Monday, October 25, 2010

Wading Into Publishing

Publishing is one of those industries that increases in size, and opportunity, with the introduction of every new innovation.

Stone age cavemen used the walls of their caves to record, with pictures, the stories of their exploits.  This was good but limited by the number of caves available and blank wall space on their caves.

The Babylonians developed both an alphabet and new medium, soft clay, for recording their stories.  Not only were the clay tablets transportable but with clay being less expensive and more readily available than caves there was more opportunity for writers as the medium was less expensive and in greater supply which made the output more affordable for consumers thereby increasing demand for content.

The invention of paper broadened the market even further increasing both demand and supply for content.  And some of the content  from the ancient world has continued to sell down to the present - think of the Judeo-Christian Bible, the writings of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, the Odyssey of Homer, etc.

With the Gutenberg's invention of movable type the cost of books was reduced further which, again, increased opportunities for writers - a profession whose ranks grew exponentially.

Then came the Internet.  The cost of adding content dropped to near zero which made entry into the market affordable for everyone.  The cost of access to content by consumers also dropped drastically with the result that demand for content is going through the roof.

The Internet Has Opened the Doors for Many Aspiring Writers

A good example of this is HubPages.com in which its huge number of writers have published a total of 1 million Hubs (articles) in the little over four years of its existence.  And much of this is very good content as seen by the three and four figure monthly incomes many of the writers are earning with their part-time writing.   Just take a look at their new Success Stories page. 

Not to brag, but my story is one of those that appear on the Success Stories page and I can personally attest that I have done well both financially and professionally with HubPages.  Because of this success, my son and I have decided to expand our publishing efforts by joining the publishing site Lulu.com and moving into writing books along with our HubPage writing.

Our first foray into publishing is our just released 2011 calendar titled Chika's Dog  Trivia for 2011.  While we have more ambitious book plans, this was a relatively simple project we have been considering for some time and figured it would be a good way to get some hands on practice using the tools on the Lulu site. 

We have now completed the project and have set up our store on the site where it is displayed for sale.

  Calendar Cover

Monday, October 18, 2010

In Elections Free Speech is Not Without Cost

Everybody knows that the First Amendment to the Constitution, which reads:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.


Freedom here refers to Congress putting restrictions on what people can say or, as some recent court rulings have decided, how they can express themselves.  Of course, Congress can put some limits on what people can say, or at least pass laws punishing people who violate these restrictions.  National Security is one area where speech can be restricted and libelous comments or harming someone's reputation with false and slanderous comments about them.


However, having the right to say what one wants is not the same as having free access to the means to communicating one's political opinions.  


Ask any politician.  They are perfectly free to talk about their ideas and describe what they will do if elected.  However, in order to spread their words far and wide they need money.  Money to travel and meet the voters, money to rent halls to speak in, money to pay for radio and TV time, etc.  


Simply having one's name on the ballot generally won't result in people voting for that person.  One has to get out to meet and talk to voters so that the voters get to know them and want to vote for the candidate.  


We are now about two weeks from Election Day and candidates are scrambling to get the word about their candidacy and convince as many potential voters as possible to vote for them.  However, in this election as in many past ones, significant trends are emerging that indicate that Republicans have the momentum and appear set for a big win.


In addition to polling data and the general mood of the voters - this year Republican voters and others favoring Republican candidates seem excited and eager to get out and vote for their candidate while Democrats and others not wanting a Republican victory seem increasingly resigned to defeat.  


In addition to polling data, candidate fund raising can also be an indicator to predict an election outcome.  As I stated above, candidates need money to get the word out about themselves in order to win.  However, there is an opportunity cost to donating money to campaigns.  Large donors often expect to get access to the candidate once he or she is elected while small donors are generally satisfied with the opportunity to help the person who shares their views win.  


Obviously a large donor won't get any access to an office holder for his or her money if the candidate loses and small donors won't enjoy the satisfaction of having helped the person they believed was best suited for the job win if the candidate loses.  So while supporters may still voice support for a candidate that is losing most will be reluctant to throw money away on a losing candidate.  


So, the ease or difficulty with which a candidate can raise money as an election season draws to a close is another indicator of an election outcome.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Columbus Day

Tomorrow, Monday October 11, 2010 is Columbus Day, the holiday that honors the Italian navigator Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the New World.

While Columbus's nationality is still subject to debate in some quarters, it is generally agreed that was born in what is now Italy. As I pointed out in my article on Columbus Day on HubPages, Columbus Day began as an Italian-American holiday.

Of course Christopher Columbus' fame rests on his discovery on the New World while in the service of Spain. Although technically, Columbus was employed, not by the Spanish government, but rather in the employ of Queen Isabella of Castile. Castile had been combined with the Kingdom of Aragon by Isabella's marriage to Aragon's King Ferdinand and the the combination of these two kingdoms, both located on the Iberian Peninsula, formed the basis for the modern nation of Spain. In addition to being King of Aragon, King Ferdinand was also the ruler of the Kingdom of Naples on the Italian peninsula.

In addition to being privately financed by Queen Isabella (unlike today, the finances of monarchs were closely linked with that of their kingdoms), it should be remembered that the real purpose of Columbus' voyages was more for the purpose of discovering a new, and more direct, trade rout to Asia rather than exploration per se.

Europe, at the time of Columbus was entering a period of economic growth that was driven in part by both population growth and by a period of global warming. A desire to expand trade was a part of this economic growth and, while the New World proved to be a big barrier to a western sea route to Asia, the the New World itself became a major trading partner for Europe.

Links for Further Reading:

The Origins of Columbus Day - my article on how the Columbus Day Holiday came about.

Lief Erikson Day October 9th - Some five centuries before Columbus Lief Erikson and his fellow Vikings attempted discovered the New World and attempted to establish a colony in North America. Lief Erikson is recognized with a holiday in October but it is observed mainly in Wisconsin, Minnesota and the Dakotas.

Global Warming and the Discovery of America - a major reason for the failure of the Viking settlements in North America and for the economic decline of the Viking colony in Greenland was a period of global cooling. The warming period that followed this cooling period resulted in those who followed Columbus being able to successfully colonize the New World.

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