Harper's Magazine Publisher Shakes Verbal Fist At Google; Romanticizes Own Profession; Quotes Teletubbies

from the this-is-the-most-'angried-up'-his-blood-has-ever-been dept

John R. MacArthur, the publisher of Harper's, is at it again. Last year, MacArthur bravely stood up against "the internet," attacking it for a whole laundry list of evils, including copying and distributing the works of others (often at no cost), dumbing down the level of discourse, and generally not being the Respected Print Business.

Now, he's back and he's narrowed his focus to one company: Google. After spending a moment cheering on French ISP Free for its short-lived ad-blocking internet service (to better choke off arch-nemesis Google's ad revenue), MacArthur gets down to brass tacks: namely, how awesome his mag is and how much he fails to understand what Google actually is... or does.
As publisher of a magazine that specializes in substantive, complex, and occasionally lengthy journalism and literature, and that also lives off advertising, I’ve long objected to Google’s systematic campaign to steal everything that isn’t welded to the floor by copyright — while playing nice with its idiotic slogan “Don’t be evil.”
"Long objected" apparently means whipping up a once-a-year rant aimed vaguely at "The Internet" and filled with self-serving blasts of journalistic piety and rheumy-eyed nostalgia. Google (and its "smaller rivals") provide "logistical support" to pirates and "repackage" the output of hard-working, life-risking journalists, according to MacArthur, having apparently mistaken search engine results for a web scraper's "blog." These people Google "steals" from are gods among men -- from the "humblest newspaper reporter" to the "most erudite essayist." Oddly, he fails to mention the "most intrepid voicemail hacker" or the "most thorough plagiarist" or the "most accurate gun permit cartographer."

Even if he had included a few lowlights, somehow they would have been Google's fault. Because Google makes the world worse.
This for-profit theft is committed in the pious guise of universal access to “free information,” as if Google were just a bigger version of your neighborhood public library. Acceptance of such a fairy tale lets parasitic search engines assert that they are “web neutral,” just disinterested parties whose glorious mission is to educate and uplift.
This might be your problem, Jack. You're expecting Google to "educate and uplift" and it's more interested in indexing the web in order to give you relevant search results. Google's search engine is a tool and you're expecting it to be the teacher from "Dead Poet's Society." Relevance is more important to people who are looking for something than some utopian ideal that "educates and uplifts."

Yes. It's all very annoying and unhinged and bordering on trolling, but MacArthur really outdoes himself with this paragraph, one that indicates his biggest frustration with Google might be that he seems to have no idea how to use it effectively.
This is nonsense, of course. Google’s bias for search results that list its own products above those of its competitors is now well-known, but equally damaging, and less remarked, is the bias that elevates websites with free content over ones that ask readers to pay at least something for the difficult labor of writing, editing, photographing, drawing, and painting and thinking coherently. Try finding Harper’s Magazine when you Google “magazines that publish essays” or “magazines that publish short stories” — it isn’t easy.
I'd really, really, really like to see MacArthur produce a little evidence to back up his claim that Google gives priority to "free content" sites over those with paywalls. Just a hint, paywallers: if you lock it up, it's no longer searchable. There's your problem. If Google can't crawl it, it won't appear. Just something to consider. And I really love the tossed off "thinking coherently." Because people giving away their work for free are idiots, apparently.

And, yeah, just try to find any major magazine using those ridiculous search terms. (Here's a beautiful rebuttal.)
If I was looking to submit an essay somewhere, I might use something like those terms, only phrased much less stupidly. There are several ways to find Harper's, but getting it to the front page involves typing in the magazine's name. And if I already know that, what do I need with a search engine?

One other way many people discover quality long-form writing is through aggregators like Longreads, The Essayist or The Browser. From that point, they move on to the magazines themselves. These filters, curated by humans, do what search engines and meandering anti-Google rants can't: connect quality journalism and essays with readers. Quality aggregation (and effective search engines) save these readers the most precious of commodities -- time.

