Category Archives: Blog

book quotes frank zappa

The Netflix of eBooks Expands its Operations

Oyster Books, a subscription based ebook service dubbed the Netflix of eBooks that opened its virtual doors over a year ago, is expanding into the retail market and offering its customers the chance to purchase books alongside its rental facilities.

Its faces an uphill battle to fight the behemoth that is Amazon and its Kindle operations. Amazon sells more digital books than it does physical books, and Kindle sales at one point last year topped over one million per week.

Oyster does however boast that it offers over one million books, including a wide array of bestsellers and award winning novels for just $9.95 a month, including this years hottest selling digital book The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, and last years biggest selling book on the Amazon digital marketplace The Fault in our Stars by John Green.

Oyster Books offer a wide range of great books for a relatively small price, especially if you are anything like me and read a dozen books a month. $10 is a great price for an amazing service with apps available on all the major digital reading devices, iPhones, Androids, Nooks, and even on the Kindle Fire.

6 books that will get you arrested

6 Books that will get you Arrested

6 books that will get you arrested

Banned Books Week celebrations are being held all around the country this week in celebration of the freedom of people to be able to read whatever they want, whenever they want.

Sadly not everyone in the world is allowed such freedoms. So lets take a look at some examples of books that will get you arrested simply for owning them.

The Bible: The country of Maldives arrested and deported a teacher from India in 2011 for a bible and a rosary found in his house after it was raided. He was accused of preaching Christianity in the Islamic country which forbids those very actions.

Bibles are also illegal to own in North Korea, so if you are planning a trip to sunny Pyongyang, perhaps it would be best to leave your Bible at home, lest you end up in one of their notorious Prison Camps where people are locked up for such crimes as not having a picture of Kim Il-Sung on display in their houses, and not being sad enough at appropriate times.

Dianetics, by L. Ron Hubbard: Another religious text that will land you in hot water, Dianetics has been classified by Russian Authorities as a banned extremist literature.  So next time Tom Cruise is in Moscow, he runs the risk of being thrown in jail if he hands out copies of his religious text to his fans.

Anarchist Cookbook: The Anarchist Cookbook was released all the way back in 1971, but the impact of the book lasts to this very day. In 2007 a 17 year old British boy was arrested for possession of owning a copy of the book which he used to research smoke bombs and fireworks.

arrested for lost girlsLost Girls, by Alan Moore: Alan Moore’s famous Graphic Novel puts together the characters of Alice from Alice in Wonderland, Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, and Peter Pan’s Wendy. While this sounds like a great premise for a children book, it gets a little ‘interesting ‘ from here on in. The 3 meet by chance at a mountain resort in Austria and, as any famous children’s characters are want to do when they meet each other, they proceed to share with each other stories of their erotic adventures.

While it is long out of print, most stores in the United States and Canada flat out refuse to stock it for fear of being charged for selling obscene pornography. The UK goes one step further in describing it as potential child pornography, as some of the character exploits occurred when they were under the age of 18.

On a slightly different note:

arrested for twilightTwilight: A Woman was arrested in New Mexico for not returning her copy of Twilight and two Twilight DVD’s to her local library on time. Police came to her home and arrested her in front of her five children over the $35.98 worth of overdue fines.

Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James: A UK man was arrested for spraying his girlfriend with hot sauce when she wouldn’t stop reading her copy of Fifty Shades of Grey, which as many of you may know started out as a Twilight Fan fiction. This just goes to further demonstrate the real and present danger of anything and everything to do with Twilight.

read a book online

Apple Ordered to Rework all ebook Contracts

read a book onlineFinally some good news for e-book consumers, a judge handed down an order to Apple to modify its current contracts with its publishers in a move to prevent price-fixing of e-book and all electronic materials. The judge has appointed an external monitor to review all of Apple’s anti-trust internal policy’s and training.
Apple spokesperson maintained that Apple never conspired to fix the prices of e-book. The company spokesperson was quoted as saying “The iBookstore gave customers more choice and injected much needed innovation and competition into the market. Apple will pursue an appeal of the injunction.”
The judge had sat on two previous hearings on the matter and has repeatedly expressed to her dismay with the technology giants conduct. US district Judge Denise Cote said that she thought that the company was actively colluding with publishers to raise book prices and keep them at an artificially high price. She told the lawyers that she found that Apple had “demonstrated a blatant and aggressive disregard”for the law, and that she hoped that her findings would help Apple to show remorse at the very least in the face of future litigation.
Apple maintained that its entrance into the digital book market could only increase the potential customer base for digital and e-book’s, and that it was in fact doing consumers favour by removing Amazons complete and utter dominance and monopoly of the market.
Even in the face of Apple’s complete and utter reluctance to admit any wrongdoing on their part the judge demanded that rules be set to prevent the existing cooperation between the book publishers and Apple that mate hurt future marketplace rivals and competitors in the future. Apple is now no longer allowed to enter any agreements with the publishers that it has colluded with that may restrict Apple’s ability to lower the retail price will discounts on the books.
An independent auditor has been appointed to monitor apples anti-trust policies and procedures for a period of two years.
One can only hope that Apple learns from this case and actively tries to better its harmful consumer policies, rather than try to find more legal loopholes which seem to be the company’s bread-and-butter.

