Saturday, May 23, 2009

Announcing GLBT Bookshelf

You might have wondered where I've been for the last 10 days or so ... and the answer to this would have to be: busy, launching something else!

A few posts ago (before the Wolverine review, I mentioned that I was working on something in the background, and would have a new project to launch soon.

It launched a few days ago, and it's already doing fine. Looking superb:

It's a wiki! Not just a book wiki (or a writing, or publishing, wiki) but specifically a GLBT book wiki, for writers, editors, publishers, reviewers, bookseller and, of course, readers.

It's also a bookstore:

...and with better than 30 writers coming online in the first few days, and many, many more about to join us in the next couple of weeks, this is certainly going to become *the* place to shop for GLBT titles ... rub shoulders with writers, check up on the community's publishing news, find a Beta reader or a cover artist, and -- so on!

Where in the world did this idea come from?

The AmazonFail three-ring circus was actually the trigger. I blogged a little about it here: fact, I just don't/can't believe it happened as a result of human error. I have the strongest intuition that it was a covert attempt to "filter out" content that, frankly, various pundits high up in the Amazonian stratosphere, where the Board of Directors convenes, would rather not see on Amazon. Or anywhere else for that matter.

There are numerous reasons for company directors to want to see GLBT books out. They're not quite the thing you want your eight year olds stumbling into accidentally. They're inclined to make "GLBT" sound actually legitimate to the ears of older teens who know they've grown up gay and are in the process of "guilting themselves straight." And of course, since we're all going to burn in hell for our sins, we have to be saved from ourselves ... it's the only decent thing to do, evangelically speaking. Amazon lives in the States, and ... 'nuff said. (Old Glory flutters proudly over the Land of God. Oh, dear.)

Anyway, to cut to the chase: I've been aware for a long, long time that there remains a high degree of discrimination in online culture. Now, one can shrug off (or sigh off) the snarky remarks you see in YouTube comments, and so forth, as being not worth the pixels it takes to display them.

(Example: Person A uploads a video of Irish dancer Michael Flatley, Person B responds with, "Amazing! The man is absolutely fantastic, never seen anything like it!" And something (god knows what) makes Person B add, "except for th fact hes gay ha ha ha lol" (and you notice the typo, the lack of punctuation, and the vapid 'ha ha ha' and 'lol' -- which are supposedly one's permit to do and say anything in cyberspace ... because it's funny. Sorry guys: not laughing.)

That kind of stupidity is something you have to live with. I wish there were a magic trick to make it vanish, but, people being what they are, we're stuck with it, permanently. However, when mega-business -- like Google, like Amazon -- decides to filter you out, it would be perfectly possible for them to make vast swathes of the world literally vanish.

Many of us (indie writers and publishers, for a start) have very little more visible profile than our online presence. Take this away from us, and we're as good as invisible. And that can't be good.

My hackles tend to rise when this sort of thing happens. I get ... motivated.

We need a hedge, I thought, against possible (probable?) filtering. Because the reason Amazon got caught is that the technology wan't quite up to the task. Yet. The reason Google has been clearly seen, filtering gay content in broad daylight, is because the programming is a few years short of where it needs to be, to get the job done invisibly.

Fast forward to 2011 or 2012. They try it again, and because of the exponential development rates in the realms of code ... yup, it works. GLBT writers and publishers will vanish off the face of the Internet --

Unless we have a hedge of some kind against this: we get together and make a noise. We develop a community that's big enough to generate its own weather patterns. We kick in about a buck apiece and buy the advertising we need to make us high-visibility...

In which case, Google, Amazon and the rest can do a lot less to hurt us than they could, say ... now. Most of us are still shockingly isolated; small groups have knotted together, but there still isn't anything remotely like the vast community which would be needed to ensure immunity to discrimination. The "power of community" blows me away. So --

The first platforms I researched were Joolma, SQL and their accompanying Apache -- and these are wonderful. They're also bloody expensive. I did look at this. I also passed on, when I saw the pricetag and the time lag. How's six months and upwards of five grand sound? Doubtless, about November we'd have launched a GLBT Bookshelf that looked a lot like Amazon itself! But who's going to put up the investment capital?! (Why are you all looking at me, suddenly?!)

So... the whole thing turned into a wiki.

If you can blog, you can wiki. In fact, even if you can't blog, you can wiki. It's no more complex than the Blogger interface ... and it's a lot of fun.

Writers are coming aboard rapidly, and I hope we're also going to attract cover artists, editors, reviewers, publishers, booksellers. It's exciting. It's very exciting. It's a place where we can not only blog and talk, but post articles, artwork galore, and (better yet) SELL our books.

Now, there are lots of book community sites around, like Author's Den and Book Hitch. But "GLBT" is yet another careful quarantine zone at these sites. In fact, Author's Den states emphatically that they don't want, won't have, "adult content" on their site, becausesaid site is open to children. That's fair enough, too, but ... where does it leave GLBT writers, whose content is always lumped in with the "adult" stuff, even when it's mild by comparison (because we're going to burn, and oughtta be saved from ourselves) ...? And also, there's no provision for using Author's Den, Book Hitch, Shelfari and so on, as a bookstore --

Got it covered, guys. GLBT Bookshelf has a bookstore designed in, and you're exhorted to get your affiliate code from Amazon, B&N, Diesel, wherever, and plug it right into the pages that are created and maintained by yourself.

From my perspective, the whole thing is the answer to a prayer.

Go over there, have a look, and ... join us. Register (FREE), and log in to start making your own pages. Enjoy!



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