From this point, MacArthur's post devolves into infantile name-calling using infantile terms while trying to make the point that the internet (being Google) is turning us into babies who just want free stuff while making billionaires out of Google's executives. Here's a mercifully brief sample:
It’s no coincidence that Google, Yahoo!, Bing, and Yelp sound like toddler gibberish from the Teletubbies. Whenever I hear these silly corporate names invoked with sanctimonious awe, I imagine Dipsy, Laa-Laa, Po, and Tinky-Winky singing their hit single “Teletubbies say ‘Eh-oh’ ” as they shake the change out of some two-year-old’s pocket.
If unchecked, where will this all lead, according to The Last Honest Essayist?
This unending assault of babble potentially could lead to revolutionary conditions in which the new writer-teacher proletariat rises up to overthrow the Internet oligarchy and the politicians and government agencies who protect it.
I think MacArthur greatly overestimates the size of this theoretical revolutionary force. And be sure to note that he's conveniently pulled teachers into the ranks in order to boost his already-monumental self image. Journalists, writers, teachers: the last hope for humanity in the face of Big Search.

It's not so much that MacArthur clearly doesn't understand what he's attacking. This happens several times a day all across the internet. It's that his masturbatorial (like an "editorial," only more self-serving) rant projects an egomaniacal picture of the Publisher/Writer/Journalist as the Savior of Culture. This picture (usually a self portrait) has been painted many times before with a variety of ever-broadening brushes. Creation = good. Aggregation = bad. Google = evil. The arguments never get any better or smarter and do little else but expose the authors as short-sighted pessimists ineptly guarding swiftly vanishing turf.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    Ninja (profile), Feb 6th, 2013 @ 9:16am

    It's that his masturbatorial (like an "editorial," only more self-serving) rant projects an egomaniacal picture of the Publisher/Writer/Journalist as the Savior of Culture.

    I knew the intertubes were meant for porn all along. John u little devil!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 6th, 2013 @ 9:40am

    why dont these fucking morons just keep the stupid mouths shut? all they do is make themselves out to be even more stupid than they perhaps actually are!

     

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      Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), Feb 6th, 2013 @ 10:33am

      Re:

      ^ ^
      o o
      l
      \_/

      Indeed...

       

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      DannyB (profile), Feb 6th, 2013 @ 11:20am

      If he can't keep his mouth shut

      If he cannot keep his mouth shut, then he should at least create an account on TechDirt and start trolling about the evils of them intartubes, how big evil Google (and it's little yapping competitors) steal copyrighted content by helping people find it, and other bits of his amazing wisdom.

      It would be quite entertaining in between Righthaven and Pretenda Law news.

       

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    ComputerAddict (profile), Feb 6th, 2013 @ 9:52am

    "I'd really, really, really like to see MacArthur produce a little evidence to back up his claim that Google gives priority to "free content" sites over those with paywalls. "

    probably pretty easy since the better the pay wall the harder it is for google to crawl...

     

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    Blaine (profile), Feb 6th, 2013 @ 9:55am

    Search

    "I just ran a search for 'Harper’s Magazine' and all I found were historical references."
    - Quote from the not so distant future.

    (obtw, what the heck is a Harper? What a stupid name for a magazine, is it about people who play harps?)

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 6th, 2013 @ 10:00am

    I certainly hope that I won't be this delusional when I turn into a cranky, irrelevant old codger like this guy.

     

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    A Non-Mouse, Feb 6th, 2013 @ 10:02am

    Google promotes it's own products?

    "Google’s bias for search results that list its own products above those of its competitors is now well-known..."

    A company that promotes it's own products? The horror! Except, of course, that's not actually happening. Go ahead and check for yourself. I just googled "free email" and Google's own Gmail product was the 7th result. Even Yahoo! Mail and Hotmail had higher rankings than Gmail.

    But let's not have reality get in the way of a good ol' bitch & moan session. Now get off my lawn!

