Posts Tagged ‘Books’


Occasionally, I shake my head at some of the things I used to do. One of the dumbest was finishing every book I started, no matter how bad. No more. I wasted a lot of time reading crap because of my completion compulsion, and as a result didn’t read a lot of good books I’d otherwise have had time for.

Anymore, the first thing I do is read a book’s opening sentences and then, if those don’t cause me to drop it as if it were leprous, flip to a random page and read a paragraph or two. Of the books that make it past that initial weeding-out process, I finish maybe one out of four. Sometimes I’ll stop reading after a few pages, and sometimes only after I’m halfway or more through a book.

With nonfiction, I’ll put a book down if the writing is sloppy or otherwise bad, if the argumentation is consistently faulty, or if the author obviously did a poor job of research.

With fiction, I’ll stop reading if the writing is bad enough to get in the way of the story, if the writing style irritates me, if there are plot holes big enough to drive an 18-wheeler through, or if there are major implausibilities or absurdities in the premise(s) or events. (I just stopped reading a sci-fi novel because it hinged on NASA managing to build both an interplanetary spaceship big enough for dozens of people and an equally large space station in orbit around Mars — and managing to keep both projects secret. Please. Spare me.)

If you’re still finishing every book you start, please consider doing yourself a favor by putting down books that aren’t worth your time. If you do that, you’ll probably end up reading a lot more good books.


When Amazon started, the company’s founder and directors decided to use books as a loss leader, to sell them at prices where they were certain to lose money — a lot of it. Why would they do that? While no one except Jeff Bezos and his minions knows for sure, there are several likely reasons:

  • The ISBN (International Standard Book Number) system. That system gave Amazon immediate access to a numerical listing of almost every book in print (or out of print, since the ISBN was introduced in 1970) — perfect for database-organized online sales.
  • Selling books at or below cost was an easy way to build market share and visibility.
  • That money-losing strategy drove competitors out of business, especially independent bookstores and most of the chains — Borders, B. Dalton, Waldenbooks, etc., and it greatly weakened the only remaining large chain, Barnes & Noble. This drastically increased Amazon’s leverage with publishers. Jeff Bezos famously said that Amazon should “should approach these small publishers the way a cheetah would pursue a sickly gazelle.” And Amazon has done that.
  • Amazon, which was founded in 1994, had deep enough pockets to lose money — a great deal of it — in pursuit of its goal of complete dominance of bookselling and damn near everything else, and in fact did not turn a profit until 2001.

The results of this are well known. In addition to driving myriad independent booksellers — who simply couldn’t compete on price — out of business, Amazon also drove out most of the chains, which bore massive expense through their bricks-and-mortar stores, and so again couldn’t compete on price. The irony is that the chains had driven huge numbers of independents out of business by undercutting them on price, and they in turn were undercut by Amazon.

Amazon still sells books fairly cheaply — though it seems like their massive book discounts of decades past have largely disappeared except on the most popular titles — and, using their ill-gotten reputation as the lowest-price seller, have branched out into selling damn near everything.

Many people apparently still assume that Amazon will provide the lowest price on almost anything they buy. Guess what — they’re wrong.

I occasionally order goods online, mainly musical gear, computer gear, electronic components, and optics. When I do so, I always check prices, and I’ve almost always found lower prices than those on Amazon, usually on eBay. Here are a few examples of items (all brand new) I’ve purchased recently where I could find exact comparisons between Amazon and other sources:

  • NUX OD-3 guitar drive/preamp pedal — $35.99 on Amazon, $20.02 (with free shipping) on eBay.
  • 1/4″ female guitar jack (metal construction) X10 — $4.57 on Amazon, $1.89 (with free shipping) on eBay.
  • 10mm Plossl eyepiece (for telescopes) — $34.00 on Amazon, $6.26 (with free shipping) on eBay.
  • 250K audio taper potentiometer — $1.40 on Amazon, $1.32 (with free shipping) on eBay
  • Acer S200hql monitor — $127.95 on Amazon, $79.99 (with $8.50 shipping) on eBay

There are other online retailers who usually have better prices than Amazon for the things I often buy; a few that come to mind are SurplusShed for optics, Newegg and Fry’s for computer gear, and Musicians Friend and Sweetwater for musical gear. However, while their places normally beat those of Amazon, you can often find whatever you’re looking for on eBay for even less.

