If any of you who like Science Fiction books

Or any books for that matter, want to help the publishing industry from being bureaucrated to death, you may read the following letter, and send comments to the Department of Justice:

http://aardvarknow.us/2012/05/09/letter-to-the-department-of-justice/

Anti-trust laws are anti-just. If you set your price even with your competitors, that is price fixing; if above, that is evidence of monopoly due to market dominance; if below, that is evidence of predatory pricing.

Anti Trust Law was the Progressive Movement first, greatest, and most utterly illogical victory in legislation coming back to bite us.

 

 

About John C Wright

John C. Wright is a practicing philosopher, a retired attorney, newspaperman, and newspaper editor, and a published author of science fiction. Once a Houyhnhnm, he was expelled from the august ranks of purely rational beings when he fell in love; but retains an honorary title.
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87 Responses to If any of you who like Science Fiction books

  1. Fabio P.Barbieri says:

    What nonsense.

  2. Foxfier says:

    Did they get together and say “none of us will sell for less than this price”?
    Then that is price-fixing. I don’t like it when the gov’t does it, I don’t like it when businesses do it.

    Small town view, I’ve been bit by it–hard. Monopolies vs psudomonopolies isn’t much of a difference– ask anyone who’s lived in a town 60 miles from nowhere where all the gas stations are owned by the same guy.

    I also don’t like unions that cover an entire market, rather than a store, or even a chain; I’d put this somewhere around the level of taxing stores on their stock-on-hand, or the equipment they own.

    The opposite view of your apparent one has many points here. (I’d link directly, but I’m not making a half dozen stinking links by hand.)

  3. Off-topic: I just put together a rough draft of a Choose Your Own Adventure-style dialogue on the issue of abortion. It’s pretty comprehensive, or as much as I could make it.

    Anyone here up for proofreading? (Playtesting?)

  4. docrampage says:

    Anti-trust laws are anti-just. If you set your price even with your competitors, that is price fixing; if above, that is evidence of monopoly due to market dominance; if below, that is evidence of predatory pricing.

    You can set your prices the same as your competitors as long as you and your competitors don’t have an agreement to do so. And as far as I know, there aren’t any laws about predatory pricing (although there are trade agreements about it).

    I oppose anti-trust legislation in perfect markets. A perfect market is one in which
    (1) the barriers to entry are small in comparison to potential profits
    (2) economies of scale do not give a decisive advantage to companies with higher sales
    (3) customers do not have to invest substantially in a particular product thereby making it costly for them to switch
    (4) there are no suppliers that a big company can pressure to cause problems for smaller companies
    (5) there is near perfect knowledge among the customers about the products so that they can make optimal choices in their buying decisions

    In a market where all of these things are true (which is no market that I can think of) competition is over quality of the product, efficiency of the company, and similar things. When any of those things are not true companies can exploit the situation in ways that such that a poorer quality product produced by a less efficient organization can win in the market place over a higher quality product produced by a more efficient organization.

    It would be fruitless to try to craft a byzantine set of regulations to try to cover all such exploitation, but I think anti-trust legislation is one reasonable step in that direction.

    • Robert Mitchell Jr says:

      Is it? “Small town view, I’ve been bit by it–hard. Monopolies vs psudomonopolies isn’t much of a difference– ask anyone who’s lived in a town 60 miles from nowhere where all the gas stations are owned by the same guy.”, from post number 2 shows the error of “Anti-trust” legislation. We have no set definition of “Trust”. We have no set definition of “Market”. We have no set definition of “Fair profit”. Heck, how many people really understand infrastructure or sunk costs? Foxfier’s posts have shown a very bright mind, but his post (#2) skips right over that and goes straight to “psudomonopoly”. I’m thinking the reason the gas prices for Foxfier are so high is because the cost for dealing with the EPA is the same, three gas stations or 300. $50000 divided by 3000 is a bigger number then $50000 divided by one million, yes? Foxfier seems to have made the very common mistake of blaming the business for pain caused by the government. Now, if we were to do as you ask, and break up the gas station’s “trust” into three or four competitors, what would we accomplish other then to change the math to $50000 divided by 750, making the gas even more expensive? The truth of it is, “trustbusting” has always been a way for the politically connected to keep things more expensive, to punish those, such as Standard Oil, who dropped prices like a rock, breaking the bowls of people who had become rich and powerful off the old, static prices.

      • Foxfier says:

        1) Thank you, 2) her, and 3) I mention psudo-monopoly because that is a decent layman’s way of explaining the problem with price fixing.
        While the prices for gas stations are generally more changed by the EPA, in the specific case I’m speaking of it was the guy price fixing. That’s why I brought it up– I can see how you’d think otherwise, though, since this is the internet. Elsewhere, one of my crusades is on a similar vein; just not much of a call here for pointing out the hidden cost of regulation, let alone proposing some of the extreme solutions I usually do. Coyote Blog has a very deep vein you might mine for “regulation as big business protection” stories if you don’t already read him, though.
        (The additional problem of the gas station owner using family and friend influence to keep others out is why that was an actual monopoly; if he’d just made agreements with each of the folks who wanted to open a station that they’d all charge exactly the same, it would be price fixing– and the same on the consumer end, thus psudo-monopoly.)

        When his monopoly was broken by someone else opening a gas station, the prices dropped to normal for small-town stations in the area; when he tried to keep his prices all the same as he previously had, he lost customers. Not all of them, but a sizable number. Had to actually set prices based on demand.

        A similar shakeup is happening up here in Washington state. We just voted out the state liquor stores– the state was involved, but it was functionally this: the state licensed the distributors, and they got to be the sole providers of product, and got to set the prices for all products. Even got to choose what was allowed to be discounted.
        Now (or as soon as the implementation goes through….) distributors can still set up contracts that would offer the same, but if they got with a bunch of other distributors to set their prices, it would still be price fixing and illegal.

        • Robert Mitchell Jr says:

          A lack of competition does not a monopoly make. What would “Anti-trust” actions done (at a cost of millions, given how the government does things) compared to how free people dealt with the problem, for free(actually, given that the new business had to pay taxes, they paid for the privilege)?

          • Foxfier says:

            monopoly (n)
            bing.com
            mo·nop·o·ly [ mə nóppəlee ]
            control of market supply: a situation in which one company controls an industry or is the only provider of a product or service
            personal and exclusive possession: an exclusive right to have or do something
            corporation with exclusive control: a company with a commercial monopoly
            Synonyms: control, domination, cartel, trust, corner

            You are still ignorant of the actual situation I tossed in as a one-off.

            It seems from your other responses on this thread that you’re not too big on rule of law. Given that, we’ve got no baseline to argue on, since I can’t know what laws you feel should count or to what extent.

