Posts with «books & publishing» label

The Kindle Store has a prolific new author: ChatGPT

ChatGPT is listed as the author or co-author of at least 200 books on Amazon’s Kindle Store, according to Reuters. However, the actual number of bot-written books is likely much higher than that since Amazon’s policies don’t explicitly require authors to disclose their use of AI. It’s the latest example of AI-generated writing flooding the market and playing a part in ethically dubious content creation since the November release of OpenAI’s free tool.

“I could see people making a whole career out of this,” said Brett Schickler, a Rochester, NY salesman who published a children’s book on the Kindle Store. “The idea of writing a book finally seemed possible.” Schickler’s self-published story, The Wise Little Squirrel: A Tale of Saving and Investing, is a 30-page children’s story — written and illustrated by AI — selling for $2.99 for a digital copy and $9.99 for a printed version. Although Schickler says the book has earned him less than $100 since its January release, he only spent a few hours creating it with ChatGPT prompts like “write a story about a dad teaching his son about financial literacy.”

Other examples of AI-created content on the Kindle Store include children’s story The Power of Homework, a poetry collection called Echoes of the Universe and a sci-fi epic about an interstellar brothel, Galactic Pimp: Vol. 1.

“This is something we really need to be worried about, these books will flood the market and a lot of authors are going to be out of work,” said Mary Rasenberger, executive director of the Authors Guild. “There needs to be transparency from the authors and the platforms about how these books are created or you’re going to end up with a lot of low-quality books.”


Meanwhile, science-fiction publication Clarkesworld Magazine has temporarily halted short-story submissions after receiving a flood of articles suspected of using AI without disclosure, as reported by PCMag. Although Editor Neil Clarke didn’t specify how he identified them, he recognized the (allegedly) bot-assisted stories due to “some very obvious patterns.” “What I can say is that the number of spam submissions resulting in bans has hit 38 percent this month,” he said. “While rejecting and banning these submissions has been simple, it’s growing at a rate that will necessitate changes. To make matters worse, the technology is only going to get better, so detection will become more challenging.”

Clarkesworld currently prohibits stories “written, co-written or assisted by AI,” and the publication has banned over 500 users this month for submitting suspected AI-assisted content. Clarkesworld pays 12 cents per word, making it a prime target. “From what I can tell, it’s not about credibility. It’s about the possibility of making a quick buck. That’s all they care about,” Clarke tweeted

In addition to the standalone ChatGPT tool, Microsoft’s new version of Bing uses a more advanced version of the tool to help with search queries.
JASON REDMOND via Getty Images

Apart from ethical issues about transparency, there are also questions of misinformation and plagiarism. For example, AI bots, including ChatGPT, Microsoft’s Bing AI and Google’s Bard, are prone to “hallucinating,” the term for spouting false information confidently. Additionally, they’re trained on human-created content — almost always without the original author’s knowledge or permission — and sometimes use identical syntax to the source material. 

Starting last year, tech publication CNET used an in-house AI model to write at least 73 economic explainers. Unfortunately, apart from the initially cagey approach that only revealed it was written by AI if you clicked on the byline, it also included numerous factual errors and nearly identical phrasing from other websites’ articles. As a result, CNET was forced to make extensive corrections and pause its use of the tool — however, one of its sister sites has already at least experimented with using it again.

Why I’m reviewing 'Hogwarts Legacy'

Five days ago, a review code for Hogwarts Legacy landed in my inbox. I’ve been thinking about this moment for more than a year, ever since the backlash against the game started gaining traction online. The author of the Harry Potter novels is transphobic and she’s targeted transgender women in particular. For this reason, some people in the LGBT+ community, and allies beyond, have decided to boycott Hogwarts Legacy and admonish anyone who chooses to play or stream it themselves, sparking explosive arguments across social media, Twitch and YouTube. Those in favor of the boycott argue that playing the game benefits the author financially and indicates support for her beliefs. On the flipside, potential players point out that the author wasn’t involved in the creation of Hogwarts Legacy and her status as the world’s richest author won’t change regardless of the game’s success. Also, they really want to play it.

I fall into the second category. I’m currently about 15 hours into Hogwarts Legacy and I’m just barely scratching the surface; I’m having an incredible time. This feels like the RPG that Harry Potter fans have been waiting for, rich and alive and absolutely packed with magic.

