Check often for reviews, tips and special discounts (you won't find them anywhere else). Of course, you will want to subscribe to our daily RSS Feeds to keep you up to date on of your favorite eBooks!
Check often for reviews, tips and special discounts (you won't find them anywhere else). Of course, you will want to subscribe to our daily RSS Feeds to keep you up to date on of your favorite eBooks!
I am taking advantage of the last days of summer with a few days of vacation and will not be posting here.
I will return after Labor Day so be sure to check back!
In the meantime our RSS feeds are updated daily with all the newly available eBook titles.
Check them out!
Yes, Mrs. Grudy is alive and well. It is all well and good to make a little joke at her expense. But the issues raised are really no laughing matter.
As I mentioned yesterday, we put a great deal of time and energy into creating a family friendly site. We did a fair amount of research.
Did you know that if you go to Amazon (for an example) and look for an erotica section – you won’t find one. But if you type “erotica” into the search bar you come up with 8,813 titles in 29 categories from the expected (GLBT, Romance, Scifi/fantasy or Art/photography) to the really unexpected like cooking or outdoors/nature. There is plenty of erotica sold, it’s just not clearly marked.
As a book buyer I have, personally, have had the experience of stumbling into erotic material by accident. And I have to tell you, it is something of a shock to be looking for a history title about ancient
Now, as a parent, it is really important to me, that children and young adults do not have that same experience. And I believe that parents should have a modicum of control over what their children are exposed to.
So, we made a very conscious decision to clearly segregate the material for “mature adults” into an erotic section. At eBooks About you will find many of the same titles sold elsewhere under other seemingly innocuous sections, clearly labeled and separated into an erotica section. We also created a “gateway page” that can easily be blocked by parental controls. I do not want some kid to find erotica in categories like Teens, Biographies or Graphic Novels.
In doing this we have created a situation which makes it hard to actually sell books because these same self-appointed guardians of morality have deemed that they will not clear credit cards for any site that has items clearly marked as adult. I am left with an choice -- I can do what my competitors do, or I can stick with my guns and do what I believe is morally and ethically responsible.
But there is another more lingering concern for me : my fear that those same self appointed guardians of morality are creating a disingenuous and pernicious form of censorship and a corollary and very underhanded attack on civil liberties.
As an American citizen, I was raised with a reverence for the principles of the First Amendment. Freedom of speech and press are among my most sacred ideals. The idea that a commercial clearing operation can determine what I am allowed to sell or that someone is allowed to buy makes me really uncomfortable. And the surreptitious way it is done make me downright scared.
Censorship of this kind creates an environment everyone loses: the publisher, the distributor, the reader and the entrepreneurial bookseller.
"Yes Mrs Grundy is alive and well and managing several large commercial credit clearing operations. Her health and well being is not something I fear but the surreptitious way she pursues her agenda troubles me greatly.
It is important to be aware of our responsibilities to children . And I believe we should build ecommerce sites where access by the young can be limited. That is a clear agenda for us at eBooks About and the geniuses who have limited our credit clearing choices have made our task harder. They appear to be trying not only to save our young from erotic material but instead to limit everyone's access to that category of literature.
In trying and failing they have harmed the young in this society. Through their attempts to control what consenting adults can read they have reduced the market's capacity to control access, not increased it.
Thus it always has been, the busybodies overreach and ALL of us pay a price that is ultimately a lot higher than it needs to be. If only our morality monitors could simply leave the rest of us to our own generally moral responses to life the world would be a better place. We could all be living together in a community with responsibly drawn boundaries. Instead the largest booksellers hide their erotica in other categories and Mrs. Grundy wails on about the general immorality of our society. How convenient for her!
In case you were wondering, Mrs. Grundy is alive and well in cyberspace. I know because I ran into her last week. And here lies the tale. . . .
eBooks About Everything (in fact the whole eBooks About family of stores) depends on our credit card/e-check clearing company. We have a classic e-commerce business. The standard operating procedure is that customers give us their credit card or banking information, the clearing company verifies and authorizes the information and holds the funds. The customer downloads the file(s) and then the clearing company transfers the money into our bank account.
