Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
especially welcome to extensive readers

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The politics of reading and why I think Barnes & Noble is right not to stock the O.J. book

I've been on a bit of a literary kick this week,blogwise,and mostly,it's been very much on the positive side,but you take the bad with the good at times to even things out. Today,I read a USA Today article about the new president of the American Association of Publishers,former congresswoman Pat Schroeder who was commenting on an AP-Ipsos poll that said liberals are bigger readers than conservatives and in her opinion,this was the reason why:

"The Karl Roves of the world have built a generation that just wants a couple slogans: 'No, don't raise my taxes, no new taxes,"' Pat Schroeder, president of the American Association of Publishers, said in a recent interview. "It's pretty hard to write a book saying, 'No new taxes, no new taxes, no new taxes' on every page."

And she had this to say about why liberals read so much:

"She said liberals tend to be policy wonks who "can't say anything in less than paragraphs. We really want the whole picture, want to peel the onion."

Putting the politics aside for a moment,why is it that folks seem to take surveys and polls as the gospel truth? All of the results of any poll ever taken are based on a set number of people who have actually replied to the whole thing(not counting those who don't answer certain questions) and on the assumation that every person responding was being honest. Can you get some degree of accuracy from a poll? Yes,of course,but they all have to report a certain margin of error ,which should make you alittle more skeptical about the results given.

And why do we constantly have to set up divisions amongst readers,based on gender,age and now,political persuasion? People who are into arts should be supportive of one another,not playing these damn high school games of cultural cliques and Heathers hijinks. Many book people claim to be very open minded because they read so much,yet if they see someone interested in a book or genre that doesn't fit into their idea of what a "cultured" person is,instead of trying to find out what is so appealing to that reader,they just slap'em on the back with a label that says" Dunce Hat Needed!"-sort of an intellectual version of a "Kick Me" sign.

It's pretty narrow minded,in my opinion,to judge a person based on what they read as indicative of their entire persona and character. And even if some of what he/she reads is a true reflection of who they are,so what? This is a democracy,regardless of what party you do or don't officially belong to,and freedom of thought is not just for those who think they know what's best for everyone,it's for everyone,period!

I don't read political books of any stripe,mainly because I find many of them to be a)boring and b)a soapbox for the author's personal viewpoint on the subject instead of a well rounded look at the whole issue. That doesn't mean that I don't have political opinions or keep my head totally in the sand,it just means that I prefer to use other means of information gathering to make up my mind. That also doesn't mean that those who do read political books are right or wrong for doing so,it's just their personal preference and if they get more out of it than I do,that's great and I respect that.

A truly open minded person should not be quick to judge others based on what they read,watch or listen to. That notion can backfire on you in surprising ways:

Another big story is the release of the OJ book,due in October,under the title,"I DID IT: CONFESSIONS OF THE KILLER" and Barnes & Noble's refusal to keep it in stock at their brick and motar stores. If you want to buy it from B&N,they will either special order it for you or you can get it from their website. Borders will have the book on the shelves but they're not going out of their way to promote it.

I support Barnes & Noble's decision and no doubt,many will say that was based on placating angry customers who might give their staff a hard time about it during store hours instead of standing on moral high ground but what difference does that make?(for the record,I'm in favor of any policy that makes life easier for booksellers,especially those who have to deal directly with the public on a daily basis). The book is going to be out there,like it or not,and if someone wants it badly enough,he/she can either wait for it to be shipped or go elsewhere to get it more quickly.

I don't what sort of discount Beaufort gives to retailers(the general rate from most of the major publishers is 40%,even if you buy copies from a distributor instead of the company directly)but it might affect how indie bookstores decide to stock it or not. Some might do it,simply because B&N won't or if the demand is large,it may be financially prudent for them to do so. Nothing wrong with that,since the old axiom of "if I don't sell it,someone else will" is very true and if you need to pay the bills,sometimes you have to do something distasteful to make ends meet.

However,I also don't think that just because you can do something,that doesn't mean you should. Yes,Barnes & Noble has a huge enough overhead that they can afford to do this,but they also had the option of taking the money and running all the way to the bank here and they decided not to. Showing a little restraint and reserve in what you want to offer to the public at large is a sign of character,in my opinion.

So,in a few weeks,we'll see what the ultimate fate of this book is in the marketplace and while there's not a question in my mind that the people putting it out there have the best intentions at heart,the timing is the worst,ever(if there ever is a "right" time for this Thing That Wouldn't Leave). If we're taking sides,I have to stand with Denise Brown,who makes a damn good argument against it:

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