textbook price inflation

College Textbook Price Inflation 102% since 2001

textbook price inflation

 

For those of us who feel like the price of College Textbooks only ever goes in one direction, Bloomberg.com have posted a chart showing that the price of college textbooks has more than doubled since 2001, while the price of other books has gone down.

The above chart shows that textbook prices rose an astronomical 102% since December 2001, while fictional and other recreational types of books fell 1.5%, during which time the consumer price index, which measures the price of all goods and services rose 32%.

While textbooks for university and college classes remain among the most time consuming to  create from start to finish, it does raise the question of how certain publishers manage to justify rises of this magnitude. Especially considering the fact that advances in technology have opened up new mediums and therefore new sources of revenue as well as cheaper publishing options.

Hopefully, sites like this one can open up more avenues to keep education cheap and make it more accessible that it is currently becoming.

Library of Paris

Free Textbooks? Yes Please!

Library of ParisCollege education has never been more expensive so when a company comes along with the aim of changing the status quo and providing free textbooks to students all around the country than people are bound to sit up and take notice. That’s just what non-profit Openstax College is promising to do. Openstax has one goal to provide low-cost textbooks to as many students as possible.

Openstax offers free textbooks to students whose faculties allow their courses to participate in. These textbooks are developed and peer reviewed by the very educators who will be using them and thusly are guaranteed to meet the scope and requirements of the course. Since 2012 they have been producing open source textbooks under creative Commons licence and have helped over one half million students around the country, and have an aim to help a further 40,000 students save around $3.7 million on textbooks this year alone.

The College accepts content in any form and follows the traditional path of peer reviewing content, but follows the very non-traditional path of licensing the books under the creative Commons licence so that teachers and lecturers can redistribute these materials to their students for free.

Free digital textbooks with no expiration date that are be accepted in more and more universities around the country, this is a great initiative and one that we should all get behind as education should be cheaper not more expensive.

dont take rented textbooks across state lines

Amazon says don’t take your Rented Textbooks Across State Lines.

dont take rented textbooks across state linesMore and more students are saving money on their college textbooks by renting them out for the semester rather than buying them outright, but many college students may not realise that if they are renting their textbooks from Amazon then they face heavy fines if they take their rented textbooks over state lines.

Amazons textbook rental service contains fine print that allows them to bill your credit card for the full price of the book if they suspect that you have crossed over state lines. The terms and conditions of the Amazon textbook rental subsidiary contain a condition that the rented textbook must not be taken out of the state from which it was originally rented. As stated on their Textbook Rental Terms and Conditions page:

You may not move the textbook out of the state to which it was originally shipped. If you wish to move the textbook out of that state, you must first purchase the textbook. You can purchase the textbook by going to Your Textbook Rentals to view your rental library. Select the textbook you wish to purchase and then proceed through the checkout process. You may also contact us to purchase the textbook. When you purchase the textbook, we will charge you the buyout price of the textbook, and the textbook will be yours to keep.

If Amazon suspect that a student has violated these rules and taken a trip with their rented textbook, they will use their discretion and charge the remaining amount of money from the textbooks original price to the assigned credit card.

Why?

It is thought that this is an attempt by the company to fight certain state governments sales taxes. If the book is being rented to a person who is located in a state where Amazon is not officially doing business, then an argument could be made by the state that they actually are doing business in the state and as such must pay the states sales tax.

Whatever the reason, if you are renting your textbooks this semester be careful taking your textbook across state lines, even if you are just going back home for a weekend study session, it could end up costing you a whole lot more than you may have bargained for.

Should we be boycotting Enders Game

Should We Be Boycotting Orson Scott Cards ‘Enders Game’?

