B&N Counter-Sues Former CEO Parneros

B&N Counter-Sues Former CEO Parneros Barnes & Noble Lawsuit

The latest chapter in the three-month-old soap opera which began with B&N firing CEO Demos Parneros arrived today in the form of a counter-suit.

From Reuters:

Barnes & Noble Inc on Tuesday filed a countersuit seeking damages from the former chief executive officer it fired in part because of claims he sexually harassed a female employee.

The largest U.S. bookstore chain said Demos Parneros breached his duties of loyalty and good faith by sexually harassing the female employee, bullying subordinates, and attempting to “sabotage” a potential sale of the New York-based company.

In its countersuit, Barnes & Noble said Parneros’ lawsuit “downplays what occurred,” and that the company should recoup his salary, bonus and other benefits during the period of his “disloyal conduct” and cancel his outstanding equity awards.

Barnes & Noble said the female employee reported two incidents in which Parneros allegedly subjected her to unwanted touching or comments of a sexual nature.

It said that in the second incident, Parneros allegedly pulled the employee toward him so their faces touched, and as she tried to pull away he said she seemed like someone who “would put out” if he “wined and dined” her.

Barnes & Noble also said Parneros derailed a takeover that would have cost him the CEO role, after portraying the company as an “ugly mess” that had “no realistic prospects for success” in a June meeting with executives of the potential acquirer.

According to the countersuit, Barnes & Noble has received “additional complaints about Parneros’ inappropriate behavior toward women” at the company since his termination. Barnes & Noble declined to elaborate.

Parneros has denied B&N’s allegations.

What an utter mess – exactly what B&N doesn’t need right now.

Whether or not the allegations are true (the situation is so muddled that at this point picking a side  says more about one’s biases than the case) this case is the exact opposite of what B&N needs right now.

B&N needs to portray the image of competence and professionalism so as to allay fears about its downward spiral. Instead, this case makes the senior management look like jackasses. It is putting the question in everyone’s head that if B&N can’t even manage to fire its CEO without causing a scene, can we really trust them to run a company?

That is not the question you should want your creditors asking.

image by jjbers via Flickr

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Infographic: Top Ten Book Titles, As Recommended by Librarians

Infographic: Top Ten Book Titles, As Recommended by Librarians humor Infographic

Names are important. Choose the wrong name for a book or series and you can kill its sales before it even reaches the market. This is why it is so critical to find out what readers think when they read a title, and what words they use when talking about it.

Guess what? I can help you with that. The Digital Reader has just completed an extensive survey where we asked librarians to list the most commonly requested book titles. We will soon publish a report on this topic, but in the meantime here is a sampling of our results.

If you use one of these titles for your next book, it will be the first result that comes up when someone searches for the name.

  1. I Saw A Dragon on the Cover

  2. That One About Werewolves

  3. Sexy Vampires

  4. It Had Spaceships?

  5. I Heard About It On the Radio

  6. Oprah Liked It

  7. There was a Woman on the Cover – I Think She Had a Sword?

  8. They Went on a Trip

  9. It Was Blue

  10. People Died

Infographic: Top Ten Book Titles, As Recommended by Librarians humor Infographic

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Morning Coffee – 29 October 2018

Morning Coffee - 29 October 2018 Morning Coffee

Here are a few stories to read this Monday morning.


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A Mysterious Amazon Bug is Inexplicably Removing Kindle eBooks From Sale

A Mysterious Amazon Bug is Inexplicably Removing Kindle eBooks From Sale Kindle (platform)

Amazon’s Kindle platform is fraught with bugs and inexplicable behavior. When it’s not blocking ARC reviews, it’s ignoring the final version of an ebook and instead sending out a draft copy.

And when it’s not deleting reviews because authors engaged in the SOP marketing practice of connecting with their fans on social medial, it’s removing ebooks from sale for literally no reason and with no notification.

Over the past couple days numerous authors have discovered – quite often by accident – that their ebooks have been removed from sale on Amazon.com. The ebooks have not been deleted, and in many cases the title is still available in other markets, but on Amazon.com the buy button has been replaced with this notice:

A Mysterious Amazon Bug is Inexplicably Removing Kindle eBooks From Sale Kindle (platform)

I have read about this bug in a couple Facebook groups, and on KBoards. It is reportedly a widespread problem affecting a lot of authors, but Amazon has elected not to notify affected authors.

One author on KBoards explains how they discovered the bug:

Last night, I got a message from a reader that one of my books was unavailable for purchase. I thought the customer just had the wrong link, but I confirmed that when I go to the book’s page, it says “this title is not currently available for purchase” instead of the price. In researching this, most people who report the problem have just uploaded their book and are told to wait. In this case, the book has been available in the Kindle store since August and I’ve been selling copies all the way up until yesterday evening. I checked in the Dashboard and it still lists the book as live, even though the actual store says it’s unavailable.

