This ebook is a lemon

18 July 2013

From Studio Tendra:

 If you disagree with any one of these you can feel free to ignore the entire argument. I can easily pick apart any one of these statements myself, so I’d understand it very well if you disagreed with them. However, if you find them somewhat likely then the overall picture of the ebook market is a bit dark.

  • Ebook buyers buy more than they read. Book abandonment is high and out of proportion with the return rate.
  • Sampling the first few chapters is a lousy predictor of how much the reader will enjoy the book. You can only assess basic stylistic issues from a sample, not storytelling quality. Ergo the reader has to buy the ebook to assess the quality of the story.
  • Reviews are an extremely unreliable indicator of quality. The average quality of most reviews themselves is very low. Many reviewers are paid shills or just extremely overworked.
  • Luck is one of the biggest determinants of bestseller status.
  • Striking, marketable, differentiation is difficult in ebooks without having the reader actually read the book.
  • The marketing differentiation that is possible without having the reader actually read the ebook (sex, scandal, celebrity) is at best orthogonal to the book’s actual quality and at worst inversely correlated to quality.
  • Quality in this piece being defined as whatever the reader values, no matter how rubbish it looks to an over-educated twit like me. I’m not making any assumptions about writing, genre, or style.
  • The majority of ereader vendors implement style and design overrides to preserve a baseline of readability and usability, not to commodify their product’s complements. (I.e. they are well-meaning, rational actors.)
  • Distribution is becoming mostly self-serve with a very porous filter. (Like, for example, the self-publishing services run by Amazon, Kobo, B&N, and Apple.) Almost anybody with a computer has access to the publishing industry’s full ebook distribution chain.
  • Ebook development is underpaid and so will not attract experienced talent from the web industry.
  • It’s easier to make a bad book than a good one and so the vast majority of ebook supply will be bad.

The argument I’m about to make is that this situation gives publishers (both self- and non-self) an incentive to market poor quality books (remember the definition of quality I outlined above), that the average available quality of books will fall, and that the overall publishing market will shrink in terms of overall revenue (even though the the number of units sold increases).

. . . .

Reliable information about ebook quality is increasingly hard to find in the market. Reviews have almost completely been gamed; a casual reader has few reliable indicators that tell them whether a review is an honest one or not. Rubbish books, ones that most buyers don’t even read to the end before giving up, shoot up the bestseller lists due to viral marketing. Bestseller lists themselves are increasingly either gamed by publishers or by ebook retailers themselves who are trying to shift their sales in one direction or another.

Even some big publishers are getting into the game by dumping cheap OCR converted ebooks full of errors onto the market. Again, a casual reader has no way to know whether this particular big publisher is one that does a quality ebook version or one who pumps out ebook ‘lemons’ by the virtual truckload.

The same applies to self-publishing. The casual reader doesn’t have access to the information to help them tell the difference between the self-publisher who has invested substantially in the quality of their book and one who is dumping something onto the market looking for a quick profit that requires next to no cash outlay. That is without mentioning the publishers and authors who have been paying for reviews, engaging in sock-puppetry, and astroturfing left, right, and centre.

My worry is that the ebook market has all of the hallmarks of an early stage ‘market of lemons’. The information asymmetry—exacerbated by the information hoarding done by the big ebook retail players—the growth in dishonest actors, and the increasing disincentive for honest actors to even participate at all, make ebooks an ideal candidate for the lemon dynamic.

What this would mean, if true, is that publishers and self-publishers will begin to experience massive pressure to lower prices if they are to move their product at all.

I think this is already happening with self-publishers.

Link to the rest at Studio Tendra and thanks to William for the tip.

While PG understands the economic and market behavior issues, since ebooks are digital goods, technology fixes to allow readers to deal with lemon ebooks are simple to implement. Amazon already has several in place.

The first is a seven-day return period for ebooks. Click a button and you get your money back. Way simpler than remembering to take a physical book back to a bookstore. And you can’t spill tomato juice on an ebook.

Of course, everyone has had the experience of buying an ebook then not getting around to discovering it’s a lemon until the return period has expired.

After this happened once, PG started always downloading samples of interesting books before purchasing. He still does that quite often, but does experience sample clutter on his digital bookshelf. PG disagrees with the Studio Tendra author’s contention that samples don’t work for identifying lemons. He can virtually always make a lemon/non-lemon decision within a few screens.

