Before I dive into this completely irrelevant and fictional review of Shea's The Deal From Hell, let me briefly discuss some maybe unknown information which is relevant to this book, and to the goodreads community:
1. In 2000, the enormous merger of two of the country's largest newspapers was put in motion. Those companies were the Tribune Company, most notably the publisher of the Chicago Tribune, and the Times Mirror Company, notable publisher of the LA Times.
2. The two companies were incompatible culturally, though financially it seemed (on paper) that the merger would be an excellent success.
3. The merger was effected by large personalities at Tribune, which won over the blasé insouciance of the reigning Chandler family heirs who owned Times Mirror. Some large-ego investment bankers brought the deal together and Shea's opinion is basically that they are evil. The Tribune's newly anointed CEO, a Wall-Street pedigree, Mr. Madigan, cut costs and pursued acquisitions with blind Macbethian ambition. Which is to say: scrambling and self-defeating.
4. The largest merger in newspaper history was a complete failure due to the different objectives and cultures between the rigid and cost-oriented Tribune, and the West-Coast content-oriented LA Times. The combined Tribune Co. went bankrupt, was bought out by method of a leveraged buyout, and subsequently went bankrupt again. It is still in bankruptcy proceedings half a decade later.
An interesting fact: among the living heirs, who sold out the LA Times in 2000 to Madigan and his Wall Street cavalcade: none other than Otis Chandler, the co-founder of GoodReads. Now you know.
That said, now proceeds a totally unrelated fable about the life and times of an online book community called GoodBooks, and the tragic merger with the larger bully-company, an online retailer famous for crowding out small businesses and brick-mortar bookstores, Yangtze Co.
CAVEAT LECTOR: the following is in violation of the GoodReads terms of service, since it is not directly related to the aforediscussed book, <i>A Deal From Hell</I> by James O'Shea, but is rather a illustrative parable derived from the lessons learned therefrom.
GoodBooks: A Deal From Hell: a fable
In a land not so far, and a time not so long-ago, there was a small bookish community, which found pleasant pastures in the electronic Elysium of the internet. This community, which grew and grew, grew near and far and up and down, and more people and more books were always showing up: this community was called GoodBooks. And it should be noted that this GoodBooks, this is a fictional community and not at all related to a similarly named entity.
Who started GoodBooks? That's not at all hard to say! His name was Otis Chumpler, and he co-founded this place with his lovely wife, Elisabeth. Mr. Chumpler was a good-looking, bookish man, smart as a whip, with a thick chevalure like an Iowan field of wheat, a strong angular jaw, and a brazen complexion from the seductive sun of lush Los Angeles beaches and jaunty jogs in the San Francisco parks. He was a young man, still, though he and his wife had found wonderful success in their GoodBooks endeavor, and despite its minor mars and mistakes, it was a good place and it had good people who read good (and sometimes not-good) books. They were happy.
Otis Chumpler had a secret. Well it wasn't so much a secret as it was a maybe unknown trivium. He was the son and heir to the Chumpler fortune! You see, the Chumplers had long owned the Los Angeles Gazette and their many subsidiaries - really, it had been a veritable empire of thin grey Gazettes and flimsy faded Chronicles and Times, and even a west-coast Globe, or two! Otis, with his brothers and sisters had sold that huge paper fortune for a fortune of a different paper. Looking on the Gazette Building, a big shiny mirror in Los Angeles, like the lovely Emerald City, but made rather of diamonds! Looking at this fortress, Otis saw his past reflecting like his future, though he didn't know it. The Gazette building was a tall structure! And the grande glass elevator had given Otis his name, for he had been conceived in that very Otis elevator thirty-some years before! Or maybe he wasn't, it's quite impossible to know the point and place of conception.
GoodBooks grew and grew, and kept growing, and anyway who knew there were so many bookish people! The staff at GoodBooks were passionate and mostly handsoff, though responsive and kind, interested and warm, always adding content to appeal to the wide interests and nooks and crannies of the many shelves of the many patrons and patronesses of GoodBooks. And still as it grew and grew, everyone was happy.
All this growing! The Chumplers of course were happy. And readers were happy, happy to see more faces and reviews and more books being ever and ever added. And the whole places was a small internet haven for those bookish folks.
Meanwhile, in another nook, a much larger nook, in fact not a nook at all but rather a continent or a vast ocean or an enormous crater, of the internet there lurked a sort of e-commerce beast, Yangtze Co! It wasn't an evil beast, there are no evil companies, just big ones and small ones and medium sized ones, but this was a big one. Yangtze had been buying up these small nooks and crannies of the internet, little pockets, really, for holding money, and anyway they brought off these little pockets with enormous success, and anyway they had lots of pockets and big pants with plenty of room for more. Well anyway, all these little things that grow and grow and start to become less-little things and even sometimes big things, attract attention from big beasts like Yangtze! Once your a big beast it is hard to grow, your bones and you skin and your clothes just don't allow for it! And so big beasts are always looking to add pockets.
Yangtze eyed GoodBooks, counted off some cash to Chumplers and soon enough like the sun down behind the mountains, GoodBooks was a big bookish pocket on the vast-waisted pants of that Yangtze beast.
At first there was some rebellion. Who knows why? Some people are always afraid of big beasts, and always will be, and they flee big beasts and live quietly with small beasts. Others waited, and frankly others didn't notice at all! These last were much too absorbed with their Sixty Shades of Sex and Hunger Dames shipments, fresh from the cardboard Yangtze-logoed boxes! The miracles of e-commerce! But the few watchful remained vigilant. And for a while nothing seemed to happen. GoodBooks was quiet. Some left, though, and they were missed.
But then, all of a sudden, something happened. Reviews began to disappear! Where did they go? Perhaps somewhere deep in that pocket, or perhaps an even deeper darker abyss, but anyway they were gone now: irretrievably gone. And when the reviews began to disappear, so too did the reviewers! What an exodus! It would seem that Yangtze Co. took some umbrage with the way things were run at GoodBooks. It wasn't a well oiled machine, maybe it wasn't a machine really at all, but Yangtze was a well-oiled machine, and if fingers are lost in well-oiled machines then fingers are lost, but the machine continues. And so fingers were lost, but they were only fingers. And the Chumplers were happy: they had more paper than ever before! and also, anyway, they had all of their fingers. Yangtze was happy, and they were rubbing together their greedy fingers. Or rather not Yangtze, but the people at Yangtze, because after all even big beasts don't have fingers to rub! But the readers, the readers were not happy, and many were missing fingers! It can be very hard to read when one is missing too many fingers.
And the exodus continued. Reviewers left or put up feeble rebellions. Big beasts are so hard to beat! How ever did they overthrow that fat old beastly Louis of France? and his wife with the big fat hair? and then the really very fat Robespierre? Such big beasts! But not ever so big as this Yangtze beast, for you could never get hold of it, you couldn't beat it or shackle it or through its big beastly head in a guillotine or even get on the phone with a beastly person, it was everywhere but no where! A big ghost of electric data, dropping from its many posteriors little packages with a smile, but no face! just a Cheshire smile. And it took in its many mouths the paper from many people and this was what the big old beast ate, and it always had things to eat, living on a healthy diet of paper and of fingers.
And the beast went on eating, and the best, the best went away, or stayed and fought. But it's no fun fighting a beast, even if you're one of the best. But maybe one day the beast will get sick of fingers? The best can only hope!