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

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Monday News: How people use their tablets, the trouble with Indiegogo, NPR’s tricks its readers, and amusing YA quiz

Monday News: How people use their tablets, the trouble with Indiegogo,...

Data Point: People Really Like to Read on Their Kindle Fires – A very interesting graphic comparing the iPad, the Galaxy, and the Fire. The statistic for e-reading on the Kindle Fire is a clear stand-out, but I’m not really sure what — if anything — that means. My first response was thinking that I hardly ever read on my Kindle Fire. However, there’s no category for “watching media,” which is what I do most on my Fire. And, if that was the only Kindle I had, I might read more on it — and reading might also be an indicator of general visual media consumption on the device. But it’s still interesting that e-reading on the Fire registered at double the rates for the iPad and the Galaxy (67% to 33% and 33%). –The Wall Street Journal

How Does Indiegogo Deal with Fraudulent Campaigns? – I don’t know if you’ve been following the Healbe crowdsourced funding scandal at Indiegogo, but Pando has, and they’ve found some extremely disturbing evidence that the diet watch device the company is claiming to manufacture (and has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars toward), is not what it seems. And now, where crowdsource platform Indiegogo used to have a very strong fraud guarantee in its support/terms of service language, it only has a vague reference to fraud-checking. Needless to say, that does not instill confidence in either Healbe or Indiegogo — or it shouldn’t, at least.

In my last update — where Healbe’s founders explained that their innovation method was inspired by Russian science fiction, and released a ludicrous “demo” video — I wrote that the Healbe story had gone from scam to farce. Today Indiegogo has made clear that they’d rather be complicit in that farce, and in a million dollar scam, than be forced to take responsibility for what happens on their platform. –Pando Daily

Masterful NPR Prank Asks Why People Comment Without Reading – Although I think NPR is far from perfect (although no online venue meets that bar for me), what they pulled off with this slightly early April Fools’ Facebook joke is nothing short of brilliant. They posted a story titled “Why Doesn’t America Read Anymore?,” and instead of clicking on the link — which would have exposed the gag — people went ahead and commented anyway, descrying the fact that people aren’t reading before they comment.

The lesson here? It’s either that NPR is wasting your tax dollars on denigrating the American character, or that this is exactly why we need services like NPR in the first place. But you were probably already thinking that anyway long before you read this story. –Mediaite

Quiz: Can You Tell These YA Stories Apart? – Many of you have probably seen this already (sorry – I’ve got a backlog of stories that aren’t time-sensitive), but if you haven’t it’s a pretty amusing little quiz on five of the most popular YA series (Divergent, Hunger Games, Twilight, The Fault in Our Stars, Harry Potter). Definitely seems to add weight to the argument that from a distance all genre stories can look alike (aka it’s not the story, but how it’s executed that counts). –The Vulture

Monday Midday Links: Sex Is Dangerous

Monday Midday Links: Sex Is Dangerous

Sharon sent me this link to an NPR review of Erica Jong’s collection of stories called “Sugar in My Bowl”.  Various female authors have contributed essays on the topic of sex and sexual fantasy.

Liz Smith, of gossip column fame, contributes a tale of losing her virginity to her cousin. (Intriguingly, the family connection didn’t seem to faze her.) On the delicate question of orgasm, Smith writes, “I was so ecstatically having ‘something’ special happen that I didn’t know if I was missing something else.” The memory of her forbidden flame remains an oft-consulted fantasy for Smith — she still wonders if she should have retired with him to Arizona.

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From Linda Holmes at NPR comes a great rebuttal to a poorly sourced paper by Susan Quilliam, a British psychologist who apparently counsels women to, among other things, give up romance.  Quilliam says that women who read romance novels have a hard time differentiating fact from fiction and thus romance novels will lead to women making poor life choices like not using a condom.  Basically sexual unhappiness can be traced back to romance novels.  (The actual essay really isn’t that bad until it comes to Quilliam’s conclusions. It’s sensationalized by the newspapers picking it up).   This paper by Quilliam has been quoted in newspaper articles and blog posts despite the basis of the paper being quite suspect.  Holmes’ rebuttal is the best one out there because it points out the flaws in the Quilliam paper.

