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This little story is symptomatic of . . . something:

For about $600, people could buy limited editions of Bob Dylan’s new book, “The Philosophy of Modern Song,” with the promise of the book being hand-signed by the famed musician himself. Now, the book and its publisher are under fire as buyers revealed that the supposed hand signature was actually a replica.

A now-erased webpage for Simon & Schuster, the book’s publisher, offers an “exclusive edition” of the book “guaranteed to be personally hand-signed by Bob Dylan.” The listing price for the book was $599, final sale, with no returns accepted. Meanwhile, the unsigned copy of the book is listed by the publisher for $45. . .

The book even came with a letter from the publisher’s president and CEO, Jonathan Karp, dated November 15, that further guarantees the signature’s authenticity. 

“You hold in your hands something very special, one of just 900 copies available in the US of The Philosophy of Modern Song signed by Bob Dylan. This is Bob’s first book of new writing since Chronicles, Volume One, published in 2004, and since winning the Nobel Prize in literature in 2016,” the letter states, ending with a simple promise, “This letter is confirmation that the copy of the book you hold has been hand-signed by Bob Dylan.”

Online sleuths soon determined that the “hand-signed” claim was bogus, and that Dylan’s supposed signature was in fact a computer-generated replica. After the story went viral, Simon & Schuster backtracked:

“To those who purchased the ‘Philosophy of Modern Song’ limited edition, we want to apologize,” Simon & Schuster tweeted. “As it turns out, the limited edition books do contain Bob’s original signature, [sic] but in a penned replica form. We are addressing this information by providing each purchaser with an immediate refund.” A representative for Dylan had nothing to add to the statement.

What I find interesting about this story is that the monetary figures involved are so, comparatively speaking, petty. Bob Dylan is worth around a half billion dollars (he sold the rights to his entire music catalog a couple of years ago for $300 million). Simon & Schuster generates about a billion dollars per year in revenue. 900 bogus “autographed” copies of Dylan’s book at $599 equals $539,100, i.e., basically barely even pocket change as far as Uncle Bob or his behemoth publisher are concerned.

So why do these incredibly rich entities engage in this sort of grubby scamming for peanuts? I get it that Dylan is 81 years old and may not being paying a whole lot of attention to the precise details of his book contract, but that’s a pretty weak excuse for this sort of thing. As for Simon & Schuster, my guess is that some Under-Assistant Manager for East Coast Promotion thought up this shabby little scheme, and the powers that be at the firm went along with it because adding a couple of hundred thousand dollars to their billion dollar bottom line is, well, a couple of hundred thousand dollars.

Well, the moral of the story
The moral of this song
Is simply that one should never be
Where one does not belong
So when you see your neighbor carrying something
Help him with his load
And don’t go mistaking Paradise
For that home across the road

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