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Monday Midday Links: Cobblestone Press Making the Wrong Kind of News

A Miami Herald article finally states the obvious when it comes to readers and books. Readers are looking to buy books at the cheapest prices possible and if digital books are pushing the prices down, then readers will flock to the digital books.

“The whole book culture is changing, and in some ways, I think it’s worth worrying about,” says Jack Shafer, who writes about media at Slate.com and spent years working at bookstores before turning to journalism. “But we are so much better off now with what we’ve got. There’s a cornucopia of books out there. It may be that the bookstores are vanishing, but readers are going to have more choice and cheaper books.

“Is it good for bookstores, for writers, for agents, for publishers? We readers don’t care. It’s really good for us.”

The article goes on to speculate at the end what new publishing innovations may arise from digital publishing. One suggestion is that epic fantasy works will be serialized. Ginn Hale’s The Rifter (reviewed here) is an experiment in serialization. It will be interesting to see if she and her publisher deem this to be a success.

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3M is gearing up to challenge Overdrive’s supremacy in the ebook lending market. The 3M Cloud product page has been updated. Perhaps 3Ms biggest obstacle is publisher participation. If you recall, Kansas is arguing that it owns the books that it licensed through Overdrive and thus can lend them using the 3M library system. It will be very interesting to see how this shakes out. If Kansas is allowed to do this, then other states will as well.

According to Eric Hellman, the 3M Cloud Library will be using DRM systems from Adobe and will sell “white-label” devices to libraries. (Source: Go To Hellman)

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The Amazon Kindle refurbished prices haves dropped. Many people believe that this signals new Amazon Kindles on the horizons. I think that is accurate. I also believe that Kindle’s late entry into the library market has something to do with the launch of the new Kindles and maybe even the October release of the Harry Potter digital books. There is going to be a big announcement from Amazon and it will likely be made before September.

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Cobblestone Press is making news, but not the good kind. According to absolute write forum, Cobblestone is delayed in making payments to authors.

It seems as if every other pay period, we’re told there’s a computer problem or power outage or whatever that makes it impossible to run royalties or make payments. My sales there trickled off to nothing after a year and I’m currently preparing a couple of rights reversion letters so I’ve let it go.

Requests for information and/or action are getting ignored. According to this author, Cobblestone did not inform her of her release date, has stopped answering emails, and is generally acting in a manner that makes her regret her publishing decision.

One author reported to me privately that she believes her contract is in breach and has been for several weeks but no response has been forthcoming from emails or snail mailings.

This is a departure from the regular practice of doing business for Cobblestone, the author reported. In the past, all royalty payments were made promptly and contact between the author and publishing house was regular and without interruption.

Cobblestone Press has some of the most ridiculously high prices for books – $4.99 for a novella, for example – so one would hope that it is on good financial footing. Or perhaps in this era of $.99 books, the high prices are dooming the Press. Hopefully Cobblestone will right its ship.

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A sock puppet by the name of DarknessCalls is duking it out with readers over at Amazon regarding Dianne Sylvan’s book “Shadowflame”. I wrote a review here at Dear Author expressing my dismay at the direction of the story. According to DarknessCalls and, coincidentally, Dianne Sylvan herself, this reader dismay is being characterized as homophobia.

Like I said, homosexuality clearly disturbs you. I don’t believe for one minute that infidelity would make anyone react with this much hostility toward an author. It’s just silly.

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/DSylvan/status/96698270012817408″]

Sylvan’s disbelief that readers dislike infidelity that much is a bit naive but even so, jumping to the homophobic accusation is really poor form. Frankly, the way in which Sylvan writes about the infidelity between two male characters is a fetishization of homosexuality. Miranda, the soul mate of one of the cheaters, admits to her girlfriend that the pain of the infidelity is somehow eased by how hot she thinks it is that her soul mate and husband is having sex with another man. Moreover Sylvan’s mistake isn’t that she included infidelity, but rather the way in which she handled the subject matter. She never examines the issue of love versus the soul mate bond; she has the parties who have been cheated on act almost as if it had never happened; she doesn’t acknowledge the issue of emotional infidelity and whether that has any affect on a relationship; she doesn’t deal with the aftermath.

