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Thursday Midday Links: Facebook tried to launch a whisper campaign...

Facebook employed a major PR and lobbying firm Burson-Marsteller to launch a whisper campaign against Google. The Daily Beast broke the story and it is a compelling and almost unbelievable story. Burson-Masteller, for political junkies is the company owned by pollster Mark Penn, a chief strategist for Hillary Clinton’s run for presidency.

Confronted with evidence, a Facebook spokesman last night confirmed that Facebook hired Burson, citing two reasons: First, because it believes Google is doing some things in social networking that raise privacy concerns; second, and perhaps more important, because Facebook resents Google’s attempts to use Facebook data in its own social-networking service.

The idea that FACEBOOK is concerned about privacy is a joke. But given that all the whispers were true, it’s hard to make a case out against Facebook, at least a legal one. More from the Daily Beast.

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Remember when Jennifer Egan made the off the cuff criticism of YA author Kaavya Viswanathan for plagiarizing banal YA authors? She’s offered up a gracious and fulsome apology calling her comments indefensible and thoughtless, adding nothing of value to the conversation.

“I have nothing to defend in what I said,” she said. “I really wish I hadn’t said that, and was incredibly and immediately sorry that anyone was hurt by it. I don’t blame anyone for being mad about it.” Though she does believe there’s an interesting conversation to be had about genre and gender and literary culture, she doesn’t see her comments in that interview as any kind of effective contribution to that discussion. “I’m all for criticizing; I’m not saying that no one should ever criticize anyone else,” she continued. “But if you’re going to criticize, you should do it intentionally and thoughtfully and carefully and know whom you’re criticizing and for what. And I didn’t meet any of those criteria.”

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Paidcontent has an article summarizing the publishers’ fears of tech companies overtaking publishing.

HarperCollins’ international CEO Victoria Barnsley warned delegates, noting Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) recently launched a new publishing imprint for romance novels.

“We must be very wary of any of the tech companies becoming too dominant, We must recognise the misalignment between us and some of the technology companies. Some of them would happily see content commoditised and, as we’ve seen with Google (NSDQ: GOOG), they can have a casual attitude to copyright.”

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Authors in the news include:

Danielle Steele is still known as a romance author, although I am not sure why. She apparently lives in Paris now and is offending San Francisco by deriding its lack of style.

In an interview this week, she complained: ‘There’s no style, nobody dresses up — you can’t be chic there. It’s all shorts and hiking books and Tevas [an ugly but practical style of shoe].

‘It is as if everyone is dressed to go on a camping trip,’ she told the Wall Street Journal.

and Nora Roberts was wearing the requisite hat at the Kentucky Derby. This is a short interview of her on the KD red carpet.

*****

Facebook contests run by authors might be coming to an end. Ashley March alerted her fellow authors that hosting facebook contests could lead to your page being deleted.

***You should read this last one again. If I’m reading this correctly, it means that we can no longer hold “Like my page and I’ll give away a Kindle when I reach 5,000 fans” contests.***

*****

Barnes and Noble has finally convinced Wall Street that it is on the right track. Stock is up 50% in the last month. This is a great analysis of BN which includes praise for its digital initiatives:

Shares really took off in the last week of April when Barnes & Noble formally upgraded the Nook and kicked off an ad campaign highlighting the Nook’s unsung capabilities. (Forget books. What about streaming movies, reading e-mails and all of those other time-sucking hobbies that the iPad is known for?)

But warnings about the drag of the physical retail space:

This is still a company that has slowly sat by as $400 million in annual free cash flow (back in the middle of the past decade) steadily shrank until the red ink started to flow in 2010. Foot traffic continues to slump at its stores, and a rising number of them are no longer profitable (and would have been culled by a tougher management team). The race is on for the Nook and BN.com (the company’s web arm) to boost profits high enough to offset losses from the brick-and-mortar stores.