So, you think you’re getting the cheapest price by buying from Amazon? Think again.

 

 


A lot of books nowadays are indexed purely through mechanical referencing using the index utilities in page layout programs. This results in poor, embarrassingly bad indexes. Here’s why:

NONE of the index utilities are worth a damn, in and of themselves. They´ll pick out words, but not context, so they´ll give a lot of “false positives” where terms are used only in passing and shouldn’t be indexed; they’ll also miss where the reference should extend to the following page, but the referenced term isn’t used on it; and they’ll also entirely miss passages that are relevant but don’t use the referenced term.

At the same time, do an index manually and you’ll inevitably miss a LOT of the pages that should be indexed. Do it three times and you’ll probably get almost all of them. But you won’t.

So, do both: use the indexing utility to spot the referenced terms, discard the pages where the terms are used in passing, and also do manual indexing. Then you’ll almost get it right. Exactly right? Ain’t gonna happen, but use the indexing utility alone and your index will be awful; use manual indexing alone and it’ll be full of holes and almost as bad; but  do manual referencing once and use the utility beforehand, and you’ll almost get it right.

Do the mechanical indexing once and the manual indexing twice afterwards, and you will get it right.

Weird Books

Posted: September 9, 2016 in Humor
Tags: , ,

Manifold Destiny coverWe just learned that our favorite online used bookseller, AbeBooks, has a Weird Books Room. Many of the books are jaw-droppingly weird, weird enough to make you question their authors’ and their publishers’ sanity. (We thought about using “strange” in the last sentence in order to avoiding using the same word two sentences in a row, but “strange” doesn’t quite cut it.)

Our favorite title is The Disadvantages of Being Dead. Other esoteric oddities include Old Tractors and the Men Who Love Them, and, yes, How to Poo on a Date.

Abe’s weird books room lists hundreds of such titles, all with cover photos.

Enjoy!

Anarchy in the UK

Posted: October 21, 2015 in Anarchism, Atheism
Tags: ,

No-Government-72

Most of our anarchist books, and two of our atheist books, are now available in the UK via Active Distribution; they’re also carrying most of our atheist pamphlets and some of the anarchist ones. Active supplies shops and also tables at all of the anarchist bookfairs up and down the length of the country. If you’re in the UK and there’s an anarchist bookfair in your area, check ’em out. Here’s what they’re carrying:

Update: We just heard from Active Dist. and they won’t have our titles posted on their site until approximately October 28.

Books

  • African Anarchism: The History of a Movement
  • Anarchist Cookbook
  • Best of Social Anarchism
  • Cuban Anarchism: The History of a Movement
  • Culture Wars: The Threat to Your Family and Your Freedom
  • Disbelief 101: A Young Person’s Guide to Atheism
  • Free Radicals: A Novel of Utopia and Dystopia
  • Hungry for Peace: How you can help end poverty and war with Food Not Bombs

 

Pamphlets

  • America’s Taliban
  • Among the Cannibal Christians
  • Anarchism & American Traditions
  • Art & Science of Billboard Improvement
  • Astrology: Fraud or Superstition?
  • Atheism: The Logic of Disbelief
  • Bourgeois Influences on Anarchism
  • Catholic Church and the Sex Problem
  • Christianity & Slavery
  • Crimes of Jehovah
  • Does God Exist?
  • History of Satanism
  • Judeo-Xtian Degradation of Woman
  • Libertarian Communism
  • Meaning of Atheism
  • Social Monster & Beast of Property
  • The State
  • Thumbscrew & Rack
  • What Is Democracy?