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

Monday Midday Links: Apple Flexes Its App Store Muscle

Apple instituted a new rule that was to go into effect last month which disallowed Apps to have a direct link to the retailers purchasing site unless the retailer offered the same products for sale inside the App and allowed Apple to get 30%.  Under Agency pricing, of course, this meant that Kindle, BN, Kobo and others would lose money on every sale.   The deadline for updating the app came and went in June but now it appears that Apple is enforcing it.

  • Google App is gone from iTunes (Google had announced last week that it would be one of the ebook partners for Pottermore as will Amazon)
  • Kobo updated its app.  You used to be able to browse the ebookstore and then click “buy” which would take you to Safari. Now the ebookstore is gone. Worse, Kobo app is getting a ton of one star reviews because people have no idea why the bookstore has been removed. Oh, Apple. You suck.

This app was in my favorite book reader apps.not being able to open the store directly is a huge inconvenience.

and

the real ‘guts’ of this app seemed to have been eaten out out of it overnite. So … without the store/means to download new material help me to understand its purpose ~ i have here 5 books downloaded lat week off ePub. At least the courtesy of an explanation would have been nice! … i’ve no reason to continue to use this app

You can still access these retailer sites via Safari and buy via Safari but it’s a blow against the retailers.  Given that Apple holds a significant portion of the mobile market, it will be interesting to see if it can withstand an antitrust tying inquiry.

****

I saw this link via Twitter.  (It’s in Arabic, use a translator).  The Crown Prince of Dubai credits his hobbies such as skydiving, horseback riding, and scuba diving as helping him build the skills he needs to be the leader of his nation.

It sounded so very HP-ish that I had to share.

Speaking of HP-ish sorts of things, I received this very random email last week:

Hello,

Our company is pleased to offer databases with companies from eastern countries and Russia.

Also we offer a new database with contact details of the Russian millionaires and billionaires.

You can find information about our products at our website.

Sincerely,-

Surely if that is not a call to be an HP heroine, I don’t know what is.

****

Lev Grossman, a former book critic and now bestselling novelist, has concerns about being an author and a critic.

“When a critic writes a novel, it’s like one of those movies where the cop crosses the line and gets tossed in jail along with the people he put there,” he said. “There’s no question, writing fiction has changed the way I review.”

Empathy, as it turns out, killed the assassin — empathy for readers, whose contradictory reactions have left him less eager to declare a book categorically “good” or “bad.” And empathy for authors, with whom he now identifies.

The article suggests that authors, afraid of offending other authors, are less honest and truthful in their opinions.   Of course, if authors can’t be critics and those individuals who don’t have literary degrees can’t be critics, then the authorial world gets to heave a huge sigh of relief that no bad word can be said about their books.  The sad thing is that with the increasing influx of works into the marketplace, readers need help in cutting the wheat from the chaff. Many authors have no compunctions about leaving positive reviews and even leaving fraudulent ones or encouraging fraudulent ones to be placed.  Articles like these make me more determined than ever to keep Dear Author going and encourage other readers to review. We readers have to stick up for one another.

****

You can call someone a Neanderthal but if they are African, it’s a baseless insult.  According to a new study, there was interbreeding between Neanderthals and homo sapiens, but not in Africa:

“This confirms recent findings suggesting that the two populations interbred,” Labuda was quoted as saying in a press release. His team believes most, if not all, of the interbreeding took place in the Middle East, while modern humans were migrating out of Africa and spreading to other regions.

 ****

BookEnds, a popular and well known agenting firm headed by Jessica Faust, is opening a publishing house.   BookEnds joins agency houses like Waxman Agency in setting up a publishing arm.

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

42 Comments

  1. Keishon
    Jul 25, 2011 @ 10:13:18

    Amazon just sent out an update.

  2. Kirsten
    Jul 25, 2011 @ 10:26:51

    LOL! Jane, I initially thought HP was an inversion of Paris Hilton!

  3. Kirsten
    Jul 25, 2011 @ 10:29:14

    @Keishon: This is why I refuse to buy an iPad. Just waiting for Amazon to come out with its tablet and will hold tight to my Kindle.