In failing to deal with the aftermath, Sylvan presents the act of sex between two men as something titillating rather than something meaningful.

Sylvan’s reaction that she’ll really stick it to the readers by further feminizing the male protagonist doesn’t speak to someone who is driven by her muse, but of a Lori Foster-esque response wherein the author uses her work to answer her critics.

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Georgette Heyer accused Barbara Cartland of stealing plots.

The borrowings extended to character names. Heyer was outraged that Sir Montagu Reversby, in Cartland’s Hazard of Hearts, was like her own Sir Montagu Revesby in Friday’s Child.

Heyer wrote: “On perusing the first two novels of Miss Cartland’s trilogy I was astonished to find the number of identical or infinitesimally altered names and titles … I also found what might best be described as paraphrases of situations I had created, and a suspicious number of Regency cant words, or obsolete turns of speech, all of which I can pinpoint in several of my books.”

You can read more about it in the October release, Georgette Heyer: Biography of a Bestseller (no release date in the US  yet).  Sunita had some interesting thoughts about Heyer in a recent post on her own blog.

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. Shiloh Walker
    Aug 08, 2011 @ 11:22:15

    I don’t believe for one minute that infidelity would make anyone react with this much hostility toward an author. It’s just silly.

    I’m not inclined to get hostile towards somebody-not worth the energy, but infidelity pisses me off-it comes with a lot of issues, and that brings a lot of baggage to the table, in a typical relationship. It can & does damage them. Failing to address that?

    Nah, I wouldn’t get hostile over it, but it is something that would keep me from continuing-or in this case, starting a series.

  2. Shiloh Walker
    Aug 08, 2011 @ 11:23:06

    Oh, I saw another post somewhere about another epub in a downward spiral? Is it time for the drinking game again?

  3. Sunita
    Aug 08, 2011 @ 12:03:47

    Sylvan’s reaction that she’ll really stick it to the readers by further feminizing the male protagonist doesn’t speak to someone who is driven by her muse, but of a Lori Foster-esque response wherein the author uses her work to answer her critics.(emphasis added)

    Oh awesome. Let’s use tired, commodifying stereotypes in order to score off readers. Be offensive and write a bad book, all at the same time.

  4. Lynne Connolly
    Aug 08, 2011 @ 12:16:18

    There are problems at Aspen Mountain Press. The management, who had been trying to bring the company around in the absence (through illness/divorce) of the owner all resigned at the weekend.
    I’ve also heard from several authors who think they may have been underpaid, or haven’t received any payment for a while. A shame because they started the Aurora Regency line, although their definition of Regency is a bit startling (it seems to include the Old West!)
    http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?p=6416118

    Very sorry to hear about Cobblestone, but they have been losing ground recently. If you choose to submit your work to a smaller epub, and even the larger ones, it’s a chance you take. They can and will fade and die, but some of them go on to make a real name for themselves. I tend to follow people I know and recommendations these days. And it’s a good idea to spread your work around, so if one pub goes up the Swanee, you still have work elsewhere.

  5. MaryK
    Aug 08, 2011 @ 12:23:01

    I don’t see serialization working for me. I’d wait until the serial was complete to make sure it was completed and to make sure there weren’t any unpleasant surprises at the end.

    I don’t believe for one minute that infidelity would make anyone react with this much hostility toward an author.

    Clearly someone not acquainted with the Romance community.

    ETA: For people who wonder about this, Sylvan’s response would definitely put me off reading her books. Her personal philosophy appears to be that infidelity is no big deal, and I’d have no confidence in her ability to write a convincing HEA and even in her willingness to do so. I’d suspect her of plotting one of those unpleasant surprises.

  6. Sharon
    Aug 08, 2011 @ 12:27:54

    I’ve been looking forward to that Georgette Heyer.

  7. Cara
    Aug 08, 2011 @ 12:47:07

    A really angry and hurt part of me wants to hope that Diane Sylvan someday experiences firsthand the pain and world-shaking awfulness of marital infidelity herself.

    …But I’m better than that, so instead I’ll just roll my eyes and write her off as someone who is only contributing to the problem of separating gays from the “rest of” the population by fetishizing and stereotyping them in her pr0n.

