Better living through e-Books

01/05/2010 at 9:20 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Books, books, and more books. Seems like everyone is talking about books, contributing to books, and/or feminism this week. Maybe it’s because it’s right after the holidays, so people are receiving new books as gifts? No? Well it must be just me then.

The most exciting gift I received over the holidays was an Amazon Kindle. A slightly used Kindle, but a Kindle nonetheless. (Funny story behind that slightly used part; my partner & I have some kind of Gift of the Magi thing going on.) I know that e-book readers have some inherent flaws & limitations, not the least of which is a limited selection of books available, and DRM technology on the books that are electronic. I know that the price of e-books isn’t always much cheaper than ordering a hard copy online. I know that if Amazon goes out of business, theoretically, all my e-books could get wiped out. I know all this. I’m willing to accept those risks. I have a couple of goals I intend to reach using this Kindle – and my own in-print collection.

I’ve been meaning to turn over some hard copies of old books & replace them with digital copies. Lord of the Rings, The Prince, Plato, Freud, etc… classic books & authors such as those are often available for free on the Kindle anyway, or for a nominal price. I’m tired of those books eating up my shelf space. Now that I can replace the classics still in my possession with electronic versions, I can toss the hard copies & make room for more fun titles.

Another goal is to hide some embarrassing/controversial books on the Kindle. Currently I have to keep my erotica & detailed sexual health books hidden from plain view. I’ve been getting some flak for owning so many sexual health books – my mom has asked me, “K, why do you keep ordering books about vaginas? Don’t you have enough books about vaginas already?” No, I need more books about vaginas! And books that aren’t about vaginas!
There was also that time one of my girlfriends came over and saw that I had a book about Candida Yeast on my bookshelf… and she confided to me later, that when she saw it, she thought, “Okay, K has a book about Candida Yeast on her shelf… that’s a little different…”

My version of “Hiding” these books isn’t very effective – I just hide the titles of the books by making the pages face out on a shelf, instead of the spine of the book. And if I’m reading something sexually charged – for example, something by Violet Blue – I have to hide the book while I’m still using it. I can’t just leave it on my desk. I wish I didn’t *need* to hide my books, but if I leave them out I know that I’m going to deal with more flak.
So even though it means spending money on the same book twice, I’m going to try to replace some of my paperbacks with electronic copies.

The thing is, what do I do with those paperbacks now that I have them in e-format? I’m sure a public library would accept the classic titles. Would a public library also be interested in women’s sexual health books and erotica?

And of course, I’d like to get some new books on the Kindle – and I’d like to actually read them.

I’m a bit disappointed, I haven’t sat down and read a book in months. I tried to! I want to! I still have several books that I did finish reading, months ago, but haven’t reviewed here. More recently, I started to read a book by Violet Blue and an almost 20-year old book all about Vaginismus – and somewhere along the lines I got distracted.
The main distraction is the blogosphere itself, which is good to read too! Lots of interesting points of view & educational materials are available online! And it’s neat to interact with other feminists online – it’s dynamic. You can ask questions & change your mind, maybe even change somebody else’s mind.
Unfortunately that interaction also opens you up to the dark side of the internet too so there’s that to think about… it’s not all peace, geek & love all the time.
But it’s becoming clear to me that, in order to continue forward with my feminist & sexual health learnings, I’m going to spend more time reading Ye Olde Media in print form. That’s where some of the loudest voices & biggest figures are. If nothing else, I need to read these loud big figures in order to hear what the opposing viewpoint is.

So here’s some titles that I’ve loaded up onto the Kindle…

Sooner or later, I am going to need to chip away at Dworkin’s Intercourse. I can delay for only so long; it seems that I can’t get around it. I understand that this is a very difficult book to read. It may very well break me. But I’ll try it. At least I can say “I tried.”

To balance out the head-breakyness of Intercourse, I’m loading the Kindle out with something more fun – The Bottoming Book :3 Well that’s quite a mix isn’t it! I may attempt The Bottoming Book first, THEN Intercourse. Or vice versa…
I know what you’re going to say to me – “K, feminism and sexuality is not a zero-sum game!” I know. But I think better when I stagger the difficulty levels of what I’m reading.

I know i said I was going to get this next title used, but I changed my mind & got it on the Kindle, because it was there: Sex is Not a Natural Act and other Essays. I’m not fond of this author when her quotes appear in articles about sexual dysfunction, and judging from her table of contents, my opinion will remain unchanged upon concluding with this book. But I’ll see if there’s anything redeemable here. Maybe I’ll love it.

And then to balance out the head-breakyness of Tiefer, I also got The Topping Book.

There’s a couple of other Kindle titles I’m still on the fence about, and there’s others that can wait a little while. There is no rush. I have my whole life ahead of me to learn. Of course there’s still other books I’ll definitely have to get and keep in print.

