Book writing not rewarding, on average

From via mt’s shared posts:

Here’s the reality of the book industry: in 2004, 950,000 titles out of the 1.2 million tracked by Nielsen Bookscan sold fewer than 99 copies. Another 200,000 sold fewer than 1,000 copies. Only 25,000 sold more than 5,000 copies. The average book in America sells about 500 copies” (Publishers Weekly, July 17, 2006). And average sales have since fallen much more. According to BookScan, which tracks most bookstore, online, and other retail sales of books, only 299 million books were sold in 2008 in the U.S. in all adult nonfiction categories combined. The average U.S. book is now selling less than 250 copies per year and less than 3,000 copies over its lifetime.

That is depressing reading for anyone thinking of writing a book. Fortunately I’m not (though I did wonder about a vanity-published Stoat :-). Mind you there has been an explosion of utter tosh out there; book writing has now become so much easier.

What I wonder is, how long can this go on? Every year now there are more books published on any given topic than anyone could ever hope to read. I vaguely watch for new sci-fi novels, and it is clear in that segment. And the best don’t age quickly, so why do we need all these new books? The answer, of course, is that we don’t: there is a supply-glut driven by peoples’ desire to write.

[Update: ironically, my last paragraph overlaps with para 5 of the original. And of course i didn’t funish reading the original before writing this -W]

Rowing and Rugby

In which I yet again abuse science blogs to discuss matters of little import to general readers. But it’s my blog, so there.

The rowing was the Head to Head, which involves rowing the 2 km form the Railway bridge to the Motorway bridge, spinning, and then rowing back. You get a rest of ~20 mins while the division comes through, or maybe more, I wasn’t timing it. Our time turns out to be a bit rubbish but we weren’t that bad. The first leg, which is downstream, was OK; the second, against the stream and therefore slower, we stuffed up somewhat with poor technique and a few mini-crabs; the times show that, in that we lost more on the second legs than other crews. Moral: more ergs, more coached outings. Indeed more outings in general. Savelie did well, mind you, at 103. Irritatingly, the Hornets beat us by 1 second – grrr. If you’re friends with the right people, there is some facebook video of the end of the second leg. The ladies look prettier but they are slower :-).

Meanwhile, back at the rugby, I have had my first taste of one of the fabled joys of parenthood: standing on the sidelines on a cold winter’s day watching your son play. Miriam had it harder though: she was unwise enough to wear her thin elegant work trousers. This was Daniel’s first rugby match, and he appears to have enjoyed it – the Perse won 40-10 or somesuch over Ipswich, which helped of course, and he scored a try and did some decent tackling, so that is all to the good. True it was but the C team – the nearby A team clearly had a better idea of tactics and play – but these are early days. Since it was a friendly match and Ipswich appeared to be a little short of players, D got to play on their team for a bit, before being “invalided” out with a cut to the leg – though by the speed with which he ran to the medic, and then ran back, it wasn’t very serious. Next time I’ll bring my camera and subject you to tedious pictures as well. Afterwards, tea and coffee and sandwiches in the hall, and a chance to chat to other parents, which of course we didn’t, being unsociable folk.

Incidentally – please be sure never to eat adulterated Ham Nuts. Always use the pure sort.

IPCC use of non-peer reviewed material?

This is my first contribution for “Ask Stoat“, and I’m doing it because it is low hanging fruit :-). I was going to do the even lower-hanging “airbourne fraction” but that will come. This is for Brian.
Continue reading “IPCC use of non-peer reviewed material?”

There’s no light the foolish can see better by

This is one of my favourite proverbs. I quite often find myself turning it over in my own mind as some particularly dense person fails yet again to see the bleedin’ obvious*.

And yet I discover that it doesn’t appear to be a “standard” proverb, at least as revealed by 5 mins of not-very-exhaustive google searching. If you know better, tell me.

The meaning, of course, is that once a certain minimal level of literal or metaphorical illumination has been shed on a subject, increasing the level of illumination or quantity of explanation will not allow the foolish to understand any more. Very useful for the GW debate.

I know it from John Crowley’s masterpiece, The Deep. Perhaps Crowley invented it.

