Books, podcasts, and I am not actually stalking Tansy Rayner Roberts

I’m not!  Because that would be creepy, and also illegal, and also it would involve a higher level of effort than I’m accustomed to.

But when I was at ChicagoTARDIS, there was a certain amount of SHOCK and DISAPPROVAL when I said that I didn’t listen to the Galactic Suburbia podcast.  I was given to understand that it’s my duty as an Australian feminist genre fan to give it a burl.

So I downloaded the last two episodes of 2012, and gave them a listen this week — well, I’m still partway through the November 22 episode — and, yes, everyone was right.  This podcast is clever, informative, highly relevant to my interests, and I’ve been remiss in not listening to it before.

In fairness, I only listened to my very first podcast just recently.  And my second.  And now my third, fourth and fifth.  (I’ve stopped counting now.)  There came a point a few years back where I stopped listening to the radio because the announcers were all inane — yes, even on Triple J, hallowed youth station though it is — and technology enabled me to choose my own music.  I figured that a podcast would be similarly irritating background noise.

Yes, I was wrong.  For my morning commute, when I want some kind of mental stimulation but am too sleepy to read, podcasts are perfect.  Of course, my commute is 20 minutes and most podcasts seem to go for about an hour, but, you know, we’re coping.

And a good thing, too, because now there’s a new podcast in town, and her name is Verity.

Verity is a feminist Doctor Who podcast, and frankly, a ridiculous number of the contributors are my friends.  I listened to the first episode yesterday, and it was great.  It was positive and affectionate while acknowledging faults, and the breadth of opinion meant that I got to agree with someone most of the time.  It was a very nice way to spend a couple of train journeys.

Now, both of these podcasts feature Tansy Rayner Roberts, whose short story collection Love and Romanpunk has been sitting on my bookshelf for, oh, a year and a half.  And she has a fantastic essay in Chicks Unravel Time, and she said clever things on panels at Continuum last year!

Then, on Wednesday, just as I was beginning my great podcast adventure, one of my BFFs tweeted about reading and loving Love and Romanpunk.  (She reviews it here — I studied in the same Classics department, as does my brother now, although I’m fairly sure she’s the only one who got to design collapsible boats in class.)

Well, that was it.  Clearly I had no choice but to read it.  So I spent the second day of the year lying on the couch, absorbed in “Julia Agrippina’s Secret Family Bestiary”, which effectively hooked me for the rest of the stories.  If anyone else looks at the Julio-Claudians and sees literal monsters, this is totally the book for you.

Jan 4: download the new issue of Apex Magazine.  (I subscribed.  You should, too!)  And look, there’s a reprint of Roberts’ story “The Patrician”, from the same collection!

I am not stalking Tansy Rayner Roberts, but it’s possible that her works are stalking me.

I’m actually okay with this, since one of my goals for 2013 is to read more Australian authors.  I went a bit overboard working out reading stats for 2012, and one of the results was that, of the 141 books I read, only 19 were by Australians.  That’s pretty shameful.  So yes, for 2013 we’re reading more Australians, more short stories, more in general.  NOT THAT IT’S A COMPETITION.  (It’s totally a competition.)

The problem is, there are so many good books!  Here’s my to-read pile:

So many books...
So many books…

Most of these were purchased in the US, and I’m still working through them.  And this is without factoring in the ebooks I haven’t read yet!

I really need one of those jobs where people pay me to read.  But, like, books that I choose, not that my boss chooses for me.

Excuses for my absence; an ebook DRM rant

Soooooooooooooooooo, been a while, eh?  I do apologise; RL has been a bit busy, not to mention the minor matter of a month-long migraine that pretty much wiped me out for August.  (My doctor and I suspect it’s jaw tension and night-time teeth-grinding;  rather than pay $600 for a splint right before I leave for North America, I’ve ordered a nightguard from Dr Brux.  STAY TUNED.)

Also, the prospect of typing out large chunks of text has been … well, not all that enticing.  And I don’t think it could be avoided by having the Malory Towers books available in an ebook format, since generally DRM and copying and pasting are not considered compatible for some reason.

Now, I love ebooks!  I have a Kobo reader, but these days most of my reading is done on my lovely iPad, so I can jump between ePub and Kindle formats at will.  I still buy paper books, but frankly, I don’t have that much bookshelf space, so I try to stick to ebooks.

But just of late I’ve had some problems with DRM.

First I was no longer allowed to download new copies of the Laurie R King novels I bought back in 2009 and 2010, because the store no longer had the rights to sell them to Australia.