It’s slightly frightening to write that down, knowing the condemnation I could receive. It’s an extra-light version of the dread I felt while publishing literally anything during Gamergate, but this time it’s more personal: The hate would be coming from people I actually care about.

I’ve been a video game journalist for the past 13 years, I’m a bisexual woman and I have a big ol’ Harry Potter tattoo next to an anti-TERF tattoo. I feel uniquely positioned to care about this particular topic, and to that end, I have a quick story to tell. It involves literary internet culture in the early 2000s, and I hope it illuminates factors that entwine the Wizarding World with the LGBT+ community, while demonstrating the vast divide that’s existed for decades between the fantasy and its creator.

As a pre-teen and throughout high school, I found solace in Harry Potter fanfiction, a bustling online ecosystem powered by Livejournal,, AO3 and other community-run sites. I cannot overstate how popular Harry Potter fanfiction was and still is, nor how queer it’s always been. Most stories in Harry Potter fanfiction center on LGBT+ characters, and for good reason – in the early aughts, media for and by gay people was ridiculously hard to come by, and then when you did find something, it was often campy, trashy, or both. It was a pre-streaming, pre-YouTube, pre-TikTok way of life. So we wrote our own stories as fanfiction. Long before the release of the final Harry Potter book, we infused the halls of Hogwarts with magically amplified, non-heterosexual and non-cisgender characters, and we wrote millions of words about them living full, fantastic lives. We made Dumbledore gay long before the canon did.

In those early days, an important part of the Harry Potter fanfiction process was critiquing the world and recognizing the limits of the author’s imagination. With each new book release, the forums would light up with praise and criticism, and our own stories would continue to evolve outside of the pages of the novels. These fics are more real to me than the source material; when I traverse the hallways of the Slytherin dungeons in Hogwarts Legacy, my mind accesses memories from my favorite fanfics – not the books – and I’m infused with warmth. The halls of Hogwarts are my safe space, still.

I recognize my circumstances are incredibly specific, but I also know mine isn’t a unique experience. Fantasy worlds offer an escape for queer and non-queer people alike, and coming-of-age fiction can be powerful, formulative stuff. This particular fantasy universe was a place of belonging for me, and I think its latest iteration, Hogwarts Legacy, could offer a similar slice of peace to young players today.

I understand the anger and protective energy from people who don’t want to play the game. It’s a terrifying time to be transgender: Ultra-conservative lawmakers are writing discrimination and blind hate into law, while neo-nazi rhetoric has found new life on mainstream social media platforms. Deadly violence against trans people, particularly Black transgender women, remains a pervasive epidemic in the United States. Among these real-world threats, we’re clashing over the virtues of playing or not playing Hogwarts Legacy. It’s been depressing to observe as this conversation sows division and sucks attention away from our shared goals, limiting our ability to celebrate new successes.

Harry Potter will outlive its author. She is not the future of the franchise. Avalanche, Portkey Games and Warner Bros. have been well aware of the pervasive disgust for the author’s ideology for years, and I believe it encouraged them to include more representation in the game than the series has ever seen. Hogwarts Legacy allows for various expressions of gender identity in the character creator and casually drops “they” pronouns in conversation; all around, the cast is diverse and Avalanche writes non-white characters better than the original author did. There’s still room for improvement, and that’s why the conversation needs to be ongoing: Positive progress is our shared goal.

As someone who searched desperately for an example of my own identity in the pages of Harry Potter novels, I deeply appreciate the evolution and inclusion in Hogwarts Legacy. This level of representation didn’t exist in AAA games 15 years ago, and it’s the result of all the progress made, through protest and education, since the books were published. Long before the in-fighting over a choice to play a video game.

If you don’t want to engage with Hogwarts Legacy, please, boycott the game – just don’t boycott the players. It’s us against the transphobic people in the world, not us against each other. Some of us will choose to play, some of us won’t. Even more will wonder why anyone even cares about this fictional kid and his heteronormative, whitewashed, multibillion-dollar franchise. These are all valid options. Playing Hogwarts Legacy doesn’t automatically make you transphobic. Boycotting it doesn’t automatically make you an ally – supporting our community members does.

We’ll have a full review of Hogwarts Legacy later in the week, once I’ve had enough time with this enormous game to fully form an opinion on it. Even if I catch hell for this perspective, I’ll be here, supporting local inclusion efforts, protesting discrimination, calling my lawmakers, loving my community and playing the gayest version of Hogwarts Legacy possible.

