Technology * Innovation * Publishing Newsletter #266

Kathy Sandler
17 min readOct 10, 2023

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While I focus on Technology, Innovation, and Publishing, because I have a platform, I also flag items that I think are important and try to include a bunch of resources & opportunities. This week, an extra lot of censorship content as it was Banned Books Week. I’d love to hear what you think of this newsletter.

Important Items

The Next Targets for the Group That Overturned Roe

HT @JaneMayerNYer @JessicaValenti Alliance Defending Freedom (the Christian Conservative group where Amy Coney Barrett & Josh Hawley trained a generation of legal warriors) has won fifteen Supreme Court cases. Now it wants religious exemptions to anti-discrimination laws — and is going after trans rights. The president of the most powerful conservative legal group in the country says banning birth control is at the top of his wishlist: “We are on a winning trajectory…It may be that the day will come when people say the birth-control pill was a mistake.”

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2023/10/09/alliance-defending-freedoms-legal-crusade

Coordinated ‘swatting’ effort may be behind hundreds of school shooting hoaxes

HT @shannonrwatts Over the past year, over 500 schools in the US have been subjected to a coordinated campaign of fear that exploits the all-too-real American danger of school shootings.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2023/10/04/school-swatting-hoax-active-shooter/

Predictive Policing Software Terrible At Predicting Crimes

NEW report confirms that crime prediction software can’t deliver on its claim to fame: predicting crime. The tech that tells police where to patrol was right less than 1% of the time.

https://themarkup.org/prediction-bias/2023/10/02/predictive-policing-software-terrible-at-predicting-crimes

Compare Your Life Expectancy with Others Around the World

RT @superwuster So depressing that the US healthcare system costs more than other countries, has yielded shorter lives, and is entirely resistant to meaningful change. Biggest collective policy fail of the last 40 years

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/interactive/2023/life-expectancy-calculator-compare-states-countries/

Malaria vaccine big advance against major child killer

A cheap malaria vaccine that can be produced on a massive scale has been recommended for use by the World Health Organization. The vaccine has been developed by the University of Oxford and is only the second malaria vaccine to be developed.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-66985273

Innovation

‘Einstein ring’ snapped by James Webb Space Telescope is most distant gravitationally lensed object ever seen

It’s 21 billion light-years away.

https://www.space.com/james-webb-space-telescope-einstein-ring-gravitationally-lensed

‘We are just getting started’: the plastic-eating bacteria that could change the world

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/sep/28/plastic-eating-bacteria-enzyme-recycling-waste?CMP=share_btn_tw

Generative AI Powered By Electric Fields

Physicists created Poisson Flow Generative Model, physics-inspired generative AI model using an electric field that creates images of same quality as those produced by diffusion-based approaches, 10–20 times faster

https://www.quantamagazine.org/new-physics-inspired-generative-ai-exceeds-expectations-20230919/

Technology

News execs lobby lawmakers on AI protections

Newspaper, digital and magazine executives are lobbying members of Congress on protections for their work in the era of AI.

https://www.axios.com/2023/10/03/news-execs-lobby-lawmakers-ai-protections

Workers could be the ones to regulate AI

MT @datasociety The debate about who should regulate AI has been very top down — making the WGA’s new contract an especially big deal. “It shows that AI can, in fact, be regulated” — and by rules that are imposed from the bottom up.

https://www.ft.com/content/edd17fbc-b0aa-4d96-b7ec-382394d7c4f3

Voice Actors Are Bracing to Compete With Talking AI

Advances in artificial intelligence are making it easier to clone and generate voices. It has huge implications for voice actors.

https://www.wired.com/story/ai-voice-actors-jobs-threat/

The BBC is blocking OpenAI data scraping but is open to AI-powered journalism

The BBC says it blocked OpenAI and others from scraping its data, but plans to explore using generative AI, including for journalism research and production

https://www.theverge.com/2023/10/6/23906645/bbc-generative-ai-news-openai

Axel Springer CEO Sees AI As A Friend, Not An Enemy

Mathias Döpfner: “The boring stuff of our business — translation, technical production, fact-checking — we can delegate that to bots.”

https://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/389844/axel-springer-ceo-sees-ai-as-a-friend-not-an-enem.html

Generative AI Is Coming for Sales Execs’ Jobs — and They’re Celebrating

ChatGPT-style AI can tackle the drudge work of responding to RFPs faster than humans. Sales teams at Google, Twilio, and others say productivity is spiking.

