Thursday, November 30, 2006

Borders Looking in New Directions

Don't blame me for not getting back to Second Life. Blame life itself. There are just so many interesting stories out there in the big city.

But I promise: tomorrow we'll get back to the last two posts on Second Life.

According to Bloomberg News, on Friday, the new CEO of Borders Group announced that the company is "reviewing options for its Internet relationship with"

Back in April of 2001, the New York Times reported:

The Borders Group, the nation's second-largest bookseller, is closing its struggling online store and will have serve its customers instead . . . Amazon will become the seller of record, providing the inventory, fulfillment of orders, Website content and customer service . . . Borders is a distant third in the online book market, with $27 million in sales last year. Amazon sold $1.7 billion of books, music and videos last year, and, the online affiliate of Barnes & Noble, the No. 1 bookstore chain, sold $320 million.

What a difference five years makes.

George Jones, the new Borders CEO, wants to distinguish Borders from its competitors. Bloomberg reports that Jones sees the Internet playing a large role in the chain's future.

"We need to differentiate ourselves so that a customer is willing to drive by our competitor's stores for certain products we carry," he said. "We want to focus on certain key categories where we will really stand out."

The 55-year-old Jones has only been with Borders since July 17th. The press release announcing his hiring had this to say about him:

Jones has more than three decades of retail experience including his most recent post as President and Chief Executive Officer of the Saks Department Store Group. Prior to Saks, Jones was President, Worldwide Licensing and Retail, for Warner Bros., where in addition to his core responsibilities, he oversaw Warner Bros. Worldwide Publishing, Kids WB Music, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, WB Sports and Warner Bros. Studio Stores. His background also includes key merchandising and operations positions at Target Corporation, including Executive Vice President-Store Operations and Senior Vice President-Merchandising.

This is a savvy businessman with more than a little experience in marketing. Right now, according to Bloomberg, Borders has 13% of the book market, behind B&N at 15%, but ahead of Amazon at 10%. Jones inherited 1,200 stores and 35,000 employees.

Keep an eye on Borders.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Tribute To A Writer

This morning's Shelf Awareness reported the death of William Diehl, who wrote Sharky's Machine and Primal Fear among other thrillers.

Diehl died unexpectedly in Atlanta on Friday of an aortal aneurysm. He was 81.

For writers needing a boost, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution provided both tribute and inspiration in its obituary in Monday's paper. Approximately 30 years ago, the 50-year-old Diehl was on jury duty in a Fulton County courtroom. Bored by the trial, he began writing a novel on a notepad. Three years later, his first book, was published. Michael Parver, a friend of 40 years, told the story to the Journal-Constitution:

The book deal had come at a low point in Diehl's life, Parver said. Diehl, a former freelance photographer, writer for The Atlanta Constitution and editor at Atlanta Magazine, was jobless and having trouble paying bills. When his agent called to tell him "Sharky's Machine" would be published, the phone line went dead, Parver said. "He hadn't paid the bill. . ."

That first novel, Sharky's Machine, was published in 1978. It became a best-seller and, then, a movie starring Burt Reynolds.

In the 28 years since, Diehl had written nine other books. The last one, his tenth, is expected to be published next year.

For all you writers who tell yourselves you're too old to start a new career or too poor to risk something new and uncertain, take heart--and inspiration.

Simpson Reprise

We interrupt our five-part presentation on Second Life to bring you further details of the debacle surrounding the O.J. Simpson book, If I Did It.

Additional trivia:

  • On Thanksgiving Day, the New York Daily News reported: "O.J. Simpson called it 'blood money' and laughed yesterday as he boasted how he gladly spent the estimated $663,000 he got from Rupert Murdoch's company for his now-discarded book . . . In a telephone interview with Florida radio station WTPS-AM, Simpson said, "Would everybody stop being so naive? Of course I got paid . . . I spent the money on my bills. It's gone."
  • From an article in the New York Post (NYP) referring to the Florida interview: "Simpson said the project was not a confession to the slayings. "I made it clear from the first day I met the writer that I wasn't involved . . . I said, 'I have nothing to confess.' "
  • "After the interview, the former gridiron great played three hours of golf at a course near his home in Miami. He refused to answer questions, but could be heard loudly singing, 'I work hard for my money' and chuckling to himself as he was driven around in a buggy by one of his playing partners. " (NYP)
  • eBay responded to complaints from the family of Nicole Brown Simpson that copies of the book were showing up on the online auction site. Hani Durzy, spokesman for eBay said, "Once HarperCollins reports to us, we take the auctions down . . . "We appreciate the concern of the Brown family, but this is a procedure that has to be followed."
  • Rupert Murdoch's News Corp broke its silence about the deal, admitting that the "third party" with whom ReganBooks had contracted was Lorraine Brooke Associates. The advance paid was $880,000. The $663,000 figure reported by the Daily News is arrived at by subtracting the $100,000 paid to ghostwriter, Pablo Fenjves, and by subtracting the presumably 15% commission paid to Lorraine Brooke Associates ($117,000),
  • In a November 28th story, Newsweek reports "that ABC’s Barbara Walters had explored so seriously the idea of doing a Simpson interview to promote the book that when she balked at proceeding, ABC’s Entertainment division had to pay Mur­doch’s publishing arm a “kill fee” of as much as $1 million."

"O villain, villain, smiling, damned villain!"
--From Hamlet (I, v, 106)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Second Life (Part III)

This is the third in a five-part series on social networking sites and their potential impact on the real world. To explore the issues created by such sites, we are looking at Second Life, the virtual world created by Linden Lab of San Francisco. Second Life has encountered a fair number of problems--some of which might have been anticipated and others that no one could have foreseen.

Remember: unlike many online games, Second Life is not set up for gamers to "win." There are no progressively difficult levels of achievement. Instead, SL is intended to mimic the real world. And, as in the real world, the way to show your superiority is in subjective ways: the clothes you wear, the house you live in, the vehicles you drive, the job you possess and the number of friends you have.

The first order of business of most SL residents is to find a way to earn Linden Dollars. Those dollars are needed to buy clothes, to purchase land (or to rent an apartment or hotel room), and to build a house.

There are a variety of very low-paying jobs in SL. You can be a shop clerk or a security guard. You can be a dancing body in a nightclub (to help the club look popular to avatars dropping by). You can model clothes for a fashion designer. If you have real world skills, you can be a fashion designer or a builder. If you have social skills, you can be an event host or a DJ. If you understand money, you can buy and sell property and become a land baron.

Occasionally, a new resident will think to earn money through virtual sex. While there are escort services available, many residents are also willing to have virtual sex for free.

The issue of adult-oriented businesses also raises the problem of content. I've already mentioned that minors are directed to Teen Second Life. However, the adult SL grids are also divided into PG and Mature. Adult-oriented businesses and activities must confine themselves to the mature sims (large areas) of the grids.

Remembering that Second Life exists on a large array of servers, purchasing land is the equivalent to purchasing bandwidth. This helps your house and avatar to upload more quickly than someone who is in SL for free and is not a landowner. However, some residents complain because of the lack of zoning beyond PG and Mature. It is possible for a resident to spend more than $1,000 in real money to buy a large parcel of land, only to find another resident setting up a popular business right next door on a much smaller parcel of land. That business--if it draws enough traffic--will be a drain on network connections and greatly impact the owner who has spent a large sum for "superior" service, only to find reduced performance.

There have also been cases of neighbors harrassing each other by painting graffiti on walls or engaging in other acts of vandalism. "Land griefing" is a term for someone who obstructs another resident's view or creates a nuisance in order to force his neighbor to pay him to go away by purchasing the extortionist's land at a premium.

Like the real world, SL and other games attract con men, eager to steal from or cheat residents. Gambling is permitted in all areas of the adult grid. However, the machines are "built" by residents and may be rigged to win all the time. Residents do well to remember the warning, caveat emptor.

Another scam was reported by the sci-fi game "Eve Online" earlier this summer. A player named Cally set up a virtual bank and then absconded with billions in virtual currency deposited in his bank by gamers hoping to earn interest on their unspent dollars.

CNet News addressed the problem of virtual crooks in an article titled "Cons in the Virtual Gaming World." The article asked:

[W]hat happens when the rules of a game allow players to be subject to trickery, robbery, embezzlement, fraud and other deeds . . .? Some gaming experts . . . think that it might be time for real-world judicial systems to take the antics of virtual scammers like Cally seriously, even if the game creators are willing to let them get away with their schemes.

Wired News reported on May 18, 2006:

In what might be a first-of-its-kind lawsuit, a Pennsylvania lawyer is suing the publisher of the rapidly growing online world Second Life, alleging the company unfairly confiscated tens of thousands of dollars worth of his virtual land and other property.

For its part, SL accuses the attorney of scamming their land auction system. The resident, Marc Bragg, "copied the URL for a legitimate auction, then swapped in the ID number for land not yet up for sale publicly, so there would be no minimum bid and few, if any, competing bidders." In essence, he purchased a large plot of land that would have sold for a minimum of US$1,000 for US$300. When Second Life execs realized what he had done, they froze his account and refused to permit him to withdraw "about a million Lindens" (or approximately US$3,700). Bragg is suing for US$8,000, saying that there was nothing in the SL Terms of Service prohibiting him from doing what he did.

