eBook Sales Surpass Hardcover

Well that didn’t take long:

American publishers are now bringing in more revenue from ebooks than hardcover books, according to a report published by the Association of American Publishers (AAP).

The figures, which were posted on GalleyCat on Friday, show that net sales revenue from ebooks exceeded that of hardcover books in the first quarter of the year. The data was compiled from 1,189 publishers and did not include children’s books.

Collectively, adult ebooks brought in $282.3 million in Q1. That’s an impressive 28.4% increase from the same period a year ago. Young adult and children’s ebooks performed even better, catapulting 233% to $64.3 million. Sales of adult hardcover books grew too, but more modestly, up 2.7% to $229.6 million in Q1 2012.

What’s driving the growth? The proliferation of ereading devices, from tablets and smartphones to dedicated ereaders, has a lot to do with it. Research published by Pew in April found a strong correlation between the spike in sales of ereading-capable devices and ebook adoption over the holidays.

Paperback sales continue to lead, bringing in $299.8 million in revenue in the first quarter of the year, but appear to be on the decline. (In fact, ebook sales surpassed paperback sales more than a year-and-a-half ago on Amazon.) Last year, net sales revenue for paperbacks amounted to $335 million.

Notably, downloadable audiobooks grew at an even greater rate than ebooks in that period, up 32.7% to $25 million in the first part of the year.

We’re curious: How have your book consumption habits shifted over the past few years? Are you buying more ebooks or audiobooks and, if so, are you buying less hardcovers and paperbacks as a result?

If anybody in the publishing world is surprised by this, then they need to really not be in the publishing world any more. There are plenty of top flight jobs in either the food service or house-keeping industries for people with their qualifications.

Passing hardcover sales is a meaningful milestone, but passing paperback numbers will be more significant. Paper is dying. I don’t like it. I don’t believe it will ever go away completely. But the inevitability of it all has been blindingly obvious since Egon observed that “print is dead” in Ghostbusters in 1984.


Are These the Faces of the Children of Antony and Cleopatra?

I’m not wholly convinced, but Giuseppina Capriotti, an Egyptologist at Italy’s National Research Council, thinks she can make the case based on style, dating, and iconography.

Cleopatra’s twin babies now have a face. An Italian Egyptologist has rediscovered a sculpture of Alexander Helios and Cleopatra Selene, the offspring of Mark Antony and Cleopatra VII, at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

Discovered in 1918 near the temple of Dendera on the west bank of the Nile, the sandstone statue was acquired by the Egyptian Museum but has remained largely overlooked.

The back of the 33-foot sculpture, catalogued as JE 46278 at the museum, features some engraved stars — likely indicating that the stone was originally part of a ceiling. Overall, the rest of the statue appears to be quite unusual.

“It shows two naked children, one male and one female, of identical size standing within the coils of two snakes. Each figure has an arm over the other’s shoulder,‭ ‬while the other hand grasps a serpent,” Giuseppina Capriotti, an Egyptologist at Italy’s National Research Council, told Discovery News.

The researcher identified the children as Alexander Helios and Cleopatra Selene, Antony and Cleopatra’s twins, following a detailed stylistic and iconographic analysis published by the Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology at the University of Warsaw.

Capriotti noticed that the boy has a sun-disc on his head,‭ ‬while the girl boasts a crescent and a lunar disc. The serpents, perhaps two cobras, would also be different forms of sun and moon, she said. Both discs are decorated with the udjat-eye, also called the eye of Horus, a common symbol in Egyptian art. ‭

“Unfortunately the faces are not well preserved, but we can see that the boy has curly hair and a braid on the right side of the head, typical of Egyptian children. The girl’s hair is arranged in a way‬ similar to the so-called ‭m‬elonenfrisur‭ (‬melon coiffure ), an elaborate hairstyle often associated with the Ptolemaic dynasty, and Cleopatra particularly,” said Capriotti.

The researcher compared the group statue with another Ptolemaic sculpture, the statue of Pakhom, governor of Dendera, now on display at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

“Stylistically, the statues have several features in common. For example, the figures have round faces,‭ ‬little chins and big eyes,” Capriotti said.

Since the statue of Pakhom was dated to 50-30 B.C., she concluded that the twin sculpture was produced by an Egyptian artist at the end of the Ptolemaic period, after Roman triumvir Mark Antony recognized his twins in 37 B.C.

I’d have to read the whole report, but based on what this story has to say, it seems the data are more suggestive than conclusive.

Shorter LCWR: “We still don’t have a clue”

The LCWR has published some reactions to the meeting of Sisters Pat Farrell and Janet Mock with Cardinal Levada and Archbishop Sartain. It’s so helpful that the LCWR continues to produce documents that can also double as exhibits explaining why the correction was necessary. Here’s the entire thing:


June 18, 2012

[Silver Spring, MD] The board members of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) held a special session on Friday night, June 15, where they were briefed by conference president Sister Pat Farrell, OSF and executive director Sister Janet Mock, CSJ on their June 12 meeting in Rome with officials of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). The LCWR leaders had requested the meeting at the Vatican to address their concerns about the doctrinal assessment report of LCWR conducted by CDF and released on April 18.

While the LCWR officers reported that they were able to express their concerns during the meeting with openness and honesty, they acknowledged that the meeting was difficult because of the differing perspectives the CDF officials and the LCWR representatives hold on the matters raised in the report.

