Gutenberg's invention of the printing press in 1455 turned Europe upside down. Gutenberg's new invention (a modified wine press which held letters in a tray on which a piece of paper was screwed down to produce a printed page) made it possible for the common man to have a book in his own hands for the first time. Previously, books had been too expensive or too controlled by the Church or the state for a lay person's study. Within forty years after the printing press was invented, there were over two hundred and fifty printing shops scattered all over Europe producing more than thirty thousand different publications, with over twenty million books circulating among a hundred million Europeans.
Printing brought an anarchy of information, a storm of publications flooding Europe. And as a first step, this was certainly much better than the previous situation where most information had been completely dominated by political and religious despots. But it was only a first step.
Protestant leaders used printing technology to overthrow part of the old regime and establish a new ecclesiastical order, which in critical ways was as repressive as the old. However, Protestantism encouraged the translation of the Bible into the common languages of the people and produced a more literate lay populace.
The Catholic Church, the most powerful political-religious-propagandist organization in the world, devised its own schemes to control the anarchy of printing, such as an Index of books which a Catholic was forbidden to read, on pain of being executed by order of the Inquisition. Books and pamphlets could be printed only with the approval of Kings, Queens, or Princes, under pain of execution, imprisonment, or exile.
It was only when a new, socially conscious ordering principle arose with Enlightenment activists such as Voltaire and Diderot in Europe, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and Patrick Henry in America that the information anarchy could be directed toward truly humanitarian goals. Enlightenment ideas provided the philosophical foundations for a new nation, the United States of America.
Media Monopoly Ownership
"It is possible that large corporations are gaining control of the American media because the public wants it that way. But there is another possibility: the public, almost totally dependent on the media to alert them to public problems, has seldom seen in their standard newspapers, magazines or broadcasts anything to suggest the political and economic dangers of concentrated corporate control. On the contrary, for years the media have treated mergers and acquisitions as an exciting game that poses no threat to the national pattern of news and information."
Ben Bagdikian, The Media Monopoly
In 1983, 50 corporations controlled 90% of all U.S. news media. Conservatives dismissed Ben Bagdikian's book, Media Monopoly, as "alarmist" for predicting that this number would fall to about half a dozen companies. By the sixth edition of Bagdikian's book in 2000, the number had fallen to exactly six.
The United States is touted as a capitalist "democracy." The media (news, publishing, advertising, entertainment) reflect the dominant class ideology in everything they do. As a cover, the media--especially the "news" media--claim that they are free and independent, capable of balanced coverage and objective commentary. To put the lie to this malarkey one need only spend a few moments viewing the TV "news" to see the blatant rabid-right slant put on every "story" they run.
In 1880, John Swinton, head of the editorial staff of the New York Times for several years, shocked his colleagues when he replied to a toast given at a press banquet in his honor:
"There is no such thing, at this date of the world's history, in America, as an independent press. You know it and I know it. There is not one of you who dares to write your honest opinions, and if you did, you know beforehand that it would never appear in print. I am paid weekly for keeping my honest opinion out of the paper I am connected with. Others of you are paid similar salaries for similar things, and any of you who would be so foolish as to write honest opinions would be out on the streets looking for another job. If I allowed my honest opinions to appear in one issue of my paper, before twenty-four hours my occupation would be gone.
"The business of the journalists is to destroy the truth, to lie outright, to pervert, to vilify, to fawn at the feet of mammon, and to sell his country and his race for his daily bread. You know it and I know it, and what folly is this toasting an independent press?
"We are the tools and vassals of rich men behind the scenes. We are the jumping jacks, they pull the strings and we dance. Our talents, our possibilities and our lives are all the property of other men. We are intellectual prostitutes." Richard O. Boyer and Herbert M. Morais,
Labor's Untold Story, 1979
As we've seen in previous articles, America is ruled by a capitalist cabal, while a misinformed public accedes to the increasing devastation of our Constitutional liberties. We must face the reality that the mainstream media have been purchased by rabid right reactionaries who do everything possible to support the cabal's fascist policies.
If you go into a mainline bookstore today, you can see first-hand how most of the books being published support the capitalist imperialistic dementia. It is rare to find a progressive book in a major bookstore chain--and then only if it has managed, against all odds, to become a bestseller. Fortunately, such books as Michael's Moore's Stupid White Men and Daniel Ellsberg's Secrets are able to hold their own against the media conglomerates' onslaught.
