And while we’re on the subject…

This comes up all the time.  People who dog-ear their pages, who make notes in books or highlight, or underline, are called “monsters” by a lot of readers.

Fuck that.

No really, you tell me a book that sits pristine on a shelf, with an uncracked spine, pages barely touched much less wrinkly and stained by coffee or tea, pages without the occasional dog-ear or note, even if all it says is “YES!!!” You tell me that’s a loved book and I will tell you that you lie.  It’s a worshiped book, maybe, but loved?  No.  Things that are loved are used and handled, and held close in sometimes sweaty or dirty hands.  Books that are loved are read at the dinner table, dropped into the bathtub or off the side if the bed, sometimes left in the rain.  They are companions, not barely touched treasures.

So by all means use bookmarks — I’ve used everything from old bus transfers to pens when a proper bookmark isn’t available, but I have also dog-eared and used dust jackets.  By all means confine your commentary to a lovely journal or your Facebook.  Just don’t expect everyone else to do it your way.  Don’t tell us that we need to bow down at the altar of The Book because many of us know better.  They’re only as good as what is inside of them.

From About Time Publishing

 

 

Toward a new definition of reading

The advent of the e-reader has provoked a kind of backlash among a good many dedicated readers.  It’s not real reading they say.  It doesn’t smell like a book, it doesn’t feel like a book, you can’t hear the pages turn.  All of which are true, but meaningless in terms of what a book really is.  It’s a delivery system.  Humans have used many different delivery systems to convey their ideas.  The earliest was almost certainly story-telling, probably around a fire, maybe in a cave.  Stories of the hunt, stories of gods and men, stories that explained  the seasons or where the game was, or what thunder and lightning really was.

SantaCruz-CuevaManos-P2210651b.jpg
By MarianoOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

And then there were cave paintings which also told stories, though I’m pretty sure that we aren’t capable of getting their full meaning.  But I am sure they were meant to convey ideas, either to other humans, or to the gods of nature.

Eventually we began to create alphabets to convey ideas in a more permanent and less obviously symbolic form.  We wrote on clay, stone, papyrus, silk… whatever was handy, whatever would allow our words to go on after we stopped speaking, perhaps after the story-teller was gone from this earth.  We read from scrolls, illuminated manuscripts and hand-written books filled with handmade paper.  Books were labor-intensive and those which didn’t belong to the church or the government, belonged to the very wealthy.

Illuminated.bible.arp.jpg
By Adrian Pingstone (User:Arpingstone) – Own work, Public Domain, Link


Woodblock printing, which had its origin in Asia, was used to make multiple copies of images or text, but it was also labor-intensive, and not much used in the west.  However, when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in 1440, things changed for the better, at least in my opinion, because it opened the door for the common person to access the information that had previously been hard, if not impossible to obtain.

Amazon Digital Trends

Printed books dominated reading for more than 500 years, and so every other form of conveying information was moved to the side, given its own category.  Only printed books really counted as reading.  Five hundred years of dominance doesn’t let go easily, so when digital text, or e-readers began to appear on the scene, readers balked.  E-books weren’t real books, they said, but if you asked them why, their response would be “because they don’t smell like real books.” or “because they don’t feel like real books.”  The answers were disconnected from content, and bordered on being fetish-y, as if in secret they rubbed paperbacks on their naked bodies, or buried their faces between pages and breathed in the scent of ink and paper rather than actually reading what was printed on that paper with that ink.

When I’m confronted by the book-sniffers, I always ask which is more important to them, books or what’s printed in them?  Sometimes I get an honest answer, sometimes a dishonest one.  One person said, “Oh shut up,” though she said it with good humor because she knew what it was I was saying to her:  It doesn’t matter.

These same people wouldn’t say that audiobooks aren’t real because they’re aware that the blind reader relies on them as much as on braille texts.  I sometimes point out that the ability to scale the typefaces on e-readers helps people who are not blind but who do normally require large-print books, to access whatever text they want.

I sometimes point out that books are heavy and some of us have trouble holding them for long periods because of ailments like carpal tunnel syndrome.  I point out that some of us don’t have unlimited space in our homes but our e-readers and the clouds where we can store them offer us virtually unlimited space for digital texts.  I point out a lot of advantages to both digital texts and audiobooks.  Sometimes it makes a dent, sometimes not, and when it doesn’t, I understand that the person I’m talking to has invested much too heavily in the idea of physical books.  I don’t pretend to know why people do that, it seems so limiting to me.  What I do know is that at 55 I began to read digital texts.  At 63 I started listening to audiobooks.  I read a lot now, and I cherish every format because they give me what I want most: information.