  8. T
    Aug 08, 2011 @ 12:56:32

    I am not going to be looking forward to reading serials. The Ginn Hale one has been sounding interesting from the start, but I hate waiting. I particularly hate waiting for cliffhangers to be solved, and a novel in serials seems likely to have less resolution in any chapter than a novel. Sometimes I wait for series to be complete before starting them, or reading the next book. Waiting on purpose, no. And it does not sound too effective, if I was reading something in serials to wait a month before each new chapter, I would forget names and things. And then waiting to buy all issues of a serial at once, ouch the price. Only way I see myself doing that is if I really love an author´s books and was going to read anything they wrote anyway. I might buy on installments then if it was cheaper, but wait to read it till completed.

    If production (including a fair salary to the author) costs for an ebook are stable, then surely to make more money is to sell more books. Not gimmicks to divide books into several parts so readers will notice (less) how expensive the whole thing really is. We are not stupid, and anyway shopping baskets will likely do the maths for us.

    About infidelity being an issue, LOL. Of course it is, particularly if messing up the HEA already established from a previous book. Just think of the Anne Bishop book. If you give characters a relationship and a chance at a HEA, and then the next book, you go oops-his-soulmate is a different one, of course people are going to hate it – independently of what the gender of the new soulmate is!

  9. lazaraspaste
    Aug 08, 2011 @ 12:58:33

    There are so many problems and disturbing issues in that Sylvan clustercuss, I don’t even know where to begin.

    But in the first place, I find it profoundly upsetting that criticism of a book involving homosexual sex is tantamount to being homophobic. So like, if I don’t like the O network, does that mean I’m a racist? Rejecting criticism by doing what is, essentially, name calling is just a way of not having to engage with the other person’s criticism of the text. It forces anyone who is critiquing the way Sylvan handled the issue of soul mates and infidelity in her book to go on the defensive. As a result, the original argument never gets addressed and people spend all their time defending themselves against a peripheral argument.

    Bullshit, Ms. Sylvan. Bullshit.

  10. Shiloh Walker
    Aug 08, 2011 @ 13:00:07

    If you choose to submit your work to a smaller epub, and even the larger ones, it’s a chance you take.

    Now that’s a fact, Lynne.

  11. Bella F.
    Aug 08, 2011 @ 13:41:09

    One suggestion is that epic fantasy works will be serialized. Ginn Hale’s The Rifter (reviewed here) is an experiment in serialization.

    So if I understanding this right, their solution might be to break up story that is long into smaller parts?
    How would that be determined? Would it be by number of pages?
    I’d hate to buy an ebook only to find out it was more of a novella.

  12. Melissa
    Aug 08, 2011 @ 13:46:22

    First I was dismayed at the news that Ms. Sylvan ruined the relationship featured in Queen of Shadows. Now I am very disappointed that she is deciding to attack readers for her poor decisions regarding the plot, as if we just aren’t enlightened enough to realize her brilliance.

    What Sylvan doesn’t understand is that to the romance community, cheating is cheating no matter the sex. Most romance readers have tried M/M books or read series that feature M/M couples, so she can stop acting like she is some ground breaker by including that scene and we are just homophobic to not “get” it. She needs to listen to her readers complaints that we don’t want to see an established couple cheat on each other then have it played off like it’s not a big deal and, according to a friend who read the book, infer that it will keep happening in the future.

    Ms. Sylvan has lost me as a reader because she first betrayed my trust in her as an author, then behaved badly toward her readers when they explained why her book failed for them.

  13. Bella F.
    Aug 08, 2011 @ 13:50:38

    As for 3M/Overdrive thing, I’m curious to see how that works out. As a reader all I care is that it doesn’t suddenly make certain ebooks unavailable to me for borrowing on my device.

    I cant wait for kindle to hurry up and be compatible though. I have a nook b/c I wanted to borrow ebooks but I’d prefer kindle if it could do the same.
    And if kindle is going to have an announcement about it and possibly even an exciting Harry Potter deal or bundle to go along with it, it sounds good to me. Well, actually let me see the price first.

  14. KMont
    Aug 08, 2011 @ 13:58:32

    I’m no longer surprised when author’s go off the deep end, but Sylvan’s response that unhappy readers are homophobes is extremely offensive. That’s not just going off the deep end, it’s completely insane. The pub sent me both her books, might be time to drop-kick them.

