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Introduction to The Bile File by Rick Kleffel

I've been corresponding with Carlyle Thompson for a while now, and he finally offered me up this rant to publish. I really like what he's got to say, and managed to restrain myself from any spurious editing. I hope to have more of his somewhat offensive ranting, but when he reads this and sees that I've done a global substitution of Jeffrey Ford for Richard Ford and Jasper Fforde for Richard Powers, etc., he might not be so happy. But I did refrain from illustrating it, or even mucking with his HTML. Carlyle is a software programmer who lives in Southern California. Let me know what you think. -- Rick Kleffel


The Bile File

Guest Columnist

Carlyle Thompson


The Morality of Book Buying


         Look, I know that Kleffel is a nice guy, but when all's said and done, nice guys finish last. After a month or to of pestering the poor bastard, he's finally agreed to tentatively let me act as, if not his conscience, then at least a guest columnist. Lucky him, luckier you.

          If you look behind all that waffling nice-guy bullshit, you'll note that there's a distinct hierarchy of where to buy books. This hierarchy isn't just about being a nice guy. There are reasons for this behavior, the supposed common sense that is actually rather uncommon. The bottom line is, that if you want to read some good books, you have to make sure that the right people are making money writing, publishing and selling those books. The world is going to hell in a handbasket. Wars are being fought in public while others are already lost behind the curtain. Every goddamn person who diligently reads is a true patriot. It is nothing less than the survival of true democracy that depends on your willingness to buy and read good books. If you don't start doing the right thing, in mass numbers, right now, kiss it all goodbye and get ready to read the written equivalent of 'Father Knows Best'.

          With this in mind, I'm going into instruct you on how to queue up your book buying so as to effect the maximally positive effect on the authors you like, with some small consideration for the bottom line, IE, your rapidly dwindling book budget. Because unless you're filthy fucking rich right now, the chances are that you're getting poorer.

          The best way to talk about this is to describe the goals, why they're worthy of being a goal and how to support that goddamned goal.


Support the writers you like to read -- buy their books.

The best way to support the writers you like to read is to buy their books. It's pretty simple. But you can do a lot more. For example, you can buy multiple copies of their books. Give some to the friends you think will actually read them. You can usually find a signed copy of just about any new book out there. Buy two -- one to keep pristine and sell later, if you see a sharp and useful increase in value. Put the screws to some late-comer who has the bucks and wants the deluxe. You keep the other for your museum collection. These two you will buy from an independent bookseller. You're supporting independent bookseller, which will help preserve variety in the upcoming corporate controlled dystopia.

          The third copy you should buy from a larger bookseller. This will be your reading and loaning copy. It will also serve to add sales at the big guys, because these corporate bastards are really running the whole shebang. So, your favorite writers need to see sales there as well.


Support your favorite writers -- show up at signings and BUY THE BOOK.

If your favorite author is touring, then the signing is usually going to be at an independent bookstore. You think these signings are free for the bookseller to set up? Think again. Many are giving up events because they cost a lot of money. They certainly won't have them if a bunch of fucking leeches show up with grocery sacks and big old goddamn boxes of books for the poor author to sign, while the leech smiles benignly and doesn't buy anything. You need to get your ass down to the store and purchase the book you're getting signed. Maybe bring a couple of books by the author if you don't have them signed. But for crissakes, give the poor guys a break. They don't want to see you coming at them with a boxful of moldy paperbacks for them to sign. Unless they're topping the NYT bestseller list, your favorite author is likely to be moonlighting as a teacher or a tech writer, or a bookstore clerk. Show up and show your appreciation, but kindly don't show up with three boxes of books to sign.


Support your favorite writers -- write their publisher and let them know you're paying your hard earned money to buy their books.

You can easily send email to your favorite writer's publishers and let them know you're buying their books. You can usually email the author as well, via their website. Publishers have to have money to publish the books you want. Pay them, and let them know what work your money is supporting.


Shop at local independent booksellers.

If there's any hope for this country to remain something remotely resembling a representative democracy, then it's in large part to be found in independent bookstores. You all know that the concentration of the media is now pretty much unchecked. One way to subvert the goals of big boxes with much less choice is to ensure that your local independent bookseller stays in business. They'll be the first to buy stuff like the newest Michael Moore book, which the publisher just wanted to dump. They'll order stuff that you might not hear about anywhere else, simply on the whims of the owners, not based on the corporate email memo, or on publisher's content based selections. You want to make sure that bookstores you can drive to have a good selection and a healthy business outlook. These are the folks who will have signed editions; many are available online as well as in your hometown.


Shop at independent online booksellers.

The chances are that you won't be able to find everything you need at a local independent bookseller. You'll need to go online and there are many online equivalents of the local independent. Like a cheap book pimp, Kleffel constantly mentions them. He's in the ballpark at least. The chances are that if you're located in the US, you'll want to hook up with a good UK bookseller, or find a US bookseller who does imports. You can buy books online and still support the independents, those whose tastes more precisely mirror yours.


