Monthly Archives: July 2012

Three Great Science Fiction Novels by Alan Dean Foster

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Three Great Science Fiction Novels by Alan Dean Foster

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Kaleb Nation’s “The Farfield Curse”

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Kaleb Nation’s “The Farfield Curse”

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Would You Fall for a Guy Who Smells Like a First Folio of Shakespeare?

Humankind’s yearning to travel to the stars or plumb deepest canyons of the oceans is understandable. Harder to fathom is the desire to make men and women smell like books.

If anyone understands desire, however, it’s Karl Lagerfeld, and he has now released a scent called “Paper Passion”, a surefire sex attractant for those who, until now, have claimed they would rather stay at home with a good book than have a love affair. Now they can have both in the same bottle.

“Beautiful paper,” Lagerfeld rhapsodized in a Melville House blog by Nick Davies, “is for me the top of luxury … I am a paper freak. It’s a physical passion. I cannot live without paper. Touching perfect paper has something sensuous about it.”

Perhaps the sensuous paper he is referring to is US currency: A bottle of Paper Passion will cost you $98. But that’s cheap if it helps you score a lover. Just daub a little on your pressure points and head straight for the reading room of your local library. Bring a stick to fight off the panting candidates for a night in your bed.

This is not the first time that we have chronicled the quest for aromas related to books. see for instance Do You have Any Books That Smell Like Spare Ribs? And a while back we wrote up a book lover who said she was reluctant to buy a Kindle “unless Amazon comes out with a special ‘book scented’ Kindle.” (See If They Can Make the Kindle Smell Like a Book, Maybe She’ll Buy One).

It was all kind of a joke, but an enterprising manufacturer took it seriously enough to produce a line of aromatics simulating book scents. The aromas include New Book Smell and Classic Musty. The product is trademarked as Smell of Books™ and here’s how their website describes it:

Does your Kindle leave you feeling like there’s something missing from your reading experience? Have you been avoiding e-books because they just don’t smell right? If you’ve been hesitant to jump on the e-book bandwagon, you’re not alone. Book lovers everywhere have resisted digital books because they still don’t compare to the experience of reading a good old fashioned paper book. But all of that is changing thanks to Smell of Books™, a revolutionary new aerosol e-book enhancer. Now you can finally enjoy reading e-books without giving up the smell you love so much. With Smell of Books™ you can have the best of both worlds, the convenience of an e-book and the smell of your favorite paper book. Smell of Books™ is compatible with a wide range of e-reading devices and e-book formats and is 100% DRM-compatible. Whether you read your e-books on a Kindle or an iPhone using Stanza, Smell of Books™ will bring back that real book smell you miss so much.

Among the five smells offered is “Crunchy Bacon”. This is a welcome novelty for noses jaded by such natural book fragrances as grass, leather, printer’s ink, and decaying paper. Hopefully, the Library of Congress, the New York Public Library and the Bibliothèque Nationale de France will invest heavily in shpritzing their collections with Crunchy Bacon.

Some other but lesser known aromas associated with books are baked lamb shank, General Cho’s Chicken, and asparagus vinaigrette.

On a more scientific note, Henry Fountain of the New York Times reports on research to quantify old-book odors to help librarians preserve books more effectively. Fountain describes how conservators “analyzed the volatiles produced by 72 samples of old paper of different types and in varying condition from the 19th and 20th centuries, using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. They found that some compounds were reliable markers for paper with certain characteristics — high concentrations of lignin or rosin, for example, which make paper degrade relatively quickly.”

There was apparently no manifestation of crunchy bacon in the spectrum analyzed by the scientists, but it is well known that subatomic bacon particles are even more elusive to detect spectrometrically than the Higgs boson, and the Large Hadron Collider at CERN may be required to capture one. Read Digging Into the Science of That Old-Book Smell.

Richard Curtis
This blog post was originally published by Digital Book World as Are You Sure You Want to Sleep With Someone Who Smells like a Gutenberg Bible?

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World Fantasy Award Winner “Doctor Rat” Now in E-Book

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World Fantasy Award Winner “Doctor Rat” Now in E-Book

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A Film Star Falls through a Crack in Time – into Hitler’s Germany

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A Film Star Falls through a Crack in Time – into Hitler’s Germany

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DOJ Suit Will Affect Indies, Too

Though the Department of Justice’s price-fixing suit is directed against publishing behemoths like Macmillan and Penguin, its outcome will dramatically affect independent publishers as well. In case you’re not sure how, publisher Peter Osnos has spelled it out for us in The Atlantic.

