And in That Moment

14 February 2019

And in that moment, everything I knew to be true about myself up until then was gone. I was acting like another woman, yet I was more myself than ever before.

― Robert James Waller, The Bridges of Madison County

Romance Bestsellers and Hot New Releases

14 February 2019

Kindle Romance Bestsellers

Here are Amazon’s Hot New Romance Releases Print/Kindle Combined), Updated Hourly:

Romance

Terrorism

14 February 2019

Terrorism as we ordinarily understand it is innately media-related.

~ William Gibson

Amazon Cancels HQ2 Plans in New York City

14 February 2019

From The Wall Street Journal:

Amazon.com Inc. is abandoning its plans to build a new headquarters in New York City after the company faced stiff resistance from some local politicians who objected to giving one of the world’s most valuable companies billions of dollars in tax incentives.

The company said in a blog post Thursday that its commitment to a new headquarters required supportive elected officials and collaboration.

“While polls show that 70% of New Yorkers support our plans and investment, a number of state and local politicians have made it clear that they oppose our presence and will not work with us to build the type of relationships that are required to go forward with the project we and many others envisioned in Long Island City,” the company said.

The decision to abandon its new headquarters in Long Island City marks a stunning reversal. Amazon spent a year conducting a public search for a second headquarters, in which hundreds of locations vied for a shot at a promised 50,000 jobs and $5 billion in investment.

. . . .

Amazon said it won’t reopen its headquarters search. It will continue to add jobs at its other headquarters location in Northern Virginia, as well as offices in Nashville and other tech hubs around the country, the company said.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

How AI Will Change Authorship and Plagiarism

14 February 2019

From Plagiarism Today:

Depending on to whom you’re speaking, AI is either a groundbreaking technology that is going to cause major upheavals in our society or it’s fad that will probably burn itself out in due time.

. . . .

But, while there has been wide exploration as to what AI means for a variety of jobs, what hasn’t gotten nearly as much attention is what it means for writing and plagiarism, in particular when looking at academic integrity.

Though the idea of robots writing school papers might seem to be the realm of science fiction, the truth is robots are already writing content. In September 2017, the Washington Post announced their AI reporter, dubbed Heliograf, had penned some 850 stories in the prior year. This included some 300 reports from the Rio Olympics.

The year before, the AP announced that it was going to exploit AI to produce some 3000 quarterly earnings reports, up from 300 per quarter the prior year.

In short, you’ve likely already read things written by an AI and didn’t realize it. While these dispatches are, generally, short and formulaic, the technology is moving forward and dipping its toes into more and more complicated tasks.

. . . .

Currently, there is no commercially available AI tools that students, or any writers, can use as a substitute for original work. All of the tools that do exist are enterprise-level tools that aid in the writing of short, formulaic work that don’t really require a human author.

. . . .

The closest thing that does exist are so-called automated paraphrasing tools that are able to semi-intelligently replace words in text with synonyms. Though they have been touted as a threat to academic integrity, they are best known for producing low-quality work that, while able to pass inspection in a plagiarism checker, is ultimately unreadable.

But while it’s easy to make fun of these primitive tools, it’s important to remember that, just over a decade ago, they were pinnacle of technology in article rewriting and were actually expensive systems that spammers paid thousands of dollars per year to use.

What was previously a high-prized secret, in 2019, can be found by any student with a Google search and is easily used by simply pasting text into a form. No money or skill is required.

. . . .

Just like we didn’t jump straight into self-driving cars, we’re not going to jump straight into bots that fully automate the writing process.

Instead, the first real push into AI will likely be automated editing tools. Much like how lane assist and automated braking are a natural extension of cruise control, automated editing tools are a natural extension of spelling and grammar checkers that we have now.

To some extent, we’re already seeing this. Grammarly, for example, offers a suite of writing assistance tools, many of them going beyond regular grammar/spell checking and replicating the function of a human editor. The Hemingway Editor does something similar using the famous author as its inspiration.

As time goes on, tools such as these will become better and better substitutes for human editors. Though it’s unlikely that they’ll fully replace human editors, they will be able to provide more of the function and edit works in more significant ways.

However, at this point such tools don’t raise any real ethical concerns. The changes to the work are decidedly human-driven. It is up to the author to approve or reject the proposed changes. This leaves no question to authorship of the work and certainly is no more dangerous from a plagiarism perspective than a human editor.

. . . .

[I]t stands to reason that the tools will become more and more automated. We’ll go from approving every little change that suggested to tools that, in large, edit a work at the push of a button.

These tools could, in theory, also fact check a work. For example, if a student lists the wrong year for a big battle in their essay, it could correct the statement.

From an authorship standpoint, this is when things start to get complicated. The first time students or reporters are dealing with authorship and AI likely won’t be trying to take credit for what an AI wrote, but trying to blame the AI for mistakes the program inevitably makes.

However, this raises an interesting authorship question. If an AI significantly edits a work and those changes are not expressly approved by the original author, who really is writing the piece? Is it all the responsibility of the original author? A joint authorship? Or is the AI responsible for its mistakes.

. . . .

The endgame for AI and writing is, obviously, push button writing. The ability to feed a bot a topic and some paramaters and then have it spit out a fully formed work.

. . . .

[W]hat happens when an AI bot commits plagiarism, libel or some other literary crime? Who takes responsibility?

Historically, it’s been as cut and dry as to say “If your name appears on it, you’re the author and responsible for it.” We’ve even adopted this approach when ghostwriters are involved, holding the named author to blame. Does that work with AI?

