Best-selling journalist Antony Loewenstein trav­els across Afghanistan, Pakistan, Haiti, Papua New Guinea, the United States, Britain, Greece, and Australia to witness the reality of disaster capitalism. He discovers how companies such as G4S, Serco, and Halliburton cash in on or­ganized misery in a hidden world of privatized detention centers, militarized private security, aid profiteering, and destructive mining.

Disaster has become big business. Talking to immigrants stuck in limbo in Britain or visiting immigration centers in America, Loewenstein maps the secret networks formed to help cor­porations bleed what profits they can from economic crisis. He debates with Western contractors in Afghanistan, meets the locals in post-earthquake Haiti, and in Greece finds a country at the mercy of vulture profiteers. In Papua New Guinea, he sees a local commu­nity forced to rebel against predatory resource companies and NGOs.

What emerges through Loewenstein’s re­porting is a dark history of multinational corpo­rations that, with the aid of media and political elites, have grown more powerful than national governments. In the twenty-first century, the vulnerable have become the world’s most valu­able commodity. Disaster Capitalism is published by Verso in 2015 and in paperback in January 2017.

Profits_of_doom_cover_350Vulture capitalism has seen the corporation become more powerful than the state, and yet its work is often done by stealth, supported by political and media elites. The result is privatised wars and outsourced detention centres, mining companies pillaging precious land in developing countries and struggling nations invaded by NGOs and the corporate dollar. Best-selling journalist Antony Loewenstein travels to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Haiti, Papua New Guinea and across Australia to witness the reality of this largely hidden world of privatised detention centres, outsourced aid, destructive resource wars and militarized private security. Who is involved and why? Can it be stopped? What are the alternatives in a globalised world? Profits of Doom, published in 2013 and released in an updated edition in 2014, challenges the fundamentals of our unsustainable way of life and the money-making imperatives driving it. It is released in an updated edition in 2014.
forgodssakecover Four Australian thinkers come together to ask and answer the big questions, such as: What is the nature of the universe? Doesn't religion cause most of the conflict in the world? And Where do we find hope?   We are introduced to different belief systems – Judaism, Christianity, Islam – and to the argument that atheism, like organised religion, has its own compelling logic. And we gain insight into the life events that led each author to their current position.   Jane Caro flirted briefly with spiritual belief, inspired by 19th century literary heroines such as Elizabeth Gaskell and the Bronte sisters. Antony Loewenstein is proudly culturally, yet unconventionally, Jewish. Simon Smart is firmly and resolutely a Christian, but one who has had some of his most profound spiritual moments while surfing. Rachel Woodlock grew up in the alternative embrace of Baha'i belief but became entranced by its older parent religion, Islam.   Provocative, informative and passionately argued, For God's Sakepublished in 2013, encourages us to accept religious differences, but to also challenge more vigorously the beliefs that create discord.  
After Zionism, published in 2012 and 2013 with co-editor Ahmed Moor, brings together some of the world s leading thinkers on the Middle East question to dissect the century-long conflict between Zionism and the Palestinians, and to explore possible forms of a one-state solution. Time has run out for the two-state solution because of the unending and permanent Jewish colonization of Palestinian land. Although deep mistrust exists on both sides of the conflict, growing numbers of Palestinians and Israelis, Jews and Arabs are working together to forge a different, unified future. Progressive and realist ideas are at last gaining a foothold in the discourse, while those influenced by the colonial era have been discredited or abandoned. Whatever the political solution may be, Palestinian and Israeli lives are intertwined, enmeshed, irrevocably. This daring and timely collection includes essays by Omar Barghouti, Jonathan Cook, Joseph Dana, Jeremiah Haber, Jeff Halper, Ghada Karmi, Antony Loewenstein, Saree Makdisi, John Mearsheimer, Ahmed Moor, Ilan Pappe, Sara Roy and Phil Weiss.
The 2008 financial crisis opened the door for a bold, progressive social movement. But despite widespread revulsion at economic inequity and political opportunism, after the crash very little has changed. Has the Left failed? What agenda should progressives pursue? And what alternatives do they dare to imagine? Left Turn, published by Melbourne University Press in 2012 and co-edited with Jeff Sparrow, is aimed at the many Australians disillusioned with the political process. It includes passionate and challenging contributions by a diverse range of writers, thinkers and politicians, from Larissa Berendht and Christos Tsiolkas to Guy Rundle and Lee Rhiannon. These essays offer perspectives largely excluded from the mainstream. They offer possibilities for resistance and for a renewed struggle for change.
The Blogging Revolution, released by Melbourne University Press in 2008, is a colourful and revelatory account of bloggers around the globe why live and write under repressive regimes - many of them risking their lives in doing so. Antony Loewenstein's travels take him to private parties in Iran and Egypt, internet cafes in Saudi Arabia and Damascus, to the homes of Cuban dissidents and into newspaper offices in Beijing, where he discovers the ways in which the internet is threatening the ruld of governments. Through first-hand investigations, he reveals the complicity of Western multinationals in assisting the restriction of information in these countries and how bloggers are leading the charge for change. The blogging revolution is a superb examination about the nature of repression in the twenty-first century and the power of brave individuals to overcome it. It was released in an updated edition in 2011, post the Arab revolutions, and an updated Indian print version in 2011.
The best-selling book on the Israel/Palestine conflict, My Israel Question - on Jewish identity, the Zionist lobby, reporting from Palestine and future Middle East directions - was released by Melbourne University Press in 2006. A new, updated edition was released in 2007 (and reprinted again in 2008). The book was short-listed for the 2007 NSW Premier's Literary Award. Another fully updated, third edition was published in 2009. It was released in all e-book formats in 2011. An updated and translated edition was published in Arabic in 2012.