Things have been going swimmingly. We opened the store, customers have found us and bought books and our credit card clearing company has been doing their job so that each day we end up with a deposit to our bank account. I was happy and I assumed, based on the fees they charge, that they were happy.
But not so fast. . . woke up the other morning with a message in my mail box:
Authorize.Net Corp. ("Authorize.Net") has determined that your business is in violation of Section 2.10 of the Authorize.Net Acceptable Use Guidelines . .. These sections include, but are not limited to, any form(s) of adult, sexually oriented, vulgar or obscene marketing materials, products or services (for example, the display of nude images, the sale of adult phone or escort services,fetishes, or the sale of adult media, entertainment and/or toys). Accordingly, your ability to access and use the Authorize.Net Services will be terminated on August 31, 2007 . . have any questions about this termination notice, please contact.
Huh?I am serious about not selling inappropriate materials to minors. I am, after all a parent. So, unlike many of my competitors, I have clearly segregated all erotica and other information for “mature” audiences. In doing so, I have created a situation in which it has proven difficult to clear credit cards. Being the eternal optimist, I figured we had a simple failure to communicate, so I sent them back an email:
I am very puzzled by this letter. We do not sell, distribute or promote pornography. My understanding to the Service Agreement was that the policy covers pornography and other truly adult information and products. Our titles are not pornographic in nature but are considered erotica by major publishers (Harper Collins, Harlequin, Random House, Simon & Schuster), distributors (Ingram Micro, Baker &; Taylor, PGW, IPG) and retailers (Borders, Barnes & Nobles, Amazon). Please take a look (www.ebooksabouteverything.com) to see what we actually sell. We have put a “gateway” page on the erotica section of the bookstore, because we are a family friendly site and wish to make sure that we stay that way. Please reconsider your decision
If you read the policy, we do not allow anything adult; this includes anything that is sexually orientated. For further information on our acceptable use policy see our website. Our decision stands, you will need to remove the adult orientated items as explained in our policy or we will be forced to terminate your Authorize.Net account on August 31, 2007.
All righty then. . .
We can just move over to Chase who has been soliciting business for a while. But better safe than sorry, so I called Chase and thoroughly explained our site to the sales guy. I had him look at the site and showed him the erotica gateway page. He assured me that there was “no problem”.
I filled out the application, faxed off 25 pages of financial info and answered five different emails from the underwriting department. Five days into the process I get the following email:
I have been reviewing the web site for the changes requested and do not see those yet. However, looking further at you site, I see that you are planning to open a section for over 18/Adult section on this site. We will not be able to process for this account with those products on the site. Those are prohibited by our credit policy.
I got the same answers from Payflow and a couple of other companies as well. Makes me wonder about how all those porn sites we keep hearing about actually do business. Ultimately, I did find a good and reputable company to do the clearing but I took some real effort and persistence on my part.
See I told you – Mrs. Grundy with her thin blue lips really IS alive and well in cyberspace!
So that is my sad tale – tomorrow in Part 2 I will explore the deeper meaning of this story.
Admittedly, there are people who find my sense of humor a little strange; but there were two publishing news items this week that got to me. One absurd and the other ironic.
The absurd is the story about Simon and Schuester. As in: Simon & Schuster's children's publishing division acknowledged that they will be publishing a manual on the etiquette of orgies and sex clubs by author Francesca Beauman.
And the ironic is the Guardian’s story about God vs. the Skeptics. It seems that one of the fastest growing segments in the book market is religion – up 50% over the last three years. And of all the books sold, the hands-down best seller was The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. The next best? God is not Great by Christopher Hitchens.
These statistics might lead you to believe that the agnostics are “winning”. Possibly, but there has been a concurrent 120% increase in the sale of Bibles. I love irony.
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It’s evidently true, no one in Hollywood has a new idea. For once I am applauding!
