Monthly Archives: July 2011

Are E-Books Bad for the Heart?

Where was Lisa Lewis when I, a callow boy, sat in a park reading Dostoyevsky? How that brooding, cow-eyed youth longed for a girl to notice what he was reading! (see Can You Tell a Book Reader by the Cover?)

It would have been ideal, for Lewis, a freelance writer and playwright, nurtures the same kind of romantic notions that I once did. In her New York Times “Complaint Box” piece How E-Readers Destroyed My Love Life, she spins this fantasy: “I noticed his wavy hair, his feline eyes and his lips, which moved slightly as he read. But the first thing I noticed was his book: Philip Roth’s ‘Portnoy’s Complaint,’ one of my favorites, was cradled in his palm. Between Delancey Street and Bryant Park on the uptown F train, I fell for him hard. It wasn’t the first time I’d flirted my way into a Saturday night date with a simple phrase: ‘I love that book.’”

Today Lewis and those of a similarly romantic inclination live in a dreary, coverless e-book world. Nooks and Kindles have struck a fatal blow to one of the most time-honored gambits for amorous men and women to break the conversational ice. “I had one good pickup line, and e-readers ruined it,” she laments.

Don’t despair, Lisa! There are still hot guys reading books. To find them, visit the Hot Guys Reading Books website. I hope you find that Philip Roth-loving guy with wavy hair and feline eyes. But you’ll look for me in vain: I don’t move my lips when I read.

Richard Curtis

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Steal This Video? No Problem, Says YouTube

If you can’t lick ’em, join ’em.

Since media companies can’t stop people from recording movies and television shows and uploading them to YouTube, YouTube has found a way to make a profit on this illegal activity. It leaves the video clips up, runs ads with them, and splits the revenue with the movie or television company, according to Claire Cain Miller of the New York Times.

When you upload clips from your favorite show to YouTube (yes, I’m talking about YOU),”they are automatically recognized by YouTube, using a system called Content ID that scans videos and compares them to material provided by copyright owners,” writes Miller. The website monetizes your clips with ads and shares the money with the proper copyright owner.

How much do you get? Nothing. What were you expecting for your illicit activity? Be grateful you haven’t been clapped in the Googleplex dungeon beneath Mountain View, California.

YouTube was acquired by Google for $1.65 billion in 2006 and despite traffic that is the envy of any website, the company has struggled to find a profitable formula. (See YouTube Goes Hollywood) The bandwidth necessary to service all that traffic was eating up the profits, and copyright headaches created by illegal uploaders were driving executives up the wall. “YouTube’s new profitable relationship with content creators was not always so easy,” Miller reminds us. “For a long time, YouTube executives spent their time across conference tables with lawyers worried about copyright violations.”

Now, with the “Join ‘Em” solution, YouTube is starting to mint the kind of money Google envisioned five years ago.

YouTube Ads Turn Videos Into Revenue

Richard Curtis

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A Secondhand Book Shop Hides in Plain Sight

This picked up from Andrew Sullivan’s “The Dish” blog on The Daily Beast.

There’s No Place Like Here: Brazenhead Books from Etsy on Vimeo.

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Can One Typo Ruin a Book?

Can a single typo or grammatical error spoil a book? Ann Patty, a distinguished editor for several big publishers and now a freelance editor, says absolutely. The latest offense is what professionals call a howler. Patty cites an incorrect use in the runaway bestseller Go the F*ck to Sleep.

The offensive line is: “The lambs have laid down with the sheep.”

It should of course be “lain”. Given the fact that confusion about the use of the verbs lie and lay is one of the commonest in the English-speaking world, the goof comes as no surprise. But what appalls Patty is that the editor didn’t catch it, an oversight eliciting this outburst: “The written word, when printed and bound, must be held to the highest standards. Editors, copy editors, and proofreaders, please clean up your act, do your job, and learn the f**king rules!”

It is dangerous to be too high-minded about such things, however, as was exemplified not long ago in the “Metropolitan Diary” feature of the New York Times:

Visiting an editor at Random House, I stepped into a crowded elevator and found myself pressed close to the control panel.

”Has everybody got their floors?” I asked.

After a moment’s silence, a young female voice from the rear said, ”His or her.”