With authors only learning they had been impacted after  meticulously checking their listings, it is hard to say how widespread this bug is.

Fortunately, one author has identified a possible solution. They reported that making a minor edit and then republishing the ebook is enough to restore it to available status.

It remains to be seen whether that will help all affected authors, however.

image by Sarabbit via Flickr

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My Site is Loading Twice As Fast Today As It Was Last Week. How About Yours?

My Site is Loading Twice As Fast Today As It Was Last Week. How About Yours? blog maintenance

Earlier today I did some behind the scenes work to speed up my site, and I thought it might be helpful if I walked you through the process and shared a bunch of tech tips that don’t really translate to list posts.

As you may recall, I spent last Saturday night replacing my blog theme. One of the reasons I wanted to make the change was that my site was slow when running the old theme (Magazine from MH Themes).*

The blog posts and pages were loading in four to six seconds. That is an acceptable load time if your site is on a terrible hosting company like EIG, InMotion, Godaddy, BlueHost, LiquidWeb, or 1&1,** but my sites are on my own server. I don’t have to share resources with anyone other than clients, so my site should really be loading faster than four seconds. ***

I did have a plugin called WP Rocket that was supposed to speed up my site, but it wasn’t really helping any more. (Plus, it broke every so often and showed visitors random code in place of blog posts.) I wanted to replace WP Rocket, but my preferred alternative was not compatible with my old theme.

But then this morning I got another bug report from someone seeing random code in place of the blog post they wanted to read, so I decided it was time to stop putting off fixing this problem.

I spent some time today installing and configuring a plugin called Swift Performance Lite. This free plugin is not widely used yet, but it is currently very popular in WordPress tech support circles because it is easy to set up and is highly effective at speeding up WP sites.

The first thing I did was make a backup of my site, and then I deactivated WP Rocket. Performance plugins sometimes do not play well together, so you should take care not to use two plugins to do the same job.

Next, I installed Swift Performance Lite, made sure my site was still running (sometimes you don’t know a plugin will cause problems until after you turn it on), and let it run its setup wizard.

The great thing about Swift Lite is that this plugin does most of the work for you. I have seen client sites go from loading in eight seconds to loading in three seconds after running the setup wizard (it really is that good).

Swift Lite improved my site’s load time to around three and a half seconds. I know this because I tested the site with GTmetrix, a free, online, comprehensive site performance test.

But as good as that was, I wanted to see if I could do better. So what I did next was to go into Swift Lite’s settings menu and enable its options one by one. My process worked something like this:

  1. Check a box to activate a feature.
  2. Save the settings, and clear the cache.
  3. Re-run the GTmetrix test to see if performance improved.
  4. If the site is slower, uncheck the box and save the settings again.
  5. Go on to the next feature, and repeat the process.

After a half hour of testing one feature at a time, I managed to get my site to load in under two and a quarter seconds. Some pages are even loading in as little as 1.7 seconds.

That is a great load time, enough so that I can declare victory and stop. (For one thing, my time would be better spent optimizing my clients’s sites.)

I do actually know how to make my site load even faster, but at this point the trade off isn’t worth it. I’ve already taken a lot of steps to speed up my site, including doing things like removing non-essential plugins, so what I would have to do next is to look at my essential plugins and decide which feature I no longer wanted on my site. Since I am kinda attached to things like a spam filter, firewall, and mailing list sign up form, I can’t exactly give them up.

All in all, this was definitely worth an hour of my time. My site is faster, and I got a blog post out of it as well.

If you have a site, you should definitely take some time to see if it can run faster. Or better yet, hire me. This is one of the services I offer under my monthly support plans.

* * *

P.S. One of the reasons I chose my new theme (SiteOrigin Corp) was that in my experience SiteOrigin themes loaded quickly. I sped up my site by replacing a slow theme with a fast one.

P. P.S. Yes, those are terrible hosting companies, and yes, your site would be faster if it were hosted elsewhere. I have horror stories about each and every one of those hosting companies, and would not wish them on my worst enemy.

P.P.P.S. If you want a recommendation for a better alternative with great service at an excellent price, I’ll let you in on a secret known to very few: Peopleshost. I have my server with them, and I also have a client on their managed WordPress hosting. I was surprised by the performance given the price they charge for WP hosting.

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After 18 Years, Library of Congress Could Finally Allow You to Jailbreak Your Devices

After 18 Years, Library of Congress Could Finally Allow You to Jailbreak Your Devices DRM

This probably will not amount to much in terms of real impact.

From Motherboard:

The Librarian of Congress and US Copyright Office just proposed new rules that will give consumers and independent repair experts wide latitude to legally hack embedded software on their devices in order to repair or maintain them. This exemption to copyright law will apply to smartphones, tractors, cars, smart home appliances, and many other devices.

