by Chaz Bufe, publisher See Sharp Press

Your reviews matter, probably more than you realize.

There has been a drastic decline in the numbers of magazines and newspapers over the past two decades, and an even more drastic decline in the number that carry book reviews. The number of daily papers in the U.S. dropped roughly 15% over the past quarter century, and a great many of those remaining have reduced or entirely eliminated their book review sections. (This is in line with their overall reductions in news and feature coverage during the same period due to huge, presumably Internet-caused, revenue drops.)

The status of weekly papers is perhaps even more dire. Forty years ago there were independent weeklies in almost every major and mid-size city in the country, and a great many carried reviews. Since then, those that survived have been, and are still being, gobbled up by media conglomerates, the New Times chain being emblematic. That chain bought weeklies in half of the country’s largest markets, and the New Times papers I’m familiar with (and probably all or nearly all of the rest) do not review books.

The situation here in Tucson is a case in point. Six years ago, Arizona’s oldest daily newspaper, The Tucson Citizen, went under. The remaining Tucson daily, The Arizona Daily Star, now devotes only a half-page to reviews in its Sunday edition (no space at all in the others), and the formerly independent Tucson Weekly has been bought twice over the last 15 years by small media conglomerates. It used to carry weekly in-depth reviews of books by local authors. No more. Following its most recent sale, it stopped carrying book reviews and almost everything else that made it worth reading. It’s now little more than an advertising sheet of use only as bird cage liner (which is, literally, what I use it for — I normally don’t even bother looking inside it).

Magazines are in somewhat similar shape. Circulation (especially news stand circulation) has been declining simultaneously with the ascent of the Internet, and revenue has been plummeting: from $48.3 billion in 2007 to $27 billion in 2015. Two specialty magazines, Guitar Player and Bass Player, owned by the same company, are a case in point. From their glory days in the 1990s, their circulation has dropped by roughly half,  and a few years ago they combined their staffs in a cost-cutting move. The end result of all this is that magazines have cut back their coverage, and it’s harder than ever to get reviews. (Bass Player and Guitar Player are exceptions to the rule, and are still very good about reviewing books.)

Compounding all this is the explosion in the annual number of new books over the past 25 years or so. The number of new titles reported by Books in Print, the best source for information on physical books, more than doubled over the last 15 years; the current total of new print books exceeds 300,000 per year. Add in e-books, and the number is likely over 1,000,000. (No one really knows how many e-books are published annually.)

Add this all up, and you have far more books competing for far fewer reviews in the remaining magazines and newspapers (the situation is similar with online review sites, which are overwhelmed), and for what little shelf space remains in bookstores.

The number of independent bookstores, where readers in decades past could discover books that received few or no reviews, has declined drastically over the past half-century. At present, they account for only 10% of the book market. So, that channel for readers to discover books has all but disappeared.

To make matters even worse, the large-circulation magazines tend to ignore books from small presses and to review primarily, often only, books from the half-dozen conglomerates that dominate the book publishing industry, and both television (and syndication-dominated) radio talk shows tend to book only the authors published by those same conglomerates.

What’s left for small publishers? Reader reviews on Goodreads, Amazon, Kobo, B&N, and other online retailer sites.

If you read a book that you like issued by an independent publisher, please consider writing even a one- or two-sentence review for Goodreads or any of the online book retailers. It’ll help both the author and the small publisher. And it’ll help other readers discover books they would enjoy.

Your reviews are more important than you think.

 

Roll over Rachmaninoff?

Posted: August 16, 2016 in Humor, Music
Tags:

(Here’s one from our friend  Stuart Faxon. We attribute this to decades of beating sticks on percussive surfaces. Stuart will be resurfacing shortly–musically, not literally–with the resurrected Black Leather Zydeco band.)