You see, over the weekend we went to the movies (one of my favorite very-hot-summer-day past times). The trailers were amazing in thier uniformity: four of the five were supernatural, hero based fantasy. Obviously, Hollywood has decided to cash in BIG on the Lord of the Rings/Harry Potter/Narnia phenomenon.
The bright light in this flood of fantasy is the release of Paramount’s Stardust based on the Neil Gaiman’s Stardust adult fairytale comics. But let me digress with a short history lesson for the uninitiated (which I think is almost as interesting as the movie).
The 1980’s DC Comics published a series of innovative new comics by the team of Neil Gaiman (writer) and Charles Vess (illustrator). This Sandman series was something of a “cult” favorites for Nerds and Goths (you can guess which my kids were).
But the secret got out and the comics were “discovered”. They became an almost guilty please for kids, teens, ordinary adults and musicians like Metallica and Tori Amos. And of course, those with intellectual pretensions like Norman Mailer began talking them up.
In 1997 Gaiman and Vess produced a “prestige” comic book serial with four installments called Stardust. It was a more adult comic in many ways with very "black” humor. I often found it laugh out loud funny!
Two years later Gaiman (who holds the copyright) republished it as a conventional novel--Stardust-- immediately and rather eerily (to those erstwhile Nerds and Goths) it went mainstream.
And now it’s a Hollywood movie! Family fun for those who know Gaiman’s work and a great discovery for those who don’t.
I, personally, have a hard time categorizing this a children’s book or just fantasy. . it‘s more of a romance to me. Fantasy romance, perhaps, but romance all the same.
I am thrilled to see it as an eBook edition in our store. While you’re there, check out the other Gaiman titles including Coraline. The ebook has a dozen extras, not available in the standard print edition, including facsimile pages of Neil Gaiman's Coraline notebook and additional illustrations by Dave McKea. And best of all, the movie version is in postproduction and will be released next year.
Ok, so here is the official stuff:
In the sleepy English countryside at the dawn of the Victorian Era, life moves at a leisurely pace in the tiny town of Wall--a secluded hamlet so named for an imposing stone barrier that surrounds a fertile grassland. Armed sentries guard the sole gap in the bulwark to keep the inquisitive from wandering through, relaxing their vigil only once every nine years, when a market fair unlike any other in the world of men comes to the meadow. Here in Wall, young Tristran Thorn has lost his heart to beautiful Victoria Forester. But Victoria is cold and distant--as distant, in fact, as the star she and Tristran see fall from the sky on a crisp October evening. For the coveted prize of Victoria's hand, Tristran vows to retrieve the fallen star and deliver it to his beloved. It is an oath that sends the lovelorn swain over the ancient wall, and propels him into a world that is strange beyond imagining. But Tristran is not the only one seeking the heavenly jewel. There are those for whom it promises youth and beauty, the key to a kingdom, and the rejuvenation of dark, dormant magics. And a lad compelled by love will have to keep his wits about him to succeed and survive in this secret place where fallen stars come in many guises--and where quests have a way of branching off in unexpected directions, even turning back upon themselves in space and in time.
Neil Gaiman works his unique literary magic in new and dazzling ways in Stardust, a novel that will shine in the heart and memory far beyond the turning of its final page." Special e-book feature: ""Writing and the Imagination," a speech by Neil Gaiman
This device and I have had a love/hate relationship since the day I got it. I love the crisp display and the form factor (5x8) and the fact that it can read protected Mobipocket files. I hate the slow screen refresh rate, the lame excuse for built in wireless connectivity, and the awkward power cord arrangement.
And then there is the annoying problem of page skipping with the Illiad/Mobipocket implementation. Every now and then you flip the page and instead of turning one page it turns some random number of them. You may be reading page 84, turn the page expecting to see page 85 and there you are on page 97. Annoying! But the real annoyance is not the page skipping but having to page back to where you were. Did I mention that the screen refresh rate is painfully slow?
Since I am an old Beta tester I just lived with the inconvenience and kept checking the Irex site for software updates that would presumably address and fix the problem.
Well, It’s all over now.
