economy of words VII: casalingoist eats calamari & beans in the leaning tower of eBabel
it's that taxing time of year when i [Cal A. Mari] count the beans in the hill of beans that is Calamari Press & as always—in the name of transparency & in the interest to anyone crazy enough to have or want to start an independent small press—i am forthcoming with this information. this years version of the Calamari Press annual financial report features a number of new developments. in fact you could call it a new business model altogether—that of the ePress—a completely virtual publishing house not tethered or anchored to any geographical place. Calamari Press has moved overseas before but during that nomadic shift the wheel was left in the capable hands of Peter Markus who plied U.S. waters & delivered the goods to port while i abandoned ship not far from Somali waters. this years Roman shift perhaps created the first American literary press that has no physical presence in America—in fact whose physical location in the world is virtually irrelevant. perhaps the first «ePress» in the world, or at least the first ePress that doesn't sell eBooks, yet remains dedicated to physical book objects made from trees & ink. this was accomplished simply by using P.O.D. [print-on-demand] & having the printer ship straight to the distributor. & how did the ship sail under such trade winds?
before jumping to any conclusions or future projections, i should mention a few big caveats:
& all the other usual caveats apply, in that the expenses above reflect only direct expenses, that is printing & mailing costs, & not all the other costs of running a small press or business, not to mention my own time. & as always none of this would be remotely possible were it not for a certain sugar mama. in fact, were i to offer advice to anyone wishing to start a small press [besides not quitting your day job] it would be to find a partner or significant other with a steady job & that way at least all your losses become a big tax write-off.
i should also mention the value of Small Press Distribution, especially in my current situation of being physically virtual. a lot of people [including a past me] criticize them—it's easy to do, blame them for your own shortcomings, like they are the ones responsible for why your book isn't selling thousands. in the past month a few people or organizations have come to me trying to interest me in supplemental distribution, to fill in the gaps not covered by SPD. it's always tempting, to want to get your books in every bookstore. but is this such a good thing? distribution doesn't sell books. or if it does, it only does so at the expense of remaindered books. & in this day & age brick & mortar bookstores are crumbling left & right, with stacks of books beneath the rubble. besides distributing books, the other invaluable thing SPD does [at least for me] is shield me from all the bookstore bullshit—bookstores giving you the run around, not paying, or taking years to pay, & then disappearing without a trace. Borders filing chapter 11 was no skin off my chicken—SPD ate that bad debt. would your distributor do that for you?
this past fiscal year also marked the release of the iPad & more of an eBook push. i still remain the skeptic late-adopter in such matters, not just because i love physical book objects but because the technology for eBooks has not arrived—they [whoever that may be] have not settled on one standard. when the Kindle first came out i converted some Calamari titles to AZW or whatever it's called but in the end pulled them because the end result was just not the same & it seems criminal that the book publisher would get some 30% of the sale while Amazon reaped 70%, for what, for coming up with some crap-ass technology? & now of course Apple & everyone else has their own proprietary formats which are all equally asinine. the only format which makes any sense, the literary equivalent of the MP3, is PDF—any other format tethered to DRM is useless, it's not «owning» a book, but renting some digital file that in 5 years will likely expire or be obsolete or whose rights can be pulled from right under your feet without you even knowing it. a PDF is also the only true digital version of the book as it was originally intended to be viewed [it's the version that gets sent to the printer]. anything else is a hack. so as an experiment i'm making a few of the Calamari titles available [Sleepingfish 8, Boons/The Camp by David Ohle, Stories in the Worst Way by Gary Lutz & Motorman by David Ohle] as eBook PDFs. paypal me 5 beans & specify which title & i'll email you the PDF. simple enough. granted there are some caveats, like for example with Ohle's Boons & The Camp, the second half of the book is upside down in the opposite direction [relative to the first half], so if you read it on an iPad, you have to flip the iPad over, but that's what you'd have to do with the real book anyway, so it's about as close as you can get to replicating the experiencing... that is, if your eReader even reads PDF... if it doesn't, you should ask why you bought it in the first place! or you can get some free software like Calibre & convert it yourself to whatever inferior quality file your eReader uses. if there is enough interest i'll see about converting some of the others & making them available as eBooks.
this past year also marked my first year off Facebook, Twitter or any forms of so-called social networking. what was once an invaluable marketing & promotional tool [formerly known as «the Internet» or «world wide web»] has been hijacked by Facebook & it's army of self-promotional zombies. in the blind fury to «reach out» to all your old past friends you otherwise forgot about, or all your new «friends» you don't even know, you sold your soul to that Zuckerberg devil. think about it, the only reason Facebook is worth 50 billion is speculation, the prospect of the information it holds, & that information is the personal information of the 600 million or so users on it. the «user» has become the commodity. & anything you post on Facebook becomes their intellectual property.
while being off the likes of Facebook is liberating, at the same time it is eerily quiet. the legitimate real estate left on the internet not monopolized by Facebook, Twitter, Tumbler or other branded back-patting blog circles is but a sliver of afterthought pie. i no longer exist in this new world order, which suits me fine, but as a press, Calamari is destined for extinction, unless it can figure out how to live off the forgotten about hydrogen-sulfide issuing forth from deep sea geothermal vents.
perhaps on a subconscious level i was aware of it's destiny when i named Calamari Calamari before moving to Italy. maybe i was naive, thinking i could have my calamari & eat it too, that i could stay high off the supply. a deep sea geothermal pipe dream. but this is where i've settled, like a barnacle [not far off from the mollusca phylum] whose life as a free-swimming organism is over & i've meta-morphed, attached myself to a rock, digested my own brain & grown a thick shell resistant to being trampled upon. i'm always at a loss as to what to put down on my tax return as a profession. «barnacle» entered my mind, but this year i put «casalingoist»—a house linguist/cook. when someone here told me that «casalinga» meant house-wife, it only made sense to call myself a casalingo, but that simple change of -o to -a was met with laughter & an insistence that this word cannot exist in Italian. there have been times here where i was at the market or butcher [who besides simply selling you food, typically advise as to its preparation] & have literally been told: «other women do this...» [for example «other women put the head in their broth...»] as if a man going to the market & cooking is unheard of or simply not in their vocabulary. but that best describes what i am, a casalingo-ist, the one responsible for the nutritional needs of important player in the field of international nutrition, in addition to running a casa editrice & making home-made art out of altered language & books. mostly though i like the word casalingo, the etymology of it's dissection. it's real-world implications. & all that's left to covet at the end of the day is language, the words lamenting a world gone by.
projections for Calamari Press 2011? Sister Stop Breathing by Chiara Barzini, Divorcer by Gary Lutz & Ark Codex 0.