And there’s other books I’m getting that have absolutely nothing to do with feminism or sexual health. Because believe it or not I have a life outside of those two realms too. Sadie Kay pointed out some FREE BOOKS to me over at a thread on FWD, so that’ll potentially help me save some cash. And maybe if you got a Kindle too, that’ll save you some cash now that you know such an online library exists.

And that’s some of what I’ll probably be chipping away at in 2010. Hopefully, reading. Fun stuff, hard stuff, challenging stuff, silly stuff, etc…

And I mustn’t forget about all the other books I have read which I still haven’t posted reviews for… I don’t know though, do books like Heal Pelvic Pain and The Camera My Mother Gave Me even need reviews? They should be required reading re: vulvar pain. They don’t always lend themselves easily to a feminist critique though…

BOOKS.

The other nifty gift I received over the holidays that I’ve been using every day is much cheaper – a plastic water bottle. It’s BPA free! And it fits in my purse! If I take my makeup bag out… I may need a smaller BPA-free water bottle. To make room for the Kindle, if I want to carry it in my purse.

A visit to the bookstore

07/10/2009 at 10:47 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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I missed an appointment with my chiropractor/acupuncturist today. I’m still feeling kinda crappy and still dealing with a side effect from the medication I was taking. Obviously since I’m still getting sick & getting infections, this treatment doesn’t seem to do much good for my immune system. Yet I still go to him once every few weeks, since the chiro/acupuncture treatment helped me manage some mysterious pelvic pain.

I missed the appointment since I was stuck in traffic. The office is nearby a bookstore. I figured I was already near the store, and my evening was free since I didn’t make it in for the appointment, so I stopped in.

I wasn’t looking for anything in particular at the bookstore. I already have enough sexuality & feminist lit to keep me going all through the summer and then some. I was curious about the selection. I wanted to see if anything caught my eye, hoping something would.

I was somewhat disappointed.

Shopping in a retail store isn’t like shopping online. Online I can find almost anything, although out of print books & imported goods tend to cost more. But physical locations can’t have an infinite inventory. Retailers have to pick & choose what’s most likely to sell. That’s not an easy call to begin with, but I imagine it’s compounded when you’re in the middle of a recession.

I looked at some of the women’s Health books, hoping but not expecting to find some new vulvar health care books. Something with new, updated research. Nothing new though. The store had “The V Book” in stock, and more generally several copies of  “Our Bodies, Ourselves,” and “Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom.” But I already own those, and I was not interested in other women’s health care topics at this time.

I left the Health section empty-handed.

As I moved on, I couldn’t help but notice – my goodness, but there certainly are a lot of diet & cook books. My god it’s like the entire center of the store was all about food & fitness.

I looked at the Sexuality books. My impression of the section on sexuality is: A lot of the books are actually the same book. That’s not entirely true, I know. I’m sure each book brings something new to the table, although some are bound to be better than others. But so many of the titles sounded like they had the same theme – “Great sex,” or rather, “GREAT SEX” in big bold letters. A big chunk of the reason I think all the sex books are the same, is because they all used the same exact font! Most of these book covers were exclusively text with a solid color background. Lots of blacks, purples, reds. If a cover’s background wasn’t a solid color but a photo or image instead, the photo was rarely of people. I saw more photographic covers with hints of fabric, promising fun times in bed. When covers did show human figures, the images were stylized, like outlines, or else did not show an entire figure – the faces were obscured or there was no head for a face to be on. And as for the bodies themselves – not a lot of variety there, lots of conventionally beautiful white men & women.

So much of the same theme repeated over & over again… Or maybe I just felt like it was the same few books, since the sexuality section was so small. Not much of a selection at all.

“Great sex” was definitely the predominant theme – whatever the hell that even means. Those books seemed so in-your-face, so much “Come on and read me, I dare you! Look how hip & edgy & bold I am. I’m a book about SEX! I’m gona tell it to you straight up even if what I say makes no sense can be found online for free is a stereotype makes you mad.” Books that promise “Great sex” no doubt have to explain what the authors actually mean later on in the text, and in my experience with the sexuality books I already own, I would hope that the authors take a broader view of sex. It doesn’t seem revolutionary to me anymore, to expand the meaning of sex in order to enhance your experience of it. I’ve been exposed to that for awhile now. But I look around at the media & how intercourse-centric it is, and maybe it really is revolutionary.
But what if the sexual advice books really do just mean one kind of sex?

Besides that, there were a lot of books about the Kama Sutra. A few titles promised to give details on how to perform non-intercourse activities, such as oral sex & mutual masturbation. There were two books about erotic massage exclusively. A few books promised to talk about orgasm – what it is, how it works, how to have one. In the past, I’ve seen this store sell books about sex toys but there were none in stock today. Mostly vanilla heterosexual activities today.

