Sorry About That; The Language of Public Apology by Edwin L. Battistella. Oxford University Press, 2016, paper.

 

This past May, President Barack Obama visited Hiroshima, the target of an atom bomb on 6 August 1945. He is the first sitting president to visit the city where 100,000 Japanese, Koreans, and a few American prisoners-of-war were killed or died soon after from the radiation associated with the blast. His speech was not an apology to the Japanese, but there are in it, elements of an apology.

 

According to Edwin Battistella, a public apology would have contained words like “I apologize on behalf of… .” But it didn’t. However, the “offense” was named and described in the apology, and there was much said about the lessons learned from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the second target of an atom bomb within days of Hiroshima.  These are important elements of an apology.

 

Back in 1988, on the other hand, Japanese-Americans were the recipient of an apology from the US Congress. It apologized for their internment for the duration of the war, some 117,000 men, women, and children in what is euphemistically called a “wartime relocation.” Compensation was provided in cases where property was seized.

 

Wars generate occasions for apologies. Battistella, however, is more interested in apologies from writers, entertainers, politicians, and other public figures. In his memoir, James Frey, a writer, described his long battle with drug and alcohol addiction. It was subsequently discovered to be fictional. He apologized on the Oprah Winfrey show and then Winfrey apologized for her anger at his plagiarism. She confessed that she should have shown compassion rather than censure.

 

Talk shows have proven to be a popular arena for various contrite individuals to make apologies. The social media is proving to be an even more inviting opportunity.

 

Vice President Joe Biden found himself in a difficult situation during his run for the presidential nomination against Barack Obama in 2007. Wanting to compliment his opponent, he suggested that Obama was “the first African-American that is articulate and bright, a clean and nice-looking guy.” Whoops! Obama was not offended, obviously, it was meant to be a compliment. And Biden’s apology “worked.” Al Sharpton, a Democratic candidate for the Presidency in 2004, chimed in that he takes a bath every day.

 

Often apologies involve complicated language. Sometimes they are couched in the conditional voice. “I do apologize if (my emphasis) she was offended by my remarks.” “I would like to apologize…” and “I want to…” describe intentions, short of apologies. “I am sorry if you took my remarks wrong” shifts the transgression to “you.” “Mistakes were made…” the passive voice was used in a 2002 apology, after McDonald’s admitted that it had used beef fat in the processing of its fries, offending vegetarians and Hindus.

 

Lots of apologies are associated with sexual transgressions. And Battistella has good fun with them. Jimmy Swaggart, a Pentecostal preacher, was caught with a prostitute at a New Orleans airport hotel. Swaggart‘s 2000-word apology was tearful but convincing. He had sinned, omitting most of the details, and then asked his television congregation and his God for their forgiveness. The confession was sincere, from the heart.

 

Three years later he was stopped by a cop for driving on the wrong side of the road. He may have been distracted by his passenger, a prostitute.  Rather than apologize again to his congregation, he said that the Lord had told him that his love life was flat-out none of their business.

 

Battistella suggests four strategies of self-defense in a public apology. Denial needs no elaboration; it may be the most honest. Bolstering is when you add to your apology something like “I am not that kind of person.” Differentiation: “I am apologizing but the transgression of which I am accused was not really sexual harassment, but being friendly and open.” Transcendence; “I believe that I am coming out of this experience a better man (woman).”

 

Two examples of self-defenses: Richard Nixon’s “Checkers” speech where, holding the family pet dog, he defended himself against charges that he had maintained an illegal slush fund bolstering his self-revelation with dog love. And Senator Edward Kennedy’s 1969 Chappaquiddick speech where he described what he had learned as the result of his failed efforts to save the life of Mary Jo Kopechne, (Transcendence?)

 

An incident during the Iran-Iraqi War involved an attack by an Iraqi jet on an American ship. We were trying to keep the Gulf open to oil shipments while selling arms to both sides. Saddam Hussein, longtime president of Iraq, apologized to President Reagan and expressed his regret, denied hostile intentions, shifted blame to the Iranians, and offered condolences. And the apology was accepted!

 

In 2004 American soldiers at Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq subjected Iraqi detainees to various forms of illegal interrogation. We used the “few bad apples” defense. We acknowledged the damage done to the reputation of the American army serving in Iraq but otherwise no apology.  The Bush Administration and the military leadership became victims of those bad apples rather than perpetrators.