The move is a landmark win for the “right to repair” movement; essentially, the federal government has ruled that consumers and repair professionals have the right to legally hack the firmware of “lawfully acquired” devices for the “maintenance” and “repair” of that device. Previously, it was legal to hack tractor firmware for the purposes of repair; it is now legal to hack many consumer electronics.

Specifically, it allows breaking digital rights management (DRM) and embedded software locks for “the maintenance of a device or system … in order to make it work in accordance with its original specifications” or for “the repair of a device or system … to a state of working in accordance with its original specifications.”

The thing about jailbreaking devices is that the federal government stopped trying to prosecute anyone for this all the way back in 2010. The act of jailbreaking was already effectively legal because everyone knew they would get away with it.

The new rules aren’t going to change the legal status quo, and they also aren’t going to stop companies from putting up all sorts of extra-legal roadblocks to keep you from fixing your device.

Remember, Apple has an established reputation for being an absolute dick to repair services who dare to use third-party parts in fixing iPhones (they also recently bricked iPhones that had been repaired with a third-party screen). And then there are companies like HP and Epson that attacked printer owners by releasing firmware updates that blocked you from using the third-party ink cartridges you had already installed.

So really, the new rules don’t actually mean anything. The federal government doesn’t care one way or the other, and the tech companies beleive they own you and will do whatever they want to establish and maintain their control.

image by FHKE via Flickr

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Morning Coffee – 24 october 2018

Morning Coffee - 24 october 2018 Morning Coffee

Here are a few stories to read this Wednesday morning.

  • Italy may be the linchpin that defeats the EU’s absurd new copyright laws.
  • The first step in getting someone to buy your book is to get their attention. The Book Designer lays out a few ways to do that. 
  • An Australian gov’t agency is now saying I have said repeatedly, that there is no value to using blockchain in anything

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Paperlike Pro Touchscreen Monitor Now on Indiegogo

After 4 years and several moderately useful designs, Dasung is finally launching an E-ink monitor with the one feature that I have wanted since the first time I saw the Paperlike at CES 2015.

It has a touchscreen.

Now live on Indiegogo, the Paperlike Pro (Touch) is a 13.3″ E-ink monitor that connects to your PC or mobile device over HDMI. It has a screen resolution of 1600 x 1200 as well as a capacitive touchscreen. The pre-order price is $800.

The Paperlike gives you all the pleasing reading experience of a Kindle’s screen, only scaled up to the point that you can get real work done. As you can see in the video, it’s a pretty cool device. It’s going to finally give me something I wanted, which is to sit back and read with the screen in my lap. (Yes, I can do that with an Onyx Max, but after getting burned once when I paid retail for a disappointing and marginally functional Max unit, I am not going to buy Onyx again.)

I just wish that Dasung had passed on launching the earlier models and instead waited until they could launch this one.

The thing is, I have two very good Paperlike monitors on my desk. A lot of people bought those earlier monitors, and they work great. But those models were also so expensive that a lot of the people who bought one of the previous models will have trouble justifying the purchase of the new Paperlike Pro (Touch).

This could limit sales, possibly to the point that Dasung won’t have enough orders for a production run.


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How Long Until Amazon Realizes That Not All Kindles Have E-ink Screens?

How Long Until Amazon Realizes That Not All Kindles Have E-ink Screens? e-Reading Hardware

When Amazon launched their first Android tablet in 2011, they called it the Kindle Fire. That may have been a mistake, because while Amazon stopped calling its Android tablets the “Kindle Fire” in 2014, the public has not.

A recent conversation has reminded me that even though Amazon and the tech blogosphere refers to these products as Fire tablets, the public does not. The common name for Amazon’s tablets is “Kindle” not “Fire”.

Let me give you a few examples:

  • When the Fredericksburg Book Festival announced they were giving away door prizes, the email said “Kindle” when the prizes were in fact Fire HD 8 tablets.
  • When the Indies Unlimited blog published a post about sideloading ebooks on the Kindle, their screenshots all showed references to Fire tablets.
  • When I brought my Kobo Forma to a lunch meeting, one of the attendees talked about reading email and browsing the web on their second-gen Kindle from 2012.
  • When I was emailing with the A Forever Home dog rescue about donating a a Kindle for a raffle, their phrasing made it clear that what they really expected was a Kindle running Android.

Every time I have talked to a member of the public about Amazon’s Android tablets, that person referred to the tablets as Kindles.

Every time.

It has happened so often that I don’t correct anyone, and I don’t even wince. Instead, I’ve taken the descriptivist’s opinion that language is defined by use, and if everyone uses a word a certain way then that is what it means.

Thus, Amazon has Kindles with LCD screens that run Android.

How long do you think it’s going to be until Amazon changes their branding to reflect common usage?

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