 

Roll over Rachmaninoff
…tell Mussorgsky the news.
Hmm, that’s not right. Gotta get my picture out of this exhibition.
Roll over, Rimsky-Kutcherpeckeroff.
Tell Franz Liszt the news.
Nope, that’s not right either.
Roll over, Carl Phillip Emmanuel Bach,
Tell Richard Wagner the news.
I don’t seem to be getting the hang of this.
Roll over, Karl Orestes Franzoni,
Tell Frank Zappa the news.
Man, this is going far afield.
Roll over, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,
Tell Salieri the news.
No. Too predictable. Wait! Yes! Here it comes!
Roll over, Beethoven,
Tell Tchaikovsky the news!
Oy, that was exhausting. Now I’m too tired to dig these rhythm’n’blues. [POKE him with the SOFT CUSHIONS!] Oh, no you don’t. Yer too late to start another bit. [But Oi’ve brought the FISH!] Well, take yer fish and sod off, I’ve had enough of this buggerin’ about. [No you haven’t.]

Douglas MacArthur

“It is part of the general pattern of misguided policy that our country is now geared to an arms economy which was bred in an artificially induced psychosis of war hysteria and nurtured upon an incessant propaganda of fear.”

–General Douglas MacArthur, Speech, May 15, 1951


Emma Goldman

“[L]aziness results either from special privileges or physical and mental abnormalities. Our present insane system of production fosters both, and the most astounding phenomenon is that people should want to work at all now.”

–Emma Goldman, Anarchism


Over the last week I’ve seen two Pecos League playoff games; I’ll be seeing another tomorrow. The league has teams in Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona.

I don’t think I’ve ever had as much fun at games, including the 1987 NL playoffs in SF and the All Star Game in the Kingdome in Seattle (whenever that was).

The ball is pretty good. Probably about AA. During the first game, the worst things I saw were a runner going from first to third stepping in the middle of second base (rather than clipping the inside corner), and a reliever nonchalanting a throw to first, and barely making an out. Other than that, it was pretty clean, other than an error on the other team’s SS where he just dropped the ball

The play is surprisingly good. During the first game, the Sagauro’s catcher, Jesse Baker, gunned down two would-be base stealers — quick release, gun for an arm, perfect throw. In the game I just saw, he almost threw out another, but for the runner dislodging the ball.

What makes it all so much fun is that the players are doing it because they love it — and  for the chance to be noticed by a scout from one of the MLB teams. They get paid almost nothing, and stay with “host families” while the team is in town.

The owners? It’s a mom-and-pop operation. Last week during the second round of playoffs (attendance maybe 600), a friend and I were there drinking overpriced beer (the tickets were cheap — $7.50 for  seats ten rows behind third base), and started talking with the “mom” of “mom and pop,” who was selling tickets in the stands for balls, caps, T-shirts, and jerseys.

A couple of minutes in, she said “Excuse me. I want to see this. Tyler’s pitching.”  That left us mystified. My pal Leo asked her, “Who’s Tyler?”

“Oh. He stays with us during the season.”

What will, I hope, be the final game of the Pecos League championship series will take place tomorrow night here in Tucson (the Sauguaros won 11-6 tonight), at the white elephant (Kino Stadium — don’t get me started) down on Ajo. If the Saguaros lose, there’ ll be another game Friday night.

If you’re in town or nearby, come on down. You’ll have fun.


We’re in the process of extracting and posting pdf excerpts from our approximately 35 in-print books. All of the samples are good sized, ranging from one to six chapters. For ease of access, we’ve divided the books into categories; there is some overlap, as some of the books fall into more than one category. Here’s what we’ve posted so far:

 

HumorBible Tales for Ages 18 and Up, by G. Richard Bozarth, front cover

Music

Politics

Psychology

Religion / Atheism

Science Fiction

Skepticism

For more free samples and complete books and pamphlets in html format, check out the See Sharp Press Texts on Line page.


“Choosing between Trump or Clinton is like picking between cholera or gonorrhea.”

–Julian Assange, interview broadcast on Democracy Now August 8, 2016