Blog Archives

Five Things Make a Post: News from the Book World

1. It sounds like Borders is going down. This is…less than awesome news, personally and for the industry. (My roommate is one of those 11,000 people now looking for a job.) Borders has been the ugly stepchild of the big bookstores for a while, but it’s still sad to see them go.

2. A new company called Blue Ink Reviews is offering self-published authors the chance to have their books reviewed — for a fee. I am not a fan. Self-published successes, while not unheard of, are vanishingly rare, and the majority of “services” offered to self-publishing authors are really scams designed to part the desperate from their money. This sounds like another one of them. (If you’ve been thinking about self-publishing, do be sure to check out the SFWA’s Writer Beware site and make sure you’re doing it with your eyes open. Your book deserves real attention, not scammers.)

3. I have been loving the Breathing Books tumblr blog. (Books are pretty.) This shelf really caught my eye, though – incredibly nifty, although I’m afraid that’s a waste of a space that could fit a five-shelf bookcase that I simply could not afford.

4. Have you seen the Giveaway Blitz for Eve Langlais’ Delicate Freakin’ Flower? I don’t really read romance novels, but if I did, this one would be more up my alley than most. My friend the Inspector Librarian is giving away copies; go! see!

5. I have given in; I am going to read A Game of Thrones. I dislike unfinished series, and after seeing how crazy people were getting about the wait for A Dance With Dragons, I was going to just wait until the whole series was out to get into it, but I’ve been convinced. I’ll be starting sometime in the next couple of weeks — how would people feel about a read-along?

Signal Boosting: China Miéville is being impersonated on Facebook (and Facebook doesn’t care)

I found this blog post this morning via one of my favorite blogs, Making Light. In brief, speculative fiction author China Miéville doesn’t have a Facebook page, but you wouldn’t know it from checking Facebook: there are at least two, possibly more, fake profiles claiming to be him, which people are friending. Miéville has tried contacting Facebook a number of times to get them removed — which is apparently nearly impossible if you don’t have a Facebook account, and he doesn’t want one — but the pages are still there.

This would be one thing if it were something like a fake Twitter account (of which there are plenty), but with all the recent Facebook privacy scandals demonstrating just how much of your personal information you share with people you friend, this is downright scary. And the fact that Facebook doesn’t seem to be doing anything to stop it is even worse.

Now, I don’t have a Facebook account. I did at one point; I signed up when it was first opened to all college students. I never really got into it; I preferred online services that offered richer communication. (No, I will not link to them or even say which ones they are. I have been online in some form or another since 1997, and until the past couple of years I was not thinking about how any of this would look in my professional career, so I am doing my best to keep my online identities segregated.) I deleted my Facebook account last year, through the overly-complicated full delete process rather than the misleading “close account” process which really only closes your account until you log in again, after the third or fourth major Facebook privacy scandal.

As a librarian, I feel obliged to protest Facebook’s extremely low privacy standards and do my best to educate others about them as well. I know that lots of libraries do some outreach and advertising through Facebook, and while I understand it, I can’t support it. Librarians are hugely concerned about privacy, but we jump through all these hoops to keep peoples’ library records private while the information we have about people is negligible compared to what Facebook is releasing all the time. (Most recently, they’re failing to do anything about FarmVille sharing private, personally identifiable information.) I don’t really believe that people don’t care about privacy any more, I think this is just another instance of technology moving faster than human culture can keep up. Unfortunately, if we don’t keep an eye on it, technology might take the choice out of our hands before we can do anything about it.

30 Days of Books – Day Seven

Day 07 – Least favorite plot device employed by way too many books you actually enjoyed otherwise

(My apologies for the delay in posting; life has been insane lately.)