If he doesn’t want to download a sample and sees an ebook he thinks he might like but can’t read immediately, he puts it in a private Amazon Wish List called Maybe Books. Then, when he’s ready to read the book, he goes to the wishlist and buys it, knowing it’s returnable for seven days.

Other online ebookstores don’t have these kinds of features but still allow ebooks returns (PG won’t buy from anyone that doesn’t allow ebook returns). If a bookstore doesn’t have a sampling or wish list function, PG would be inclined to use one of his favorite programs, Evernote, to save the book’s description page and URL (it’s a right-click function when you install Evernote’s web-clipper) and tag the note with something like books to buy so he can easily find it later.

Ebook/Ereader Growth, Ebooks, Passive Guy, Self-Publishing

52 Comments to “This ebook is a lemon”

  1. Well, this is alittle gloomy.

    I think the article discussed some important concerns, but I don’t agree with the conclusion that the market is in jeopardy.

    E-books have given readers a taste of what is possible: books at their fingertips at any moment of the day; instant access; and a huge amount of available information for recommendations. Reading is up and access to books is exponentially improved. I expect this trend to continue as e-reading devices continue to spread.

    The taste for reading is not likely to die out. What is likely is the development of ways to bring good books to the reader who wants them. I trust that where there is a need the market will find a way to fill it. Lots of folks are looking at discoverability – something is bound to click: right moment, right time, right method. And discoverability can easily be tweaked to include quality as well as genre/topic.

    I think it’s important not to under-estimate the reader – or consumers in general – in their ability to ‘demand’ a product they want.

    I also think it’s important to remember that e-books are a very young technology and everything is very new. What is happening today, may not be happening tomorrow. If Publishers are experimenting with reduced editing prior to market that may stop. If people who are lack enough skill write and download books that don’t sell, they may stop and get the needed skills.

    Things are in flux, and my opinion: I don’t see this market going anywhere but expanding.

  2. I’m still trying to figure out how he thinks the 2013 publishing market is different than the 2003 publishing market. Pretty much everything he points out, except the crappy OCDs, is the same. The only difference I can see is that I can’t donate my un-read/unwanted e-books to the Friends of the Library annual sale.

    • Well, big difference: maybe 10,000 titles published in 2003, while more than 1,000,000 were published in 2013. That’s the point this article is addressing.

      This article makes some interesting points. In general, it’s great that self-publishing has offered new options for hard-working writers but, as the article implies, it will also involve significant self-correction over time.

      • But I LIKE having more books! I LIKE that I could read My Blood Approves on my iPhone while waiting at the bank this morning. The sorting of things that will match my taste as a reader isn’t any harder and is actually a lot easier than he’s making it out to be. I say this having grown up with an underfunded, Appalachian library system because there were no freakin’ bookstores.

        • Me too. Finding Amazon back when it started out sent me on a book buying spree that forever changed my relationship with my poor hometown library. Until then, most of the time I waited for borrows from other libraries in the Caney Fork system or drove 50 miles to the nearest Waldenbooks. Lovely days. Amazon, and now ebooks, were both fantastic changes for people living in rural areas.

  3. Stockpiling is neither new nor limited to ebooks.
    If he needs proof, he can look inside my To-be-read closet.
    But he should be careful not to trigger an avalanche or his life might be at risk.:)

  4. The marketing differentiation that is possible without having the reader actually read the ebook (sex, scandal, celebrity) is at best orthogonal…

    I stopped reading right there.

  5. Sampling the first few chapters is a lousy predictor of how much the reader will enjoy the book.

    Wow. It’s just like a real book!

  6. Sampling the first few chapters is a lousy predictor of how much the reader will enjoy the book. You can only assess basic stylistic issues from a sample, not storytelling quality.

    Finding the “C” word in those sample pages is an excellent predictor of what will follow and it wasn’t me.

  7. “It’s easier to make a bad book than a good one and so the vast majority of ebook supply will be bad.”

    Yes. It’s also faster. A lot faster. Add to this the advice given to self-published authors to keep the books coming as fast as possible in order to stay visible and keep having sales.

    Alas, my own observation is that recent releases sell much better than anything that has been out a year or more, so that advice must be true. Sigh! I can’t write that fast.

    • True, recent books sell better, than earlier releases.