 

After reading Sorry About That a public apology will never be the same.

 

The Man without a Face; The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin by Masha Gessen. Riverhead Books, 2013, paper.

The Man without a Face; The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin by Masha Gessen. Riverhead Books, 2013, paper.

In 1999, the ‘family’ surrounding Boris Yeltsin went looking for a successor to their increasingly unpopular president who was also not in good health. They settled on an almost unknown, Vladimir Putin. Other than his loyalty to Yeltsin, they were unsure about Putin. Some viewed him as a progressive leader who would continue Yeltsin’s freeing up of both the economy and Russian politics. Others in that political and economic elite feared that Putin’s selection would lead to the destruction of the fragile democratic structures Yeltsin had allowed to develop in the decade of his presidency. (One of those structures was a relatively flourishing media. The author is a journalist.)

President Yeltsin had sold off huge chunks of the Russian public sector to a small group of “oligarchs.” Grateful, the oligarchs in turn bankrolled his reelection in 1996.

Yeltsin had a reputation for his heavy drinking and often erratic behavior. Yeltsin frequently fired members of his cabinet and replaced them with odd often unknown appointments. Putin had joined his final cabinet, and although the choice of a successor was not his to make, Yeltsin made it clear that he thought well of this St. Petersburg native. And in 1999 when Yeltsin was forced to resign, Putin became acting president.

Masha Gessen can find little to admire in Putin. Certainly not his long career in the Russian secret service. He was employed by the KGB from 1954 to 1991. Putin spent the last five years in Dresden, where he was a faceless spy. While there he witnessed the collapse of the East German government.  He returned to Russia, where he became a faceless KGB bureaucrat in the St. Petersburg and then Moscow governments.

Gessen’s narrative is mostly a frame for criticizing Putin. But there is a surprising “Afterword” to The Man without a Face. Putin took the initiative to arrange an interview with the author, much to Gessen’s consternation.

The author gives considerable attention to President Yeltsin’s predecessor, Mikhail Gorbachev, whom he considers to be the pivotal statesman in post-Stalinist Russia. Gorbachev is best known for his perestroika (restructuring) and then glasnost (openness). Gorbachev prodded the Russian state toward a less authoritarian modus operandi. He commuted the sentences of many dissidents who had been serving time in Soviet prisons and labor colonies. He presided over the disintegration of both the Union of Soviet Socialists Republics and an end to the Communist Party’s long domination of Russian politics. Gorbachev dreamed of modernizing the Soviet economy, though not necessarily through privatization or the creation of a market structure, such as that fostered by Yeltsin. In many ways, Putin is of the Gorbachev school.

Toward the end of Gorbachev’s term, a group of the apparatchik tried to remove him and end his dismantling of the Soviet Union. The Baltic republics had already withdrawn. The Soviet Union was saved by the intervention of more conservative elements, Yeltsin and Putin included. Gessen argues that there is no single narrative for the course of Russian political history in this Gorbachev-Yeltsin-Putin period. Russians hold to various themes, everything from an “inspiring democracy” to a “cynical conspiracy.” Russians enjoy the stability that Putin has brought. However, he often manipulates the media and can be heavy-handed. Russian journalists are not happy campers in Putin’s Russia.

It is interesting that the Russian leadership is judged by how it responds to disasters, and has this in common with the office of the U.S. Presidency.  For example Putin did not show sufficient empathy when confronted with the Kurst disaster in August 2000. An initial explosion in this nuclear submarine prevented it from surfacing and none of its 118 seamen were rescued. Putin’s response to a question from a reporter asking about the likely cause Was, “It sank!” He made no apology for the crew’s lack of training on how to use the sub’s emergency escape facilities.

Lately Putin has become a billionaire, joining the ranks of the oligarchs whom he has often charged with tax evasion and embezzlement. And according to Masha Gessen, in some cases he has arranged for their untimely death. He is not beyond a certain amount of rich man’s vulgarity. Gessen believes he is a kleptomaniac; he takes what he likes. His book is not complimentary of Vladimir Putin.

Putin has held office either as President of the Russian Republic or as its Prime Minister since his appointment as acting president in 1999. There is a two-consecutive-term limit for both offices. But he and Dmitry Medvedev have juggled these offices between them. And the term for the President has been extended to six years. So Putin is good through 2018 and longer with a second six-year term. That will be nearly two decades of Putin rule. That is particularly significant because he has made nearly all aspects of government answerable to the President.