While I wouldn’t dream of telling anyone how they should read (though I wish I could escape the feeling that I’m being told my choices are somehow bad or just not quite the thing, don’tcha know?) I can’t help but feel that we need to broaden our definition of what reading is to encompass the different ways in which the contents of a book can be delivered to us.  While I hope and pray that the printed page persists well into the future because yes, physical books are wonderful.  I wouldn’t dream of denying that.  I think the printed book has been the only game in town for a long time, and it’s going to have to stand aside a little and let its younger siblings have their share of our reading time, just as scrolls and tablets and illuminated manuscripts had to step aside and allow Gutenberg’s invention to bring books to the people.

Reading is what you need it to be.  Books, e-readers, audiobooks, hell even a cereal box is worth reading for a reader.  It’s what brings those stories to you.  In the end, what you hold in your hand is your own story-teller, sharing the tales of gods and men.

Can we just not do this? Please?

Yesterday I sent the following email to Amazon.com about its Fire phone:

I was just sitting down to have some coffee and play a couple of hands of solitaire before I went back to work, and I realized that I was holding the only telephone I’ve ever loved, my Fire phone, the phone you guys no longer sell. I gather that it didn’t sell well. I got mine on special, $199 which included a year of Prime, and knowing what I know now about this phone, I would cheerfully pay you $199 for another, even without the Prime. $500? No, but then I don’t believe any phone is worth that kind of money, with or without a contract. As you might guess, I’m not an iPhone groupie.

As I see it, you made two mistakes right out of the gate. The price as mentioned above, and the not-quite-Android operating system. Whose idea was that? Because it was a stupid idea and it held this phone back. You should have gone with Android, given people the chance to use their favorite apps instead of having to try to find something else from the Amazon app store. I learned how to side-load Google apps and apart from the difficulty of updating them, they work just fine. But the average person isn’t going to do that. The average person hears me talking about side-loading and says “Buh?”

People are addicted to their apps. Anyone who doesn’t realize that is a fool. They want what they want, and you wouldn’t give it to them. And THEN you asked them to pay premium prices for a phone that wouldn’t let them have what they wanted.

All the bells and whistles, the screen that tilts and all the rest? I’ve turned all that off, and I love the good, clean interface that does exactly what I want it to. The battery life is good, I can leave it on for days… weeks, before it starts to glitch and need a reboot. It is one fan-fucking-tastic phone. And you’re probably going to kill it. Well done. Hit that iceberg!

I’ve heard it said that Amazon is good at making the same mistakes over and over again. Prove ’em wrong. If you aren’t going to kill the Fire phone, get smart about it. Go with Android, not faux Android or Android lite, or whatever this OS is. Let people buy their apps from the Google store if they want. You can sell good Android apps too, y’know. Make sure it has a high quality camera, and a lot of power. Drop all the tilty stuff, it’s boring. And price it right. Absolute max: $300, and better at $200.

I will keep this phone until it dies in my hands, that’s how much I love it. I am never without it. But the thought of never being able to replace it when it does breaks my heart. I’ve been an Amazon customer since you only sold books. I’m a long-time Vine reviewer, you asked me to help judge your fiction contest and gave me a kindle for doing it (I still have it, btw, even though I now have a few others including a Paperwhite)

You have some of the best customer service I’ve ever dealt with. I’m in your corner, and I think all that gives me the right to tell you upfront that every once in a while you do some bone-headed stuff.

I know what you’re thinking and all I can say is give me a break, I was feeling philosophical after having to take my cat to the vet and listen to him screaming as they emptied his anal glands.  I was annoyed that I had finally found a smartphone that worked for me, that did the things I wanted it to do without getting the shivers, overheating, or otherwise acting like a dick, and because the company that produced it couldn’t see the forest for the trees, I would probably never have another.  Because if they do make a Mark 2 and make all the same damn mistakes with it that they made with the first one, I won’t be buying it.

BTW, the “tilty” stuff I mentioned has a name:  Dynamic Perspective.  Nobody likes it, and it uses up too much battery life.  

Now I didn’t really expect a response; it wasn’t that sort of email.  But I got one this morning that basically said, we understand your concerns but we have some nice apps.  And there was a link to the Amazon app store.

I suppose you could make a case for an over-worked, under-paid overseas customer service worker looking at my crazy, disaffected, snarky email and thinking, “Apps.  She wants apps.” and sending a standard cut-and-paste reply.  He had to say something, right?  His job depends on him saying something to me.  So I’d like to apologize to Raghavendra.K  for making his life a little harder yesterday.  Not my intention, dude, but I wanted to make a point.  I wanted to fucking complain about why I again find myself in the Betamax camp.  Kitty anal glands completely aside, this is something that’s been bugging me for a while now, and you told me to go check out your apps.