    • Three questions:

      1.) How much faster is it compared to the amount of time spent writing in the first place?
      2.) Are you playing the short game (product sales over the next six weeks) or the long tail (product sales over life of copyright)?
      3.) How many sales will you lose in the short term by taking more time to get it right, versus sales in the long term because you didn’t take the time?

      In general, recent releases sell better than older work… but take a look at how many of Louis Lamour’s books are still in print, these many years after his death. Where will your career be in fifteen years? Will you attract new fans who want to start going through all your work?

  8. Two things jumped out at me here that I’d like to see some discussion on.

    One is the 7-day return policy. Does anyone else feel this is a little too generous? I would think that the average reader could consume the average length novel in seven days regardless of their schedule. I’ve never used it myself, so I may be just ignorant as to how it works.

    Two is the gaming of the system. I just wrote a tongue-in-cheek blog post about how easy it would be to become a “bestselling author” a few days ago, but I’d be interested to know how anyone thinks this could be prevented.

    Astroturfing? I’m not familiar, anybody?

    • I think 7-day return policy is not generous enough. Sellers should stand behind their products. The risks of generous return policies are overblown. I think the retailer should take more of the hit the farther out you go, though.

      Astroturfing is a term from politics. It was invented to describe political lobbyist who would create fake grassroots political movements (fake grassroots, get it?).

      The tobacco lobby probably invented and definitely perfected the technique years before the term came into common usage.

      • I was familiar with the term in regards to politics, just didn’t know if we had something different in book-speak. :) Thanks.

        I’m still trying to wrap my head around the 7-day return policy though. I don’t see an up-side that is in balance with the consumer. Whats to stop them from returning every book they buy declaring it a lemon? Unless Amazon tracks these things and cuts the person off for abusing the system. If so then Amazon looses too. I’m not seeing an upside here.

        • Some people abuse every return system, and there are reports of Amazon tracking (and barring) abusers. I’m not seeing how Amazon loses by cutting off system abusers—the abuser isn’t netting Amazon income and they’re using Amazon’s resources.

          I’m with William on thinking the 7-day return policy is too short. I believe that 14 days would be better. I’d think 30 days more ideal.

          • Well, I’m assuming that people who buy books also buy other things.

            What would you guys think of a policy that rendered the book unreturnable after it was say..50% read? Yet otherwise had a return window of 30 days? Better? Worse? No difference?

            • Q. Why do retailers offer a return policy?

              A. To show that they stand behind the products they sell, and provide great customer service.

              The more limits a retailer places on their products, the more it will look like they’re trying to worm out of this. “We stand behind the product, unless it was sold on sale, or on thursdays, or we’ve discontinued it, or you actually tried to use it, or…” Is not going to impress a customer.

              Also, the more limits you put on a policy, the less it looks like you, the vendor, care about providing good service. REI and Nordstroms cater to a completely different market segment than walmart or target. They can (and do) charge higher prices and know that their customers will still return, because they provide awesome service and good products.

    • I agree with William on the return policy. 14 to 90 days is the policy for most retailers in the U.S., except certain things involving health and safety.

      I did a blog post on the unrealistic return expectations of indie writers back in April. http://www.wildwickedwacky.blogspot.com/2013/04/unrealistic-return-expectations-of.html

      The retail return average in the U.S. is 5%. If your returns are below 5% of your total sales, I think you’re doing just fine. IMHO, if it’s over, then you might want to take a second look at your product.

      • I suspect it’s common in other fields, but erotica is particularly notorious for spikes in returns. Once you get above a certain threshold it evens out, but beginning authors often report somebody (or even multiple somebodies, which is a little perplexing – are there freeloader clubs?) buying one of each of their books, and then returning them soon after. When I was selling fifty books a month out of ten titles, ten returns was a big hit and didn’t look good. Now that I’m selling hundreds out of twenty, even if one or two jokers return one of everything it’s not quite so disheartening. :)

        Of course there’s no way to be sure but if you’re selling single-digits a day of most books and suddenly there’s a return for EACH of them simultaneously, it seems pretty reasonable to bet that’s what happened.

    • There are definitely people who buy, read, and return books. I especially see this happen on my short stories – one sells, is returned two days later, the next one sells, is returned, etc. There are a few readers who treat Amazon’s returns system like their own private library. That said, returns are a part of life, and I don’t let it get to me. It’s all part of Amazon’s customer-centric business approach (which sometimes is not so great for the supplier).

