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Friday News: Google’s ‘right to be forgotten,’ Amazon v. the FTC, the death of the novel (again, still), and the NSFW asymmetric man thong

Friday News: Google’s ‘right to be forgotten,’ Amazon v. the FTC,...

For Google, the ‘Right to Be Forgotten’ Is an Unforgettable Fiasco – An interesting — and troubling — piece on the European Union’s “right to be forgotten” ruling that contemplates the absolute mess this decision may have on the world’s largest search engine. Part of this emanates from the difficult and difficultly close relationship between public interest news and commentary and what some perceive to be defamatory. But the ruling has also exposed the way in which search results may not be so unbiased and objectively organized as Google would like everyone to believe.

In some ways, Google is just following the EU’s dictates. The company fought the EU on the right-to-be-forgotten issue, but now it has no choice but to implement the ruling, which the court says applies “where the information is inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant or excessive.” By that standard, these takedowns would seem to overstep the letter of a decision ostensibly intended to protect the reputation of individuals, not censor news. But the issue for Google isn’t just freedom of speech or freedom of the press. The “right to be forgotten” decision is calling unwanted attention to the easy-to-forget fact that–one way or another—fallible human hands are always guiding Google’s seemingly perfect search machine. –Wired

Amazon Resisting FTC on Policy Change for In-App Purchases – All of the controversy over Hachette and Amazon has overshadowed other news, in particular this issue regarding unauthorized in-app purchases children make on mobile devices. The FTC wants Amazon to comply with certain guidelines regarding these purchases, which amount to big money, especially when parents don’t submit a request for a refund. Apple is paying a hefty fine for their perceived deficiencies in this regard, and now the FTC is threatening Amazon with a lawsuit, which the company is reportedly brushing off with a statement to the effect that they will see the government in court.

App stores, such as those operated by Amazon, Apple and Google Inc., are key weapons for the technology firms as they battle for customers. The app stores maintain credit-card and other user information, leading to concerns that the companies aren’t doing enough to prevent unauthorized uses, particularly by children.

In-app purchases include things like additional game levels, new characters, songs and outfits for game characters. They are typically between $1 and $5, but can run much higher; app store owners typically keep 30% of the fee. –Wall Street Journal

The novel is dead (this time it’s for real) – As much as I agree with Will Self that close reading seems to be challenged, especially in our increasingly online culture, I just cannot swallow this diatribe against digital media disguised as a self-evident treatise on the death of paper books and, by extension, the importance of the literary novel as critical part of popular culture. Clearly there’s a lot of anxiety around this issue (witness the anger directed at Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch and all the debates about whether the novel is literary fiction or not), but I tend to believe in the pendulum theory of historical evolution, and I suspect things will swing the other way, sooner rather than later. Or not, and we’re all doomed. DOOMED, I TELL YOU!

The seeming realists among the Gutenbergers say such things as: well, clearly, books are going to become a minority technology, but the beau livre will survive. The populist Gutenbergers prate on about how digital texts linked to social media will allow readers to take part in a public conversation. What none of the Gutenbergers are able to countenance, because it is quite literally – for once the intensifier is justified – out of their minds, is that the advent of digital media is not simply destructive of the codex, but of the Gutenberg mind itself. There is one question alone that you must ask yourself in order to establish whether the serious novel will still retain cultural primacy and centrality in another 20 years. This is the question: if you accept that by then the vast majority of text will be read in digital form on devices linked to the web, do you also believe that those readers will voluntarily choose to disable that connectivity? If your answer to this is no, then the death of the novel is sealed out of your own mouth. –The Guardian Books

Asymmetric Man-Thongs Are The Most Insane Thing A Man Can Wear This Summer – I so wanted to find a better source for this story, but unfortunately, BuzzFeed has the most, uh, generous coverage of the so-called asymmetric man thong. I’ve been waiting to run this story, and I’m hoping that between the US holiday and the general proximity to the weekend that this NSFW post will provide a bit of a diversion from all the serious news we’ve had to deal with this week. –BuzzFeed

Wednesday News: Börsenverein v. Amazon, the future of digital lending, YouTube’s subscription service, and polling readers for a book title

Wednesday News: Börsenverein v. Amazon, the future of digital lending, YouTube’s...

