Delivering Amazon Packages in India

30 March 2015

Sexism in literature

30 March 2015

From the (Pakistan) Express Tribune:

Quick, off the top of your head, name five books that have gotten critical acclaim recently. Chances are the books you’ve named are mostly those written by a male author. ‘But that’s just because I read genres that are more male-dominated,’ you might argue.

Or, ‘Well, men write better books than women.’ Such arguments are overly simplistic (not to mention misogynistic, in the case of the latter) and ignore the deep-rooted sexism that is prevalent in the world of literature today.

. . . .

Pakistan breeds sexism in literature

According to the author Saba Imtiaz, female-dominated genres are comparatively less-respected. “Women-dominated genres [like romance] are considered to be second-tier, ‘easier’ to read and write, and that lack of recognition of how long it may take to write that work is quite dominant,” she says. Her novel is sometimes categorised as ‘chick-lit’, a term Saba thinks is dismissive and belittling. “I’m sure that when I was younger I used the word ‘chick-lit’ too; I would hope that I am more aware now of how ridiculous a word it is,” says Shazaf Fatima Haider, author of the wildly amusing novel How it Happened (2012), who is equally offended when her novel is categorised as ‘chick lit’. “I don’t think of myself as someone who writes only for women, nor is the book solely read by women, so it’s quite amusing to see the quick categorisation based on the theme,” she says. “It is a novel about marriage and weddings and it is, therefore, usually considered as a woman-only book, which is a bit of a daft and one-dimensional way of looking at it. But that’s our gendered outlook at life for you.”

. . . .

Shazaf says that famous, lauded authors and critics are also complicit in this denigration of literature written by women. “[Nobel prize-winning British author] VS Naipaul famously said that he didn’t consider any woman writer his equal. He also said, ‘I read a piece of writing and within a paragraph or two I know whether it is by a woman or not. I think [it is] unequal to me,’” explains Shazaf. “Naipaul has also said in interviews that women writers’ views are narrow and sentimental. So yes, I think this sort of bias exists, though not many are brave enough to express it so overtly.”

It is not just critics who view books by female authors differently. Readers also respond differently to these books according to their gender. “Women tend to either identify with or despise a character or scene or the entire book,” says Saba. “But that’s because (in my book) the protagonist and her best friend are women and so there is more for women to compare or identify with. Men tend to be either entirely dismissive or terribly curious,” she adds.

. . . .

There is also a tendency to assume that female writers are drawing from their personal experiences when it comes to assessing and critiquing their work. “In addition to labelling women’s writing ‘frivolous’, there is also a tendency to draw in a female writer’s personal life and background into the conversation and critique, whereas a male author’s writing is never critiqued in this manner,” says Saba.

. . . .

“In my experience, I think people are quick to assume I wrote my book to work out issues that are personal to me. I think people generally have an easier time imputing intellectual and aesthetic playfulness to a male author than they do to a female author — they can understand a woman writing from hurt or rage more than from a place of greater dispassion or from sheer aesthetic pleasure.”

Link to the rest at The Express Tribune and thanks to Diana for the tip.

Amazon’s dominance ‘damages’ progress

27 March 2015

From The Bookseller:

Amazon’s position in the market is damaging progress in the book trade, according to the president of the Booksellers Association, Tim Walker.

Speaking on a panel about publishing and technology at the Nielsen BookInsights conference yesterday (25th March), Walker said that Amazon’s dominance of the e-book market was having a negative impact on bookselling.

“I do a have a concern that Amazon’s dominance is causing problems”, he said. “We estimate Kindle has a 95% market share of e-book sales in the UK and this is having a damaging effect… Consider the struggles of Barnes & Noble and the Nook platform, the problems of the established Txtr in Germany, and the decision here of Tesco to pull out of Blinkbox Books.”

Walker also spoke of concerns about free library e-lending, which he said “has to be done right, or it will do harm to the book trade”.

However, he said that publishing on the whole “embraced” new technology. “I think publishing can come in for quite a bit of stick but we’ve done a lot to embrace technology.”

. . . .

Gavin McLauchlan, consultant at Nielsen Media Services said publishers did not put enough money into advertising. “Only 0.67% of book revenue is put back into advertising,” he said. “It is very low, even compared with the fast moving consumer goods category.”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Online book shopping overtakes in-store for first time

26 March 2015

From The Bookseller:

Print book sales showed “continuing resilience” in 2014, with overall spending on print and digital titles increasing across the year. Meanwhile, online book buying overtook in-store book buying for the first time last year.

In 2014, sales of print and e-books stood at £2.2bn, up 4% from the previous year. The data was revealed today (25th March) at Nielsen Book’s annual conference, BookInsights.