      As to how easy is it to ‘game’ the system, the author of this article clearly has no idea. Maybe they’re relying on old data, like John Locke, years ago, buying reviews. Who knows, since there’s no cites or evidence to back up their assertions.

    • I’m pretty sure I’ve read that if you return 30 or so eBooks in even a 5 year window they cancel your Amazon account. You might be able to argue with poor formating issues or missing pages like Fiest had happen though, not sure.

      • Most retailers have policies in place to discern real problems from serial returners, not just Amazon. Amazon knows if you read the books (gotta love 3G networks) and whether there’s been an issue with formatting with those particular files. Just like Macy’s knows you wore that dress from the pit stains you left.

    • I’m with you Randall, for a commodity that once read has no or little value to the consumer, the returning policy should be tightened, especially when it comes to short stories. Those can be read and returned in the same day.

      • Without so much as a pit stain too! :) Sorry Suzan, couldn’t help myself.

        Seriously though, for a product that never wears out and has no proof of being used (other than by the distributor) I am failing to see an upside for the author here. I would think the look inside would be enough for e-books. The policy as it stands now does seem to be heavily in the consumers favor, as are most things Amazon. I just think it should be a more balanced policy. I wonder what would happen to sales across the board if Amazon switched to my 50% read=no return policy?

        But I’ve been known to be wrong before. I’ll be watching the rest of this conversation closely.

        • It’ll mean that if I start questioning the value of the ebook I’m reading, I don’t flip ahead to see if the problem continues. I return it on the spot.

          • That’s a good point, Keran. So maybe a little more than 50%? Then again I’m sure there are some that would say the book lost them as soon as they felt the urge to skip ahead.

            There has to be a balance point somewhere.

        • :lol: I’m not saying the current system’s perfect, Randall. I’ve literally watched three people go through my alter ego’s series. It’s pretty obvious when Book #1 is bought on Monday, returned on Tuesday when Book #2 is bought, etc.

          In all three cases though, I’m pretty sure Amazon shut them down for abusing the system since Book #4 wasn’t bought and returned as well. There’s several folks on the Kindle Boards complaining how their e-readers are glorified bricks because Amazon closed their accounts for an over-abundance of returns. Given that Amazon general errs on the side of caution before doing something drastic, I believe they are monitoring the situation carefully. They don’t want the returns any more than we do.

          • Thanks for the info, Suzan. I force myself to stay off the kindle boards as they tend to suck me in and I use up too much writing time.

            The situation you descibed…sucks. In the end you (and Amazon) lost 4 sales. If my 50% policy was in effect I’m thinking it would have stopped it at the first book?

            I’ll have to think about this a little more.

            BTW, I’ll swear right here in front of everybody that I’ve never returned a dress the day after I bought it.

  9. I think Baldur is making an interesting point. It really made me think. I remember discussing the Akerloff paper 30 years ago in grad school. Then, yesterday, I had Twitter discussion with Andrew Rhomberg (JellyBooks) and he mentioned that they see a lot of people sampling the digital version and buying the paper version. That’s relevant because it points to a significant difference between the Akerloff model and the current ebook situation.

    In Akerloff’s paper, he describes a situation where information asymmetry between bad actor sellers and unsuspecting buyers leads to market failure. I believe that with books (not just ebooks) the information problem is different. In most cases, the book producer (writer/publisher) doesn’t know if the book is a lemon for me when they market it even if I am in the book’s target market.

    Just look at Barbara Morgenroth’s comment above. A writer knows that a lot of people will be put off by the word and a lot won’t. Imagine if the word shows up just past the sample. And there are a million other reasons that a book might turn you off.

    The more you read, the better able you are to identify lemons before you buy them. Infrequent readers don’t have the incentive to invest the time it takes to get good at picking out books they like. I think this goes a long way towards explaining why the book market is the way it is.

    Infrequent readers will stay with the crowd (buy bestsellers) because they have no other way of picking a good book. Avid readers will develop strategies for finding books they like. So, contra Baldur, I think that ebooks offer a way to improve the market, even if there are a bunch of bad actor sellers.

    Of course, this does mean that if someone could predict what books individual readers would like, they could make serious money. Amazon’s also-bot has a fairly limited ability to do that, but it’s generated tons of cash for Amazon.