  15. Lisa J
    Aug 08, 2011 @ 14:13:08

    Infidelity would have killed my interest in the books. The author’s response just puts the icing on the cake.

  16. Na
    Aug 08, 2011 @ 14:47:52

    It appears more changes are on the horizon for the publishing industry. I wonder which ones will adapt and which one won’t. Cobblestone Press is in a precarious position as it is but the news thus far doesn’t look promising.

    I have eyeing the Kindle for a while now and it’s good to hear of refurbished prices dropping. I’m still on the fence because I want to wait to see if a new Kindle is in the almost-to-be released stage.

  17. Ivy
    Aug 08, 2011 @ 15:18:54

    I love Heyer and am looking forward to reading GEORGETTE HEYER: BIOGRAPHY OF A BESTSELLER. Sorry to hear about both epublishers. I don’t read Sylvan so I can’t comment there..

  18. Ridley
    Aug 08, 2011 @ 15:23:12

    Venting on Twitter is one thing. Sure it’s unprofessional, but it’s limited to friends and fans for the most part, people who wanted to peek behind the curtain.

    Creating a sock puppet to attack critical readers/reviewers on Amazon is quite another thing entirely. That’s thuggery. She’s trying to intimidate readers, and I don’t take kindly to that.

    Reviews are for readers. If you can’t handle criticism, you shouldn’t publish.

  19. Jackie Barbosa
    Aug 08, 2011 @ 15:51:18

    Reviews are for readers. If you can’t handle criticism, you shouldn’t publish.

    Word.

  20. Chelsea S
    Aug 08, 2011 @ 17:05:10

    Agreed. My opinion is that in publishing a book, the author has had her say. My reviews are my response to her words and are intended as a reflective exercise for myself as well as a way to help other readers. If I hate something that happens in a book, I say so. I try to be respectful and not to cast dispersions on the author as a person. Sylvan’s response bothers me, not only because she’s acting unprofessional, but because she making sweeping statements about reviewers based only on what they’ve written in their reviews. Disliking one particular instance of homosexuality in one book does not make you a homophobe. It just makes you a disappointed reader.

  21. Jo O
    Aug 08, 2011 @ 17:21:01

    I had this book on pre-order (it’s not released until November here in the UK) I saw Jane’s review but didn’t read it because she stated that it contained spoilers, I picked up that there was infidelity but not which characters were involved. I have hivered and hovered about cancelling my order because I really enjoyed the first book but I dislike infidelity storylines and I that thought I would wait until nearer the release date and then check out the reviews and make my decision.

    My order has been cancelled, I have read M/M romance in the past and will buy and read more in the future – but Ms Sylvan not so much. I don’t like her attitude and have no confidence, from her comments, that any future book in this series will be worth my time and money.

  22. Charlie
    Aug 08, 2011 @ 18:36:36

    On serialization. It might not work well for romance readers who tend to be high volume readers, but it has been doing well in audio form in the podcast world for SciFi and Fantasy. 20 minute segments make for good morning and afternoon commutes and for readers who typically read a chapter before bed. Not sure how the pricing issues would work, though. Most of the podcasts I’m thinking of are free or use a commercial/sponsor model.

  23. DS
    Aug 08, 2011 @ 18:59:33

    I’m very interested also. I had heard that it was Sylvia Thorpe who Heyer felt was copying her– maybe both Cartland and Thorpe at different times.

  24. Melisse Aires
    Aug 08, 2011 @ 20:10:49

    Serialization–I like to wait until a series is completed and then read it all in a rush. Too many books, too many distractions during the wait time for me. If the stories are basically stand alones(like Quinn’s Bridgertons) then it doesn’t matter much. But if there is a common story arc etc…that doesn’t work for me.

    Infidelity is a DO Not Buy for me.

  25. Melisse Aires
    Aug 08, 2011 @ 20:14:47

    As an AMP author I hope it turns around. For so long it was a decent publisher with good sales for a small pub. I do agree a small e-pub writer needs to spread herself around.I’m with two additional e-pubs and may look for a third.

