Archive | October, 2013

Kobo Update

28 Oct

As you may have read, Kobo pulled all self-published e-books from its UK store following a public outcry for decency on the e-shelves of WH Smith.

Kobo has finished looking through its self-published holdings and has removed offensive material its Chief Content Officer describes as “barely legal erotica and rape fantasies.” Not all erotica works were pulled, just those that seemed particularly exploitative (I guess). All other self-published books have been restored to the UK store.

The same cannot be said for WH Smith in the UK, which continues to refuse to sell any e-books by self-published authors. The outfit insists it will open its website to e-books from Kobo again when it is satisfied that proper control procedures are in place.

Source:

Kobo: “There Are Books We Won’t Sell”: http://www.thebookseller.com/news/kobos-tamblyn-there-are-e-books-we-wont-sell.html?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

Social Media and Reading

28 Oct

Many will say reading happens in a vacuum. That it’s a singular, solitary exercise. Any effort to make it particularly social will ruin the reading experience, which is an internally transformative experience (when done right) that makes a person want to speak to others after reading.

Well, some readers can’t wait that long. They want to talk about what they’re reading, as they’re reading it, with as many people as possible.  There are myriad ways to do this, including engaging in awkward conversations with strangers on the subway, and way better methods, like Wattpad.

While sites like Goodreads and Shelfari do an adequate job of joining a social community and book information together, they feel like little more than ways to tack up a picture of the book you’re reading and offer opinions (sometimes while reading) and maybe a review when you’re done. Basically, an online version of what you do with books in real life: pick, read, talk about them.

There are great efforts from traditional publishers to create and sustain buzz for books coming out next year, engaging potential readers on Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr, etc., etc., but there is still a passivity inherent in this approach. The world is a frantic, overly-connected place that has shifted from passive input (antenna and cable TV, radio, best-seller lists) to deliberate choices (person-picked music on iPods, Netflix, word-of-mouth book picks). Reading as a passive input system must be challenged.

Wattpad does what any online version of literature should do: it enhances the experience. Wattpad allows readers to make a real, tangible difference in how a story turns out through their questions and constructive criticism as an author builds a story out (providing the author would like to change some aspects). And as some readers become writers, they discover which kinds of comments are helpful, and which are harsh or unhelpful firsthand.  Readers can get directly in touch with the author of their favorite stories, and move their stories to the top of the site’s reader lists. Somewhere around 18 million readers/writers are on Wattpad, and I think it’s a bit more popular in the UK than it is in the US…it took me a while to jump onboard the Wattpad train. But now that I spend a good deal more time on the subway, I am really enjoying the loads of free, mobile stories I get with having the app. And of course I’m thinking of writing a story on the site as well.

As an added bonus, Wattpad introduced a fan-funding component to their awesome online community a couple months ago. What a concept! An online community of people who watched a story built from the ground-up coming together to see it finished, polished, and set free for the rest of the world to read. It’s amazing what a site that fully integrates reading, writing and online social components can create.

I’m well and truly excited to see what Wattpad wants to do next. Having already partnered with legendary novelist/poet Margaret Atwood, I figure the sky is the limit.

More info:

How Storytelling Has Made Social Networking Interesting Again: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/oct/27/ebooks-new-reading-wattpad-atwood

Something Wrong With Her, Cris Mazza

22 Oct

Something Wrong With Her is the newest book by prolific author (she has written 16 other books) Cris Mazza, available on Jaded Ibis Press. It is a memoir about Mazza’s lifelong struggle with anorgasmia (inability to orgasm), and the unexpected (really unexpected!) love story that blossomed during her research into her past. In this narrative, Mazza unflinchingly explores the full extent of her sexual history, from her childhood, through adolescence (where she first met the unexpected love interest) and into adulthood.

Something Wrong With Her, Cris Mazza (Jaded Ibis Productions)

Something Wrong With Her, Cris Mazza (Jaded Ibis Productions)

The book brings up incredibly important points that to Mazza felt/feels isolating, but turn out to be pretty universal: hypersexualization of women in American culture, and the prevalence of anorgasmia (in one form or another) among women. Many adolescents and women feel they are pressured into outwardly sexualizing themselves, far beyond the extent they feel sexualized within. This feeling of isolation, or feeling of difference can manifest itself in anorgasmia for some, or other sexual “disorders” connected to psychological distress. An unexpected outcome of this book for Mazza, I would imagine, will be the dialog it opens for other women to be honest about how they feel on these subjects. While I belive this work was one of personal revelation and healing for Mazza, I think it may help do the same for other women who are living with misplaced shame and lack of self-esteem.

Something Wrong With Her is coupled with a jazz digital musical accompanyment — the saxophonist is Mazza’s current partner, the unexpected love interest, Mark — as all Jaded Ibis productions are a combination of multiple artistic formats.  As Mazza mentioned in her radio interview, the musical accompanyment gives her partner the chance to speak intandem with her writing. The book is available now for pre-order through Jaded Ibis Press.

