Monthly Archives: August 2016

Virtual Bookseller

30 August 2016

From Porter Square Books:

Need a book recommendation or a gift idea? Looking to build up a reading list? Can’t make it into the store for a conversation? Ask The Virtual Bookseller. Fill out the form below and your answers will be shared with the Porter Square Books booksellers. In a couple days, we’ll send you a list of personalized book recommendations. It’s the closest you can get to combining the convenience of online shopping with the conversations that drive bookish culture.

Link to the rest at Porter Square Books


30 August 2016

A couple of days ago, The Passive Voice received comment number 250,000.

PG doesn’t see an easy way of determining which comment was number 250,000 since WordPress shows the aggregate number of comments, but doesn’t number each individual comment and we’re several hundred comments past 250K.

Since PG didn’t have a collection of fabulous 250K prizes ready to present to the author of that particular comment, there’s no great loss to any of those who might qualify and no accompanying anguish for the people who submitted comment number 249,999 and 250,001.

PG thanks all who have submitted comments. TPV attracts terrific comments and commenters. As PG has mentioned before, the comments are the best part of the blog.

Amazon Hints at a Grocery Store

30 August 2016

From GeekWire:

Amazon is planning to open a drive-up grocery store in Seattle, newly discovered planning documents suggest.

Permit filings uncovered by GeekWire show plans to renovate the former Louie’s Cuisine of China site, at 5100 15th Ave. N.W. in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood, into a 9,759-square-foot retail space where customers can pick up groceries that they’ve ordered online, in what the project team calls “a new model of grocery shopping.”

The company appears to be doing its best to keep its involvement under wraps. Planning documents filed with the city of Seattle use the mysterious moniker “Project X,” with no reference to the e-commerce giant. Even the people building the project don’t know what’s happening.

“No idea,” one worker said when asked what would be going into the building. “We had to sign our life away. Half the guys in there don’t even know what they are working on.”

. . . .

However, the description of the project matches, almost exactly, the language in planning documents for Amazon drive-up grocery stores planned in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition, Ware Malcomb, the same architect that designed Amazon’s planned drive up grocery stores in the Bay Area as well as its Prime Now delivery hub in Seattle, is listed as the architect for “Project X.”

. . . .

Here is how the business works, according to planning documents from the city of Seattle:

When placing an online order, customers will schedule a specific 15-minute to two-hour pick up window. Peak time slots will sell out, which will help manage traffic flow within the customer parking adjacent to the building. When picking up purchased items, customers can either drive into a designated parking area with eight parking stalls where the purchased items will be delivered to their cars or they can walk into the retail area to pick up their items. Customers will also be able to walk into the retail room to place orders on a tablet. Walk in customers will have their products delivered to them in the retail room.

Hours of operation are expected to be 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. At peak time, there will be approximately 15 employees working on site, and three to five people will be dedicated to bringing orders out to parked cars. About a quarter of all trips are expected to occur between 5 and 7:30 p.m. The average wait time is expected to be about five minutes.

Link to the rest at GeekWire

Freedom from Addictive Drugs

30 August 2016

From author and TPV regular Phyllis Humphrey:

This is not about writing, but could be about writers who have fallen into the trap of taking opioids and getting “hooked.” It happened to me almost five years ago. I had a knee transplant and was prescribed a painkiller that was very effective, but which I didn’t know (and no one at the hospital or doctors’ offices told me) that Percocet is very addictive. So, when I ran out, I took the form they gave me to my local Walgreen’s and ordered more.

When I decided I didn’t need it anymore, I discovered the awful truth. When I went to bed the first night I hadn’t had Percocet, I couldn’t sleep. I felt as if bugs were crawling all over me, and I had to turn over every few seconds. Neither my husband nor I could get to sleep until he insisted I take a Percocet.

Unlike today when newspapers and magazines are busy warning people about these drugs, five years ago there was no one telling me about the danger. My husband said I was addicted to it and he fashioned a way to get me free. He cut one of the pills in half and I took that half just before bedtime every night for two months. It worked. I could sleep without constant turning over or feeling as if bugs were all over me. Next he cut the half pill in half and I took that quarter pill every night for another two months. When I finally went “cold turkey,” I was able to sleep without the Percocet.

Link to the rest at Phyllis Humphrey

Here’s a link to Phyllis Humphrey’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.



All we can do now is hold Barnes & Noble accountable

30 August 2016


Though UNC Student Stores has kept its 100-year-old name, much has changed inside since Barnes & Noble took control. Registers have moved, new faces have smiled from above new name tags and familiar faces have moved on.

The privatization process began with an unsolicited request in July 2015 from Follett to lease the Student Stores. This board has discussed at length the swift and opaque nature of the decision.

As we say goodbye to what we loved about Student Stores, we must hold Barnes & Noble accountable to its promises. Indeed, the differences between the rhetoric and actuality of privatization are already coming to light.