Nine highly respected and influential indies such as Abrams, Chronicle, Grove/Atlantic, Norton and Perseus have signed and filed an objection with the court expressing concern that a ruling against the defendants will “adversely impact competition — harming independent publishers, authors, booksellers and consumers — and should be rejected.” They stated that the proposed settlement is “contrary to the public interest” and will inhibit competition.  For which, says Osnos, “they deserve our thanks.”

Details in In E-Book War, the Independent Publishers Strike Back

Richard Curtis
This blog post was originally published by Digital Book World as Indies Speak Up About DOJ Action (Hint: They Hate It)

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Erotically Revised Classics Fling the Bedroom Door Wide Open

You just knew it had to happen. On the heels of feminist, gay, zombie and vampire revisionist literature, it was just a matter of time before revisionists seized on literary classics to sex them up. The match applied to the tinder was the erotic bestseller Fifty Shades of Grey, which made it acceptable for refined ladies to be seen in public displaying a print copy of a novel that would have qualified as scandalous porn a scant decade or two ago.

Inspired by this phenomenon, a publisher will be issuing a series called “Clandestine Classics” purveying hotted-up versions of Jane Austen’s Pride And Prejudice, Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, and even some Sherlock Holmes stories. We’re not sure why these editions are to be termed clandestine, since it’s common to see Fifty Shades of Grey on buses and subways, but in case some readers are squeamish about being observed in public reading one of these erotic enhancements, the plan is to issue them as e-books only. Hidden behind the screen of your e-reader, no one will know if you’re reading a sex scene in the souped-up version of Northanger Abbey or an exchange of niceties in the parlor of a Henry James novel.

But that leads us to wonder how the latter might be played out – Lord Warburton tupping Isabel Archer on the couch of a salon at Gardencourt in Portrait of a Lady, for instance? How about a War and Peace threesome with Pierre Bezukhov, his wife Hélène and her brother Anatol?

The possibilities are boundless but we invite you to submit your most outrageous suggestions.

That said, for many lovers of classic literature the outrages have already been committed. What seems to have been forgotten is that sexual tension, unspoken desire, repressed passion are the very things that have made these works so cherished over the centuries. To open the bedroom door and invite us in to watch our beloved characters perform sex acts is an entertaining novelty but it’s best to remember that the most erotic organ of all is the imagination.

Details, and some explicit extracts, can be read here. Oh Mr Darcy! Pride and Prejudice among classic novels to receive erotic makeover

Richard Curtis

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Understanding The Harlequin Lawsuit

In March 2011 we blogged about a significant legal ruling supporting a claim brought by the producers of recording artist Eminem. The claim was that what Eminem’s record company defined as “sales” – which paid a low royalty – should actually have been calculated as license revenues, a far higher number. We predicted that the court’s interpretation would one day be applied to book contracts. That day has come in the form of a class action lawsuit against Harlequin on the very same grounds.

For anyone trying to understand the lawsuit, here is our original posting, When is E-Royalty Not a Royalty? When 9th Circuit Court Says It Isn’t.
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Authors – time to lawyer up?

The United States Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal of a lower court’s ruling that digital music royalties should be treated as a license. Given the similarities between music and book contracts, the implications for authors are significant. Below is our original article on the subject published in October 2010.

Don’t just stand there. Look at the royalty language in your book contract.

RC

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Is there a reason why publishers are not wailing, gnashing their teeth and rending their garments over the Eminem decision?

Maybe they haven’t heard about it. Maybe they don’t understand it. Maybe they don’t think it applies to them. Maybe they just don’t want to think about it at all.

They really must think about it and so must you. The case heard by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals was ostensibly about music but you can bet it won’t be long before it’s about e-books, and it could throw the publishing industry’s royalty structure into chaos.

Ethan Smith of the Wall Street Journal explains the issues (the italics are ours): “Under most recording contracts, artists are entitled to 50% of revenue from licensed uses of their music. That usually means soundtracks for movies, TV shows and ads. Sales, on the other hand generate royalties for the artist at a much lower rate—generally in the low teens, and rarely more than 20%.”