Chairman, Steve Case;
CEO, Gerald Levin
Revenues: $31.8 billion
- January 10, 2000: America Online and Time Warner announce a merger in a stock swap valued at $350 billion.
- January 11, 2001: The Federal Communications Commission approves the merger with conditions to maintain competition on Time Warner's high-speed cable lines. AOL's shares have fallen by 35 percent since the merger was announced, to around $105 billion from $160 billion.
Time Life Books
Book of the Month Club
Little, Brown and Company
Little, Brown and Company (U.K.)
19 other book brands such as History Book
The Walt Disney Company
Chairman and CEO: Michael D. Eisner
Revenues: $23,402 billion
- In 1995 Disney made one of the biggest acquisitions in business history with the purchase of Capital Cities/ABC for $19 billion.
- Disney's 1999 Annual Report gave some disappointing financial results, with revenues increasing only 2 percent and operating income declining 21 percent to $3.2 billion. Michael D Eisner's statement to shareholders is a revealing insight into the workings of a global media corporation.
Walt Disney Company Book Publishing
Chief executive: Dr. Thomas Middelhof
Revenues: $16.3 billion (includes 50 percent of CLT-UFA)
"Today, Bertelsmann is the world's largest publisher. Our U.S. publishing group Random
House alone ships over one million books a day."
"We're not foreign. We're international. I'm an American with a German passport."
Bertelsmann CEO Thomas Middelhoff
- Random House
- Modern Library
- Book-of-the-Month Club
- Doubleday Book Club
- Bookspan (50 percent)
- Random House of Canada
- Quebec Loisirs Book Club
- Random House
- Book CLUB BCA (U.K.)
European Book Clubs
- Bertelsmann Media (Switzerland)
- Circulo de Lectores (Spain)
- Circulo de Leitores (Portugal)
- Donauland (Austria)
- ECI (Netherlands)
- France Loisirs (France)
- Swiat Ksiazki (Poland)
- Random House Australia
- Random House
- Berlin Verlag
- C. Bertelsmann Springer Verlag
- 15 other imprints covering all aspects of book publishing
- Book Club Der Club
Online book sales
com (40 percent)
September 7, 1999 Announcement of Viacom and CBS merger
May 4, 2000 Federal Communication Commission approves merger. New company to be called Viacom, worth $90 billion
Chair and CEO: Sumner M. Redstone
President: Mel Karmazin
Revenues: $12.86 billion
Division publishes over 2,000 titles annually under 38 trade, mass
market, children's and new media imprints
- Simon and Schuster
- The Free Press
The parent company of News Corporation's media empire is based in Australia, but to expand his media interests in the United States, Australian-born Rupert Murdoch became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1985.
Chair and CEO: Rupert Murdoch
Revenues: $13.5 billion
- HarperCollins Publishing, including HarperCollins U.K.; HarperCollins Canada; and HarperCollins Australia
- U.S. imprints:
- Regan Books
- Amistad Press
- Hearst Book Group (acquired 1997)
- William Morrow
- HarperCollins Children's Book Group
- Zondervan Publishing House (world's largest commercial Bible publisher)
"Our reach is unmatched around the world. We're reaching people
from the moment they wake up until they fall asleep. We give them their
morning weather and traffic reports through our television outlets
around the world. We enlighten and entertain them with such
newspapers as The New York Post and The Times (of London) as they
have breakfast, or take the train to work. We update their stock prices
and give them the world's biggest news stories every day through such
news channels as Fox or Sky News ... And when they get home in the evening we're there to entertain them with compelling first-run entertainment on FOX or the day's biggest game on our broadcast,
satellite and cable networks. Before going to bed, we give them the
latest news, and then they crawl into bed with one of our best-selling
novels from HarperCollins."
Rupert Murdoch, News Corporation, 1999 Annual Report
Chairman and CEO: Jean-Marie Messier
Making Convergence A Reality?
"Jean-Marie Messier's strategy is to bring together the film and music output of Universal and Canal Plus, the biggest pay-TV firm in Europe, with over 14 million subscribers; SFR, the second-largest French mobile phone operator); and Vizzavi, a new portal that is a joint venture with Europe's biggest mobile-phone operator, Vodaphone. By doing this he hopes to make convergence a reality."
"The Great Convergence Gamble" in The Economist, December 8, 2000
Books and Publishing
- June 14, 2000 Announcement that Vivendi and Seagram in merger talks. It was reported as one more global media merger, creating a $55 billion group, Europe's version of AOL Time Warner.
