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Tuesday News: Online book sales outpacing brick and mortar, notes on...

US book publishers are making more through online sales than physical stores – Not only have audiobooks increased in popularity over the past year, but the 2013 joint report by the Association of American Publishers and the Book Industry Study Group (link to the report in the article) indicates that digital books are still not outselling paperbacks. Still, online book sales are now outpacing sales in physical stores, which may have more to do with the death of chains like Borders than the relative popularity of online booksellers.

The report also estimates that, in 2013, online retail accounted for 35.4 percent of total publisher revenue from general consumer fiction and non-fiction titles. –The Verge

ALA 2014: ALA Sizzles in Las Vegas – Despite one sour note delivered via Twitter this weekend, I’m glad to hear that the ALA (American Library Association) Conference in Las Vegas seems to be generating real excitement and a more progressive view of technology and digital books. Attendance is believed to be at an all-time high, and Donna Tartt and Doris Kearns Goodwin won the Carnegie Medals for fiction and non-fiction, respectively. Jane McGonigal, a game designer and writer, delivered the opening keynote, which reflected themes of innovation, collaboration, and transformation:

But McGonigal’s most compelling example came in 2011, when she worked with the New York Public Library on a game that brought together 500 individuals to write a book overnight, using 100 historical treasures in the NYPL’s collections. The final result, 100 Ways to Make History, was so compelling, that NYPL officials pledged to “defend the book for as long as New York City is standing,” and they put the book in the rare books collection, with the Declaration of Independence, and the Gutenberg Bible.

“Can you help scientists solve problems, can you help your community redesign public spaces, can you write a book in one night? All of these epic goals are more possible,” McGonigal concluded, “because of gaming.” –Publishers Weekly

Content Used to Be King. Now It’s the Joker. – The subtitle of this very interesting piece by Amy Westervelt is “Why I’ve decided to stop taking “content” gigs and other journalists should, too,” and Westervelt goes on to talk about how “content” is becoming synonymous with promotion and advertising, especially in the way it’s interwoven with competition for hits, page views, and advertising dollars. Not to mention the fact that the writers/content producers are being paid less but expected to do more.

I’m tired of making rich, white dudes seem more thoughtful than they are. Yeah, I said it. Something about this whole game smacks of sexism, on top of the usual “let them eat cake” attitude corporate types have toward creative types in general (“I know! Why don’t we hire a journalist to write this think-piece? They’re all desperate for cash, they’d be happy to take this on for way less than we pay anyone else.”) Most of the ghost writers and content producers I know are women, ditto the journalists-turned-internal editors and “content strategists” for companies, and 90 percent of their work is for male CEOs. There are various factors at work here, of course. Founding and leading a successful company entitles one to a certain amount of cachet and that’s just giving credit where it’s due. Plus there are legitimate thought leaders in every industry, including media and journalism (although they’re all also mostly white dudes). But in addition to all that, underpinning this new content world is an unsettling image of a bunch of women scurrying around behind the scenes to make the boss-man look good, and an even more unsettling message: Your ideas will only be taken seriously if they are articulated by a white, male CEO. –Medium

The Hobby Lobby ruling proves men of the law still can’t get over ‘immoral’ women having sex – That Ruth Bader Ginsberg wrote a 35-page dissent to the Hobby Lobby (aka who should pay for birth control) case should tell you how divisive this issue has rendered the Supreme Court. Which, in turn, tells you how entwined political convictions are with legal principles. And while many outlets are carrying stories about this case, Jessica Valenti’s Guardian article is particularly relevant to a community of Romance readers, especially since so much of the genre is connected to female sexuality. Moreover, these waves of backlash against equity and women’s independence tend to show up in the genre, often in ways that show female protagonists struggling with emotional, sexual, and gendered power issues.

As Valenti (correctly) points out, the history of legal cases regarding birth control have been fraught with concerns about female chastity, especially in regard to unmarried women. It was, in fact, only 42 years ago (in 1972) that unmarried American women were legally allowed to purchase birth control. Just think about that for a minute, and then go and read Valenti’s article.

