Technology * Innovation * Publishing Newsletter #267

Kathy Sandler
13 min readOct 16, 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, which you might have missed, and try to include a bunch of resources & opportunities. I’d love to hear what you think of this newsletter.

Important Items

Books that provide context for the events unfolding in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank

Close to 100,000 Voter Registrations Were Challenged in Georgia — Almost All by Just Six Right-Wing Activists

Gov. Greg Abbott says he won’t OK teacher raises until Texas Legislature passes school vouchers

MT @SawyerHackett Republicans in the Texas Senate just gave initial passage to a school voucher bill that will take ~half a billion dollars~ out of public schools in just two years. Funding would be siphoned to religious schools and private schools with no criteria whatsoever.

New Northwestern study reveals alarming impact of long Covid on patients

“Long Covid occurs in about a third of Covid survivors and is now the third leading neurologic disorder in the United States.”


How Disney Packed Big Emotion Into a Little Robot

HT @FOST At Disney Research, an interdisciplinary team of roboticists & animators collaborated to create new characters: emotive, expressive, social robots. The prototype exhibits sophisticated motion based on reinforcement learning.

Microsoft announces new AI tools to help doctors deliver better care

HT @tldrnewsletter


Walmart Uses Augmented Reality to Let Shoppers Try On Makeup in Its App

Walmart’s virtual technology allows people to ‘try on’ more than 1,400 products from over 20 beauty brands.

Google’s AI-powered search experience can now generate images, write drafts

HT @bensbitesdaily Google’s AI-powered search feature, SGE (Search Generative Experience), is gaining some new skills. The AI feature, which introduces a conversational mode in Search, is now going to be able to generate images using prompts directly in SGE similar to rival Bing’s support of OpenAI’s DALLE-E 3. In addition, SGE will now allow users to write drafts within SGE where you can customize the output to be longer or shorter or change the tone of the writing to be more serious or casual.

Adobe is upgrading Photoshop’s generative AI model — and releasing more for Illustrator and Express

Adobe’s new Firefly generative AI models can create high-quality images, editable vector graphics, and customizable design templates.

Decomposing Language Models Into Understandable Components

Who blocks OpenAI, Google AI and Common Crawl?

MT @benedictevans At least half of surveyed news publishers are now blocking both OpenAI and the ‘Common Crawl’ sampling project that many LLM projects use for training data. Most major digital publishers are now on the list.

A New Tool Helps Artists Thwart AI — With a Middle Finger

Kudurru, the new tool from the creator of Have I Been Trained?, can help artists block web scrapers and even “poison” the scraping by sending back the wrong image.

Big Tech Struggles to Turn AI Hype Into Profits

Microsoft, Google and others experiment with how to produce, market and charge for new tools

Artificial Intelligence Is Seeping Into All of Your Gadgets

This week, we discuss the impact generative AI is having on the world of consumer tech, and the various futures that path could lead us to.

On Amazon, eBay, and Shopify, AI is the new third-party seller

Amazon, Shopify & eBay are all rolling out generative AI tools to write product listings for third-party sellers: These platform-specific AIs and broad deployments such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT can “see” an image and write persuasive marketing copy to sell it.

Scientists Say New AI Can Translate What Chickens Are Saying

ChatGPT-owner OpenAI is exploring making its own AI chips

The synthetic social network is coming

Between ChatGPT’s surprisingly human voice and Meta’s AI characters, our feeds may be about to change forever

Kendall Jenner’s AI Chatbot Has Arrived, and It Is Scary-Realistic

HT @neilperkin A couple of weeks ago Meta announced AI chatbots, which can have human-like conversations w users. They can answer queries and find content, w a range of personas including some celebs.

The Chatbots Are Now Talking to Each Other

ChatGPT-style chatbots that pretend to be people are being used to help companies develop new product and marketing ideas.

The bots have come for podcasts

Apple enforces new check on apps in China as Beijing tightens oversight

MT @benedictevans China always required Apple to remove apps it doesn’t like from App Store, now it’s flipped the model, requiring all new apps to be explicitly licensed in China. Android app stores have done this for last 2 yrs & same applies to websites

A Doctored Biden Video Is a Test Case for Facebook’s Deepfake Policies

Meta’s Oversight Board will review Facebook’s decision to not remove a manipulated video of President Biden, and the committee hopes to push Meta to clarify its policies on election deepfakes.

Welcome to the Age of Paid Social Media

Social media apps are testing subscriptions. They say if you’re not the customer, you’re the product. Now you’re both. Meta plans to charge European users $17/month for an ad-free version of Instagram & Facebook. TikTok $4.99, X $8 blue checkmark (which also comes w fewer ads + other dubious features), YouTube $13.99, Snapchat $4, which earns you custom features and tools.

Spotify is being used by criminal gangs to launder money in Sweden

It’s ‘really the Google web’: Microsoft CEO testifies about how hard it is to break into search

MT @benedictevans It’s hard to see what outcome DoJ wants. If it wins, then Google will keep its tens of billions of annual TAC payments, Apple will lose them, Mozilla will go bust & no-one will change their defaults anyway (+if given a choice they’ll pick Google) tests a news-filled homepage, just like Bing and Yahoo

Media & Publishing

Frankfurt, Sharjah Book Fairs Impacted by Israel-Hamas War

The Revamped USA Today Bestseller List Isn’t What It Used to Be

HT ⁦@LWShanley Via ⁦@JaneFriedman. ⁩Over the summer, the USA Today bestseller list returned after being on hiatus for about six months. From June 21 through October 4, 2023, the number and variety of self-published titles hitting the list is a fraction of what it used to be. In 2022 and prior, it was common for multiple new releases from romance authors to hit the USA Today list during their first week on sale, but that is almost not happening at all in 2023.