  4. Kerry Allen
    Jul 25, 2011 @ 10:34:15

    @Kirsten: That’s okay, I thought HP was Harry Potter and was very, very confused for a while…

  5. Lynne Connolly
    Jul 25, 2011 @ 10:36:22

    I have to admit that being an author and a critic/reviewer doesn’t go down well in all circles. It has definitely closed one or two doors for me, but it’s also opened some.
    I think you just have to go with what your own personal ethics. I won’t be told to button it, because I honestly believe that authors have something to add to the conversation about books in general. Whether I do is for other people to say, but in general, I think it’s a healthy thing to do. As long as you don’t let your boundaries cross (I don’t review friends’ books without stating that upfront, and I don’t review books from publishers or lines that I am actively writing for).

  6. SAO
    Jul 25, 2011 @ 10:48:37

    Pushing Amazon, Kobo, and B&N off the iPad might have worked if the iBookstore wasn’t so pathetic.

    I think trying to write has made me better at recognizing where books go wrong, thus a better critic. I get bored easily and if I can put the book down and not be compelled to finish it, I’m not going to cut the author slack.

  7. hrwriter
    Jul 25, 2011 @ 10:56:10

    Authors reviewing books is a two-edged sword. That’s why I don’t do it. In the electronic age, revenge is swift and most often anonymous. Who needs it.

    Going to go check out what Jessica Faust has to say. I’m surprised and yet not. Thought it was strange that they’ve been taking on new help when everyone else is letting people go.

  8. library addict
    Jul 25, 2011 @ 11:05:54

    Phooey on Apple. I don’t own any iThings, but even I think that’s a bad idea.

    I know it’s been said before, but agents as publishers is so not a good idea.

  9. Charming
    Jul 25, 2011 @ 11:58:21

    I think authors reviewing books is a great thing, but I wouldn’t encourage them to do it under their author name. No point infuriating your colleagues or their readers.

  10. Las
    Jul 25, 2011 @ 13:05:03

    I don’t think it’s wrong for an author to also review books. I might even read their reviews if I like their reviewer voice. I’d take their positive reviews with a huge grain of salt, though, because I’ll always be wondering if they have they same publisher/are friends/are too empathetic/etc. But I do the same with reader reviews unless I already know that the reviewer’s and mine tastes are similar when it comes to stuff we like. It’s not that I think reviewers are deliberately lying, but I’ve noticed what looks to me like some pretty obvious biases all over the romance blogosphere. Negative reviews–when done well–come across as much more honest than positive ones.

  11. Janine
    Jul 25, 2011 @ 13:09:03

    @Lynne Connolly:

    I think you just have to go with what your own personal ethics. I won’t be told to button it, because I honestly believe that authors have something to add to the conversation about books in general.

    Agreed. Not only do I find the process of reviewing — thinking about why books work well or don’t work well, writing down my thoughts, and then hearing what did and didn’t work for other readers — rewarding, I think in my case it’s helped me become a better writer, and that my writing has also aided me in my reviewing. So yeah, IMO authors can make an important contribution if they are willing to put their honest opinions out there.

    And that’s part of my motivation for reviewing. I want the genre to be healthy and vibrant, and I try to contribute to that in the ways I can — in my writing, in my feedback to my critique partners, and in my reviewing. It’s not always comfortable to wear multiple hats, and whether or not I’m successful only others can judge, but I’d like to think that I am at least partially so.

    FWIW, I’m glad you are reviewing, Lynne, and I know I’m not alone in that.

  12. MaryK
    Jul 25, 2011 @ 13:09:16

    “Articles like these make me more determined than ever to keep Dear Author going and encourage other readers to review. We readers have to stick up for one another.”

    Writing useful, reasoned reviews is hard! I toyed with the idea of doing some HQN Treasury reviews but couldn’t even figure out where to start. People who can do it should be encouraged and cultivated.

  13. Janine
    Jul 25, 2011 @ 13:20:28

    @Charming: I see where you are coming from, but the problem with that is that if no author writes honest reviews under her author name or otherwise acknowledging that she is an author, then how will other authors and writers know that authors are out there reviewing? And if they don’t believe anyone is willing to do it, or even willing to do it under their name, won’t that inspire more fear of reviewing than courage in them? And won’t that lead to fewer honest reviews by authors and more fake blurbs?

    Furthermore, if authors aren’t willing to post honest reviews openly, how can readers judge whether that reviewer has a conflict of interest?

    I think it’s far better for authors to post honest reviews openly, because if more of them did so, eventually the cultural climate would change and readers and other authors would become more accepting of honest reviews written by authors in this genre and less infuriated by them. That’s how it is in literary fiction circles, for example. If you read the New York Times Book Review, you will see that authors are regularly reviewed by their colleagues there, and under their author names, too.