Stranger than fiction

My following article appears in the latest edition of Sydney Ideas Quarterly:

Myth or reality? Antony Loewenstein examines the case of the vanishing books

The days of mass-produced, printed books may be ending.

At the recent Frankfurt Book Fair, leading American publishers brought fewer staff, which may suggest some ugly truths about the state of the book industry and changing reading habits.

American book readership is declining. US sales of adult hardcover books were down 18 per cent for the year ending June and paperback sales 14 per cent. Many independent bookshops no longer exist; chain stores are teetering; fears of piracy are growing; Amazon has largely replaced the romantic notion of store browsing; the marketing guru’s judgement is preferred to the editor’s and publishers are increasingly reliant on mass market titles by celebrities, chefs and sports figures.

Barely a month passes without a desperate story about a fired New York editor. Major houses like Scribner are laying off staff because, as editor Colin Robinson says, “here in New York, books are quite often left out in the street. If people are moving, they don’t take their books with them”.

Profit margins are declining and celebrity quickie titles look increasingly appealing. Books like former US vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin’s Going Rogue might represent the future.

“The stifling excess of lucrative junk,” says Elisabeth Sexton, senior vice president of publisher Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Sexton is pessimistic about the future.

“Publishers used to presume that money earned on successful titles would help pay the bills incurred in producing and marketing books that sold less well but that they supported for reasons of cultural pride, literary respect, political conviction, competitive seal or quirky enthusiasm,” she writes in the Nation.

Sexton virtually dismisses digital readers, like Amazon’s Kindle and Sony Reader as part of a viable publishing future. Kindle has up to one million users in circulation, offers around 300,000 titles and will soon be available outside the US. Sexton rightly wonders how the books of the future will be produced, properly edited, marketed and distributed with much smaller revenues.

Others, however, like the founder of PublicAffairs books, Peter Osnos, are less pessimistic, arguing that people are downloading e-books at ever-increasing rates. He is positive about the myriad ways of reading works–digital readers, the printed form and MP3 players–and instructs his colleagues to accept the new digital world or face commercial ruin.

The news isn’t completely grim. Dan Brown’s new work, The Lost Symbol, has become the all-time fastest selling book in Britain, selling well over 550,000 copies in September in its first week alone and millions worldwide. Bookseller Waterstone’s reported that the title’s unabridged 17-hour audio download became the book chain’s fastest selling audio download. These are not the signs of a public uninterested in the printed word but the delivery systems are undeniably shifting.