Fine, I thought, and eventually managed to find the ePub files I had downloaded back in the day.  No biggie, they were sitting on my old EeePC.  Only took half an hour!

BUT WAIT.  These DRM-locked files can only be managed through Adobe Digital Editions!

And ADE doesn’t acknowledge the existence of my iPad!  Something about the ongoing war between Adobe and Apple re Flash means hardly any Adobe things will work with iThings.  REAL MATURE, GUYS.  Thank God there are non-Adobe PDF readers, or I’d be screwed!

(Notability: for that happy moment when your friend has sent you her manuscript, and you need to scribble notes all over it but don’t want to print it out!)

In short, if I wanted to read these novels — for which I had paid AU$20 each, since at the time they weren’t out on Kindle and I could only find one store that would sell them to an Australian — I’d have to do it on my laptop, which is uncomfortable and not hugely mobile compared with the iPad, or I’d have to buy them again.

(Where was my Kobo, you ask?  Lent it to a friend.  Well, I wasn’t using it!  I FIGURED MY iPAD WOULD TAKE CARE OF ALL MY NEEDS!)

So I bought them again.

A few days later, I had inhaled all of King’s Mary Rusell novels (a cross-dressing 1920s theologian who is married to Sherlock Holmes and occasionally investigates crime herself?  SIGN ME UP.  SIGN ME UP TWICE) and I desperately needed more.  And bitter experience has taught me that this is not a fandom that produces much good fan fiction.

Then I remembered “Beekeeping for Beginners”, an e-novella published last year.  I had even bought it at the time!

Oh.  Adobe Digital Editions again.

Well, it was pay week, and the Kindle version was only $2.  So I bought a second copy.

Then I read it, and loved it, and tried to send a copy of the Kindle version to my friend Branwyn, who has long been my partner-in-crime when it comes to this series.

Oh no.  Amazon took my money, then told Branwyn, “Nope, this is the international version.  No can do.”  And gave her a $2 gift voucher in substitute.

I mean, seriously.

I’ve never really given much attention to the arguments about locked versus unlocked ebooks and consequences with sales, but I’m generally in favour of paying for things that I want to read (or at least going to the library) and hence not pirating books.

But I do not understand how restricting electronic sales across arbitrary geological boundaries is in any way a good idea.

(See also the Sarah Tolerance novels by Madeleine E Robins – the first two are available again in Kindle format, but only in the US.  I had to go through a lot of user-unfriendly rigmarole to get the first one via an inter-library loan.)

If a customer can jump on Amazon or BookDepository and buy a physical book, why is that same customer unable to buy the electronic edition?  Is this good for business?  It’s not as though Australia is teeming with ebook sellers, and those that we have tend to be ridiculously overpriced.

(I worked at Borders for a long time, and I was very glad to be getting a much higher wage and better working conditions than, say, Amazon staff.  But staff expenses alone don’t justify the difference in pricing between American and Australian ebooks.)

And I like Apple products, but there’s a lot of “I’M TAKING MY TOYS AND GOING HOME” where they’re concerned, and it’s customers who suffer.

There, I have ranted!  Now I shall make an unprecedented second post of the day, dealing with chapter 9 of First Term at Malory Towers!

Do not put your trust in princes, nor in booksellers purchased by Amazon

I heard, via the blogosphere, that BookDepository will cease to sell ebooks on 30 June.

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” said I, because the final books in Anne Digby’s Trebizon series are only available in ebook form, and the easiest place to buy them is BookDepository.

I have to admit that I’d become rather lax about reading the series, because you can only read so many boarding school novels in a row before you explode.  And, frankly, the longer the series goes on, the less I enjoy it.

The first book was literally inspirational.  I read it for the first time earlier this year, and promptly went looking for a contemporary Australian boarding school series.  And when it turned out that didn’t exist, I started writing it.  (Other people do that too, right?)

Somewhere around the fourth book, though, the Enid Blyton In The ’80s vibe started to take second place to a rather dull story about the main character’s tennis career, the supporting characters became broader, and the overall plots became less plausible.  So I took a break, and figured, well, obviously BookDepository really appreciates the AU$2.50 I was spending on these books, why would they ditch them?

Bah.  Now I shall have to find another dealer source.

ETA:  Panic averted!  The books are now available through the Kindle store.  Which is less ideal, because I already have half the series in ePub form, and the price has gone up to $3.99.  But I guess it’s better than a kick in the head.  Right?