Tag Archives: Barnes and Noble

Shame Day: Spoilers

Today’s post is going to be a little shorter than most, primarily because I am, well, not writing this from home. Take from that what you will.

spoilersspoilersspoilersspoilers

I write this because last night, while perusing Facebook, the page for CBS’s How I Met Your Mother posted an image of a certain someone [seen on the right]. The caption for the image was as follows:

A secret 8 years in the making! You just met… wait for it… the mother! Like this post if you were surprised!
http://bit.ly/10K4e18

But here’s the thing, I hadn’t seen the episode. I was busy talking about short stories with my writing group, which was swiftly followed up by reviewing the season finale of the other CBS sitcom. As the description of the image reads, this was a reveal “8 years in the making.” I may not have started the year the show came out, but I  have seen every episode. That’s 183 episodes; that comes out to something like 3660 minutes, or 61 hours, or 2.5 full days of television. Continue reading

Here Be Unwise Internet Purchases

Sometime last week I was on the lookout for books on webcomics, searching for covers to inspire a Graphic Design project. Somehow, through liberal use of the keywords “webcomic,” “history,” and “book,” I was led to a book entitled “Webcomics By Year, including: Penny Arcade (webcomic), Jerry Holkins, Mike Krahulik, Child’s Play (charity), Penny Arcade Expo, Penny Arcade Adventures: On The Rain-slick Precipice Of Darkness, Robert Khoo, Poker Night At The Inventory, User Friendly,” the cover of which you can see below.

The first thing you may notice from the cover, after the ridiculous length of the title, is that the book can’t be attributed to any specific author. Instead, the only evidence of there being an origin for the book are the words “Hephaestus Books,” centred and in small print at the bottom of the cover.

Fully intrigued at that point, I checked to see what else Barnes and Noble had to say about this publishing company, and was aghast at my findings. There were tens of thousands of books attributed to Hephaestus Books,  each featuring a title just as [if not more] lengthy and list-like as the first I found. They covered topics ranging from Judy Blume novels to the 1950s in British television. It seemed that Barnes and Noble could show me more, but not explain, and so began my investigation.

A social reading site of sorts, Goodreads ‘ page on Hephaestus Books featured a description about the “author” that goes as follows:

“Hephaestus Books represents a new publishing paradigm, allowing disparate content sources to be curated into cohesive, relevant, and informative books. To date, this content has been curated from Wikipedia articles and images under Creative Commons licensing, although as Hephaestus Books continues to increase in scope and dimension, more licensed and public domain content is being added. We believe books such as this represent a new and exciting lexicon in the sharing of human knowledge.”

In other words it publishes print-on-demand compilations of Wikipedia articles not original works. Caveat Emptor

Author Robin Hobb wrote about the series of books on her website early this month, stating that the concept of Hephaestus Books is one that “offends [her] mightily.” Science fiction writer Jerry Pournelle wrote on his own site that he was concerned in that he had “never authorized ANYONE to make a compilation of a lot of [his] books and sell them in a single volume.” His confusion is well-founded, but in reality what appears to be a single book containing multiple novels is nothing more than, as mentioned above, Wikipedia articles.

Hephaestus isn’t even the only malefactor out there. Fonte Wikipedia and Book LLC are both “publishing companies” that do the exact same thing. A blog post I found entitled Beware the Wikipedia Scrapers exposed both of those examples, and also has a helpful list on how to “avoid this junk.”

I’m not altogether surprised by this scam; it’s one I stumbled upon years ago but have only recently found again. It sadden me, however, that it’s ongoing, and that there have been people who have fallen for it, as evidenced by the used books on sale on these sites.

As writers have said before me, watch out. Caveat emptor. Let the buyer beware. Be on your guard. Please mind the gap. This is a swindle that has befallen others, and as much as a book titled “Novels By R. A. Salvatore, including: Vector Prime, The Dark Elf Trilogy, Legacy Of The Drow, The Woods Out Back, The Icewind Dale Trilogy, The Hunter’s Blades Trilogy, Paths Of Darkness, The Cleric Quintet, The Dragon’s Dagger, Dragonslayer’s Return” might catch your eye, it might be better to stop and think about what you’re doing.

Barnes and Noble Partners with Wayfair.com, World Becomes a Sadder Place

Barnes and Noble: now your source for superfluously shiny things

Barnes and Noble will now be selling, among other things, popcorn makers, vacuum cleaners, and dehumidifiers via their website. The former sanctuary of all things book-related has prostituted itself out, it seems, to Wayfair, an online retailer. I may represent a non-objective opinion while relaying this information.

Wayfair is one of those frightening oh-my-gosh-we-sell-fricking-everything (like seven different types of bread boxes everything) websites where everything is in Helvetica (I watched that movie and am now a temporary font snob1) but all of the products elicit the same creepy feeling one gets from the idea of ordering cookies from magazines or packages of prepared meals from dieting programs. The kind of website that offers an ice bucket shaped like a crown for $517.49 and a Wonderbread plastic sandwich box for $3.99. That has 101 search results for the words “tissue box covers”.

So I weep for you, Barnes and Noble. I know that you were doing that thing where you tout overpriced polka-dotted notebooks under “Designed Exclusively for Barnes and Noble by [vaguely exotic name],” and I know that you were doing that thing where you partnered with Godiva, but at least the stationary was book-related and the chocolate was delicious. But furniture? Infomercial cookware? Who is going to buy their thermostat from Barnes and Noble, I ask you?2

I’m sure that there’s a grand marketing scheme going on here, and that by all calculations this will probably be a profitable move for Barnes and Noble, or the deal they struck with Wayfair was a steal enough for them to cut their losses if it doesn’t work. But the idea of like the internet-aged Wells Fargo catalogue just doesn’t make sense. Amazon and Walmart did not spend the majority of their retailing lifespans dedicated to a single item like you have, Barnes and Noble. Do not think that you can become them. You can’t. Borders is even gone, and you were doing way better than them anyways, on the internet front – you started earlier than they did and handled it a lot more classily (til now, that is). You kind of have the Nook thing going on, and if you get your act together on that front instead of diversifying your attention away, you could actually continue to matter in that market. Don’t let Amazon get you down!

Remember when you used to at least pretend like you were a friendly bookstore instead of a gigantic, impersonal corporation? You’re definitely failing at that with this move. I will just be interested to see what making yourself an unspecified and abstract retailer does to your customer loyalty.

1 I’m not even sure if the website’s font actually IS Helvetica, but it’s something trying to look Swedish, I can tell you that much

2 Weird upper-middle class people with too much mascara and blonde hair, that’s who, I’m pretty sure.