  14. Suzanna Medeiros
    Jul 25, 2011 @ 13:52:10

    I found the Lev Grossman article interesting because up until this point I’d heard that authors being wary of reviewing was something that was restricted to the romance genre. Supposedly this wariness wasn’t something that held true for other genres or for literary fiction. Well, we now know that isn’t true.

    (@Sao – I’m always hyper-aware of your posts here because my real name is Saozinha, which isn’t very common in my neck of the woods, and I’ve used Sao online elsewhere. :))

  15. Heidi Cullinan
    Jul 25, 2011 @ 14:07:50

    Okay — so the Kindle App will still work? Goddamn. I love my iPad, but Apple is starting to be a serious ass. I use the Kindle App because the ibookstore is a joke. So instead of fixing their store, they will punish others. Lord. Oh, evil empires.

    Oh, authors reviewing. I try not to. I do rarely, and only glowing ones in my genre. Or I mention one flaw. I used to do more, but it just feels dangerous. Otherwise on Goodreads I just mark the book read. Sometimes I don’t review ones I like too, largely for time. I tend to only review and rate ones I truly love. World’s too small, my expression of my opinion isn’t a big deal to me, not in that way. Would rather go write.

    But that Kindle app is a BIG DEAL. To me, anyway.

  16. Jane
    Jul 25, 2011 @ 14:18:30

    @Heidi Cullinan The App works but it doesn’t have a buy link or any mention of how to buy books in the app itself. BN’s main app “Nook” is being updated too.

  17. Janine
    Jul 25, 2011 @ 14:19:26

    @Suzanna Medeiros: I read through the article and I still think authors of literary fiction are more accepting of the reality of critical reviews on average. You certainly see more of them reviewing than you do in romance. And you don’t see very many of them publicly telling their readers that if they can’t say something nice, they shouldn’t say anything at all.

  18. Jane
    Jul 25, 2011 @ 14:20:24

    @MaryK Some readers use a template which I think is a nice idea. I.e.,

    Plot:

    Heroine:

    Hero:

    What I liked: Funny, not so funny, emotional, etc.

    What didn’t work: Hero was a jerk

    Scene I liked best:

    That sort of thing

  19. Jane
    Jul 25, 2011 @ 14:22:20

    @Keishon Thanks for the hat tip.

  20. Suzanna Medeiros
    Jul 25, 2011 @ 14:26:41

    @Janine True, but I’m referring to the wariness on the part of an author to offer such reviews. It’s not just romance authors who are nervous that writing a negative review might negatively impact their own careers.

    Near the end of the article, Gregory Cowles, staff editor at the New York Times Book Review, makes this clear when he says: “There are a number of novelists Cowles would love to have in the Times Book Review who are hesitant to dip their toes into the treacherous waters of peer-judging — they don’t want to risk becoming a pariah on the scene. There are others who ask to see the book first, and will only write the review if they have a positive reaction.”

  21. LVLMLeah
    Jul 25, 2011 @ 14:36:47

    I don’t use the Nook or Kobo app even though they’re on my iTouch. But with Amazon it’s not a big deal for me since I anyway buy Kindle books on my computer. I never usually need a book so right this minute that I have to use the app to download. And the book automatically goes on my iTouch and Galaxy.

    I would never use iBookstore. I’ve never even been there to check it out. Don’t need to. Overpriced books and not what I want to read anyway. But this move makes me even more stubborn NOT to use it if they think that I will go there because I can’t buy a book directly from other apps.

    And for reading I mostly use my Galaxy anyway, so Apple can suck it.

  22. Heidi Cullinan
    Jul 25, 2011 @ 14:40:13

    My app still looks the same. So if I don’t update it, it won’t change? I guess I always use the “shop in kindle store” link. Might have to bookmark in Safari instead, you’re saying?

  23. Jane
    Jul 25, 2011 @ 14:41:29

    @Heidi Cullinan right, if you don’t update it won’t change but if you do update it, definitely bookmark it in Safari or even make a homepage bookmark.

  24. Ridley
    Jul 25, 2011 @ 14:54:55

    I think authors should only review other books if they feel comfortable doing it. Any trepidation just makes the review wishy-washy and basically useless.