            • Robert Mitchell Jr says:

              Oh, I’m quite big on the rule of Law. Not at all a fan of rule of Regulation. A Law is clear and applies to everyone. Our current immigration and anti-trust regulations are not clear and are applied in an arbitrary fashion. You can not apply the law to everyone and have a quota, for example. It’s why I keep poking this example. No where in your definition is there a line “Within a 60 mile or so radius”. So what is the “Zone of Control”? 100 miles? 10 miles? 1 mile? Can you show me the line in the “Anti-trust” regulations that define it? By your listed definition, there has never been a Monopoly, because no one has ever controlled a market. The world is a big place. Your best example would be De Beers, and they haven’t been able to stop “blood diamonds”, have they? So you are reduced to talking about “Monopolies in one Country”, but not even Standard Oil managed that, here in the U.S.. What happened there was, at best, anticipation. Standard Oil was doing well, to the point some thought they could become a Monopoly, so they were broken up. Do you think punishing people for “future crime” is right and proper under “The Rule of Law”?

              I admit to being ignorant of the situation, because you are the only source, and you are only giving out information when it comes up.

      • docrampage says:

        First of all, you are the one who brought up “fair profit”. Neither Foxfire (he’s a she, by the way) nor I have defended anti-trust in such anti-market terms.

        I believe that the market should set the price of things, but I also view many traditional monopolistic practices as a form of coercion that consumers are entitled to protect themselves against through law.

        The problem with the pure libertarian notion of free markets is much like the problem with the pure libertarian ideal of open borders –namely that the predictable long-term consequences of such ideals are disastrous to the goals that prompt them. Open borders may maximize liberty in a certain area for a limited time, but the long term consequence is that the vast majority of immigrants are considerably more anti-libertarian than the US average so they will, over time, move the country further away from free markets and small government.

        Similarly, the predictable long-term consequence of free markets without anti-trust regulation is a cooperation by market leaders to squeeze out competition, control resources that people rely on and then use that control over resources to continuously extend their power until they become an oligarchy of the wealthy whose main goal is to ensure than none of the peasants can join their ranks.

        The primary reason that governments exist is to prevent the aggressive and power-seeking from abusing the rest of the citizens. In a post-agricultural society, it is a quaint fiction that direct violence is the only tool that the aggressive and power-seeking can abuse for their own benefit.

        • Robert Mitchell Jr says:

          No, Foxfier brought it up (not using that exact term), and I responded with an economies of scale issue. Rather my point, that even intelligent people default to “fair pricing” (and I know she is a she, but as long as she goes by a “gender neutral” tag, I shall default to the generic, which is “he”.).

          Neither Mr. Wright or I am pushing the Libertarian ideal of markets free of any government regulation. Both of us (I believe) are pointing out how bad “Anti-trust” laws are at dealing with those problems. Simple observation should show that monopolies only become easy with government support. Witness the countless pointless licenses required for services, such as hair dressing and undertaking. Your problem is fundamental. If you do not trust large organizations and believe they must be regulated lest they destroy their competition, then why do you trust a large organization and give it the power to destroy it’s competitors? Bon Vivant went out of business in less then a month, because one couple didn’t cook their soup correctly, Eric Holder is still in power after killing thousands. “Anti-trust” wasn’t needed in the first case, and is useless in the second. Hmm…..

          As to “Illegal Immigration”, not at all. The vast majority of immigrants are much more libertarian then the “natives”. They have experienced oppression first hand, and have come here because it was not to their liking. And they believe in free markets with a passion, which is why there are so many “first generation” success stories. No, we have immigration laws for the same reason we have “anti-trust” laws and other barriers to entry, to stop the newcomers from showing up the lazy……

          Except that in the real world, the oligarchy doesn’t happen, because without government support, the temptation to “cheat” is too high, which is why the private attempts to “control the market” have failed. It takes government support to keep it going, witness OPEC, and the Northeastern Dairy compact. Witness the fact that even OPEC has been unable to stop “cheating”, even though everyone involved is a government.

          • Foxfier says:

            No, Foxfier brought it up (not using that exact term), and I responded with an economies of scale issue. Rather my point, that even intelligent people default to “fair pricing”

            No, I did not bring it up; you assumed I’d made a very common mistake and went from there, rather than following the stated facts.
            “Fair profit” has nothing to do with either monopolies or price-fixing– which I mentioned as a psudomonopoly, since I view that as the problem with price fixing. It mimics an actual monopoly by removing competition.

            (and I know she is a she, but as long as she goes by a “gender neutral” tag, I shall default to the generic, which is “he”.).

            I thought the anthropogenic vixen in a cheer leader’s outfit would make up for not being “Foxfierette” or something….Maybe a bright pink background?

            • Robert Mitchell Jr says:

              You complained about a “Pseudomonopoly” you have dealt with. It is a gas chain. You are not happy with it, or you would not be complaining about it. There are two ways “monopolies” can fail the customer, Price and Service. Gas chains are all self serve now, so I didn’t think you were complaining about service. That leaves Price. You think you paid too much for gas and are not happy about it, thus the “Pseudomonopoly” tag. Why do you think you paid too much? You saw cheaper prices elsewhere. It seems pretty clear you thought the price was “unfair”. This leads to the muddled mess that is “fair pricing”. It seems the problem in your case is that the gas chain was not a monopoly, and so was not able to spread their sunk costs to enough people. Economies of Scale affect a lot of things, which is why companies tend to grow. But under our current system, if they are too successful, they are called a monopoly and the government tries to destroy them. It happens a lot because people do not, in their heart, understand sunk costs….

              I can’t see your icon worth a darn. Happily, English has given us the tools to politely show the sex of the writer. Mr., Mrs., Miss., Ms., etc. You don’t have to use them, but if you don’t, I’m going to assume that you don’t want it to be an issue, and I will default to the generic, which is He. Not my rule, but one I am happy to follow. Remember, it may not be an issue for you, but America is very wealthy, and there are a lot of people “reinventing” themselves.

              • Foxfier says:

                You complained about a “Pseudomonopoly” you have dealt with. It is a gas chain. You are not happy with it, or you would not be complaining about it.

                Read it again.
                I mentioned an ACTUAL monopoly I had dealt with– and you missed the third way that they hurt people, by destroying competition.

                This is… what, four posts explaining to you that your assumptions about the facts were wrong? Shockingly, I know more about the situation I mentioned than you do, and also shockingly, I’m not a total idiot who’s never dealt with running a business or automatically assumes that “more than I want to pay” is unfair and thus should be fixed.

                A throw-away line about price fixing BAD that you made an understandable but bad assumption about, and you’ve just got to keep digging in. Screw it, I’m not spending any more time trying to explain to you that piling assumption on assumption vs actual facts on the ground is a bad battle.

                • Robert Mitchell Jr says:

                  You did not say that they hurt people or destroyed competition, you said they used their family and influence. Your own example said that a competitor came in and they were forced to drop their prices. I am not seeing the monopoly. I am not seeing a “Pseudomonopoly”. And it is a silly thing to squabble about, true, except that thanks to “Anti-Trust” laws, what is seen to be a monopoly (Which neither you, or DocRampage, or the government has given a formal definition of) will be destroyed by the government.

                  • Foxfier says:

                    You did not say that they hurt people or destroyed competition, you said they used their family and influence.

                    Again, you made bad assumptions, to the point of ignoring what I actually said– he used those advantages to keep people out. People being competition. Keeping out means destroying chances of competition. Thus, destroying competition.

