Monday, 13 October 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

Breaking News: Streitfeld Admits That Amazon “Might” Not be Guilty of Censorship

Posted: 13 Oct 2014 11:25 AM PDT

streitfeld-topics-articleInline[1]If you were hoping that a public rebuke from the NY Times’ public editor would restore some degree of balance to that august publication’s coverage of Amazon, I’m sorry but that hasn’t happened.

The media spokesperson for Authors United, David Streitfeld, is mixing it up again. He has a new post up on Sunday on the NY Times’ Bits blog in which he continues to lay out how evil Amazon is evil.

Streitfeld doesn’t have as good of an argument to make this time around, so he rehashes past coverage, drags in irrelevant anecdotal stories, and closes out his piece with an argument of false equivalence.

Starting with the Le Guin quote in which she accuses Amazon of censorship, Streitfeld singles out the comment section for The Passive Voice blog for special attention:

Her statement was greeted with ridicule and outrage in the places on the Internet where those who use Amazon's self-publishing platform hang out. Here are a few of the more printable commentsfrom the Passive Voice blog:

"She's just mostly lying right there. That is all. LYING," wrote Mir, an Amazon Kindle author.

"I've yet to see proof by anyone in Amazon/Hachette of any real active censorship, of making a book hard or impossible to get," said theSFReader.

Hugh C. Howey, a sci-fi novelist, blamed Douglas Preston, the founder of a group of writers challenging Amazon, for misleading writers like Ms. Le Guin, who is the recipient of the 2014 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.

Other commenters were considerably less polite.

It’s not clear why he chose to focus in TPV (the people there are neither pundits nor spokespersons), but I can tell you that his implication that the selected comments were the more polite responses is largely nonsense. Alas, I can’t link to the blog and show you; that site is down as a result of the traffic sent its way.

But more importantly, Streitfeld continues to financial reiterate the damage that Amazon is doing to Hachette before finally admitting:

A delay in shipping may not be censorship.

If there is doubt, sir, as to whether shipping delays can be equated with censorship, sir, then why did you use that quote not once but twice now?

As I see it, he has admitted that his own past work is bogus, but sadly that isn’t stopping him from continuing to bash Amazon via a selective reporting of the story.

Speaking of which, Streitfeld has found new fodder for his campaign:

"It's hard to compete with free," said Laurann Dohner, a prolific and best-selling erotic romance writer who has been contending with that precise problem on Amazon.

Ms. Dohner is published by Ellora's Cave, a pioneering e-book publisher that has experienced a general slowing of sales on Amazon, and is not sure why.

Anyone who doesn’t know that Ellora’s Cave revenues dropped as a result of unreasonably high prices and negative publicity from the libel lawsuit has to be living under a rock.

But of course Streitfeld already knows that; he goes on to hint at the reason that EC sales have dropped, while simultaneously making the disingenuous claim that Amazon refuses to speak to authors:

Plugging Ms. Dohner's name into Amazon's search engine returned the following list: two of her books, then two by other writers, another by Ms. Dohner, then three by others. Her e-books sell for $8 to $12. All of the other writers' e-books are free.

She said she complained to Amazon. "They said they can't tell me anything because my publisher is the one they deal with," Ms. Dohner said. "Or I get told they don't know. I feel like a participant in a game I didn't sign up for."  Her sales on Amazon have fallen sharply.

Except Dohner did sign up for it: she signed a contract with Ellora’s Cave. Or is she trying to claim that Ellora’s Cave is publishing her books without her permission? Now that would be newsworthy.

Streitfeld goes on to list a couple other examples where he tries to link a low stock situation with deliberate Amazon evilness, but I will skip them here and go to the last section of this screed.

Streitfeld ends his piece with a final dig at Hugh Howey. He uses selective quotation again to try to twist Hugh Howey’s words against him, resulting in Streitfeld making an argument of false equivalence:

Independent bookstores, Mr. Howey told Publishers Weekly in August, "blacklist my books," presumably because they are self-published through their enemy Amazon. Physical bookstores, he wrote on his blog, "ban Amazon imprint titles."

If you can appropriate your opponent's arguments, you must be halfway to victory. And for the people defending Amazon, just like the people attacking it, success will be measured on the bottom line.

The problem with Streitfeld’s argument here is that it is an established fact that booksellers, including both indie and B&N, literally refused to carry titles published by Amazon.

Say what you will about Amazon, they have not refused to carry Hachette titles – yet.

Thanks, Dan!