For “recording contracts” read “publishing contracts”. Under current book industry standards publishers pay authors a 25% royalty for e-book sales. Their contracts also call for a 50% share of e-book licenses made with third parties. But publishers do not consider e-book revenue to be license revenue. If they did they’d have to pay authors 50% of what they receive rather than half of that amount.

In the case in question, Eminem’s producers F.B.T. Productions brought a lawsuit against Aftermath Records claiming that what Aftermath defined as sales were really license revenues and Aftermath therefore owed them the difference between the low royalty they were being paid and the much higher share of license money. The three judge panel of the San Francisco Federal court agreed:

Pursuant to its agreements with Apple and other third parties…, Aftermath did not “sell” anything to the download distributors. The download distributors did not obtain title to the digital files. The ownership of those files remained with Aftermath, Aftermath reserved the right to regain possession of the files at any time, and Aftermath obtained recurring benefits in the form of payments based on the volume of downloads . . . Under our case law interpreting and applying the Copyright Act, too, it is well settled that where a copyright owner transfers a copy of copyrighted material, retains title, limits the uses to which the material may be put, and is compensated periodically based on the transferee’s exploitation of the material, the transaction is a license.

For a cogent analysis of the case and its implications for the book industry, read Copyright Alert: 9th Circuit Holds Digital Downloads are Licenses Not Sales by copyright authority Lloyd J. Jassin, to whom we’re indebted for bringing the case to our attention.

It will not surprise us to find a flurry of amendment letters from publishers in the next few months saying “Wherever we refer to ‘royalty’ we mean ‘license’ but we’re still going to pay you 25% of what we receive.”

Richard Curtis

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Robin Hood He Ain’t

We sentimentalize Robin Hood, but though the notion of robbing the rich to help the poor may sound romantic, stripped down it’s simply a glorification of outlawry. What then can be said of outlaws who rob authors to help nobody at all but themselves? What can be said is, “Boy, crime really pays!”

That in essence is what happened when a New Zealand software developer contacted Kim Dotcom, founder of Megaupload, indicted by the United States for copyright infringement and money laundering. “I could live like that,” the fawning man tweeted to the notorious creator of the file-sharing website that the FBI has shuttered.

Dotcom invited him to his enormous rented mansion for a swim and some cupcakes.

The visitor’s admiration for the bandit is not unique. To a generation of misguided libertarians who feel entitled to accept stolen goods, Dotcom is a cult hero. After armed forces raided his opulent stronghold, the unrepentant buccaneer responded with typical braggadocio. “Two helicopters and 76 heavily armed officers to arrest a man alleged of copyright crimes — think about that. Hollywood is importing their movie scripts into the real world and sends armed forces to protect their outdated business model.”

If Dotcom is referring to that outdated business model known as property rights, he may have difficulty persuading a court that it should be replaced by one based on stealing. If he can’t make his case, he faces 20 years in prison.

The tragedy is that he will have so many rooting for him. Jonathan Hutchison of the New York Times reports that “After the court granted him access he began using Twitter…, amassing more than 46,000 followers in just two weeks…

Details in Megaupload Founder Goes From Arrest to Cult Hero

Richard Curtis
This blog post was originally published by Digital Book World as Indicted Pirate Thumbs His Nose at His Victims, and His Cult Eats It Up

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Why Your Nook Says “God Bless You” When You Sneeze

Why did you put that biography down? You know – the biography of Thomas Jefferson? Don’t tell me you didn’t. You stopped reading on page 156.  We saw you.

Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other producers of e-book readers know this and a lot more about your reading habits.  They’ve developed some spookily sophisticated – and potentially invasive – ways to reach into your e-reader and finesse revealing information out of it, says Laura Hazard
Owen in a GigaOm posting, Big e-reader is watching you. In fact Barnes & Noble has “more data than we can use,” says an executive there.

The techniques are classified information, but Owen thinks these companies are converting what they’ve learned into new ways to capture and hold readers. For instance, if B&N know that you, and a lot of readers like you, are likely to put nonfiction down without finishing it, it may start producing shorter works that will grab your attention – and satisfy it. That may explain why Nook has launched Nook Snaps, a publishing initiative dedicated to shorter works, not dissimilar to Amazon Singles.

What else do they know about you? The possibilities are disturbing. Probably a good idea to cover up before you switch on your Kindle, Nook or iPad.

Richard Curtis
This blog post was originally published by Digital Book World as Do You Read in the Nude?

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