                    Specifically, they used their family and influence to prevent anyone else from getting the required permissions to open a station. Someone finally did a back-way-around. Took at least five years from the time that I first knew about it. (I actually transferred to a different duty station and had to hear about the guy new station just outside of the limits of their influence through the grapevine.)
                    That is one of the reasons I’m sympathetic to either flatly removing many regulations or making them certifications and optional in the vast majority of cases– it frequently turns into job security for the guys who are already there.

                    • Robert Mitchell Jr says:

                      So, again, they didn’t hurt anyone. Your local government, with the “power to regulate commerce” given by the Progressives to stop “Trusts” did. Rather the point. Given the government the power to destroy business gives them to power to control, stop, and reward business. You see that the fruits of the “Anti-trust” movement are rotten. Mr. Wright and I are attacking the tree they come from. Why are you trying to stop us?

                    • Foxfier says:

                      So, again, they didn’t hurt anyone

                      Either you’re not paying attention to what I said, or your idea of “hurt” is greatly out of whack. Either way, not bothering with it.

                      Ditto for all the other places where you seem to be using a personal definition for common terms, like “law” or “crime.”

                    • Robert Mitchell Jr says:

                      I am not, apparently, being clear. Yes, people were hurt. The point is, “They” didn’t cause the hurt, the government did. You appear to have no proof the government only did what they did because of influence (not surprising, bureaucrats are normally pretty good about using committees and other untraceable means to cover that sort of thing up). It might have been an overzealous eco-nut in a good place to leverage his agenda. Or it might have been corruption. In which case, “Anti-Trust” regulations give them (The people with “Influence”) even more power to hurt people, and still keep their hands “clean”.

                    • Let me chime in from a legal prospective. Each and every single one of the cases I read in law school, and these were the famous cases establishing the basics of how the Anti-Trust law was to be interpreted, I say again EVERY SINGLE CASE, was counterproductive in one way or the other, either by breaking an efficient business into two inefficient halves, or forcing an efficient business to give its trade secrets to an inefficient competitor, or by rendering a good or service offered the the public beyond the reach the price the public could pay, and so on and on.

                      The Anti-Trust law could not work even in a perfect world to achieve the effect it seeks, which is to lower prices and encourage competition, because it rewards failure. Logically, you cannot reward failure, even in perfect world, without punishing success. In a free market, punishing success means taking resources away from where the market, that is, the customers want them to satisfy their wants, and putting those resources in places where the customers do not want them. In other words, punishing success has the same effect as raising prices and lowering productivity and access to the goods and services the people want.

                      In an imperfect world, our world, all that really happens is that Anti-Trust law is used by big businesses who have friends in Town Hall to punish and drive away small but ambitious competitors. General Motors is not going to be socked with a big Anti-Trust suit, but since Netscape had friends in high places, an utterly frivolous Anti-Trust case — one that did not make sense even by the Alice-in-Wonderland rules of Anti-Trust cases — was brought against Microsoft for giving away a good rather than selling it. How indeed was the threat of a lawsuit going to get them to lower their price lower than zero?

                      Same deal for the Alcoa case, for Ma Bell, for International Shoe, for General Electric, and on and on. The competition used the Justice Department to slice a chunk off the big fish in the pond and the little parasites gobble up the bloody globs.

                      The way Anti-Trust law is structured, it does not really stop the only bad aspect, from an economic point of view, of monopoly, which is, namely, monopoly PRICING, which is the act of driving up price by artificially restricting supply. One does not need market dominance to do this, and if one has market dominance, it does not mean one necessarily can do this.

                    • Foxfier says:

                      You appear to have no proof the government only did what they did because of influence (not surprising, bureaucrats are normally pretty good about using committees and other untraceable means to cover that sort of thing up).

                      Why do you keep making assumptions like that? You’re batting zero so far. They were quite open about rejecting proposals that would interfere with family business. Same way that the cop that owned a bar was able to have smoking indoors.
                      It was the kind of setup that makes you shake your head and wonder how they heck the got away with it– other than Cali being dysfunctional, of course.

                    • Foxfier says:

                      I’m starting to wonder if you’ve ever lived in a small population area– it’s not a faceless “them” for anything but high level forest service stuff, and usually not even then. It wasn’t “them” who shipped up and released the cougars that stalked joggers in SoCal up, it was my godfather’s daughter in law; it isn’t a “them” that approved or disapproved all the permits you need on the town level, it was specific people.

                    • Robert Mitchell Jr says:

                      “They got away with it” probably because their paperwork was in order. I’m pretty sure if Feds had shown up, they would be able to explain every decision. Yes, even small town people know how to game the system. So it goes.

              • docrampage says:

                Why do you think you paid too much? You saw cheaper prices elsewhere. It seems pretty clear you thought the price was “unfair”. This leads to the muddled mess that is “fair pricing”.

                Robert, you need to learn to read what people actually write rather than skimming it quickly so you can drop them into a simple cognitive category. Anti-trust concerns are just not the same thing as “fair price” concerns. The whole point of “fair price” or “fair prophet” is an irrational belief that there is some non-market way to determine how much something “ought to” cost or how much another person’s efforts “ought to” be worth.

                Neither Foxfire nor I has suggested any such thing. We both approach it from the standpoint of wanting the market to be genuinely free, not from the standpoint that there is some morally correct price and that the market has to be adjusted to produce that price. If you can’t see the importance of this distinction, then so much the worse for you.

                Happily, English has given us the tools to politely show the sex of the writer. Mr., Mrs., Miss., Ms., etc.

                There are many normal English names that don’t tell the sex of the person and these names are often listed without honorifics. And even if this were not the case, there is no reason to think that normal English rules of formal names would apply to handles, which are often intended to be eccentric. In fact, if you go by common usage, adding an honorific to a handle is what is non-standard.

                You don’t have to use them, but if you don’t, I’m going to assume that you don’t want it to be an issue

                Since she has informed you of the correct pronoun to use, you know very well that she does care what you use. You are continuing to use the wrong one, not out of mistaken assumptions, but out of pettiness.

                I will default to the generic, which is He. Not my rule, but one I am happy to follow.

                Of course it is your rule. I’ve never even heard of it before. In standard English, the gender of a pronoun is chosen based on the knowledge of the speaker or writer, not based on the gender agreement with the name of the person. If you know that someone is a woman, then the proper pronouns to use for her are the feminine. This is true even for English names that seem to have a gender. If an actress is in a Mr. Magoo costume then when talking about the actress (as opposed to the character) you would use feminine pronouns: “Call costume! Mr. Magoo says she ripped her pants!”

                • Robert Mitchell Jr says:

                  As do you sir. Neither you nor Foxfier reacted to my comments about the definition of “Trust” and “Market”, and for all your denials, “Fair Pricing” is very much a part of our current “Anti-trust” laws, as Mr. Wright pointed out in the original post. You and Foxfier do not ask for “Fair Pricing”, but you both support the current “Anti-trust” laws, which do…….