  10. But isn’t this the risk we readers run when we buy any book? Any book in any format? By any publisher? We might not like the book. Disappointment goes down a lot easier when it costs $2.99 rather than $12.99.

    I have three boxes of books I purchased before the advent of ebooks that I still haven’t gotten around to reading. And I can’t recoup my expenses, all I can do is donate the books to the local library for their yearly book sale.
    I don’t often download samples as I rarely get around to reading the samples– If I want a book I buy it. However, when it comes to ‘maybe books’ my latest technique is to simply read the sample on the Amazon site. Like Passive Guy, I can tell within a few paragraphs whether or not the book is a stinker– and I’m not singling out self-pubbed books here. And again, like Passive Guy, I stick interesting books on a wishlist. Eventually I’ll check them out.
    I’m just not seeing the problem. Her complaint is applicable to any purchase.

    Regarding phony reviews, an astute reader can spot one a mile away.

    • Agree on the phony reviews, Julia.

    • Julia, it also has to do with how easy you can return the merchandise. For a physical book to return it may cost you more in gas than the book price. For an e-book it is from home at the touch of a button.

    • Only three boxes?

      • Yeah! I have three boxes containing books I ‘may’ want to read one day. ‘May’ being the operative word. I’ve already donated at least two dozen boxes! And my house is still full of books… :)

        • Your house is still full because you gave the other books more space, so they reproduced. Otherwise, why would you go through your shelves and keep thinking, “I don’t remember getting this? Where did this one come from? What’s a treatise on 10th century agriculture doing here?” :) Not that it’s ever happened to me, mind, I just have a friend of a friend who told me about it.

          • Here at Casa Chaos, they mate at night. Thank God they don’t follow the example of the Christmas tree lights and entwine at the same time.

  11. I am surprised at how many people don’t seem to download the samples. I sample everything! Even if I don’t think I’ll like it, I’ll give it a try. Buying a book without sampling it, unless it’s by an author you already love… why would you do that? o_O

  12. Interesting article, but backward to me. I think the “market” forgets how much power consumers have. In the case of ebooks, readers will tell the producers what they value and what they don’t–and how much they are willing to pay. It’s up to the producers to figure it out. If they don’t, they’ll tank. If they do, they’ll thrive.

    Long before ebooks became a major market factor, book sales were in serious decline. Partially it was because the publishers weren’t giving the readers what they wanted to read. Partially, it was price. With the former, readers turned to TV, movies, computers, and the thousand and one other ways they have of entertaining themselves. In the latter, they turned to used books, borrowing, libraries and remainder tables. (I don’t think the big publishers ever wrapped their minds around the fact that NO avid reader ever has to shell even a penny out of pocket in order to find all the reading material they could ever desire.)

    We’re in the midst of a grand experiment right now to figure out exactly what it is readers want regarding ebooks. I think what upsets many is that with so many producers playing in a wide open field, there is absolutely no way for any one producer to set terms. Any publisher–trad or indie–who states, “This is what you have to read and this is price you must pay,” will find themselves talking to an empty room.

    But pity the poor reader confused and overwhelmed by too many choices and no quality control? Don’t make me laugh.

    • Yes. This article has an extremely dim view of the market’s ability to self-correct and ultimately raise quality. If the entirety of the ebook market is lemons, people will stop buying ebooks. And, lacking the opportunity to make money producing a bad product, authors will stop putting out bad ones. The few good ones will become market dominant and sell. Writers – who, sorry I am never convinced are all out to ignore quality and produce as much as possible, but even supposing they are – then have an incentive to produce higher quality material because that is the only stuff that sells. And all the million or ten million or ten billion crap titles? Take sales rank slots numbers 10,001-infinity, and no one ever sees them unless they happen to have the same/similar name or author name as one of the good ones.

    • Here’s Jaye again with her voice of reason… She cuts right to the chase.

  13. PG disagrees with the Studio Tendra author’s contention that samples don’t work for identifying lemons. He can virtually always make a lemon/non-lemon decision within a few screens.

    I suffer from sample-itis as well, but I’ve never read a sample that didn’t tell me whether or not the book would be good (according to me) or not. I love samples, and I always use them.

    • This. I download samples all the time, and I find them extremely useful. Yes, there are some non-fiction authors who deliberately don’t provide any interesting information in the first part of the book, so it won’t be included in the sample — but since I don’t have a real sample, I don’t buy the book.

