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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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/
The Quilliam article is the kind of thing that puts me off psychologists.
“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.”
This person actually has a quality control procedure. Imagine that!
It’s a shame the rebuttals aren’t given the same press coverage. But I suppose logic and facts are not as sensational as flashy headlines.
MaryK, I’m a psychologist, and that Quilliam article offends me probably as much as it offended you. Poor scholarship is just that, regardless of the field, and shouldn’t reflect on those of us who are doing serious research with proper methodology.
I wouldn’t have let a student get away with that sort of crap, let alone recommended publication in a peer-reviewed journal.
The search function on “Leatherbound” doesn’t work, or at least it doesn’t work in a way I’m familiar with. It wants to open a file on my computer.
The excerpts I read from the Quilliam article sure sounded like an opinion piece to me, not a scholarly article. All the controversial statements were worded as opinion.
I’m also convinced that DRM is intentional 99.99% of the time, because publishers, as opposed to experienced e-reading customers who know how easy it is to strip, are convinced it protects their investment in intellectual property.
@Mari: Yeah, there are idiots in every field, and I know that intellectually. Unfortunately it doesn’t keep me from associating the behavior with the field when that’s the extent of my experience with it. I’m sure media coverage definitely plays into that.
Have there ever been any romance positive articles by medical professionals (psychologists are medical professionals, right?)?
@MaryK: Have there ever been any romance positive articles by medical professionals (psychologists are medical professionals, right?)?,
No, psychologists are not medical professionals. Psychiatrists are medical doctors, while psychologists are usually PhDs (in some countries, you can practice with an MA). Some psychologists can be described mental health professionals, but many are not (e.g. social psychologists, cognitive psychologists). I for one have no interest in diagnosing or treating anyone!
To be honest, I have no idea if any medical professionals or psychologists have published romance-positive research – it’s really not at all my area of expertise. Without looking into it, my guess would be that there haven’t been too many articles related to romance novels in the psychological literature; I think that the romance genre, romance readers and the romance industry would probably be a better fit for other academic disciplines. Which might explain why Quilliam chose to rely on so little evidence in her article.
Media coverage often dumbs down academic research, not just in psychology – whether it’s done to get headlines, to make it easier for people not familiar with the field in question to understand, or because those reporting don’t really understand the research (esp. the methodology and analysis), I can’t say. If it’s a subject that’s of interest to me, I try to track down the actual study rather than have it filtered through other sources.
Sorry to have gone so OT, but I really don’t want anyone to think Quilliam is in any way representative of psychologists or that her article is an example of the methodology used in psychological research. FWIW, The Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care refers to her as their “consumer correspondent”.
About fonts and DRM: I hadn’t thought about that at all (embedded licensed fonts). Years ago in my art department there would always be a little discussion about licensing when we had to supply a font to a service bureau. We never sent them out unless there was no other way to get the files turned into film, because the font houses were so strict about their ownership. Today everything is a pdf and the question of font licenses doesn’t seem to come up at all.
I didn’t realize that embedding fonts would create DRM, but I always uncheck that option when I’m exporting files, just because the first time I let them embed and double-checked the epub file in Calibre, it looked terrible. Now I’m really glad I make sure not to embed them.
Leatherbound sounds great, but it doesn’t work. For example: I tried “Hard Magic” by Laura Anne Gilman.
1) I searched the title; no results
2) I searched for the author; the results did list “Hard Magic” BUT it said it was only available in the Kindle store, not Nook or IBookstore — wrong! It is in the Nook store: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/hard-magic-paranormal-scene-investigations-series-1?store=ebook
(I didn’t check the IBookstore)
Too bad! I wish it did work, but I can’t/won’t use this app if I can’t trust the results.
– Carla H. (longtime lurker on DA, finally delurking — thanks for all of the great reviews and useful info!)
@Carla H. Thanks for the update, Carla. Inkmesh is recommended by some other folks for price comparison.
Thanks so much for pointing me toward Inkmesh — just what I was looking for!
So, Susan Quilliam? Jessica at ReadReactReview.com has researched her credentials. She doesn’t appear to have any.