                  Well yes. But why is Foxfier using a handle? Why do most people on the internet use a handle? To maintain a level of privacy, yes? To insure that comments made do not cost someone a job, or let a nut find their home and harass them, and other such things that could make a mess in the “Real World”. While I may stupidly use my name to post, I certainly understand why others don’t. Foxfier has chosen to be private, and I respect that, and am going to continue to respect that. Foxfier may have told me something about himself/herself, but at no time was I told that was for public consumption, and I act accordingly. Your actions, of course, may vary.

                  • Foxfier says:

                    Neither you nor Foxfier reacted to my comments about the definition of “Trust” and “Market”,

                    That’s because you packed it in with a bunch of really bad assumptions and went full bore after “fair price” and “fair profit” and such.

                    but you both support the current “Anti-trust” laws, which do

                    Bad assumption. You don’t have to support all the laws to believe price fixing is bad, or to believe that laws should be enforced.

                    Foxfier may have told me something about himself/herself, but at no time was I told that was for public consumption, and I act accordingly.

                    By stating that until I add a Mrs or a Ms or otherwise alter my handle to something that you identify as feminine, you’re going to pretend that there’s no way of knowing I’m female, no matter how often I’ve publicly stated it, no matter that the bio at my link states it and no matter that my icon is highly female?

                    Your current justification does not jive with your prior justification.

                  • docrampage says:

                    As do you sir. Neither you nor Foxfier reacted to my comments about the definition of “Trust” and “Market”

                    I can’t speak for Foxfire, but the reason I did not react to the comments was because I could see no relevance to them. I still don’t. In any case, not reacting to something is not the same as putting words in someone’s mouth, which is what I accused you of.

                    and for all your denials, “Fair Pricing” is very much a part of our current “Anti-trust” laws. You and Foxfier do not ask for “Fair Pricing”, but you both support the current “Anti-trust” laws, which do

                    I haven’t said that I, in general, support the current anti-trust laws. Don’t recall Firefox doing so either. My statements were in defense of anti-trust laws as a category, not in defense of a specific instance.

                    Foxfier may have told me something about himself/herself, but at no time was I told that was for public consumption, and I act accordingly.

                    She told you in a comment on this public forum that the proper pronouns to use for her are the feminine. How could that possibly not be for public consumption?

                    • Robert Mitchell Jr says:

                      Well, even Homer nods. I don’t understand how you can support any “Anti-trust” regulation without a firm understanding of what a “Trust” or “Market” is. It’s important. We all know what bureaucrats can do with wiggle room. Let us use an example I have to deal with every day. Diamond Comic Distributors. Are they a monopoly? If we define their market as comic books, then yes. If we define their market as books, then heck no. I would hope you can see now that how you define a “Market” is going to be hugely important in any “Anti-trust” scheme. Then there are “Trusts”. Is Burger King a “Trust”? It’s a franchise system. A group of separate businesses working together, with an agreement to keep prices and standards the same, yes? They’ve cornered the Whooper(tm) market, yes? Are they a “Trust”? We come back to the example we were given in post 2, where a group has control (by ownership) of the local gas stations. Sixty miles to buy from someone else. Doesn’t look like a Monopoly to me, but it did to Foxfier. Without definition, were does it stop? Is my little comic book store to be sundered by the Justice Department because it is the only comic book store in a three mile radius? Remembering that the EPA bragged about “crucifying” people to get everyone else in line…….

                      Well, there has been no “Counter Reformation”, or even “Reformation” in our “Anti-Trust” laws and regulations. Some of the branches may be different, but it’s the same tree planted by the Progressives. So when Mr. Wright rails against the injustice of these laws, and you say that you support anti-trust laws, you are going to look, in the absence of an offered example or replacement, like you support the current system.

                • “Of course it is your rule. I’ve never even heard of it before. In standard English, the gender of a pronoun is chosen based on the knowledge of the speaker or writer, not based on the gender agreement with the name of the person.”

                  Let me be blunt: You are dead wrong.

                  Allow me to quote from http://www.bartleby.com/141/strunk3.html The Elements of Style by Strunk, Jr. I assume any honest grammarian will confess this is the standard work for rules of grammar in English.

                  They. A common inaccuracy is the use of the plural pronoun when the antecedent is a distributive expression such as each, each one, everybody, every one, many a man, which, though implying more than one person, requires the pronoun to be in the singular. Similar to this, but with even less justification, is the use of the plural pronoun with the antecedent anybody, any one, somebody, some one, the intention being either to avoid the awkward “he or she,” or to avoid committing oneself to either. Some bashful speakers even say, “A friend of mine told me that they, etc.”

                  Use he with all the above words, unless the antecedent is or must be feminine.

                  This is not a matter open to debate: any dictionary from before the poisonous days of political correctness will confirm this usage. There is no argument to be made on your side of the issue. You are in the same position as someone who claims “ain’t” is standard English.

                  I should delete your comment, as it falls within my prohibition on political correctness on this site. But I am willing to believe your teachers lied.

                  • Foxfier says:

                    This is not a matter open to debate: any dictionary from before the poisonous days of political correctness will confirm this usage. There is no argument to be made on your side of the issue. You are in the same position as someone who claims “ain’t” is standard English.

                    I am afraid you are mistaken, dear host– not in the “default to male when it’s unknown” meaning but in the notion that the rule justifies calling a woman “he” because her handle is not altered to be sufficiently feminine, even though he as stated that he is fully aware that I am a woman. It would be like using the rule to justify calling a woman named Kelly, Gail or Marion “he,” even while fully aware that they are women.

                    • The rule is that “she” is used when the antecedent is or must be female; “he” when the antecedent is ambiguous or unknown. That is not open to debate. As for your interpretation of someone else’s interpretation of how the rule applies, I leave to the two of you to decide.

                  • docrampage says:

                    You misunderstood what I was saying. Robert insisted on using masculine pronouns to refer to Foxfire even though he knows that she is a woman (even after she told him the correct gender to use). His excuse for this is that her handle does not reveal her sex, but the nature of her handle is irrelevant because English does not have syntactic rules saying “with this kind of name, you use this kind of pronoun”.

                    To repeat: in English, the gender of a pronoun does not have to agree with the gender of a name. One big reason for this is that in English, names (and nouns in general) don’t even have gender. This is purely a statement about syntax. Given a sentence

                    1. Sam says __ wants to leave.

                    You cannot determine the proper pronoun to fill in the blank based on syntax alone. If you know that Sam is male, then you use “he”. If you know that Sam is female then you use “she”. If you know that Sam is a robot, then you use “it”. If you don’t know the sex of Sam then you use “he”, unless you want to emphasize that the sex is unknown (or that you don’t want to reveal it) in which case you can use “he or she”.