Samsung's Galaxy Book 3 Ultra laptop includes AMOLED screen tech borrowed from phones

True to the rumors, Samsung has unveiled the Galaxy Book 3 line — including the company's first-ever Ultra laptop model. The Galaxy Book 3 Pro, Galaxy Book 3 Pro 360 convertible and Galaxy Book 3 Ultra all center around 120Hz, 2,880 x 1,800 "Dynamic AMOLED 2X" displays with technology lifted directly from Samsung's higher-end smartphones. You'll only find touch input on the Pro 360, but this still promises rich colors (120 percent of the DCI-P3 gamut), smooth responses and DisplayHDR True Black 500 support.

The 16-inch Galaxy Book 3 Ultra (pictured above) is, unsurprisingly, billed as a performance powerhouse. It comes with up to a 13th-gen Intel Core i9 and NVIDIA's GeForce RTX 4070 graphics — this is very much a gaming machine. You can also expect up to 32GB of RAM, a 1TB SSD (with an expansion slot), a 1080p webcam and an AKG-tuned quad speaker array with Dolby Atmos surround. Two Thunderbolt 4 ports, one USB-A port, a microSD slot, a headphone jack and HDMI round out connectivity. The Ultra is an easy-to-carry system despite the specs, weighing 3.9lbs and measuring 0.65in thick thanks to a "full" aluminum frame that you'll also find in other models.


The Galaxy Book 3 Pro and Pro 360 (middle) are more conventional thin-and-light portables. Both support up to a 13th-gen Core i7 and lean on integrated Iris Xe graphics. They support up to 32GB of RAM a 1TB SSD and the ports of the Ultra, but don't have the Ultra's expansion or HDMI 2.0 compatibility (only HDMI 1.4). The Pro is available in a very light (2.42lbs) 14-inch model as well as a 16-inch (3.4lbs) configuration, while the Pro 360 is only available in a 16-inch (3.7lbs) variant. The touchscreen laptop does have optional 5G, however.

Integration with Samsung's phones is tighter than before, too. Multi Control now lets you steer your handset (not just your tablet) using the Galaxy Book 3's keyboard and trackpad — you can drag-and-drop content between devices. You can automatically upload the phones' Expert RAW photos and edit them in Adobe Lightroom, too. The company is also eager to note support for Microsoft Phone Link, including new productivity features. You can quickly continue web browsing on your computer, or quickly connect to your phone's hotspot.

We're still waiting on pricing as we write this, but pre-orders are available today for the Galaxy Book 3 series. They'll ship on February 17th, starting with the Pro and Pro 360 notebooks. It's evident that the Ultra is the headliner, though, as it's one of the few truly portable laptops that can still deliver the performance needed for games and heavy-duty media editing.

Samsung Galaxy Book 3 Ultra hands-on: NVIDIA RTX 4070 power in a super slim frame

Samsung is ready to take its Ultra branding to the final frontier — at least, as far as its mobile products go. After introducing an Ultra variant of its tablets last year, the company is launching a similarly high-specced model of its Galaxy Book laptops in 2023. Alongside the new S23 series of flagship phones, Samsung launched the Galaxy Book 3 Pro, Galaxy Book 3 Pro 360 and Galaxy Book 3 Ultra at its Unpacked event in San Francisco today.

The Ultra and the Pro 360 are only available in 16 inches, while the clamshell Galaxy Book 3 Pro comes in 14- and 16-inch sizes. I was able to check out a few of them at a recent hands-on event, though Samsung didn’t have every single model available. Rather than detail every configuration, I’m going to focus on my impressions of the Book 3 Ultra here. For the complete breakdown of the six other laptops, check out our news post for the full specs.

In general, the Galaxy Book 3 lineup is pretty straightforward. They’re powered by 13th-gen Intel Core i5 or i7 processors, with Iris X graphics and up to 32GB of DDR5 RAM. The Pro 360 is the only touch-enabled model, and Samsung has redesigned its display to remove a layer in the panel while still supporting touch. All models have 3K Dynamic AMOLED screens that run at 120Hz and can get as bright as 400 nits.

The star of the show, however, is the Galaxy Book 3 Ultra, and it’s a beast of a machine. It uses Intel’s Core i7 and i9 processors, and those are paired with NVIDIA’s RTX 4050 and 4070 graphics cards respectively. The i7 model comes with 16GB of DDR5 RAM while the i9 configuration has 32GB.