Most observers believe that Bragg's hacker-like method will lose him the case. However, many eyes are fixed on the outcome. reported: "On October 4, 2006, a first-of-its-kind lawsuit was filed in Chester County, Pennsylvania seeking remedies for a series of virtual land deals gone sour. The lawsuit was originally filed in magistrate court on May 1, 2006 and re-filed with a more detailed complaint because of importance of issues being addressed in the case . . . This suit is unique because the land does not actually exist in the real world and no law has yet been created in the United States with regard to the unique nature of virtual land."

Tomorrow, we'll look at more issues raised by life in virtual reality--issues involving the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act).

Monday, November 27, 2006

A Second Look At Second Life (Part II)

This is the second in a five-part series.

Yesterday, we talked about what Second Life (SL) is. Today we'll talk more about the Second Life economy. On Tuesday, we'll discuss the issues SL is experiencing, and how these might impact gamers in RL (real life). On Wednesday, we'll look at how those issues in virtual reality might impact non-gamers in real life, especially in the area of copyright. On Thursday, we'll look at the U.S. Congress' interest in SL and other virtual worlds.

In my description of Second Life, I pointed out that this virtual world has a thriving economy, which splashes over into the real world where gamers buy and sell goods and exchange Linden Dollars on the Internet. CNET News talked about this in an article on February 8, 2005:

[M]ost such offline trade is part of an underground economy discouraged by game publishers such as Sony Online Entertainment, which has blocked auctions of items for "EverQuest" and other popular games, claiming such trade infringes its intellectual property.

A few online game publishers, however, have decided to embrace the intersection of virtual and real-world economies, providing approved outlets in which players can convert in-game assets into real-world wealth. The result has been an intriguing blend of typical game dynamics and the free market.

Second Life is one of the latter types, which has encouraged the development of a free-wheeling economy. Eligible residents (those who pay for the service or who were early members of SL) receive small amounts of Linden Dollars from Linden Lab once a week. Other residents (those who join for free) must seek alternate ways to accumulate Linden Dollars in the virtual world or in real life.

Some residents have discovered that their online skills can be used for real world dollars, while others have found that their real world skills can be used to earn virtual dollars.

Occasional gamers who only drop into Second Life and other MMOGs once in a while don't have the time/skill to earn either dollars or rewards. For these persons, the answer is to buy the necessary rewards or dollars from online players who spend more time in-world. A vibrant market has developed for sale and purchase of game rewards and/or game dollars.

On the flip side, artists, designers and real estate investors have found whole new careers inside Second Life. From a Wired News story dated February 8, 2006:

Jennifer Grinnell, Michigan furniture delivery dispatcher turned fashion designer in cyber space, never imagined that she could make a living in a video game.

Grinnell's shop, Mischief, is in Second Life, a virtual world whose users are responsible for creating all content. Grinnell's digital clothing and "skins" allow users to change the appearance of their avatars -- their online representations -- beyond their wildest Barbie dress-up dreams.

Within a month, Grinnell was making more in Second Life than in her real-world job as a dispatcher. And after three months she realized she could quit her day job altogether. Now Second Life is her primary source of income, and Grinnell . . . claims she earns more than four times her previous salary.

And this isn't all. The May 1, 2006 edition of BusinessWeek Online talked about real world people and companies that are using Second Life:

as any flight simulator fan knows, an imaginary world can make a boffo training ground. Tim Allen, head of technology at Crompco Corp., an underground gas tank testing firm, discovered that as the pseudonymous "FlipperPA Peregrine" inside Second Life. There, he built a virtual gas station, graphically showing all the tanks and gas lines under the asphalt. He says it's much easier to grasp the station's workings this way than it is on paper. "It's great for training new hires and showing changing regulations to existing employees," says Allen.

Large corporations recently began to realize that they, too, could advertise and sell products inside the virtual world. In late June, American Apparel announced the opening of a virtual store in Second Life. BusinessWeek Online reported:

American Apparel is the first major retailer to set up shop in Second Life, and since the store's debut the company has sold "about 2,000 items" for $1 or less, says Raz Schionning, the company's director of Web services.

Other companies are rushing to jump on the bandwagon. Dell Computers issued a press release earlier this month, saying that Dell would be participating in Second Life. On November 14, Ro Parra, Dell senior VP, and Philip Rosedale, Linden Lab CEO, gave "an exclusive preview of Dell Island in Second Life. Following this invitation-only event, the island was open for the public to visit."

In another example of a corporation using Second Life, an article in BusinessWeek Online on August 23 said:

You won't be able to check into Aloft, Starwood's new line of moderately priced, loft-style hotels, until the first quarter of 2008. But in September, you can wander into the lobby of its digital Doppelganger inside the popular online world of Second Life.

Starwood, owner of the chic W brand as well as the Westin and Sheraton chains, is the first real-world hospitality company to open in Second Life, and joins a growing list of other companies who are using the online world to build their brand name, test products, or simply sell merchandise—albeit digital merchandise . . .

FISHING FOR FEEDBACK. For Starwood, opening Aloft in Second Life is a way to test-market the hotel's design and rapidly prototype the evolving concept. For instance, staffers will observe how people move through the space, what areas and types of furniture they gravitate towards, and what they ignore.

You begin to see the impact Second Life and other social networking sites (like MySpace) might have on the real world. We'll talk more about this in upcoming posts.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Welcome to Second Life

While I've kept an eye on Second Life, the metaverse created by Linden Lab, up until now I haven't been motivated to blog about it. However, as lawsuits started popping up, the subject became more interesting to me.

Today and tomorrow, we'll start by describing the world of Second Life. Tuesday and Wednesday, we'll talk about the growing unrest in its virtual world, and the implications its issues have for those of us in the real world--in particular, the very intriguing copyright issues being raised. On Thursday, we'll talk about the recent interest the U.S. Congress is taking in Second Life and other virtual worlds.

If you're unfamiliar with Second Life, it is--as I said--a metaverse, or a universe within the universe of the Internet. It is also a MMOG or a massively multiplayer online game. According to Wikipedia, Second Life is:

a privately owned, partly subscription-based 3-D virtual world, made publicly available in 2003 by San Francisco-based Linden Lab . . . The Second Life "world" resides in a large array of servers that are owned and maintained by Linden Lab, known collectively as "the grid". The Second Life client program provides its users (referred to as Residents) with tools to view and modify the SL world and participate in its virtual economy, which concurrently has begun to operate as a "real" market. At precisely 8:05:45 AM PDT, October 18, 2006, the population of Second Life hit 1 million Residents.

I checked a few minutes ago and, only a month after October 18th, Second Life now has 1.6 million residents. Linden Lab claims Second Life's population is increasing by 38% every month. There were 14,192 residents logged on when I looked.

Think about that for just a second. There are now over a million and a half people who have signed up to "play" Second Life with more arriving every day. This is a huge example of a social networking site, similar to other enormously popular online games or sites like MySpace.

The SL residents select an online name and avatar (an online representation of the resident) and begin to participate in life in virtual reality. Unlike the garden-variety computer game, no one "wins" because it is not set up that way. Instead, as an article in said back in 2003:

Ostensibly a game, its players control avatars in a world with few overriding rules, and where almost nothing was pre-planned. In short, play in Second Life is a perfect example of emergence, where things evolve not by design but by happenstance, and where a never-ending stream of the unexpected is the rationale for shelling out $15 a month.

It's the same reason kids play together on a playground ... because a playful environment is set up to give you the flexibility to do different things," said Amy Jo Kim . . . "One of the notable things is that you don't actually win the game. And that means, since humans tend to be goal-oriented, that people come up with their own goals, such as building the biggest building on the block.

Second Life mimics real life, including the economy. Real dollars can be exchanged for Linden Dollars (the exchange rate varies, but was approximately L$270 for US$1 earlier this month). There is even a secondary market in the real world to buy and sell Linden Dollars. Check out this eBay auction here.

Residents can use their Linden Dollars to buy and sell goods and services. They can purchase land from Linden Lab (or from other residents) and build houses, which they can then furnish. They can buy new clothing (skins) or hairdos for their avatars. They can open their own stores in which they can sell goods and services. They can throw parties, listen to music or join groups with like interests (as an example, some avatars are furries--animals).

There is an active group of World War II gamers in SL who purchased an island, which they then separated with the Jessie Wall. On one side of the Wall, they are safe from physical harm; on the other side--The Outlands--they face harm.

In the article on, Philip Rosedale, Linden Lab's CEO, described the arrival of the World War II gamers in Second Life:

They all came in to check us out. They took over ... about 16 acres and said, 'You come in here, we'll kill you,'" Rosedale said. "This one guy who built and sold guns had this little gun shop in the hinterlands.... And the WWII Onliners got on their little island, which happened to be next to this guy's gun shop. In one week, he made $100,000 (in game currency) selling guns to these guys. That was just the coolest thing.

The same article talked about Second Life's flexibility:

"Every time someone does something great, we say, let's see how we can help you," designer Aaron Brashears said. He pointed to things in Second Life like trivia games as examples. A player wanted to host a trivia game, an idea the designers liked. So they gave her some extra money to distribute as prizes and built in features allowing for a Jeopardy-like set, replete with buzzers to hit to answer questions.

Second Life mimics life's hardships and pleasures, including residents who hook up for virtual sex. Because young people were signing on with false birthdates and being exposed to mature content, Second Life launched Teen Second Life in 2005 for young people from 13 to 17. Content in Teen Second Life is monitored for the protection of the youngest residents of the virtual world.

Tomorrow we'll begin to talk about the side effects in the real world from virtual reality in Second Life. In the meantime, if you want to visit the website, here's the link. Or, you can check out New World Notes, the blog of Wagner James Au, a Second Life journalist who writes about life in this virtual world.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Taking Care of Business

Miss Snark directed readers yesterday to a blog of Neil Gaiman's from last month.

