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


Thursday News: Defining “Black Films,” the Korean retail book industry, Fire TV arrives, and movies with women make more money

Thursday News: Defining “Black Films,” the Korean retail book industry, Fire...

OPEN THREAD: WHAT MAKES A BLACK FILM A BLACK FILM? – A short but pithy piece about how films get categorized as “black films” versus, say, “Comedy” or “Sports Drama.” There is a strong parallel to Romance here, not only in terms of the way POC Romance has often been shelved separately, but also in terms of how we often categorize books as IR/MC rather than by plot type (e.g. PNR, Historical, etc.). Does it further marginalize books that feature non-white protagonists when we categorize them based on the race of the protagonists, or are we helping to mainstream racial and cultural diversity?

While Black audiences are expected to relate and empathize with white characters in films regularly, the moment we ask them to do the same for us suddenly it’s a Black Film. In that case, the categorization is almost left up to the white viewer alone. –Racalicious

The Changing Korean Book Retail Industry: Digital Publishing in Korea 2014 – This is a really interesting article about how the retail book industry in Korea is positing itself for success in a hybridized book market. Korea’s largest online bookstore, YES24, is more than 15 years old and has captured more than 40% of the Korean online retail book market (it sells stuff other than books, too). Not surprisingly a small majority of YES24′s customers are female. However, YES24 also organizes reader events, including an event called “Camping with Writers,” which is intended to bring authors and readers together to talk about books and more.

Korea’s largest physical bookseller, Kyobo Book Centre, which is also a chain, has been in business since 1981. In addition to starting its own digital subscription service, Kyobo has been working to maintain a book buying and reading culture in Korea:

For its physical stores at Gwanghwamun and another 13 locations, Kyobo is repositioning them to be more than just shelves and tables of books. “We want Kyobo to become more of a cultural space and the meeting point of choice for culturally active people, as well as a place where print and e-content come together, where people’s lives are enriched,” says Ahn. The stores regularly invite authors, readers and publishers to its ‘book concerts,’ and “over the years we have had singers, comedians, professors, politicians and the liberal arts community talking about books. These gatherings have produced new concepts and book ideas that we channel back to the publishers. We also organize author-led culture tours. It is all about extending our value chain and expanding our role in society.” –Publishers Weekly

The Fire TV is a Weak Gaming Console, Marginal Streaming Media Box, but None of that Matters – So Fire TV is here. Yay? At $99, plus $40 for a gaming console Nate Hoffelder calls “weak,” the device is definitely entering a market dominated by Roku. And once Roku introduces its new upgrade, what advantages Fire TV now has (faster CPU, better remote,more RAM), may have disappeared. Still Hoffelder is not suggesting that we bet against Amazon quite yet:

And even though the Fire TV might not be the best, I would not make any guarantee that this won’t change in 6 months. Another thing Amazon knows is how to iterate and release updates that improve their products.  The current lack of games can be solved by getting more developers interested, and the current shortcomings in the streaming dept can be addressed in a software update.

Looking back at Amazon’s past product launches, it is safe to say that the Fire TV platform will be significantly more impressive a year down the road. –The Digital Book Reader

The Dollar-And-Cents Case Against Hollywood’s Exclusion of Women – Despite being funded at lower levels, films that feature female protagonists actually earn more money in the long run. Demonstrating, among other things, that Hollywood had learned nothing from the success of movies like Bridesmaids and even Frozen, which is now the highest grossing animated film EVER. Since I understand very little about the statistics here (maybe Sunita would like to step in here), I’m just going to point you to the article and provide you with the upshot of the analysis:

Using Bechdel test data, we analyzed 1,615 films released from 1990 to 2013 to examine the relationship between the prominence of women in a film and that film’s budget and gross profits. We found that the median budget of movies that passed the test — those that featured a conversation between two women about something other than a man — was substantially lower than the median budget of all films in the sample. What’s more, we found that the data doesn’t appear to support the persistent Hollywood belief that films featuring women do worse at the box office. Instead, we found evidence that films that feature meaningful interactions between women may in fact have a better return on investment, overall, than films that don’t. –FiveThirtyEight

Wednesday News: Slow ebook growth, Amazon’s streaming media device, phone book libraries, and how to write Latin@ characters

Wednesday News: Slow ebook growth, Amazon’s streaming media device, phone book...

Ebook Growth Slows to Single Digits in U.S. in 2013 – In 2012, digital books comprised 23% of adult trade sales, and in 2013, that percentage only grew by a few points, to 27%. Children’s books decreased in digital, even though sales are up since 2011. What segment of the market is growing? Religious books (not a surprise if you’ve been following sales trends):

Sales of religious ebooks, while still small, increased nearly 10% to $63.6 million and now account for 11% of all religious book sales. That’s up from 10% last year. –Digital Book World

What to expect from Amazon’s TV streaming device – So apparently the new Amazon streaming media device is pretty much ready to roll (had har). By tomorrow evening, there should be plenty of images in the press of this new device, with lots of speculation. Apparently Amazon is also developing a wireless game controller that could be paired with the box, but no one really knows. The bigger questions people are asking is why, given the presence of Roku, for example, Amazon wants to enter this market.

The answer is simple: With its own hardware, Amazon would be able to promote its services more aggressively. On a Roku, Amazon Prime Instant is one app among roughly 1,200, but on an Amazon device, the service could be front and center every time consumers turn it on. In addition, Amazon might be able to sell services like billing to TV app operators down the road, allowing them to charge consumers for programming through a credit card that Amazon already has on file.

And finally, one could of course also expect closer ties between Amazom’s e-commerce and the content it shows on screen. Amazon has already rolled out tagging within Prime content on its mobile apps, making it possible to read up on actors as they appear on screen. The same may be possible for products shown in a video, or even advertised in a third-party app. –Gigaom

Old telephone phone booths get new life as libraries – You may be familiar with this design trend. Although there are no photos in this story about two friends who have recently installed a phone book library in a hospital in Prague, you can see the concept in action in this story about the same design concept when it was first introduced in New York CIty. I don’t even remember the last time I saw a physical phone booth and have no idea if they’re hard to locate for a project like this. In any case, it’s a pretty cool preservation and transformation project, one that emphasizes communication on multiple levels. –

Writing Latin@ Characters Well, Part 1. What are you? – Lisa Bradley, of Cafe Nowhere, has written a pretty nice series on writing Latin@ characters, which is not only informative for authors, but for readers, as well. Although the series is US-centric, it touches on a lot of the complexities around cultural, ethnic, and racial identities, not only in terms of how people are identified by institutions (the US Census, for example), but also in how they identify themselves. I think there are 9 parts to the series, which, because it’s on LiveJournal, is not immediately evident when you click on Part 1.

When writing, consider what label your character would self-select, not the term you, personally, feel most comfortable using. Whether the character uses Hispanic, Latin@, Xican@, Cubano or some other label will depend on a constellation of factors including but not limited to: age, country of origin, context, immigration/citizenship status, Census labels, common knowledge, class, and education. –Cafe Nowhere