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Industry News: Britannica Stops Publishing, PayPal Reverses Course, Publishers to Blame for Review Imbalance?

March 17, 2012

Encyclopedia Britannica Stops Publishing Hardcopy Version

Never again will anyone receive a 50-volume set of the Encyclopedia Britannica on a game show. After 244 years, Britannica will only be available in an on-line edition. In the Internet age, the move makes sense. The instant-update, 24-by-7 nature of the web means that by the time you receive the Encyclopedia, its information will be obsolete. It’s handy if you want to find out something about Madame Currie, but so are several dozen reputable websites. The rush to publication online–and a lack of any objective ratings system–means that accuracy could suffer, in some cases, but immediacy seems more valuable today.

PayPal Reverses Smashwords Decision

A little more than a week after announcing it would not process payments for certain types of erotica, PayPal has reversed its decision.  Actually, according to PayPal, they are clarifying their policy. The updated policy “ill prohibit use of PayPal for the sale of e-books that contain child pornography, or e-books with text and obscene images of rape, bestiality or incest.” The policy has also been amended to apply to individual books, rather than entire classes of books. They are also working with publishers on a system to challenge any rulings of unacceptable content. Considering the legality of many of the images PayPal is targeting, the clarification seems appropriate. Even most First Amendment absolutists would not extend their “no censorship” philosophy to include child pornography.

Are Book Publishers to Blame for Gender Discrimination?

There’s been a long-held perception that major book reviewers, such as The New York Times Book Review, Harper’s Magazine, and The Atlantic review more books written by men than by women. Depending on the publication, the ratio of reviews for male authors to female authors can be as high as three-to-one. An article in the Huffington Post suggests that literary publications may not be to blame. The HuffPo article suggests that the ratio of published literary books written by male authors to female authors is roughly the same as the review ratio.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. March 17, 2012 10:08 am

    I didn’t read the huff post article yet, but my first thought that comes to mind is something the members of my book group always say (and they’re all published authors): if a certain kind of book written by and deemed “literary” was written by a woman, it would most likely be called “women’s fiction” instead. They’re referring to books that focus on families and
    relationships.

  2. Chris Hamilton permalink*
    March 17, 2012 5:51 pm

    Julie, how does that affect marketing and that titles’ sales? Are women’s fiction titles more likely to find an audience or less likely? Do you make up in increases sales to women what you would lose from men?

    • Julie Compton permalink
      March 18, 2012 10:06 am

      Chris, I don’t know the answers to your questions. I was responding to the sentence: “The HuffPo article suggests that the ratio of published literary books written by male authors to female authors is roughly the same as the review ratio.” My point is that the review ratio might be very different (would indeed show a favoritism toward male writers) if more books written by women were deemed “literary.” I don’t know either way; I was only suggesting that the above quoted sentence presumes certain facts that may not be accurate; that the ratio SEEMS equal because many books by men get called “literary” (whereas the same/similar book written by a woman doesn’t (at least some members of my book group think this)).

      • Chris Hamilton permalink*
        March 18, 2012 11:30 am

        Thanks!

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