One of this board’s favorite parts of the Student Stores, the Bull’s Head Bookshop, has seen massive shifts in stock and employees. It seems that Barnes & Noble has kept its promise of adding thousands of new titles. But by adding thousands of copies of the Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook and pseudo-scientific self-improvement books, Barnes & Noble is turning its back on the academic nature of Bull’s Head, something important in a college campus bookstore. Because Barnes & Noble predetermines display table selections for all its bookstores, thought-provoking and critical texts have been swapped for whatever books best sell, regardless of educational value.

. . . .

The beloved manager of Bull’s Head moved soon after the takeover, prompting many Bull’s Head student employees to quit. Some remaining student employees are being scheduled for two to three times as many hours as they have had in the past with less flexibility in general.

Barnes & Noble’s promise to maintain a similar work environment has gone unfulfilled as employees continue to quit. This, in turn, has pushed remaining employees to cover long shifts with few options.

Indeed, the emphasis on hiring student employees as a means for student revenue seems to have dissipated. More and more employees come from outside the University, even when Barnes & Noble’s pitch relied on helping students first.

Link to the rest at and thanks to Dave for the tip.

Hachette Sues Seth Grahame-Smith

29 August 2016

From Locus:

Seth Grahame-Smith, author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Unholy Night (among other titles), is being sued by Hachette Book Group for breach of contract. The publisher is suing to recover the $500,000 (plus interest) they paid for a book they allege the author never delivered.

Hachette and Grahame-Smith made a $4 million deal for two new books following 2010’s Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, with $1 million paid on signing: $500,000 for each book. They published Grahame-Smith’sThe Last American Vampire in 2015, but despite offering extensions on the second book’s deadline, it never arrived.

Link to the rest at Locus and thanks to Kris for the tip.

Following is a copy of the Complaint with a copy of the publishing agreement as Exhibit A.

PG was not involved in the negotiation of the publishing agreement, but will observe it contains some provisions detrimental to the author that PG typically recommends be removed or modified.


The Unexpected, Trashy Joy of Reading Kids’ Books Written by Celebrities

29 August 2016
Comments Off on The Unexpected, Trashy Joy of Reading Kids’ Books Written by Celebrities

From Slate:

If there’s one thing celebrities love to do, besides buy oceanfront property, it is write picture books. Jamie Lee Curtis alone has penned eleven of them. Julianne Moore has cranked out a slew of best-sellers about a spunky redhead named Freckleface Strawberry. If you happen to be a parent to a child on the cusp of literacy, perhaps you’ve been personally seduced by the appealing floral trim around Madonna’s byline on The English Roses: Friends for Life!, or the big-eyed baby jaguar on the cover of LeAnn Rimes’ Jag, or the slapsticky adventures of Max the mutt in Joy Behar’s Sheetzu Caca Poopoo. Amazon is lousy with candy-colored artifacts written by royalty ranging from Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York to Queen Latifah.

It’s not hard to imagine why a celebrity would be tempted to write a kids’ book. When you are so famous that attracting a publisher is as easy as plucking a leaf from a Truffula tree, creating a bespoke picture book surely seems like a breezy task: easy money, light work, a cute gift to bequeath your own offspring. Reading them, you can almost hear the confident scratch of the pen across the page, the happy certainty that no plot is so inane, no dialogue so trite that it won’t be eagerly lapped up by starstruck tots across America.

. . . .

Now that I’ve plowed through a heap of these—the very intense poem about fatherhood by Will Smith, the ode to sisters by Brooke Shields, the doozy Estefan penned about a kindhearted bulldog—I can report that many of them are indeed bad. But to the dedicated student of celebrity arcana, these books have more to offer than their scattershot quality suggests. Despite their varied themes and the range of temperaments that animate them, they are most interesting when viewed through one particular lens: as a weird little reflection of a public person’s inner life, part whimsy, part memoir, part ego.

Take Jay Leno’s 2004 opus If Roast Beef Could Fly, about the time young Leno messed up his dad’s barbecue party and learned a valuable lesson. (The lesson is best approximated as “it’s OK for kids to make mistakes,” or more accurately “sometimes your dad will get mad at you, but then he’ll get unmad and it’ll all be a cool memory.”)

. . . .

All these books feel like heady distillations of the big personalities behind them. One of the most charming features of celebrity kids’ books is how clear it seems, reading them, that no editor buffed the prose before it reached our eyes; it all feels quite unfiltered. There’s the perfect vacuousness of Bethenny Frankel’s Cookie Meets Peanut, a love story between a woman and her dog (and, tangentially, a new baby) that contains sentences like “Cookie and mommy go on walksies” and “They window shop at Bark Jacobs.” And there’s John Travolta’s Propeller One-Way Night Coachabout an 8-year-old boy named Jeff who dreams of flying in an airplane. This one’s a heartbreaker. Travolta loves planes. He really loves them. He claims in the jacket copy that he first invented the tale of Jeff to entertain himself on an overnight layover. His prose is a bonanza of dangling modifiers and adjective strings hopped up on aeronautical amour: “Noble in appearance, strong and powerful in impression, this would be an experience,” Jeff says before his first flight. Here is Jeff beholding an aircraft: “She was beautiful! Silver and white, with a blue stripe down the side with a red accent stripe and the letters UNITED printed on the side. Oh what a sight!”

