,000. Total revenue at $9.99 is $1,738,000. The important thing to note here is that the lower price is good for all parties involved: the customer is paying 33% less and the author is getting a royalty check 16% larger and being read by an audience that’s 74% larger. The pie is simply bigger.

But when a thing has been done a certain way for a long time, resisting change can be a reflexive instinct, and the powerful interests of the status quo are hard to move. It was never in George Orwell’s interest to suppress paperback books – he was wrong about that.

And despite what some would have you believe, authors are not united on this issue. When the Authors Guild recently wrote on this, they titled their post: “Amazon-Hachette Debate Yields Diverse Opinions Among Authors” (the comments to this post are worth a read).  A petition started by another group of authors and aimed at Hachette, titled “Stop Fighting Low Prices and Fair Wages,” garnered over 7,600 signatures.  And there are myriad articles and posts, by authors and readers alike, supporting us in our effort to keep prices low and build a healthy reading culture. Author David Gaughran’s recent interview is another piece worth reading.

We recognize that writers reasonably want to be left out of a dispute between large companies. Some have suggested that we “just talk.” We tried that. Hachette spent three months stonewalling and only grudgingly began to even acknowledge our concerns when we took action to reduce sales of their titles in our store. Since then Amazon has made three separate offers to Hachette to take authors out of the middle. We first suggested that we (Amazon and Hachette) jointly make author royalties whole during the term of the dispute. Then we suggested that authors receive 100% of all sales of their titles until this dispute is resolved. Then we suggested that we would return to normal business operations if Amazon and Hachette’s normal share of revenue went to a literacy charity. But Hachette, and their parent company Lagardere, have quickly and repeatedly dismissed these offers even though e-books represent 1% of their revenues and they could easily agree to do so. They believe they get leverage from keeping their authors in the middle.

(the idea itself of talking about "writer in the middle", where they shouldn't be according to amazon, is the problem. writers are naturally in the middle, and in the middle of the constitution of the price, even if Amazon only notes (supra) the side dwellers of plusvalor).

We will never give up our fight for reasonable e-book prices. We know making books more affordable is good for book culture. We’d like your help. Please email Hachette and copy us.

Hachette CEO, Michael Pietsch:

Copy us at:

Please consider including these points:

- We have noted your illegal collusion. Please stop working so hard to overcharge for ebooks. They can and should be less expensive.
- Lowering e-book prices will help – not hurt – the reading culture, just like paperbacks did.
- Stop using your authors as leverage and accept one of Amazon’s offers to take them out of the middle.
- Especially if you’re an author yourself: Remind them that authors are not united on this issue.


Thanks for your support.

The Amazon Books Team

Monday, August 4, 2014


by Najwan Darwish

The whole story is fabricated. Never have I believed the game that tells us you were slaughtered, and that your blood poured all the way to the Mediterranean only to be consumed by the sea. I am sure the story is all fabricated: Merriam Kershenbaum and Shlomo Ganor every night at 7.30.

Al‐Hurra (Free) [TV], al‐Arabiyya (the Arabian) [TV], and A‐ljazeera (the Peninsula) [TV]. Taken together: the Free Arabian Peninsula. Merriam Kershenbaum and Shlomo Ganor. I am sure they are also fabricated.

The bills placed into my mailbox by a person I do not know. The name of my family in three different languages. They, also, are fabricated. This woman who loves me through my email.

Haifa, too, is fabricated. This is why I never go down the street, and I only look at the sea from a perpendicular angle. Our friendship was in no one’s account. No one took the time to fabricate it; this is why it remained true. Oh! I forgot, all truths are fabricated. This is why I enjoyed sharing with you all your Araq, apples, nuts and other things.

Nothing pressures me. This is why I am not torn when I see our land that has been stolen from us. The robbery was fabricated, checkpoints are fabricated and the soldiers are a bunch of kids who still wet themselves. The elderly
Greek Orthodox women crossing into the Bethlehem checkpoint this morning are, also, fabricated. “In the name of the cross!” is said in a fabricated way. Good Friday is fabricated. The Byzantine‐tunes at the Maronite church in Nazareth is fabricated. My enemies are fabricated, and my relatives are the epitome of fabrication. Inferno is fabricated, and Paradise is fabricated with even greater skill and contempt. (Damn! Is Fairouz’s voice also fabricated?)

No nightmares haunt me, nightmares are fabricated. I do not suffer any disorders with my biological clock. I have no old enmity towards the sun, I do not suffer because of my inherited nature. All of these labels are fabricated.

I, too, am fabricated. Not because of who I am, but because all of the pronouns are fabricated. I do not hate collaborators; see how I listen to their news commentators without vomiting?

I am not afraid of the alarm clock, or even AIDS and atomic weapons. I do not suffer a phobia from ringing door bells or ringing phones. The world will not end tomorrow... all of these are fabricated news.
I am tired of 21st century romanticism: romance mixed with the “shit” of consumers from all social classes. If you wanted to live you too must be tarnished with it as well. This is also another fabricated theory.

Rejoice and be merry! The boxes filled with defeat that are stacked up under your grandparents’ beds are fabricated. And you have been wailing all those years about losing your homelands. Dude! (Woe! As said in Classical way) Loss is fabricated. A big lie formed by robbers of your existence.

Merriam Kershenbaum Shlomo Ganor Al‐Arabiyya al‐Hurra al‐Jazeera And that leper who holds the remote control.

Cockroaches and collaborators are nice creatures. Look at how gentle this one is, and how sweet the ugliness of that one’s face is. Our stereotypical ideas about their cheapness are fabricated.

A sedated group of men sit in the living room listening to the “Voice of Israel”. A respectable group of women make “Tabbouleh” and think about the future after having buried our public dignity. Don’t worry, these are all fabricated.

We cannot respect a few trees in front of our homes, leaving the mountains for those who set up the nets in our naps.

On the 22nd of April, 1948, Haifa surrendered. The date is fabricated. On the 8th of December, 1917, a few Effendis carried their white flag and a picture was taken of them as they surrendered Jerusalem. The event truly took place, but the picture is fabricated. You can, at any given time, gather a few Effendis and ask them to carry a white flag and march with it to Jaffa Gate to take a picture.

The time is 11:30 just before noon on the first of April 2010. Everyone went to sleep and awoke, and I am still up. Pillows are fabricated. In two weeks I will be going to Beirut. The Visa is an enormously fabricated obstacle. Oh, Our Lady of Lebanon, pray for us (though we know your prayer is fabricated.)

In a while I am going to sleep, as my wacky friend rides the bus from Nazareth. Words in Hebrew are flying around her like flies because she thinks the language of the enemy is a corpse, so I tell her: This is a fabricated ideology, the language of the enemy is a sexless robot. She bursts into a wacky, fabricated, laughter. We burst into laughter. Oh god, we won’t die. We run into eternity as our flip‐flops tap along. Eternity is fabricated. Everything that proceeded was a fabrication. Everything to come is also a fabrication. And each creature is raising it's arms like a tree in this fabricated poem.

Translated from the Arabic by Susan Hamad