Link to the rest at Plagiarism Today

Book Marketing Insanity

14 February 2019

From The Book Designer:

Authors often don’t want to hear what works to sell books.

John Kremer, marketing expert, often responds when an author asks, How long should I market my book? with How long do you want book sales?

If you want books sales, doing repeatedly what doesn’t work is book marketing insanity. Successful book sales need some type of book marketing campaign behind them.

. . . .

What holds authors back?

  1. Many don’t like marketing.
  2. Many would rather be writing … not marketing.
  3. Many didn’t realize that they must do marketing.
  4. Many tried marketing, but what was tried didn’t work; therefore, the belief that nothing will settles in.
  5. It takes time.
  6. It takes money.
  7. Or, if they had cost overruns in creating the book, they refuse to do anything to support/market their book once they have all those books sitting in the garage.

. . . .

  • What’s next is educating yourself—learning what other authors are doing that works …and doesn’t. Following the best-selling authors and top influencers in their blogs and social media and studying what they do and mimic where appropriate.
  • What’s next could be getting help. Virtual assistants have become the right hands, eyes and fingers of many authors. Get one.

. . . .

I’m tired… Welcome to the club. The creation of a book can lead to Book Fatigue Syndrome—you want a time out. Do it—take a week or two off … but then, it’s back to work.

I’ve already committed so much money, I can’t put another dime out… What were you thinking in the first place—that if you just held a copy of your finished book that the world would flock to the stores, the Internet, your website, your front door, you, to get a copy? That would be a rarity. You need help … starting right now. This is where “hanging out” with other authors helps—what worked for them (and didn’t)? Would it work with your book?

I just want to write… Get over that one, too. Yes, keep writing. You get better; and you need to have “new” books forward. In a recent podcast I did with agent Michael Larsen, he revealed that for fiction authors, it’s book #5 that opens the door.

. . . .

Wise authors work in projects, get help where they need it and get that it’s not an all or nothing basis. Effective marketing can be in nibbles. What needs to be consistent and a plan behind it.

Link to the rest at The Book Designer

KNV, Germany’s Largest Book Wholesaler, Files for Bankruptcy

14 February 2019

From Shelf Awareness:

KNV-Gruppe, Germany’s largest book wholesaler, filed for bankruptcy today, according to Börsenblatt. The filing does not involve the subsidiary LKG.

KNV said that a deal to sell the company, which was close to being finalized, suddenly collapsed, and that its creditors were no longer willing to provide necessary financing. It’s expected that KNV will continue to operate under court supervision. KNV’s customers include 5,600 bookstores in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

. . . .

[L]ast year, while book sales as a whole were estimated to have risen just 0.1%, sales at indies and chain stores declined 0.6%.

Link to the rest at Shelf Awareness

The Quest for Queen Mary

13 February 2019

From The Wall Street Journal:

After the death of a king or queen, a royal biography is duly commissioned. It appears, appropriately reverent, its subject cleansed of blemishes and imperfection. Such was the case in 1959, six years after Queen Mary, the wife of King George V and grandmother of Queen Elizabeth II, had died at the age of 85. That year a 43-year-old writer, James Pope-Hennessy, published Queen Mary’s official biography, a work of 654 pages, to high acclaim.

Pope-Hennessy’s three years of exhaustive research had taken him all over Europe to interview members of royal families—among them Mary’s German relations—and their entourages. He kept copious notes, much of their contents not included in the official biography, and insisted that they not be made public for 50 years. He died in 1974, the victim of an attempted robbery on his apartment.

The Quest for Queen Mary,” edited by Hugo Vickers, is a collection of the author’s notes and essays. The result is a delightful and highly indiscreet account of the sheer craziness of royal life. Pope-Hennessy had a novelist’s ear for dialogue and a keen eye for the absurd. The Princess Pauline of Württemberg, a cousin of Queen Mary, was “enormously fat, with a huge red face like an old baby, one tooth in her top jaw which she kept coyly covering with a potelée [plump] hand, clipped white hair like cotton wool (shaven at the neck like a general) and an expression of delighted benevolence; jammed against her table she looked like a greedy child on a high chair.”

The nobility, Pope-Hennessy observes, are self-absorbed and have short attention spans. “They usually forget what they have asked you when you are in the midst of a reply, and you find they have moved on to a discussion of flying-saucers or drinking habits in Zanzibar.” Moreover, they have to stand all the time. When he asks why, a lady-in-waiting explains this was so as not to embarrass people when the royal walked away. “Royalties,” she noted, “have very good legs.”

. . . .

The Queen of Sweden is an example of how disconnected from the real world the royals were. She was extremely modest and when in London stayed at the Hyde Park Hotel, always carrying a note in her handbag that read, “I am the Queen of Sweden,” in case she was knocked over. Members of her family thought that was the surest way to get locked up.

Pope-Hennessy describes Queen Mary’s third son, the hard-drinking Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, as “one of the finest and most authentic specimens of the race available for study today. He is tall and bulky, and his head is wonderfully Hanoverian, flat at the back and rising to the real pineapple point of William the Fourth. He has protruding Guelph eyes.” The Duke’s laugh was “an hysterical piglet squeal which becomes uncontrollable and which I found very infectious.” Prince Henry disliked the constant handshaking required of royals. “It broke my father’s hand once. And the Duke of Windsor’s hand. Broke ’em.” And he comes up with one of the book’s best lines. “Funny shape for a country, Holland. Damn funny shape.”

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal


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