Dog-Eared & Dispatched: October 12, 2014
The weather in Portland is starting to turn, which means that this week’s Dog-Eared and Dispatched is crankier than usual as yours truly laments the late departing summer. Even so, we have a particularly irascible look at this year’s Nobel laureate for literature, a cantankerous look at Adobe’s invasions of privacy for users of Adobe Digital Editions, and a brief update on the Amazon warehouse case, which has made it to the Supreme Court. The footnotes are in a slightly better mood, and there are plenty of them. Ready? Gird your good humor and get reading!
It’s that time of year again, the time when the Swedish Academy boosts backlist sales – and this year is no exception, as the Academy has awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature to French author Patrick Modiano, whom no one in the US has ever heard of (except for the two or three who have, who are uttering the necessary platitudes). Yale University Press, which has a collection of Modiano’s short novels forthcoming is undoubtedly pleased (and increased the print run); as Modiano publisher David Godine exclaimed: “This means we’ll be ahead this year!” (and maybe have enough money to invest in some new cover art, especially for “the wackiest book we’ve ever published”). Although this paragraph has been pretty cranky so far, that’s nothing against Modiano as such – I’m sure he’s a fine writer and could probably use the cash, even if he has “been writing the same book for the past 45 years” (quote from the NY Times article); none of the coverage convinces me, however, that his books are more worth reading than any of the other titles on my to-read list.* Your mileage may vary. Still, I think I’d rather read Simenon, and heartily recommend The Train or Dirty Snow. [New York Times, New Republic, Yale University Press, Washington Post]
If you’re using Adobe Digital Editions as an ebook reader, you’ve doubtless been smug with your Kindle-wielding friends, proud of your privacy and how your reading habits aren’t being tracked. Well, if you’ve installed Adobe Digital Editions 4 (ADE4), the latest update for the popular ereading software, your days of gloating are over: ADE4 collects data not just on the book you are currently reading, but on all books in the digital library on your device and sends it back to Adobe. Nate Hoffelder of The Digital Reader broke the story, and reports that, thankfully, older editions of the software do not track reading. While one might hope that these were just wild allegations, Adobe has confirmed that it is tracking data, but initially tried to downplay its significance, saying “information is solely collected for the eBook currently being read by the user and not for any other eBook in the user’s library or read/available in any other reader.” Adobe later acknowledged that the data tracking might pose a security risk for customer information. Although this a problem for private consumers, it is an even larger problem for libraries: “all of that data is sent in plain text, meaning that anyone who intercepts the information can read it without any trouble, which is not just a privacy violation, it’s a disturbingly amateurish way to do things on the internet. So it’s both embarrassing AND a huge privacy breach. A twofer. Librarians who have ebook collections need to inform their patrons right now that if they are using the latest Adobe Digital Editions software, their reading history, including ebooks they didn’t borrow from the library, belongs to Adobe and anyone else who’s watching.” We’ll keep you posted as the story develops. [The Digital Reader, Digital Book World, Inside Higher Ed]
The workers’ case against Amazon and several staffing agencies for unpaid time spent in security lines (“workers’ wage rights”) is going to the Supreme Court this week, which will determine if waiting almost half an hour in line to prove you are not stealing from the company you are working for (we see you with those post-it notes!) is an “integral and indispensable” part of the job or not. In its sole comment on the case, Amazon has said that the time spent by workers in line is negligible: “Data shows that employees walk through post-shift security screening with little or no wait.” As Kevin Drum puts it over on Mother Jones: “If Amazon is telling the truth, they should have no objection to paying employees for time spent in line. If they’re lying, then they should be given an incentive to speed up the security process—and the best incentive I can think of is to pay employees for time spent in line. Either way, the answer is the same: pay employees for time spent in security lines.” Or Amazon could just switch to the click-and-collect model, and have customers pick up their orders at “mini-warehouses” in major urban centers…. [Bloomberg, SCOTUS blog, MobyLives!, Boing Boing, Mother Jones, MobyLives!]
- Two interesting (and sorta related?) bookends columns in the New York Times, one on Women Essayists and the other on The Giving Tree.
- Self publishing grew 17% in 2013, with most of the increase coming from print books, according to a Bowker study (pdf)
- See also: HarperCollins is giving its authors buttons: buy buttons that offer increased royalty rates if authors sell books through their websites (rather than through Amazon).
- Flavorwire has a list of 50 Cultural Icons and their favorite books. We have no comments on the matter.
- The National Translation Award shortlist as been announced; if you are looking for a book that is timely (though I’m not sure about the quality of the tranlsation), I suggest Life’s Good, Brother.
- Kobo is leaving the tablet market and focusing on software.