                    • Robert Mitchell Jr says:

                      I don’t know that Foxfier is a woman. I’ve never met, seen, or heard Foxfier. I don’t even know Foxfier exists. Maybe they are a “composite person” from Obama’s “Autobiography”. The Internet is a ballroom filled with masks. And some people wear different masks in different rooms, and some wear the same mask but act differently in different rooms. Some share masks(as Mrs. Wright seems to have done on this very board before she got her own handle). Some lose their masks to other people, and some have their masks vandalized. Some psychopaths, like John Edwards, wear nested masks, dropping masks to draw in their victims, “sharing secrets” that “they don’t show to just anyone”. And, of course, this is a Science Fiction themed blog. Should I “out” James Tiptree Jr.?…… It’s all to much for me. I take people’s handles at face value and respond to their ideas. I have no skill on reading tone on the Internet, and I am not going to assume a familiarity which may not be there.

                    • Foxfier says:

                      Now you’re just being silly.

                    • Alan Silverman says:

                      Since the time I began reading Mr. Wright’s journal a couple of months ago, I have seen Foxfier state in these comments that she is female on multiple occasions. She may actually be lying, but absent any other information, I see no reason why we should assume that; instead, I’d think we would want to extend basic courtesy and take what she states as fact about herself to be true.

                    • Robert Mitchell Jr says:

                      Ah, no. You are talking about extra-ordinary politeness, the sort of care and awareness that make W. such a great president. I am not good with people, and am sloppy in most things, often lost in thought, which is why I did not become an engineer despite finding the math easy. I can barely handle ordinary politeness, and can’t handle the whole high school levels of in groups and out groups and “we aren’t talking to Her!”. If I don’t follow the basic rules, and make an exception for Foxfier now, I will look like a huge ass 6 months from now, when I will have forgotten the “new rule” and used the wrong descriptor. I run a retail store. I deal with a lot of different people and details get muddled pretty quickly. Better, I think, to follow the rules strictly now an look like an small officious nit now.

                    • docrampage says:

                      Well, that is an entirely different reason than you gave at the beginning. If your purpose is to come across as a small officious nit, then carry on.

                    • Robert Mitchell Jr says:

                      Ah, no. Same reason. I follow the rules, as Mr. Wright pointed out, when dealing with a pseudonym, a “handle”. If a handle is generic, as Foxfier’s is, I default to the generic. I merely note that my attempts to avoid being a large ass, (such as by “outing” Foxfier as a woman on 4chan, for example), I may come across as an officious nit. But I really don’t see how defaulting to the generic “he” is in any way a slur.

                    • Foxfier says:

                      (such as by “outing” Foxfier as a woman on 4chan, for example)

                      You cannot “out” someone who is already out.

                      I’m not sure if you’re up to three or four supposed reasons for calling me “he” when you claim you were aware I am or claim to be a woman, openly, at this location.

                      I’d suggest that if you would like to not appear to be an ass, let clarifications such as my offhanded “she” slide by, instead of claiming English forces you to do it due to my handle not being sufficiently female for your tastes, a lack of proof that I’m a woman (I don’t even want to imagine what you’d require as proof face-to-face), inability to see the female icon I helpfully added to the profile some time back, a poor memory for “new rules” such as women preferring to be called “she” in the singular, a desire not to seem like a greater ass at some point in the future and a desire to not be the one to tell 4chan I’m a girl.

                    • I misunderstood.

                  • Alan Silverman says:

                    The Elements of Style by Strunk, Jr. I assume any honest grammarian will confess this is the standard work for rules of grammar in English.

                    I doubt it would actually convince you, but while Edinburgh linguist Geoffrey Pullum would confess it to be the standard, he would then point out that it’s a terrible standard: http://chronicle.com/article/50-Years-of-Stupid-Grammar/25497

                    Myself, I let the English I speak (and write) be the dialect native to my region and upbringing, tempered with the grammar used in Shakespeare, Austen, Lewis, Wilde, et cetera. It seems to work out pretty well for me, both in academia and the real world.

                    • Mr Pullum does not get a vote. I myself have been in a room where ignorant students were told that the word “he” referred only to the masculine half of the race, so that they could be deceived into thinking that sentences written before the days of political correctness meant the opposite of what they mean. The students would read a sentence meant for both sexes as if meant for one, or, worse, as if the author was scorning or ignoring the female half of the race.

                      So, whether or not an less ambiguous pronoun use can be devised, it is not to be used, unless we wish to teach the next generation not to understand the prior generation.

                      Mr Pullum is not worth reading if he argues against the rule. The rule is hundreds of years old, and is not to be changed by the living, since the dead cannot participate in the change.

                    • The rule is hundreds of years old, and is not to be changed by the living, since the dead cannot participate in the change.

                      … which is a dangerous precedent if taken absolutely. Perhaps you should temper your hyperbole.

                    • Robert Mitchell Jr says:

                      Really? We should not strive to be clear between generations? We should be indifferent to clarity? How on Earth do you think static Grammar rules can be dangerous? Can you give an example? Given the amount of damage caused by the Arabic Raisin/Virgin slide, I think the prudent will side with Mr. Wright. But, again, I welcome counter examples…….

                    • Alan Silverman says:

                      What? I’m not talking about that pronoun silliness at all.

                      I’m simply saying that if you’re going to make an appeal to authority, it’s unconvincing to people (such as myself) who think it’s not particularly authoritative. (Consider, as an example, my appeal to “the community of psychologists” to you and Mr. Mitchell, who do not consider them as authorities).

                      Even when I read The Elements of Style in high school (and yes, I still have the copy, sitting on the shelf next to Truss’ “Eats, Shoots, and Leaves” and all of my other grammar/style books), I was struck with the opinion that the English it described was neither the English used by my peers nor the English I was reading in works of classic literature in classes, much less the English used in the fiction books I enjoyed reading at the time. I also found that when we wrote papers and essays to its strictures, they unilaterally ended up as dull and tepid. Summarily, I concluded that it was a bad authority, and concentrated on following the style (as noted) of my peers, tempered with style from things I read (both in school and in the real world); I noticed that not only did my writing improve, but I got better grades and more attention on my writing.

                      I linked to Dr. Pullum’s essay as my own appeal to authority (he literally co-wrote the book on English grammar), and because his essay explains the problems with the book far better than my old, washy memories on the subject. Obviously, you do not consider him an authority.

                      So, saying “You should do X because The Elements of Style said so!” is as much convincing to me (and, I imagine, to many other people) as “You should do X because psychologists said so!” is to you.

                    • Robert Mitchell Jr says:

                      “An Argument to Authority” is a bad thing when dealing with observably things. But is absolutely correct when dealing with man made systems, such as railroad and truck standardization for pallets. Mr. Wright was correct to refer to the Rules as they are listed. You respond with a different author who is trying to replace the standard with a newer one of his devising. But this is an Age filled with “Year Zero” thinking, and change for the sake of change. Information will (As Mr. Wright pointed out) be lost if we change the standard at this time. Instead of giving us the equivalent of “Only a Sith deals with Absolutes!”, can you actually give us a reason to use the “New standard”, and perhaps an idea how long it will stand? Bunch of English majors wanting P.H.D.s, we could have a new standard every year, at which point we have no standard at all, yes?

                    • Alan Silverman says:

                      Eh? If Dr. Pullum is advocating a “new” grammar in the article I linked, it’s the grammar as used by actual authors who were historical to Strunk and White. Part of his point, as you’ll note in the article, is that Strunk and White don’t even follow their own rules in the book (much less in their other writing), and don’t seem to have based the rules on literature that was readily available to them or on English as it was commonly spoken at the time.

