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Wednesday News: Holiday Bells; Condoms; and the case of the manufactured...

I think publishers just really want readers to have discovery problems, so we can all be in the same boat. I have been working with readers for years, and I have heard many, many, many complaints from them in re: books. I have heard them complain that they have too much to read, and I have heard them complain that their favorite authors don’t write fast enough, and I have heard them complain that the book they want to read is not in paperback yet, and I have heard them complain that they will never catch up with their book piles, and I have heard them complain that their spouse has asked them to stop buying books for six months, and I have heard them complain that certain famous authors haven’t been writing as well, and I have heard them complain that there is too much good TV right now and it’s basically impossible to balance reading time and TV time anymore. (I myself have also levied each of these complaints.) What I do not hear them say is that they can’t find anything to read. Now, to be fair, I mostly deal with readers in bookstores, in libraries, and online, which are places designed for book discovery. Bookavore

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

22 Comments

  1. Marianne McA
    Nov 20, 2013 @ 09:34:42

    Depends what Bookavore means by ‘book discovery’ . I can always find something to read, because I’ll read cereal packets if nothing else is available. But as more of my reading becomes electronic, I do miss discovering books. For me, that means finding a book I didn’t know I wanted to read. A ‘discovered’ book just turns up somewhere – in the way that real books do, and ebooks don’t.

    But perhaps that’s not what she’s talking about. (And I can’t imagine an app that would help.)

  2. cleo
    Nov 20, 2013 @ 10:40:12

    @Marianne McA: I read the whole article and there wasn’t a definition of “book discovery” – from the content of the article it seems like she’s talking about readers finding books they want to read, without specifying whether it’s a new to them author or series or something they didn’t plan to read.

    You make a good point. I also kind of miss that experience of browsing in a bookstore or library and “discovering” something I didn’t plan to read – I really loved standing in the stacks or aisles, flipping through books and finding an unexpected gem. In high school, my best friend and I would go to Borders and browse for hours (why yes, we were book nerds). Now I mostly read ebooks and there’s not really an e-equivalent.

    I do agree with Bookavore that I don’t have any problem finding good books to read – whether it’s the 16th book in a series I’ve been reading for years or a totally new to me author. There may be books out there that I’d like that I haven’t discovered, but I don’t really feel that loss. Between book blogs, my friends and family, and my massive TBR pile, I’m not lacking books or book recs.

  3. Willaful
    Nov 20, 2013 @ 11:07:36

    That bell commercial makes me as uncomfortable as the breast exam male strippers did.

  4. Lada
    Nov 20, 2013 @ 11:14:50

    Saw the commercial on tv this weekend and found it pretty funny. After years of women strutting around in bras and panties (Victoria’s Secret has turned it into a prime time event for Christ’s sake), I think it’s just fine for men to shake their jingle bells.

  5. Anne
    Nov 20, 2013 @ 12:02:02

    About book discovery – I enjoy browsing through online ebook stores in much the way I used to enjoy a physical bookstore or the library. I mainly discover books through reviews I read on blogs or Goodreads, but it’s very fun just to browse, and I find the experience actually more comfortable than going to the library or bookstore. I was never one to open a book and just read in the middle, though, so that may be a factor. I’m certainly not having a hard time finding books to read!

    About the Jingle Bell ad – I’m with @Lada. It seems like fair play. And it’s not like they’re wearing briefs or speedo type underwear. We routinely see much worse sexualization of women in ads. Or how about the erection meds that have advertisements on all the time? Less risque images, but the content is defiitely adult. I saw the Jingle Bell comercial on TV last night and it made me laugh!

  6. Carolyne
    Nov 20, 2013 @ 12:13:06

    @cleo: My friends and I used to do that same sort of browsing as teens, and right up through recently when the local Borders closed. The best publisher websites, imo, are ones where you can easily, casually, comfortably browse, moving from section to section without effort, seeing pretty cover art in clear resolution, clicking through to read the blurb and extra details. Sites that make browsing fun and cosy and, well, pretty to look at–not perplexing or bland or clinical. I have better luck at exploring a wider variety of types of titles and discovering things I might not have considered otherwise, when on a smaller e-publisher’s site than a big publisher. Or on Amazon, where the recs are just too focussed and samey-samey (I suppose because of whatever my buying habits has done to their algorithm). Of course, some e-publishers are now at the size where you click through to “historicals” and are confronted with 30 pages of unsortable titles, and browsing through that can wear me down when I’m looking for something that isn’t a Regency or Scottish.

    It’s hard to quantify, but it’s nice when the browsing method on a site is friendly and easy, when there are always some random books to click on at the bottom or in the sidebar; and that’s where discoverability comes in for me.