 

We Kill Because We Can; From Soldiering to Assassination in the Drone Age by Laurie Calhoun. Zed Books, 2016, paper.

 

In 2009 a Bedouin encampment was mistaken for an Al-Qaeda training base. It was hit by an American predator drone armed with a Hellfire missile. The attack had been approved by the Central Intelligence Agency which supervises our drone warfare. Fifty-eight people were killed. In 2013 fifteen civilians in route to a wedding were mistaken for an Al-Qaeda convoy. A sixty-eight year-old grandmother picking okra was “taken out” by a drone. Laurie Calhoun describes these and other drone attacks, suggesting that the practice of assassinating “terrorists” by drone warfare is prone to deadly mistakes, “collateral damage” as we call it.

 

The nature of our war against Islamic terrorism is, the author claims, a factor in the growth of anti-American sentiments throughout the Middle East and elsewhere. We tend to look upon these drone attacks from the perspective of our safety. But they often kill family members and disrupt whole communities. The victims are denied the need to find solace in their burial rituals because the bodies are literally blown to pieces.

 

Calhoun corrects the term “terrorists” used to describe the victims. They are “terrorist suspects.”  She makes the point more than once that the CIA-sponsored drone warfare lacks the safeguards that normally attend American justice. Since we are engaged in executions, there needs to be some kind of judicial procedure, either civil or military, prior to their execution. But all that seems to be happening is the creation of a kill list and a nod from the Executive Branch to proceed.

 

There is a preference for killing rather than capturing. Osama Bin Laden’s murder is a case in point. He could just as easily been captured once his compound was stormed. His whereabouts in Pakistan had been revealed by a tip off from a paid informant, who would also have revealed that a capture was possible. Instead Bin Laden was killed in a burst of gunfire from a squad of Navy Seals. No doubt the CIA and the American military did not want another Guantanamo Bay prisoner and face the difficulty of devising a later trial in the U.S.  

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Bin Laden was considered a radical Islamist and one of the planners of the attack on the World Trade Center in New York in September 2001, hence finding his name on a kill list isn’t surprising. The list is long even though names are being crossed off as the result of our active drone program. How does one get on the list? The author explains that if you have brown skin, it is easier. If you are to be found in a “war zone” you are eligible. All males between the age of 16 and 50 who are residing in a country that has given the CIA permission to assassinate our enemies (presumably their enemies as well) in their territory can make the list.

 

Why would a country sign up under those conditions? Military aid, lots of it, is forthcoming as part of the deal. Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, Mali, Libya, and Syria have agreed.  

 

Calhoun points out several changes in the nature of military tactics that have accompanied the growing use of drones and murder. We have turned much more of the burden of armed warfare over to private companies. Most of the teams that send out guided missiles via drones are civilians under contract. After sending off a deadly drone assault, they step out of their office for a cup of coffee or a smoke.

 

We are making every effort to keep ‘the boots off the ground.’ By using mercenaries we avoid placing our volunteer army in dangerous situations. Victims become “splashes,” “bug splats” without risk to the folks doing the killing. They know their victims since they have been following them around for some time, either with drones or local paid informants. Money is a bigger inducement for the local spy network than revenge. But Calhoun believes the latter often enters into the calculation.

 

The author contends that this and other changes in the nature of warfare since 1945 have made post-traumatic stress disorder a more common feature of military life. The significant amount of “collateral damage” in the new drone warfare may be making those involved more susceptible. The military’s solution is often drugs; Calhoun is critical of the medication of both troops and veterans.

 

She doesn’t mention the possibility of drone warfare being taken up by other countries or even private individuals. It wouldn’t be too hard to put together some kind of explosive device and the drone technology, which is readily available to the American consumer. Let us assume that no person or country would be given permission to assassinate a rival who is residing in the U.S. But what if it were an unauthorized attack?

 

Back during the Cold War military governments around the world secured economic and logistical support from the U.S. by claiming that their political opponents were communists. In the twenty-first century political opponents are now terrorists.

      

The German War; A Nation Under Arms, 1939 to 1945, Citizens and Soldiers by Nicholas Stargardt. Basic Books, 2015.

 

Nicholas Stargardt has read through and incorporated into his narrative the enormous secondary literature on the Second World War, but his primary sources are the letters that German soldiers exchanged with their families. Both sides of this epistolary conversation reveal their doubts about the official line produced by Joseph Goebbels and his Ministry of Propaganda.