    Also, if they write positive reviews, they need to write negative ones as well. If they can’t do that, they shouldn’t review at all. Only writing positive reviews 1. deprives me of a sense of a reviewer’s tastes so I can compare them to my own 2. solidifies the idea that reviews are personal in that good reviews compliment the author and bad reviews insult the author.

    No reviewing your besties, either. The glowing 5-star review Lauren Dane wrote for Megan Hart’s Broken up on Amazon bothers me, even though I agree that it’s an amazing book. You can’t objectively review your friends, so just don’t do it. However truthful it may be, it just looks like pimping.

  25. Heidi Cullinan
    Jul 25, 2011 @ 15:03:26

    Thank you very much, Jane! You just completely saved my reading experience. And solidified my decision to get a Kindle as my main reader.

  26. Lynn S.
    Jul 25, 2011 @ 15:14:37

    Thanks for the Monday afternoon grin.

    The Crown Prince of Dubai credits his hobbies such as skydiving, horseback riding, and scuba diving as helping him build the skills he needs to be the leader of his nation.

    More proof of that old dog axiom that truth is stranger than fiction. These hobbies might make for an excellent national leader but he’s still missing a few essentials to qualify as an HP hero. Where is the evil mother/father; the misunderstood youth; the tragic young marriage and/or pregnancy faking ex; the stint in a super-secret section of the government performing daredevil covert ops; the sibling lost at sea; the Mensa membership; the side job performing life-saving hernia transplants. He needs to check off at least two of these to get in the club.

  27. Janine
    Jul 25, 2011 @ 15:47:08

    @Suzanna Medeiros: I’m not surprised that many of them feel wariness, but the difference between these genres is that in lit fic there is an atmosphere that allows readers to speak their opinions of books more freely. I think the fact that lit fic authors do review each other contributes to that atmosphere where speech isn’t stifled. It may also have something to do with the MFA programs many lit fic authors attend, which help to accustom them to constant critiquing.

    I don’t blame anyone for feeling wary of reviewing — I think it’s natural and normal even for non-authors, but I also think it’s possible to put those feelings of wariness aside when writing reviews.

    IMO it’s not unlike the worry writers have that their parents or grandparents will read their sex scenes. Well, it’s possible that they may, but focusing on that during the writing process will only inhibit the writing of that sex scene. So writers learn to shunt that aside and not focus on it. It’s the same for authors who write honest reviews. You have to put aside your wariness to the best of your ability and be brave. Not always easy, but doable.

    Personally speaking, I regret that we don’t have a more open atmosphere in this genre, one where readers feel completely welcome to freely discuss the strengths and weaknesses of books. That is one of the contributions authors can make by reviewing openly. Although I think things are getting better — I believe we’ve the online romance community has come a ways in the past decade or so.

  28. DS
    Jul 25, 2011 @ 16:10:30

    @Kerry Allen: I thought the HP was Hewlett Packard and couldn’t figure out what that company had been up to now.

  29. SonomaLass
    Jul 25, 2011 @ 16:28:56

    Stupid call by Apple. It doesn’t affect me much, as I rarely use the in-app buy button. I am either in a browser or on Twitter when I see something that makes me want to check out a book, so I use bookmarks anyway. All the Kindle app does for shopping is open a browser window anyway.

  30. RStewie
    Jul 25, 2011 @ 16:41:07

    I am anti-Apple. My SO wanted to get me an iPad and I told him no. I’d rather have an android-based tablet than one that doesn’t work with ANY OTHER THING I own…and evidently is a bully to other kids.

  31. Carin
    Jul 25, 2011 @ 17:17:36

    Do some reading on my son’s iPad. I’ve been alternating between Bluefire and Kobo with a dash of Kindle thrown in. But I’ve never shopped in app, so the change doesn’t affect me. Still, BOO to Apple. I hope this move backfires on them.

  32. Danielle D
    Jul 25, 2011 @ 18:02:21

    The Apple decision doesn’t effect me either. I download my ebooks from Sony, Carina Press and other websites either to iBooks or Bluefire. Not being able to buy through Amazon doesn’t effect me either. Just as long as I still have access to my library on my iPad once again it doesn’t effect me.

  33. brooksee
    Jul 25, 2011 @ 18:09:16

    Google books is showing up on my list of apps with updates available, so it must be back in the app store.

    I haven’t bought anything using the in app links, but I may start using the in app store links, as I won’t be updating the google or kindle app.