Neil is on a crusade to get writers to make wills--specifically, wills that dispose of their intellectual property. He tells a story about a writer who died without a will, thereby leaving the rights to his books by default to his estranged wife who did not handle those rights the way he would have wanted them handled.

Neil's post stopped me in my tracks. I do have a will. I also have an advance health directive, giving instructions on how to handle my health care should I become incapacitated and unable to speak for myself. Frankly, I've congratulated myself for being very responsible about such matters. However, I have given no thought whatsoever to intellectual property rights.

Had someone mentioned this issue to me before, I would have pooh-poohed the idea, arguing that such worries were pretentious for a newbie writer. I no longer think that way.

Even if you are unpublished, you should think about the person you would want to control the rights to your works after your death. If you think I'm being silly, read the Wikipedia entry on John Kennedy Toole, who was awarded the Pulitzer Prize posthumously twelve years after his death. Here's the link.

Everyone needs a will. Everyone needs an advance health directive. Every WRITER needs to address what will happen to his/her intellectual property after death--even if all you want is for someone to burn all existing manuscripts.

We're coming up on the end of the year. Start the new year off right. If you don't already have a will, please consider drawing one up and addressing intellectual property rights as a part of the process. If you already have a will, read Neil's post here and think about appointing a specific person to address your intellectual property issues. I love and respect my executor, but he is not the person I want to direct my intellectual property issues.

While you're at it, read the information on an advance health directive here.

Do these things for yourself. Do these things for your children. Do these things for the ones you love.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Publishers Chasing Universities for Copyright

Back on November 8 and 9, I did a couple of posts about the high costs of textbooks.

Today a friend (Thanks, CN) emailed me an article that appeared in Monday's Seattle Post-Intelligencer (PI). The introductory paragraph said:

Book publishers say professors who post long excerpts of protected texts on the Internet without permission cost the industry at least $20 million a year. Cornell University, the Ivy League college in Ithaca, N.Y., agreed in September to regulate work its faculty puts on the Web, in response to a threatened lawsuit from the Association of American Publishers.

I immediately went to the AAP's website to check for press releases.

Sure enough, on September 19, the AAP issued a release in which it said:

As part of ongoing discussions over the manner in which Cornell University provides copyrighted course content to students in digital formats, the Association of American Publishers (AAP) and Cornell recently announced a new set of copyright guidelines to govern the use of electronic course materials on the library’s electronic course reserves system, on faculty and departmental web pages, and through the various “course management” websites used at Cornell. The guidelines affirm that the use of such
content is governed by the same legal principles that apply to printed materials.

When I was in graduate school from 1990 to 1993, I always appreciated the few professors who put together a bundle of articles and chapters from various textbooks in order to save students from having to buy multiple books. I would pick up the photocopied bundle at the school's copy shop. The price included the copies and the copyright fees.

According to the Seattle PI article, "The Cornell campus store assembles course packs and handles payment of permission fees, which alone are 'considerably in excess' of $200,000 per year."

Since that time, the outrageous cost of textbooks has more teachers seeking alternatives to asking students to pay for three or four books per class. In 2004, Congress held hearings on the escalating cost of books (the estimates at that time were that four years of college could carry a textbook bill of $4,000). No relief for students came out of those hearings.

However, with the increasing popularity of the Internet, many professors have been posting the course material online.

Tracey Armstrong, the chief operating officer of the Copyright Clearance Center, which collects royalties from universities on behalf of publishers, "estimates that publishers' losses may be more than $20 million a year, based on the $27 million in annual royalties her agency collects." (PI)

Patricia Schroeder, head of the AAP, said: AAP hopes that Cornell's actions will set an example for other colleges and universities and provide them an opportunity to review their own practices and institute similar guidelines."

An Early Holiday Gift

Here's an early holiday gift from me to you.

This link here will give you a list of the shortcuts you can take when searching Google.


Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

Wishing you blessings on this day of thanks:

Time to spend with family or friends, or just to relax on your own,

A place you love, or where you feel safe,

Activities that give you pleasure or comfort,

And a sense of contentment--even if only for today.

I'm spending today with those I love.

See you again on Friday.

Big Brother Isn't Watching; He's Listening

Okay, now this story creeped me out. I read it on Listening Post. It was written by Eliot van Buskirk.

The Dutch town of Groningen has activated a system of street microphones in order to pick up aggressive sounding voices. The microphones have software that detects "high frequency vowel sounds [that] span a broader frequency range." The police have already made three arrests during a trial run of the system.

The developer of the technology is Peter van Hengel who claims: "Aggressive people tend to tense their larynx, and the sound made by their vocal cards is distorted . . . A truly aggressive voice is very hard to imitate."

I *think* I'm okay with cameras everywhere we go. While the idea of being watched all the time also creeps me out, I recognize that the safety value outweighs the intrusive element. However, when it comes to having my conversations *heard*, I feel completely differently.

I'd hate to think that, before long, our anti-terrorist efforts will be expanded to include sound systems like this.

Remember: Fifty-seven years ago, George Orwell wrote 1984, in which the citizens of Oceania were under complete surveillance by Big Brother.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Internet Liability Case Decision

A significant ruling was handed down in the California Supreme Court Tuesday. The case, Barrett v. Rosenthal, related to Internet liability.

The ruling summarized the facts as follows:

Plaintiffs, Dr. Stephen J. Barrett and Dr. Timothy Polevoy, operated Web sites devoted to exposing health frauds. Defendant Ilena Rosenthal . . . operated an Internet discussion group. Plaintiffs alleged that Rosenthal and others committed libel by maliciously distributing defamatory statements in e-mails and Internet postings, impugning plaintiffs' character and competence and disparaging their efforts to combat fraud. They alleged that Rosenthal republished various messages even after Dr. Barrett warned her they contained false and defamatory information.

Ilena Rosenthal claimed she was protected under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, in which Congress stated: "No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider." She was not the original person to "defame" Barrett and Polevoy. She re-printed something that a man named Tim Bolen had previously written.

The original hearing of the case upheld her position. However, then the California Court of Appeals, in a radical decision, ruled in favor of the plaintiffs. Tuesday, the California Supreme Court overturned the Court of Appeals saying:

We conclude that section 230 prohibits 'distributor' liability for Internet publications. We further hold that section 230(c)(1) immunizes individual 'users' of interactive computer services, and that no practical or principled distinction can be drawn between active and passive use. Accordingly, we reverse the Court of Appeals.

We acknowledge that recognizing broad immunity for defamatory re-publications on the Internet has some troubling consequences. Until Congress chooses to revise the settled law in this area, however, plaintiffs who contend they were defamed in an Internet posting may only seek recovery from the original source of the statement.

This is huge. The court spent a fair amount of time talking about the difference under law between a "distributor," like a newspaper vendor or bookseller versus a "publisher." According to the California Supreme Court, historically, "under the common law, "distributors" . . . are liable only if they had notice of a defamatory statement in their merchandise. The publisher of the newspaper or book where the statement originally appeared, however, may be held liable even without notice."

The California Supreme Court said that: "subjecting Internet service providers and users to defamation liability would tend to chill online speech."

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) applauded this decision, saying that if the court had found in favor of the plaintiffs:

the implications for free speech online are far-reaching. Bloggers could be held liable when they quote other people's writing, and website owners could be held liable for what people say in message boards on their sites. The end result is that many people would simply cease to publish or host websites.

The ACLU agreed with the EFF and their staff attorney Ann Brick was quoted on the EFF website:

Section 230 protects the ordinary people who use the Internet and email to pass on items of interest written by others, free from the fear of potentially ruinous lawsuits filed by those who don't like what was said about them . . . The vitality of the Internet would quickly dissipate if the posting of content written by others created liability.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The New and Future James Bond

My strongest memory of my maternal grandfather is of him reading. For years, whenever we visited, I'd come home with a huge box of paperback books he'd finished. Since his tastes ran to westerns and sci-fi, I was reading Zane Grey and Edgar Rice Burroughs at age ten, with a dictionary beside me.

One day, Grandpa wasn't as vigilant as usual, and I ended up with a copy of Ian Fleming's Casino Royale. I was probably fourteen by then, and Fleming was already dead after writing twelve novels featuring James Bond.

I'd never read anything like Casino Royale. I was immediately hooked, but knew I'd have to find a way to sneak more of the racy Fleming books into the house. Over the next year, I managed to read all the novels in the series by checking the books out of the library at peak hours, tucked between copies of more traditional teenage fare.

The Bond of those books was brutal, misogynistic and full of hubris. I had to look the word "hubris" up, having never seen it before reading Ian Fleming. The author used it to describe James Bond early on, and I've never forgotten the word.

All this, of course, is prelude to my review of the new film Casino Royale.

The reviews have said that the 21st Bond movie brings the series back to basics. This assessment is absolutely on target. This is not the Bond to whom film buffs have grow accustomed. While the movie is non-stop action, there are few, if any, of the over-the-top CGI special effects fans have come to expect.

The action begins quickly with a flashback to Bond's attaining his 007 (license to kill) status. Another early scene follows an eye-popping footrace through a construction site in Madagascar. I was so impressed with the actor/stuntman playing the terrorist Bond chases that I had to look him up. Turns out Sebastien Foucan is the founder of the sport of free running. Free running is an offshoot of the better known parkour, which originated in France. In both free running and parkour, a runner tries to cross a designated urban site in the fastest and most direct manner possible, using skills such as jumping, vaulting and climbing. Sebastien Foucan is remarkable. Both his scene and the earlier flashback set the tone for the movie--the action is up close and personal, not Olympic-sized and distant.