 

Stargardt, Professor of European History at Oxford University, points out that there were more German psychiatric patients murdered by the Nazis than German Jews! German public opinion reacted publically to their family members being sent from German asylums to the new killing centers, beginning in 1939. Had there been a similar public mobilization, could at least some of German Jewry been saved? However, that public response was absent when the killing of adult psychiatric patients resumed two years later. Nor did any collective opposition stop the killing of children with mental and physical handicaps.

 

There was also considerable public qualms expressed in these family letters about the war with France and Britain. German citizens and soldiers, for the most part, had accepted Goebbels’s assurance of the necessity for the assault on Poland in September 1939. But there was nothing like the bellicose crowds of Germans who welcomed the outbreak of the Great War in 1914.

 

The German War suggests that its “turning points” came much earlier than is generally assumed. The failure of the Wehrmacht to reach Moscow in October 1941 Stargardt argues, was an early turning point. The German defeat at Stalingrad in February 1943, perhaps the greatest Russian victory of the War, and generally regarded as a turning point, came well after the failure of the more significant Wehrmacht drive toward the vital Russian oil fields near Grozny in August 1942.

 

The surrender at Stalingrad resulted in 91,000 German POWS including the army’s commander, Marshall Friedrich Paulus. Hitler had assumed that Paulus would commit suicide rather than accept captivity. Suicide was the end game for German valor on the battlefield.

 

The Germans blew an opportunity to “liberate” Poles, Ukrainians, and Byelorussians, many of whom were not interested in the Russians’ return. Instead the Germans imposed a destructive and deadly occupation. The Wehrmacht burned villages with little provocation and carried on massive retaliation with any sign of resistance.

 

Much has been said about the involvement of the Wehrmacht and East European nationals, particularly the Poles, in the murder of Jews during the German invasion of Russia. Equally appalling was the death of a million Russian prisoners-of-war captured during Operation Barbarossa.

 

Another turning point in the war was the intensification of the Royal Air Force raids on German urban areas beginning in 1943. The Ruhr city of Essen was perhaps the earlies target of the RAF’s blanket bombing; the Krupp works were there. Cologne followed. The city of Wuppertal was destroyed in May 1943. Berlin was tougher for Bomber Command. It was steel and concrete rather than wood and plaster, hence less flammable, and also farther from air bases in Britain.

 

Much has been written about the differing strategies of the British and American air warfare. The Brits purposely targeted housing to disrupt the lives of German workers crucial to war production, “blanket bombing.” The Americans chose instead what they called “pinpoint bombing”, of specific industrial targets. The trouble was that those targets were heavily defended, and despite the damage soon became operational again. Stargardt sides with the Brits; the attacks on urban Germany had the greater impact on war production.

 

The bombing of the cities produced huge numbers of women and children evacuees. Generally the evacuees moved south and east, from urban to rural areas, the better off Germans to refuge in more modest homes and farms. These regional and class differences produced considerable strife. They were exaggerated by the work demands made on the evacuees. Mass evacuation may have been an organizational triumph of the national government; it was not a victory for the German “national community.”

 

German morale remained high almost to the end. There were promises that new weaponry would turn the tide of war in favor of Germany. And they were real: the V2 rockets rained down on London toward the war’s end, and jet fighter aircraft were better able to intercept Allied bombers.

 

There were also atrocity stories to discourage “defeatism”, some accurate such as the mass rape of German women by Russian troops. In February 1943 a mass grave was discovered in Katyn Forest near Smolensk. An examination of the bodies dated the massacre to the Soviet occupation of Poland. In an effort to decapitate the Polish military elite and commissars, hundreds had been executed by the Russians. German propagandists suggested that this would be the fate of the Wehrmacht officer class and civil servants should Germany loose its battle with the Red Army.

 

By the end of the war, Germans were convinced that their trust in Hitler had been misplaced. Bitterness and even rage were openly expressed. White flags were appearing. And shame, shame at having supported a war that had killed and destroyed so many sons, fathers, and husbands and much of what Germans admired of their “national community.”