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Feb 6th, 2013 @ 12:32pm

      Re: Google promotes it's own products?

      Youtube has been getting preferance treatment ever since google changed their search algorithms to account for piracy. The irony? It was Harper's (I guess they should now be called former) friends, the publishers pushing that band-wagon!

       

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    dennis deems (profile), Feb 6th, 2013 @ 10:08am

    People who accuse Google of theft

    always have a terribly difficult time articulating just what they think Google has stolen.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Feb 6th, 2013 @ 10:10am

      Re: People who accuse Google of theft

      It's easy to accuse someone of something. Coming up with actual proof is the hard part.

      Why do you think all this new-fangled copyright legislation is always based on accusations and not proof?

       

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      PaulT (profile), Feb 6th, 2013 @ 11:40am

      Re: People who accuse Google of theft

      Like many of the trolls round here, they don't wish to specify it, because that opens them up to analysis and correction. Throwing around vague accusations is one thing, but details are another. Generally speaking it's a pretty vague notion that their business has been suffering in the internet age, while Google has made a lot of money - so it must be Google's fault.

      If cornered, they fixate on the ad revenue Google makes from searches on their stories - but also leave out the fact that this is new traffic generated by Google in the first place. Not to mention that they too can monetise it if the content is worth enough to the user to click and read the full article..

       

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    GMacGuffin (profile), Feb 6th, 2013 @ 10:11am

    And how does he know so much about Teletubbies?

    At 56 years old, his 2 daughters are likely fully grown (unless the recent product of trophywifeism). Meaning, he probably had to Google Teletubbies to get their names and their apparent hit single -- none of which was on my radar.

    Is that irony or hypocrisy? I'm never sure.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 6th, 2013 @ 10:15am

    Just a simple question. What is the business model employed by Google and other SEs of a similar nature? They have to make their money somewhere, and I am curious where/what that "somewhere".

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Feb 6th, 2013 @ 10:20am

      Re:

      Ads.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Feb 6th, 2013 @ 10:27am

      Re:

      Should read "...where/what that "somewhere" is."

      In another vein, it does seem fair to call SEs "scrapers", albeit they are content neutral...they just catalog webpages, create keywords, etc. Being "scrapers" in a general sense, why do they block "scrapers" attempting to "scrape" the SE sites directly?

       

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        DannyB (profile), Feb 6th, 2013 @ 11:36am

        Re: Re:

        In reverse order.

        If I understand your question, you are asking why does a search engine block other search engines from scraping its pages?

        That takes me to the first part. You seem to misunderstand or oversimplify what Google does. What you describe is what the old search engines did before Google came along.

        What Google does is rather sophisticated. They figure out the popularity of a site by the links within the web of pages and links. If a lot of other sites don't link to something, like Harper's Magazine, then it isn't popular. If something truly is popular, lots of web sites are going to link to it. Or at least talk about it. Google figures out how relevant your web site is based on not only what it contains, but on what other people say about it, and how many say so. Beyond popularity, Google also has taken relevance to a new level. Google is able to figure out what you want from a search query with uncanny accuracy.

        But all that said, yes, Google just indexes web pages and returns what it thinks you want based on your search. If Google didn't do as good a job at this, then people would use competitors. Google started with nothing and unseated several powerful established competitors. Come up with an even better way to figure out what people want and return links to those pages, and you could unseat Google. (Or get acquired by someone.)

        Finally, if a site doesn't like Google (or other search engines) looking at its pages, just create a robots.txt file. Or put up a paywall which is an even more effective way to keep people out.

        Either a robots.txt file or a paywall tend to work, but the best way of all to keep people from reading your site is to not put it on the web to begin with.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Feb 6th, 2013 @ 1:57pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Yes, SEs like Google bring value-added to the party via the use of sophisticated algorithms. At a very general level, however, they engage in much the same conduct as so-called "scrapers", and then place the results of their "scraping" behind security measures designed to prevent wholesale "scraping" of their sites by third parties.