More Info:

Cris Mazza’s author page on Jaded Ibis: http://jadedibisproductions.com/cris-mazza/

Mazza’s Personal Website: Cris-Mazza.com

Interview with Cris Mazza by The Ofi Press Magazine: http://theofipress.webs.com/mazzacris.htm

Review of Something Wrong With Her in the Rumpus: http://therumpus.net/2013/10/119458/

Ask Dr. Love radio interview with Cris Mazza: http://askdrlove.com/sites/default/files/10_09_2013_SexualFrigidity_drlove131008a.mp3

Kobo and WH Smith Pull Self-Published Booksp

16 Oct

After moral uproar, mobile-device giant Kobo and its partner UK vendor WH Smith culled thousands of self-published works from their service and website (respectively). A single tabloid article touched off the furor that then lead to the cull. Self-published authors publishing through Draft2Digital, Smashwords, and Kobo’s direct upload service Kobo Writing Life (KWL) were affected.

bannedkobo-read-freely

The tabloid article focused its moral outrage on the (disturbingly quickly) growing number of erotica selections available from self-published, e-book authors being available for purchase alongside children’s books in WH Smith’s e-bookstore. WH Smith responded by apologizing and taking down their website until they can remove every self-published book from their online store (not just the “offensive” ones). The company now has a holding page in place of their website.

Instead of fighting WH Smith’s decision, Kobo has pulled ALL self-published works from its UK e-bookstore.  This decision affects not only self-published authors, but small publishers who use Smashwords or KWL for electronic upload of legitimate (sorry, erotica writers) books. This seems like a harsh limitation of free speech, even if it is happening 3,000 miles away.

The author of the infamous tabloid article typed “daddy” into the search box on WH Smith’s website and came up with a varied selection of books from different genres (like adult, juvenile, children’s, etc.).  That issue could be dealt with by insisting on genre-specifications during book search. Remove the “show all books” option. The end. Why remove all self-published material when what WH Smith had was a sorting issue??

Here’s the scary (scarier) part: the trend has spread. Whitcoulls, a Kobo partner in New Zealand, has taken down its ebook website until Kobo removes all self-published, inappropriate material. And Amazon and Barnes and Noble have apparently quietly taken down the targeted, offending material from their sites as well.

I can’t help but draw parallels between WH Smith and, say, Walmart.  Walmart, an originally southern, Christian, family company, refuses to carry certain music albums (unless edited for content) or movies, but even there you can pick up 50 Shades of Grey from their shelves, or order erotica on their online store. Society, lately anyway, has generally balked at censoring distribution of the written word – no matter how asinine that word is.  But a response like this in the UK does not bode well for the US. We kinda corner the market on moral outrage. Fox News could pick up the story, extend it to Walmart (“I thought you were a Christian, family company!”), and I can imagine they would go to the same extreme of shutting down the self-published book-smut trade on their website.

But WH Smith is a BOOKSTORE. I can’t imagine a company whose sole purpose is to disseminate the written word folding like a house of cards over one article.  There must have been other pressures I am not aware of.  There HAD to be, right? The only appropriate response right now is vigilance, in case the same issue comes to the surface here in the US. Self-published authors and small publishing houses should be ready.

UPDATE: Looks like Kobo is taking down all self-published works while they enact a “thorough review” to make sure authors and publishers are in compliance with their policies. They will definitely be removing the material directly in question by the media, and, depending on these review criteria, more may be removed from their service. It’s a wait-and-see situation right now.

Jaded Ibis Authors at Litquake

12 Oct

A plucky band of authors from Jaded Ibis will participate in readings during Litquake, a literature festival/lit crawl/event held annually in San Francisco since 2002 (though for two years before that it was called Litstock – the name change was a plus, in my opinion). Different venues all over the city and in the SF By Area open their doors to authors for readings and literature-related event.

Litquake 2013 is taking place over nine days and will include over 800 authors/journalists and have more than 160 events. It will end with the Lit Crawl, which is taking place in the Mission district and includes over 80 venues. Despite the claim that the lust for literature and books is dying, this festival gets bigger every year.  Granted, San Francisco generally spends almost double the national average on books (and alcohol), but the impressive attendance at Litquake and its varied panels of national and international authors indicates the literary business is far from dead.

San Francisco-based groups tend to make amazing use of available technology, and Litquake is no exception. In addition to standard Twitter, Instagram and Facebook pages, Litquake will have podcasts available on its website of popular readings, Q&As or panels (also on local radio in the SF Bay Area). They also have a Youtube channel to engage those of us who (sadly) couldn’t make it Litquake this year.

Jaded Ibis’ business model rests on authors engaging socially and speaking about their books, and the books of others at their publishing house. Exposure during a literary festival as big as Litquake (with some of the most engaged, and technologically-engaged, readers in America), be it doing a reading or engaging in a Q&A, will definitely get some thumbs clacking and tongues wagging.  There are six Jaded Ibis authors attending Litquake and reading during Lit Crawl: Alexandra Chasin, Elizabeth Colen, Janice Lee, Man Millsapps, Anna Joy Springer and Doug Rice. Debra Di Blasi, Publisher in Chief, will also be in attendance.