https://www.wired.com/story/generative-ai-chatgpt-is-coming-for-sales-jobs/

Deadspin’s AI Is Suddenly Publishing Dozens of New Articles

G/O Media’s Deadspin Bot is back up and running, cranking out more than 30 new articles since restarting production last month.

https://futurism.com/deadspin-restarts-ai-articles

The Messenger Pens AI Partnership to Verify Its Reporting Quality and Eliminate Bias

The Messenger is entering a multimillion-dollar partnership with AI firm Seekr to help journalists “eliminate bias in reporting.”

https://www.adweek.com/media/the-messenger-ai-partnership-seekr/

Designer Jony Ive and OpenAI’s Sam Altman Discuss AI Hardware Project

MT ⁦@benedictevans ⁩OpenAI is apparently now working on a device of some kind, supposedly designed by Jony Ive (Designer of the iPhone) and with $1bn of funding from Masayoshi Son (CEO of SoftBank)

https://www.theinformation.com/articles/designer-jony-ive-and-open-ais-sam-altman-discuss-ai-hardware-project

Meta Pays Celebrities Millions for AI Chatbots

Meta’s decision to create AI characters based on Snoop Dogg, Tom Brady and MrBeast is paying off — for the stars themselves.

https://www.theinformation.com/articles/meta-is-paying-creators-millions-for-ai-chatbots

Meta starts rolling out generative AI tools for all advertisers

Meta is rolling out generative AI tools that can create content like image backgrounds and variations of written text for all advertisers.

https://www.reuters.com/technology/meta-starts-rolling-out-generative-ai-tools-all-advertisers-2023-10-04/

AI-Generated ‘Subliminal Messages’ Are Going Viral. Here’s What’s Really Going On

ICYMI They’re not going make you subconsciously crave McDonald’s, but they are pretty cool as optical illusions.

https://www.vice.com/en/article/v7by5a/ai-generated-subliminal-messages-are-going-viral-heres-whats-really-going-on

AI Chatbots Are Learning to Spout Authoritarian Propaganda

Regimes in China and Russia are rushing to repress what chatbots can say. It’s an early warning about a new frontier of online censorship.

https://www.wired.com/story/chatbot-censorship-china-freedom-house/

AI Algorithms Are Biased Against Skin With Yellow Hues

Google, Meta, and others test their algorithms for bias using standardized skin tone scales. Sony says those tools ignore the yellow and red hues at work in human skin color.

https://www.wired.com/story/ai-algorithms-are-biased-against-skin-with-yellow-hues/

Researchers Tested AI Watermarks — and Broke All of Them

A research team found it’s easy to evade current methods of watermarking — and even add fake watermarks to real images.

https://www.wired.com/story/artificial-intelligence-watermarking-issues/

Copyright Law and Generative AI: What a mess

ICYMI

https://www.abajournal.com/web/article/copyright-generative-ai-what-a-mess

Chatbot Hallucinations Are Poisoning Web Search

Untruths spouted by chatbots ended up on the web — and Microsoft’s Bing search engine served them up as facts. Generative AI could make search harder to trust.

https://www.wired.com/story/fast-forward-chatbot-hallucinations-are-poisoning-web-search/

Critics Furious Microsoft Is Training AI by Sucking Up Water During Drought

MT @histoftech “Microsoft increased worldwide water consumption by a whopping 34% — up to almost 1.7 billion gallons annually — last year. That’s dwarfed by Google, which used 5.6 billion gallons last year, a 20% jump that’s also likely attributable to machine learning”

https://futurism.com/critics-microsoft-water-train-ai-drought

How to Stop Google Bard From Storing Your Data and Location

Checking out this AI chatbot’s new features? Here are some privacy tips to protect your prompts and assert some control over what information you give Bard.

https://www.wired.com/story/google-bard-location-data-tracking-ai/

Generative AI Has Ushered In the Next Phase of Digital Spirituality

From the astrology software of the 1970s to the Co-Star app, spirituality has proliferated online. Now, large language models can find overlooked ways to connect with a higher plane.

https://www.wired.com/story/artificial-intelligence-spirituality-tarot/

Dentsu annual media trends reports

https://insight.dentsu.com/2024-media-trends/

The Team Helping Women Fight Digital Domestic Abuse

Location-enabled tech designed to make our lives easier is often exploited by domestic abusers. Refuge, a UK nonprofit, helps women to leave abusive relationships, secure their devices, and stay safe.

https://www.wired.com/story/the-experts-helping-women-fight-digital-domestic-abuse/