 

 

The Great Departure; Mass Migration from Eastern Europe and the Making of the Free World by Tara Zahra. W.W. Norton, 2016

 

The Great Departure covers over a century of Eastern European migration from the mid-nineteenth century to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. The phrase “mass migration” is appropriate; between 1846 and 1940, it is estimated that 55 and 58 million Europeans moved to North and South America. We assume that the efforts to control this migration were mainly on the part of receiving countries. Tara Zahra explains that Eastern European countries and particularly Austria-Hungary introduced various measures to direct that flow to accommodate their imperial interests.

 

Eastern European governments worried about the loss of population, particularly since many of those who left for the Americas were young adults. Population was viewed like any other resource, and its losses deplored. They worried about army recruitment. They also regretted losing the investment they had made in the emigrants’ education.

 

We normally think of North America as providing opportunity for “their tired, their poor, their huddled masses yearning to breathe free”. In fact, immigrants leaving Ellis Island faced appalling living conditions in over-populated neighborhoods on the lower east side of New York and other eastern seaboard cities, low wages, and a sense of isolation from all they had known in their life.

 

Eastern Europeans must also have been demoralized by the attitudes of the receiving countries. ”Nativists” in the U.S. worried that immigrants would undermine existing cultural values. Did they possess the capacity for organized industrial work and for democratic participation? Prohibition, passed in 1920, was aimed at the saloon culture with which Eastern European males were associated. Their willingness to accept low wages was thought to undermine wage rates for American workers.

 

The sensational Wadowice Trial in 1889 involved a group of “emigration agents” charged with having misled innocent Ukrainian and Polish peasants into immigrating to North America, while pocketing their fees. The trial was held in the Galician town of Oświęcin (later called Auschwitz).  Oświęcin was a big railway junction from which many emigrants traveled to Hamburg and Bremen for departure on steam ships. These emigration agents were even accused of having abused travelers on the town’s train platforms.  They had formerly often been livestock traders, a common occupation of Galician Jews. So these cattle dealers came to their new occupation with baggage.

 

Zahra explains that Eastern European governments soon began to realize that migration could be regulated to accomplish certain national objectives. Once there were limits on mobility, you could shape the ethnic composition by refusing to issue exit permits to favored nationals while encouraging others to leave the country. Or you could shape immigration toward accomplishing imperial ambitions by directing emigrants toward ethnic colonies in North and South America.

 

Or you could create a welfare network that would make immigration less attractive. Otto von Bismarck’s German Empire is the best example of a budding welfare state. On the other hand, the expansion of the Third Reich in the 1930s, its anti-Semitism and the pogroms on 11 November 1938 (Kristallnacht) shaped another emigrant flow – now “refugees” – were mostly Jews.

 

The Nazi government complicated its efforts to rid the Reich of its Jews by demanding “compensation” for their investment and confiscating emigrant property and wealth as part of the exit process. As these Jewish emigrants were unwanted in most of the older immigrant countries, new destinations were proposed: Madagascar, British Guiana, the West Indies, and even distant Russian provinces.

 

Both world wars temporarily ended the “great departure.” But all of the issues involving Eastern European migration would return with German defeat in 1945. Potential migrants were now “displaced persons.” And there was a distinction made between those who qualified for humanitarian aid and those classed as “economic migrants,” seeking opportunity in a new land. DPs must be “useful to the work force” and capable of cultural assimilation.

 

Eastern European Jews who had survived war and concentration camp were automatically classed as eligible for humanitarian aid and DP status. The U.S. Refugee Act of 1980 also allowed those facing persecution based on race, religion, national origin, and ideological commitments to be classified as refugees and eligible immigrants. But that excluded the more traditional Eastern European ‘economic emigrant.’

 

Most of the refugees were returned to their native countries. This did not work well. Polish Jews, for example, were returned to Poland only to face anti-Semitism and even violence.

 

After 1945 the Russian occupation zones in Germany and Austria controlled mobility. Restrictions were eventually eased within their eastern zone, though that backfired when East Germans began fleeing to West Germany through Hungary, Austria, and Berlin. The Berlin Wall was thus a latter-day effort to control Eastern European immigration. It crumbled in 1989 perhaps due to the efforts of an American president: “Mr. Gorbachev, Tear Down This Wall!” Politics have always shaped the views and actions of governments supplying and receiving emigrants.

 

Returns: A Readers’ Guide to a Book-Industry Practice.

 

Much of what follows is taken from an interesting article in Publishers Weekly (9 May 2016) entitled “Returns in a Time of Transition” by Judith Rosen & Jim Milliot. Their analysis was intended for the book industry; my version is intended for the reader/consumer.