          Still curious about Google's business model for making $$, as noted at #13 above.

           

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            John Fenderson (profile), Feb 6th, 2013 @ 1:59pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Still curious about Google's business model for making $$, as noted at #13 above.


            That was answered. Google sells ads for revenue.

             

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            Rikuo (profile), Feb 6th, 2013 @ 2:21pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            To expand on DannyB's answer, the long and short of it is ads. Let's say you have a dog grooming business in New York. You want your business to be well known. Now, if you never talked to Google, what would happen is that if someone searched for "Dog grooming" while they had an IP address in New York, more than likely it would be a competitor.
            What Google sells is called SEO, or Search Engine Optimization. You can pay Google to make the result of a search in New York for "Dog Grooming" to have your business, your website, as the top link. That way, its easier to get customers, you're more well known.

            Your business could theoretically still end up naturally as the number one result for a search in New York for Dog Grooming, but only if your website was already widely talked about and widely linked to.

             

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            Anonymous Coward, Feb 6th, 2013 @ 6:29pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            The handful of links at the top of each search are "Sponsored Links" (ie Paid Ads - they just don't look like most of the ads you are used to seeing). If you really want to know how it works, look up AdSense. That's what it is called.

             

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        John Fenderson (profile), Feb 6th, 2013 @ 12:37pm

        Re: Re:

        It sounds to me like you have less of a problem with Google specifically than you do with the very existence of search engines.

         

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    Lowestofthekeys (profile), Feb 6th, 2013 @ 10:24am

    Maybe he's trying to hide the lack of citations for his article with a pretentious wall of text and the emotional turmoil of being a hack journalist.

     

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  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
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    Obama, Feb 6th, 2013 @ 10:26am

    I give you free ice cream, just go to bed with me.

    So I see a lot of stupid Google shills defending their satanic landlord here. What a bunch of zombies not knowing how unethical Google operate its business.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Feb 6th, 2013 @ 10:37am

      Re: I give you free ice cream, just go to bed with me.

      The tormented cries of a Bing user...

       

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        MrWilson, Feb 6th, 2013 @ 11:03am

        Re: Re: I give you free ice cream, just go to bed with me.

        ...who uses a search engine by a company which has to (unethically, by some perspectives) pay television producers to force writers to script blatantly obvious product placements into otherwise enjoyable shows so that characters utter absurdities like, "oh, I'll just bing it!"

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Feb 6th, 2013 @ 6:35pm

          Re: Re: Re: I give you free ice cream, just go to bed with me.

          Bing is owned by Microsoft so I think you are being overly kind in saying SOME would consider them unethical.

           

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          techflaws (profile), Feb 7th, 2013 @ 2:03am

          Re: Re: Re: I give you free ice cream, just go to bed with me.

          exhibit A: Hawaii Five-O

           

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      DannyB (profile), Feb 6th, 2013 @ 11:40am

      Re: I give you free ice cream, just go to bed with me.

      > So I see a lot of stupid Google shills [PROOF NEEDED]
      > defending [PROOF NEEDED]
      > their satanic landlord here. [PROOF NEEDED]
      > What a bunch of zombies [PROOF NEEDED]
      > not knowing how unethical Google operate its business. [PROOF NEEDED]

       

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      marko polo, Feb 7th, 2013 @ 3:00pm

      Re: I give you free ice cream, just go to bed with me.

      do you Yahoo?

       

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    A non-amorous Cowherd, Feb 6th, 2013 @ 10:27am

    Because using the dictionary is hard.

    "It’s no coincidence that Google, Yahoo!, Bing, and Yelp sound like toddler gibberish from the Teletubbies."

    With the exception of Google which is a misspelling/bastardization, those are all perfectly cromulent words.
    Google: Derived from googol, a ludicrously large number.
    Yahoo: An uncultured oaf or an interjection of excitement. Yahoo! Inc. were probably going for the latter.
    Bing: Storage pile or bin. Also a type of cherry.
    Yelp: A high pitched cry.

