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Thursday Midday Links:  Stanza Not Dead, Reviewer Sued for Defamation, Amazon Acquires TTS Firm

Thursday Midday Links: Stanza Not Dead, Reviewer Sued for Defamation,...

In the UK, a self published author is suing a reviewer for panning his book.

Chris McGrath, an online entrepreneur from Milton Keynes, who wrote and self-published a little-known book entitled The Attempted Murder of God: Hidden Science You Really Need to Know, has launched libel proceedings against Vaughan Jones, 28.

He claims Mr Jones wrote damning reviews of is book on Amazon September and October 2010, which he had published under the pseudonym “Scrooby.” Mr Jones also revealed his true identity.

The suit is for defamation rather than invasion of privacy (i.e., revealing the author’s true identity).

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Awesome news, guys, Stanza is NOT dead.  Apparently, a month after Apple’s iOS update, Amazon has gotten around to releasing a Stanza update so it now works just fine on your iOS devices.

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Amazon has acquired YAP, a speech transcription software company. The co founder of YAP helped develop the speech engine that drives Nuance (which drives Siri) One columnist suggests that means that there will be speech enabled books in the future for Kindle users. AllThingsD points out that it can facilitate shopping by voice.

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A number of authors really hate the format production process at Smashwords known as the meatgrinder, particularly those authors who go to great lengths to produce a beautifully rendered ePub. In response to those complaints, Smashwords will begin to accept other ebook formats, other than DOC, in 2012.

This is good for readers because the meatgrinder doesn’t always produce well formatted ebooks.

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A couple of weeks ago, I saw the debacle on Courtney Milan’s blog where she suggested the language used by Barry Eisler and J A Konrath in support of their opinions regarding authors in publishing was incendiary. Shortly after this, a reader emailed me with a link to Konrath’s blog, a link to a YouTube video, and a link to Amazon.

Konrath and Eisler have  co written a book called “Be the Monkey” that is sold at Amazon. “Be the Monkey” title is based on this very graphic video of a monkey orally and anally raping a frog.  (Trigger warnings here for those who are sensitive to sexual abuse).

I objected to two white, wealthy men (based on their proclamations of earnings) encouraging people using a metaphor about power through sexual dominance and the binary choice of be the rapist v. be the rapee.  “Be the Monkey,” I divined, was a metaphor based on the video of the monkey exerting his dominance over the frog.   Konrath took exception to this:

@jane_l We compared publishing to two animals. Two animals are NOT in any way equal to humans being violated and abused.

I pointed out it was a metaphor but Konrath came back and said it was an analogy about monkeys and frogs, nothing more:

jakonrath We linked to a monkey and a frog. The anology begins and ends with a monkey and a frog. Don’t read more into it.

How can I not?  Isn’t that the purpose of linking the video with the book and writing a blog post about it?  And how can an analogy using monkeys and frogs actually only be about monkeys and frogs?  Isn’t an analogy or a metaphor all about using literal terms to express more abstract concepts like, say, power?

Konrath claimed that I should be ashamed of drawing that conclusion from the metaphor analogy:

jakonrath Sorry, I respect women too much to compare them to frogs. Rape shouldn’t be trivialized like that.

I pointed out that he, himself, applied the frog metaphor to his own marriage:

Barry: Yes! I mean, which of the networks would have broadcast that monkey raping a helpless bullfrog?

Joe: It wasn’t rape. It was consensual.

Barry: I don’t know. I don’t think the frog was conscious. I’m not sure it was even alive.

Joe: I–

Barry: After the first five minutes, I mean.

Joe: I’m married. I see this all the time. The frog was conscious. Just not very active.

Konrath replied that I should “Read it again, and try to lighten up.”

I don’t get it, right?

But there are far too many rape oriented insults on the internet. Witness the rape language that female gamers suffer regularly and the entire Dickwolf scandal by the Penny Arcade or Laurie Penny’s piece at the Independent about how having an opinion on the internet is akin to wearing a mini skirt or the MMA fighter who tweeted that “Rape is the new missionary.”

The message regarding choice as it relates to publishing, whether one self publishes or traditionally publishes or goes with a digital publisher or does a coop or a mixture of any type of publishing, does not need to rest on rape metaphors. And publishing isn’t a binary choice of being the Frog (the rapee) or the Monkey (the rapist). I’m pointing this out because I’ve quoted Konrath here before with approval. I’ve posted blog posts by Barry Eisler here, with approval. Had I known that these metaphors were being pushed by both as early as May of 2011, I probably wouldn’t have. I’m not sure. I’m regretful today and maybe it is due to my oversensitive and humorless nature.

