When I talked with Sarah last night, I noted -- well, actually I complained and whined, but we won't go there. It wasn't pretty -- that I was having a hard time figuring out what to write about today. I should have known better. Because by morning, a number of topics reared their ugly heads and now I'm having a hard time narrowing them down to a manageable number. So, here we go.
For those of you who have been waiting for a color e-ink e-reader, it's on it's way and possibly sooner than most of us thought. I have only one thing to say: YAY! I love my kindle, especially the fact that I can read it in direct sunlight and I don't get headaches from prolonged reading on it that I do from backlit screens. But it will be nice to be able to have full color maps and illustrations and it will make reading newspapers and magazines feel more "real". Here's the article from CNET about this latest development.
I also came across an interview with agent Chris Parris-Lamb. Now, what stood out in this interview was Lamb's view that an agent has better things to do for his clients than to take time out of his day to blog, facebook and tweet. At first, I found myself nodding and agreeing with him. After all, as writers, we want out agents out there finding the best deals they can for our work and doing all they can to protect our rights. But then the reality of publishing today hit me. Most agents blog for two reasons and they work hand in hand. One is to raise public awareness of the agent. The second, and as a writer the most important, is to promote the writer's book. Let's face it, publishers aren't spending the money they used to on promotion. Most writers don't have a clue about how to promote their own work. Then there's the added "ick" factor of going out there, shouting to the world how wonderful we are. So agents have to do it for us. What do you think? Should agents take half an hour a day to blog and tweet and facebook in an effort to promote themselves and their clients' work?
Finally, the cry of censorship by Amazon raised its ugly head again. Earlier this week, an author of "erotic fiction" posted on the boards that several of her titles had been removed for violation of Amazon's terms of service. Mind you, like most terms of service, Amazon's are vague at best in places. It wasn't long before another author joined in, saying she'd had titles taken down as well. Soon, cries of conspiracy and censorship were raised. Now, I don't know why these titles were taken down. But, by the first author's own admission, neither did she. She'd contacted Amazon but had not yet received clarification. In her own post, she was giving Amazon a set period of time to answer. And this is where I have an issue. First, I searched for the titles she said had been taken down and, at that time, at least two of the titles were available in print (which she'd said had been taken down along with the kindle versions). Second, and most importantly, she had raised the claims of censorship and thrown fuel on the fire by basically saying "if this happens to me, it can happen to you" before her own deadline for Amazon to respond.
As one of the editors for Naked Reader Press, one of the things I've had to do is read and try to understand the terms of service for Amazon's DTP program (as well as Barnes & Noble's PubIt program and Google books and iBookstore, etc). Every one of them has an out which allows them to remove objectionable material. Would I like the terms to be more specific? Absolutely. But they aren't, so you either accept that or don't publish with them. They are a retailer and can choose what they sell and what they don't. If there is a big enough demand for an item to be removed, they have to weigh the potential loss of sales if they keep that item in stock vs. loss of sales if they remove it.
That said, they have to be fair about it as well. If they remove one -- or a few -- books because they depict underage sex (which, according to the author in question her book did, albeit consensual), then you need to remove all books that do that were brought into the program under the same terms of service. However, we don't know that that's why the books were removed. The author jumped the gun by posting in the forums before getting an answer. As a writer, I feel for her. I'd hate to have anything I'd written removed from Amazon without explanation. I'd be furious and want an explanation. Still, there are channels to go through. You might not get your answer as quickly as you'd like, but you will get one. Wait for it before fanning the flames of conspiracy theories and cries of censorship, etc.
I hope Amazon isn't starting down the road of removing books simply because they get a few complaints about the subject matter. I hope the authors involved will soon get an explanation about why their books were removed. They, and a number of the commenters on the forums, assumed it was because of content. It could be any number of reasons, including format problems. Amazon certainly needs to make its initial notice of removal more specific. But authors also need to wait a reasonable period for clarification before whipping up a firestorm on the forums.
What do you think? Am I off-base here?