- October, 2000 Mario Monti, EU Competition Commissioner, clears merger. Terms include selling Vivendi's stake in BSkyB and making Universal's library available to rival media groups on fair terms. Company to also sell 55 percent held in ISP AOL France. After Seagram and Canal Plus shareholders agreed on merger, Vivendi Universal began trading on December 11, 2000. A month later shares in the company had fallen by 12 percent.
Havas is the group within Vivendi dealing with publishing and multimedia. It comprises 60 publishing houses, selling 80 million books a year.
Havas book imprints include:
- les Presses-Solar-Belfond
- Havas Poche
- General and trade:
- Dalloz Dunod
- Havas Press includes:
- L'Express; Building
- Property Week
- Medical Progress
- Tempo Medico
- Medical Observer
- Le Quotidien du Medecin
- L'Usine Nouvelle
- Havas Multimedia includes:
- Havas Interactive
- Knowledge Adventure
- Larousse Multimedia
- Harrap's Multimedia
- Athan Multimedia
- Syracuse Language
- Won.net Havas eContent Publishing
- ePocket Havas Numerique
- Cadres On Line
- Bonjour.fr 01Net Havas sell 40 million CD-ROMS
The above chart includes only the book publishing holdings of the six largest vulture conglomerates as of 2009. Their properties in movies, Internet, theme parks, television, radio, newspapers, magazines, cable/dbs, video, and Internet search engines were truly frightening. That six predatory giants were allowed to own so much of the media was due to capitalist cabal policies that have been in operation since the early part of the twentieth century.
The New Publishing Paradigm
In this next section, we'll explore several new publishing paradigms that became available in about 2005. Some of these formats have now become quite popular. As we'll see in the next section following this one, one fascist corporation, Amazon, has pushed some of these paradigms to the point that they have become destructive of book publishing in general.
Old Publishing Paradigm
Yesterday's book publishing paradigm involved the writer creating the manuscript, the agent "selling" the manuscript to a publisher, the publisher sending the edited manuscript to the printer, the printer sending the book to the distributor, and the distributor delivering the book to the bookstore.
The new book publishing paradigm moves from the author to the publisher to the print-on-demand printer to the Web virtual bookstore ending with the reader ordering the book online. At least three "middle-men" are no longer necessary:
1. The new-style publisher often evaluates and prepares manuscripts, making the agent's role optional
2. With P-O-D there is no necessity for distributors to warehouse books in quantity
3. Brick and mortar bookstores are fast becoming optional; the reader can select the book she desires on the Internet and order online--receiving the book within a short time.
New Publishing Paradigm
Print-On-Demand (P-O-D) Printer
Reader Orders the Book Online
Whenever new technologies such as E-books and print-on-demand books come into being, it is some time before the big corporations and institutions finally adapt to their creative features. We've previously explored higher education's refusal to adapt to the innovative improvements possible through computer and Internet technology. We saw how largely obsolete sprawling campuses are engaged in a loosing battle with the inevitable use of cost-effective distance learning and Web systems development.
The Pros and Cons of E-Publishing and Print-On-Demand
For many decades, Neanderthal book publishers and distributors continued to define "real books" as products that were offset-printed in volume runs and distributed through wholesalers. Distributors received as much as 60% of the retail price of the book for performing this service. Large book chains such as Barnes and Noble, Borders Group, and Books-A-Million refused to stock print-on-demand books and also refused to order them even if a customer requests them.
The hapless author looking for a way to get her book into circulation still had several options in the E-publishing world:
- Ebooks: In this format, electronic versions of books are delivered to consumers in digital formats. A large number of reading devices are available to consumers. While some E-publishing companies are pushing the open-ebook standard, or OEB, competing formats are more popular. Readers can receive E-books in several different ways:
Downloading to your own computer part or all of an E-book
--in any of several formats:
- Word .doc format
- Adobe Acrobat .pdf format
- HTML format--allows use of graphics (as in the document you're viewing)
Book on a CD-ROM or DVD disk
Analysts claimed that the initial market for electronic books was extremely large. Many readers, however, still preferred hard-copy paper books. A number of companies created E-book devices with which the consumer could read the book. These required that the manuscript be coded in a special digital format.
Certain sectors of the buying public recognized the benefits of ebooks over paper books:
- Students who were tired of lugging around fifty pounds of textbooks (which became obsolete after one term)
- Business people who liked to download several books into a small, portable reader or laptop computer so they could read them at home or on a plane
It's still anyone's guess as to which electronic devices and which software format will succeed and if people will come to prefer E-books over hard- and soft-copy books.