Should we be boycotting Enders Game

Science Fiction Author Orson Scott Card has long come under fire for his opposition to marriage equality and his vigorous, violent opposition to homosexuality. This years release of the film adaptation of Card’s most famous book Enders Game, has come at a time when the call for social and marriage equality has never been more in the publics eye, and as a result, those who find the authors religious and social beliefs abhorrent have been louder than ever in their calling for a boycott of the movie Ender’s Game.

Orson Scott Card, for those who don’t know is, among other things, a Mormon, a pretty darn good Science Fiction Author and a very passionate opposer of homosexuals and their right to marry. So passionate that he actually advocated a violent revolution of the government in order to prevent gay marriage.

How long before married people answer the dictators thus: Regardless of law, marriage has only one definition, and any government that attempts to change it is my mortal enemy. I will act to destroy that government and bring it down, so it can be replaced with a government that will respect and support marriage, and help me raise my children in a society where they will expect to marry in their turn. Source.

But then maybe this is simply because as he sees it, homosexuality is a merely a result of trauma:

many homosexuals first entered into that world through a disturbing seduction or rape or molestation or abuse. Source.

Now Mr Card is a man of his word and puts his money right where his mouth is. in 2009 he was made a member of the board of directors of the National Organisation for Marriage, or NOM. The deliciously acronymed NOM is a group that actively campaigns against same-sex marriage. A quote from their website tell us what they imagine will happen if same-sex couples are allowed to marry:

Based on what has already happened elsewhere, we predict that people of faith will face lawsuits, lose contracts, be denied employment and be forced to stop providing goods and services. Charities will be forced to close.

Thats right, same-sex marriage will close your charities.

But with the impending cinematic release of Enders Game, Orson Scott Card has realised that his anti-homosexual stance has the potential to hit him right where it hurts the most. His bank balance. As a result he has resigned from his position at NOM and he has “softened” his position thusly:

Ender’s Game is set more than a century in the future and has nothing to do with political issues that did not exist when the book was written in 1984.

With the recent Supreme Court ruling, the gay marriage issue becomes moot. The Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution will, sooner or later, give legal force in every state to any marriage contract recognized by any other state.

Now it will be interesting to see whether the victorious proponents of gay marriage will show tolerance toward those who disagreed with them when the issue was still in dispute.

Ignoring the fact that these issues did in fact exist well before 1984, now that the Supreme Court has voted in their favour, supporters of same-sex marriage are expected to show the tolerance that was never afforded them, to those people who simply disagree with them. Somehow Orson Scott Card equates giving his money and throwing his support behind a group that actively works to stop all American citizens receiving equal rights to be a mere difference of opinion.

No, Orson, it doesn’t work like that, your intolerance does not itself demand tolerance.

I can not put it more eloquently than this:

Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them. […] We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. Karl Popper 1945.

So, should we all unanimously boycott this movie because of the authors hateful opinions?

No, of course not.

History is full of bigoted, morally disgusting people who nonetheless created great and beautiful things.

This list could go on forever, and were we to run to the libraries and cull all the works from authors who held racist or bigoted views there would be no books left from before this century.

We all need to take a step back and remember that it is entirely possible to learn something, even to find beauty in works from people whose morality or personal beliefs sickens us to our stomach.

So will I be watching Enders Game?

No, I will be boycotting it.

Orson Scott Card was not having a mere “Disagreement” with the LGBT community as he suggests, he was actively fighting against it. He gave money and sat on the directors board of an organization that actively opposed same-sex marriage. It is not an unimaginable leap from reality to envision profits made from the Ender’s Game movie ending up supporting a hate group that is active and functioning today, be it NOM or any other anti-homosexual organization Orson Scott Card sends financial support to now or in the future.

I can in no good conscience support that, any more than I could support a movie funded by the Taliban.

alice in wonderland

5 Books you Wont Believe were Banned

Alice in Wonderland (1865)

alice in wonderland

Everyone knows the story of the girl who fell down the rabbit hole, but I wonder how many people know why the book was banned in a province in China.

In the book was banned in the Hunan Province in 1931 because it the audacity to have acting at the same level of intelligence as human beings. The regions censor General was of the opinion that allowing animals not only to speak, but to wear hats was an insult to humans everywhere. He feared that the book would have the disastrous result of leading children to treat humans and animals similarly.

 

Green Eggs and Ham (1960)

green eggs and ham

Who would have thought that a book containing just 50 different words [1] could be so controversial?