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Globe and Mail has an infographic about book sales and publisher margins. The margin of profit for publishers is declining with digital books, according to the infographic from $8 to $4.24. I’m not certain I believe this infographic. I still remember Michael Hyatt indicating that at $9.99 and under the Agency model where publishers get 70% instead of the wholesale 50%, publishers’ margins weren’t decreasing dramatically. And then there’s the statement from Hachette (read the last piece)

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Hachette’s sales are down 8% in the U.S.

The decline at the U.S. Hachette Book Group division was attributed to increased sales of lower-priced e-books and the impact of the Borders bankruptcy. E-books accounted for 21% of HBG’s revenue through the first nine months of the year, compared to 9% in the same period in 2010.

Lagardere said while higher e-book sales contributed to lower revenue, they provide a higher margin, although the company provided no earnings in the quarterly trading update.

Via Publisher’s Weekly.

Wednesday Midday Links:  The Amazon Tablet Is Real

Wednesday Midday Links: The Amazon Tablet Is Real

Sometimes I forget what news pieces I’ve posted here so if I have posted this, please forgive my lapse in memory.  Tech Crunch has actual details of the new Amazon Tablet. It’s 7″ and supports two finger multi touch gestures (instead of the 10 finger supported by the iThings).

  • Runs on a modified Android platform
  • Has limited memory (maybe only 6 GB). Amazon wants you to use the cloud.
  • May come with a free Prime membership. (This makes a lot of sense as Prime members get access to a ton of free movies and television shows)
  • $250
  • Cover flow like navigation
  • No camera
  • External memory slot
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The Times has an article about the decline of mass markets something we’ve discussed on DA a number of times. Retail shelves are being devoted to higher value products like the trade paperback and the hardcover.  Walmart is doing something similar. I was told that Walmart is also reducing the size of the romance department to include more children’s titles that had been stocked in the toys section previously.   Mass market sales are primarily derived from supermarket, drugstores, and big box stores like Walmart.  I believe that the mass market will likely disappear from our book ecosystem replaced largely with ebooks.  Physical stores will focus on selling trades and hardcovers as there is a greater profit margin there.  Mass market books may see a reintroduction via new forms like the dwarsligger which I noticed  back in 2009.  A reader from the Netherlands kindly purchased one for me and sent it to me. It’s actually much nicer than I thought it would be.  Opened fully, it presents about one page in full and is printed on thin paper – much like the paper many Bibles are printed on.
dwarsligger next to iphone
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Mills & Boon India books will be available in digital form by the end of the year. I hope that this means that we non Indian residents will be able to purchase those books.
HMBI started its Indian operations in February 2008, printing and marketing books locally. It is currently publishing 20 new romance titles every month, focusing on five series: modern, romance, desire, special moments, historical and the latest one being nocturne.
I’m not certain how much of HMBI is original content from the Indian arm or how much is regular Mills & Boon stuff published in India.  At least it will be interesting to see what titles are being sold there.
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According to The Millions, a number of literary authors are shifting to writing genre fiction. Is it because of the money (yes, my cynical side says) or because of the creative freedom?  Mostly because of the money.  The author may have a hard time making a living writing solely literary fiction or the publisher may brand a title genre fiction in order to appeal to a more mainstream audience.
Still, it’s hard to think of very many writers – save possibly Stephen King – who have moved from genre to literary. The floor seems to slope the other way, and Patriarche concedes that sometimes the difference isn’t so much in what the author has written as in how the publisher opts to describe it. “I’ve seen literary books blurbed as something like ‘the thinking woman’s beach read,’” she says. “And that’s a sign that the publisher is trying to appeal to consumers who are more mainstream. In this aspect the change is more industry-driven than author-driven.”
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Apparently the psychological affect of fiction is a hot research topic.  The latest paper is published by researchers at the University of Buffalo and the paper suggests that reading fiction can make someone more empathetic.
And “belonging” to these fictional communities actually provided the same mood and life satisfaction people get from affiliations with real-life groups. “The current research suggests that books give readers more than an opportunity to tune out and submerge themselves in fantasy worlds. Books provide the opportunity for social connection and the blissful calm that comes from becoming a part of something larger than oneself for a precious, fleeting moment,” Gabriel and Young write.
While this article focuses largely on the positive aspect of fiction reading it is easy to see how this is turned against the reader as well.