Tuesday night I started reading Paul Schmidtberger’s Design Flaws of the Human Condition. The first 100 pages were really enjoyable. But I finally forced myself to switch the thing off and go to bed.
Wednesday after work, I grabbed the device and turned it on as I headed to kitchen to get something to drink. It takes a long time to actually power up. I came back, picked up the ebook, took a look at the screen and promptly swore (I couldn’t help it!).
The screen had a great collection of horizontal lines down the left side and more vertical lines across the middle. These lines totally interfered with any ability I might have to actually see anything else. Being the eternal optimist, I figured it was just a screen refresh problem, so turned the machine off and back on: the magic electronic bullet – if it doesn’t work repower.
Great idea except that it didn’t work. The lines didn’t disappear. In fact, they stayed exactly the same even when the machine was turned off: permanent white lines everywhere.
This device is less than a year old and theoretically under warranty so I went to the Irex site and fired off an email to customer support asking for help. This is Sunday evening (4 days later and counting) and still no response from Irex!
In the meantime I started researching. Well, come to find out, this is a common problem with the e-ink screen. Evidently this $900! device, sold for portability has a screen so fragile that it breaks down on a regular basis. Great!And if that isn’t bad enough, it seems that Irex will gladly replace the screen if you pick up the shipping costs to and from the Netherlands, part with 300 Euros (about 400 US dollars) and are willing to wait 4-6 weeks.
Of course to accomplish even this, you need to get someone from Customer Support to actually answer your email.
At this point I am not sure which part I mind the most: the lack of communication, the money or the fact that I still don’t know what happened to Iris and Ken.
The New York Times had a great piec about eBooks: An Entire Bookshelf, in Your Hands. Really worth a look!
Shocking news -- eBooks are going mainstream. Of course, we’ve known that for awhile which is why we started eBooks About. After all we like a market that is doubling annually: The International Digital Publishing Forum, estimates that retail sales of e-books in the 2nd quarter of 2007 was $8.1 million compared to $4 million in the same time period last year.
The author talks a lot about hardware and software and their impact on eBook reading. Certainly better reading software and hardware devices are major factors in this growth, but I believe that the greatest single factor is content. Major publishers are creating eBook versions of titles along with the hard cover release. And Harlequin who announced last week that it has started (August, 2007) to create an e-book edition of every new book it releases,
Yes, we have had content In the past. Thanks to Project Gutenberg there have always been titles available. I, however, have trouble getting excited over the idea that I can read Middlemarch on my phone. I suspect I am not alone.
New variety in title choices and major author’s books generate eBook sales. And the market is changing! Our store sales reflect the trends talked about in the article – we sell more romance and ‘chick lit’ (women’s fiction for the more politically correct) than any thing else. But we also sell a great number of non fiction and reference titles. You’d be amazed at how many manuals we sell.
As an eBook reader I got a real kick out of the article . . . it was more or less a case of preaching to the choir. Of course I would have liked to have seen eBooks About Everything mentioned, but I have to remember that we are still the new kid on the block and it all takes time.
But the best part for me was that the writer talked about my two personal favorite reasons for reading an eBook: the backlighting so I can read in bed in the dark and the fact I never feel the need to tear off an embarrassing cover.
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Trudy Hopedale was perfect beach reading -- a novel, alternatively narrated by two self absorbed, petty, social climbing but amusing protagonists: Trudy Hopedale and Donald Frizzé.
Trudy is a hostess. A Washington society hostess (the second wife of a 40-year veteran of the Foreign Service) and a daily local talk show hostess. And Trudy is staring irrelevance in the face. Her age is making her irrelevant on her own show where she is about to be replaced by a younger, prettier face. To add injury to insult, the changing of power in 2000-2001 (from Clinton to Bush) is making her irrelevant as a social mover and shaker.
Donald is a handsome vice presidential historian of undetermined sexual identity. He is suffering from a crushing case of writer’s block and filling his time by being a television guest commentator.
I have to say up front that neither one of them are sympathetic characters. Their self obsession and disregard for anything outside of their immediate concern makes them distinctly unlikable. And yet the novel works. Trudy and Donald are so awful that they are funny.