Despite packing such powerful guts, the Book 3 Ultra is an impressively thin and light laptop, weighing 1.79kg (3.9 pounds) and measuring 16.5mm (0.64 inches) thin. It’s not as light as the LG Gram Style I saw at CES, which is just 1.2kg, but the latter doesn't offer RTX 30 series graphics. Samsung’s laptop also felt more premium and sturdy than the Gram, which might be thanks to its aluminum frame, though I have to say LG’s machines at least have a distinctive style. The Galaxy Books are starting to look boring, with the same MacBook-esque design they’ve come in for years. Like the Galaxy S23 phones, parts of the Book 3 series were built from recycled plastics from discarded fishing nets.

The Book Ultra is heftier than the other Book 3s, but it also offers a generous array of ports including HDMI, microSD, two Thunderbolt 4 USB-C sockets, a USB-A slot and a 3.5mm audio jack. Like most laptops with a 16-inch screen, the Ultra also sports a roomy keyboard and its trackpad is positively enormous. I wish the buttons had a bit more travel, but typing on the Book Ultra was comfortable enough. It’s no ThinkPad, but it’ll do the job.

Cherlynn Low / Engadget

I didn’t get to try out much else on the Galaxy Book 3, since we had a limited amount of time to check out a ton of devices. The few apps I opened, like Notepad and Control Panel, launched quickly, but I can’t say that’s a good measure of performance.

I also wish I had been able to check out the 1080p webcam or new features like the updated quad speaker system and PC-smartphone connectivity tools like Recent Websites and Instant Hotspot via Microsoft’s Phone Link. In theory, though, signing into your Samsung account on the Book Ultra and your Galaxy smartphone should allow you to seamlessly move a web page from your phone to your PC. Samsung’s Multi Control now supports Galaxy smartphones so you can use your laptop, tablet and phone with a keyboard and trackpad

Computer makers have been building software that makes connecting your phone and PC less of a hassle for years. While tools like this are getting better over time, it’ll be interesting to see just how useful Samsung’s offering will be in the real world. Frankly, the most intriguing thing about the Galaxy Book 3 Ultra is what Samsung has been able to squeeze into such a svelte frame. The Galaxy Book 3 Ultra will be available on February 17th from $2,400, but you should wait till we can get one in for testing to determine how it stacks up against the competition on performance and battery life before dropping your money.

Apple's new audiobook narration service uses AI voices

When you browse Apple Books for your next audiobook, you might come across a few titles with a note that says they were "Narrated by Apple Books." That's because the tech giant has released a catalogue of titles that make use of its new AI-powered digital narration service. The company said the service uses the advanced speech synthesis technology it developed "to produce high-quality audiobooks from an ebook file." 

According to The Guardian, Apple approached independent publishers who may be interested in teaming up for the project's launch in recent months. Authors were reportedly told that the company behind the technology would shoulder the costs of turning their books into audiobooks and that they would be earning royalties. Apple, as secretive as ever, apparently remained unnamed at that point of the process and required partners to sign non-disclosure agreements. 

In its announcement, Apple touched on how commissioning voice actors and producing audiobooks could cost writers and publishers thousands of dollars. For independent authors, especially those just starting out, it's not always possible to spare that much money. But thing is, the audiobook market has grown tremendously in recent years — it earned $1.6 billion in sales in 2021, and experts reportedly believe the market could be worth over $35 billion by 2030. Authors wouldn't only be missing out on potential income by not creating audiobook versions of their titles, but also the opportunity to build their brand and following while the market is still growing. 

The tech giant said its digital narration technology will make audiobook creation more accessible. There is truth in that, and if the project turns out to be successful, it could change the future of audiobooks. Books narrated by a digital voice aren't exactly new, though, and they're typically hard to listen to due to how robotic they sound. David Caron, a co-producer at a large audiobook publisher in Canada, also raised an important point in his statement to The Guardian: "The narrator brings a whole new range of art in creating audiobook... They're creating something that is different from the print book, but that adds value as an art form."