Much has been made of Daniel Craig as the first blond and blue-eyed Bond
--as well as the shortest. I was far more interested in the ruthless, dispassionate nature of Daniel Craig's portrayal. This was the Bond I'd first met in those long-ago novels, the man who both scared and thrilled my teenage self. While Sean Connery looked dangerous, his tongue-in-cheek jokes and urbane smoothness reassured movie fans. Daniel Craig looks and acts dangerous.

The plot is also far less contrived than earlier movies. Bond is after Le Chiffre (translates to "the figure, the number or the amount") a man who acts as banker to terrorist groups. Unknown to his clients, Le Chiffre is speculating with their money. After Bond interferes in Le Chiffre's attempt to manipulate an airline stock, the action moves to Montenegro where Le Chiffre attempts to win back the $100 million that Bond has cost him. Le Chiffre is a desperate man; if he cannot rebuild his clients' accounts, they will come after him.

M16 sends Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) from Her Majesty's Treasury with $15 million to bankroll Bond in the game--which has changed from the original Baccarat variation of Chermin de Fer to Texas Hold 'Em. My teenage self had to go to the large dictionary at school to find a definition of Chermin de Fer.

Bond is blunt with Vesper--she's not his type. She asks, "Too smart?" He responds, "Single." It's a personality reveal: He prefers his women married. It makes for less fuss later. The deepening of Vesper and James' relationship is an interesting variation on the usual Bond. So is Vesper's assessment of Bond as being from a less than aristocratic background.

There are sly winks and nods to the other movies. Bond wins a silver Aston Martin DBS from one of Le Chiffre's henchmen in a poker game early on. A second example comes when Vesper Lynd introduces herself to Bond on a train. She says, "I'm the money." He responds, "Every penny of it," a reference to the character of Moneypenny, M's secretary. Finally, he doesn't say the line, "Bond, James Bond" until the very end of the film.

The only problems I had with the film were the terrible-awful-horrible opening credits and the even more dreadful theme song. Talk about a clunker tune best forgotten. Yuck.

I'm a diehard Sean Connery fan. I never went to a film starring another Bond although I've probably seen most of them on television by now. Having said that, I must say Daniel Craig's performance is superb. I will look forward eagerly to more James Bond movies with Craig (he's signed a contract for a total of three). I'd grown tired of the over-the-top plots and scenes. This film really did feel like coming home--in more ways than one.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Power of the People

I spent a very satisfying hour on Monday morning, contacting Fox Network and then my local Fox affiliate to voice my dissatisfaction with the O.J. Simpson "special." I then contacted four sponsors of my local Fox affiliate: two national (Fisher Price and AT&T) and two local (a grocery chain and a car dealership). It was very interesting to me to find that, when I spoke to a live person (as opposed to a recording), the two people I spoke with immediately said, "I agree. I'll pass your message along, and I may make some calls of my own."

I had a number of errands to run on Monday afternoon and came home to find that lots of individuals like myself were contacting Fox. More importantly, Fox sponsors were contacting Fox.

By now, you've heard the news. Rupert Murdoch has pulled both the ill-advised book and the even more ill-advised television special.

When people bond together for a common cause, things do happen.

It's my hope that O.J. will crawl back under a rock. However, I expect it's far more likely that he will self-publish his book and try to capitalize on all the publicity.

Hurray for North Dakota

I just read this morning's Broadcasting & Cable News (B&C News) here. It was the first time I realized that the O.J. Simpson Fox television special is scheduled to air during sweeps week.

This is a blatant attempt to capitalize on the murders of two people. I am disgusted by the depths to which Fox is sinking.

Fortunately, some affiliate stations are rebelling against this slimy move. B&C News reports that "North Dakota’s Prime Cities Broadcasting is refusing to air the interview."

Hurray for North Dakota. B&C also said, "poor advertising prospects and mass amounts of negative publicity, and the possibility remains that Fox could still decide to yank publisher Judith Regan’s interview of Simpson entirely."

Encouraged, I clicked over to my local Fox affiliate and sent them the following email:

I am outraged and disgusted by your network's plan to air an interview with O.J. Simpson during sweeps week. This is sinking to new lows.

Please be advised that I am making a list of those companies who advertise on your network this week. I am writing an email, which I plan to forward to all of those advertisers promising NEVER to use their products again should that "special" air. Whatever short-term bump you get from broadcasting this abomination will hopefully be offset by advertisers who will be furious with you.

If enough people hit Fox where they live--their advertisers--we can hopefully stop them from broadcasting this show.

Feel free to copy this email or parts of it. Flex your muscles as a viewer. Put a stop to this travesty. You can go to this link, to find your local Fox affiliate and send them an email or phone and leave a message with their advertising department. Alternatively, you can call Fox News at (888) 369-4762 and leave a comment to let them know how you feel and what, if any action, you plan to take. Remember: Their advertisers are their lifeblood. Threaten that, and you will get their attention.

Marketing Tools To Build Buzz

In early September, a friend and I attended ABC's premiere night at the Granada Theatre in Dallas to see the opening shows for "Ugly Betty" and "Men in Trees." As usual with such affairs, we each received a gift bag filled with gimcracks advertising existing and upcoming ABC shows.

On our way out the door, we were confronted by a group of teenagers asking if they could have the candy bars in our bags because the wrappers contained clues to a treasure hunt. We gave them one of our two bars, and the kids ran off to accost other departing members of the audience.

I was reminded of those candy bars this morning when I read an article in Thursday's Wall Street Journal (WSJ).

The article titled "Believe It Or Not, Fake Biotech Firm Is Key Marketing Ploy For Crichton Novel," said:

Eager to get viewers more involved with its TV program "Lost," the [ABC] network . . . aired a commercial during the show for an entity known as the "Hanso Foundation." The ad asked viewers to call a toll-free number to learn more about the mysterious organization, part of a broader marketing "game" -- essentially a scavenger hunt -- the network operated over five months.

Those who called Hanso . . . received clues to follow, directing them to a Web site or elsewhere, says Michael Benson, ABC's senior vice president of marketing. Ultimately, the game included Internet radio broadcasts, and even distributing candy bars with a fictional name to people in the U.S., United Kingdom and Australia, he says.

The WSJ article also discussed the latest "fake," which is advertising Michael Crichton's upcoming novel:

A puppy that never ages. A cactus that grows human hair. Giant cockroaches presented as pets.

Genes run amok at Nextgencode, which is as it should be. The "company" is the creation of News Corp.'s HarperCollins Publishers, and its sole purpose is to gin up interest in "Next," Michael Crichton's coming thriller about genetic research. The publisher plans to post videos on YouTube and other popular Web sites touting the accomplishments and products of Nextgencode.

The article cautions that publicity firms need to be careful. Consumers who fall for a fake marketing ploy can feel tricked and embarrassed if the "joke" is revealed too late. There was a backlash against the Sci Fi Channel when it claimed to have had a falling out with M. Night Shyamalan over an unauthorized documentary. The phony contretemps was actually a hoax to promote buzz for director Shyamalan's film, "The Village."

I was amused by the article because I can remember receiving a "fake" wedding invitation nearly twenty years ago. The invitation was on good quality paper and included the little "return" card and envelope. It took several minutes before I realized that the bride (whose first and last names were the same as one of my cousins) was a character on a television show where a big wedding was planned for the new season. I called a phone number I found on the invitation and ended up with a publicity firm that told me they had mailed wedding invitations to all the people in the phone book with my surname in Dallas and other major cities on behalf of the network.

That wedding invitation was a novelty for me. However, in the years since, I've seen or heard of many such ploys publicizing TV shows and movies. I don't recall seeing one to advertise a book before this Crichton device.

Building buzz is big business these days.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Bobbin Makes His Internet Debut

I am very fortunate in the location of my house. I don't have many immediate neighbors because I live on a corner facing woods on two sides. However, to the east I am next door to a lovely family and, to the north, the rear of my property adjoins to that of a very nice couple.

The family next door has five children who were all home-schooled. I have been thrilled to watch the kids grow over the last eight years. The two oldest are now off at college, leaving three very charming teenage boys.

One of the boys got a new camera recently and decided to practice by doing a video of Bobbin, my two-year-old feline.

Bob was a little camera-shy, and the cameraman was a little nervous about the flailing claws. However, here is the link for your viewing enjoyment:

You'll note that Bob maintains his hold on territory and does not back down. I've mentioned his prowess as a hunter in previous posts. The cameraman's mother once prophesied that, some day, Bob would bring me a coyote as a trophy. Since, to date, he's come home with birds, mice, rats, squirrels, tarantulas, gophers and snakes, I live in fear of that day.

I'm off today to have a late lunch and see the new Bond movie with a friend. Hope your Sunday is as pleasant.

Do NOT Shoot Yourself In The Foot

I was cruising blogs today and came across a comment that really hit home with me.

The Knight Agency's Elaine Spencer was answering questions. A lot of people were complaining about never getting an answer to their e-query letters. Elaine's response included this:

I have however noticed a VERY annoying trend. I receive many queries that seem perfect. I read the query, formulate a response, and reply. Then my reply is bounced back to me with a note asking me to submit my address to become an approved sender so as to alert the account holder that I am not a spammer. I do not have time for this. In these cases, again, a response inevitably is never sent.

