Posts tagged ‘education’

August 18, 2013

#58) A response to the 13 Utterly Disappointing Facts about Books

A couple of years ago a list of 12 disappointing facts about the music business appeared online, inspiring me to write this response.  Back in June, a list of 13 “utterly disappointing” facts about books was published and–in keeping with the D-Theory Blog’s tradition of touching on topics well after interest in them has peaked, I am weighing in.  As with my response to the music list, my goal isn’t to convince my readers that it’s a good thing that “50 Shades of Grey” is the best-selling book of all time in Britain; it’s simply to inspire people to read (pardon the pun) a little more deeply into the list and to realize that, while not encouraging, these facts aren’t the end of the world.  Like the music list, this list can also be seen as a call to action.

#1) In a 2012 survey, almost a fifth of children said they would be “embarrassed” if a friend saw them with a book.

Truthfully I’m surprised it’s that low; I’d bet that if the survey was given 20 or 30 years ago the results would have been similar.

#2) 54% of those questioned said they’d prefer watching TV to reading.

Same comments apply.

#3) 50 Shades of Grey is now the best selling book of all time in Britain.

And in two years, it will probably be outsold by something even worse.  Lots of things are hot for a while and then they’re forgotten.

#4), #5) & #6)

Snooki, Jessica Alba and Justin Bieber are all best-selling authors.

When times are stressful, some people just want an escape; “War and Peace” isn’t for everyone.  At least these books probably gave some hard-working ghost writer a well-earned gig.  Sidebar: Jessica Alba?  She’s harmless enough; is it really that upsetting that her book sold well?

#7) Book and eBook sales are down 9.3% in the U.S.

9.3%?  Not exactly Black Tuesday.  All products experience fluctuations in sales.

#8) The last Borders bookstore closed in September 2011.  Barnes & Noble…has been closing about 15 stores per year.

Yeah, I miss Borders.  I also miss Acres of Books in Long Beach, CA and the other independently owned bookstores that suffered by the presence of Borders and B&N.  It’s evolution; don’t cry too hard if you ever browsed Borders but actually bought the book from Amazon.  (Guilty.)

#9) eBook sales have officially topped printed book sales as of 2011.

And automobile sales have officially topped horse-drawn carriage sales.

#10) Forks, Washington now has Twilight-themed stores to cash in on tourists.

Graceland cashes in on tourists too.  Does that make Elvis disappointing?

#11) The four-book Twilight series has sold over 116 million copies, almost half as many as Stephen King’s entire canon.

Just as many facts from both the music list and this list have to do with evolution of technology, tastes, supply and demand, opinion plays a role in several of these facts as well, including this one.  Twenty or thirty years ago, many people said the same thing about Stephen King as they now do about the Twilight books.  My American Studies teacher said that for our term project we could do a report on “any American author except Stephen King.”

#12) It’s gotten so bad, books are now being MASSACRED for crafts.

Hmm, haven’t really noticed much of this going on, but I’m not always up to date on hot new trends.  (That reminds me, I need to buy a new spindle for my wax cylinder player.)

#13) One in four Americans said they read ZERO books last year.

A bummer, but truthfully I’m surprised it’s only one in four.

So what do we do with this information?  Like the music list, it is a call to arms of sorts to–like AA members–accept what we cannot change (the relationship between digital and print media; the idea that for a certain segment of the population crap will always be king) and change what we can (volunteer at the local library; donate books to the neighborhood school; find funny pictures that joke about Twilight and Instagram them.  It may be an uphill climb, but books are worth it.


October 29, 2011

#29) Top five lessons from “Moneyball”

This will be the last baseball post for a while, I promise.

It’s been said that one doesn’t have to be a baseball fan to enjoy “Moneyball.”  As a baseball fan, I wouldn’t be the one to ask, but I would guess that one would have to be a baseball fan to really enjoy the book.  There were some parts that were a little hard to follow, even as a baseball fan, and it’s my guess that the non-fan would be lost or bored by them.

That said, with “Moneyball”, the movie vs. book debate is apples and oranges: the film, thoroughly enjoyable, has wide appeal, whereas the book is already a classic among hardcore baseball geeks.

The book has several valuable lessons that transcend the sport, so for those who don’t feel like reading “Moneyball” but might be interested in some of its take-aways, I present my five favorites.

1) When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.  This may be the oldest cliche out there, but the story of Billy Beane, Oakland Athletics general manager, puts a new twist on it.  Beane himself was a highly touted baseball prospect in the early 1980s, whose career was a disappointment.  However, he became his own cautionary tale.  The scouts who saw him and built him up were impressed by his appearance, and Beane used the lesson of his own story to judge players by their actual statistics and records, not just what is apparent.

2) Use what you have, not what you need.  Billy Beane’s 2002 Oakland A’s won the same number of games as the Yankees, a team with a payroll four times higher.  Beane knew early on that it wouldn’t pay to fixate on the gap between the two teams’ budgets; he had to find a different way of looking at the numbers.  He reinvented how to read baseball statistics and found value in players who were under-appreciated by the market; he also saw how to replace the higher-priced stars whom he couldn’t afford to keep.

3) Know what you want.  Once Beane realized the type of players he wanted, he would put their names up on a board and figure out exactly what he needed to do to get them, bluffing, cajoling and negotiating his way to his goal.

4) Know how to be “wrong.”  Baseball people, be they fans, writers or those inside the game, are notorious for being stuck in their ways.  Beane didn’t change his course when his strategies were lambasted by the media.

5) Know how to be right.  As word spread of Beane’s effectiveness in finding undervalued players, others in the baseball world refused to do business with him, knowing that by definition, they were probably getting the short end of the stick.  Like a pool hustler, Beane had to convince his marks that the deal was actually in their interest.

The story of Billy Beane and the Oakland Athletics is certainly entertaining, educational and inspirational.  Even non-baseball fans can learn a thing or two from his persistence, innovation and creativity.