 

For the last five years or so, the publishing industry has been distracted by the rapid growth in sales of books in the e-book format. Conversations amongst publishers and booksellers about the future of print formats were anxiety laden. It wasn’t quite clear what would pay the bills as print formats faded. With the recovery of print books, however, the book industry is now back to thinking about returns “in a time of transition.”

 

The book world delivers an impressive number of important, new titles each season. Some sell well, some not at all. Stocking only new titles by authors with track records or from major houses would, however, be hard on new and unknown authors and narrow consumer choice. And neither publishers nor booksellers want those outcomes. So retailers are allowed to return books that aren’t selling to their publishers for credit against future purchases.

 

There are no industry-wide standards for acceptable return levels from retailers. In 2015 the industry-wide ratio, returns as a percentage of purchases, for the three print formats were trade paperbacks 20%, hardcover 26%, and mass paperbacks (pocket books) 48%. These are averages across the industry, of course; some bookstores had higher return rates, some lower.

 

Both book stores and publishers are interested in making sure that book inventories match demand in local markets. Gainesville, Florida is a very different market than our sister city in the next county south, Ocala. Local buyers in each town are best able to pick from amongst the many titles. However, more commonly these days distant buyers order for stores in many different markets with only fragmentary knowledge of those markets. That arrangement causes higher return ratios.

 

“Non-traditional booksellers” now sell more books than do the “indies.” They include mass merchandisers (Walmart), warehouse clubs, drug and grocery stores, airport newsstands. They believe that the titles they buy must be stocked in sufficient numbers to have visibility, and publishers like that visibility as well. This is particularly true with mass paperbacks. Their buyers are encouraged to buy “dumps” of a title containing 24 to 36 copies for each of their stores. This ordering in large quantities is one cause of the higher return rate on mass paperbacks.

 

Goerings Book Store (closed Spring 2010) made heavy use of a distributor, Ingram Book Company, especially for reorders of books that had sold and that we needed to have back in the store pronto. It took Ingram only three days to get books to us, and we e-mailed in an Ingram order nearly every weekday. This source was much faster than waiting weeks for sufficient titles to warrant sending an order to the publisher. The existence of this short fulfillment time meant that we could keep fewer copies of a title in stock. We had return privileges from Ingram and other distributors that we used, but since we were reordering books that had sold once in our store, there were fewer returns.

 

So better front-list ordering on the part of knowledgeable local buyers and the use of Ingram and other distributors for a quick reorder definitely reduced our level of returns .

 

What happens to books when they are returned? Hardbacks and trade paperbacks are generally “remaindered.” They are packaged onto skids and sold by weight or volume to ‘remainder’ bookstores. One of the two Books-a-Million stores has turned into a ‘remainder’ house, 2nd & Charles. Mass paperbacks are treated differently. “Whole-copy” returns are not required, only stripped front covers. That avoids transport costs, but probably encourages returns.

 

Congratulation to Book Gallery West. They are the one remaining independent book store in our market. Most of their inventory is used books which are not returnable. Used book stores give the book another opportunity without generating more returns.

 

Most of those interviewed for the Publishers Weekly article quoted new technologies as providing “solutions” to excessive returns .  Certainly new technologies are making a difference to bookselling and specifically to returns. The most remarkable new technology, however, was introduced years ago: point-of-sale inventory control systems for retail stores which track inventory levels, sales, reorders, and a sales history for each title. Better inventory control has resulted in fewer returns.

 

The textbook business generates a lot of returns. It is difficult to anticipate what the pickup will be for a textbook or when it will be purchased. There have been two retailers in Gainesville in recent years that dominated the textbook business, but this past May the Florida Book Store closed. Its parent company, Barnes & Noble College Stores, had merged with Follett Educational Services, which leases the UF bookstore. The textbook business here in Gainesville and in other university towns will now be dominated by one massive corporation.

 

Impact on returns ? In theory, a monopoly on the supply of textbooks could better deal with inventory control than can a competitive market. Better inventory control; fewer returns. But on the other hand monopolies are not necessarily good for their student customer. For example, they can determine prices without worrying about their competitors’ pricing strategies.

 

To remedy that situation the University has encouraged Amazon.com and other on-line competition. Information about how on-line competition has reshaped textbook retailing and specifically returns is not presently available. If the amount of space devoted to textbooks at the UF campus book store is any indication, local textbook sales are hurting.