                      My appeal to authority is, ultimately, an appeal to the authorities of Wilde, Shakespeare, Austin, Stoker, Dickens, et cetera and the English they used. I thought Dr. Pullum’s points on the severe flaws of The Elements of Style, and its contradictions to established literary usage, adequately summed it up.

              • Patrick says:

                “Happily, English has given us the tools to politely show the sex of the writer.”

                Foxfier’s English is as good as “2) Her” parenthesis-fu. Your grasp of etiquette, however…

          • Foxfier says:

            As to “Illegal Immigration”, not at all. The vast majority of immigrants are much more libertarian then the “natives”. They have experienced oppression first hand, and have come here because it was not to their liking.

            Please do not conflate immigrants with illegals.
            I’ve had rather thorough interaction with illegals and with legal immigrants, and– as one might guess from the stark difference in the manner they chose to get here– they are NOT the same. Illegals are far more likely to be grasshoppers than ants, while legal immigrants are the opposite.

            • Robert Mitchell Jr says:

              I would beg to differ. My experiences have been different. The “Illegals” show up and are willing to work any job for any hours, as opposed to the “Legals”, who have spent perhaps twenty years and ten of thousands of dollars dancing to the bureaucrat’s tune. Our current immigration system and the INS(ICE/Whatever) are unspeakably corrupt, incompetent, and racist. I have nothing but respect for those motivated enough to cut through that Gordian knot…..

              • Foxfier says:

                The “Illegals” show up and are willing to work any job for any hours, as opposed to the “Legals”, who have spent perhaps twenty years and ten of thousands of dollars dancing to the bureaucrat’s tune.

                You mean “are willing to commit tax fraud” (among other crimes) and “following the laws of the country they’re trying to join.”

                The current system is screwed up, yes, and hurts those who are law abiding. That’s no reason to praise those who are willing to break laws to get ahead.

                • Robert Mitchell Jr says:

                  Hey, good enough for Timmy, good enough for them. I will take “Tax evasion” seriously when our masters in DC do…..

                  Please. They are more law abiding then the “Natives” when it comes to actual, criminal law. And the country is so overgrown with regulation that no one in the country is innocent when it comes to civil “law”, so that’s a wash. Speeding in a car has the potential to kill people, but we don’t exile speeders. Crossing a line to become free hurts no one. And, of course, no one here has a problem with Rosa Parks breaking the “law”. Heck, the Republican party exists because of the lawbreakers known as the “Underground Railroad”. Civil Disobedience had a long and moral history, a wonderful tool used by Conservatives, before the dirty, cowardly hippies stole the term.

                  • Foxfier says:

                    Please. They are more law abiding then the “Natives” when it comes to actual, criminal law.

                    If that were worthy of being taken seriously, it would either be incredibly insulting, or flatly ignorant in a rather horrific manner.
                    Since you don’t seem to be able to be rational about it, though, it’s not worth being taken seriously, and I’ll stop helping you drag the topic off of price fixing, anti-trust, etc.

                  • Alan Silverman says:

                    Illegals are far more likely to be grasshoppers than ants, while legal immigrants are the opposite.

                    They are more law abiding then the “Natives” when it comes to actual, criminal law.

                    Instead of submitting anecdotes as evidence, can you please provide data to back up your claims?

                    • Robert Mitchell Jr says:

                      Technically, no. I was not the one who brought up an unsupported assumption. Mine, at least, was grounded in personal experience, as opposed to “everyone knows”. But yes, I do have support. http://www.ppic.org/content/pubs/cacounts/CC_208KBCC.pdf. It is tricky to track these thinks, what with all the Judge Dredds causing “illegals” to keep low to the ground, but I will also point out that there has been a mass exodus of “Illegals” during this time of “Hope and Change”. Millions have returned to Mexico. Given all the frothing about “Tax evasion” and “Welfare abuse”, one would expect our tax receipts to go up, and the amount spent of social programs to drop, if we correctly divined the cause of those problems. But, alas, tax receipts have dropped, and spending on social programs has exploded. Again, hard to track, but it’s looking like Scapegoating to me…….

          • docrampage says:

            As to “Illegal Immigration”, not at all. The vast majority of immigrants are much more libertarian then the “natives”. They have experienced oppression first hand, and have come here because it was not to their liking.

            A fine rationalist sentiment, completely ignoring empirical evidence, which says that the majority of recent immigrants vote Democrat. And if you took out Cubans and Vietnamese, it is large majorities for the Democrats.

            • Robert Mitchell Jr says:

              Well, yes. The Democrats have been sharking them the minute they get off the boats for over a hundred years. It gave the Tammany Machine huge power. The Democrats have only gotten better at it, what with their corrupt “get out the vote” schemes and having political control of the slums, which is where Immigrants tend to live when they get here, since most of them don’t come with a lot of assets. How much of that is really them voting for Democrats, and how much is vote fraud. The Democrats sure are fighting against an ID requirement to vote…….

        • John Hutchins says:

          Monopolies though aren’t bad if they are made to play by the same rules as any potential competitors.

          If the barriers to entry are in some sense natural barriers to entry for 1. then there is nothing wrong with a monopoly existing.

          If economies of scale allow monopoly pricing at lower then the competitive price then what is wrong with having the monopoly? Yes, the monopoly will make a lot of money but they would be providing the good or service at a lower price than a competitive market could.

          I don’t see the problem is with consumers investing a lot in a particular product; If you could explain what you mean by that and how it is bad I would appreciate it.

          The situation with suppliers depends on the position of the suppliers in relation to the monopoly. If the monopoly were to buy out the supplier would you consider it imperative that the monopoly supply to its competitors? Is it wrong to give volume discounts to large purchases or reoccurring sales? Why is a monopoly not able to take its business to which ever supplier they choose? If you could provide an example of what a monopoly could do to suppliers and why that action should be illegal. Pretty sure you are looking at situations where there is a monopsony (or oligopsony).

          If the monopoly or (more usually) oligopoly is using legal frameworks such as regulations as barriers to entry then that is a market distorting problem and needs to be prevented. If the monopoly or oligopoly is using actual threats of force or (more usually) litigation to keep their position then that needs to be prosecuted (if force) or the legal code probably needs to be reformed (which it does).

  5. Alan Silverman says:

    To me, there is a fundamental question being asked here: who should set the price of a book, the publisher or the bookstore?

    • Mary says:

      A still more fundemental one: can they come to an agreement instead, or does it have to be one of them?

      • Alan Silverman says:

        Can you name a good (sold to consumers by someone other than the producer) that is not sold under either the wholesale model or the agency model?

        • Robert Mitchell Jr says:

          Ah, what is a product? What is a market? I remember Microsoft being taken to court under Anti-Trust law for trying to give away a web browser free with Windows. Is a Web Browser a product? I’m not aware of any being sold, but the Justice department says it is, and would seem to answer your question.