The post Breaking News: Streitfeld Admits That Amazon “Might” Not be Guilty of Censorship appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Heads Up: Dropbox Bug is Eating Files

Posted: 13 Oct 2014 08:20 AM PDT

dropbox-logo[1]Reports are coming in from a couple different sources today that Dropbox has gone cannibal.

According to emails sent to users (I haven’t gotten one), Dropbox is reporting that a bug in the selective sync feature has resulted in files going missing:


We’re reaching out to let you know about an issue affecting Selective Sync that caused some files to be deleted from Dropbox. This problem occurred when the Dropbox desktop application shut down or restarted while users were applying Selective Sync settings.

Based on our investigation of this issue, we think you may be among the small number of users who were affected.

If you haven’t used Selective Sync before, you can stop reading now because you weren’t affected.

If you have used Selective Sync, we wanted to check whether your Dropbox may have been affected. We’ve set up a personalized web page where you can see if there are files that shouldn’t have been deleted and try to restore them.

I haven’t gotten an email, and I don’t see any official confirmation on Twitter or the Dropbox blog, but Engadget did turn up a couple different reports so it is reasonably safe to assume that this story is true.

According to the emails, Dropbox is actively trying to fix the issue, and they are also making up for the lost files by offering those affected a free year of Dropbox Pro. There’s no word yet on how many were affected.


Hmm. While I would like to snark on this issue, I think the more important story here is that we now see that you can’t rely on the cloud services quite as much they would claim.

Dropbox, for example, offers PC apps which will let you sync certain folders on your PC to your account on their servers. This includes whichever folder you use for current work, but clearly that’s not a good idea anymore. This bug has also shown that you shouldn’t sync your main storage to Dropbox, either, but instead treat the cloud storage provider as an alternative to a local backup – an external hard disk, for example.

I know that no one has ever really said that you should sync your main working directory, but Dropbox does make it perilously easy to do just that. Clearly caution is in order.

image  by Hugo Quintero

The post Heads Up: Dropbox Bug is Eating Files appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Should Authors Disappear Controversial Books?

Posted: 13 Oct 2014 06:49 AM PDT

6554315319_f17f17d13d[1]A story crossed my desk last night (and ended up in the morning coffee post this morning) which I think deserves additional attention.

Last Thursday Digiday asked the question “Should publishers take down controversial posts?”:

To unpublish — or not to unpublish. That's the question for publishers that really step in it with regrettable content that sets off the Social Media Outrage Industrial Complex.

For some publishers, an apology is not enough. They'd rather forget the whole thing took place, erasing the past with a simple keystroke. In the most recent example, Men's Health took down an article titled "The Secret to Talking Sports with Any Woman" after an online backlash (screengrab below courtesy of Mediaite).

Still, it's one thing to correct or remove an inaccurate post, as Us Weekly did this week whenit admitted it wrongly reported Neve Campbell was pregnant, but it's another to remove a piece of content altogether when it's controversial or just plain embarrassing.

Digiday doesn’t answer the question, but they do look at the post-publication editorial policies of several major media outlets, and they also mention several recent situations where articles were removed from the web.

Coincidentally, Digiday missed what is still one of my favorite articles and subsequent retractions, a book review in which The Economist defended slavery with arguments which explained that the book was not “an objective history of slavery. Almost all the blacks in his book are victims, almost all the whites villains”. (And it gets better from there.)


I had initially planned to cover this story from the view point of a journalist and comment on the original point, but as I got to thinking about it I realized that this was an issue authors would face.

So should authors sometimes disappear books?

I say yes – with reservations.

In a time when it is common for authors to change pen names when switching from one genre/audience to another, when it is not uncommon for a book to be reissued with a new cover in a new genre, I don’t see unpublishing a book as an attempt to censor or try to cover up for past mistakes.

I see it as an author’s prerogative; they can decide whether a book is published in the first place, and I think authors should  have the privilege of unpublishing a book if they so choose (so long as they don’t steal back previously sold copies).

Furthermore, I hold to the view that this is just one of those things that could happen  – and in fact has happened. Books have been retracted in the past, with some publishers going so far as to recall all unsold copies and pulp them. (What’s more, this has even happened to ebooks, with Amazon sometimes going so far as to pull an ebook after an egregious number of complaints.)

That of course doesn’t remove what has been said about a book or its author – nor should it. Just because an author wants to remove one of their books doesn’t mean they get to silence what others are saying; the privilege doesn’t extend that far.

What do you think?

image by opensourcewaynet_efekt

The post Should Authors Disappear Controversial Books? appeared first on The Digital Reader.

No comments:

Post a Comment