The 4th best-selling English children’s book of all time was banned in the People’s Republic of China because, and this is good, because of its portrayal of Marxism. Not only was the author so clever as to hide his insidious message of a socio-political view of socio-economic analysis based on a materialist understanding of historical progress and an analysis of class-relations within humanity and their application in a critique of the growth of capitalism, but to do it all with less than 50 words. Brilliant

The censors did eventually lift the ban almost 30 years later in 1991 after the offensive author known simply as Dr Seuss passed away.

 

Diary of Anne Frank (1947)

Diary of Anne Frank

This one is by far the most disgusting on this list, as the diary of a 13 year old Jewish girl who hid from the Nazis for two years only to be caught and die in a concentration camp was banned in Lebanon for “Portraying  Jews, Israel or Zionism favourably”, and remains banned to this day.

Other stories on the list because of this reason include “Schindlers List” and “Sophie’s Choice”[2]

 

The Da Vinci Code (2003)

the da vinci code

This book remains banned in Lebanon after the Catholic leaders in the country deemed it to be offensive to Christianity due to the inaccuracies that were rife throughout the book. Apparently this work of fiction was slanderous enough for a spokesman for the Vatican itself to speak out against the book, slamming its multitude of historical and cultural errors and demanding Christians everywhere boycott the book and the movie. After seeing the movie, I feel this is perhaps the one time I should have listened to the advice of the church.

 

Catcher in the Rye (1951)

 the catcher in the rye

J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye was banned in various places around the world including Australia, because it main character Holden Caulfield displayed all the characteristics that authorities hated, he drank, he smoke, and worst of all, he blasphemed!

At this time in Australia, the name of banned books were not released to the public, the books were simply seized on entry to the country.

One day, the kind Ambassador from the United States, as a good will gesture, proudly presented copies of the book to a number Australian diplomats and politicians as an example of the fine literature that was coming out of his country [3].

When this small snafu became public, there was a fair amount of public outrage, and eventually led to an overhaul of the entire censorship system in Australia, as well as the quiet unbanning of the book.

 

Sources
[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_Eggs_and_Ham#Lexicon
[2]http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124113399848475095.html
[3] http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/books/array-of-banned-books-shows-australia-on-a-more-innocent-page-20130125-2dc3y.html#ixzz2MjmrH3M7

5 Books you won’t believe were Banned.

compare book prices old books

Supporting Your Local Book Shops

compare book prices old booksAs we look back on the recently finished independent booksellers week and all the press that it gathered, we have to look at ourselves as an online book and textbook retail and ask ourselves are we damaging local bookshops. Personally I have some very mixed feelings about this. I used to be an owner of a small bookshop that dealt mostly in second hand books, and I was, as most people are very proud of my little store. But over the last 10 years with the meteoric rise of the Internet, I found it harder and harder to keep my little shop afloat in a world that seems more than eager to move online and away from the local bookstore.

As much as I want to, I don’t blame people for not shopping locally, as even I have moved on to this wonderful World Wide Web where I can get all my literary needs for about half the price of what I would pay at a local bookstore. Even the major retailers are moving the majority of their business online, as the simple cost of maintaining a brick and mortar store becomes harder and harder to keep up with. When my store was on the verge of shutting down I raved and ranted at the major retailers, at Amazon and just that anyone who would stand still for long enough, I was angry but I didn’t know who to be angry at.

It seems perverse from me, someone who works for a website that sells books solely over the Internet, to try and tell people that they should be supporting their local bookstore’s, undo. Scratch that, it is perverse and entirely hypocritical, but I’m going to do it anyway and here’s why. People have been decrying that the end of books is nigh on the age of the digital media is already here, but let’s be honest who doesn’t prefer the feel of a good honest book in their hands over holding a tablet or ereader. My eyes still gets sore after only an hour or two squinting at my iPad or Kindle. There is no real substitute physical book.

Compare Book Prices

So while books are here to stay to just a little bit longer, so too should your local bookstore. But bookstores in your local area need to realise that they simply can’t compete with the prices of books online and need to act accordingly. Local bookstore’s need to play to their strengths, let people come in sit down somewhere and read a chapter or two, offered them a free drink of tea or coffee and employ reasonable intelligence staff that no when people want help and when people just want to be left alone.

One of the best ideas that I’ve ever seen is from the one remaining second hand bookstore in my area. They offer a box of free lollipops that sit next to a box of free children’s books, and while the books are necessarily in the best condition, the kids don’t care they have a lolly and something to read.

There is no online substitute for a real honest to goodness community fall of knowledgeable welcoming people.