Friday News: PRH earnings down, you can still complain on Yelp, Amalgam Comics, and a robotic vagina
Sales, Earnings Fell by Double-Digits at PRH – Wow, Penguin Random House has experienced a more than 10% decrease in both sales and earnings over last year (first six months). Apparently declining ebook sales and currency exchange rates have contributed to the decline. I wonder how the massive downsizing and decimation of Berkley will impact future sales and earnings.
In a detailed letter to employees, PRH CEO Markus Dohle observed that the “past eight months have been an unusual time, full of ups and downs around the world and in our industry.” He attributed part of the drop in sales to a lack of mega-bestseller on the order of The Girl on the Train andGrey, which helped to drive revenue last year. He also pointed to a drop in e-book revenue as a reason for the sales decline, but noted that sales of digital audiobooks have had “a significant upswing.”
Another encouraging sign, Dohle said, is the “strength and stability of our physical book sales.” He reminded employees that PRH always believed that print would remain an important part of publishing and noted that the investment the company made throughout its physical supply chain “is especially paying off now as consumer demand for physical remains robust.” – Publishers Weekly
Judge tosses lawsuit over 1-star Yelp review for overfeeding pet fish – Until Congress passes legislation de-fanging these ridiculous “non-disparagement clauses” (aka part of your service agreement is that you can’t publish a negative review), businesses like Prestigious Pets are likely going to draw much more negative publicity by suing critical patrons than most anything communicated in the actual review. In this case, a pet service was criticized for allegedly overfeeding a fish, even though the customers were perfectly satisfied with the care of their dog. According to an article in the Dallas News, the customers had a camera trained on the fish tank, which allowed them to see the results of the alleged overfeeding.
Among other allegations, Prestigious Pets claimed (PDF) that a Plano couple violated its non-disparagement clause and defamed it on Yelp in last year’s review. The Dallas County suit alleged that Michelle and Robert Duchouquette’s review about the overfeeding of the tiny betta fish amounted to libel because overfeeding is akin to animal cruelty and a crime. . . .
Judge Jim Jordan also ruled (PDF) in a brief order that the couple’s lawyers, which included Public Citizen, are entitled to recover legal fees, in addition to sanctions “sufficient to deter them from bringing similar actions.” – Ars Technica
Meet the East Coast’s first black female comic book store owner – Anyone been to Amalgam Comics in Philadelphia? Determined to promote diverse and independent comic book titles and creators, Ariell Johnson opened her store in 2015, even though she first thought about doing so more than a decade before that. There is something really freaking wrong with the fact that there are only a handful of African-American owned comics stores in the US, and that Johnson’s store has only been open for a year should be a really loud wakeup call to the diversity crisis in many creative media.
“Before we opened our doors we had over 1,000 likes on Facebook,” says Johnson. “People were excited about the concept, excited about a new comic book shop in Philly, excited that it is owned by both a woman and a black woman because that is something that is not the norm in the geek world.”
There are only five comic book shops owned by African-Americans in the country, according to Yumy Odom, Founder and President of the East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention. – CNN
The Quest to Build the First Robotic Vagina – My first thought reading this piece was that maybe we should be more forgiving of the Romance authors who can’t figure out where the hymen is. Because medical researchers are still trying to figure out how to build a sound model of the female reproductive system that can be used for medical students in training (this may also explain some of the difficulty tampon makers have had understanding how their own products work). On the one hand, the variety of reasons in this article for the slow progress make sense, but on the other hand, how devoted have science and medicine been to understanding and honoring how women’s bodies work?
If these researchers succeed, their funny-looking silicone recreation of the lower female torso could help new doctors get better—faster—at conducting the most intimate exam most women regularly face. It could also ensure that these doctors’ first exams are more comfortable for the women on the receiving end. The team’s project involves 3D imaging as well as haptic technology to simulate the sense of touch—a suitably complex project to simulate a complex facet of the human anatomy.
But even with cutting-edge techniques, it’s a tough feat. The team has been working on the project for about five years, and they’re finding that there’s still a lot to learn about the female body. “It’s fascinating, really,” says Fernando Bello, a professor in surgical computing and simulation science who leads the team. “We’ve been working on this for a number of years now, and in many ways, we feel as if we’re kind of just beginning.” – Smithsonian Magazine