Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

Monday Midday Links: USA Today Gets a Romance Blog and Amazon...

Happy Ever After Logo USA Today

USA Today launched a blog devoted to romances. Huzzah!  Author Joyce Lamb, a copy editor for the paper and author of romantic suspenses published by Berkley, heads up the blog.  Mandi S is one of the reviewers.  Her blog is here.  Other readers and authors will be contributing.  It’s great to see positive coverage of the genre at one of the largest mainstream news sites in the US.

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Mitchell Gross writing under the name Michael Graham is an author of thrillers and a fantasy trilogy and he’s been using his status as an author to lure women online into a relationship and then convince them to invest in a fraudulent company.

Mitchell Gross, whose books include the suspense story “Circle of Lies,” duped at least two women into investing about $4.4 million in a sham company he set up, using some of the money to buy expensive artwork, a luxury car and a golf club membership, federal prosecutors said.

He was civilly sued by one of the women and she has a judgment against him in the sum of $4 million (including interest). Here and here. Thanks Amy and DS.

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Seattle Times had an interview with the VP of Kindle and he revealed a few interesting tidbits.

  • The Kindle Fire will mount as an external drive.
  • It does not support ePubs.
  • Seven hours of use for video playback and eight hours for mixed media usage.
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This article which examines the cultural affect of the romanticization of the psychopathic hero is very even handed and worth a read. Yes, Edward is a psycopath.  Yes, presenting him as a romantic ideal is problematic, but it is not new.  Hello, Heathcliff.  Yes, some people use these archetypes to escape, but no, not every woman is a dupe.

‘There appears to be a contemporary obsession on the part of some academics and commentators to a) pretend that women are cultural dupes passively accepting anything they ever read or see; and b) to pretend that any single controversial item-be it a Twilight novel or an explicit music video-is the only media influence that a person gets.

“Neither of these things are true.We’re each exposed to a deluge of different media influences and to pretend that any one item influences more strongly than another is ludicrous [as years of media research has proven].”

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/entertainment/movies/mad-bad-romance-20111007-1ldoh.html#ixzz1aL4XQ6Ns

Of course, the problem isn’t a story in isolation, but the prominence of the representation in literature.   Thanks, Sarah, for the link.
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Inkubate is an online marketplace and manuscript review site currently in beta.
Inkubate is an online site currently in development that allows writers to upload content—full manuscripts, excerpts, out-of-print works and more—for review and possible acquisition by agents or publishers. The site is free to writers while  publishers and agents pay a subscription fee for access to a database of content designed to provide copyright protection for the writer and an auditing system that tracks revisions, drafts and who has viewed its content.
This seems like a solution in search of a problem. Are publishers and agents hard up for submissions?  Via Publishers Weekly.
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DC Comics announced that it will make a certain number of digital comics exclusive to Amazon’s new Kindle Fire.
Initial offerings includes Watchmen, the acclaimed graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, which has more than a million copies in print; it has never been offered digitally before. The rest of the line-up includes such perennial favorites as The SandmanFablesY the Last Man and Superman: Earth One. The digital Watchmen is available for pre-order now and sells for $9.99, half the print price. These 100 books represent only the initial roll-out; more titles will be announced as the Kindle Fire becomes available in November.
This prompted BN to pull all the paper versions from their stores:
They contacted DC to express their displeasure, but hit a brick wall. And as a result, they’ve gone for a scorched earth policy. An email sent to stores yesterday instructs them to remove all of the 100 graphic novels listed from the shelves, including Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns, Sandman, Fables, Blackest Night, All Star Superman, Y The Last Man, V For Vendetta, all strong sellers for the company. You will still be able to order the books on the website, but in bookstores you won’t even be able to special order a copy – unless you request it delievered to your home. Copies will not be allowed to enter Barnes & Noble premises.
Expect more of this in the future.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

36 Comments

  1. Randi
    Oct 10, 2011 @ 12:04:28

    @ B&N: way to bite off your nose to spite your face. You WANT people to get into the stores, not encourage them to STAY out. *sighs and rolls eyes*

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  2. Ros
    Oct 10, 2011 @ 12:19:09

    @Randi: Absolutely. You’d think their response ought to be to do an exclusive deal with someone else.