Parents and Authors On How Scholastic Treats Books About Children of Color

Beginning in late September, several social media users came forward to allege that Scholastic was allowing schools to opt out of providing diverse books at their annual book fairs.

Latinas Working For More Diverse Representation in Publishing

HT @LatinxinPub 5 Latina publishing professionals speak on the current state of the industry and what changes need to happen for better representation

PRH UK phases out high-carbon paper to tackle emissions

Penguin Random House UK revealed since July it has committed to low-carbon paper for printing books #teamPRH

The US library system, once the best in the world, faces death by a thousand cuts

Via @brewster_kahle.

Spotify’s new audiobook streaming could have ‘devastating effect’, says UK Society of Authors

The UK industry body says the music giant’s move to make more than 150,000 titles available has not been discussed with authors and may compete with sales

Make audiobooks prettier, stronger, and more accessible!

MT @EDRLab_org Adopt a standard, and you will not regret it.

Confessions of an Audiobook Addict

HT ⁦@publishingtrend

Young media leaders consider how media will look in 2 decades

HT @BoSacks

Heaps Of Value: Publishers Are Bundling A Wide Array Of Products

HT @BoSacks

The People Behind BookmarkED Are Behind Book Bans in Texas — One Is a School Administrator

South Carolina State Superintendent Seeks Control of Library and Classroom Collections

Banned Books Week may be over, but the fight for control of school library collections continues in districts across the country. In South Carolina, the state’s Department of Education (SCDOE) wants to step in. The SCDOE has drafted a proposal for a new regulation that would give the state, not local school boards, authority over school and classroom library materials.

Pella, Iowa voters to decide whether to give City Council more power to ban books from library

Florida Book Banning

MT @FLFreedomRead We hear quite often that the state of Florida does not ban books, yet titles reviewed by committee just last year and were retained for certain age groups are now removed from all grades due to HB 1069.

Be aware of the unseen cost of censorship in Florida’s schools

Why is it that the removal of a book — one that’s been an important work of literature for decades — can happen in an instant, but the preservation of a book takes an entire community spending seemingly endless hours in grueling advocacy?

Seminole schools yank 31 books based on complaints from other counties

MT @FLFreedomRead A Seminole parent, said the books seemed to be pulled “under the cover of darkness” & represented the outsized influence that conservative groups such as M4L — which pushed for new state laws making book challenges easier — now have on school library collections.

Kids’ Book by Author Named ‘Gay’ Flagged For Censorship at Alabama Library

ICYMI An innocuous children’s book was flagged for “sexually explicit” material at an Alabama library — because the author’s name happened to be Marie-Louise Gay.

First Book Studies Add Key Data to Book Ban Conversation

Thirty-one percent of educators surveyed said there have been book bans, challenges, or restrictions in their school/district. While only seven percent removed books as a direct result of a challenge, 30 percent said they have removed books because they were worried about a future challenge or that parents, colleagues, or administrators would “have issues with the titles.”

Moms for Liberty meets its match: Parents in this swing suburban district are fighting back

Republicans hope to use education wars to turn purple suburbia red. In one Pennsylvania district, that backfired

Tech Tycoon Paul English Launches Banned Books Giveaway for Floridians

MT @FLFreedomRead Working alongside & Electric Literature, Paul English & Joyce Linehan have launched BannedBooksUSA, which will provide restricted & challenged books to libraries, schools, & anyone living in Florida for just a $3.99 shipping charge.

No need to ban: 7 ways to find out and guide what your child is reading

MT @PENamerica In fact, there are several ways to track and guide your children’s education without pulling books off the shelves so that no other child can see them.

Resources & Opportunities

Literary Authors Tea

Literary 3-Course Afternoon Tea 10/22 2pm with authors Helen Ellis, Rosemary Wells, and Patty Lin! $60 includes the 3-course tea and one of the authors’ books of your choice. A portion of the proceeds will go toward the Women’s Media Group scholarship program. Sign up *ASAP* — Hope to see you there!!

The Business of Audiobooks Today and Tomorrow

What an awesome panel! Hear from experts Michele Cobb (Executive Director of the Audio Publishers Association), Ally Demeter (Associate Producer of Audiobooks at Macmillan), Ali Hammond (Head of Merchandising at Chirp Audiobooks), Larissa Helena (Head of Content, Americas, at Yoto), and Jennifer Perry (Director of Audiobooks at Barnes & Noble). 10/25 5:30–6:30pm ET virtual. FREE for WMG members; $15.00 for non-members

WMG Rise Fund FALL 2023

The Craft of Grantwriting for Artists

HT @marcelalandres Free online workshop lead by Rachel Colbert for Bronx Council on the Arts, 10/25

Asian American Writers’ Workshop Events

Looks like a lot of great events.

The details of description: Techniques, tips, and tangents on alternative text

MT @LauraB7 Pssst. Wanna know more about how to write alt text? Of course you do — it’s a life skill at this point! BookNet Canada has a webinar just for you.

Portfolio of Central American and Mexican Diaspora Writing

MT @marcelalandres AGNI Magazine call for submissions: “To Never Have Risked Our Lives: An AGNI Portfolio of Central American and Mexican Diaspora Writing” guest edited by Jennifer De Leon

Tin House Workshop: Summer Residencies

RT @Tin_House Applications are now open for our 2024 Summer Residency program. In an effort to accommodate working writers, parents, & anyone with schedule limitations, we offer flexible dates and the ability to attend with partners/children.

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Kathy Sandler

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