Moreover, I tracked down the “recent survey” myself, and I can confirm what’s been going around Twitter, which is that it covers a total of 78 novels published between 1981 and 1996, selected by plucking books off the shelf at three Cleveland bookstores. None of the books are less than 15 years old, and some were published 30 years ago, before condoms and AIDS were receiving anywhere near the public attention they receive now. Presenting this as the current state of the romance genre as concerns condoms in light of current information about sexual health is more than a little problematic.

Honestly, I wish the academics in romance would be more swift to respond with this science based destruction of the supposed expert’s conclusions although Laura Vivanco did put together a response here.

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The result of the cover contest were posted on the Cover Cafe contest two weeks ago.  I think the Contemporary category is most interesting.  The covers were pretty bland and uninteresting as a whole but I loved the Historical winner. That cover told a lot about the book in a beautiful way.

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 I kept meaning to post this press release, but forgot.

Beginning in early 2012, D.W. Neal Publishing LLC will launch an electronic magazine/journal devoted solely to the art of short form romance stories. Romancezine will be available for download at a price of 99 cents on the Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, Apple iBook, Sony eReader, Smart phones and several other electronic retailers and formats. Each issue will contain a selection of 10-20 stories. Each story will be accompanied by a title page and appropriate graphic imagery.

Authors are encouraged to submit stories in all romance genres at lengths from 500 to 10,000 words. Authors will receive compensation on a per word basis and a small ad at the end of each story to promote the author and their other works. Romancezine will contain no advertising other than the promotion of the contributors.

For more information about submissions and no-fee writing contests please visit www.makinglovestories.com orwww.romancezine.com.

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I had an email exchange with someone  about DRM and I received permission to share it.

I recently discovered another reason why some books are DRM’ed. I’ve been doing some ebook formatting for self-publishing authors and have tried a number of ways to compile the various file formats, and one of the ways I create EPUB files is to export them from InDesign, which actually does a pretty good job. The process embeds fonts, though, and if they’re commercial fonts, InDesign automatically encrypts the resulting EPUB file — i.e., it puts DRM on it. The first time I did it and tried to open the file in Calibre, it came up, and it was a complete surprise to me. The DRM lock on it was unintentional on my part. I had to tweak the EPUB file to remove the encryption, or use open-source fonts. Had to do a lot of Googling to learn how to do either of these.

In other words, a lot of the DRM books out there are probably unintentional on the part of the publishers. If they’re using fonts that require a license, and if they’re using InDesign for both their print and ebook editions (very, very likely on both counts given that InDesign is the industry standard), then it’s possible their EPUB files are just getting automatically encrypted.

I should add, though, that there’s an option in InDesign NOT to embed the fonts, which easily eliminates the possibility of the DRM being applied (and results in smaller file sizes, too). I think it might embed them by default, though (I’m not sure), and if the designer creating the EPUB file isn’t aware of it, voila — unintentionally DRMed books. I’ve read that some e-readers don’t even support embedded fonts (like Stanza), so in many cases it’s kind of pointless to include them anyway — best to turn off the option to embed fonts. But other e-readers do support them (I’ve read that the Sony Reader does), and book designers do like having control over their typography, so I imagine that a lot of EPUBs have embedded fonts in them.

I think it’s Adobe’s way of protecting the licensing of commercial fonts, because when fonts are embedded, the font files are actually included in the EPUB package; the export works fine without encryption, even with the embedded fonts option turned on, if only open source fonts — like LinuxLibertine, Bitstream Vera, DejaVu, etc. — are used. There’s a way to keep the commercial fonts embedded and the EPUB file DRM-free by tweaking the EPUB file afterward, but it requires “unzipping” the EPUB, getting into the code, and removing a specific file from the package.

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And:

Hope you’re well. I’ve been reading Dear Author quite a bit recently, and noticed you had a big focus on the different eBook reading platforms.

I’m interested in the same thing, and noticed that there was quite a big difference in prices among Kindle, Nook and iBook stores. So, I created a site (and iPhone/iPad app) with a few friends of mine that compares prices across all three of those stores in a single search, it’s called Leatherbound: http://leatherbound.me/