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  3. Elaine
    Oct 10, 2011 @ 12:23:14

    Randi beat me to it. Way to make your brick and mortar stores even less useful.

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  4. helen
    Oct 10, 2011 @ 12:29:55

    I find exclusive deals SO annoying that I refuse to do business with a company that participates in them (and not just for books either!). I was so annoyed to find out (after of course) that the 3d tv I bought in November of 2010 would not be showing Avatar in 3d for quite some time…till like 2013… Yeah, exclusive deals suck for the consumer. Now that Amazon is doing exclusive deals I will not be buying anything, and I do mean ANYTHING there. That won’t be too much of a problem since I have a Nook (I did occasionally buy other products there though)but it is one more reason to boycott Amazon in my book. If more people voted with their pocketbooks when things like this happen companies would stop screwing us. I far prefer to have options in my purchasing power, if they take options away from me, sorry but buy-by.

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  5. Angie
    Oct 10, 2011 @ 12:34:22

    What 1-3 all said. [nod/sigh] B&N is taking careful aim before shooting off its own foot. They’re angry that Amazon has an exclusive for the digital? How does it hurt Amazon that B&N isn’t selling the paper editions? You can order through B&N online, great, but since Amazon kicks B&N’s butt on paper books ordered online, I’ll bet most people will order through Amazon if they have to go online at all. So B&N is basically handing even more sales to their rival.

    I get that they’re more interested in punishing DC than Amazon, but 1) they still need to consider the effect on Amazon (positive) of this move, and 2) I’d bet cookies that DC is going to be making more money from its electronic sales through Amazon than it’s losing by not having those graphic novels available through B&N’s stores.

    Of course, it might be just an excuse on B&N’s part to clear away yet more reading matter in order to free up more shelf space for the toys and games and gift-shop tchotchkes that seem to be its stores’ major focus now. :/

    Angie

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  6. Patrice
    Oct 10, 2011 @ 13:06:03

    Bad move by Barnes and Noble. I don’t have a problem with exclusive deals. As a business owner I get it. I don’t think B&N considered their customers needs with this decision. B&N should learn the lessons from Borders mistakes. Oh wait, they purchased Borders Rewards customer data at bargain basement prices. I guess they don’t see any consequences for throwing a hissy fit at a company like DC that is just trying to expand their own customer base with an exclusive deal with the largest online retailer in North America. I for one say more power to DC comics! I wish them major success. And rather than driving to the B&N I will patronize the smaller, much closer indie Book Bank store!

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  7. Michael
    Oct 10, 2011 @ 13:15:40

    It’s worth noting that the DC Comics deal is only exclusive to the Kindle for 4 months.

    Despite authors like Eisler and Konrath signing Amazon exclusives, Barnes and Noble still offers their backlists, so they seem to be acting pretty inconsistently here. Odd that they decided to throw a fit now, especially when popular graphic novels enjoy such a long shelf-life compared to many other works.

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  8. Carin
    Oct 10, 2011 @ 13:20:17

    I agree with comments that BN only hurts itself with this move.

    I’m not surprised, but still bummed that KindleFire won’t support ePub. I don’t understand, though, how they’re accessing the Android store and not supporting ePub. Will they be blocking all reader apps?

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  9. DS
    Oct 10, 2011 @ 13:33:24

    I don’t know about putting Darcy in the same basket with Rochester and Heathcliff. I never thought of him a romantic Byronic hero, he always seemed more a character of the Age of Reason.

    Darcy actually says very little in Pride and Prejudice– that’s one reason why the various video versions has him standing around and staring a lot. But to someone else of his social station, the reasons for his opinions would be perfectly clear. While as a reader, my sympathies are with Elizabeth Bennett, the idea of having to accept her family as in-laws would be appalling.

