Monthly Archives: August 2012

Winners of Terrible Writing Award Named

“As an ornithologist, George was fascinated by the fact that urine and feces mix in birds’ rectums to form a unified, homogeneous slurry that is expelled through defecation, although eying Greta’s face, and sensing the reaction of the congregation, he immediately realized he should have used a different analogy to describe their relationship in his wedding vows.” Though it did not win first prize in the Bulwer-Lytton Contest for Wretched Writing, the above passage copped something called the Grand Panjandrum’s Special Award. For a complete list of winners and contributions, visit the Bulwer-Lytton Contest website. Removing your tongue from your cheek will immediately disqualify you from enjoying it. And check out our coverage of a prior B-L Award, Comparing Lover’s Kiss to a Sucking Gerbil, Molly Ringle Cops Bulwer-Lytton Crappo Writing Prize.

RC

This blog post was previously published in Digital Book World as New Hope for Bad Writers: Prizes Awarded for Lousy Writing

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Brian Aldiss’s Squire Quartet Reissued

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Brian Aldiss’s Squire Quartet Reissued

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Brian Aldiss Reflects on The Squire Quartet

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Brian Aldiss Reflects on The Squire Quartet

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Google to Tilt Algorithms Against Pirates

Last spring Google’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt dealt authors and publishers a staggering blow by declaring his absolute opposition to any effort to curtail Google’s right to link to piracy websites like Pirate Bay. He said it in such unequivocal terms that we concluded it was time for legitimate copyright owners to throw in their cards. “Any author cherishing a shred of hope for the protection of his or her rights is spitting in the wind,” we lamented. (See Game Over: Google Insists on Linking to Pirate Sites)

But Amy Chozick of the New York Times says the wind at Google has shifted. Yielding to pressure from motion picture, recording and other media interest groups who are being robbed blind by pirates, Google softened its opposition to altering the algorithms that point indiscriminately to illegal file-sharing websites. “Google said that beginning next week its algorithms would take into account the number of valid copyright removal notices Web sites have received,” reports Chozick. “Web sites with multiple, valid complaints about copyright infringement may appear lower in Google search results.”

To give you a sense of “multiple, valid complaints”, Chozick writes that Google “received copyright removal requests for over 4.3 million Web addresses in the last 30 days, according to the company’s transparency report. That is more than it received in all of 2009.”

Google’s reversal stands in vivid contrast to the populist uprising that culminated in a Wikipedia blackout last January when media giants lobbied Congress to pass an antipiracy bill. Google and Facebook led the charge, congress chickened out, and the proposed legislation collapsed. (See Don’t Worry, Pirates, Google Has Your Back)

“Google has signaled a new willingness to value the rights of creators,” said a recording industry executive.

Details in Under Copyright Pressure, Google to Alter Search Results

Richard Curtis
This blog post was originally published by Digital Book World as Google Decides Legit Copyright Owners May Have a Point

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E-Reads Offers 29 Johnstone “Ashes” at Bargain Prices

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E-Reads Offers 29 Johnstone “Ashes” at Bargain Prices

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Piracy Devastates Music Artists’ Income. Authors, Tomorrow It’s Your Turn

“Over the last 12 years” NPR’s David Lowery recently wrote, “I’ve watched revenue flowing to artists collapse. Recorded music revenue is down 64% since 1999. Per capita spending on music is 47% lower than it was in 1973!! The number of professional musicians has fallen 25% since 2000. Of the 75,000 albums released in 2010 only 2,000 sold more than 5,000 copies. Only 1,000 sold more than 10,000 copies.” Ten thousand copies, Lowery explains, is break-even for independent recording artists.

Why are we mentioning this in a column devoted to the book industry?  Because if you substitute “authors” for “recording artists” and “books” for “albums”, you would realize at once, as I did, that in one significant area the two professions are interchangeable.

The significant area is piracy.  Lowery attributes the plummet in sales directly to illegal downloading.

His article, published in The Trichordist, a website for “Artists for an Ethical Internet,” was in the form of an open letter to a young intern at National Public Radio named Emily who had acknowledged that “while she had 11,000 songs in her music library, “she’s only paid for 15 CDs in her life.”

Because Emily is a member of a vast majority who not only behave the same way but justify their behavior the same way, Lowery felt it incumbent to help her see that “she has been badly misinformed by the Free Culture movement.” The challenge is tantamount to fighting a forest fire with a garden hose, and the reason is that it’s all about a mindset so completely and universally embedded in the consciences of young people that it’s become a rule to live by rather than an ethical value about which there is choice to embrace or resist.