Boy, is she singing my song. I get a fair amount of unsolicited emails every day. I receive membership applications for the Passionate Ink chapter, I receive emails from people who have read my blog, and I receive emails from people who have read my posts on other loops or blogs. I ALWAYS respond. However, every time I receive an automatic response, asking me to fill out an application, I delete it and move on.

This feels INCREDIBLY rude to me. YOU'VE sent me an unsolicited email and then demand that I fill out an application to respond???? What's up with that?

Years ago, when I was first starting out in the business world, there was an old ploy intended to establish oneupsmanship in telephone conversations. A person would have his secretary place a call for him. When the intended recipient of the call picked up the line, the secretary would say, "Just a moment for Mr. Jones," leaving the recipient on hold for a call he hadn't placed. Sometimes the recipient was left on hold for two or three minutes while the caller finished another phone call. Intended to establish who had the upper hand, it was was both rude and annoying. Unless it was the recipient's boss on the line, a lot of people simply hung up.

This email "application" nonsense feels like the virtual equivalent of that old power game. In effect the person with this filter on his email is saying, "My time is more important than yours. I'm too busy to wade through spam. Therefore, if you want to email me, you must fill out an application to do so."

Elaine is right. A lot of writers have these filtering mechanisms. I know. I run into this application process a couple of times every week.

On the average day, I pick up 250 spam emails. Fortunately 75% of them go into my spam filter and can be disposed of by one click of my "delete" button. I choose to hand delete the remaining 25% because if I set my spam filter higher, I begin to trap legitimate emails in the filter.

Is it annoying to wade through those 65 spam emails by hand every day? Of course it is. However, I prefer to do that than to risk deleting a legitimate email by accident.

Wake up, people. Even if you enter the agent's email address into your system when you send the query, you can't guarantee that s/he will use the same email address to respond to you. My agent uses a different email address to respond than the address at which writers query her.


Saturday, November 18, 2006

Addendum to Previous Post

Yesterday I finally gave in to both Blogger's demand that I move into their new beta system and Yahoo's entreaties to upgrade my system. I'd avoided both upgrades for so long that Yahoo was reduced to splitting my screen. Half the screen was devoted to dire warnings about the continued stability of my system. I finally did both upgrades yesterday evening.

All this to say that I was having "technical difficulties" when I posted last night. I was still trying to switch back and forth out of Blogger's "edit Html" mode. I had huge problems figuring out how to copy from Word into Blogger in the two modes (Yes, I admit it: I'm a slower learner when it comes to computers).

When I read my post from yesterday, I realized the following paragraphs had not transferred to the end of the post after the Incentive Program:

I've repeatedly said that I believe self-publishing is the wave of the future and that bricks-and-mortar bookstores need to be enlarging their vision of themselves. Amazon's moves may pave the way to helping self-pubbed writers and toward pushing bricks-and-mortars bookstores to reinvent themselves.

One of the huge impediments to self-publishing is that, once a writer holds a book in his hands, he still needs a way to drive traffic to his site. While Amazon has not solved that problem, it's easy to imagine a virtual marketplace--a bazaar, if you will--of self-pubbed writers linked together in a storefront that caters to fans of a particular genre. Can't you see a sci-fi site where readers could navigate easily among the self-pubbed books and topics of interest? Perhaps in one area a writer would be engaging in an online chat with readers while, in another area, a writer could be explaining how to build a believable fantasy world. While many writers are bonding together in Yahoo loops now, I suspect a group located on Amazon (together with a virtual bookstore) would make more sense.

Bricks-and-mortar bookstores will increasingly face some of the issues that university libraries now face. On September 19, 2005, I did a post titled "Not Your Grandmother's Library," in which I discussed the growing concern among universities regarding the lack of usage of the school library. Students are doing their research online and not visiting the libraries as frequently as they once did. There have been multiple initiatives among universities to discuss alternate uses for their libraries.

Some bookstores are already enlarging their role within the community or as places for social gatherings (installing coffee bars or Internet spots, hosting writers' meetings, etc). In my post about NAIBA the other day, I pointed out that the trade organization is urging its booksellers to embrace the role of handselling books. These are ways that booksellers can ensure their future and the future of their physical plants.

The Future of Internet Services, Part II

This is Part II of two parts. Yesterday we talked about Jeff Bezos and his plans for the future of

BusinessWeek (BW) Online quotes Bezos: "'All the kinds of things you need to build great Web-scale applications are already in the guts of Amazon . . . The only difference is, we're now exposing the guts, making [them] available to others' . . . And he hopes, making money."

Bezos' strategy--and it's a bold one--is to make Amazon's system and services available to Internet users so that the small business person will have access to the same services that a large company like Amazon or Google has access to. He "is initially aiming these services at startups and other small companies with a little tech savvy. But it's clear that businesses of all kinds are the ultimate target market."

Among the new companies and services Amazon has acquired or launched in the last eight years are S3 (Simple Storage Service), EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud) and MTurk (Mechanical Turk). With S3, "Amazon charges 15 cents per gigabyte per month for businesses of all kinds to store data and programs on Amazon's vast array of disk drives. It also charges merchants 45 cents per square foot per month for real space in its real warehouses. EC2 rents out computing power, starting at 10 cents an hour for the equivalent of a basic server computer. MTurk takes on the jobs that a computer doesn't do well. Amazon has "set up a semi-automated global marketplace for online piecework, such as transcribing snippets of podcasts . . . Amazon takes a 10% commission on those jobs." (BW) Thousands of individual people around the world take on small tasks assigned to them (like picking the best photo out of a group) and are paid by the piece. They can work from home while watching TV and earning money at the same time.

All these services "potentially make a profit center out of idle computing capacity needed for [Amazon's] . . . retail operation. Like most computer networks, Amazon's uses as little as 10% of its capacity at any one time just to leave room for occasional spikes." (BW)

We talked yesterday about Web 2.0 being the next wave of the Internet. Amazon is seeking to place itself at the head of that wave.

"Google, MySpace, and YouTube cracked open for the masses the means to produce media and the advertising that sustains it, creating tens of billions of dollars in market value and billions more in new revenues. Now, by sharing Amazon's infrastructure on the cheap, Bezos is taking that same idea into the realm of physical goods and human talent, potentially empowering a whole new swath of businesses byond the Internet itself." (BW)

On Tuesday, Amazon issued a press release announcing three new innovations and an incentive plan:

aStore: Using aStore, Associates "create complete storefronts on their websites quickly and easily. Associates with virtually no technical skills can create an online store that includes products from any of Amazon's 35-plus categories and popular Amazon shopping features such as Customer Reviews, Editor Reviews, Wish Lists, and Listmania."

Omakase Links : With these links, Amazon assumes "one of the hardest parts of operating an e-commerce site--personalization . . . Omakase Links allow Associates to automatically display products personalized to visitors' purchase and browse history on Amazon, as well as the content of the Associate's sites."

Product Previews: Associates can permit Internet users to preview product information without clicking through to When visitors hover over a Product Preview link in a body of text or a small virtual storefront, a window appears that will include the product image, pricing, reviews and availability.

Incentive Program : "Website owners who sign up to be Amazon Associates and take advantage of these new tools will receive referral fees of up to 8.5% when visitors to their sites click on products and complete their purchases on the website . . . Between now [11/14] and 12/31/06, Associates can earn up to $1,000 in additional referral fees by using aStore and Omakase Links. During that time, Associates will earn an additional 4 percent when they refer visitors to using aStore or Omakase Links (up to a maximum of $500 from each feature per Associate).

BusinessWeek Online asks the question: Is Amazon biting off more than it can chew? Only time will tell.

Stay tuned . . .

Friday, November 17, 2006

I Can't Believe I'm Saying This

I'm an American. I believe in free speech and freedom of the press. I'm also a writer, and I believe in supporting other writers and their publishers.

Having said all that, I cannot believe I'm going to make the suggestion that I'm about to make at the end of this post.

Naked greed and blatant arrogance are never attractive. However, they do make for compelling reading.

Judith Regan, the publisher who agreed to publish O.J.'s "hypothetical" book--If I Did It--released a statement this morning. You can read it here on the Drudge Report.

Both Publishers Weekly and Publishers Lunch devoted a fair amount of space to the infamous book in today's editions. Michael Cader of Publishers Lunch directed readers to the Boston's Globe's editorial, titled "Blood Money for O.J." In part, the editorial said:

NORMALLY, we do not comment on books we haven't read, but in the case of O.J. Simpson's "If I Did It," we'll make an exception. This supposed tell-all degrades the publishing business and calls into question the integrity of everyone responsible for putting it into print or arranging the television interviews to publicize its release. No one should buy it, or watch the two-part interview that will precede its release Nov. 30. And advertisers should shun the programs as well. . . "If I Did It" should be left to molder unbought in the remainder bins..

Judith Regan's ReganBooks is a subsidiary of HarperMorrow's General Books Group. HarperMorrow is, of course, owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, which will also be televising the television interview with Simpson later this month.

Know that Simpson would not have done this without a way to get paid. Somehow, some way, those dollars are going to him. Please do not put money in his pocket. Don't reward this cold-blooded, offensive act by him and his publisher.

If you MUST read the flipping book, wait and buy it from a used bookstore. At least then you'll know that no dollars went to either ReganBooks or Simpson himself.

The Future of Internet Services, Part I

We repeatedly see references to Web 2.0. Everyone "knows" that it refers to the next generation of the Internet, but what does it really mean? I checked Wikipedia and found the following definition:

a phrase coined by O'Reilly Media in 2004, refers to a supposed second generation of Internet-based services--such as social networking sites . . . that emphasize online collaboration and sharing among users. O'Reilly Media . . . used the phrase as a title for a series of conferences and since 2004 it has become a popular . . . buzzword amongst certain technical and marketing communities.