”I beg your pardon?” I said.

”His or her. It’s ‘Has everybody got his or her floors?’ Your pronouns don’t agree.”

”And shouldn’t it be ‘his or her floor’, not ‘floors’?” a young man piped up. ”Each of us gets off at only one floor.”

”And wouldn’t it be better to say ‘Does everybody have?’ rather than ‘Has everybody got?’ ” a third voice chimed in.

I stood corrected — and red faced. But I was glad to know that good grammar is alive and well.

The unfortunate perpetrator of those gaffes was… yours truly.

Read Ann Patty’s rant in full: Learn the F**king Rules!

Richard Curtis

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SFWA Extends Night Shade Probation But Cites Positive Strides

One year ago the Science Fiction Writers of America placed Night Shade Books on probation, citing a variety of concerns about the publisher’s practices. Since then Night Shade has made earnest efforts to address the issues, and SFWA has been monitoring them. Today an officer of the organization issued a statement that restoration of the publisher’s approved status is near at hand.

The following statement was issued by Mary Robinette Kowal, Vice President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.
**********************

Dear Members,

Last year, the SFWA board of directors voted to place Night Shade Books on probation for a period of one year. Night Shade Books responded by agreeing to work with SFWA to address the issues that our members had with their business. During the past year, Night Shade Books has been cooperative and open with their communication to SFWA and the Board appreciates their efforts.

After a review of Night Shade Books and after requesting information from our members about the publisher’s activities during the period of probation, based on the information currently available, the board believes that Night Shade Books has met the following conditions for it to remain on the qualifying list after its probation period:

a. That it examined its catalogue to ensure it is no longer offering fiction in formats for which it has no rights, and makes whole those authors whose rights it has violated;

b. That it instituted procedures and hired sufficient staff to ensure accurate record keeping for contracts and payments, both for previously published and future authors;

c. That there are no instances of contractual violations on the part of Night Shade Books against authors signed to publishing deals after the start of the probationary period.

The remaining benchmark that the SFWA board of directors set for Night Shade Books requires more data to assess. The board asked that Night Shade Books fulfills its contractual and financial obligations to the authors it has already published, including full and accurate accounting of royalties per contract, with payment of any royalties outstanding.

The reports from our members indicate that Night Shade made great strides toward meeting that goal during the past year. However, through no fault of Night Shade Books, the initial probationary period ended before the publishing industry’s July royalty statements are due. This made it difficult to determine without doubt if Night Shade Books has met their commitments. The Board of Directors of SFWA discussed this with Night Shade and decided to grant the publisher an extension on their probationary period to give them time to send the July royalty statements.

The extension shall be until the statements have been sent to authors or for three months (October 8, 2011), whichever comes sooner. Until that time, Night Shade remains on probation.

After the term of probation for Night Shade is lifted, fiction contracted during that term will be viewed as acceptable for qualification for SFWA membership. As with the initial probationary period, no fiction contracted and paid for (by initial advance payment) before the term of probation will be affected by Night Shade’s probationary status.

During the probationary extension, and depending on member participation, SFWA will remain in contact with those members who have outstanding Night Shade contracts. If you have any questions, new information, or concerns, please contact me at vp@sfwa.org or by phone at 503-308-1127.

Through this entire process, Night Shade Books has been open and communicative with SFWA, responding swiftly to any concerns that were brought to their attention. We look forward to their continued cooperation and hope to see them restored to full qualifying status in the future.

Sincerely yours,

Mary Robinette Kowal
Vice President, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America

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Why Write When You Can Aggregate?

Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show. To begin my life with the beginning of my life, I record that I was born (as I have been informed and believe) on a Friday, at twelve o’clock at night. It was remarked that the clock began to strike, and I began to cry, simultaneously.

Actually, the above is not true. I was born on a Wednesday around 8:15 in the morning. The above passage was written not by me but by Charles Dickens. (A dead giveaway is that I don’t write that well.)  But by not putting quotes around it I passed David Copperfield off as my own. It happens to be in the public domain but had it been in active copyright and I wanted to sell it on Kindle, I could have turned a nice profit.

That in fact is what a growing number of scam artists are doing. Alistair Barr, reporting for Reuters, informs us that these people are “copying an ebook that has started selling well and republishing it with new titles and covers to appeal to a slightly different demographic.”