I think what I was looking for, was not a book about “Great sex…” Somehow, when I see themes like that, I feel excluded. In my mind I think to myself, “I’m sure these books are great for people who already have a healthy sex life and who are able bodied enough for some athletic positions, but I’m still new at this and I’m not ready (emotionally or physically) for advanced positions, if that’s all the authors have to offer.” Perhaps the marketing of sex books holds them back from me. Or maybe it’s how sex is marketed in general, and I’m bringing my own internalized notions of the word with me to the bookstore.

I think I was looking for something more like, “Sex after pain. Pressure-free sex that doesn’t have to be GREAT every time yet can still be pleasant for everyone involved. Sexual intimacy. Slow sensuality. A beginner’s guide to kink.” I’m making the titles up now, although a quick glance on Amazon let me know that such things may actually exist. They’re out there, but not on retail shelves. Apparently titles like what I’m looking for, are not popular enough to take up shelf space during a recession. Or probably at any other time.

I did see some recommended titles with staying power that I probably would purchase at a later date – like, after I finish reading some titles I already own (that the bookstore doesn’t sell!) But overall the sexuality section was… small, skewed towards newer titles, and had a lot of overlapping information. There were some oldies but goodies in there, but very few. I didn’t even see anything by Betty Dodson.

I looked at the Gender Studies section and it was even more paltry than the Sexuality shelves. It probably didn’t help that the books were just disheveled & allover the place – on their sides, laying flat… general disarray. It was a mess.

There were a couple of oldies but goodies were available which I probably should read at some point in the future. Other books I’ve been thinking of picking up were out of stock (or just not in stock to begin with.) I’d prefer to thumb through some titles before I buy. I may have to order them online. I recognized a lot of titles available on the shelves were published by Seal Press, including some of the notably controversial ones that have been analyzed in sometimes heated discussion online. Some books about media, sexism, ageism, self-help, survival, sex work.

But other than that, just, not much in Gender Studies… the bottom 3 shelves out of a several-feet high wall. Not as wide a variety of topics as I expected.

I wound up leaving the store with something I didn’t go in looking for – an art book. Because believe it or not, I actually do have other interests, too.

New V book arrival

06/13/2009 at 2:54 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Look what I just got!

I know you’re all jealous now.
(Probably not jealous of my nails though – I could really use a manicure.)

Female Sexual Pain Disorders: Evaluation and Management. You can get a feel for what’s going on in here thanks to Google Books. Careful, some of the pages available for preview are not work safe.

I know I probably don’t need it. I’m a patient, not a doctor. I’m not in school anymore. Why am I buying a $120+ text book even though I am not in school? This has nothing to do with my major. This has nothing to do continuing education to further my career. This probably isn’t an inherently feminist book.

Yet I have a thing about collecting books that deal with sexual pain, particularly vulvodynia & related conditions. I have spent quite a pretty penny on out-of-print books before, just because they were on the NVA reading list. I want to know more. I want to know what’s available in the media. I want to know what doctors know. I want to know what regular people can know. I want to know what sources are being cited, so that I can find & then use those sources myself. God forbid if something new happens to me, I don’t want to be taken by surprise.

I haven’t read the whole thing yet so I cant give in-depth review or give any hints as to whether or not it would be of use to laypersons.

My initial impressions:

  • The book has many photos & illustrations, yet most of the information is written down. Still text-heavy.
  • I recognize a lot of the authors’ names. I’ve seen these doctors names get mentioned on the support communities & some have written other books. Yet some conspicuous doctors are missing. I wonder why that is?
  • There are a lot of chapters. Lots of ground to cover, including but not limited to:
    • Irritatable bowel syndrom (IBS)
    • Interstitial cystitis (IC)
    • Endometriosis
    • Hormones
    • Pudendal Neuralgia
    • Vaginismus
    • Vulvodynia & vestibulodynia
    • Treatments
    • MORE – you may want to check the Google Books link since it lists the table of contents.
  • These chapters are detailed & dedicated to each topic of interest. However,
    • The chapters are all short, just a few pages long.
  • The chapters all have a lot of footnotes & citations. I’m thinking if you wanted to get even more detail on a topic covered in a chapter, it might be worthwhile to investigate the sources cited.

So no judgements yet about how “Good” it is. I’m just excited about having it. I’ve got some high hopes – so let’s hope it does not disappoint. In any event, another refernece to add to my home library.

Amazon.com’s sexuality fail

04/12/2009 at 9:07 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Here’s something to blog about that I’m sure everyone can agree is completely horrifying:

Amazon.com is stripping the sales rank feature off of books about sexuality – this includes LGBITQ books, feminist books, and as I’ve discovered, even general sexual health books. The books are being removed from top sales lists, so if you were to look at the most popular books right now and one of them happened to be a bestseller about sexuality, it won’t show up.