No.  Just no.  Sometimes you need to pass the buck.  Send my email to your supervisor with a note that says “I don’t know what to tell this crazy woman, do you?”  Kick it upstairs.  Eventually someone will have a real answer.  What I wanted was to get a note back that said:

Yeah, we made a lot of mistakes with this one.  We tried to do too much too soon, and we didn’t actually ask anyone that they wanted.  Our bad.  But we’ve learned our lesson, I swear.  If we ever do another phone — and we might — we’re going to concentrate on doing the important things right.  We’re going to go with a flexible, established OS so that our customers have a significant advantage when buying apps, we’re going to give you a lot of processing power, a great camera, and we’re going to make sure that you have access to the best possible tech support and customer service we can give.  We’re going to offer it unlocked and at a reasonable price.  And yeah, no more of the tilty stuff.  I don’t know what we were thinking with that one.

What do you think the odds of that happening are?  Yeah, me too.

More about it:

Amazon Finally Stops Selling the Fire Phone

Amazon Extinguishes the Fire Phone

You are special. Yes, you are.

My ancestor. You can tell by the side-eye.

Been talking about genetics today, and about a Facebook post I made about an article on Cherokee lineage, and why it’s often part of family history even if there is no genetic reality to it.  Because of that discussion, I went looking for more information about DNA and Native American lineage. My own DNA shows less than 1% NA blood which was disappointing, but eh, that’s how it goes, right?

 
So I found a guy who has a YouTube video about why Native American DNA doesn’t show up on DNA tests. That isn’t true, btw, it does. A lot of people have had positive results from their testing. But his test didn’t show it so he had to find a way to rationalize the fact that his DNA was telling him he wasn’t something he believed he was by saying that something was wrong with the testing.
 
I thought, “Okay, let’s see what he has to say,” because there might be some weird genetic testing quirk I don’t know about. How there could be in a field where minute differences in chromosomes can offer a wealth of information, I don’t know, but hell, what I don’t know about DNA would just about fill the Grand Canyon. So he starts out about testing his DNA and the results that showed his Jewish and Bedouin DNA proving he was descended from the Prophet Mohammed, and I shut the video off because in that moment he became unreliable. He didn’t want to offer up some information that might help people navigate some weirdness in the reporting of genetic heritage, he wanted bragging rights about all his DNA.  No, I’m not linking to him.  He annoyed me.
 
Not my ancestor. Sorry.

Look, I have a family tree that “proves” I’m descended from Charlemagne and Sacajawea. One thing I know is that if you’ve got European blood, there is a very high probability that you are descended from Charlemagne, so I accept that it might be true considering that about 90% of my DNA is N. European. But I pretty much figure that somewhere along the line, one of the genealogists whose charts I could connect to fudged some data, because that it’s provable on paper strikes me as being in the realm of wishful thinking rather than reality. I’m not even going to touch the Sacajawea thing; I don’t believe it and neither does my DNA.

 
So what is this all about? It’s a rumination on the human need to feel special and all the ways we go about proving it when we don’t have to.  There’s the DNA thing; people have a lot of investment in having famous or exotic DNA because it satisfies a bit of the human drive to feel special somehow, to identify with something special, something rare, exotic, famous.
I had a cousin who was virtually a professional genealogist.  He spent years traveling around, finding source material, putting together a family tree.  And when he finished, he was a direct descendant from both Jesus and Adam and Eve.  He had found some way to rationalize a genealogical connection that was meaningful to him because it made him feel more special than other people. My mother was impressed.  I rolled my eyes and said nothing.
Def not my ancestor. Don’t even go there.
We are so desperate to feel special in some way, in our abilities (which are provable, hence one of the best ways to stand out from the crowd), our intellect (in spite of intelligence tests being culturally biased, and only basically proving that some people are good at standardized tests that adhere to their own cultural standards, IOW, virtually meaningless), our looks (how many people obsess about what they look like?), their sexual attractiveness, their wealth, or power.
And it’s not only positive things. Ill health, mental issues, problems, tragedies, losses all are ways to stand out from the crowd.  I’m sure you know people who spend a lot of time telling you how sick they are or how terrible their lives are.  I’ve done it.  I once got upset because a friend one-upped all my ills, and I thought Why can’t I, just for once, be the Most Miserable?
 
Some people even do it by telling other people they aren’t special. The implication is: “I am because I know that you’re not.”  They suck, btw.
 