Obviously that same mindset obtains with e-books. Among the reasons that the Emily generation use to justify their freeloading are:

*Compensating musicians is not a problem –  that is up to governments and large corporations to solve.

*It’s OK not to pay for music because record companies rip off artists and do not pay artists anything.

*We don’t take these tracks from a file-sharing site.

*Artists can make money on the road (or its variant “Artists are rich”)

“I also deeply empathize with your generation,” Lowery writes. “You have grown up in a time when technological and commercial interests are attempting to change our principles and morality. Rather than using our morality and principles to guide us through technological change, there are those asking us to change our morality and principles to fit the technological change–if a machine can do something, it ought to be done.

“I also find this all this sort of sad. Many in your generation are willing to pay a little extra to buy ‘fair trade’ coffee that insures the workers that harvested the coffee were paid fairly. Many in your generation will pay a little more to buy clothing and shoes from manufacturers that certify they don’t use sweatshops. Many in your generation pressured Apple to examine working conditions at Foxconn in China. Your generation is largely responsible for the recent cultural changes that has given more equality to same sex couples. On nearly every count your generation is much more ethical and fair than my generation.

“Except for one thing. Artist rights.”

Read: Letter to Emily White at NPR All Songs Considered.

Richard Curtis

This blog post was originally published in Digital Book World as Sales for Musical Artists Plunge. Next Victim: Authors

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Galaxies Like Grains of Sand

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Galaxies Like Grains of Sand

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Communing with the Almighty on Your Keyboard

Most of us would agree that there is something mystical in linking to a vast ocean of humanity when we visit the Web. You could not be blamed for feeling cosmically inspired to think that you and untold millions are simultaneously sharing common experiences and emotions. But – to make a bona fide religion out of that sense of wonder, that’s a giant step for mankind.

At least for anyone but the Swedes. But John Tagliabue of the New York Times reports the founding there of “a church whose central dogma is that file sharing is sacred.”

The would-be religion is brought to you by the same country that produced a pirate political party that got a respectable 7% of the vote in European Parliamentary elections.  “It claims more than 8,000 faithful who have signed up on the church’s Web site,” writes Tagliabue. “It has applied for the right to perform marriages and to receive subsidies awarded to religious organizations by the state, and it has bid, thus far unsuccessfully, to buy a church building, even though most church activities are conducted online.”

The religion, which calls itself Kopimism (“Copy-ism”), even claims it is the victim of an inquisition in the form of escalating prosecution of illegal file-sharing. It isn’t clear where the religion provides for confession, but it would be interesting to hear what adherents confide to their confessors.

There has not yet risen a counterreformation in the form of a religion devoted to respect for copyright.  It’s just not as sexy-sounding as Kopimism.  But if one were to be founded it might have as a core tenet a commandment along the lines of Thou Shalt Not Steal.

Wait a minute! I think there already is a religion like that…

Details in In Sweden, Taking File Sharing to Heart. And to Church.

Richard Curtis

This blog post was originally published on Digital Book World as Salvation Just One Download Away.

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Two Great Collections of Fritz Leiber Tales

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Two Great Collections of Fritz Leiber Tales

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Ritas Awarded to E-Originals

The Rita awards ceremony, climaxing the annual Romance Writers of America convention, is closer to the glitzy Academy Awards than to the bookish solemnities of the National Book Award. Conducted in vast auditoriums on a stage flanked by jumbo-trons, these events are almost as glamorous as their Hollywood counterparts, and the tension and drama leading up to the announcement of winners in Best Historical or Best Paranormal are every bit as excruciating as the wait for Best Leading Actor or Best Film.

Until now there was one thing you could always count on: the awards would be bestowed on printed books.

No longer.

In 2012 two Ritas – named after one of the founders of RWA – were awarded to original e-books, one for romance novella, the other for contemporary single title.

This is a very big deal. It’s as if a YouTube video won an Oscar for best feature film.

You would think that if any group of writers were early adapters to digital books it would be science fiction authors. In truth romance writers – and their fans and publishers – jumped into e-books from the moment the technology was unleashed. In particular Harlequin, the world’s leading romance publisher, launched an e-book program long before other publishers even remotely began to think digitally. So, it should not come as a surprise that RWA decided that e-originals were every bit as qualified as their print sisters to garner nominations and awards.

It’s hard to believe that the rest of the publishing industry will follow suit any time soon, but in this revolutionary era, wonders that we said would not come to pass for a decade seem to materialize in six months. So – keep your eye on those National Book Award nominees.

Richard Curtis
This blog post was originally published in Digital Book World as Romance Awards Go Over to the E Side

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