    A lovely bonus would be if you could “flip” to a random excerpt of the book instead of just the first section. For people who aren’t too worried about spoilers, of course.

    I’d love to find a cosy bricks & mortar store where you can wander the bookshelves then buy the ebook with a cut going to the store. And so that customers stay and look for more books, the store could throw in free cookies and tea and a comfy overstuffed couch to read the downloads while overlooking a pleasant atrium garden (I have this fantasy often; it’s very detailed).

  7. DS
    Nov 20, 2013 @ 13:06:33

    I showed a friend the jingle bells ad at lunch. A few minutes later we heard the music playing from another table where it was apparently being passed around among a group of women in business dress. Viral indeed.

  8. Amanda
    Nov 20, 2013 @ 15:15:55

    I find the Kmart ad both amusing and off putting. It didn’t help that it came on last night while I was watching TV with my Dad last night. At 38 I apparently can still be embarrassed in front of my Dad. I do think Lada has a point in her comment, if it had been a bunch on female models jingling there boobs we probably would not bat an eyelash.

  9. trixee
    Nov 20, 2013 @ 15:22:46

    I think that boxer ad is just gross and tasteless. UGH!

  10. hapax
    Nov 20, 2013 @ 15:36:36

    Huh. I found the Kmart ad cute and mildly amusing, but neither hilarious nor offensive.

    I don’t get it. Women in television commercials show up in nothing but body paint all the time, to sell everything from automobiles to zit removers, and nobody raises an eyebrow. This ad was relatively modest in comparison. Why get bent out of shape by MALE eye candy, when we don’t even notice the commercialization of female sexuality?

    (It reminds me of a male friend who didn’t like the THOR movies, because he felt “forced” into “ogling” the male characters, which made him “uncomfortable.” I thought about saying, “Welcome to my world.”)

  11. Willaful
    Nov 20, 2013 @ 15:49:19

    @hapax: It’s completely untrue that no one raises an eyebrow about the objectification of women. In the places I normally frequent on the internet, Dear Author included, eyebrows are constantly raised about such things.

  12. Sunita
    Nov 20, 2013 @ 16:51:22

    @Willaful: What you said. I don’t see how extending objectification is a good thing. It has the potential to both amplify and normalize the issue. and speaking only for myself, if that had been women jiggling boobs to Jingle Bells, I definitely would have found it inappropriate. The ad *made* you look at their packages. I’d rather decide whose package I pay attention to on my own, thanks.

  13. hapax
    Nov 20, 2013 @ 17:28:13

    @Sunita:

    I don’t see how extending objectification is a good thing

    I don’t mean to belittle the real issues involved in sexual objectification of men or women, but seriously? On a romance blog? In which posters and commenters alike regularly swoon over covers that feature headless male torsos or crotches or backsides? Not to mention the purple- and blue-lit covers of headless naked copulation that are faced out in every Target, and are posted without a mention?

    No, I’m not going to see a line of attractive guys dressed fairly modestly shaking their hips (I don’t know where the hypothetical bells are attached, and neither do you) as worthy of more than a glance and a faint smile.

    If anyone wants to take this up as a cause, go you, I’ll subscribe to your newsletter, but let’s at least be consistent.

  14. Willaful
    Nov 20, 2013 @ 17:55:06

    @hapax: And yet, very worthy of criticizing a comment about them. All I said was that it made me uncomfortable — nothing personal about anyone else at all — yet despite claiming to have very little reaction to the ad, you couldn’t simply allow me my discomfort. Why do you suppose that is? Why is your non-reaction more valid than my reaction? Who’s the one really bent out of shape here?

    And I’ll repeat — I see concern about the objectification of women all the time, including here. The fact that other romance blogs casually objectify men and/or women is hardly an argument against pointing it out.

  15. hapax
    Nov 20, 2013 @ 18:17:23

    @Willaful: Please note that this is the first (and will be the last) time I have addressed you personally.

    I said nothing to disallow your discomfort. I said nothing to invalidate your reaction. I said nothing personal to ANYONE, except Sunita, because I was responding directly to a quote from her comment.

    I disagreed with you. Nothing more, nothing less. Nothing different from what other people have done on this thread. Some of them disagree with me. And yet we all still continue to have our own opinions and feelings, all just as valid as any others.

    I understand the commenting policy here to permit for “vigorous discussion” of “content and ideas.” If you feel that I have stepped over the line and made an attack upon you personally, I would appreciate having that quoted, so I can modify my behavior in the future.

  16. Willaful
    Nov 20, 2013 @ 18:29:16

    @hapax: I had noted that, including the fact that you haven’t responded to my previous points.