The idea that some people count and some don’t is a subject that has bothered me for years, and recently a friend told me that some people are necessary and some aren’t.  (Not in a rotten, entitled way, but in a sad, unappreciated way.)  I told her no one is strictly necessary in the larger sense. We are loved, we are liked, we are needed for some specific reason or other, but necessary? No.  The universe disabuses us of that notion pretty quickly if we pay attention to how it operates.
But do some people count while others don’t? Nuh-uh. And anyone saying so is not only wrong, they’re probably shitty people who are trying to justify greed or cruelty.  Do not listen to them.

 
Look at the myriad of memes on the Internet that “prove” that we can see more colors than the next person, that we can perceive this, that, or the next thing more accurately than our friends, that we’re likely to be autistic, sociopathic, bipolar, depressed; that we’re like Thor or the tenth Doctor, or our perfect match is Sherlock, or Tony Stark, or Darth Vader. And we publicly pooh-pooh the results but we display them anyway because, if we’re being honest, there’s a little part of us that feels a bit better about ourselves because of them.  That’s human.
 
The truth is that there is no single thing that makes anyone on earth more special than anyone else. Nothing, nada. I am not more special than you.  You are not more special than me.  We are special in different ways.  We are unique, and that’s all we should need to feel special. It’s a damn shame that neither our society nor our own hearts and minds will allow us to accept that.
So I am here to tell you that you are special.  Yes, you are.  This is only one of you.  Even if you have an identical twin.  Even if you’re a freaking clone, you are unique because it isn’t just what we’re born with, it’s what we amass as we live our lives.  It’s our experiences, good and bad, it’s what we’ve read, the things we’ve seen and done, the music we’ve listened to, the food we’ve eaten, the people we’ve known (all of whom are unique and special too), it’s our hopes, our dreams, our thoughts.
There is no one on earth like you and there never has been.  That makes you pretty fucking special to my way of thinking.
 
Wow… feeling philosophical today. I went on a long tangent about language and the brain over breakfast. I expect Glinda’s eyes are still rolling back in her head. LOL

And the prize…

for the only customer service agent at Harper Collins who actually does her job goes to Wilma, who sent me this today:

Thank you for contacting the HarperCollins online store.

We apologize for the inconvenience that this issue has caused you.

Please be advised that the eBook can be downloaded on Kindle Fire.

In order to get the HarperCollins e-reading app on your Kindle Fire
tablet you’ll need to download it outside of the normal Android
marketplace by following these instructions:

If you are using an alternative e-reading application you may be
prompted to create an Adobe ID if you haven’t already done so. Follow
the instructions and use these credentials to open your e-book in your
non HarperCollins e-reading application.

Please be aware that the product that was ordered is ineligible for a
refund. This is outlined in our refund policy, located at:

http://store.digitalriver.com/store/harperco/en_US/DisplayReturnAndCancellationsPage
Thank you for your patience and understanding.

So the upshot is that if you don’t have a Kindle Fire, you’re still screwed because they will not give you back a dime of what you spent  (How hard can you make that penny squeal, Rupert Murdoch?) even though they don’t bother to tell you ahead of time that to read your ebook you HAVE to install their application.

Why don’t I want to?  First, I don’t want to read the book on my computer.  I just don’t like to do that.  Second, I don’t want to install a whole new app just for one book.  That’s a waste of space.  And finally, frankly I’m not sure I trust a company which essentially withholds information from you in order to get your money, and then refuses to refund it when you complain.  I haven’t even downloaded the book yet, and I figure they know that, so it’s not like they think I’m trying to steal it.  Hell if it was hard copy I could read it overnight and take it back to the bookstore for a full refund.  I’d have a lot more respect for their position if they were upfront about how you have to download their app to read their ebooks.  Then I’d have been able to make an informed decision.

Yeah I know, this is a lot of fuss about a book.  But it’s a symptom of something bigger than just one disaffected consumer.  It’s the arrogance of a big corporation like News Corp which is HC’s parent company.   They’re essentially telling me, “We’ve got your money, we don’t need you anymore.”  They won’t get any more of it through their website, but I don’t think that much matters to them since I’m only one person.  And they also can pretty much assume I’m going to go on buying books in the future, and that inevitably I’m going to want some that are published by them, so they probably won’t be losing anything.

My opinion has no cash value.

 

 

 

Seeking trainable monkeys for customer service position

Remember my post from yesterday?  About Harper Collins’ customer service reps?  Well here’s today’s answer to my reply:

Thank you for contacting the HarperCollins online store.