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  10. Courtney Milan
    Oct 10, 2011 @ 13:34:56

    I think B&N’s response is pretty clearly aimed at the publisher, not the authors. B&N has made it clear that they won’t carry print versions of any of Amazon’s work if there is an electronic version that is not available on Nook.

    I think “scorched earth tactics” is the right description. B&N can’t let Amazon get too many exclusives, or they’ll lose Nook color customers. Right now, the only lever they have over publishers is their physical stores. So they’re going to whack the publishers over the head with it as hard as they can to keep them in compliance.

    I don’t like exclusives and I don’t like scorched earth tactics.

    But I bet we’re going to see a lot of both as the vendors fight it out for dominance.

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  11. Randi
    Oct 10, 2011 @ 13:42:58

    @ Angie: Well, I do understand why bookstores sell non book items. Those items can have HUGE markups, which, in addition to coffee, are the real money makers for bookstores. So, I don’t mind all that other stuff. What I mind is cutting back on ACTUAL reading material.

    I’ve noticed that my B&N has cut the teen (previously known as Young Adult), SciFi/Fantasty, and Romance sections IN HALF! Um..hello? Those are the top 3 (normally: I see Romance and SciFi were actually down last month) selling genres. More biting off of nose to spite face? But to your point, Angie, it was to make room for all the new games and puzzles, and baby items, and whatnot.

    I’ve got other beefs w/ B&N that have to do with not placing new releases on the floor the DAY they are released, and not having new releases available (my B&N, shockingly, is not selling the new Michelle Sagara in the bookstore, even though they have her entire backlist available).

    This puts me in a problematic postion: I’ve been boycotting Amazon for several years and B&N is really my only outlook for new releases and for browsing. Where do I go if I quit B&N because they just can’t cater to my needs?

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  12. Isabel C.
    Oct 10, 2011 @ 13:45:35

    @DS: Yeah, I’m with you.

    Sarah Rees Brennan did a great bit with Heathcliff, Rochester, and Darcy. Has since disappeared from the Internet, sadly, but it went something like:

    Heathcliff: “I abuse my wife–who I married to get back at the woman who I really love–my son, and everyone around me. Also, I strangle puppies.”
    Rochester: “I keep my insane wife in an attic and try to seduce my younger employee through fraud and misdirection.”*
    Darcy: “I’m sarcastic, and I keep to myself at parties.”

    I do not like Twilight. It bugs me. Everything in it bugs me, especially the messages. And I wish it wasn’t marketed directly at teenagers. That said? My generation read Flowers in the Attic and still managed to come away without too much damage, so I’m not so much worried about the influence. As a symptom of what certain parts of our culture value, it’s freaky, but I don’t think anyone reasonable is going to think they should date a stalker just because Edward’s cute.

    *I mean, I love Rochester, but…yes.

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  13. Angie
    Oct 10, 2011 @ 14:02:23

    @Randi: I don’t have an issue with a few shelves of gift-shop thingies right around the registers. It’s when a significant chunk of floorspace has been given over to non-book items that I have to start wondering at what point we no longer call the place a bookstore. The gift shop area on the main floor was just kind of annoying at first, but it’s gotten bigger. They moved out more stuff for the Nook pavillion, but okay, it’s e-book stuff and that’s still books. The relatively huge (for a bookstore) toys and games department is just ridiculous.

    Yes, there are a lot of things that have higher markup than books. I’m sure we could search for relevant data and find some one item that has the highest markup of all. That doesn’t mean stores should all sell that item. It’s like the old Soviet factories that only made aluminum buckets because they were fast and easy to fabricate and used up more aluminum per item than the other aluminum products they were supposed to be making, thus fulfilling the factory’s monthly quota with the least amount of effort.

    B&N is making more and more aluminum buckets, despite the fact that there are knives, forks, spoons, pots, snaps and screws on its list.

    It’s not a toy store. It’s not a gift shop. If it can’t figure out how to make money selling books, such that the only way they can stay solvent is to sell more and more things that aren’t books, they’re not going to be around for very long. Or they’ll evolve into a big toy-and-gift shop with a couple racks of bestsellers. We already have stores like that.