One brief from the Beverly Lahaye Institute and Janice Crouse (who once gave a sex talk to college students called “False Promises, Searing Pain, Tragic Problems”) insists that the court consider the “documented negative effects the widespread availability of contraceptives has on women’s ability to enter into and maintain desired marital relationships”. The American Freedom Center argued that birth control has “harmed women physically, emotionally, morally, and spiritually”. And lawyer David Boyle wrote in his brief that contraceptives are not necessary, “since sexual relations are basically a voluntary activity. … [S]ex is only a human want (like bowling or stamp collecting), not an actual need”.

Bowling or stamp collecting. The jokes write themselves. –The Guardian

isn't sure if she's an average Romance reader, or even an average reader, but a reader she is, enjoying everything from literary fiction to philosophy to history to poetry. Historical Romance was her first love within the genre, but she's fickle and easily seduced by the promise of a good read. She approaches every book with the same hope: that she will be filled from the inside out with something awesome that she didnʼt know, didnʼt think about, or didnʼt feel until that moment. And she's always looking for the next mind-blowing read, so feel free to share any suggestions!


  1. TiceB
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 07:10:15

    I really don’t get the overreaction to the Hobby Lobby decision. To say that closely held corporations can’t be forced to pay for abortifacients is not quite the same as setting women’s rights back four decades. Declining to force someone to pay for something is far from banning it. And apparently, it’s all smoke and mirrors anyway: “‘the less restrictive alternative that the majority settled on is a certification by Hobby Lobby that it opposes contraceptive coverage, after which the insurance company must provide that coverage for free.’ Accordingly, ‘the premium charged to Hobby Lobby will necessarily include the cost of the free contraception.'”

  2. Jane
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 07:32:32

    @TiceB – For a couple reasons. First, the objection Hobby Lobby made is based on religious beliefs. Ergo it follows that other religious beliefs can be used to deny benefits or even jobs to individuals like GLBT or perhaps even women. In some religions, woman are to submit to their husbands. Men are the head of the household. Religious organizations use these scriptures to place women below the man. Hobby Lobby could argue that they cannot promote a woman above a man due to deeply held religious beliefs.

    Second, it’s an affront to science. Birth control pills and many other contraceptives prevent ovulation. I.e., it does not allow the egg to be released. Having a period is more of an aborticant than taking birth control if “killing the egg” is some kind of aborticant.

    Third, it does set back women’s rights. The company provides coverage for Viagra and vascectomies, thereby preferencing male needs over women. While over a million women (at least) take birth control for health reasons and not for preventing pregnancy, the same can’t be said for Viagra and vascectomies. It’s a clear indication that men, not women, get the right to choose and the right to be covered under health insurance that everyone at the company pays into. So men get the right to have a woody and the right to be free of responsibility for pregnancies using money that a female employee pays in to. Further, the Supreme Court is saying that a corporation’s beliefs trumps those of an individual. In a real sense, the Supreme Court is privileging corporations – fake entities – over real human beings with vaginas.

    That’s pretty troubling.

  3. Judy865
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 08:27:59

    Yeah, Supreme Court comment. The issue for me is the HUGE crack in the door this is. The actual decision is, of course, somewhat limited. But it’s the fact that it’s a codification of religious rights for a commercial, for-profit, institution that’s my biggest issue. Line forms to the right for all the other religious concern issues that will now be sent to court…..

  4. DS
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 08:36:16

    What Jane said– or in an AOL flashback, “me too”.

  5. hapax
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 08:50:52

    @TiceB: on top of everything Jane said, the “morality” of an employee’s health benefits are no more the employer’s business than if employees take their paychecks and blow them on liquor and lottery tickets. To say that the employer can’t dictate how employees use their justly earned compensation is far from “forcing them to pay for it.”

    The majority decision itself recognized this point when it carved out a religious exception for women’s contraception and ONLY women’t contraception: it specifically noted that certain medical procedures (such as immunization or blood transfusions) that various religions object to cannot be dropped under this law.

    Hobby Lobby is demonstrably hypocritical about this “sincere objection” — they provided contraception coverage before, when it WASN’T required, and have invested in companies producing these “morally objectionable” medical devices.