      As an author, I wish more people used the sample function. I use a lot of Old Irish terms in one of my novels, and a lot of reviews hate me for that. But if those readers had downloaded the sample first, they would have known ahead of time that my book wasn’t their cup of tea. Sigh.

    • Another vote for sampling. It has never failed me, in either direction. On the rare occasion I’ve not liked the sample and bought a book anyway – notably, once just so I’d be flagged as a verified purchaser – I have, in fact, not liked the book. I’ve never bought a book based on liking the sample and not gone on to enjoy the book.

  14. I cannot argue that it’s easier to publish a badly edited / poorly OCR’ed book than to do the work to create high-quality work. However, when the phrase “Luck is one of the biggest determinants of bestseller status” is used, that assumes that all other factors (marketing push, copyediting, formatting, attractive cover, etc.) are equal. There is no “luck” involved in holding a consumer’s interest when the products offered are Yo-Yo Ma vs. a tone-deaf fifth-graders’ second practice with a violin.

    As we’re all in this business to make money (among other reasons, true, but we all want to see a monetary profit), the drive to get more sales pushes each vendor, each self-pub author, to make their product more attractive and eye-catching. Have you noticed that the quality of covers and blurbs has risen pretty dramatically in the last 5 years among the self-published set, as well as the formatting and copyediting?

  15. In a way I agree with what most of the article states. However, we tend to compare the old model of paper books, and supply controlled by gatekeepers in order to maintain their high prices and profits with a new one. Enter a new, more democratic technology and all the writers who were barred from publishing can do so now. No anointment, no secret handshake, no need to be a fair-head child anymore. Quantity increases and prices decline (especially since e-books cost nothing to replicate.) These are the rules of a free economy and it has arrived in the book market. As for quality, we shouldn’t be obsessed that terrible books are published. How many lousy books a writer can release before he/she quits. The reverse of that, is that dedicated writers can publish, improve, publish, refine, publish and eventually they’ll succeed, because the readers will notice.

    • How many lousy books a writer can release before he/she quits.

      Aren’t we already seeing this in some of the articles PG has posted where someone puts out one book, then complains how it is oh-so-hard to self-publish and how they’re not making any sales?

      • Those crack me the Hell up. Not only because it demonstrates a fundamental lack of understanding of the long tail – I worked out that whiny zombie novella guy’s book should still make him thousands of dollars at a very high hourly wage, even if it didn’t get him invited to do Jell-o shots with Steven King – but because even the most rudimentary of searches on indie publishing will reveal unto the searcher the Great Truth:

        What Sells Titles Is Titles.

        I’m finally starting to catch that wave, at twenty-plus individual published works. I can see it happening. (If you type in the name of my genre in the Amazon main search box, I am three of the first sixteen titles. My jaw dropped.) Cowabunga, dudes.

      • Exactly, this is a long haul.

  16. The only difference ebooks have made for me that relates to the writer’s point is that it is easier to make an impulse buy with a digital book. At a bookstore I may be on the fence with a book and walk around with it, finally putting it back after a while (or after, I don’t know, sampling it).

    It took me about two days after I bought my kindle to figure out that just like Passive Guy, anytime I see a book I’m interested in, add it to the wish list. When I am looking for a book, I go through and pick out a book I want to read, my own personal bookstore, after reading a sample.

    People have already pointed this out, but this is something you run into with any book, paper or digital, and frankly, you see it with any medium. Before digital books were providing samples, musicians had that one song that was released to the radio to get you to buy the CD, video games had demos packaged with the the console’s gaming magazines,and movies have always had trailers.

    Part of being a consumer is the risk of getting a bad product. Hopefully, you have a net positive where you have gained more bad than good. I didn’t see this in the comments, but I can’t be the first to make this joke.

    Maybe, when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade.

  17. ” If you disagree with any one of these you can feel free to ignore the entire argument. I can easily pick apart any one of these statements myself, so I’d understand it very well if you disagreed with them. However, if you find them somewhat likely then the overall picture of the ebook market is a bit dark.”

    So … he can’t really support his own statements. So he isn’t surprised if we can discredit them … If we don’t, then things are dark …. and presumable if we do … then it’s not so dark.

    Forgive me for not venturing further into his exercise in futility.

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