New Formats for Books of the Future
With DHTML-format browser-readable E-books there is no need to buy a new piece of hardware when you can use your desktop or notebook computer and your current Web browser to read multimedia books. The increasingly sophisticated reading public may come to see text-only digitized books as boring (all text, no graphics, no interactivity). They may prefer HTML-format E-books because they realize that competing E-book formats require the purchase of additional hardware or software, e.g. Kindle, Nook, Palm Pilot, Microsoft Reader, Glassbook Reader, Gemstar E-book, etc.
An example of a book in both digitized text formats (.doc, .docx, .pdf) and DHTML format is located HERE.
2. Print-on-Demand P-O-D) is a new technology which allows books to be printed relative to customer orders and in selected quantities. Publishers no longer have to do a traditional print run of several thousand books at a time and then warehouse the books until delivery to a distributor.
Advanced laser printers and electronically formatted text are used in this new system. This method allows new publishers, including Web companies, to print smaller numbers of a book and still make a profit. The print hardware is currently very expensive, but as more publishers purchase the printing technology, prices should come down.
POD is very hot right now and should increase in popularity as the smaller publishers find ways to force the big brick-and-mortar bookstores to stock and order their books. BookSurge.com, a US POD company with printing facilities and distribution in the UK and the Netherlands, was, unfortunately, purchased by Amazon, and has now turned into merely one more miniscule part of the mega-monopoly.
3. Electronic Ink is a developing technology that could have a huge impact on the publishing industry. With Electronic Ink, a newspaper or book is able to be updated. The technology could also be used on billboards, clothing, walls and homes to allow content to display. Such content could be programmed to change at a set time. A billboard using this technology could rotate different ads. A coupon you receive in the mail could be updated with the latest offer. In the future, your electronic newspaper will be able to update itself every day. E Ink Corporation, a new company with large investors, and Xerox are already developing this technology.
4. Email and newsletter publishing finds a ready market among readers who want to receive news items, articles and newsletters in their email box or online. A large number of email newsletters and discussion sites provide information on a variety of topics. Some companies provide newsletters to consumers as their primary service or product. To complement their Web sites, companies are sending newsletters to their clients. Now authors and publishers are providing their own newsletters to attract new readers and to inform their readers about new books.
A fast-developing subculture that helps to counter the monolithic fascist influence of the corporate media monopolies is made up of the alternative publishing companies. One of the most progressive of these is Dandelion Books, which produces uncensored books that help people become aware of the social-political-economic realities.
Amazon Is Trying to Destroy All Other Book Publishers
In 1994, Jeff Bezos started Amazon as an online book retail service. However, as he explained to Roger Doeren, from a Kansas City store called Rainy Day Books, during the 1995 BookExpo America in Chicago: "Amazon intended to sell books as a way of gathering data on affluent, educated shoppers. The books would be priced close to cost, in order to increase sales volume. After collecting data on millions of customers, Amazon could figure out how to sell everything else dirt cheap on the Internet." 1
Bezos has carried out his business plan with a vengeance, reducing the price of books--in both print and digital formats--to such a low price that small publishers are forced out and larger publishers barely stay alive. Meanwhile, Bezos has taken Amazon into every retail market conceivable. (My wife and I recently purchased new recliners through a subsidiary of Amazon.)
When Apple and the Big Six houses (Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin, Random House, and Simon & Schuster) tried to fight back against Amazon's monopolistic rigging of book prices, Bezos got his buddies in the Obama junta to back him: Jamie Gorelick, a deputy attorney general in the Clinton Administration is a friend of Attorney General Eric Holder and serves on Amazon's board.
"Amazon filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. In April, 2012, the Justice Department sued Apple and the five publishers for conspiring to raise prices and restrain competition. Eventually, all the publishers settled with the government. (Macmillan was the last, after Sargent learned that potential damages could far exceed the equity value of the company.) Macmillan was obliged to pay twenty million dollars, and Penguin seventy-five million--enormous sums in a business that has always struggled to maintain respectable profit margins.
"Apple fought the charges, and the case went to trial last June. Grandinetti, Sargent, and others testified in the federal courthouse in lower Manhattan. As proof of collusion, the government presented evidence of e-mails, phone calls, and dinners among the Big Six publishers during their negotiations with Apple. Sargent and other executives acknowledged that they wanted higher prices for e-books, but they argued that the evidence showed them only to be competitors in an incestuous business, not conspirators. On July 10th, Judge Denise Cote ruled in the government's favor.