A couple of blogs are covering the story better than I ever could; check Jezebel & UnCooler than Thou, as well as LiveJournal community Meta Writer. Keep an eye on others; Feministing will have something to say shortly.

You can still find the books of interest; they’re not stopping sales. But what seems to be happening is, you have to know the exact title or author instead of being able to browse a topic.

Without a sales rank feature, this change in Amazon’s policy is resulting in some pretty disturbing search results. I’m quoting Jezebel here:

Update 3: Commenter Gertymac points out that due to the removal of sales rankings, the first title that pops up when one searches “homosexuality” on Amazon is the aforementioned A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality. Also in the top 10 when one searches for “homosexuality:” Coming Out Of Sexuality: New Freedom For Men And Women, Can Homosexuality Be Healed?, and When Homosexuality Hits Home: What To Do When A Loved One Says They’re Gay, which carries this description: “The heart–wrenching declaration that a loved one is a homosexual is increasingly being heard in Christian households across America. How can this be? What went wrong? Is there a cure?” Yikes.

What… what?

It makes me wonder very much what the search results looked like before a few days ago, when you looked for “Pornography.” I see what it looks like now – did anybody take screen caps of the search results a few days ago? I’m curious to see if it changed. I don’t see one of the titles about the legal issues & censorship appearing that I was thinking of getting.
…And there you are then. I was wanting to get one of the books about censorship, legal issues & porn and now I’m … probably not going to find it this way now am I. Because now of course I’m remembering that such a book existed and I cannot for the life of me remember the title or author.

It just happened again; I did a search for a book I know I own. I looked for The Science Fiction of Sex. Tell me now, do you see this book listed on the search page? Do I have to be THAT specific now? The title is too long to be practical to remember every word unless maybe you absolutely LOVE the book (Which, I don’t. I don’t love this book. It’s very cerebral.)

I have some of the books on these lists. I have blacklisted books. What? Check it out – click the link & then scan the page or do a search for “Sales” or “Sales Rank” & you won’t find something that does appear on the page description for something more “Wholesome,” something more Family Friendly such as EragonSales Rank. Check it out, Sales Rank appears for Eragon but not these books now. As of today, Eragon ranks #3,079 but the others… well look for yourself.

Let’s try some of the titles I’m most familiar with… ones that I either already own, or plan to own shortly. These seem relevant to my interests:

Sex guides such as  The Ultimate Guide to Sex & Disability and Anne Sprinkle’s Spectacular Sex is getting the purge treatment. Sexual health books including The V Book are getting the purge treatment. WTF. THIS IS ONE OF MY FAVORITE & MOST USEFUL BOOKS all caps. I use this book all the time! For Women Only, put out by the Berman Center, lost its sales rank feature. The Smart Girl’s Guide to Porn is getting this treatment. Yes Means Yes and other feminist works are getting blacklisted. For example, Jane Sexes it Up is getting this treatment. (This is the anthology that has the vulvodynia essay in it.)

Dr. Goldstein’s Reclaiming Desire: 4 Keys to Finding your Lost Libido (something on my “I want it” list) has been de-ranked as well – now that may be because the hardcover version went out of print and the new paperback version isn’t available yet so maybe we can forgive that for the time being? I don’t know?

So far bell hooks has escaped the great purge. So too has The Feminine Mystique, but not My Secret Garden.

Interestingly, the BabeLand Sex Toy Book is getting purged, but not the actual Sex Toys themselves (note the sales rank feature is appearing in “Health & Personal Care.”) More of the same.

Are you familiar with these titles? Are you noticing a trend here? Are you noticing a theme?
What is going on? Is sex still THAT much of a taboo subject? It’s still that completely powerful & scary that you have to protect your own customers from it? Especially when it becomes more explicit or leaves the path of mainstream?

This is pretty upsetting – I bought a lot of my sexuality & feminist books from Amazon. It’s almost always cheaper for me to order the books online than it is for me to buy them in-store, unless I have a coupon. I once price compared the same 5 titles I wanted from BabeLand & Amazon & bought the bundle from Amazon for a net savings of $20 after shipping.

But now I think I am going to need to reconsider which store I patronize with my $.

Amazon, you need to go back & fix this. What are you doing? You are going to get so much flak. You survived the great recession of 2k9 so far, are you really willing to risk alienating a big chunk of your consumer base now? Like, I really don’t understnad what the logic is behind this move. Like I really don’t get it. Don’t you remember when LiveJournal similarily started censoring some interests from search results & the top interests list? The member base raised hell about it! It wasn’t that long ago.


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