    Angie

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  14. GrowlyCub
    Oct 10, 2011 @ 14:11:24

    @Randi:

    Try BooksaMillion. I’m not too fond of their stores (but then I hated BN stores even more), but I order all my new books online from them with good results. They also offer 10% off if you access via the AAFES site (if you are military that is). :)

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  15. MaryK
    Oct 10, 2011 @ 14:19:01

    @GrowlyCub: BaM usually has a coupon in their marketing emails, and they tweet links to coupons pretty regularly.

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  16. DS
    Oct 10, 2011 @ 14:19:29

    @Isabel C.: That was very funny!

    And coincidentally, I had just started The Demon’s Lexicon this weekend. I am enjoying it.

    ETA: This weekend I was listening to an interview with Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker who argues in his book The Better Angels of Our Nature that this overall may actually be the most peaceable period in human history. One of his points was that there has been a reduction in live cruelty as entertainment. When asked about the explicit violence and cruelty to be found in movies, television, books, etc., he stated that this was not real and people know it. I think most people (even adolescents!) do separate Flowers from the Attic or Twilight from real life, but the ones who can’t really make a big noise when they explode.

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  17. CK
    Oct 10, 2011 @ 14:21:05

    @Isabel C.: Flowers in the Attic! haha. Talk about misspent youth. Twilight bugs me too, but if I had a daughter and the choice was Twilight vs Flowers…I’d go sparkly vampires all the way. I still firmly believe most parents had no clue what messed up crack was in FitA.

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  18. Brian
    Oct 10, 2011 @ 14:29:08

    IIRC B&N has secured exclusive content for the Nook Color themselves. If they aren’t going to carry the print versions if they can’t get the digital (which they’ve said a few times) what about when the Potter books finally out as eBooks that you buy through Pottermore? Are they going to not carry the Potter print books (somehow I doubt it). Plus isn’t the Amazon deal with DC only for like 4 or 6 months? I thought I read that somewhere.

    On an aside I was at B&N this weekend and they were pulling out three more long aisles of books to add more toys, activity sets, etc…

    As far as the Fire not supporting ePub it may not support it out of the box, but their app store has Kobo (non DRM epub), Aldiko & Mantano (DRM’d & non DRM epub & pdf), plus it’s supposed to support the side loading of apps without rooting.

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  19. Jane
    Oct 10, 2011 @ 14:31:56

    @Brian: I’ve actually asked a couple people about this and was told that so far Amazon has indicated that epub cannot be read on the device and that these other reading apps won’t usable on the Kindle Fire. It remains to be seen whether this is accurate.

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  20. Brian
    Oct 10, 2011 @ 14:35:19

    @Jane: That’s interesting I haven’t seen a thing about them saying the other apps won’t work. If their going to make it so some apps from their own store don’t work on it they’re asking for trouble (unless they’re going to pull those apps), but still they’ve indicated apps can be sideloaded and I don’t know how they couls block only a certain handful of apps from that.

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  21. Nikki
    Oct 10, 2011 @ 15:13:50

    I continue to find B&N more and more useless as time passes. When they had a store near me, I would go periodically but they never had what I wanted when it came out. But then their lease expired and they closed and the nearest one to me was even further away. So… if I can’t find what I want in your store and if I order online you same-day shipping takes 2 days (with membership)… why would I buy anything from you?

    Punishing the publisher is foolish. If it is a limited exclusive, set up something else that benefits you and move on. Amazon has a clear history of taking a loss to get certain things and I expect this is similar.

    Separately, is there any real rationale for the Kindle Fire since it lacks 3G? I was trying to rationalize it but I travel too much for work to be limited to finding wifi all the time. I will say if they can start getting manga I would buy it and suck up the lack of wifi. Those volumes are heavy and take up a ton of space.