Then there is the whole side plot with Trudy’s husband Roger who is writing a novel. We are “treated” to excerpts of his Washington thriller novel. The writing is so overblown and obvious that I actually laughed out loud.
Jeffery Frank obviously knows Washington D.C. and his characterizations are hilarious. You can tell he had fun writing this novel; from the names of his characters (Royal Arsine, Jennifer Pouch and Archie Butt) to his description of the right wing talk show host Bucky and Trudy’s overbearing (and possibly delusional) mother-in-law.
Perfect summer escape! Just literary enough to make you think you aren't reading total trash.
Here is the official stuff:
On the eve of the 2000 election, the charmed life of Washington hostess Trudy Hopedale is quietly falling apart. Her daytime talk show is about to be hijacked by a younger, prettier assistant, and then there is the horrifying novel that her husband has written in secret, which contains some rather troubling implications for a former Foreign Service colleague. And what is her mother-in-law telling everyone?
Trudy's dear friend Donald Frizzé has benefited greatly from their friendship. A widely recognized expert on the U.S. vice presidency and a frequent guest on Trudy's program, Donald's latest scholarly pursuit is a highly anticipated biography of Garrett Augustus Hobart, McKinley's VP. Exactly who anticipates this book is hard to say, and soon Donald finds himself dodging the awkward questions of plagiarism and his sexuality, frequently during the same conversation.
Amid tides of intrigue and shifting allegiances, this little town's extraordinary inhabitants swim helplessly, and alarmingly, toward their remarkable fates. With a bewitching sense of nostalgia, Jeffrey Frank has written an exquisitely funny, tender, and deeply perceptive novel that vividly invokes the simpler world of only yesterday
There is a new contraption on display in Washington DC, Alexandria, Egypt and Mid-town Manhattan. A Rube Goldberg device that hums, sputters, spits, moans and ultimately belches out a warm new book -- gives a new meaning to “hot of the press”. The contraption is the Espresso Book Machine.
It’s not pretty, but it works. Select a title and twenty minutes later you have a bound hard-copy book (complete with cover) to take with you. Click here to see a demonstration of the machine work
On Demand Books, the maker of these machines was co-founded by a former Random House Editor, Jason Epstein. He sees this machine as a solution for a single problem: the unavailable backlist. I see it as yet one more attempt to make books more accessible.
I remember sitting at Kodak headquarters in Rochester, New York about fifteen years ago and listening to one of the engineers describe a kiosk with CDs, a printer and a binding machine. The engineering drawings didn’t look a whole lot different than the current espresso machine.
The technology has changed, but the idea remains intact. Fifteen years ago CDs were an exciting step forward in redefining the book. Makes me wonder where technology will take us next.
I also find in curious that we are still stuck on the idea that a book has to be printed and have a 4 color cover. Any blogger can create more interesting and sophisticated literature in a few minutes complete with live links and interactive video. But I digress.
When you see this machine you have to wonder what this all means on a cultural and societal level. Will bookstores become ‘Kinkoish’ storefronts patronized by the very old and the most stubborn of Luddites who still require something as quaint as paper (after all, there are still those who actually still use an IBM selectric).
I am not convinced that this machine will be any more successful than the Kodak idea, but I am always intrigued by machines. . .
After the fascination with the machinery fades, however, I go back to wondering about how we will read in the future. I for one do not believe that reading will go away but that what we read and how we read it is bound to change. And more significantly, the whole idea of what a book is will change dramatically in my life time.
So, what will the book of the future look like? Will it be a dedicated electronic device like the Sony e-ink reader? Will we go back to scrolls using a version of the new OLED technology? Will the young and hip carry electronic documents on their phones and never touch paper again? Will libraries be able to replace their paper book selections in 25 years as the old ones fall apart from overuse?
I have lots of questions and no real answers. What I do know is that technology is moving faster than our understanding of how it will affect our culture. I find this both energizing and frightening – endless possibilities always are!