Overall, e-books accounted for 30% of book units purchased in 2014, with the fastest growth coming in non-fiction and children’s categories. However, digital migration in those categories still remains limited, while there were signs that migration in categories such as romance and fantasy was slowing. Altogether 56% of the 36,000 book buyers in Nielsen Books & Consumers UK Survey owned a tablet by the end of 2014, up from 41% in the previous year, with 25% owning an e-reader.

. . . .

2014 also saw online spending on books overtake in-store spending on books for the first time. However, bookshops actually gained share in the print market, and remain ahead of online sales for children’s books, impulse buys and the gift market.

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

Self-publishing News: Indie Writers Are Doing It for Themselves!

25 March 2015

From the Huffington Post UK:

“Reading a book is like re-writing it for yourself.” said Angela Carter, and that used to be about the closest most of us budding writers got to seeing our books in print. But it seems, for indie writers, “the times they are a changing”…

. . . .

Self-publishing has existed in the shadows ever since – a social outcast – and yet Virginia Woolf did it, as did Mark Twain and James Joyce. William Blake did nothing else. The Elements of Style, by the fabulously named William Strunk Jr, has been a key source for all aspiring writers for over 50 years now. It first appeared in print in 1919, written by the Cornell University English academic. It comprised eight “elementary rules of usage”, ten “elementary principles of composition”, “a few matters of form”, a list of forty-nine “words and expressions commonly misused”, and a list of fifty-seven “words often misspelled.” It was published privately in 1919 for in-house use at the university. So we see that the bible for all writers was originally a self-published vanity project.

I am a self-published writer and 2015 is promising to be a good year for us indie writers. The caricature of the self-published writer has tended to be one of a retired male, often embittered and full of life’s disappointments, putting the world to right. However, new research has recently exploded that myth. Alison Baverstock, Associate Professor of Publishing at Kingston University and chair of the 28th March one-day conference “Is everyone now a publisher?” reports in a Guardian article that the profile of the modern self-publisher has now changed somewhat, and that she is now predominately female (65% of self-publishers are women), aged between 41- 60. Half are in full-time employment, 32% have a degree and 44% have a higher degree.

. . . .

So success is relative but, encouragingly, according to Alison Flood in The Guardian, Nielsen Research published in 2013 showed that although self-published books still only account for 5% of the total UK market, year on year growth of the indie sector was 79% up, with 18 million titles worth £59m.

Link to the rest at Huffington Post UK and thanks to  for the tip.

The Downside to Digging Up Cervantes

22 March 2015

From The New Yorker:

The running joke about the Premio Cervantes, the most coveted literary prize in the Spanish-speaking world, which was established by Spain’s Ministry of Culture in 1976, is that Cervantes himself wouldn’t have received it. This is because he was, in his heart, the most anti-Spanish of Spanish writers. And because, as a writer, he wasn’t held in high esteem. “Don Quixote,” his masterpiece, affectionately known as “El Quijote,” pokes fun at almost every aspect of life in seventeenth-century Castile, from the Inquisition to manly courage, from lower-class parlance to literature itself. His humorous eye made the entire country look wretched.

Spain isn’t deterred, though. It is ready to love him, no matter what. Now a group of Spaniards comprised of a historian, a geophysicist, and forensic experts appears to have dug up Cervantes’s bones—and those of his wife, Catalina de Salazar, and several other people, some of them children—in an unspecified grave inside a crypt in the Convent of the Barefoot Trinitarians (Trinitarias Descalzas), in Madrid. The box that contains some of the remains supposedly has the initials M.C. This might be the proof of what the group is looking for, although, truth be told, Spanish orthography didn’t get standardized until later.

Cervantes was almost sixty when the first part of “El Quijote” came out, in 1605. (It would take him another decade to release the second, final part.) His previous work had garnered little attention. He was a soldier and a tax collector, among other things, but literature was his passion. When he wrote the novel, he was getting old and was also losing patience, with himself as well as, quite likely, with Spain. The success of the novel—only posterity would call it a masterpiece—was no doubt surprising. People instantly fell in love with its two protagonists, the pathetic knight and his servant. In Mexico and Peru, adults and children dressed up like them for carnivals.

. . . .

In times of trouble, Spain has a special relationship with Cervantes. It reaches back to him for help in sorting itself out. It happened at the end of the nineteenth century, with the Spanish-American War, when the Spanish empire finally collapsed, as Cuba and Puerto Rico added themselves to the trend among former colonies in the Americas by repudiating it and seeking independence (as did the Philippines). At the time, the intellectual élite known as the Generación del ’98—which included, among others, Miguel de Unamuno, who, as a Catholic, obsessed about the religious meaning of almost everything in “El Quijotefound in Cervantes’s creations the fate of the Spanish soul: no matter how misguided your politicians and how often you are ridiculed, these intellectuals insisted, you must stay true to your dreams.