This is the perfect introduction to my post for today. Someone challenged me this week on questions I've raised about the future of brick-and-mortar bookstores and about my belief that self-publishing will be the wave of the future. To answer these, I'm going to focus on a company that doesn't immediately leap to mind when you think of the one company that personifies the future of the Internet.

Many people when asked to name a company that is on the forefront of Internet dominance would say Google or Microsoft or even Yahoo. Instead, I'm going to select Amazon.

Amazon is in an awkward position. Its stockholders are griping, stock analysts are listing it as a "sell" and its operating margins for the last year have been less than even Wal-Mart's, a company legendary for the thinnest of profit margins.

Most of the these issues stem from one thing: Amazon founder Jeff Bezos' huge investment in new technologies and in purchasing other Internet companies. In a story dated November 12, BusinessWeek Online estimates that Bezos has spent "12 years and $2 billion perfecting many of the pieces behind [his] . . . online store."

Let's spend just a few minutes looking at some of the companies Bezos has acquired or developed. Thanks to Wikipedia and BusinessWeek Online for the descriptions and dates acquired:

Amazon Associates: an affiliate marketing program. By linking to Amazon products and services, an Associate can receive up to 8.5% in referral fees for doing so. Launched in 1996.
International Movie Database: an online database ( of information about actors, films, television shows, television stars, video games and production crew personnel. Acquired 1998.
PlanetAll: a Web-based address book, calendar, and reminder service. Acquired in 1998.
Junglee: an XML-based data-mining startup. Acquired in 1998
Alexa: a website ( that provides information on the web traffic to other websites. Acquired 1999. an e-commerce company developing technology for business and consumer transactions on the Internet. Acquired 1999. a website that operates the popular, a seller of used and antiquarian books, as well as, which features music memorabilia and rare recordings. Acquired 1999.
Amazon Marketplace: a service that let customers sell used books, CDs, DVDs, and other products alongside new items. Launched 2001.
Search Inside: a feature that makes it possible for customers to search for keywords in the full text of many books in the Amazon catalog. Launched 2003. is an Internet search engine from It went live in 2004. a Chinese e-commerce Web site. Acquired 2004.
BookSurge: a print-on demand company. Acquired in 2005.
Mechanical Turk (MTurk): an application programming interface (API) allowing programs to dispatch tasks to human processors. Beta testing since 2005.
Amazon S3 (Simple Storage Service): an online storage service that is inexpensive, scalable, responsive, and highly reliable. The service charges storage fees of 15 cents per gigabyte per month and data transfer fees of 20 cents per gigabyte.Launched 2006.
Amazon Grocery: website service selling non-perishable food and household items. They offer Super Saver Shipping (free shipping to a single location for purchases over $25 USD). Launched 2006.
EC2 ("Elastic Compute Cloud"): a virtual site farm, allowing users to use the Amazon infrastructure with its high reliability to run diverse applications ranging from running simulations to web hosting. Beta testing since 2006.
Amazon Unbox: a digital video downloading service that offers thousands of television shows, movies and other videos from more than 30 studios and networks. Launched 2006.

It's easy to see where Bezos' money and Amazon's profits have gone.

Tomorrow we'll talk about Bezos' vision, and what he plans to do with all his new toys.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

National Book Awards Announced

Last night the National Book Foundation held its awards dinner in New York to announce the winners of the 2006 National Book Foundation. Publishers Weekly send out an alert with the winners' names this morning:

Fiction: The Echo Maker by Richard Powers (FSG)

Nonfiction: The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan (Houghton Mifflin)

Poetry: Splay Anthem by Nathaniel Mackey (New Directions)

Young People's Literature: The Pox Party: The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing by M.T. Anderson (Candlewick)

Regular readers of this blog will remember my post of November 10 titled "Are Graphic Novels Literature?" in which I applauded the National Book Foundation for nominating a graphic novel as a finalist in the Young People's Literature category. While American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang did not win, being named a finalist was a huge break-through.

Congratulations to all the winners and finalists!

One More Thing

On Wednesday, Shelf Awareness referred to a story that appeared in the Napa Valley Register the previous day. The story comes at a great time--while we're talking about what brick and mortar bookstores can do to adapt to the new world in which they find themselves.

An independent bookstore called Bookends in downtown Napa decided to begin selling used books alongside the new books. The used books (hardback and trade paper only) are mixed in with their newer cousins. A white sticker saying "used" on the spine alerts the customer to the book's status.

"'It’s easier to take a chance on a new book or a new author when it’s a lower price,'" Barbara Heppe, the manager of the store said at the end of a year into the experiment. She estimated that the store sells about a hundred used books a month.

“'Current popular fiction definitely goes the fastest,' said Heppe, citing 'The Secret Life of Bees' by Sue Monk Kidd as one example."

The store accepts used books in good condition and will offer 20% of the book's original value in cash or 30% in store credit. Ms. Heppe says that about half her customers choose cash while the other half choose the store credit, which remains on the store's records indefinitely.

A comment by Heppe reflects a practical attitude in her willingness to adapt to the realities of the new market: “'This is just one more thing we can do that people have been looking for . . . That’s how independent bookstores stay in business — by providing the best customer service they can.'”

Another Workshop Proposal

Well, having survived the experience of putting together a joint proposal to do a workshop for RWA's annual conference, I struck out on my own this week and proposed to do an online workshop for Outreach International (

I've taken a number of classes through Outreach International in the past and liked the idea of doing my first workshop for them. I read the "Call for Proposals" on Sunday, whipped out an email in about an hour and shipped it off.

The coordinator came back to me with some questions. After an exchange of four or five emails, we had a finished proposal.

Like the proposal for RWA, it will be some time before I get a yea or nay on the thing. However, since both proposals are for the latter half of 2007, I can wait.

Have I told you how much I love to teach workshops? Back when I was in graduate school, I earned extra money by doing workshops on crisis intervention. A long time ago in a galaxy far away, I actually did two days of training for the Dallas SWAT team. I created crisis simulations in which the cops would try to talk me down from committing suicide or homicide. More than once over that two days, the officers involved complained that I did "crazy" way too well.

We all have our talents. The trick is finding a way to put them to good use.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

NAIBA Wants To Be Frontline Of Sales Force

Things are happening faster than I can post about them. I'll have to save some items for other days.

One interesting announcement. Tuesday's Shelf Awareness reported that the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association (NAIBA) announced that they are going to "change the focus of their annual convention and trade show from 'soliciting orders to selling better what booksellers have already acquired.'"

Monday's Publishers Weekly quoted the NAIBA Executive Director Eileen Dengler: "We want publishers to view booksellers as part of their sales team . . . We're telling publishers that the reason they're [at the show] is to take selected books and to tell booksellers how to sell them, why to sell them and every piece of information they need to know."

At a time when independent booksellers are going out of business at an alarming rate and large bookchains are being squeezed by discounters like Wal-Mart and Target, this dramatic shift in focus makes good sense. NAIBA is trying to position itself as an extension of the publishers' sales force. Handselling books works. The big box retailers may offer books at deep discounts, but they don't have staff pushing those sales.

This is a great example of adaptation. More than once on this blog, I've posed the question as to what the future of brick and mortar bookstores will be in the digital age. If booksellers can transform themselves into the "frontline of a publishers' sales force" as the new NAIBA board president Joe Drabyak told Publishers Weekly, they can solidify a viable place for themselves in the digital world.

The timing of the announcement is somewhat ironic, coming as it does right after Random House announced the layoff of part of their sales force.

An End To The DaVinci Code Lawsuits

A couple of interesting developments in the publishing world this week.

First, reported on Monday that the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Lewis Perdue's lawsuit against Dan Brown in which he accused Brown of copyright infringement.

"The justices let stand a lower court ruling that . . . Perdue didn't show that The Da Vinci Code, published in 2003, was substantially similar to his 2000 book, Daughter of God.

Perdue had sought $150 million in damages from Brown, Random House and Columbia Pictures (producer of the movie by the same name). He claimed that Brown took "substantial elements" from Perdue's book. Brown's attorneys obviously disagreed.

Unlike Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh who sued Brown for copyright infringement in London, Perdue sued Brown in the New York court system. Brown won both the case in London and the case in New York. Copyright laws in both the UK and the US do not permit infringement claims based on "ideas," only on actual copied verbiage.

With respect to the Perdue case, Bloomberg reported that, "A federal judge in New York granted judgment to Brown, saying the only similarities between the books involved historical facts and abstract themes. The New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed." Dissatisfied with the results, Perdue took the case all the way to the Supreme Court.

It appears that Dan Brown is finally finished with all claims of copyright infringement against The DaVinci Code.

The Impact of a Classic

Among my favorite gadgets is my Sony S2 Walkman. It's lightweight, and I can wear it on an armband or waistband or in a pocket. It carries radio and weather bands as well as TV channels.

I first purchased the Walkman so that I could listen to NPR while I was gardening. However, now, three years later, I wear it almost all the time when I'm outside of the house and by myself.

I say all this because I listened to NPR's "To the Best of Our Knowledge" Sunday afternoon while I was running errands. Every time I checked out of a store line or stopped to talk to a clerk, I was forced to lower the volume of the radio. I missed whole chunks of the program (and haven't yet gone back and downloaded it on

That said, the subject of Sunday's program was "What Makes a Classic?" The episode opened with Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone." They also talked about the infamous novel, Lolita.