Ultimately BN will either have to downsize it’s physical presence or convert that retail space into selling something other than books. In many BN stores, there is a rise in toys and game merchandise but BN will have to go beyond selling Legos and Monopoly in order to maintain revenues to justify its rents.

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

18 Comments

  1. Laura Vivanco
    May 12, 2011 @ 12:55:30

    On the topic of Nora Roberts and her support for good causes, I got an email yesterday announcing that the Nora Roberts Foundation is supporting a conference about “Popular Romance in the New Millennium.”

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  2. Helen
    May 12, 2011 @ 12:57:40

    If they don’t have at least some physical space they won’t sell the Nook. People KNOW about the kindle, amazon has adverts practically everywhere. BN does not. I think the key will lie with smaller spaces, more cafe space with greater offerings, and slashing the space used to sell books while enhancing the space used to sell Nooks.

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  3. Ashley March
    May 12, 2011 @ 12:58:55

    Thanks for spreading the news about Facebook contests, Jane. I just want to reiterate that most of these rules aren’t new, but because people (including me) don’t usually read Terms of Use statements, many of us have never heard of this until now. The only new rule that was updated as of yesterday is that we can no longer use the “Like” feature for our pages to automatically enter someone into a contest. The reason all of these rules are so pertinent now is that Facebook has started moving to stricter enforcement and is randomly taking down pages without notice. I know many people will still continue running contests regardless, but I wanted to give a fair warning to others like me who weren’t aware of the rules. Thanks again!

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  4. joanne
    May 12, 2011 @ 14:10:00

    Aw, Facebook is concerned about Google and privacy issues. God, I love good fiction.

    If some publishers fear tech companies they really should not have aligned themselves so quickly with Steve Jobs with his agency pricing and his distain for readers. Doesn’t it seem like even their hindsight is blurry?

    I have such admiration for Nora– she’s one of the bestest ambassadors for the romance community.

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  5. lisabookworm
    May 12, 2011 @ 14:12:42

    I understand the many reasons why physical bookstores are going under. But I for one am going to desperately miss bookstores when/if they’re gone. I go to Borders and browse through the store (and buy too). In fact, I often find books that I’ve never come across while searching online. I know I’m going to miss out on some books and authors when/if Borders and B&N shut their doors.

    While I much prefer Borders to B&N, if Borders close their doors I’ll be going to B&N to browse, drink coffee and read. But since B&N never offers coupons, I don’t know what I’d buy there when I can go online and buy products discounted.

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  6. Chicklet
    May 12, 2011 @ 16:35:31

    [Facebook] believes Google is doing some things in social networking that raise privacy concerns

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Reminds me of one of my favorite jokes from Friends: “Hi, Kettle? This is Monica. You’re black.”

    Some of them would happily see content commoditised…

    What, you mean like people buying content? Like, purchasing books? What does her comment even mean?

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  7. John
    May 12, 2011 @ 18:49:57

    While Danielle Steel is my guilty pleasure of choice, I have to say the comment was rather rude. She is in her 60′s, though, and her clothing and family values have morphed some, but the old influence is still there. She’s more of a Paris woman. It’s evident in the many, many novels of hers that take place in Paris. There is a shitload.

    As for Egan’s deal, I don’t think she means it. To each their own. At this point her apology isn’t going to do much. The lack of a solid meaning or remorse behind it doesn’t help, either.

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  8. Jane
    May 12, 2011 @ 18:58:41

    Given that Egan is a Pulitzer Prize winning novelist, I don’t see her popularity waning and she didn’t need to apologize to anyone for her comment. But she did and it was a very gracious apology, completely abasing herself. I don’t know what more she could do to say that she was wrong and that her comments were without worth.

    Where are you getting that her apology lacks sentiment? How do you read that into her statements where she says what she says is without defense and that her comments added nothing to the conversation? In my opinion, it could not be a more fulsome apology. Short of throwing herself on a burning pyre, I’m not sure what else could be done.

    Egan does not have to like YA. She does not have to like chick lit. She does not have to like romances. Her not liking those books doesn’t make her less of a writer or a person. I don’t like horror books. I don’t like most non fiction. I am not a fan of most lit fic.