It happened again during the Franco dictatorship, when Cervantes’s masterpiece was the glue that kept the nation’s decaying values together. And it is happening today, as Spain goes through one of its worst crises in recent memory. King Juan Carlos abdicated not too long ago. High unemployment and fiscal collapse not only keep people in a crabby mood but place Spain next in line after Greece as the economy with the most potential to unravel the European Union.

Link to the rest at The New Yorker

GfK Reports French Book Market Down, eBook Sales Up 60% in 2014

22 March 2015

From Ink, Bits & Pixels:

The market research firm GfK  reported this week that their latest estimates show that the French book market declined by 1.3% in 2014, to 3.9 billion euros. The decline was driven by a 1.4% drop in the number of units sold, to 351 million.

. . . .

While the loss was minimal, GfK noted that this was the fourth consecutive year in which French book purchases declined. They estimate that 26 million French aged 15 and older bought a book last year, with 60% of purchases made by women.

That includes ebooks, which were the one bright spot in this week’s report. Paid ebook downloads increased by 60% in 2014, to 8 million copies sold. The estimated market value was 64 million euros.

For those of you who don’t have a calculator handy (or whose mother and grandmother weren’t both teachers) GfK is telling us that ebooks made up about 1.54% of the French book market in 2014.

Link to the rest at Ink, Bits & Pixels

EU Approach to eBooks Is Nonsense

21 March 2015

From Brave New World:

This week four cultural ministers from four powerhouses; Italy, Poland, France and Germany jointly requested that the EU Commission should think again about the rate of tax for ebooks. This comes only weeks after the EU High Court ruled against France and Luxemburg and stated that ebooks are different from physical books. They want the same rate applied as physical books so countries such as the UK would have zero tax on both, as opposed to zero on physical and 20% on digital.

. . . .

Anyone looking at the different tax rates across Europe would think that someone has made trade less attractive not more attractive. Anyone looking at the tax difference between the digital and physical book would think that someone must have made a mistake and just forgotten to correct it.

One of the greatest challenges the European media industry faces is getting the unelected commission and courts to realise that the world has gone digital and that in doing so has created new opportunities not threats. This taxation rule is a daft as the current lack of real action to address the tax avoidance plays being made by multinationals.

Link to the rest at Brave New World and thanks to Jan for the tip.

Atria Halts Publication of ‘The Whole Pantry’

19 March 2015

From Publishers Weekly:

After Penguin Books Australia announced that it would be pulling Melbourne-based Belle Gibson’s debut cookbook, The Whole Pantry, Gibson’s U.S. publisher, Atria, has confirmed it will not not be proceeding with its own publication. Penguin scrapped the book once doubts were raised about the veracity of Gibson’s story—that she was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and healthy living and natural therapies helped her treat the disease.

“Our decision was made upon the failure of the author to provide clarification for numerous allegations concerning her biography and charitable endeavors,” wrote Atria in a statement.

. . . .

Gibson’s scandal is not the first, or only, cookbook-related one to make headlines in Australia this month. On March 11, Pan Macmillan announced that it would be putting the publication of celebrity chef Pete Evans’s Paleo cookbook for babies, Bubba Yum Yum, on hold after experts raised concerns that the book included recipes that might be harmful, or fatal, to babies.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly and thanks to Eric for the tip.

China’s Amazon?

17 March 2015

From The South China Morning Post:

Two of China’s largest online publishing companies announced this week that they will merge, creating what some have called the ‘Amazon of eBooks’.

Tencent Literature and Shanda Cloudary will become Yuewen Group, the country’s largest online publishing and eBook company.

With 1,200 employees and more than three million books, the new company expects to attract around 100 million readers generating more than 200 million yuan (US$31.9 million) per year, said Yuewen CEO Wu Wenhui.

In a public letter to staff on Monday, Wu called on them to work together to achieve the dream of creating a “nationwide” reading system in the coming decade.

. . . .

He added that to achieve that goal, Yuewen will need to purchase more books, develop better reading apps, promote the creation of online literature and work to strengthen copyright protection for both electronic and print books.

Wu said the company will design eBook readers designed to satisfy Chinese useage habits, unlike the Amazon Kindle, which was originally designed for English readers.

. . . .

The company plans to achieve its ambitious goals by taking advantage of Tencent’s huge market share in online and mobile messaging and social media through QQ and WeChat, which have more than 800 million users between them.

Yuewen’s new CEO is an online publishing veteran, having been in the industry for 12 years. Wu was one of the founders of e-literature site in 2002.

Wu dedicated himself to promoting online novelists, writers who often went overlooked by traditional print publishers, and signed contracts with hundreds of them. Under his leadership, Qidian debuted an innovative system to let readers vote and pay for their favourite books and writers.

Link to the rest at South China Morning Post

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