Anne Strainchamps interviewed the daughter of Clifton Fadiman, a book reviewer who worked for the New York Times and judged books for The Book of the Month Club. Reviewing Gertrude Stein, he once said that she was "a past master at making nothing happen very slowly." Ouch.

I knew who Fadiman was because, when I turned nine years old, one of my eight aunts gave me a copy of Jane Eyre for my birthday. The foreward was by Clifton Fadiman. About once a year, I would pick that book up and try to read it. Each year, I started by reading that foreward by Clifton Fadiman. I had no idea who he was; I just wanted to read the freaking book. I found the novel deadly until I was about fourteen when I had a complete change of heart. I fell in love with it. I still have that copy of Jane Eyre and still remember Clifton Fadiman.

Fadiman once said: "When you read a classic, you do not see more in the book than you did before; you see more in YOU than there was before.”

That is certainly true of my relationship with Jane Eyre. I've re-read that book half a dozen times over my lifetime. Every time, I find something new that I didn't remember from before--because I wasn't in a place where I could appreciate that particular page before.

Host Jim Fleming also spoke of Waiting for Godot, the absurdist play written in French by Irish playwright Samuel Beckett. The Theatre of the Absurd movement was avant garde, French and popular in the '50s. Absurdist plots often seem nonsensical or meaningless; hence, the name "absurdist" (duh!). The scenes are frequently repetitive or ambiguous.

Waiting for Godot is a great example. Both acts are repetitive in structure. Two somewhat ragged men arrive at a place where they wait for Godot. It's unclear who Godot is, or why they are waiting. Two more men join them and then leave. The ragged men wait until a boy arrives to say that Godot will not arrive today, but perhaps tomorrow.

The second act is a virtual recreation of the first except that, when the second two men arrive, one is now blind and the other mute--for no explained reason. The boy once more comes to say that Godot will not arrive today.

When I first read the play and had to write an interpretation for class, I saw it as a religious allegory where Godot stood for God, a naturalistic and uninvolved deity.

My teacher proposed that the play was instead intended to speak of the meaninglessness and monotonous repetition of life. I resisted this interpretation because it was too much of a downer for a sixteen-year-old on the very brink of that life. However, I remembered that interpretation the first time I actually saw the play performed when I was closing in on thirty-five. By then, I was more open to my teacher's interpretation. :)

The radio program proposed that a classic should transcend its setting, scenery or the costumes of the characters. A classic should speak of universal themes that anyone reading, viewing or listening to it can extrapolate to find meaning in their own lives. The themes of Othello resonate no matter what time period or setting a director might ascribe to it.

Does your novel have a theme? More importantly, can you identify it?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Personal Side of Business

I posted a blog yesterday about Bertelsmann and the proposed layoff at Random House.

Today, Michael Cader's Publisher's Lunch contained a link to a bookseller's blog. That blog, by Robert Gray of Vermont, talked about one of the faceless, nameless sales reps that Random House has slated for termination. The rep, Bill Andrews, is, in Gray's words, "at the top of my list. He didn't just sell Random House, he represented it."

Gray goes on to describe examples of what he means. As I read his post, I was reminded of the best salesman I know.

My brother A is a salesman. Being with him is like being with no one else I know. He pays attention to the people around him and to every detail. He's interested in everyone he meets--from the waitress in the restaurant to the cop on the corner. And, because his interest is genuine and sincere, people respond to him.

Tipp O'Neill once said, "All politics is local." The same can be said of selling. All great salesmen make selling local; they bring it home to the people they meet every day. And they do it with so much grace, so much polish, that we feel grateful to have been sold whatever product we've just bought.

It seem incredibly foolish to me that Random House would lay off a man of Bill Andrews' talents. Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face.

I'm glad that Robert Gray could put a face on one of those nameless RH sales reps.

Here's a link to Gray's tribute to Andrews: I cannot imagine a greater compliment to a man's professionalism.

We'll talk more about bookselling tomorrow.

A Film Studio Stole My Idea!

On November 6, I posted a blog titled "What To Do About a Thieving Critique Partner."

On Monday morning, I read an AP story by Sandy Cohen dated November 9th titled "'Stolen' Ideas Big Business in Hollywood."

The story described the anger and frustration of screenwriters who believe that, after their stories were rejected by Hollywood filmmakers, some studios turned around and used those same stories to generate new screenplays that were later released as films. In a number of cases cited, the writers sued the filmmakers and studios.

Anyone who has read this blog for any length of time knows that U.S. Copyright law does NOT include provision for cases like this. Cohen reports, "Federal law says only the expression of ideas--actual screenplays or treatments--are copyrightable. Therefore, a writer would have to prove that a finished film or television show was almost identical to his original screenplay. A studio can get around that by simply tweaking a few details."

Nevertheless, a number of writers have taken studios or filmmakers to court, claiming copyright infringement.

Since there is no federal protection for ideas, these cases would seem to be without merit. However, the Ninth Circuit Court out in California put a new spin on the subject in a decision released 9/8/04.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is the largest of the thirteen U.S. Federal courts. Headquartered in San Francisco, the Court hears cases as far flung as Alaska, Hawaii, Montana and Nevada. Because of its location, it addresses many of the lawsuits brought against the film industry. It's also the most Democratic (in terms of party affiliation) of the country's circuit courts and has a reputation for being liberal. CNN once claimed that the Ninth Circuit is the "most overturned appeals court in the country," referring to the high reversal rate of its decisions by the Supreme Court.

The case that came to the Ninth Circuit in 2004 was Grosso v. Miramax Film Corporation.

Writer Jeff Grosso paid his way through film school by playing high stakes poker. He wrote a 1995 screenplay based on his experiences, which he titled "Shell Game." According to the New York Times (NYT), "Grosso sent an unsolicited copy of the script to a production company that had offices in the same TriBeCa building as Miramax and had a first-look deal with the company." Three years later, Miramax released the hit movie "Rounders" that Grosso believed was "stolen" from his screenplay. He sued in 1999 and, after losing in a lower court, appealed.

According to Amanda Bronstad in a July 31, 2006 article in the National Law Journal, "In that case, the 9th Circuit found that [Grosso] . . . failed to prove that Miramax infringed on his copyrighted script [but he] could sue under a state contract claim because federal copyright laws do not pre-empt it."

In other words, although Grosso could not sue for breach of copyright for his idea, he COULD sue for breach of an implied contract under California state law. According to entertainment attorney Mark Litwak's blog here, "Under California state law a contract may be implied when an idea is disclosed from one party to another 'under circumstances from which it could be concluded that the offeree voluntarily accepted the disclosure knowing the conditions on which it was tendered and the reasonable value of the work.'"

The decision essentially "declares that movie and television executives enter an implied conract every time they read a script or hear a pitch." (NYT)

Energized, Grosso went back to court again; this time claiming an implied contract.

The March, 2006 edition of the Los Angeles Lawyer said:

Because ideas can be expressed in numerous different ways and with varying degrees of abstraction, a grant of protection for an idea would bring the development of new creative expression to a halt. At the same time, ideas do have a recognized value in the entertainment industry. Producers or development executives will often be willing to pay for a good idea that can be developed into copyrightable expression.

Thus, while ideas are not protected by copyright law, the disclosure of
ideas may, under appropriate circumstances, be protected by copyright . . .
There are two ways that a contract may arise during an idea submission. First, either before or after disclosure, the writer may obtain an express promise from the recipient, either written or oral, that he will be paid if his ideas are used. Second, in the absence of an express contract, an implied contract may arise when the conduct of the parties and the circumstances surrounding the pitch or submission create a implication that if the recipient uses the discloser's ideas, the discloser will be paid.

Los Angeles attorney Aaron Moss wrote:

In light of the court's ruling, recipients of intellectual property will likely become more selective about those individuals from whom they accept pitches or submissions. Many producers or studios already require that disclosers sign agreements acknowledging that the recipients may have acquired material with similar ideas from other sources, and that it has no obligation to the discloser if it uses such material.

Idea disclosers, on the other hand, should carefully review any language that they are asked to sign, to ensure that they are not waiving the ability to realize the value of their creative works. In some cases, the subject of a pitch is not a screenplay or a treatment, but rather a high concept idea that is so novel that it is valuable in and of itself. The discloser of such a concept will particularly want to avoid signing a restrictive agreement that waives the protections afforded by the Grosso case.

Ironically, Grosso recently lost another round in court. Remember: He submitted that script to Gotham Entertainment, not Miramax. However, he chose to sue Miramix and not Gotham. The court found that he couldn't have an implied contract with Miramax if he never spoke with them.

Grosso's attorney, John A. Marder, plans to appeal that decision as well.

While the number of copyright infringement cases have been on the increase since the Grosso v. Miramax case, Mike Madison over at had a caveat:

It's hard for me to see how this is a win for screenwriters. Any competent production company stopped opening unsolicited packages a long, long time ago out of the fear of this kind of suit. Now executives will run, not walk, from anyone who even looks like a writer. Exactly how does this
make writers better off?

Stay tuned for more on these cases as they work their way through the legal system.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Give Me Those Old Time Traditions

The New York Times describes German media giant Bertelsmann as "the world's largest English-language trade publisher, with combined sales of about $2 billion. As of 2004, the company is publishing about 8,000 books a year and has a backlist catalog of some 50,000 titles, employing about 5,300 people worldwide."

Last week, Bertelsmann, parent of Random House, issued financial results for the nine months ending 9/30/06. Those results weren't pretty.