    Moreover that “smoke and mirrors” workaround? That basically requires either the other clients of that insurance company or the US taxpayers to subsidize health care for the employees that Hobby Lobby won’t provide with their justly earned compensation. *Someone* has to pay for it, and the court just ruled it ain’t gonna be Hobby Lobby! Either they will get a huge windfall corporate welfare (at your and my expense!), or more likely, nobody will pay for it (the Republicans in Congress have already drastically cut funds for this “workaround” for nonprofit employers), and women won’t get health care.

    Inevitable result: more abortions, more disabled women, more children in poverty, more death. But the owners of Hobby Lobby will be able to boast about how “Christian” they are — YAY!

    (And the decision also noted the scientific fact that contraception is NOT the same as “abortificants”, but said that facts don’t make any difference; would they be as tolerant if, say, I claimed to “believe” that God had anointed me the rightful owner of your bank account? I don’t think so!)

    This decision is also horrifying because it follows the trend to give corporations all the rights of “natural persons” (freedom of speech, freedom of religion — how can a corporation worship ANYTHING?) without the responsibilities (can’t be sent to jail or executed for a crime).

    In short, the Court ruled that Hobby Lobby was more than a person than I am — that it had more legal protections than I do — simply because I possess female reproductive organs. It is as horrifying as the Dred Scott decision, which found that certain persons were LESS legal persons because of the color of their skin.

    I can’t imagine how it would be POSSIBLE to “over-react” to this decision.

  6. SAO
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 09:21:24

    The Hobby Lobby decision is one more reason to ditch employer provided health insurance, which distorts the market in so many ways. One big one: the average American changes jobs every 5 years, companies change insurance plans about as frequently, meaning insurance companies keep their customers for well under 5 years, creating a marked disincentive to invest in long term care. 70% of health care costs are for chronic conditions, and despite the studies showing how effective various interventions are, they don’t get widely adopted.

  7. Isobel Carr
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 09:46:28

    I’m waiting for the deluge of religious exception cases to swamp the Supreme Court. As someone said on Twitter: “Your move, Rastafarians.”

  8. Cynthia Sax
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 09:48:59

    Amy Westervelt – “Most of the ghost writers and content producers I know are women, ditto the journalists-turned-internal editors and “content strategists” for companies, and 90 percent of their work is for male CEOs.”

    Considering 95 percent of the Fortune 1000 companies are male, that means proportionately more female CEOs are hiring ghost writers and content producers.

    I agree that every person should look at the pros and cons of taking paid or unpaid work but we can’t assume we know the motivations behind the other person’s offer. I also find it HIGHLY suspicious when a reporter makes up quotes. Couldn’t she have found ONE source to show the thinking behind ONE CEO’s decision? (shakes head) I realize it is an opinion piece, written to get people all riled up, but there should be some journalistic standards.

  9. Anne
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 10:10:10

    I’m pretty livid about this ruling for a number of reasons-

    1. I advise business owners all day long about which business structure is best for them. In most cases they will go with an LLC or an S Corp. The deciding factors are usually how earnings will be taxed and/or limiting liability. The idea that these business structures can have freedom of religion is ridiculous to me. It’s like they get their cake and get to eat it too.

    2. I have a coworker who is of a religious persuasion that left her 11 yo brother-in-law an orphan because her in-laws refused blood transfusions after a car accident. I don’t pretend to understand their choice but I respect it. That said, this ruling, “narrow” though it may be, makes me want to know the religious beliefs of any prospective employer despite feeling that it is none of my business.

    3. I had a hysterectomy and BSO due to endometriosis/adenomyosis many years ago. Back then birth control pills were almost the only thing out there that could minimize my misery. My insurance company refused to cover the prescription even though I wasn’t taking it for birth control. They were paying for laparoscopies every 4-6 months so they knew what I was taking the bc pills for but no, they wouldn’t pay though they covered Viagra from day one.

