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The Publishing Industry Redefines a "Pig" and Then Slaps Lipstick On It

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Great sighs of joy mingled with the steam from fat free mochaccinos as the Books section of the New York Times declared "Publishing Gives Hints of Revival, Data Show." The lede assures us that, contrary to the "doom and gloom" prognostications, the publishing industry saw significant net revenue increases in 2010 -- according to "a comprehensive survey conducted by two major trade groups."

The piece quotes the vice president of the Association of American Publishers saying "We're seeing a resurgence, and we're seeing it across all markets... " I was sold. Everyone was wrong. The publishing industry is as healthy as a tennis pro.

As you read further, though, funnel clouds dot the sunny skies. We're informed that "the report's estimate of the size of the industry was significantly smaller than those previous surveys of the book business..." It seems we're comparing zebras to hummingbirds. How can we make a valid comparison to previous data when we learn that the sample is different?

Soon, those funnel clouds touch down to decimate the premise of the article. This is the money quote: "In its definition of what is a book, the report counted professional and scholarly journals and databases, multimedia teaching materials and mobile apps."

Scholarly databases are now "books?" PowerPoint slides are "books?" Oh please! Why not count toasters, too?

Some PR genius made shit up and wrote a press release, burying the absurdity in a latter paragraph, knowing that most people won't read that far. The New York Times dutifully reprinted it.

If the publishing industry wants to convince us of its continued grandeur, it really shouldn't stoop to blatantly cooked "surveys." Such tactics suggest desperation -- the kind experienced by an industry that fears the world will pass it by.

Instead of constructing fantasies, the publishing industry might take a look at its business practices and update them to suit the modern world.