          • Alan Silverman says:

            What? Windows 95 was sold under the wholesale model (Microsoft sold physical units to stores, who then decided what price to set when they sold it to consumers). I’m not talking about anti-trust law in the slightest, and I fail to see the relevance.

            • Robert Mitchell Jr says:

              The Justice department stopped Microsoft from bundling Internet Explorer with Windows under their understanding of “Anti-trust” regulation. Now, web browsers are not sold. So what is a product, if it doesn’t have to physically exist and doesn’t have to be sold? I can’t answer your question until I know what your definitions are.

              • Alan Silverman says:

                Good: something that is produced from labor and then sold.

                Web browsers are, in fact, sold. I have purchased several. In the case of Internet Explorer, it was sold to me when I bought Windows 7, in much the same way that a muffler is sold to you when you purchase a car (and was in the wholesale model). In the case of Atomic Web Browser, it was a piece of software I obtained from the iOS App store (and was in the agency model).

                (Arguably, with software these days, you are not purchasing the software so much as purchasing a license to use the software (even if you’re buying a physical manifestation of the software), but the technicalities of the difference are irrelevant to the difference between a wholesale model and an agency model for selling books, which is what I was talking about in the first place)

  6. John Hutchins says:

    I actually quite like the publishing gatekeepers. I worked in a slush pile for a semi-pro magazine for a few years and I am perfectly okay with publishers charging me a lot more then otherwise so that I don’t have to suffer through the great lightly edited slush pile that is self publishing. It is like paying more for decent toilet paper or pizza, fewer gatekeepers might lead to much cheaper of both but newspaper is more comfortable then the cheapest toilet paper in places I have been and cardboard is safer and more nutritious (and tastes better) than the cheapest pizzas I ate.

    • Foxfier says:

      ???

      What has “publishing gatekeepers” or the slush pile of submissions– which anyone who’s read fanfic already knows about has tactics to deal with, such as ‘scan the description and if it makes your teeth hurt, move on’ cutting out 90% of the problem, and ‘go to recommendation sites that share your taste’ being the easiest– to do with a letter from a literary agents’ guild?

      I can assure you that a lot of utter drek still gets published, and I’ve found basic English problems in everything from major publishing houses’ paperback books to my blessed phone. (“this message and all it’s replies will be deleted.”)

      Editors are under praised and under used….

      • John Hutchins says:

        It would make more sense if you were to read the link in Subcreator’s post.

        • Alas, that link is gone.

          Anti-trust law is one of the few topics I where I am an expert, having read and researched the basic cases. It is also one of the few topic where my emotions get the better of me. This particular case is one where my publisher is under attack by the forces that hate the free market, and so not only my liberty in the abstract, but my paycheck in the very real future is being choked away.

          I was willing, out of an iron sense of fairplay, to let the gross lies and sophistry supporting the burn-the-market-to-save-the-market view be present here, but Subcreator took such offense that I dare to voice my discontent with those who seek to claim my work, my pay, and my life, that she (if it be a she) huffed away.

          Naturally, my instinct is to give the back of my hand to any who calls me a slave, and naturally, I take the state interference in my industry hence my life’s work to be just that. I was able to choke back my instinct out of an overdeveloped sense of courtesy and fair play, to give the evil a chance to speak for itself. This was insufficient for Subcreator to tolerate. Merely voicing an objection, but allowing the link to stand, was, by her standards, an offense which required her to withdraw with wounded dignity.

          If she truly is not going to post or read any comments here, I don’t see that it behooves me to maintain a link to falsehoods and unreason perpetrated for the purpose of my own financial disadvantage and — to be quite frank — opinions I take to be beyond the pale of civilized discourse. Once a person says my time and money belong to Caesar, that I am a thrall and a chattel, my fairmindedness is curtailed.

          • docrampage says:

            Merely voicing an objection, but allowing the link to stand, was, by her standards, an offense which required her to withdraw with wounded dignity.

            what shocked me about your response (and I presume her) was the demand that she never do that again, with no explanation of what exactly she had done to draw your ire.

            Clearly you take this particular issue very personally, and I’ll respect that on your blog (which is why I stopped arguing the point) but I honestly had no idea what got you so angry about her response. I’m wondering if you thought my comments were equally beyond the pale or that I was calling you a thrall and saying that your time and money belong to Cesar. I certainly didn’t intend to say such a thing, but you are clearly drawing some inferences that I just don’t get.

            I’m also surprised that you thought she was attacking your livelihood because I thought that you were taking the libertarian position against your own interests. My understanding of the conflict is that the price setting actually hurt authors by raising the retail price which would reduce sales but not raising the wholesale price upon which authors’s percentages are based. Your understanding seems to be different.

            • What drew my ire, rightly or wrongly, is that I was asking my readers, if they want me to continue writing books, to write the Department of Justice about this issue, and stop the Anti-Trust proceedings against my publisher, who is my partner. I was not inviting readers to post links to pro-Anti-trust propaganda. I was asking kind readers to help save my job.

              So, I take your criticism seriously, and I confess I was wrong to snap at her (if it was a ‘her’ — see the debate concerning Foxifier on this point), I would apologize if I could, not just for being unclear, but for letting my emotions get away with me.

              What she and you could not know is that Anti-Trust law is and has always been a particular bugbear with me, a thing evokes a burning hatred in me: so my reaction was disproportionate.

              Part of the reason for my curtness is simply a question of time. I don’t have several hours a day when I have access to the internet as once did, so I cannot craft lengthy and overlengthy replies to people, or argue complex positions.

              So, to me it looked like I was shouting ‘help’ to my kindly readers, like a drowning man to the sailors on a boat, and she was shouting ‘Don’t help him!’ That was what I wanted her not to do again

              • docrampage says:

                Well, now I feel like a rat. You came to us for support and I answered with debate.

                I’ve been getting into too many arguments on the internets lately. I should probably go kill some more Zerg to take out my aggressions.

                • Well, I feel ratlike too. I could have treated the debate like debate and the support like support, without mixing the two. The fault is mine for reacting emotionally. The Vulcans will remove my honorary vulcanhood.

                  • Foxfier says:

                    The Vulcans will remove my honorary vulcanhood.

                    If you have fallen short of the Vulcan ideal, it is only in admitting a lapse of control rather than finding ways to excuse it.

                    One of the few Vulcan flaws, IMNSHO. One I tend to share without having the Vulcan self control, but still a flaw.

      • John Hutchins says:

        “such as ‘scan the description and if it makes your teeth hurt, move on’ cutting out 90% of the problem”

        The problem comes as there are enough books that scanning descriptions itself becomes a full time job.

        “and ‘go to recommendation sites that share your taste’”

        Which is a form of going to a publisher and seeing what they are publishing. The major difference being that with a publisher if the book isn’t quite good enough then the author fixes it and then the publisher gets some of the money from the sale of the book and the author gets paid upfront.

        • Foxfier says:

          Which is a form of going to a publisher and seeing what they are publishing.