The Associated Press (AP) reported that "profit in the first nine months of the year almost halved."

While the company didn't provide the quarterly figures, they did indicate that the net profit fell to 243 million euros for the nine months, a drop of 49% when compared to the 475 million euros for the same period last year.

The AP reported "the decrease in earnings was the result of tax expenses along with special items, including a 48 million euro ($61.2 million) settlement with Universal Music Group over a lawsuit involving the former music file-sharing platform Napster."

After the first six months that ended in June, Yahoo reported "profit at Random House and the Gruner + Jahr magazine unit was flat."

Mediabistro's Galleycat reported breaking news on Friday morning (courtesy of Shelf Awareness):

Random House has apparently cut 20-30 members of its sales force, mostly reps both in the field and New York office as well as a few people in sales management. Another 10-20 may have been let go in operations and IT. Some of the reps who have been laid off have decades of service with the company. The accounts serviced by the departing reps will apparently be handled by remaining reps. Cuts in other parts of Random House are rumored.

This is not the first time that Random House has made news by axing staff. The company has a long history of spilling corporate blood, although the spectacular firings have usually been much higher up on the food chain.

In 1980, RCA sold Random House to S.I. Newhouse, a billionaire newspaper magnate. Nearly a decade later, in 1989, Newhouse fired "Robert L. Bernstein, who . . . [had] been head of Random House for 23 years." (New York Times).

Newhouse brought in Alberto Vitale who, according to Andre Schiffrin, was "an Italian banker with no interest in books except as sources of revenue." Vitale cut two-thirds of the staff and publication list.

Katherine McNamara's Institutional Memory says, "During the early- to mid-‘90s, Vitale reorganized 'big' Random House. He neatly tri-sected the trade division. Having consisted of between eleven and sixteen imprints, it was now re-arranged into three groups: the Knopf Group, the Random Group, and the Crown Group."

In 1998, Bertelsmann, the German media conglomerate, acquired Random House. In 2003, The Nation reported that Ann Godoff, "the highly regarded head of the Random House Trade Group, heir to the old Random House, was summarily fired by Bertelsmann's American chief, Peter Olson . . . on January 16 . . . The reason is very clear. Olson made a point of saying in his memo that Random House was 'the only . . . division to consistently fall short of their annual profitability targets.'"

According to Friday's Publishers Weekly:

In a restructuring of the Random House sales force, a “small number” of sales positions have been eliminated and some reps are taking on expanded duties to cover retirements, RH spokesperson Stuart Applebaum confirmed. He said a report in Shelf Awareness that as many as 30 positions were cut was “inaccurate.” He reiterated the total number of positions affected were a “small fraction” of the overall sales group, “which numbers in the hundreds” including “dozens” of field reps.
According to Applebaum, the restructuring is a response to the “ever-changing book marketplace.” It is Random’s intention, he said, “to provide the same level of sales attention and follow-through and marketing support to which our accounts have long been accustomed.”

Applebaum added that there are “no further restructurings planned for this year” at Random.

I suspect any further restructurings will depend upon the 2006 year-end results reported sometime in January or February.

Sunday, November 12, 2006


I hope you were fortunate enough to watch "Sixty Minutes" tonight--or to catch it in reruns down the road.

They did a retrospective of Ed Bradley's life.

What a wonderful testament to a wonderful man.

I have a framed Indian proverb sitting on my bookshelf where I can see it. It reads:

When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced.
Live your life in such a manner that when you die,
The world cries and you rejoice.

Ed Bradley certainly fulfilled that prophecy. May the good Lord bless and keep him close.

Build Characters, Not Caricatures

There was an interesting post on Miss Snark's website Friday.

Miss Snark began the post by professing to love Satan, and she gave half a dozen reasons why. She then said, "You might think about that when you're creating villains . . . This post is inspired by three query letters describing the villian (sic) as 'evil'. Evil in and of itself is boring. Fallen and flawed angels....that's where it gets interesting."

This prompts me to talk about characterizations.

If there's one thing that makes me want to pull my hair out when I'm doing a critique, it's characters who do things for no discernible reason. My favorite pet peeve are people who suddenly fall in love--out of the blue
--with no explanation. A close second are villains who snark around with narrowed eyes and snotty comments, behaving nasty for no reason at all--except that they're the villain.

A rule of thumb: The point-of-view determines who is the protagonist and who is the antagonist. If you are telling the story of Jack (he of the Beanstalk), then his antagonist (the Giant) is the villain. Doesn't necessarily mean the antagonist is evil or mean. Just means that the antagonist is standing between the protagonist (hero) and his goals. From the Giant's POV, Jack was an intruder and a thief.

To use another children's story, Dorothy is the protagonist of The Wizard of Oz. However, the Wicked Witch is the protagonist of Wicked. When you're looking at events from Dorothy's POV, she was entitled to try to kill the Witch in order to secure the broom and return home to Kansas. When you're looking at events from the Witch's POV, Dorothy was a thief who planned to break into the Witch's castle to steal the Witch's property. Each woman felt completely justified in her actions. The only difference is whose story you happen to be telling.

Take the time to figure out what motivates your villain. Why does he feel justified in his villainy? Think about giving him some positive traits. Does he like children? Dogs? Beauty? Art?

Make your characters fully dimensional--interesting characters instead of caricatures.

Miscellaneous Notes

Friday's mail included the first of my advances for my contract with NAL. While I sold my first story in 1990 and have received a fair number of checks for stories and articles in the sixteen years since, this was my first advance. I did the Happy Dance all the way up the sidewalk from the mailbox. Hugs to Jacky Sach, my wonderful agent.

Dinah, my new kitten, disappeared a week ago. I was beside myself. Walked the neighborhood calling for her, phoned all my neighbors to watch out for her and haunted my local animal shelter. Although she was wearing a collar with both a name tag and a rabies tag, no one phoned to say they'd found her.

Dinah was only seven months old. With the number of coyotes my neighborhood has, I'd given up hope of ever seeing her again.

This afternoon, I stepped out into the backyard, and Dinah came running toward me as though she'd never been gone. I was floored. Her breakaway collar was gone. She looked tired and was ravenous; she ate a can of catfood and an entire dish of kitten kibble before collapsing into sleep on my bed.

Bob and Tribble are less than enthusiastic about Dinah's return. Right now, they are lying side-by-side outside my closed bedroom door, waiting for me to open it. Guess I'll be starting from square one, getting everyone acclimated again.

Also, I need to schedule an appointment for Dinah with Tim, my vet. I was gambling that, with the shorter days (and less light), she wouldn't go into heat for the first time until springtime. Tim agreed that I was "probably" right although he made no promises. I'm less sure of that decision now. I do not want to find myself with eight cats instead of the three I now have. Eeeekkkk!

The $10 million budget cut over at "Saturday Night Live" this season has been very apparent in the poor quality of the first four shows broadcast prior to this week. Departing head writer Tina Fey was replaced by Seth Meyers. Long-time member Rachel Dratch left with Tina. Horatio Sanz, Finesse Mitchell and Chris Parnell were all fired.

I've been enormously disappointed ever since the season started. The SNL sketches have been lame or simply gross. I've turned the television off midway through the show more than once. As much as I adore Hugh Laurie (House), I turned the godawful mess off before the Weekend Update last week.

Given the election results, I figured tonight's show had to be a slam dunk. Alec Baldwin was back, guest hosting for the 12th time. I turned it on, prayerful that their writers had finally gotten their act together.

Tonight's show was like the old "Saturday Night Live" I loved. The skits were crisp and funny. They had cameos that were out of this world: Tina Fey and Tracy Morgan came with Baldwin. Paul McCartney, Martin Short, Steve Martin and Tony Bennett were just a few of the other people who stopped by.

Let's hope Seth and crew have finally found their stride.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

To Honor Our Veterans

October 31, 2006

A Proclamation by the President of the United States of America

Through the generations, America's men and women in uniform have defeated tyrants, liberated continents, and set a standard of courage and idealism for the entire world. On Veterans Day, our Nation pays tribute to those who have proudly served in our Armed Forces.

To protect the Nation they love, our veterans stepped forward when America needed them most. In conflicts around the world, their sacrifice and resolve helped destroy the enemies of freedom and saved millions from oppression. In answering history's call with honor, decency, and resolve, our veterans have shown the power of liberty and earned the respect and admiration of a grateful Nation.

All of America's veterans have placed our Nation's security before their own lives, creating a debt that we can never fully repay. Our veterans represent the best of America, and they deserve the best America can give them.

As we recall the service of our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen, we are reminded that the defense of freedom comes with great loss and sacrifice. This Veterans Day, we give thanks to those who have served freedom's cause; we salute the members of our Armed Forces who are confronting our adversaries abroad; and we honor the men and women who left America's shores but did not live to be thanked as veterans. They will always be remembered by our country.

With respect for and in recognition of the contributions our service men and women have made to the cause of peace and freedom around the world, the Congress has provided (5 U.S.C. 6103(a)) that November 11 of each year shall be set aside as a legal public holiday to honor veterans.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim November 11, 2006, as Veterans Day and urge all Americans to observe November 5 through November 11, 2006, as National Veterans Awareness Week. I encourage all Americans to recognize the valor and sacrifice of our veterans through ceremonies and prayers. I call upon Federal, State, and local officials to display the flag of the United States and to support and participate in patriotic activities in their communities. I invite civic and fraternal organizations, places of worship, schools, businesses, unions, and the media to support this national observance with commemorative expressions and programs.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirty-first day of October, in the year of our Lord two thousand six, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-first.