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German trade body files Amazon complaint – Börsenverein, a German trade association, has filed a claim with German competition authorities, alleging that Amazon has been trying to negotiate an increase in ebook percentages from 30% to 40-50% with Bonnier, and thus “abusing its market power.” Reports claim that Amazon is, in both the US and the German markets, removing pre-order buttons and delaying shipping of certain books.

In the UK, publishers have told The Bookseller that they too are facing tough negotiations with the giant retailer, with Amazon seeking parity on trade terms for e-books and p-books, and the ability to POD title where a publisher has run out of stock, or is having delivery issues. The Bookseller also noted that the European Union’s Directorate General for Competition is understood to have approached major UK publishers over an investigation into Most Favoured Nation (MFN) clauses. –The Bookseller

What’s Next for E-books in Libraries? – Random House recently hosted a Publishers Weekly executive breakfast, which included a discussion among librarians and publishers, among others, regarding the future of digital books and libraries. This discussion reflects a shift in the overall conversation about libraries and digital books, which had previously been focused on getting as many publisher as possible to agree to have their books digitally available in public libraries. Now, though, there is apparently more attention being paid to optimizing consumer satisfaction and innovating strategies to keep digital lending not just viable but future-oriented.

In one of the more provocative proposals, Mitchell Davis, founder and chief business officer of BiblioBoard, a digital platform provider, told the audience that libraries should consider moving away from their focus on e-book bestsellers. Instead of spending money on a limited number of frontlist e-book titles, generating long waits in hold queues and patron dissatisfaction, why not concentrate limited resources on building a better user experience, based on the library’s “long tail” collections? –Publishers Weekly

YouTube, Record Labels And The Retailer Hegemony – As YouTube prepares to launch a subscription service, music labels are considering the value that the video service brings to their business. Some independent labels have refused Google’s terms, and now there’s a question of how much power YouTube really has, and the extent to which music labels are beholden to the service: “YouTube has become phenomenally powerful but delivers comparatively little back in terms of direct revenue and is now happy to flex its muscle to find out who is really boss.” The relationship seems a bit analogous to that between publishers and Amazon, and considering the hard lessons the music industry has learned vis a vis content delivery, perhaps it’s again time to pay attention to what’s happening there (p.s. I’m not sure about the reference to Brazilians below, because this blog appears to be UK-based and not Brazil-based).

Labels are beholden to YouTube as a promotional channel.  They have turned a blind eye to whether its ‘unique’ licensing status might be stealing the oxygen out of the streaming market for all those services which have to pay far more for their licenses.  The underlying question the labels must ask themselves is whether YouTube’s inarguably valuable promotional value outweighs the value it simultaneously extracts from music sales revenue.  Indeed 25% of consumers state that they have no need to pay for a music subscription service because they get all the music they need for free from YouTube (see figure).  This rises to 33% among 18 to 24 year olds and to 34% among all Brazilians. –Music Industry Blog

HOW I USED FACEBOOK TO PICK MY NEXT BOOK TITLE – An interesting post from Maya Rodale about how she used Facebook polls to forge an appropriate title for her upcoming book. One of the most interesting things about this post for me is the insular context in which titles are chosen (something I knew, but it’s interesting to see it spelled out here so clearly). Of course, since book ideas aren’t really tested out with readers, why would titles be, right?!

Next I learned that data isn’t everything in publishing

I emailed my agent and editor with the exciting news that I had a kick ass title backed up by data. I was then informed I could not use that title precisely because it was so similar to The Flame and The Flower, which they had also published.

This isn’t the first time I’ve had a title changed—my first book was supposed to be called The Pleasure Revolution but a buyer at one of the major accounts said they would not stock the book with that title because they didn’t feel readers would like it. We went with a different title rather than lose some major print distribution. It never occurred to anyone—my co-author, our editor, our publisher, the buyer—to test the title with readers. –Maya Rodale