"Apple, facing up to eight hundred and forty million dollars in damages, has appealed. As Apple and the publishers see it, the ruling ignored the context of the case: when the key events occurred, Amazon effectively had a monopoly in digital books and was selling them so cheaply that it resembled predatory pricing--a barrier to entry for potential competitors. Since then, Amazon's share of the e-book market has dropped, levelling off at about sixty-five per cent, with the rest going largely to Apple and to Barnes & Noble, which sells the Nook e-reader. In other words, before the feds stepped in, the agency model introduced competition to the market. . . Barry Lynn, a market-policy expert at the New America Foundation, said, 'It's one of the main factors that's led to massive consolidation.' Judge Cote's opinion described Amazon's business practices in glowing terms, and she argued, 'If Apple is suggesting that Amazon was engaging in illegal, monopolistic practices, and that Apple's combination with the Publisher Defendants to deprive a monopolist of some of its market power is pro-competitive and healthy for our economy, it is wrong.'" 2
In February, 2014, the Obama junta announced that Amazon had won a $600 Million CIA Cloud Contract. With his purchase of the Washington Post and now this new alliance with the CIA, it's clear that Bezos will make available to the CIA and NSA all customer data he collects in his huge diversified mega-corporation.
Freedom and the Internet
Fortunately, world citizens still have two primary means of struggling against this oppresive media tidal wave:
- Alternative publishing companies such as Dandelion Books, referenced above
- Alternative Internet Web sites
We can identify a newly forming Internet sub-culture through which people have discovered that a dedicated group of Web news and analysis sites provide a source of information about world happenings that is superior to most of the mainstream media. Along with books published by small progressive publishing companies, some sites on the Internet provide REAL information about what's really going on in the world--as opposed to the disinformation provided by TV and most of the books published by the media conglomerates.
This discussion of the world of book publishing must be placed within a larger, relevant context to show its ultimate significance: the world of human intelligence and reason. The primary purpose of serious books--beyond those merely for pleasure or display--is to assist in the development of intelligence and awareness in readers.
Democracy requires an electorate that understands what is actually happening in the world, beyond what the ruler-owned media tell us is happening. If American citizens receive an effective education--which demands intelligent books and effective teachers--we learn to inform ourselves and can see through the propaganda, the dictatorial actions, and the outcomes of the non-constitutional acts of our rulers. Beginning in the early part of the twentieth century, American ruling groups began to create a pseudo-educational system which produces students no longer capable of understanding such key concepts and factors as "freedom," "government of the people," "critical thinking," etc. Because of the destruction of American education by the capitalist cabal, students at all levels are not being taught to read or understand. Most books published are destructive of human intelligence and reason, never mind who publishes them or how they're distributed. Most Americans can no longer understand intelligent and enlightening books.
Along with improving the means of publishing and distributing books, we must establish a progressive educational system that will teach people how to understand the objective values of human life. This cannot be done within the present structure of society and requires the building of cooperative commonwealth communities, where a genuine system of education can assist members to understand themselves and their world.
"The distinguished political theorist Robert Dahl, after long study of democratic theory and practice, says that two of the primary criteria for a truly democratic process are 'effective participation' and 'enlightened understanding.' Effective participation means citizens ought to have an adequate opportunity, and an equal opportunity, for expressing their preferences as to the final outcome of public decisions on society's issues. Enlightened understanding means that the procedures and mechanisms for making decisions on matters of importance for society must give citizens ample opportunities for acquiring an understanding of means, ends and consequences involved in a given issue.
"If a few mega media corporations control most of the major print, broadcast, cable, and other media that most of the public relies on as their main sources of information, opinion, and creative expression, then the fundamental pillar of democracy is likely to be seriously weakened. Indeed the Florida Supreme Court concluded:'The right of the public to know all sides of a controversy and from such information to make an enlightened choice is being jeopardized by the growing concentration of ownership of the mass media into fewer and fewer hands, resulting in a form of private censorship.'"
Dean Alger, Mega Media: How Giant Corporations Dominate Mass Media, Distort Competition, and Endanger Democracy
Originally presented: 8/5/2005 Updated: 12/18/2014
1 Amazon destroys book publishing, with help of fascist American government
Updates and Action:
- 12/18/2014: Boycotting Amazon
- 2/23/2014: Amazon Gives NSA Customer Data
- 2/17/2014: Amazon destroys book publishing, with help of fascist American government
- The New Minister of Information