Archive for Industry News

Some Sad News from Author Iain Banks

Photograph of Scottish author, Iain Banks

Well-loved Scottish author, Iain Banks

Very popular Scottish author Iain Banks has announced that he has been diagnosed with advanced gall bladder cancer and that he has no more than a few months more to live. The Guardian published the news this morning: Iain Banks diagnosed with gall bladder cancer.

Employing his trademark deadpan humour to reveal the news, the Scottish author wrote in a statement posted on his website that he was “officially very poorly”, that he was expected to live for several months and that his latest novel, The Quarry, was likely to be his last.

According to the Guardian, Banks has married his partner Adele, and the couple is having a honeymoon and visiting friends and places that are special to them. The article mentioned that Banks announced the news on his website, but when I tried to go to the website itself, I got a “Not Found” message. I wonder if the site has been taken cown completely.

This is extremely sad news to his many fans from both in the literary fiction and science fiction genres. There is one more novel to come — The Quarry — but Banks may not even live to see it published despite the publisher trying to move the book’s publication date up by four months.

The Wikipedia article on Banks mentions the author’s atheist views and quotes something he said on a BBC 4 program less than a year ago, regarding death:

Firmly restating his atheism, Banks spoke of his belief that death is an important ‘part of the totality of life’, to be treated realistically, not feared.

How unfortunate and sad that so soon afterward, Banks is being called upon to live out his beliefs on the matter. This is devastating news to all who have read and enjoyed and cared about him.

Why I’m Dumping Goodreads After Amazon Bought it

So Amazon has bought the book-lovers’ cataloguing and social site, Goodreads. I’ve been digesting this news since it was announced at the end of last week. My first reaction was very negative, and I had already pretty much decided that I would delete my Goodreads account and concentrate only on LibraryThing, where I also have been cataloguing my books over the years (and doing occasional reviews through their “Early Reviewer” program).

Two ideas have come to the fore as to why I’m dumping Goodreads:

  1. I intensely dislike monopolies or companies that try to become monopolies.
  2. The title of this Salon article: Amazon buys Goodreads: We’re all just data now.

There are several Internet companies trying to become monopolies: Facebook, Google, and Amazon are some of the biggies. I do deal with all of them, but I do what I can not to become owned by them. And there are the meatspace/Internet combos too: Apple and Microsoft. And I think Yahoo is making a last-ditch effort to play with the big boys too. I already loathed it when the great photo site, Flickr, sold out to Yahoo, and I think that I was justified. I hate to think of what moves they’re going to make as they try to jump on the “We own our users’ lives” bandwagon.

Part of my point is that in my own dealings, I don’t concentrate my whole life in any one place, and I do whatever I can to try to prevent any of those companies from taking over my whole life. For instance, I don’t register at sites which won’t let me register with an email address but insist I link to my Facebook account. Buh-bye — you guys just don’t get my business. I also may have consolidated several Google accounts in one place — but I still maintain two other accounts with all their own versions of G+, Picasa, YouTube, blah blah blah. I am not going to do absolutely everything in one place and have everything associated with one name all the time.

But apart from all that — I will not pile up a bunch of unpaid labour so that a monster-sized corporation can make even bigger piles of bucks off of my work. I do not post book reviews and that sort of thing to help mega-corp make piles of money. They may like to be the recipients of that sort of charity, but I refuse to be the donor. I post book (and other) reviews for my own entertainment and also because they might help someone else make up his/her own mind. (And when I want to post a review on Amazon, I do so. If I haven’t posted a review there, they don’t get to steal it from somewhere else and use it.) And LibraryThing respects people’s privacy a lot more and does not concentrate primarily on using other people’s work to enrich itself. (This article, Culture Shock: when Goodreads and LibraryThing collide, discusses some of the differences between LibraryThing and Goodreads, and I think it explains why I’ve always subconsciously tended to lean more toward LT from the beginning.)

I also like cataloguing my books for insurance purposes. I already know of a few people who had their personal book lists catalogued on LibraryThing and had those lists accepted for replacement purposes by insurance companies.

I won’t “go gently into that good night” where corporations simply assume we human beings are property that they can buy or sell — or for that matter, that we are money wallets that they can simply advertise at so they can make billions siphoning money out of our pockets and into theirs, while we can barely afford to buy a new book now and then. (And if you think the game is already lost, and we can’t fight the big corporations, and the only choice we have left is to decide whose property we are — you need to read some history books.)

So no, Goodreads. I’m slowly deleting my books from your site (after I check that they’re already properly recorded at LibraryThing). Soon, all Amazon will have of me there is…nothing. An empty account. Enjoy the riches.




Borders’ Closing Affects Canada’s Indigo/Kobo Too

Kobo e-reader

Kobo e-reader

With the news that Borders Books is shutting down, I had another question at the back of my mind yesterday: what happens to Kobo, the inexpensive e-reader produced mainly via Indigo Books, but in which Borders was a minor investor?

The Quill & Quire blog provided an update today: Kobo issues statement about Borders liquidation. Borders apparently has an 11% stake in Kobo, and there are conditions around the shares which may prevent them from being liquidated in quite the way people want to do. So Kobo has filed objections (along with other creditors) in U.S. bankruptcy court.

I also wondered what would happen to registered Kobo customers. But Kobo has already been gradually trying to transition their accounts directly to Kobo and away from Borders, so it sounds like everything will still function for these people the way it’s supposed to.

What a mess. And adding this extra financial stress onto Kobo is just one of the almost countless ripples flowing out from the Borders dissolution.


Farewell to Borders Books

Borders bookstore Detroit AirportThis news is kind of awful, coming right on the heels of yesterday’s post about bookstores closing. Remember how I speculated that the big chains may well fade away and disappear, while smaller, independent bookstores might actually survive and eventually thrive again?

Well, unfortunately, we’re one step closer to testing the theory. It’s probably not a total surprise, after Borders filed for bankruptcy in February, and closed a bunch of stores. But now, according to this NPR article (Bye Bye Borders: What The Chain’s Closing Means For Bookstores, Authors and You) it’s official: the chain is closing altogether.

This isn’t just a devastating blow to the store and its thousands of employees (though it really is an awful blow to them). It’s a huge blow to its creditors — and I’m not just talking about the people the stores owed rent to, or owed payments for office supplies. Among its creditors are some big publishing houses. Which means that the chain closing has just weakened the already tested foundations under most large publishing houses in North America. They themselves are now affected financially.

Which, in turn, will affect an awful lot of authors. Yes, there’s always self-publishing, which can be a lot of work, and many authors don’t have the resources or the stamina to do the sort of publicity and distribution that a lot of the big publishing houses still did. Plus — those publishing houses had editors. A huge lot of self-published books really, really need editing. If they don’t go through an editor, there’s often nobody there to tell the author, “This paragraph stinks,” or “This is a superfluous character, and excising him/her from your manuscript will make it so much better.”

So authors have lost a lot as a result of this bookstore chain closing. I’m afraid we haven’t yet begun to see just how far the ripples of this loss will travel. I really worry about where the industry is going.

Alas, poor Borders. We’ll miss you.


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