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  22. Carin
    Oct 10, 2011 @ 16:50:15

    Flowers in the Attic! Oh, wow, I can still remember quite clearly going to stay over at my best friend’s house in middle school, locking ourselves in her room and her pulling out her copy of Flowers in the Attic and showing me all the dirty parts.

    Thanks for that stroll down memory lane! And I’m certainly going to remember that comparison next time someone gets too excited about Twilight bashing. (Not that either has a whole lot of redeeming value, but it’s not like we’re living with an epidemic of families where brother married sister and then adopted the dead sister’s baby, right?)

    Also, I certainly don’t understand Amazon, because to me a $200 tablet would be a big win – if I could read the ePubs I had on it. And I would think that the convenience and ease of using the built in Kindle app would outweigh the other (ePub) apps and still bring Amazon a lot of money. But I guess Amazon doensn’t just want the biggest piece of the pie, they want the whole pie.

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  23. Chelsea B.
    Oct 10, 2011 @ 17:22:38

    Some interesting reading….

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  24. Estara
    Oct 10, 2011 @ 17:28:43

    @Isabel C.: Someone found the full quote of this and posted a comment about it – I couldn’t make it out on Sarah’s LJ either, and she doesn’t tag her posts much

    http://readeroffictions.blogspot.com/2011/03/top-ten-wednesday-top-ten-book.html?showComment=1300329806156#c4613616645226636275

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  25. MeganS
    Oct 10, 2011 @ 18:07:17

    This Flowers in the Attic talk reminded me of fantasy author Kit Whitfield’s blog post on innocent libertinism. It covers with interesting nuance the holy grail of WTF of the appeal of Twilight, Flowers in the Attic, and Wuthering Heights.

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  26. library addict
    Oct 10, 2011 @ 18:26:51

    @Isabel C.: Too funny.

    And I agree Darcy shouldn’t be considered to “share some psycho traits” – yikes!

    I do not understand how B&N hopes to win customers by forcing them to shop elsewhere. I don’t like exclusive deals either, but their response is illogical.

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  27. Susan Laura
    Oct 10, 2011 @ 18:34:36

    As a reader, I’m just not that excited about the Kindle Fire. I’m much more pleased with the price drop of the Kindle’s with eInk screens.

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  28. Sarah Frantz
    Oct 10, 2011 @ 21:17:35

    I have to agree with everyone here about that article on heroes. The author clearly hadn’t done his research. His description of Byronic heroes is wrong: the original Byronic heroes angst all over the place about their unnamed crimes, exactly like Edward. Feminist scholars have NOT, in fact, really bothered to look at male characters written by females much at all. Broad sweeping statements about how women read books and how it’ll damage their poor ickle brains make me want to slap a bitch. I like the quote at the end, but the rest of it is just…ugh.

    And OMG, @Estara, thank you so much for that link, although I think @Isabel C.‘s summary was almost better than the original. :)

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  29. SAO
    Oct 11, 2011 @ 01:15:34

    Shouldn’t we start eradicating bad influences with those aimed at the youngest and most vulnerable?

    Let’s get rid of fairy tales and all that tripe about handsome princes. Because pre-schoolers run around kissing frogs all the time, not able to tell fiction from fact.

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  30. MaryK
    Oct 11, 2011 @ 02:10:48

    @SAO: No, no, we don’t need to bother with pre-schoolers. In fact, we should insist that kids believe in imaginary things like the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus. It’s only when girls hit puberty that their ability to distinguish fact from fiction becomes an issue.

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  31. Rosario
    Oct 11, 2011 @ 04:07:59

    @DS:

    ETA: This weekend I was listening to an interview with Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker who argues in his book The Better Angels of Our Nature that this overall may actually be the most peaceable period in human history. One of his points was that there has been a reduction in live cruelty as entertainment. When asked about the explicit violence and cruelty to be found in movies, television, books, etc., he stated that this was not real and people know it.

