Monthly Archives: January 2017

In high school

30 January 2017

In high school, I had to hide my comic book side, my nerd side from the civilian world so they wouldn’t categorize me. They would try to marginalize me for what I like. I tried to give it up, believe me. I tried to kick the habit. But there’s too much I liked about it to give it up completely.

Mark Hamill

A Bounty Hunting Service for E-Book Piracy

30 January 2017

From Copyright and Technology:

We’ve been talking a lot here about blockchain applications for transaction processing in the music industry; in fact we had a panel on it at last week’s conference in NYC.  Yet the latest application of blockchain technology to the media industry, from Custos Media Technologies, has nothing to do with music or royalty transaction processing.  It has to do with e-books, and the application is copyright monitoring.  What does this have to do with blockchain?  It enables users to collect bounties for finding potentially infringing files, and the bounties are paid in Bitcoin.

Custos’s technology, which spun out of the MIH Media Lab at Stellenbosch University in South Africa, embeds unique watermarks in EPUB-formatted e-books.  It runs a watermark detection service that bounty hunters (yes, the company uses that term) can use to find watermarked files and report them, in return for a private key to a Bitcoin wallet.  When a file is reported, Custos returns the identity of the original purchaser to the e-book distributor, which can take legal action or whatever other steps it sees fit.

Custos’s COO Fred Lutz says that the solution is targeted “through online forums such as Reddit and Twitter” to “college-age users who are short on cash and long on time, and who are typically already involved in piracy communities.”

. . . .

Techniques used to embed invisible watermarks in e-books include things like embedding hidden data in illustrations, algorithmically altering content other than the actual substance of the book (such as text on a copyright page, index, or page header/footer), inserting non-printing characters, and using identifiers as input to kerning algorithms (for computing the spacing of characters in a line of text).  A worst-case solution to any of these techniques is to strip out everything except the actual text and basic markup (paragraph, chapter, bold, italic, etc.).

Custos addresses this by embedding multiple redundant watermarks in each e-book file using different types of techniques.  This way, though it’s possible for a hacker to strip out a watermark, the hacker can’t be confident that all of the watermarks have been removed.

Link to the rest at Copyright and Technology

College Accused of Monopolizing Textbook Market

30 January 2017

From Courthouse News:

The local, off-campus competitor of an Illinois community college bookstore claims in court that the school is trying to put it out of business by selling textbooks below cost and withholding course book information.

Joliet Textbooks, which owns a store selling textbooks and related items across from the entrance of Joliet Junior College’s campus in Joliet, Ill., filed a lawsuit Tuesday in Will County accusing JJC of violating the Illinois Antitrust Act.

The off-campus store claims that JJC “engaged in a concerted scheme to thwart competition in the market for the sale of used and new textbooks and to destroy competition in the marketplace by undermining plaintiff’s business through anti-competitive pricing strategies.”

The school’s official bookstore, a half-mile from Joliet Textbooks, “enjoys certain institutional advantages over a private sector competitor like plaintiff,” such as not paying rent and not needing to generate a profit to stay open, the complaint states.

Both stores purchase their new and used textbooks from the same sources, says Joliet Textbooks, and the standard practice is to charge 20 to 30 percent above cost.

However, JJC has allegedly been selling textbooks to its students below cost and is giving out rebates and calculating sales taxes on the artificially lower price.

Link to the rest at Courthouse News and thanks to Nate for the tip.

PG is not familiar with the Illinois Antitrust Act, so he can’t opine about the plaintiff’s chances in court.

He was, however, reminded, of an antitrust suit by the American Booksellers Association and a number of independent bookstores against Barnes & Noble and Borders in 2001. The principal claim was that the big bookstores received secret discounts from big publishers and distributors. The case was ultimately settled before a final verdict.

The Life Cycle of the Book

30 January 2017

From Shelf Awareness:

A story titled “The Life Cycle of the Book,” even if it is set at a Wi12 panel, should have a great opening line, and Elizabeth Strout provided a fine one when she remarked at the start of Saturday’s session: “I’m the one who writes the book.”

Moderated by Betsy Burton of the King’s English Bookshop in Salt Lake City, Utah, the panel explored the life cycle of Strout’s bestseller My Name Is Lucy Barton from the perspectives of the author, her agent Molly Friedrich, her Random House editor Susan Kamil, Ruth Liebmann (v-p & director, account marketing, PRH) and bookseller Pete Mulvihill of Green Apple Books in San Francisco, Calif.

“I think that a lot of what an agent does is try to help the author manage expectations, focus on the work, the work; stay honest to the work,” Friedrich said, adding that with Strout’s manuscripts, “she’s been over that work so many times and with such lapidary attention that there’s very, very little to say except to be in a kind of swoon of admiration…. And with Lucy Barton in particular, it was kind of perfect.”