Token Romance. (WARNING: clicking on a TV Tropes link may cause the rest of your afternoon to be lost in an obsessive maze of clicking. Open at your own risk.) I really dislike the idea that just because there’s a male and a female character, they ought to get together. This isn’t just books — it’s a major cultural trope — but I loathe it with every fiber of my being. Similarly I hate that getting the girl (or guy, it shows up about as often in books with main female characters any more) is treated as the prize at the end of the adventure. It’s one of the reasons I like children’s books so much; they’re much less likely to have this trope. And I cheer in joy whenever a book doesn’t go that route, like the glee I had at the finish of the Eden Moore series by Cherie Priest. I think it frustrates me so much because putting the hookup at the end of the book implies two things: first, that the work of the relationship isn’t interesting or worth talking about, and second, that obviously everyone wants nothing more than a romantic relationship, so getting one is fulfilling one of the great goals of life. Since the vast majority of books actually have characters who do want other things — not to say that they don’t want romantic relationships, but they do want other things as well — having this tacked on at the end is just endlessly frustrating.

A related trope that I despise is the Tragic Dead Girlfriend, usually from the hero’s past, which is supposed to give him some kind of depth or something but really is just tired and old. It’s my least favorite part of the Gentleman Bastard sequence by Scott Lynch (which starts with The Lies of Locke Lamora), a series I otherwise love. Really, you don’t think Jean and Locke are awesome enough without having to give them Tragic Romantic Backstories? It’s cheap, and it allows the writer to put in a romance without actually writing a main female character.

Less negativity tomorrow, I promise! But hey, the prompt asked me to complain. Fails as a Reference Source

Anybody try to buy books from this weekend? Odds are you had a problem, because in the midst of a scuffle over price points and definitions of publishing, Amazon pulled all Macmillan titles from their site. The books were still available, but only from third-party sellers (meaning your Amazon Prime subscription does nothing for you). Macmillan publishes books under the St. Martin’s Press and Tor imprints, among many others, and is one of the six largest publishers in the US — so basically, Amazon pulled a sixth of their stock. Smart.

And this morning, they caved. Amazon is willing to allow Macmillan their tiered price scale for ebooks, although they object to what they call Macmillan’s “monopoly over their own titles” (Source: NY Times). Setting aside the arguments over how ebooks should be marketed (and whether offering a unique product means you have a monopoly), I wonder what this means for libraries.

It’d be nice to think this had nothing to do with libraries at all, but I’m afraid that’s just not the case. I know I’ve used Amazon any number of times to double-check publication data when a patron couldn’t remember the correct spelling of a name or title. It’s one of the built-in searches in Firefox and Internet Explorer, and some libraries have used Amazon affiliate accounts for a little extra revenue or as a wishlist for books they couldn’t fit into their budgets. (Heck, Koha offers built-in support for Amazon connections.) The perception seems to be that Amazon is making money off this, so it’s in their best interests to be as complete and up-to-date as possible, right?

This is not the first time Amazon has pulled a stunt like this one, although this might have been the biggest. Last year, authors and publishers noticed that LGBT titles weren’t showing up on sales rank pages. Turns out that they had intentionally removed “adult” books from both the main search and the Amazon Sales Rank pages, which carry a remarkable amount of promotional weight. The inclusion of non-explicit LGBT, health reference and sexuality titles in this “adult” category was termed a ‘ham-fisted cataloging error’ and quietly changed. Whether or not Amazon intentionally de-listed these titles, making them difficult to find unless you knew exactly what title you were searching for, the result was that Amazon’s search was definitely not a good way to double-check information for those titles.

What this incident really brings home is that while Amazon sometimes functions as a reference source, particularly because of its ubiquity and ease of use, that’s not what it’s there for. Amazon as a company sometimes — possibly frequently — makes decisions that librarians would not approve of, and if we use Amazon as a kind of substitute Books in Print, we risk running afoul of these corporate decisions. Yes, I know we allknow we shouldn’t use Amazon this way, but how many of us do? I’ve been trying to retrain myself  to link to books on WorldCat or at least LibraryThing or GoodReads before Amazon, but after this, I will be making a much more concerted effort.

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