[Late exciting update: see, p 47, footnote 68: “Eigentlich Zeichen der Weisheit, des Durchblicks aber nur im Dunkel, vgl. Emblem aus Gabriel Rollenhagen, Nucleus emblematum, 1613, Nr. 95: „Caecus nil luce iuvatur“ – Dem Blinden helfen weder Fackeln noch sonstiges Licht, die törichte Eule sieht am hellen Tage nicht.; vgl. Henkel/Schöne, Emblemata, Stgt. 1967/1996, Sp. 896, vgl. Abb. 27a.” Its close I tell you! I’ve added the pic.

Oh dear. It turns out that this is the top google hit for “Caecus nil luce iuvatur” so I’d better provide my gloss for it. Caecus is blind; luce is light. Iuvatur is some conjugation of Iuvo, to help. Thus, “light doesn’t help the blind”.]

[Even later update: Arguing on fb, I was pointed at “the blind shall not see” as a “sematic equivalent”. That appears to be uncommon, too. About the only ref I can find is Natural Selection and Survival of the Fittest (continued 2) from some people who don’t like atheists – Al Islam. However, that’s close in sense to “light doesn’t help the blind” I had above.]


* However, to avoid too much offence to non-fools, I need to note that I’ve taken to pointing people at this when all I mean is “I’ve explained it as well as I can; if you can’t get it from here I’m not going to try to explain any further”. Although it still carries a connotation of “you’re not trying hard enough” or “you prejudices are getting in the way of reading what is perfectly clear”.

Poor old Monckton

Off in Wootsup land someone called Gudfry is having trouble with the portrayal of Monckton on wikipedia, saying:

I see Connelly and his “tag-team” are at it again. This time it’s about the many disputed entries about Lord Monckton, the prominent anti-AGW campaigner.
Many contributors have argued that they have chosen a picture of him which is unflattering, and at worst, deliberately derogatory – which is agaist wiki rules.
After a temporary removal, there has been an edit war which Connelly’s tag-team have won, insisting that it stays. See “Discussion” page on,_3rd_Viscount_Monckton_of_Brenchley

They’re fascists.

If you like these kind of disputes, this one is quite amusing. The problem, of course, is that the picture makes Lord M look like a bit of a wacko (see endless debate on the talk page). Now you or I might make the obvious rejoinder, but clearly his supporters can’t. The usual folk have been removing the image with some utterly implausible assertions (e.g. [1]). Wiki would be happy to use any other decent pic of him, but he hasn’t made a PD one available. I would have thought that the solution to this problem is to write to his fully-staffed PR dept and get them to OK one, but that doesn’t seem to have happened.

But if you want the piss really being taken out of Lord M, you want Bad Boy Gareth.

Poor old Watts refers.

Climate and Cancer

Ha ha, there you go, yet another provocative headline that won’t really deliver.

From the comments elsewhere (thanks F):

At the rate newspapers keep pushing the boundaries of what nonsense
they will publish, then Einstein’s theories will be up for grabs in a
few years. And there is worse than the reporting done on climate science: try
nutrition, or cancer.

which set me to wondering, hence this post. I would agree that the reporting on nutrition or health etc is utterly appalling; Ben Goldacre has made a good career noticing this. My immeadiate reaction to that is: but everyone *knows* it is so appalling that no-one of any sense takes it seriously: Oh yes, yet another study on red wine being good / bad for you, yawn. All this stuff just washes over you. Everyone knows in their heart that they should eat a varied diet, more veg, less butter, etc etc all the obvious things.

But I think climate reporting is at the same level. Everyone really knows the world is getting warmer and it is our fault. The endless slew of press stories to and fro makes little difference to this. Goverment policy continues onwards like a juggernaut and isn’t touched by gossip. Witness the tiny impact the CRU email hacking had, in the end. It all seemed so exciting for a day or two. The obvious fact that people are reluctant to cut their CO2 consumption by not flying off on holiday is just the same as people still putting lots of butter on their toast and salt on their chips.

As the wise James Annan said “the internet is not a write-only medium you know” but I’m afraid I didn’t bother glance around to see if anyone else has written this perceptive thought before. Or even if I have 🙂