Buy Small press editions.

There are tons of small independent presses printing great stuff. Kleffel has this fairly well nailed, but leaves some huge gaps. It should be foremost in your mind. These guys are the last bastions of the free press that this country was founded on, even if they're just reprinting scholarly collections of forgotten authors. What they aren't printing in boilerplate crapola meant to prolong the lives of the middle class simply in order to extract every last dime out of them as medical costs. If there's a small press edition of a mainstream press book, consider shelling out the extra dollars that will be required. The books are usually a better quality production.


Shop at chain booksellers.

What, you ask? Unless you're made of money, like this fucking Kleffel guy is, and you want to read, say, the latest Stephen King opus and you didn't pony up the extortionate seeming rich-guy limited price, then you might as well buy the loss-leaders from the Whips & Chains. They're not making a mint on this popcorn, and you ought not to pay one for it. Your local independent isn't making a shitload of money either; the big boxes have a much lower price locked in.

          You can also choose to shop at While many folks like to diss them, myself included, Bezos was essentially an independent bookstore owner who had the first and only profitable idea for selling shit on the net. Any of the bigger bookstores could have done what Bezos did -- they didn't have the vision, he did, tough shit for everyone without a decent selection. Like the Whips & Chains, amazon can give you some good value for the money. Take advantage of their generosity.


Buy books for your friends and family.

Turn off the goddamn TV and read a fucking book fer crissakes. And inflict the same pleasure on your family. Work with them and find books your kids like, or your friends. There are lots of pretty damn sure bets out there -- Glen David Gold 'Carter Beats the Devil', for example.


Buy and read books your friends recommend.

If you dare to tell your friends to read something then you should dare to fucking listen as well. They'll probably have something that they've read and want you to read. Do so and tell them exactly what you think, in the most polite way possible. Even if it's a piece of crap bit of bestselling fluff, you know it is a book. At least they're not telling you to watch Fox News and hear the hardlines, er headlines. At least you're talking to them about some creative endeavor.


Buy books by authors you've never heard of or read.

How will new voices be heard if nobody listens? They won't. So you need to show some willingness to buy the work of and read new authors. If the books aren't perfect, but show promise, but the second book. Buy by publisher, by imprint, by editor. Buy something by an author new to you every month. Make an effort to expand your tastes.


Loan as many books as you can.

 While the arts manufacturers of the world want you to believe that it's a mortal sin and punishable offense to loan any art media to another person, they're so full of shit they can't see straight. Just about any book, CD or movie that has been loaned to me has resulted in the sales of additional books, movies or CD's by the same artists. So I recommend that you share the wealth and loan your books to friends, as long as you have a 'loaner' copy and know that the friends have a tendency to return the books. Or just give them away. Kleffel may have infinite storage in his house, but your probably don't.


Re-read books that you've read.

The reason to actually buy a book, and a hardcover book in particular is to ensure that you can read it again. Re-reading a book will open vistas of enjoyment that you might otherwise miss.


          So with these ten goals, how do you queue up your buying? First and foremost, buy the goddamned book. Just buy it. If someone loans you a book, check it out, and if it looks buyable return it unread and buy it. Hope these people do the same for the books you loan them. Let's look at some potential purchases in the upcoming months and see how we might decide to buy them.

          Richard Morgan, Broken Angels. Buy a couple of copies from Cold Tonnage. They should be signed -- make sure you state your preference. But they'll take a while from CT, so buy a reading copy from, and a loaning copy from Ziesing. In a year, you can sell one of the signed copies and pay for your entire investment.

          Neal Asher, Gridlinked and The Line of Polity. Well, you should already have Gridlinked in the UK trade paperback edition. If you don't, more fool you. But make sure to buy a domestic version from Tor when it comes out to loan to your buddies. Tor needs to see some serious sales from Neal. Buy that from your local independent. See if you can score a signed copy of The Line of Polity from maybe, say, Ziesing. Buy your reading copy from Keep the chain sales up.

          Jasper Fforde's Lost in a Good Book. Well, you should have bought the UK HC when it first came out. If you bought a couple of signed copies, from say Legends, then you can probably afford to pick up the domestic hardcover from the local independent. He'll be touring to sign the book. Show up, buy a few of his books, get 'em signed, give a couple away. Those you give them to will thank you.

          You see, as much as we might hate the current system, money talks, bullshit walks. By getting out there to support your authors where it counts -- with your cash -- you're ensuring that the authors, the editors and the publishers who bring you the reading you so richly deserve will have the wherewithal to continue doing so.

          And if you don't, then the reading you'll deserve will consist of Danielle Steele, V. C. Andrews, Tom Clancy-clones and shopped-out TV tie-ins. You can already find the names of very fine authors on books you'd rather not associate with those authors. If you're looking for a world of pabulum, the tiny minds at the top of those all-seeing pyramids are hot to serve it to you.

          Come and get it.



Carlyle Thompson