  26. Joanna K.
    Aug 09, 2011 @ 06:06:23

    Infidelity is infidelity is infidelity. No matter if your partner/spouse cheats on you with a member of the same or opposite sex. If a reader is turned off by the prospect of the character’s husband cheating on her with another male, he/she should not be finger pointed as being homophobic. It is what it is, cheating is still cheating nonetheless regardless of the genders of the partners. I haven’t read Ms. Slyvan but she has lost a reader in me.

    The lowered prices of the refurbished Kindles are good news to me. Gives me an incentive to finally replace my Sony 505 reader.

  27. Nadia Lee
    Aug 09, 2011 @ 12:00:01

    I actually found Sylvan’s attitude bigoted. She’s basically saying that sex, love and romantic relationship between homosexuals mean less than those between heterosexuals. Else she cannot assert that the m/m sex/love doesn’t count as true infidelity (or at least infidelity that matters).

  28. JL
    Aug 09, 2011 @ 13:35:18

    I love urban fantasy, but haven’t read Dianne Sylvan’s books, primarily because I tend to avoid stories with rape/sexual assault (no judgment, just personal preference). I agree with Nadia & other commenters that it’s demeaning and insulting on a host of levels to suggest that infidelity is less ‘real’ if it is between same-sex partners. For that alone, I definitely won’t be reading any of her work.

    But… I did look at the Twitter exchange in question, and it’s pretty clear that the author is talking about hate mail she received, not the Amazon reviews. We don’t really know what was said in the hate mail, whether it was homophobic or not.

    That doesn’t excuse the anti-infidelity = homophobia comment, but I also don’t think it’s fair to suggest she was referring to the level-headed reviewers at Amazon. There are other comments on her Twitter site about her disappointment with those reviews, but I don’t think she was calling all reader dismay homophobic.

  29. Jia
    Aug 09, 2011 @ 13:48:14

    This is exactly my take on it as well.

  30. Kelly L.
    Aug 09, 2011 @ 15:39:56

    Agree, JL–it sounds like she got some hate mail that was much nastier than what was on Amazon, and that she was venting about that on her Twitter. I don’t think it’s automatically an author-behaving-badly if she was only venting on Twitter and not on people’s reviews, and if she was responding to the hate mail. Unfortunately I’ve seen some comment threads get nasty; she’s being bashed for her religion among other things. I am wondering if the hate mail was much more homophobic than the reviews.

    If she is in fact Darkness Calls, then that is bad behavior. I’m not sure if that’s her or a friend or fan.

  31. Kelly L.
    Aug 09, 2011 @ 16:44:24

    (And I thought the feminized David threat was a joke, FWIW, not a serious plan for the next book.)

  32. Rebecca
    Aug 10, 2011 @ 18:10:14

    “Readers are looking to buy books at the cheapest prices possible and if digital books are pushing the prices down, then readers will flock to the digital books.”

    I wonder about this because this is definitely not the case among most of my YA blogging friends. Most of us have a format we strongly prefer (whether it’s ebooks or printed books) and buying decisions are based on whether a specific title we really want to read is available in our preferred format, and not the price. To me it doesn’t matter if another book is cheaper if it’s not what I wanted to read or is in the wrong format – I will read ebook short stories but full length novels have to be in print, no exceptions, for me. I just don’t know anyone who would choose a format they hated, or pass over a title they really wanted to read for one they never heard of, just becuase it was cheaper.

  33. Ridley
    Aug 10, 2011 @ 18:16:39

    I just don’t know anyone who would…pass over a title they really wanted to read for one they never heard of, just becuase it was cheaper.

    I do this all the time. I’m not paying agency prices, no matter how much I want the book. There’s a million other books out there to pick from that don’t ask me to grab my ankles before I buy them.

  34. Moriah Jovan
    Aug 10, 2011 @ 18:56:49

    pass over a title they really wanted to read

    I’m at the point I’ll pass over a title I really want to read because of price. Period. As in, I’ll find something else to do, or I’ll read one of the books already in my TBR, or I’ll go to the library.

    As time goes on, I’m getting less and less patient with the agency pricing business, and it flat does not matter how much I want the book. I simply am not going to pay those prices, and I’m not exactly on a book-buying budget. I’m just insulted.