Link to the rest at Slate and thanks to Matthew for the tip.

PG wonders what would we do without Big Publishing to curate our culture.

France Passes Copyright Law Demanding Royalties For Every Image Search Engines Index Online

29 August 2016

From the Disruptive Competition Project:

[T]he French Parliament adopted at the end of June a little-noticed measure in the Freedom of Creation Act… with a very big potential impact: a new royalty for the indexing of images on the Internet in France.

Senators lobbied strongly for this measure, presented as a way to ensure the remuneration of plastic art, graphic art and photographic works’ rightsholders for images “used and communicated to the public without authorisation” by search engines and indexing services – while conveniently forgetting that search engines do not publish anything and that it is technologically easy to ensure that an image is not indexed.

How would this work? When an image is published online, the reproduction right and the right of communication to the public of this image shall be transferred to one or more collecting societies appointed by the French government. Online communication services “reproducing and communicating to the public images for search and indexing purposes” shall have to obtain a license from those collecting societies to index images legally. The license fee will either be based on the revenue accruing from the exploitation of the service or be a lump sum fee.

. . . .

[I]t is quite clear that “many online services and mobile apps, from search engines to creative commons models and Europeana” will be impacted, as stated by several digital associations, including CCIA. “Basic, everyday activities of online users such as posting, linking and embedding photos online, [will] be subject to a cloud of legal uncertainty”.

Moreover, the territorial scope of this measure is unclear. Are the rights of reproduction and communication to the public transferred to a collecting society when an image is published on a French website or on any website? Is the measure based on the nationality of the works? In practice, this measure may claim ownership of the billions of pictures uploaded everyday globally – even though the huge majority of those pictures are published today for personal use by the close-to-3-billion smartphones’ owners, not expecting any revenue. It is also worth noting that a sizable number of those pictures is published under a Creative Commons license that usually refuse remuneration in return, for example, for attribution. Therefore, this measure would override the choice made by users publishing under such a license – and more generally, would deprive rightsholders of the choice between licensing their pictures or not.

Even worse, there is no realistic way for collecting societies to redistribute the revenues from the license fees accurately and fairly to billions of rightsholders all over the world. The relevant collecting societies won’t attempt to contact all French rightsholders (when close to 70% of French citizens above 15 years old have a smartphone!), let alone all global rightsholders.  In practice, the money will be split between the relevant collecting societies and the few rightsholders affiliated to those societies, who – as we say in France – won the “Jackpot”.

Link to the rest at Disruptive Competition Project and thanks to Felix for the tip.

PG says this appears to be another attempt to extract money from Google and put it into the pockets of European civil servants.

When men ask me

29 August 2016

When men ask me how I know so much about men, they get a simple answer: everything I know about men, I learned from me.

Anton Chekhov

Free E-Books, Timed for Your Commute

29 August 2016

From The New York Times:

Rainier Velardo watched the basketball-player-tall man in the blue shirt who sat down next to him — the man had gotten on at the last subway stop, West Fourth Street in Manhattan, and this was an F train going to Brooklyn. Mr. Velardo watched the man tap the screen of an iPad. He heard the man chuckle and say: “You’d think I would know this. I wrote it.” And then, with even more of a chuckle, “Didn’t see that twist coming.”

Mr. Velardo, 66, perked up at what the man said next: “Actually, it’s a big enough font. I can read it without my glasses.”

The man in the light blue shirt was Harlan Coben, the prolific, best-selling author whose fans really do not see the plot twists coming. He writes mysteries and thrillers — page-turners, some people might call them. But that term seems to have been forgotten in the universe of cellphones and tablets. “Page-swipers” conveys the notion of motion — the reader’s finger gliding on a glowing screen — but as a locution, it will never catch on.

And here on the F train, he was in the digital universe, trying out something called Subway Reads, a web platform that can be reached from a subway platform.

On Sunday, Subway Reads started delivering novellas, short stories or excerpts from full-length books to passengers’ cellphones or tablets. The idea is for riders to download a short story or a chapter and read it on the train. Subway Reads will even let riders choose what to read based on how long they will be on the subway — a 10-page selection for a 10-minute ride, a 20-page selection for a 20-minute excursion, a 30-page selection for a 30-minute trip. Delays not included.

“I would like to do it,” said Mr. Velardo, a retired Sanitation Department employee who was on his way to a bottle distribution center in Brooklyn.

He can, for eight weeks. Subway Reads will last longer than a summer romance, but not much longer. It was intended to promote something that will not disappear, something that transit officials see as a milestone in the digital age: Wi-Fi service in 175 underground stations.

Link to the rest at The New York Times and thanks to Rob for the tip.

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