“If people can put out 12 versions of a single book under different titles and authors, and at different prices, even if they sell just one or two books, they can make money. They win and the loser is Amazon,” writes Barr.

One solution that has been proposed is to charge Internet users an uploading fee. If it costs to upload, spammers will be discouraged.  Unfortunately, so will a lot of other people.  A sounder approach for publishers is to use an anti-plagiarism program to determine if a text has been purloined from another source. Many are available, but if you don’t have one, just copy and paste a suspect passage into a Google search box and in all likelihood you’ll instantly discover whether or not the text has been ripped off.  Go ahead: try it with the Dickens paragraph at the top of the page.

Spam clogging Amazon’s Kindle self-publishing by Alistair Barr

Richard Curtis

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Can a Monkey Copyright a Photo?

A fully copyrighted Macaque

After observing how a photographer took his picture, a macaque monkey snatched the camera, posed, aimed and clicked. Unlike a lot of amateurs he didn’t put his paw in front of the lens, or photograph his fur or his foot. He photographed his face –  and produced an absolutely memorable picture.

Okay, beginner’s luck. Hell, everyone knows that if you put enough macaques and cameras in a room the odds are that one of them will take a Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph. But the monkey’s next trick defies credibility: he assigned the picture’s copyright. At lease, he seems to have. Otherwise, how would Caters New Agency have ended up controlling the rights? Mike Masnick, writing for TechDirt.com, speculates:

“So here’s the legal question: how did the copyright get assigned to Caters? I can’t see how there’s been a legal transfer. The monkeys were unlikely to have sold or licensed the work. I’m assuming that it’s likely that the photographer, Slater, probably submitted the photos to the agency, and from a common sense view of things, that would make perfect sense. But from a letter-of-the-law view of things, Slater almost certainly does not hold the copyrights on those images, and has no legal right to then sell, license or assign them to Caters.”

The photo accompanying our article is NOT the self-portrait in question.  We don’t dare publish it because we’re afraid the monkey will lawyer up and sue us for copyright infringement.  But TechDirt doesn’t seem to have any such scruples, so you can admire the macaque’s handiwork by clicking here.

Richard Curtis

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Why Weren’t E-Books Invited to Piracy Parley?

Though piracy is the biggest threat to the success of the e-book industry, nowhere were e-books mentioned in measures recently adopted by a consortium of media companies and Internet carriers to combat copyright parasites. Music? Yes. Movies? Yes. Video? Yes.

Books? No.

The campaign to push back peer to peer file-sharing and other freeloading was adopted by a powerful contingent of media carriers including AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Verizon and Time Warner Cable who recognize that mass infringements will doom them if they don’t organize to fight.

“After years of negotiations with Hollywood and the music industry,” reports the New York Times‘ Ben Sisario, “the nation’s top Internet providers have agreed to a systematic approach to identifying customers suspected of digital copyright infringement and then alerting them via e-mail or other means.” (See To Slow Piracy, Internet Providers Ready Penalties by Ben Sisario.)

Unlike the legal carpet-bombing conducted against end users by the Recording Industry Association of America, which lost in public relations more than it gained in halting unauthorized downloading (See This Academy Award Invitation Had a Subpoena in It) , the new approach escalates from polite warnings to perpetrators to interference with their Internet access.

All well and good for music and movie rights-holders.  But who speaks for authors? Last time we heard from the Authors Guild, their president Scott Turow was appealing to Congress to DO something about piracy. So? What is the government doing about it? From the viewpoint of victimized authors, it looks like damned little.

Richard Curtis

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E-Reads Short Story Program: Two great stories in One Package for Ninety-Nine Cents

Drawing from our rich trove of short story collections by leading fantasy and science fiction authors, E-Reads has launched a new short story program, offering two stories in one package for 99 cents.

The first wave of doubles will be by such masters of their genres as Poppy Z. Brite, George Alec Effinger, Elizabeth Ann Scarborough and John Norman.

Watch this page for announcements of more 2/1/99 gems from our collection.

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E-Reads Kobo Reader Giftcard Contest Winners!

Nathan and Andy of E-Reads pick two lucky people to win a $25 Kobo giftcard.

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