Kamil observed that “editors are like literary shape shifters. We become exactly what our authors need us to become,” and recalled that after reading the Lucy Barton manuscript for the first time, “I can’t quite describe the feeling to you, though as book lovers I’m sure you know what I mean when I say I was stunned and I was speechless…. I also knew it was a masterwork. It’s all about the book. And in this particular case, what a book! I had to get it into the hands of our publishing team.”

Link to the rest at Shelf Awareness

Authors fear accusations of cultural appropriation

30 January 2017

From The Bookseller:

Cries of cultural appropriation could be dissuading authors from publishing books that reflect black, Asian, ethnic minority (BAME) audiences, the Westminster Media Forum has heard.

The issue, which emerged at the discussion forum yesterday, (24th January), was raised by Nicola Solomon, chief executive for the Society of Authors, who pleaded with publishers “please don’t troll our authors for cultural appropriation”.

“We need to have as many diverse voices as we can,” she said. “This is often hard to hear for publishers and others, but for our authors who maybe are trying to include other voices in their books – because after all, writing fiction is about imagination, and you ought to be able to imagine other worlds to your own and other faces than your own – please don’t troll writers for cultural appropriation every time they put a black face in their book if they are not black. We absolutely need as many authors as possible but we also need authors to write about a range of people and to imagine people they are not.

“It’s a terribly important thing and our authors are finding they are very, very caught between two stalls here,” she said.

Author and illustrator Shoo Raynor, who is on the committee of the writers and illustrators’ group at the SoA, said the issue of cultural appropriation was coming up in “every meeting”.

“Certainly at the moment, the thing that comes up every meeting is cultural appropriation and how we are often stuck between a rock and a hard place,” Raynor said. “Publishers will often ask to have ethnic characters removed from stories. I’ve not had that problem myself but various people have, purely because they’re not going to sell the book. We hear lots and lots of stories, horror stories.”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Self-Publishing in 2017: The Year in Preview

29 January 2017

From Publishers Weekly:

As 2017 begins, indie authors and publishers are having to navigate a fast-growing industry filled with new opportunities, but one that also presents challenges related to that expansion. To find continued success in self-publishing, it has become more important to expand the definition of “self-published author” to encompass new roles and new formats.

. . . .

“We can expect 2017 is going to continue to be a challenging market for all authors and publishers,” says Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords. He attributes this to the flood of titles that have entered the e-book space.

The growing supply is creating one set of difficulties for authors who are trying to get their titles discovered, and Coker says Amazon has not made anything easier for indie authors’ bottom lines with KDP Select, which requires participating authors to publish e-books exclusively with Amazon and allows titles to be eligible for Kindle Unlimited—a program that provides unlimited books for readers who pay a monthly subscription fee. He is critical of the online retail giant’s shift from compensating authors per books sold to a system based on the number of pages read.

Robin Cutler, director of IngramSpark, says that as a result of this drop in revenue from e-book content, indie authors who had previously focused on digital are looking to publish in print and other formats. “Getting their titles into brick-and-mortar bookstores as well as into libraries continues as a goal for many indie authors this year and into next year,” says Cutler.

Joel Friedlander, book designer and publishing consultant, seconds that, emphasizing that while getting print books into stores is not always easy, successful indie authors will be those who think outside traditional formats. “Authors are starting to understand that the world of book publishing is much bigger than e-books and print on demand,” he says.

. . . .

Just as 2017 will likely see self-publishing expand into different formats, it may also be a time when authors have to find ways to expand their own roles. They are adding such words as consultant, publisher, and marketer to their business cards and passing on lessons for success to other authors.

“They typically begin publishing their own work and through that experience learn how to establish a publishing business or service to help other authors,” says IngramSpark’s Cutler.

Friedlander predicts that more indie authors will become indie publishers by assisting other writers in bringing their books to market in 2017. “They figure out book publishing on a small scale with their own books, and then they say, ‘I could help Jane out with her books,’ and it’s a natural evolution,” he says.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

I am not

29 January 2017

I am not a speed reader. I am a speed understander.

Isaac Asimov

If you want to get smarter, speed-reading is worse than not reading at all

29 January 2017

From Quartz:

We all know that reading is important. But we’re also busy. So we try to optimize by reading more quickly. And in this way, we miss the point of reading entirely.

I’ve noticed this tendency since I began posting about what I learn from reading over 100 books a year. One of the most frequent questions I get is about how to read faster. Inevitably this request includes a link to a book, “scientific article,” or random blog post declaring that there’s a way to read 10 times faster. But if you care about more than bragging rights, the point of books isn’t how fast you read, or even how much you read. It’s reading for deep understanding.

. . . .

Moreover, while reading is the key to getting smarter, speed-reading is really just a fancy way of fooling yourself into thinking you’re learning something. In reality, you’re just turning pages quickly. A May 2016 review of studies on speed-reading, published in Psychological Science in the Public Interest, reported, “there is a trade-off between speed and accuracy. It is unlikely that readers will be able to double or triple their reading speeds (e.g., from around 250 to 500–750 words per minute) while still being able to understand the text as well as if they read at normal speed.”

Link to the rest at Quartz

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