    There was also two drugs that gynos were using to put patients in chemical menopause which is the only thing that ever gave me pain relief. Danazol, a steroid, was approved by the FDA for this use but the side effects were absolutely horrible. The other drug, Lupron, did the same thing without the side effects but was approved only for treatment of prostrate cancer. My insurance company refused to cover it because it was off label use and the cost was more than $4,000 a month back then. I still find that unbelievable; silly me for wanting to try to keep some body parts that I was born with!

    Even though insurance companies seem to have evolved in the coverage of these drugs, my choice of medical treatment should be between me and my doctor. Not the insurance company and certainly not my employer or the Supreme Court. I worry that this ruling may give closely held corporations an out and make it more difficult for women suffering from the above diseases.

    tl,dr: I’m livid about this ruling. Livid enough to spout off on the internet about it and publicly state that companies such as Hobby Lobby will never see a dime of my money.

  10. LoriToland
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 10:15:57

    The Hobby Lobby decision is a very sad one for a few reasons, most of them posted by Jane before me. Most people are on birth control for family planning reasons, while mine are a little different. I’m on a drug called methotrexate that is for lupus and I can’t get pregnant while on it because methotrexate will cause a miscarriage if I do get pregnant. I haven’t found a rheumatologist that will prescribe it without some sort of solid birth control.

    I’m going to dissent here and say while I do support making birth control free through health plans because I do believe in free birth control, there are no other drugs that are free through my health plan so why just birth control? Why not all drugs? If Hobby Lobby had brought this argument, I might have seen their point. This court has made some decisions that baffle me and set dangerous precedent.

    If you are going to make birth control free, do it through the government and when the religious right brings up their ideas of birth control causing abortions, bring up the science that when used as prescribed they do not.

  11. Darlynne
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 11:51:53

    Today’s Washington Post via Mother Jones: “Hobby Lobby has about $73 million invested in the company that makes the Plan B morning-after pill, another that makes a copper IUD, the maker of the abortion-inducing drugs and health companies that cover surgical abortions.”

  12. Joanna
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 14:06:58

    The Hobby Lobby decision makes me want to go out and start a business, hire a bunch of guys over 50, and then refuse to cover their Viagra because of my religion – but I guess we should have a bowling team then!

  13. hapax
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 15:44:49

    there are no other drugs that are free through my health plan so why just birth control? Why not all drugs?

    The ACA requires that employer-purchased plans provide an array of preventive care at no additional cost to the employee. Contraception is considered preventive care.

  14. Jane
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 17:52:50

    @loritoland – free birth control isn’t the crux of the argument. it was coverage under the health insurance plan which means it would be subject to a negotiated price (insurance companies get discounts for covered Rx drugs v. non covered ones) as well as a deductible.

  15. Elinor Aspen
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 18:45:07

    @LoriToland, the reason why insurance companies must cover contraception under the ACA is because it lowers overall healthcare costs (since unplanned pregnancies and the children that result from them cost health insurers far more than universal contraceptive coverage).

  16. TiceB
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 20:27:41

    I still think it’s an overreaction. Hobby Lobby will continue to provide 16 out of the 20 types of birth control that HHS mandates–just not the four types that it objected to (the so-called morning-after pills and IUDs). It does not seem outrageous to me that a family-owned corporation should exercise the religious views of its owners. Religious freedom is the bedrock of this country. The true outrage is the one-size-fits-all HHS mandate that would force even religious institutions like Little Sisters of the Poor to provide abortion-inducing drug coverage to its nuns.

  17. library addict
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 20:54:24

    @TiceB: But the point of the court’s decision is that the owner’s/company’s freedom of religion is more important than their employee’s rights. I for one do not want my boss deciding what I can and can not use for birth control. Plus the owners are hypocrites as they invest in companies that make the birth control they find so offensive. And this affects only women’s choices, not men’s. Basically women are now third class citizens behind men and corporations.

  18. Lindsay
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 21:08:21

    Nuns are actually pretty cool with birth control and abortions and a lot of them need it, if you pay any attention to what’s going down between them and the Vatican these days. Another group of women who have been systematically abused and oppressed by men, shocking.

