Bookworm worries as elections come near (Part 1)

With Florida elections coming up, something that has been on my mind is library funding. With choices like Rick Scott and Charlie Crist, it feels like I’m either going to lose my pants to one bully or my sweater to the other.

Florida has never really been a state with the reputation for being intellectual. More reason to fund libraries and education, I would think. But I have reason to believe we should be worried because in 2013 they threatened to take away a big chunk of library money. They threatened to close down several public libraries and the hours of remaining libraries. I know because I was there protesting in front of West Kendall Regional Library.

Standing with my fellow protesters outside of West Kendall Regional Library.

Standing with my fellow protesters outside of West Kendall Regional Library.

While the usage of print books might be declining (and this is contestable), libraries aren’t solely about books. These ancient institutions provide other services to people. For instance, they hold workshops on gardening, poetry, resume building, job hunting and other non-reading activities. They also have programs for kids, such as the program they had in the summer that provided children with a free lunch. Libraries are an invaluable part of the community and they should not have to be threatened by budget cuts.

In honor of the upcoming elections, I’m going to break from my usual routine and turn this post into a three part series explaining each potential governor’s position on funding for libraries and education as well as their past history.

Tomorrow Charlie Crist will be attending FIU and I hope to get some answers from him. Tune in Sunday, Nov. 2 for more information.

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Protesters standing outside of West Kendall Regional Library informing local citizens about the possible cutting of their libraries.

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Designer channels Frankenstein: Creates Comic Sans typewriter to jar document designers

I’m going to put books on hold and talk about the typeface a second, specifically Comic Sans.

On Sunday, Oct. 19, a fellow member of Self-Publish @ FIU shared an article by Megan Friedman about a Frankenstein’s monster-like invention: a typewriter that writes everything in Comic Sans.

The unnatural creature was invented by Designer Jesse England and he calls it the “Sincerity Machine.” He got an old 1970s Brother Charger 11 typewriter and attached Comic Sans letters onto the strikers.

At first, everything in me screamed “NO, NOT COMIC SANS!” It’s like the typeface you shouldn’t use for 98% of projects. Why would someone completely butcher a prized relic and make a monster destined to be hated and misunderstood by most?

Then I thought about Comic Sans and remembered it was the first typeface of the first document I ever intentionally designed.

It was the beginning of my then-unknown document design career: technology class in West Miami Middle School. We were formally being introduced to Microsoft’s designing capabilities and we had to transform our first words from Times New Roman to Comic Sans.

We were playing with words, not even logo ideas or anything. I remember feeling so accomplished and fancy looking at the fat curves of the font. I knew at that moment that I wanted to keep playing with words. Which brought me to forgive and accept England’s world-shattering idea.

It made me realize what he said was true, it’s a noob’s typeface. I guess I was repelled by it because I don’t want to be a beginner in document design anymore.

After expressing myself on Facebook to friends about it, a teacher friend of mine told me “Comic Sans is one of the only fonts that come standard with computers that is easier for people with dyslexia (and other disorders) to read.” She added that she uses it a lot for her classes “since certain letters (like the letter A) come the way the students learn to write it.”

The site Comic Sans Criminal has great visuals that backs up her claims and shows improper and proper uses of Comic Sans.

At the end of the day, I get the whole “sincerity” bit about it and that Comic Sans shouldn’t be completely underrated because it has its place. For that, I appreciate the wake up call, England. Just be careful how you use it folks, “Weird Al” Yankovic was onto something too (1:15-1:37).

Indie bookstore shares their secret for success

While browsing through Publishers Weekly’s Opinion section, I happened upon Pete Mulvihill’s article, “How Bookstores Survive in the Age of Amazon.” The co-owner of Green Apple Books let us in on their secret for success, but stressed that we shouldn’t get hung up on numbers. This advice might seem counterintuitive for some business people, but I think he’s onto something.

According to Mulvihill, even successful stores could disappear for a number of reasons. He admits that one day indie bookstores might not be able to keep up with technology, yet he’s not pessimistic about the future.

Instead Mulvihill focuses on the present, on answering the needs of his local community, and on his love for his job – that’s what brings in the customers.

He writes, “‘It may not be a good living, but it’s a good life.’” This highlights that bookselling in today’s world is not a business done to accumulate fame and fortune. If you sell books, you should do it because you love it. It’s that consideration for books and people that will help booksellers meet customers’ needs.

I visited two independent bookstores in San Francisco this year: City Lights Booksellers and Publishers and Green Apple Books. After that experience, returning to my local Barnes & Noble was depressing.

Cristina E. Garcia standing next to the famous City Lights Books.

Cristina E. Garcia standing next to the famous City Lights Books.

Rather than focusing on books and having gizmos as an aside, my local B&N has a whole first floor dedicated to knickknacks, e-readers and toys with books as an afterthought. They thinned shelves and slowly phased out seating within the store to discourage patrons from staying. They even enacted a policy that prohibits potential buyers from sitting on the floor. Is it any surprise they’re becoming obsolete?

Rather than answering the needs of the local community, the B&N is focused on making money and cutting corners wherever they deem necessary. They think the answer lies in e-readers, but they’re only partially right.

If the company isn’t meeting consumers’ needs, consumers will opt for another bookseller. Even though B&N sells e-books, I go to Amazon because their e-books are cheaper and frankly I’m deeply upset with B&N’s customer service. And after the Bitch Magazine article I wrote about last week, now I’m looking for another e-book seller.

That said, where do you buy your books and why do you choose that particular bookseller?

If Amazon is no good for self-publishing erotica writers, where should they go?

Photo Kindle 3 thoughts courtesy of Zhao !

Kindle 3 thoughts/ Zhao !

 

After reading “Lost in the Amazon: Are digital booksellers suppressing self-published erotica?” by Kate Larking in Bitch Magazine’s Fall 2014 issue, I don’t know if I want to keep buying Kindle Books from Amazon.

In case you haven’t read it, Larking reveals an invisible adult-only-type label that is attached to books when Indie authors are honest and label their books as erotica. Larking said that the label is also placed on books whose covers Amazon deems explicit or inappropriate. When the label is attached to a book, it effectively hides the book and a consumer would only be able to find the book if they search for the author or title specifically. This sharply decreases sales for the writers and has led to other problems.

The writers that want to work with Amazon write in a way to avoid getting labeled as adult-content only, tweaking the stories to meet vague guidelines, but Amazon sometimes still gives them the label. Other writers try using the romance genre as a loophole. This is problematic because it could expose a reader to content they weren’t interested in (e.g. a “hardcore” sex scene, when the usual lingo in romances is more “softcore” and vague.) It’s problematic if writers are including love scenes into their erotica when it might be nonsensical to do so, like in a BDSM story. It ruins the novel for the writer and the reader.

Other writers are moving to greener pastures, a place where they don’t have to mislabel their work to sell it.

As the owner of a Kindle, I don’t know what to do. Do I stay with the e-book dictatorship or move to another e-book market? Is the future e-book market in a Kobo? What would you suggest?