    In fact, I hear many romance authors and readers dismissive of lit fic categorizing it all as depressive and boring.

    I can’t help but wonder if this isn’t gender bias. After all, Stephen King can call Stephenie Meyers’ names and isn’t required to apologize. Mark Twain was famous for his criticism of other authors.

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  9. Moriah Jovan
    May 12, 2011 @ 19:42:22

    Danielle Steele [...] apparently lives in Paris now and is offending San Francisco by deriding its lack of style.

    Why does anybody care enough to get offended by this?

    @Jane:

    I can’t help but wonder if this isn’t gender bias. After all, Stephen King can call Stephenie Meyers’ names and isn’t required to apologize. Mark Twain was famous for his criticism of other authors.

    I’m starting to wonder about that myself.

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  10. Sunita
    May 12, 2011 @ 20:17:56

    @John: Have to say, DS was happy to claim SF when it worked for her. She was seriously into being a socialite and couldn’t say enough about how cultured a place it was. She’s had two (more) divorces and her son’s death, so it’s been hard for her. But jeez, it’s not the city’s fault.

    ReplyReply

  11. Ros
    May 13, 2011 @ 02:38:18

    @Jane: I agree, I was very impressed with the apology which read to me as both heartfelt and also getting the point.

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  12. SAO
    May 13, 2011 @ 03:04:34

    The Facebook thing makes you wonder, how much of stuff you see on blogs and in newspapers is the thoughts of the blogger or reporter and how much of it is planted by a PR agency working for a client?

    ReplyReply

  13. Helen
    May 13, 2011 @ 06:30:24

    @lisabookworm:
    Barnes and Noble actually does offer coupons pretty much every month of between 10-30% off. You have to have their “card” to get it. I used to get the card but when I started buying mostly e I stopped because coupons don’t work for e-books.

    ReplyReply

  14. Stumbling Over Chaos :: Listening to linkity
    May 13, 2011 @ 07:53:26

    [...] Book and publisher news from Dear Author. [...]

  15. Maddie
    May 13, 2011 @ 08:18:38

    @Moriah Jovan:

    It’s getting to the point that one can not give an opinion on anything with out some one being offended and wanting an “Sorry I Said That”

    When I think of New York I think of hip, smart dresses no matter how weird they look people (clothe wise) they look put together.

    When I think of San Francisco I to think of them that way, people who are laid back and do not care to put on the war paint before leaving the house, nothing wrong with what she said.

    ReplyReply

  16. Gretchen Galway
    May 13, 2011 @ 12:01:03

    Steele must not have come out of her block-sized mansion in SF for years, because Tevas are totally 1995. All the hippest Bay Areans these days wear Chacos and Keen.

    And what’s wrong with camping?

    But seriously, I worked in the San Francisco garment industry for over a decade. We are not Paris. There’s a reason we’re famous for Levi’s, Gap, and Gymboree. It’s the stuff real people actually wear.

    Truth isn’t an insult if you embrace it with pride :-)

    ReplyReply

  17. Cindy
    May 14, 2011 @ 15:49:34

    I’ve actually never been in a B&N store, but from what I’ve heard, their problem is customer service. I feel like a broken record, but it’s hard to feel for a brick & mortar company when it’s obvious that customer service is not a high priority. Have friendly, helpful sales associates, and they might be surprised what happens.

    And yes, since the coupons are NOT good on Ebooks, why not do like Borders and have a free & paid card with different perks? The whole no coupons on Ebooks thing just bugs me. They want Epublishing to take off but want you to spend more for a non-physical entity and basically penalize you for buying ebooks. Don’t get it.

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  18. Nadia Lee
    May 15, 2011 @ 00:52:32

    @Cindy:

    The whole no coupons on Ebooks thing just bugs me.

    It’s probably due to agency pricing, not some corporate shortsightedness of B&N mgmt team.

    ReplyReply

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