  35. Rebecca
    Aug 10, 2011 @ 19:19:42

    Well if I didn’t want to spend the money right now for whatever reason, I might read something in my TBR instead. But I wouldn’t buy a book I didn’t really want in the first place just because it was cheaper.

  36. Sirius
    Aug 10, 2011 @ 19:25:26

    I will not pass the title which I really want to read because of the price, this is absolutely true. However, what is also true is that I am not LOOKING for new titles and authors from Agency publishers. In other words, I am paying full price for Jim Butcher’s books (and even there my patience is wearing thin), for Ilona Andrews books and this is pretty much IT (there were literally FEW exceptions since agency pricing kicked in). I am not looking for any NEW authors from agency publishers, I am perfectly content with small publishers like Samhain, Loose ID, Dreamspinner even if they have their problems. I am also a big lover of classical books, so when I am not reading my gay mysteries, gay historicals, contemporary gay romances or sometimes het romances if I like review here :), etc, I am reading classics which I can get for free or very cheap on Kindle. I will even buy some self published books if they come with trusted recommendations. Believe me, I am not feeling deprived of reading material at all so far. I am hoping that the greediness and idiocy of Agency five (or six or how many else decides to join them) will be their end one day. I know I am dreaming, but I can dream, can’t I?

    But do not get me wrong, if I see the book from the author I like and trust I WILL pay $9.99 for it or more, it is just I absolutely refuse to do it on a regular basis.

  37. Sirius
    Aug 10, 2011 @ 19:27:41

    Ah. With this I agree, I will not buy the book I want just because it is cheaper either, my TBR list is huge as it is. I am just saying that there are enough books I WANT to read from small publishers to make me not go look for agency publishers.

  38. Ridley
    Aug 10, 2011 @ 20:24:51

    I’m not even doing that any more. I *love* Patricia Briggs, but there’s been no Mercy Thompson or Alpha and Omega for me. I think I’ll pass on Meljean Brook’s steampunk this fall, stopped reading Meredith Duran and am halted halfway through I don’t know how many series.

    No book is so alluring that something cheaper won’t hold my attention.

  39. Sirius
    Aug 10, 2011 @ 20:36:50

    Eh I applaud you, really, but while I refuse to endulge their greediness and crusade against ebooks more than I feel I have to, I will also rather pay ten or fifteen dollars for the book which I can reread over and over again, than say go to the movies for the same or more expensive price. Books are my priority entertainment and while I will certainly not look for new authors from them, and gave up authors I liked but did not love (like Patricia Briggs actually), I feel like I am depraving myself of favorite sweets if I will not get my Kate Daniels or Harry Dresden (or few single books from different authors) fix. I am feeling that I am the loser in those situations, not them. I guess there are few authors I do like that much and not willing to settle for substitutes. Come to think of it, there is probably a price which would make me gave up on those authors too, but fifteen dollars (using this one as reference because this is how much latest Dresden cost me on release date) is not that price.

  40. Stumbling Over Chaos :: Linkity lapses
    Aug 12, 2011 @ 07:14:46

    […] and book news from Dear […]

  41. Lurv Looks Back: August 2011 | Lurv a la Mode
    Sep 06, 2011 @ 10:19:15

    […] Author Diane Sylvan wasn’t too happy with the negative feedback she’s getting for her second urban fantasy/romance novel, Shadowflame. When she chose to have the “hero” of her series cheat on his new wife, Miranda, little did Sylvan know she’d be seeing plenty of unhappy fans that just don’t want to read about infidelity. Dear Author has more. […]

  42. B. Sullivan
    Mar 11, 2013 @ 03:39:07

    I just don’t know anyone who would…pass over a title they really wanted to read for one they never heard of, just becuase it was cheaper.

    I didn’t set out to do this – but I do now. I will be saving up (or trying to wait out the time for it to go on sale) for a more expensive book, usually paper, and then the ebook sale area catches me. Anything under $5 that I can look up here or GR and find a decent review history can tempt me. I used to do this at the used bookstore – but that was when it was an easier trip to get to one. The couple-of-clicks-and-it’s-on-your-ereader than is way too easy. Also I am so damn weak when it comes to book sales.

    And now going to go add that Heyer bio to my to read list…

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