  19. hapax
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 21:25:44

    @TiceB: I typed out a very lengthy reply (wyith subheadings! and citations! ) to the (at least) seven fundamental factual errors you included in your brief comment, but like four-fifths of everything I’ve sent to DA today, the Internet eated it. :-(

    I decided not to bother re-creating it. This decision has been widely reported, the SC has clarified exactly what they meant, legal scholars have dissected its implications, the history of “corporate personhood” and “religious liberty” in United States constitutional law has been exhaustively re-hashed, the hypocrisy of Hobby Lobby (and the 70 other companies also seeking religious exemptions) has been completely exposed, the science of contraception has been explained with charts and diagrams, Ginsburg’s masterful dissent has been set to *music*, fercryin outloud.

    If your really wanted to understand this “over reaction”, you’d have to go to deliberate, wilful effort to AVOID learning the facts and (lack of) legal logic involved. I can only conclude that you want to shame and mock all the women and children who will suffer concrete and lasting harm from this decision.

  20. Sydneysider
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 21:43:10

    Also, just to add to everyone’s excellent comments, the “declining to force someone to pay” meme has to stop. Employer provided health benefits are benefits provided in lieu of wages, and employers who provide insurance receive a tax benefit. Furthermore, Hobby Lobby was not personally having to provide said contraceptives, it’s not as though they were going to be handing them out every Friday or something. They were purchasing insurance and getting a tax break by doing so.

  21. Anne
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 22:17:26

    @TiceB: I can separate personal beliefs from this decision even if I don’t agree with them. What I cannot separate is that somehow this Supreme Court thinks that a non-human legal entity has religious freedoms and therefore it is ok that the shareholders of this non-human legal entity are more entitled than the employees of said non-human legal entity.

    Consider substituting any other restriction for the words “birth control methods” and then see what you think.

  22. mari
    Jul 02, 2014 @ 08:03:45

    Nuns who are in favor of birth control and abortion are in direct violation of the fundamental teachings of the Catholic Church. They have ex-communicated themselves. A knowledge of the Catechism and the Church’s teachings on this matter (human vitae ) would make this very clear. It has also been pointed these “radical”nuns are dying out, average age, sixty-seventy. The orders of nuns who are growing, are nuns faithful to the church teachings, operating crisis pregnancy centers, and practicing Eucharistic adoration. The nuns in these orders are young, enthusiastic, happy and on fire for the Church. They don’t seem very oppressed or abused to me and

    Buried Comment (Reason: non compliant with commenting policy)   Show

    they would probably laugh at your description of them, thinking it was a joke.

    There is science which refutes every point here made about birth control, and I tend to view claims of “hypocrisy!” with a jaundiced eye. When liberals yell “hypoctite!” they seem to think it negates every other point made. Sorry,no dice. The country was founded on the right of people to practice their religion, not on the “right” for nuns, priests, rabbis,and the other faithful to purchase birth control for their employees under threat of government coercion.

    @Hapax I know, I know, the liberal media have spoken, tried all the horrible men on the Supreme Court and declared them guilty of warring on womem, being misogynistic, gendered, hetereonormative, etc., I think some of them are also criminally white. I would quietly and respectfully suggest you look at Rich Lowry column today in the NY Post, read The Catholic Register and other people who take religion seriously. Some people who believe this way are actual woman who are pleased their rights were

    Over half the country approves this decision and I am sure many of them read romance.

  23. Jane
    Jul 02, 2014 @ 08:25:53

    @mari – your comments are once again both factually wrong and incendiary. If past behavior informs present, I know you won’t return to address any responses so it’s my recommendation to people in the thread to either ignore the comment or, if they wish to respond, address it generally.

  24. Lindsay
    Jul 02, 2014 @ 11:49:24

    @Jane: Can we just ban her? She’s clearly not interested in actually talking to anyone on the site, just attacking them, and since she likes to go after me and other trauma victims it always makes me feel sick for a week after I see her spreading her awful hate and outright lies. Which is exactly what she wants, I guess.

  25. Melissa
    Jul 02, 2014 @ 16:44:12


    I agree with banning mari. she adds nothing to the comments – not even a dissenting view that gives me pause to think about my own stance on an issue, which many others do here with much more sensitivity and civility.

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