Interest in reading and writing remains strong, despite publishers’ nerves. Take a report released by Stanford University’s Andrea Lunsford who from 2001 to 2006 collected 14,672 student-writing samples, including in-class assignments, formal essays and journal entries to emails, blog posts, and chat sessions. Her conclusions were startling. “I think we’re in the midst of a literacy revolution the likes of which we haven’t seen since Greek civilization,” she tells the US magazine, Wired.

Young people today write more than any previous generations, albeit on a variety of platforms and in various styles. Lunsford’s team found a healthy number of students are able to assess an audience and adapt tone and technique to get a point across effectively. Despite urban myths, she found no first-year students using text-message speak in formal papers. Generations of readers and writers are not disappearing due to the crisis in the media and publishing industries.

Ultimately, key questions must be asked. Does it really matter if future generations of books are published paper-free? Will prospective publishers survive if books cost far less than today’s prices? Could self-publishing expand the number of writers available to prospective readers? Perhaps most importantly, can the publishing industry survive the drop in traditional revenue?

As an author myself, I don’t want to imagine a world where my work doesn’t appear on the printed page, but I’m open to the possibility. The romantic hold that books have had over popular imagination is being mugged by financial reality.

Google has recently announced in September that its “Espresso Book Machine”, which can print 300-page books on demand in five minutes, is being greatly expanded in America. “It’s like things are coming full circle,” said Google spokesperson Jennie Johnson. ”

This will allow people to pick up the physical copy of a book even if there may be just one or two other copies in some library in this country, or maybe it’s not even available in this country at all.” More than two millions digital books in the Google library are available for the service.

But how appealing are digital readers? Environmentally, according to consulting firm Cleantech group, the Kindle–Amazon’s wireless reading device–creates far fewer carbon emissions than does felling for books. But a columnist for Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper has recently claimed that the Kindle could be as doomed as the Betamax video system because Sony’s Reader was more user-friendly and adaptable to various files from different publishers.

The New Yorker’s Nicholson Baker was also underwhelmed with the Kindle 2, arguing its look and feel was bulky, slow and incomplete. Despite these apparent obstacles, I noticed countless Kindles on the New York Subway during a recent visit. Its popularity may not last–newer, brighter and more colourful models will inevitably replace it–but the act of reading digitally has gone mainstream.

This is despite comments by Dymocks book chain chief executive Don Grover who claimed in that, “in 10 years time, it [digital reading] will only be 10 per cent of book sales, but not much more. Customers still love everything about holding a real book, and the practicality of holding a real book”.

Grover’s optimism may be misplaced; reminding us of newspaper owners at the turn of the century who said that their product would remain vibrant. Countless newspapers closing down across America during the last 12 months is a clear message that publishers either adapt to the new reality or face oblivion.

We are in a period of transition, unsure about the future of the book industry but clear that the 500-year-old Gutenberg system of printing and delivering to a select number of people is nearly over.

Jason Epstein, author of Book Business and former editorial director of Random House, writes that the digital revolution will “radically decentralise the marketplace for books and greatly reduce the cost of entry for would-be-publishers”. He does not ignore the importance of filtering and editing, but dreams of “world-wide multilingual backlists expanding online in a cultural revolution”.

The nuts and bolts of this cultural shift will cause discomfort with the gate-keepers. Susan Hayes, director of literature at the Australia Council for the Arts, wrote in The Australian that the transition to the digital future will be particularly challenging for the smaller publishers because they don’t have the required computer sophistication to adapt to the digital format. She also discussed the shifts in author royalties across regions and highlighted “book publishers who are ahead of the game taking advantage of the internet for marketing, rather than innovations in text”.

Perhaps the most honest analysis of the publishing game is that nobody really knows where the future lies. Books will survive in some form. Books as cultural beasts are necessary for the nourishment of our society but such ideals cost money. I remain optimistic, however. Although newspapers are dying a slow and very public death, the public consumes news and information at an ever-increasing rate. The publishing industry can’t be sustained by Dan Brown and Stephanie Meyer titles alone but adapting to a digital future will be as fraught as it has been for media companies. Some failure is inevitable but the Kindle is not the enemy.

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