Tuesday News: Online book sales outpacing brick and mortar, notes on the ALA Conference, is new content killing journalism?, and Hobby Lobby’s purity standard

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