Since the release of the findings in April, some Vatican officials and US bishops have publicly claimed that the report is not a reflection on all US Catholic sisters and is directed only to LCWR, the organization of leaders. The board noted that the actions of CDF are keenly felt by the vast majority of Catholic sisters who have elected, and therefore feel a close identity with, their leaders. Moreover, the statements and gestures of solidarity from men religious and from conferences of Catholic sisters in other countries, as well as the letters and petitions from thousands of lay supporters worldwide, indicate that many others are also concerned about how to live as people of faith in the complexities of these times. The concerns they have shared with LCWR will be part of the conference’s discernment of its response to the CDF report.

LCWR members will continue their careful, prayerful discernment in their geographic regions throughout June and July, and at LCWR’s annual assembly in August.

Do you mean you’ll talk about it at the assembly that’s structured around the views of New Age Gnostic Nut-Ball Barbara Marx Hubbard? However will you find the time in between pondering zero-point energy and the Naissance to talk about being, y’know, Catholic nuns.

I love how “statements and gestures of solidarity” are summoned as some kind of proof of their rightness. They are operating under the mandate of the Church, and the Church is telling them what they expect. There is no “discernment” of a response. They don’t get to speak for how “to live as people of faith in the complexities of these times.” They don’t have magisterial authority. Did someone (say, Jesus, or maybe the Holy Spirit) give them the authority to summon a Vatican III and redefine the faith as “whatever the culture of the time thinks is groovy”? Were they given the authority to teach and promote things counter to consistent church teaching?

Their monstrous arrogance just continues to amaze. The people in control of the LCWR are not nice, humble little workers in the vineyard of the Lord (to quote a man they detest). These are women filled with brazen hubris. I’ve known these kind of nuns. I’ve sat through enough of their lectures about the evils of bottled water and the virtues of fair trade coffee, and none about the fundamentals of the faith. I’m done.

I know far too many nuns who go about the hard work of being women religious–doing the teaching, serving in the hospitals, praying–to stand for this grotesque scene of the nun-as-activist seizing the bully pulpit and claiming to speak for all sisters. They do not. It was the sisters themselves who requested this investigation in order to de-politicize the over-reaching grasp of the LCWR leadership.

The press release tries to make much of the fact that the sisters voted for the leadership. Really? Who else was on the ballot? I’m facing a vote for either an incompetent buffoon or a corporate lackey for president. Does either of them speak for me? Not even a little. So don’t make too much of your mandate, sisters. You were elected from a tiny pool of potential candidates. You weren’t voted any kind of charism. Magisterial authority didn’t come with your simple majority. You may well have been the least-worst candidates.


Leah Libresco: Leaving Las Atheist

Every online Catholic’s favorite atheist is taking her awesome home-made duct-tape Wasp costume and crossing over to the Catholic portal. She makes it clear that this is still a work in progress. My reply would be: we all are.

This will be challenging for her, as it should be. I understand a bit of what she’s gone through and what she faces. Maybe my experience will be useful.

I did not come from a hard science/math background as she did, but I spent a long time in a similar worldview as Leah did. I lapsed out of Catholicism around age 18, and found my worldview shaped by Platonism. (I never was as much of an Aristotelian as she.) The Republic hit me like a ton of bricks, and the moral, ethical, and metaphysical world of Plato and Socrates seemed to be the better way of understanding the world than the faith of my youth. Plus I got to sleep in on Sundays. Double win!

I spent the next 15-odd years in a deep and consistent study of religion, mostly with Eliade and Jung as my foundation for understanding the world. My Platonism led, almost inevitably, to Gnosticism, but I tried on everything for a little while. I don’t regret that. I gained something precious from each encounter, and yet I remained deaf and blind to the truth before me. My return was a bolt from the blue. It made no sense at all, and it came to me by an encounter with the grace of God in the midst of pain and suffering. Thus, I was blessed with a twofer: assured of the reality of God, and of the purpose of pain.

I did a great deal of reading during my return, and had to make a decision. There was much in the Catholic faith that I did not yet believe, but I apprehended almost immediately that the limits were my own.

Returning to the Church was not a leap of faith. It’s not a leap of faith when you know there’s a net. Taking the catechism and saying, “I believe this in its totality, without exception,” was a leap of faith. Because I didn’t believe it. Not all of it. I had to put away pride and accept the limits to which human reason can rise in the course of one earthly life, and put my faith in the wisdom of thousands of people across millennia, guided by the Holy Spirit working through the Church founded by the incarnate God. So I conformed myself to the Church, understanding what I could understand, and accepting what I could not. I did what so many Catholics today refuse to do: I stopped thinking I could change the Church and made a decision to be changed by it.

That’s the hardest thing to do, because it forces you to betray the core impulse of human reason: vanity. Pride is the first sin. Putting it aside is the surest sign that you’re on the right path. It takes time and it’s difficult. My advice to Leah would be: push and work through and reason, argue every point, but accept that there will always be limits to what you will be able to resolve. There will always be a tension with the world and within yourself. Those tensions are a good thing. They mean you haven’t become complacent.

And some things will never be resolved, not this side of heaven. I have accepted that a few things will remain unknown and unknowable, and in doing so rendered everything else comprehensible. It was the best deal I ever made.