    No, I do not feel you made an *attack* upon me — however, you did not use the phrase “why get bent out of shape” to no one out of thin air.

  17. Sunita
    Nov 20, 2013 @ 18:47:15

    @hapax: I’m not asking you to see them in any way at all. And I’m not speaking for anyone other than myself. I agreed with Willaful (and directed my comment to her and her alone) because she expressed a sentiment that I share.

    I do not swoon over hotties on this or any other blog. I do not post pictures of hot studly men at this or any other blog, including my obscure and lightly-visited personal blog. I do not subscribe to blogs that post pictures of hot men. If other readers and bloggers want to do that, it’s their right. I don’t like those posts and I don’t endorse them; I also don’t force my view on other people and ask them to change their behavior. So my comment was entirely about *my* feelings, and to a lesser extent Willaful’s because I was agreeing with her.

  18. Sunita
    Nov 20, 2013 @ 18:58:27

    No, I’m not going to see a line of attractive guys dressed fairly modestly shaking their hips (I don’t know where the hypothetical bells are attached, and neither do you) as worthy of more than a glance and a faint smile.

    That is, of course, an entirely legitimate interpretation. There are others, also legitimate.

    I don’t have a Ph.D. in sociology, but my husband does, and he watched the ad with me this morning. I just asked him if he thought the ad was directing the viewer’s gaze toward the men’s genitals. He looked at me for a moment, not sure I was serious, apparently, and said, “well, YEAH. Where else would you look? That’s what balls are, analogous to clappers on a bell. They’re playing Jingle Bells.”

  19. hapax
    Nov 20, 2013 @ 19:52:04

    @Sunita: You are of course entirely correct that your interpretation is yours, and mine is mine, and differences of opinion make a horse race. At a certain level, “objectification” is an very subjective call, and it looks like that Kmart ad is skimming right at that level.

    I’d pit your Sociology PhD spouse against my Anthropology PhD spouse (field of specialization: primate mating behaviors) but that would be getting us into the territory of silly chest-beating, wouldn’t it?

    [Arrgh, tone is so difficult on the internet. I hope you could discern the smiley emoticon that was supposed to be attached there]

    At any rate, it is very interesting to me to read this conversation, and to see the different levels of discomfort/amusement/appreciation out there.

    I do not subscribe to blogs that post pictures of hot men. If other readers and bloggers want to do that, it’s their right. I don’t like those posts and I don’t endorse them; I also don’t force my view on other people and ask them to change their behavior.

    You may not credit this, but I cannot tell you how glad I was to read this.

    Except that it’s pretty hard to read ANY romance blog and not be constantly subjected to “pictures of hot men.” When I complain on this or other romance blogs about the tendency in romance novels to feature covers of headless naked body parts (usually male, sometimes male and female, rarely female) I feel like the proverbial voice crying in the wilderness. Which is okay, I don’t need a backup chorus to validate my opinions, but it’s really nice to know that there is someone else out there who is disturbed by the tendency.

  20. cleo
    Nov 20, 2013 @ 20:23:10

    @hapax: @Sunita: I also avoid romance blogs that post pictures of hot men. I don’t care for it in general, and it especially makes me uncomfortable on m/m romance sites, where it feels icky and exploitative to me.

  21. Carolyne
    Nov 20, 2013 @ 23:40:18

    I’m late commenting on the video because I had to wait to get home to watch it, and I have to say…um…I dunno. First I thought it was gross because it was making me look at a bunch of awkwardly moving crotches on semi-squatting guys. Then I realised it’s trying to get me to buy goofy-looking boxer shorts and so of course I was supposed to be looking at the shorts. Then I thought about how I liked the timbre of the guy’s voice at the end even if his squat-and-shake had grossed me out. Mostly it all seemed unsexy. I also find headless-torso covers unsexy (male or female), though there have been exceptions where there’s an aesthetically pleasing line or tension or energy in the isolated torso like a fragment of a statue. My thoughts are still evolving (and apparently there was whiskey in my hot toddy tonight, and I thought those were made with wine, and now some of my brain cells are offline). I was primed to consider the ad in terms of how society normalises objectifying the female form, and I wonder whether the company ever has an ad where men are just meant to be “sexy” rather than “funny” (like those Victoria’s Secret bra ads)–but in the end I guess I have to go with “too yucky.”

    And, even as I typed this, the commercial came on TV. It’s even more disturbing large.

  22. v
    Nov 21, 2013 @ 15:29:52

    The only reason I can always find something to read is that I will take the best available. I *often* can’t find what I really want to read (e.g. beta-male romance, fantasy set outside EU/US, etc etc).

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