X rolls out new ad format that can’t be reported, blocked

X appears to be rolling out a new mobile ad format that can’t be reported or blocked, lacks an ad label and user profile, and doesn’t disclose the advertiser

https://mashable.com/article/twitter-x-new-clickbait-ad-format

Publishing & Media

70% of Publishing Deals Go to White Authors

RT @JVA_writes All right, fuck it. I wasn’t going to do this on main but this just kicked me over the edge. I’ve spent the last year recording every english language fiction deal in Publisher’s Marketplace, googling over 4000 authors, and this is what the current book deal landscape looks like

  • RT @query_queen339 Barnes and Noble dropped their “Best YA Books of 2023” list and every. single. author is white. Y’all. I feel like a broken record at this point because this happens every day

https://twitter.com/JVA_writes/status/1710395678478729600

Spotify Hopes to Rival Amazon in Audiobooks

Spotify is entering deals with publishers to offer subscribers free audiobooks, as it looks to cut into Amazon’s chokehold on the market.

https://www.ft.com/content/89c889af-3772-4b34-b172-146d6b7068ab

List of Horror Books Coming out in 2023/2024

RT @emilyhughes reminder: if you have a horror or horror-ish book coming out in 2023–2024, please let me know about it here and I’ll add it to my big public masterlist of new horror! shares very appreciated.

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSe4I_fAILCaIAscIH0oTk4J_kb7fw8KQTpFte-5TAmz_5kPZg/viewform

Big disruption hit book publishing before AI showed up

Via ⁦@MikeShatzkin

https://www.idealog.com/blog/big-disruption-hit-book-publishing-before-ai-showed-up/

140 Book Marketing Ideas to Help Authors Increase Sales

HT @samatlounge⁩ ICYMI

https://insights.bookbub.com/book-marketing-ideas/

How to build professional relationships as a children’s author

HT ⁦@samatlounge⁩ Award winning children’s author Maisie Chan shares her tips for building professional relationships.

https://www.scottishbooktrust.com/articles/how-to-build-professional-relationships-tips-for-childrens-authors

What’s in a cover?

HT ⁦@samatlounge⁩ Cover design trends and rip-offs

https://katiemorwenna.substack.com/p/whats-in-a-cover

The Athletic has canceled many local podcasts or left them dormant, telling writers they are free to relaunch them elsewhere and monetize them as they see fit

https://www.niemanlab.org/2023/10/the-athletic-cuts-back-on-local-podcasts/

Hearst Plots Membership Plans for Magazines

Elle UK is launching its first reader membership program, part of a broader initiative at Hearst to monetize its magazine titles.

https://www.businessoffashion.com/articles/media/are-memberships-the-future-of-glossy-magazines/

Microsoft Doubles Down on News at LinkedIn

Unlike Facebook and Google, LinkedIn is highly enthusiastic about the news business. “News is essential to us,” says editor Daniel Roth.

https://pressgazette.co.uk/platforms/linkedins-newsroom/

USA Today Network Readers Can Order Lottery Tickets By Phone Via Jackpocket

Gannett is entering a multi-year deal with Jackpocket, which will allow audience members to order lottery tickets from their phones.

https://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/389795/usa-today-network-readers-can-order-lottery-ticket.html

The most dangerous idea in a library? Empathy

RT @ALALibrary “Books, even bad ones, let you live another life for a few hundred pages. They let you walk in the souls of people you may never meet and connect you in ways you might not expect. And that frightens a lot of people.” Brian Lyman

https://www.newsfromthestates.com/article/most-dangerous-idea-library-empathy

The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) Succumbs to Dubai’s Soft Power Strategy

https://journal.radicallibrarianship.org/index.php/journal/article/view/96/72

Graphic Novels, Manga Explode in Popularity Among Students

https://www.slj.com/story/Graphic-Novels-Manga-Explode-in-Popularity-Among-Students-SLJ-Survey

Nearly a Quarter of School Librarians Have Experienced Harassment Over Books

https://www.slj.com/story/newsfeatures/Nearly-a-Quarter-of-School-Librarians-Have-Experienced-Harassment-Over-Books-SLJ-Censorship-Survey

A visual dive into an alarming increase in attempts to restrict books

HT ⁦@BookRiot ⁩While Texas and Florida lead the charge in banning books, it’s not isolated to any one area: book bans have increased from coast to coast. Most of the books challenged are by BIPOC and/or LGBTQ authors.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/graphics/2023/10/02/banned-books-week-data-visualization/70963214007/

What’s behind the national surge in book bans? A low-tech website tied to Moms for Liberty

As reported by Kelly Jensen over the past year: BookLooks is a content rating website with ties to Moms for Liberty and a tool used by the the right in a movement to ban books in public libraries.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/investigations/2023/10/05/website-driving-banned-books-surge-moms-for-liberty/70922213007/

Book bans are surging — and taking an emotional toll on many authors

MT @ALALibrary Some believe book bans lead to more book sales. Authors say the effect of those bans is devastating for their careers.

https://www.cnn.com/2023/10/04/style/book-bans-sales-authors-impact-cec/index.html

DeSantis is wrong. Book bans in Florida schools and in other states aren’t a ‘hoax.’