San Francisco’s Litquake is happening now, October 11-19th!

Jaded Ibis’ Business Model

12 Oct

Jaded Ibis’ business model is based in systems theory – like in biology. It works best for me (perhaps because I have an educational basis in environmental science) to think of that in an ecological sense, in that everything within a system, down to the smallest organism, is inextricably linked to everything else. If one organism shifts, thrives or dies, it affects all others.  In the same way, Jaded Ibis’ business model relies heavily on social media and inter-connectivity to thrive. Not many publishing companies tie social media and a focus on community among its authors/artists into their business plan, let alone make it a lynch-pin.

Jaded Ibis is very clear about this necessity for inter-connectivity with authors and artists wishing to publish with them. In Jaded Ibis’ words:

Book publishing, large and small, has become a tenuous web, unable to remain economically or culturally feasible without full cooperation of everyone involved. The amount of funds, time and talent expended to bring out just one book is tremendous; thus, threads that do not contribute to the whole must be snipped so as to not impede with the success of the system’s parts. Our goal is to teach you that actively participating in our network exponentially expands the reach of your own project and career, consequently benefiting you, other Jaded Ibis writers, artists and musicians, and the company and culture, in general. To this end, we expect our writers and artists to work closely and cooperate with Jaded Ibis publisher and editors, and show support of other Jaded Ibis authors, artists and musicians. We also expect them to comprehend and care how book publishing can be much more than just a business, academic requirement, or self-promotion.

To continue the inter-connectivity impetus, Jaded Ibis, as mentioned in previous posts, always integrates writing with other media, be it music, art, video or other multimedia.  The mission is to make other artists more aware of literature, and literary people more aware of other types of art.  Jaded Ibis is intent on making publishing into an art form, and making sure artists co-mingle and lift each other up.

From Jaded Ibis’ website, a visualization of how social networking increases awareness, with Debra Di Blasi, Publisher in Chief, as an outer-contributor:

Debra-Facebook-Network1

The social media web, From JadedIbisProductions.com

I find Jaded Ibis’ business model intriguing. The integration of social media, and an insistence that every author reach out to his or her network and self-promote while also promoting other authors on the label, will bouy this publisher in these changing times. As book-publishing itself shifts from being a business of scarcity to one of over-abundance, amplification and discoverability have become incredibly important.  Instead of one voice (Jaded Ibis’), there are dozens (Jaded Ibis and its authors and artists). And each voice is an advocate for all instead of just for itself, and those voices stretch beyond traditional readership. It’s an unselfish, personal, innovative approach, one that should be integrated into more publishers’ missions and business plans if they expect to create strong brand-loyalty, and to survive.

Read up!:

Jaded Ibis’ Business Plan: http://jadedibisproductions.com/innovation/

Families and Technology

6 Oct

Naturally, in a blog about new innovations in publishing one must reflect on the current state of the upcoming generation of readers. I recently read an article about a book discussing the role of technology within the family dynamic.  The book is by clinical psychologist Catherine Steiner-Adair and is called The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age.  The book has anecdotal and case evidence, tips and stories about how to keep children from becoming disconnected  in this technology-heavy age.

One of the most compelling arguments Steiner-Adair makes is that by being constantly connected, children are losing the ability to reflect. They can no longer summon the patience to sit and only read a book, and they cannot adjust to the pace of everyday life without a screen to constantly stimulate or distract them.

I, personally, worry about this issue.  Even I, for whom cell phones were not prevalent until I was out of undergrad, have intermittently gotten firmly entrenched in a constant-stimulation loop.  It was cable TV or Bejeweled on a smart phone or Zelda on a Gameboy, and each time I realized when I was using technology for escapism, to avoid dealing with or thinking about the events of my day. And each time I made a conscious effort to set the remote/phone/controller down and return to that more peaceful state before I made it my business to constantly cram stimuli into my eye/ear-holes so I didn’t have to think. I cannot imagine what the younger generations, who grew up with these distractions as the norm, will have to do to find the same level of peace.

In The Big Disconnect, Steiner-Adair makes an argument for keeping children away from technology before the age of three, and adds in tips on how to talk to kids about sexting and online pornography.Seems like a great read for anyone rearing kids in this technology age, and for anyone interested in the effects of technology on human psychology.

Sources:

The Big Disconnecthttp://blogs.publishersweekly.com/blogs/PWxyz/2013/10/04/tough-questions-about-families-and-technology/

Publisher’s Weekly review of The Big Disconnecthttp://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-06-208242-8

Q&A with Steiner-Adair: http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/authors/interviews/article/57824-parents-say-no-to-screens-pw-talks-with-catherine-steiner-adair.html