The ebook you purchase can be downloaded on your kindle. You may need to
download the app or the reader first. You can download the app from the
link below:

https://store.digitalriver.com/store/harperco/en_US/DisplayDownloadInformationPage
When the download is complete, you will be asked to register the app.
Please follow the on-screen prompts in order to complete the
registration process.

If this is the first time you’ve used the HarperCollins App, you may be
prompted to log in with your HarperCollins credentials. Your login name
will be your email address and your password will be the password you
selected during the purchase process.

Please note that the app needs to be downloaded and registered prior to
downloading the eBook or it may have difficulties locating your
download. You may need to re-download the eBook if you do not see it in
the app after registering it.

To download your eBook, go to:
https://store.digitalriver.com/store/harperco/en_US/DisplayCustomerServiceOrderSearchPage
Look up your order using either your order number and password or your
email address and the last five digits of the credit card used to
purchase. When the order summary appears, click on the Download link
next to the product name.

Please note that all products that are ordered through the HarperCollins
online store are ineligible for a refund. This is outlined in our refund
policy, located at:

http://store.digitalriver.com/store/harperco/en_US/DisplayReturnAndCancellationsPage
We apologize for any inconvenience this has caused you.

You don’t need to refer to yesterday’s post to compare, it’s the exact same text.  Well done to you, Harper Collins, you’ve finally found a way to use trained monkeys to do human jobs.  You must be so proud.

Customer Support Personnel Wanted: Must be able to cut and paste

Harper Collins had a special on Richard Kadrey‘s Sandman Slim books yesterday.  I have all of them except for “Kill City Blues” so I thought I’d take advantage of it.  I went to the site and clicked on the link, duly entered the discount code, and yes I did wonder why there were no options to choose the ebook format I wanted, but I figured that they’d let me choose later in the process.

Yeah, you know what’s coming, don’t you?  I got all the way to the end, paid for my book, and then discovered that I had to read it on the Harper Collins reader.  I SO want another ebook reader on my computer.  You have no idea how much that thrills me.  So I emailed their customer service immediately — didn’t download the book because I didn’t want them to say “Well you’ve got it now, you’ll have to keep it.” — and I said this:

I want an ebook that I can read on my Kindle.  If this book doesn’t work with Kindle format, I don’t want it. I have not  downloaded it.

Simple, right?  I thought so.  Direct.  To the point.  Said exactly what I meant without actually pointing out that they might have explained that there was only one format and it wasn’t compatible with any known ebook reader.  So today I got this reply:

Thank you for contacting the HarperCollins online store.

We show that your order is complete and ready for download.

To download your program, please follow these steps:

There are 3 main steps to start reading your eBook: 1) Download the App,
2) Register the App, and 3) Download the eBook.

STEP 1: DOWNLOAD App
Instructions for obtaining the app will vary depending on the device you
are using the reader your book. Please go to the following URL and use
the instructions listed under your device type:

https://store.digitalriver.com/store/harperco/en_US/DisplayDownloadInformationPage
STEP 2: Register App
When the download is complete, you will be asked to register the app.
Please follow the on-screen prompts in order to complete the
registration process.

If this is the first time you’ve used the HarperCollins App, you may be
prompted to log in with your HarperCollins credentials. Your login name
will be your email address and your password will be the password you
selected during the purchase process.

STEP 3: Download your eBook
Please note that the app needs to be downloaded and registered prior to
downloading the eBook or it may have difficulties locating your
download. You may need to re-download the eBook if you do not see it in
the app after registering it.

To download your eBook, go to:
https://store.digitalriver.com/store/harperco/en_US/DisplayCustomerServiceOrderSearchPage
Look up your order using either your order number and password or your
email address and the last five digits of the credit card used to
purchase. When the order summary appears, click on the Download link
next to the product name.

I used to be nice about stuff like this.  I used to write and say, “I’m sorry, maybe I didn’t make myself clear,” and then restate my issue in different words.  Usually more of them, too.  But this happens all the time.  I mean almost every time I contact any customer service or tech support via email.  So I asked myself, “What would Stark do?”  The answer was very satisfying, but unworkable simply because of the large amount of blood and mayhem involved.  So I settled for this response:

Okay so clearly nobody actually read what I wrote, so I’m going to try again.

IF THIS BOOK DOESN’T WORK WITH MY KINDLE I DON’T WANT IT.

I have NOT downloaded it because I’m not sure if it will work with Kindle. Your site seems to imply that it won’t. I think the site could have been clearer about what formats you offer before you get money from people, but I guess that’s as difficult as actually reading a request.

Look, either say “Yes, you can put this on your Kindle, no problem” or give me my money back. This isn’t difficult.

Your move, Harper Collins.