The point is not whether one can get a book that’s been prohibited in a school; it’s about whether someone’s ready access to ideas has been denied or diminished in a public institution and why. “It is not only the most blatant prohibitions on books that are of concern to those who believe in protecting the Freedom To Read, but also the full range of ways in which authorities may exert control over access to information.”

https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2023/06/12/book-ban-school-libraries-threat-students-education-freedom/70305740007/

Children and parents begin uphill fightback against book bans in Florida

https://amp.cnn.com/cnn/2023/10/06/us/florida-banned-books/index.html

School culture wars push students to form banned book clubs, anti-censorship groups

RT @FLFreedomRead We are beyond “culture war” when the Attorney General of a state is arguing in court that the government has complete control over all speech in the school house and can censor whatever it wants based on viewpoint. Don’t downplay what is happening here.

https://abcnews.go.com/US/school-culture-wars-push-students-form-banned-book/story?id=103377259

NC school district bans a book about crayons. Are you happy, Republicans?

ICYMI MT @FReadomFighters When children can’t read a book about a crayon, there is something wrong. Shame on Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.

https://www.charlotteobserver.com/opinion/article279922679.html

Schedule Set, but Order Blocking Texas Book Rating Law Still in Limbo

In an October 2 filing, the plaintiffs argued that staying a federal judge’s decision to enjoin HB 900 would “radically upend the status quo” and leave booksellers in a precarious position. But that is exactly where things stand.

https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/libraries/article/93310-schedule-set-but-order-blocking-texas-book-rating-law-still-in-limbo.html

Fear that New Texas Policy Will Limit Books Allowed in Prisons

RT @PENamerica Without notification, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) has apparently implemented an “approved vendor” policy for its prisons, a type of censorship that can seriously limit the flow of books to incarcerated people.

https://pen.org/press-release/fear-that-new-texas-policy-will-limit-books-allowed-in-prisons/

The Financial Cost of Book Challenges

One Utah school district spent $100,000 to deal with more than 200 challenges, almost all from one couple. And in Texas, documents show that more than 16 employees spent over 225 hours at a cost of $30,000 on a single book challenge at the Spring Branch ISD.

https://www.slj.com/story/The-Financial-Cost-of-Book-Challenges-disclaimers-on-Little-Free-Libraries-and-More-Censorship-News

Indiana: Educators, Librarians Could Face Criminal Prosecution And a Level 6 Felony Over Controversial Books

https://wsbt.com/news/operation-education/educators-librarians-criminal-prosecution-level-6-felony-controversial-books-teachers-transparent-state-law-obscene-harmful-minors-ban-library-indiana

Public libraries, readers, writers react to new Missouri rule targeting young library patrons

https://www.kshb.com/news/local-news/your-voice/public-libraries-readers-writers-react-to-new-missouri-rule-targeting-young-library-patrons

Efforts to ban books from Cullman (AL) library on the rise

MT @pbromberg “All of the complaints had been submitted by verified residents… but she noted that most had only recently obtained library cards.” Normal Americans get library cards to read books. Book banners get cards so they can restrict what books others read.

https://www.cullmantimes.com/news/librarian-efforts-to-ban-books-from-cullman-library-on-the-rise/article_dac41448-4e07-11ee-a2c0-5fff8e99b8cb.html

First They Came For Our Library. Next They’re Coming For Yours.

