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


Friday News: Google takes over Mountain View, the real size of the online marketplace, audiobook royalties at Amazon & iTunes decrease, and RPG love becomes RL marriage

Friday News: Google takes over Mountain View, the real size of...

Welcome to Googletown – This is a pretty eye-opening piece about the relationship between Google and the city-like compound (in Mountain View, California) Google has created and continues to grow, spilling over into and even consuming a substantial portion of the surrounding communities. The company has even leased Moffett Field, 1,000 acres of federal property that it wants to connect via a bridge to North Bayshore, which Google currently dominates in property leasing/ownership and corporate operations.

In 1999 Google moved into its first Mountain View office at 2400 Bayshore Parkway, with fewer than 50 employees to its name. Fifteen years later, it’s the city’s biggest employer. Though Microsoft, Symantec, Intuit, and LinkedIn each have a major presence in Mountain View, all are dwarfed by Google: in 2013, Google employed 9.7 percent of the city’s entire workforce and owned 10.7 percent of all taxable property. In other words, Google represented one-tenth of Mountain View as of last year.

And it’s only getting bigger. –The Verge

Online Shopping is Big. It’s Also Tiny. – With Amazon turning 20 (yes, TWENTY), it sometimes seems like they sell everything and that everyone buys from them (at least in the United States). Still, as this article points out, online sales, even of books, are dwarfed by patronage of brick and mortar establishments. For example, only 19% of books, videos, and music are purchased online, and this is an area where we see a lot of online presence (Netflix, iTunes, etc). A breakdown of purchased online and off, is included.

Even on the friendliest turf for online shopping — computers and electronics — Internet stores are claiming just 25% of the market. –Wall Street Journal

An Important Note About ACX Payments – Beginning on March 12th, ACX royalty and bounty payments for audiobooks distributed exclusively through Amazon, Audible, and iTunes will receive a flat 40%, and for royalty share agreements, that will be divided equally between the producer and the rights holder. Non-exclusive titles will receive a 25% royalty. The bounty program has also been revised, and details are included in the announcement.

We are committed to continuing our record of innovation and creating and expanding opportunities for more rights holders and producers in 2014—both current users and those new to the service. Furthermore, we want to encourage authors, and Rights Holders to promote their audiobooks with the increased bonus payment from $25 to $50 (or from $12.50 to $25.00 on Royalty Share deals). –ACX

The RPG Date That Led to IRL Marriage – I had no idea this type of virtual dating program existed, and there are clearly a lot of pro and con aspects to this type of immersive experience, but there’s a pretty sweet story here about Devin and Nicole, who met through Utherverse and within six months had met in person and begun a real life romance. They met in a virtual neighborhood, Devin doing a little rabble rousing, Nicole a volunteer security guard sent to stop the trouble. An unusual meet cute.

Utherverse was conceived in 2006 as an X-rated, next-gen dating platform — a Second Life for sex, essentially. It began salaciously enough as Red Light Center, a virtual playground modeled after Amsterdam’s red light district. Two years after its launch, it counted 1.5 million members. Utherverse has since toned down the R-rated aspect with “Virtual Vancouver,” a second world scrubbed of some of the racier content.

The benefit of dating in a virtual world over, according to Utherverse CEO Brian Shuster, is its potential for immersive, real-time interactions. “With web dating, people are sending emails back and forth, interacting in an asynchronous way. You don’t get a feel for who the person is, you get a feel for who the person wants you to believe they are.”

In contrast, a woman might meet a man in Utherverse while he’s busting a move on the dance floor or laughing it up at at a bar with his friends. If she likes what she sees, she can initiate a private chat. “That’s a much more natural and spontaneous indication of what a person is like,” Shuster says. “Plus, you always look your best because you’re avatars.” –Mashable

Tuesday News: Audio books are booming; 50 Shades as Intimate Partner Violence; and 500 new fairytales discovered

Tuesday News: Audio books are booming; 50 Shades as Intimate Partner...

Audio books overall from increased from $480 million in sales in 1997 to $1.2 billion in 2012. The reason is the portability of digital audio and, I suspect, the lowered costs. Audio books are somewhat affordable now via Audible’s subscription policy. Of course, Audible’s rise is a feather in Amazon’s cap rather than publishers. Thanks Zara Keane for the hat tip. Wall Street Journal.

While romance is a genre for women written by women (for the most part), books like 50 Shades reach beyond the romance reading crowd. It’s easy for us, in our insular world, to say that every one is adult and can separate fact from fantasy. But the problem with 50 Shades’ depiction of relationships is that it feeds into certain stereotypes. 

The popularity of 50 Shades, I think, confuses the hell out of men. Journal of Women’s Health

Von Schönwerth spent decades asking country folk, labourers and servants about local habits, traditions, customs and history, and putting down on paper what had only been passed on by word of mouth. In 1885, Jacob Grimm said this about him: “Nowhere in the whole of Germany is anyone collecting [folklore] so accurately, thoroughly and with such a sensitive ear.” Grimm went so far as to tell King Maximilian II of Bavaria that the only person who could replace him in his and his brother’s work was Von Schönwerth. Von Schönwerth compiled his research into a book called Aus der Oberpfalz – Sitten und Sagen, which came out in three volumes in 1857, 1858 and 1859.