     

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    Jason Kerr, Feb 6th, 2013 @ 10:35am

    HEADLINE CORRECTION

    "Harper's Magazine Publisher Shakes Verbal Fist At Google; Romanticizes Own Profession; Quotes Teletubbies, sings their theme song, and names them in the order of which are his personal favorites.

    Oh, but with proper capitalization (poof!)

    There.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 6th, 2013 @ 10:42am

    Google for "magazines that write self serving editorials about how evil google is"

    The top hit is a story about Harper magazine - written on Techdirt LOL.

     

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    Gracey (profile), Feb 6th, 2013 @ 10:54am

    [Whenever I hear these silly corporate names invoked with sanctimonious awe, I imagine Dipsy, Laa-Laa, Po, and Tinky-Winky singing their hit single “Teletubbies say ‘Eh-oh’ ” as they shake the change out of some two-year-old’s pocket.]

    I guess it's not surprising that he actually knows who the teletubbies are, and what they sound like.

    [It's that his masturbatorial (like an "editorial," only more self-serving) rant projects an egomaniacal picture of the Publisher/Writer/Journalist as the Savior of Culture.]

    I'll save my own culture interests thanks ... I don't think I need the editor of Harper's for that cause, well you know - I can find it on the web anywhere.

    I actually had to go and look at Harper's to see what they publish. I wouldn't pay for that ... on the other hand, I might pay for TechDirt if it came right down to it.

     

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      MrWilson, Feb 6th, 2013 @ 11:07am

      Re:

      "on the other hand, I might pay for TechDirt if it came right down to it."

      And Mike's got the Insider Shop so you can contribute financially to Techdirt if you like without having to do so in order to bypass a paywall, thus practicing what he preaches about Cwf+rtb.

       

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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Feb 6th, 2013 @ 11:09am

    Goes back in time and brings back to the now his comment from BoingBoing on this...

    "One wonders if he knows the real reason no one is finding him on Google is because he just isn't relevant.
    Just relax and stop thrashing mr dinosaur... we need more oil."

    http://boingboing.net/2013/01/18/harpers-publisher-says-telet.html#comment-771807855

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 6th, 2013 @ 11:21am

    Should have titled it "Old Man Yells at the Cloud".

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 6th, 2013 @ 11:38am

    So, we finally know who BoB is.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 6th, 2013 @ 12:16pm

    Isn't this the same egotistical idiot...

    who last year (I believe it was last year) ranted that the Internet was just a giant copy machine?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 6th, 2013 @ 12:19pm

    who is he talking about?

    'This unending assault of babble potentially could lead to revolutionary conditions in which the new writer-teacher proletariat rises up to overthrow the Internet oligarchy and the politicians and government agencies who protect it.'

    because the dream of the internet (which is us the proletariat, who could perhaps be called writer-teachers if we all blog??) IS to overthrow the politicians and government agencies who protect the oligarchy.

    but i am easily muddled

     

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    Krish (profile), Feb 6th, 2013 @ 12:25pm

    low balling it

    I'm only 2 paragraphs into the article and I can already see that Tim is low balling it. There's so much more in there that wasn't even covered. But I guess you can't spend pages and pages ripping it apart...

    Impressive troll is impressive. MacArthur really hits all the "high" points from neutral search to Google not having any cost to likening Larry Page, Sergey Brin, and Eric Schmidt to Hearst.

     

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    Krish (profile), Feb 6th, 2013 @ 12:25pm

    low balling it

    I'm only 2 paragraphs into the article and I can already see that Tim is low balling it. There's so much more in there that wasn't even covered. But I guess you can't spend pages and pages ripping it apart...