  34. ShellBell
    Jul 25, 2011 @ 19:46:17

    I always buy and download my eBooks to my laptop first, and then transfer them to Stanza or Txtr on my iThings. As long as the apps I use are still being supported then I don’t anticipate having any issues. I don’t/won’t use Amazon or the Kindle app. There is no point in my using iBooks or iBookstore as there are only free eBooks in there, nothing else is yet available for New Zealand buyers. B&N is also a no-go due to geographical restrictions. While I do buy the majority of my DRM eBooks from Kobo, I don’t like their app so I deleted it from my iThings ages ago. Hopefully this means that my convoluted way of doing things won’t actually change.

  35. Las
    Jul 25, 2011 @ 20:45:03

    @Ridley: Agree with every word. And I would say the same applies to reader reviewers as well.

  36. eggs
    Jul 25, 2011 @ 21:47:22

    I read on my iphone every day and especially at night, one handed in the dark, while I pat the toddler to sleep, so the kindle app was vitally important to me. Because Jane had telegraphed the likelihood of this bastardry by Apple, I spent my ipad money on a kindle instead. Good marketing move, Apple!

    I’ve had the kindle for about two weeks now, and it’s already replaced the iphone in the “keys, phone, wallet” check I do before I head out the door. This move by Apple is the kind of thing that sacrifices brand loyalty on the alter of short term profits.

  37. Ann G
    Jul 26, 2011 @ 01:35:55

    I’ve never used the apps. I received a Kindle for Christmas, so I buy my books through the device itself (or on the Amazon.com web site).

  38. Candy Gaudry
    Jul 26, 2011 @ 09:27:25

    I. Think Apple wants too much and will switch hardware as I need to. This stinks. Who do they think they are??

  39. Nicole
    Jul 26, 2011 @ 10:42:19

    I am really peeved by Apple doing this, and it is mainly because their own app iBooks is horrible as an ebook provider that they are trying to block the good ones. I was considering getting an iPad so that I could flip between kindle and kobo (amazon still restricts some books for Canadians) but this is removing a major reason to get something that I don’t really need. I would hope that RIM steps into this part of the market and makes up for Apple’s arrogance in trying to control the market. I suspect an antitrust action would be successful.

  40. JenM
    Jul 26, 2011 @ 14:05:40

    Whew, I happened to update my iPhone apps on Sunday. I guess I just barely avoided the new Kindle app update. It must have happened on Monday since I still have the in-app link to the Kindle store. Going forward, I will just make sure that I don’t ever update my Kindle app again until Apple stops (or is forced to stop) this nonsense.

    We’ve always been an Apple household, but both my hubby and I are growing completely disenchanted with them over these bullying tactics. We think it’s because Steve Jobs is sick and isn’t really running the company anymore. Instead, the same type of corporate hacks that almost ran the company into the ground after Steve was forced out the first time are back in charge and they just don’t get it.

  41. Mitzi H
    Jul 26, 2011 @ 15:07:40

    I found this info on Kindle forum and it was very helpful creating easy access to Kindle Store:

    Before I updated the Amazon Kindle ap for iPhone, I clicked on the Kindle Store application that was found on the upper right side which led to the Kindle Store. When the application opened in Safari there is a symbol at the bottom of the screen with a square box with an arrow going right, click on that and four options show up:

    “Add Bookmark”
    “Add to Home Screen”
    “Mail Link to this Page”
    “Print”

    I selected “Add to Home Screen,” I now have an icon link to the mobile Amazon Kindle Store that I labeled with that name and placed the icon into the same folder where my Amazon Kindle application is also located. This mobile link is much easier to use than going to the full Amazon Kindle Bookstore via Safari because the mobile link was developed for a smaller screen. I updated the kindle application and of course the “kindle store button” disappeared from the reading application, the icon was untouched and remains in the folder right next to the kindle reading application. This has provided to be a very easy way to get around Apple’s draconian rules. I’m going to use the same thing on my iPad.

  42. LizJ
    Jul 26, 2011 @ 15:16:13

    Yeah, the Apple thing sucks, but it’s not enough to get me off my iPad. I’ll either order the books from my desktop or use Safari. As of now, they’re still downloading directly to the iPad, and hopefully that will remain.

    The whole electronic media realm keeps getting socked with the results of these kind of power plays (the changing face of publishing, print bookstores going out of business, Netflix suddenly changing it’s fee structure to discourage physical DVD delivery, etc.).

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