    The Economist had a review of Pinker’s book and another one that covers similar ground: A History of Violence: From the End of the Middle Ages to the Present, by Robert Muchembled. I haven’t read either (yet!), but apparently Muchembled actually makes the argument that violence has declined because popular fiction “has provided young men with a way to indulge violent fantasies, while not doing too much harm”.

    http://www.economist.com/node/21531411

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  32. Angie
    Oct 11, 2011 @ 04:58:22

    @Carin: Except that for Amazon, the electronic device they sell you is nowhere near being the biggest piece of the pie. Amazon makes very little on the Kindles, and now the Fire. Amazon offers cheap devices that can only read one format without a lot of tinkering because the real biggest piece of the pie for them is all the Kindle format e-books you’ll buy.

    I forget where I read it, but it’s true — Apple sells hardware, and that’s where they make their money. The fact that there’s content for their hardware is a good thing from their POV because it makes you more likely to buy their hardware. Amazon sells content, and they want cheap electronics available to you so that you’ll buy more of their content. They’ve perfected the art of the loss leader, and are willing to make very little on the readers (and now the tablet) they sell because it’ll boost sales of their content. Apple hardware is expensive because that’s where they’re making their money.

    The iTunes store would seem to contradict this, and it does in a way. But the iBook store is nowhere near as popular, and Apple’s doing nothing to make it popular. (In fact, by dumping books it deems too smutty, it’s shooting itself in the foot with regard to the single largest group of e-book buyers — romance readers.) When it comes to e-books, their focus is still on selling you the hardware.

    Whether you approve of how he operates or not, Jeff Bezos is a smart man; he know what he’s doing and how he hopes to achieve his goals. Making it hard to read anything but Kindle books on his devices means he’s going to sell more Kindle books. It’s worked so far, and I expect it’ll work for him in the foreseeable future.

    Angie

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  33. DS
    Oct 11, 2011 @ 07:09:22

    @Rosario: Thanks, I’ve become interested in the idea and was thinking about picking up Pinker’s book. I’ll add Muchembled’s to my wish list also.

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  34. Mireya
    Oct 11, 2011 @ 08:49:17

    Well, I am glad then that I pre-ordered the Lenovo pad (the cheaper version that comes out in November 11). My husband wants a Kindle Fire (mostly because I am an Amazon subscriber out of sheer convenience). If I had had to choose between one and the other though, I would have gone Lenovo. Though I do expect that someone is going to “crack” the Kindle Fire soon enough. I admit I was considering getting a nook color and use one of the crack options to be able to use it fully as a tablet, not just a dedicated reader with some enhancements.

    I don’t know what to think about all of that “exclusive” content brouhaha. In the end, and as par the course, it is the end consumer who is going to end up being shortchanged. I hope more tablets come out that will allow the consumer more flexibility.

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  35. Randi
    Oct 11, 2011 @ 10:38:36

    @GrowlyCub: Thanks for the BaM suggestion. While it won’t satisfy my need to roam around in a bookstore, it will at least give me a place to buy new books. :)

    @Angie: Yeah, I totally get your stance, and I agree with it. I want my bookstores to, you know, HAVE BOOKS. It’s interesting that others have noticed the same issues with their B&N. I guess it’s possible that B&N is in the midst of changing their Mission Statement. I guess they hope we, the consumers, won’t notice, but since they’re being really obvious about it, that seems really stupid of them. LOL. Well, BaM, here I come!

    @DS and Rosario: Wow! Thanks for the “The Better Angels of Our Nature” and “From the End of the Middle Ages to the Present” suggestions! I’m totally psyched about them. *dances a jig*

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  36. Rebecca
    Oct 12, 2011 @ 13:55:07

    I will continue to shop at B&N and order all my books online through B&N.com, because I love physical books and want to support a company that has physical bookstores. But, at the same time, as someone who reads print books exclusively, I’m getting tired of arguments over e-books affecting the selection of print books. First Amazon yanking all print Macmillan titles (I refused to shop there anymore after that, unless it’s literally the only place I can find a rare book) and now this. I’m not interested in these particular titles so I will still keep shopping at B&N but I wish that companies would not stop selling print books due to e-book disputes. I don’t care about e-books, I just want my print books!

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