    Impressive troll is impressive. MacArthur really hits all the "high" points from neutral search to Google not having any cost to likening Larry Page, Sergey Brin, and Eric Schmidt to Hearst.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 6th, 2013 @ 12:44pm

    I wonder if MacArthur is dumb enough to actually believe all that about Google, or if he's just hoping that if he whines and rants enough, somehow his magazine won't die like all the others?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 6th, 2013 @ 12:47pm

    Why did you bash him? Your case stands by itself. The internet is interesting.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 6th, 2013 @ 1:06pm

    Amusingly, Harper Brothers started as pirates

    "Like many publishers of the 1800s, Harper Bros. took advantage of the lack of international copyright enforcement. The firm printed pirated copies of works by such British authors as Charles Dickens, William Make-peace Thackeray, and Anne, Charlotte, and Emily Brontë. Harper Bros.' best-selling pirated work by a British author was Thomas Babington Macaulay's History of England from the Accession of James II. The book sold approximately 400,000 copies, a figure that would classify it as a nonfiction bestseller at the turn of the twentieth century. Because international copyright laws were not enforced, U.S. publishers did not pay royalties to either the British authors or their publishers. The American market had grown to be so significant that, in 1842, Dickens traveled to the United States in an effort to secure royalties from the sale of his works. He was unsuccessful at recouping this money, but the trip did give Dickens the material for his book American Notes for General Circulation, which Harper Bros. promptly pirated."

    (excerpt from http://www.answers.com/topic/publishing-industry)

     

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    Androgynous Cowherd, Feb 6th, 2013 @ 1:57pm

    This for-profit theft is committed in the pious guise of universal access to “free information,” as if Google were just a bigger version of your neighborhood public library.


    Wrong, MacArthur. Google is just a bigger version of your neighborhood public library's card catalog.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 6th, 2013 @ 2:36pm

    He would have just as much credibility to his argument if he also claimed that Google created Hitler and murders babies.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 6th, 2013 @ 9:33pm

    What a real journalist has to say

    "The one permanent emotion of the inferior man is fear - fear of the unknown, the complex, the inexplicable. What he wants above everything else is safety."
    -- H.L. Mencken

     

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    Richard Thomas, Feb 7th, 2013 @ 12:13am

    Testing the theory

    Just to test MacArthur's theory I Googled "magazine short stories". I saw a promising front page link (fifth from the top) to a list of someone's top 50 literary magazines. Harper's was number four on that list. Took me twelve seconds.

    Maybe twelve seconds is too long? Must be Google's fault.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 7th, 2013 @ 3:35am

    It's a bit entertaining to know that you can actually tell a search engine to not index any page on your site. Google evil? Then opt out.

    Of course they don't opt out; the expect top rankings even given ridiculous search terms. All while lamenting the evils of the search engines that send customers their way free of charge.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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    identicon
    The Real Michael, Feb 7th, 2013 @ 5:20am

    You know your publication is failing when all you do is moan and groan about a search engine on the internet.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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    Marcel de Jong (profile), Feb 7th, 2013 @ 7:45am

    Well, he's succeeding in one way... I'm sure visits to his website are skyrocketing after his hitpieces. (hits as in potshots with a blow gun from the 12th century)

    And with all those people linking to harper's website, his pigeonrank, I mean pagerank, is bound to increase as well.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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    jupiterkansas (profile), Feb 7th, 2013 @ 7:59am

    This doofus is on the board of the Author's Guild? That explains so much.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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    Gene Cavanaugh (profile), Feb 7th, 2013 @ 10:49am

    So it is called "Harper's"

    Is this because he appears to always be harping on something?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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    identicon
    Mike Maxwell, Feb 15th, 2013 @ 7:44pm

    Article Summary

    Let me save you the trouble of reading this Tech Dirt article with a brief but consummate summary:

    "This guy is old, and he talks about old things. Like, 20 years old, and sometimes older. Nothing good happened back then, because then wasn't now. And plus, his website isn't free enough. Everything should be free, and the right to make infinite copies of anything is a universal right that we should all enjoy. Except for Ben Bernanke."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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