          No, it’s word-of-mouth. Publishers pick on too wide of a range, with too many people making choices; looking for recommendations from other consumers is what already has to happen. Publishers sometimes put “signals” of what’s in the book on the cover, but it’s rather iffy. (Such as the urban paranormal I picked up a while back, which turned out to be a really horrible formula romance; DAW’s “Fantasy” isn’t quite mine, although I suppose a nympho Buffy clone is someone’s fantasy.)

          I can’t count the number of times I’ve bought a book just because I know that I like the author, fully aware that the synopsis from the back of the book will have little or nothing to do with what’s in the actual book.

          I also know that the one time I bought because of the publisher, it was in appreciation of Baen’s free library and what they do for our armed forces.

    • Alan Silverman says:

      There will still be gatekeeping publishing houses once everything settles out; people will still want that curating and editing. (At least, in my estimation)

      However, I think the iOS App Store is instructive in this case. For a nominal fee, anyone can self-publish their app, and what you are seeing–by and large–is a vibrant competition between the big publishing houses (EA, Sega), smallish publishing companies (Rovio), and individual people (that guy who made Tiny Wings). While there are differences in skill set (most people think they can write; only some people can program), I think eventually you’ll see it settle out that way in book-publishing. The good stuff will rise to the top, and the slush will settle down, regardless of whether it’s from a big publishing house or from a self-publisher.

      This whole thing, however, threatens the publishing companies (since they won’t be able to make as much money). So the question is, even if we like them and want them to stay around, is it right to use the stick of government in order to preserve their current profits and business model?

      • John Hutchins says:

        Right now to rise to the top one needs to get on to the best sellers list in self publishing, to do that requires both that your book be good enough to do so and that you have the network and marketing skills to get there. There are a relatively few self published authors that have made it big, most don’t make much at all and if they have spent money on editing and cover art I would be quite surprised if the average author didn’t lose money. It seems that many of the self published authors that do make lots of sales end up with publishing contracts and offers from agents which they accept.

        The big publishing houses are actually doing very well with the move to digital, some of them are selling fewer paper books, particularly in paper back, but they are selling lots of digital and as far as I can tell both sales and profits are way up for most of them. They don’t appear to be threatened, at least based on sales and profits.

        There is another group that is making it big off of self publishing, traditionally published authors whose books are out of print or whose series or books were dropped but already have an established fan base.

        I am positive there is room for digital publishing houses that serve niches. It costs less to sell electronic books that are professionally produced. Books in sub-genres and from authors that don’t have the sales that would never get picked up previously because they would never sell enough now easily make sense to publish on a digital platform.

  7. Since anti-trust law is one of those few areas where I think an appalling evil is being perpetrated upon the gullible for motives that range from the ignorant to the malign, I certainly do mind. Yet out of courtesy, and because you use no bad language and abuse not my hospitality here, I will allow the link to remain. Please do not do such a thing again.

    • Subcreator says:

      You take me quite by surprise, sir. Never before have I thought that you were opposed to contradictory viewpoints and never before have I seen you object to someone posting a link in your comments section. In this case, I thought linking to that post (which links to other excellent posts by professional writers in response to the post you linked) would be much easier than trying to put my point of view into my own inadequate words. Your vehemence on this subject is certainly unexpected. Personally, I don’t spend much time pondering the nature of anti-trust law and its justness, but in this case I think that it can be conclusively proven that the Publishers have been acting in concert (for decades, at least) to ensure their complete dominance over the book industry to their benefit and to the detriment (in general) of writers and readers. It seems their actions have finally caught up with them and I hope that these proceedings lead to a publishing industry where the principles of the Free Market finally hold sway again.

      Be that as it may, fear not, for I shall never darken your comments section again.

      • Since you have answered my (admittedly reluctant) courtesy with discourtesy, I feel my obligation to be fair to your propaganda has been discharged honorably, and so I will delete the link after all. Farewell.

  8. Nostreculsus says:

    Dear Mr Wright,

    You (or possibly John Grisham) must be the ideal person to explain this issue because you are both a fiction writer and a lawyer. Perhaps you don’t realize that the rest of us are woeful ignoramuses who do not know any of the relevant background.

    For example, I have never bought an e-reader or paid for an e-book (although I have started on the delightful “Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality”, available on-line). The only works I have ever published are scholarly journal articles. One is not paid for this (PNAS actually charges me when I publish there, so I suppose it is a form of “vanity press”). In fact, one gives up potential patent rights on such work, unless the patent application precedes the publication. Perhaps, this is a “potlatch” culture , where one acquires the esteem of other connoisseurs by giving away gifts. Perhaps such publication is really a form of advertising to obtain grant money. But I doubt the publishing business works along similar lines.

    So, I do not understand (1) what the e-publishers were doing before the government intervention (2) what they were accused of doing (3)what the settlement commits them to do (4) how this hurts you, the author. I gather that, post-settlement, the price of best-sellers has risen. This appears to hurt readers. It may help or hurt writers of best-sellers: more pay per unit but fewer units sold. It may help writers of non-best-sellers if price-sensitive readers switch from the costly Jules Verne product to the more economical H G Wells for all their sciffy needs. Or is some middleman just pocketing the difference?

    I just don’t know.

  9. Robert Mitchell Jr says:

    Please. More Vulcan then ever. We do now know, however, what triggers your amok time…..

  10. Alan Silverman says:

    If it’s any consolation, Mr. Wright, it appears as though Apple (a company with no small amount of money and influence) is going to fight this lunacy: http://ia701206.us.archive.org/6/items/gov.uscourts.nysd.394628/gov.uscourts.nysd.394628.54.0.pdf

    Some key quotes:

    The Government’s Complaint against Apple is fundamentally flawed as a matter of fact
    and law.

    The Government sides with monopoly, rather than competition, in bringing this case.

    Apple’s entry has benefitted consumers. Apple’s entry brought competition where none existed. Amazon still has a dominant share in eBook and physical distribution, with significant power it often leverages over the producers and consumers of books to the detriment of both. But prior to Apple’s entry, Amazon effectively stood alone and unchallenged. No longer. Amazon is now forced to compete with Apple, Barnes & Noble, and others. And the pace of innovation has quickened, enticing more and more consumers to try eBooks. Apple introduced a number of innovative features, such as color pictures, audio and video, the read and listen feature, and fixed display (critical for graphics-intensive books like cookbooks, travel books, and textbooks, many of which were unavailable before Apple’s entry). As a result—as even the Government is compelled to admit—output has exploded. Consumers enjoy vastly increased choice. Amazon has had to compete and innovate beyond its small black and white eReader, enriching the experience for consumers across all platforms.

    The Supreme Court has made clear that the antitrust laws are not a vehicle for Government intervention in the economy to impose its view of the “best” competitive outcome, or the “optimal” means of competition, but rather to address anticompetitive conduct. Apple’s entry into eBook distribution is classic procompetitive conduct, and for Apple to be subject to hindsight legal attack for a business strategy well-recognized as perfectly proper sends the wrong message to the market, and will discourage competitive entry and innovation and harm consumers.

    While I don’t know if you would completely agree with them (I don’t think Apple is opposed to anti-trust law per se, as you are), they are still a powerful ally in this ridiculousness.

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