Links + Things: Blogging Ethics; SI's Sexism and Racism; Indie Booksellers Sue Amazon/Publishers; and Taking Down "The Following"
Lots of interesting news this week, including a bit of a scandal in the blogging world, discussion of the WTFery of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue and lots of publishing news.
Scroll down to the bottom of this post for a roundup of cheap ebooks discounted as part of Amazon's Kindle Big Deal--there are a lot of good ones this time.
You could argue that affiliate links aren’t technically ads, but that misses the point. If you slap a banner ad on the top of your website, at least readers know it’s an advertisement and they can take it with a great big grain of salt. But when they read a glowing review from someone they trust, then click through to place an order for that book–without knowing said reviewer is getting a kickback–isn’t that worse?
I'm sure I'm not alone in my fascination with the Brainpickings "scandal" that was all over the nerdy corner of the internet this week. It seems that the popular site's claims of being ad-free are definitely a case of parsing, as affiliate links are likely a considerable source of income for the blog, which solicits donations under the auspices of remaining "ad free."
My take? What this issue comes down to is the importance of transparency and erring on the side of caution in ensuring that you're not misrepresenting yourself to readers. This hasn't been touched on, but one of the things that bothers me most about the "ad free" language is that it's backed up by a .org URL, which insinuates a not-for-profit status. (I also question the costs and hours the blog author cites, because both seem out of whack estimates.)
I don't begrudge anyone for using affiliate links and monetizing their sites--clicks on Amazon links pay the hosting bills around here (thank you!)--but I really don't understand why it's still common practice in the day of FTC rules for blogs to be sketchy in this way (this reminds me of the controversy about sponsored content on The Atlantic Blog).
Disclose, disclose, disclose. It's really that simple.
The very nature of these photoshoots is that they are (and have been since their conception) nothing more than an annual cultural safari that feeds upon the West’s fetishism for the foreign and the exotic.
So very many things are wrong with the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, but I don't think I've seen such a thorough dissection of the problematic nature of the annual issue of the popular magazine as Reappropriate's discussion from earlier this week. The images this year (such as the one at the right) are particularly troubling.
Honestly, I realize that there are a lot of people who will look at SI's swimsuit issue and not think a thing of it, but it's still shocking that there hasn't been more controversy over this year's issue.
I understand why the independent bookstores feel like they have to fight the good fight, but I think they are punching in the wrong direction. Publishers WANT to sell books -- they do not set out for books to fail in the marketplace -- and will sell them regardless of whether or not DRM is in place on ebooks. Granted, ebook sales are climbing, but there is still a market for printed books, and spending time swimming against the tide is not going to help independent booksellers (or any other retailer for that matter) make sure that real, not virtual, bookshelves are filled with the titles we want.
Lots of folks have examined the resent lawsuit a handful of independent booksellers have brought against Amazon and the big six publishers, but Kathleen Schmidt's look at what it means for readers is one of the best. It's been confusing to me for a long time why indie booksellers have focused so much effort on fighting both ebooks and Amazon and not on building up their argument for the competitive advantage in terms of knowledge of books. That's something that can't be replicated at Amazon. However, that would also require that indies focus on exactly what Kathleen pointed out: that their shelves are stocked with the books that readers want to buy and for some bookstores, that's a tremendous culture shift.
What really disturbs me about The Following, however, is the way it perpetuates a pervasive myth in American popular culture: that if you have the slightest interest in literature, there must be something wrong with you, and if you should happen toteach literature, you’re undoubtedly a menace to society.
I haven't watched The Following (I have too many shows in the DVR queue as it is), but this takedown of the show which apparently portrays literature folks as deviants obsessed with serial killers is spectacular. Can we get over this absurd stereotype, okay?
- This analysis of Django Unchained is a must-read.
- At Salon, Laura Miller discusses why the short story book isn't quite a boom. I largely agree, though her focus is on literary works and I do think there's room in series-driven, genre fiction for supplemental short stories.
- I loved reading this interview with Matthew Quick about the long journey for him as an author and for Silver Linings Playbook as first a book, then a movie.
- ABC news calls "new adult" fiction "smut fiction" and the internet freaks out. Media Bistro is on it with a Storify.
- A debut author gets a seven-figure book deal for a fantasy series that's being pitched as--believe it or not--"Game of Thrones meets Barack Obama."
- Speaking of the President, I loved this photo on the White House Flickr feed of his copyedits from his inaugural address.
Books That Are Cheap
The Kindle Big Deal's happening right now through March 5 and there are some really good titles for just a couple bucks, if you're a Kindler. Here are a few of my recommendations that you may want to snag while they'll so cheap. Click on the cover image to go to the Amazon item page.
Wally Lamb's I Know This Much is True is a favorite of mine, and if you haven't read it, you should probably fix that right away. I had to include Sandra Hill's Kiss of Surrender because, hello, Viking Vampire Navy SEALS! I recently received a review copy of Elizabeth Haynes' newest mystery and read the first few chapters and am totally hooked, so this Into the Darkest Corner is definitely one I'm picking up.
Young Adult Fiction
Three of these I've read, and three are likely buys for me. Jellicoe Road is one of my favorite books, YA or adult--it's a moving and complex story that lingers. Inside Out and Back Again is a brilliant, award-winning novel in verse that Sandra reviewed last year during Novel in Verse Week. I have very complicated feelings about Simone Elkeles' books, but Leaving Paradise is a solid read and highly recommended for folks who like highly dramatic YA romance. The other three are highly regarded, and feature diverse characters and stories.
I've been buying cookbooks as ebooks more and more lately, as it's so convenient to sit my Kindle Fire up on the counter while I cook. I'm surprised how much I like the format for cookbooks, but it works well, and is really handy for easily searching for ingredients and recipes. My husband and I are both vegetarians, so I was excited to see the veggie burger cookbook on sale. I love cupcakes, naturally, and handheld pies are freaking awesome, obviously.