In Front Royal, VA, 53 local radical traditionalist Catholics filled out some 600 reconsideration requests to remove 139 LGBTQ+ books from the public library. And that was just the beginning.

https://buckscountybeacon.com/2023/10/first-they-came-for-our-library-next-theyre-coming-for-yours/

Families concerned about temporary library closures at Escondido Union School District (CA) over ‘inappropriate’ content

MT @PENamerica Days after Governor Gavin Newsom signed a law banning book bans in California schools, libraries in the Escondido Union School District were closed temporarily because of ‘inappropriate’ content

https://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/local/families-concerned-about-temporary-library-closures-at-escondido-union-school-district-over-inappropriate-content/3315684/

NY Librarian describes aggression, stress

https://poststar.com/news/local/librarian-describes-aggression-stress/article_75f73e0e-5e2f-11ee-8fd6-8bc6ae0e5fdc.html

Two California Library Systems Join in Granting Free Access to Banned Books for Young Readers

The Books Unbanned initiative offers free digital access to banned books to teens and young adults across the country.

https://bookriot.com/two-california-library-systems-join-books-unbanned-initiative/

Judy Blume, James Patterson and other authors are helping PEN America open Florida office

https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/entertainment/national/story/2023-10-04/judy-blume-james-patterson-and-other-authors-are-helping-pen-america-open-florida-office

Banned Book Buses Roll Out for October

Three book buses — from MoveOn, PRH, and the ‘New Republic’ — are on the move this October, spreading awareness about the freedom to read and giving away copies of frequently challenged books. #teamPRH

https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/bookselling/article/93321-banned-book-buses-roll-out-for-october.html

American Historical Association Speaks in Support of Honest History

AHA staff and Council members have written articles and made public appearances highlighting the challenges teachers and educators face from legislation restricting the teaching of “divisive concepts” and issues related to teaching history with integrity.

https://www.historians.org/news-and-advocacy/teaching-history-with-integrity/aha-speaks-in-support-of-honest-history

Students and Activists Are Organizing to Keep Libraries Safe and Funded

Young people are fighting for libraries — speaking at school board meetings to stop book bans, working within libraries, and organizing around libraries as community spaces

https://www.teenvogue.com/story/students-and-activists-are-organizing-to-keep-libraries-safe-and-funded

What to Say About Book Bans at School Board and Library Meetings

MT @voiceofwitness If you want to speak out but aren’t sure how to talk about book bans at school board meetings or public library meetings, here are some simple suggestions from PEN America.

https://pen.org/what-to-say-about-book-bans/

What You Can Do About Book Bans

Download a one-sheet to print and share

https://bannedbooksweek.org/let-freedom-read-day/

Resources & Opportunities

Media Training 101

Do you need media training? Come join WMG to learn how to be media-ready from pro Paula Rizzo! 10/10 12–1pm ET, virtual. Free for WMG members, $15 non-members. All proceeds from this event support the Women’s Media Group Educational Foundation.

https://www.womensmediagroup.org/event-5426084

Literary Authors Tea

Come join us for a Literary Tea to Benefit WMG’s Educational Foundation! Sun., 10/22, 2 pm ET at The Madison Theatre at Molloy University, Rockville Centre, NY (a 45-minute train ride from Penn Station) $60 per person, includes a 3-course tea by boutique bakery and one of the authors’ books of your choice. Featuring a highly esteemed group of women authors with vastly diverse careers as writers, this is a not-to-be-missed event, so register today! A portion of the event’s proceeds will be donated to WMG’s Educational Foundation, which directly supports our annual scholarships, fellowships, and members-only professional development opportunities.

https://www.womensmediagroup.org/event-5408853

A Month of Banned Book Activities

https://pen.org/campaign/banned-books-week-2023/

Run for School Board

Amanda Litman’s Run for Something Civics helps people run for school board to stop book banning — this looks like an amazing resource! In many states, the only requirements to run for school board are that you are a resident of the state, and over the age of 18. Right now, the median age of school board members is 59. Meanwhile, more than half of all Americans are millennials or younger. The extremists might be loud, but they are not representative of the American people. You can get involved with your local school board to stop book bans and protect kids’ freedom to read. We’ll help you.

https://www.theybannedwhat.net

#DVpit: An Annual Pitching Event. for un-agented, self-identifying historically marginalized authors & illustrators

HT @marcelalandres 10/11 on Discord

https://www.dvpit.com

2023 Scholastic Giveaway: Power of Story

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScJoHZ2eIjllFYHr1GxLC7Ff2snDcda7EZbtbL6hTdMh9rEfg/viewform

Free Prompt Engineering Conference

MT @PromptEngConf Oct 12th: All Generative AI enthusiasts meet online at Prompt Engineering Conference. 2 tracks (10 hours in total!) of the Prompt Engineering content: tech talks, Q&A sessions, and more! Program, schedule, how to join — on the website. And it’s all FREE! See you there!

https://promptengineering.rocks

New Beach in Manhattan!

https://www.curbed.com/2023/10/gansevoort-peninsula-manhattan-beach-review.html

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Kathy Sandler

Sr Mgr, Content Applications, Penguin Random House * Innovation * Technology * Publishing * Opinions expressed are my own