publishing

Prometheus Unbound Podcast

In episode three of the Prometheus Unbound Podcast, Matthew and I have a fantastic interview with the wonderful Jeffrey Tucker, editor of Laissez Faire Books. It’s a long one, about an hour and fifteen minutes, and we knew you’d be eager to listen to Jeffrey, so we wasted no time with chit-chat and got right down to business. We covered a number of topics ranging from LFB, intellectual property, and Jeffrey’s favorite fiction.

We started off by asking Jeffrey Tucker what it’s been like working for a commercial publisher and bookseller after having worked for a nonprofit educational institution, the Ludwig von Mises Institute, where he was editorial vice president, for so long.

Then we went on to talk about the business model of Laissez Faire Books and the role of the publisher in the digital age as a curator and service provider (curation as a service); the compatibility of open source and business; intellectual property; the nature of competition; how many entrepreneurs and businesses misidentify the source of their profitability and don’t understand why people buy their goods or services; how copyright has held back the publishing industry; and markets as institutions of teaching and learning.

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I listen to a number of podcasts on books and writing in the science fiction and fantasy genre. I find them interesting and valuable as a fan, as the editor of Prometheus Unbound, and as an aspiring author myself. I think you will as well, so I’ve created a curated list of my favorites and what I’m listening to now. Do you listen to any of these? Are there any I haven’t listed that you would recommend? Let us know in the comments.

General SF&F Book Podcasts

These are mostly general science fiction and fantasy podcasts about books, although movies and tv shows do come up on some of them as well. If you’re interested in the craft and business of writing, it would be worthwhile to subscribe to these not only to keep up with the state of the field but also because they often feature authors, editors, publishers, and agents as interviewees or guests.

The SF Signal Podcast — The Hugo-nominated podcast of the indispensable Hugo-winning SF Signal website. Hosted by Patrick Hester. The schedule is one interview episode and one discussion episode per week. The podcast features a wide range of interviewees, guests, and panelists, including a core group of regulars, from the science fiction, fantasy, and horror community. I haven’t listened to the new, separate Crossing the Gulf podcast hosted by Karen Burnham (a NASA engineer) and Karen Lord yet.

Adventures in Scifi Publishing — Hosted by Shaun Farrell, Moses Siregar (The Black God’s War), and Brent Bowen. A long-running podcast featuring discussion and interviews with the biggest and hottest names in the genre community as well as newer authors. The experienced hosts are self-published or aspiring authors themselves. Update: Founder Shaun Farrell has had to step down from hosting AISFP, but he relinquished the reins to new host Tim Ward so the show will go on.

The Coode Street Podcast — A rather informal and, as they say, rambly conversation between editor Jonathan Strahan (Life on Mars) and academic and reviewer Gary K. Wolfe (Evaporating Genres). There is the occasional guest, but mostly it’s just the two hosts. You can learn a lot about the current state of the genre, and especially its rich history, from these widely read veterans.

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Sharis Pozen

DoJ Assistant AG Sharis Pozen

Sharis Pozen
DoJ Assistant AG Sharis Pozen

Jeffrey Tucker recently discussed the Department of Justice’s decided to launch antitrust litigation against Apple and five of the Big Six publishers — Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin, and Simon & Schuster, but not Random House — for alleged price fixing. Three of them — Hachette, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster — decided on the same day to settle straight away. The alleged sin was that Apple and the publishers decided to go with the agency pricing model in which the publishers get to set the prices for their books in the iBooks Store, while Apple takes a 30% cut.

As you’d expect, I’m with Jeffrey Tucker in believing that price fixing, collusion, cartels should not be illegal. In a free market, these practices are not stable and will end up harming the companies in the long run if they dissatisfy customers. What I want to highlight in this news post is not what so much what libertarian justice has to say about the matter but some bad economic-tech journalism about the business side.

I recently read this article on Mashable by Lance Ulanoff, the site’s Editor-in-Chief:

How Steve Jobs Got Apple Into Trouble Over Ebooks.”

Wow, is this guy clueless.

And if Steve Jobs really thought Amazon screwed up in alienating major publishers by not adopting the agency model, he was clueless as well. Amazon is WINNING.

Jobs pushed the agency model on the publishers? I don’t think so. They preferred that model but couldn’t get Amazon to go along with it without Apple’s help. It’s the screw-your-customers model and it wouldn’t have been good for the publishers over the long haul. They want high ebook prices so that they can hang onto their outdated IP-dependent business model of selling paperbacks and hardcovers in big-box brick-and-mortar stores for as long as possible.

That antiquated business model is particularly insane in the United States. The origin of the current wasteful publisher/brick-and-mortar bookstore relationship is fascinating. The strip-and-return system has its origin in the Great Depression (thanks Fed!).

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Jeffrey Tucker

Jeffrey Tucker

Jeffrey Tucker
Jeffrey Tucker

Jeffrey Tucker is the publisher and executive editor of . He is the author, most recently, of Bourbon for Breakfast: Living Outside the Statist Quo (2010) and It’s a Jetsons World: Private Miracles and Public Crimes (2011). The former editorial vice president of the Ludwig Von Mises Institute, he is an adjunct scholar with the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a research fellow with the Acton Institute, and a faculty member of Acton University.

Allen Mendenhall: Jeff, this interview is exciting for me. It’s something of a reversal of the interview that we did together in January 2011. This time, I’m interviewing you. I’d like to start off by asking about your two recent books, Bourbon for Breakfast and It’s a Jetsons World. Tell the readers of this site a little about both books.

Jeffrey Tucker: Both books cover the unconventional side of private life as governed by the market and human volition. I guess you could say that this is my beat. I’m interested in the myriad ways in which the government’s central plan — and there is such a thing — has distorted and changed our lives, and also interested in the ways we can get around this plan and still live fulfilling lives. I take it as a given that everything that government does is either useless or destructive or both. The government does a tremendous number of things, so this is a huge area. Bourbon is more focused on the rottenness of the state and its harm, while Jetsons is more the marvelous things that markets do for us. Neither subject gets the attention they deserve.

AM: These books are available for free online in PDF and EPUB formats. Explain why you’ve chosen to make your work freely and widely available.

JT: Every writer wants to be read, so it only makes sense for all writers to post their material. Of course publishers tend to intervene here with promises of royalties in exchange for which you become their slave for the rest of your life plus 70 years (that’s when they dance on your grave). This is the essence of copyright. It is a bad deal for writers. Those who go along with it these days nearly always regret it later. If they actually earn royalties — and very few actually do — it is likely they would have earned more had the material not been withheld pending payment. The bestselling books of 2012 — the Hunger Games series — are posted by pirates everywhere, even against publisher wishes. But, you know, this is starting to change. Publishers are gradually seeing the point to posting material online. Sadly, they aren’t budging on the copyright issue, which is really pathetic. No libertarian should ever publish anything with any institution that is not willing to embrace a very liberal policy on reprints, and one that is likely enforceable such as Creative Commons — Attribution. Meanwhile, the government is using copyright, a phony form of property rights, to step up its despotic control over the digital age. The situation is extremely dangerous. One hundred years from now, they will be laughing at our times and poking fun at how the anachronistic state tried its best to thwart progress.

AM: You strike me as an optimist. Is that true?

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