At the moment, Apple offers authors two digital voices to choose from: One soprano and one baritone. They sound pretty human, based on the samples the company shared, but the sound clips were short and might not be a genuine representation of the whole audiobook's quality. Apple is only accepting books in the romance and a limited number of other fiction genres for now. The books must already be available on Apple Books, must be in English and must pass and editorial review. It's working to expand AI narration's availability, however, and will soon offer it to nonfiction and self-development authors. The company will also launch two more digital voices for those genres. For now, you can listen to audiobooks that use Apple's AI by searching for "AI narration" in Apple Books.

What we bought: Our favorite books of 2022

We may not have had quite as much unfettered reading time as we did in the lockdown days of the COVID pandemic, but Engadget’s editors have still managed to pick out, peruse and ponder a broad variety of this year’s most intriguing books. Whether we learned how to wield a wok, listened to life lessons from Hideo Kojima, or dove into the seedy underbelly of an alt-universe 1940’s San Francisco, here are a few of our favorites from 2022.

Razzmatazz by Christopher Moore

Harper Collins

Classic noir cinema was a staple in my house growing up — I mean, my first celebrity crush was on The Thin Man series co-star, Myrna Loy — so any story from the days when mugs were mooks and gals were dames holds sway over my heart. But The Thin Man, like the rest of the media made at that time, only showed a very narrow, very male, very white view of life. Christopher Moore’s latest novel, Razzmatazz, adds some much needed color to the otherwise black-and-white world of noir.

Razzmatazz is the second title for Moore’s satirical murder mystery series, following 2019’s Noir. In this latest installment, we’re returned to Post-WWII San Francisco as bartender Sammy “Two Toes” Tiffin and his cadre of misfit friends hustle to survive in Fog City. Now, helping disappear your best friend’s girlfriend’s abusive husband is one thing but, as the team soon learns, stealing back a possibly magical, definitely priceless, heirloom from the local Tong is another entirely — and that’s before some madman starts murdering the city’s drag kings.

Razzmatazz is a smart and just a bit snarky adventure mystery featuring a diverse and developed cast of characters, fast-paced action that seamlessly transitions between the varying viewpoints of said ensemble and doesn’t get bogged down in world building. At around 350 pages apiece, Noir and Razzmatazz will each provide a solid weekend’s entertainment and, if you’re still looking for more Moore after that, check out 2020’s Shakespeare for Squirrels. – Andrew Tarantola, Senior Editor

Upgrade by Blake Crouch

Penguin Randomhouse

I always look forward to new Blake Crouch releases because his writing is vivid and fast-paced, so much so that I can see the movie version playing out in my head as I devour his latest title in just a couple of days. This year’s Upgrade was no exception – we’re in a world in which gene editing is real yet highly regulated, and we follow Logan Ramsay, a member of the Gene Protection Agency as he tries to apprehend those who may be involved in nefarious gene-editing activities.

But after a violent encounter on a mission, Logan starts to feel less and less like himself and more like a better version of himself. He can read faster, he’s physically stronger and he needs less sleep. He soon finds out his genome has been hacked, and he also discovers he’s part of a much larger plan that could change humanity as he knows it. As he works to stop this plan from being executed, he’s forced to confront some of the darkest parts of his past and the tarnished family legacy he’s been working so hard to escape.

Crouch excels at putting readers into his protagonist’s shoes, forcing them to feel the same anxiety, dread and confusion inflicting his main characters. But to think that produces an overall unpleasant reading experience would be incorrect: Upgrade is an intriguing thrill ride that moves at break-neck speed, while posing a lot of questions about humanity as a whole. – Valentina Palladino, Senior Commerce Editor

Notes on an Execution by Danya Kukafka

Harper Collins

On its face, Notes on an Execution may seem like a typical examination of a serial killer. The novel begins with Ansel Packer counting down his last 12 hours before he’s to be executed for killing many women. But Danya Kukafka is much less interested in this murderer as she is in telling the stories of three women who were all affected by Ansel in some way. We follow Lavender, Ansel’s mother, as a lost teenager pushed to the brink as she struggles to protect her children and herself; Hazel, Ansel’s sister-in-law who watches her twin lose herself in this toxic relationship; and Saffy, the lead investigator on Ansel’s case with more hidden trauma than you might expect buried just under the surface. But these women aren’t victims with a capital V. Instead, they work to flip the serial-killer narrative on its head by focusing our attention on the fact that, despite everything, they survived. Notes on an Execution is a dark, engaging story with lovely prose and a surprisingly, underlying element of hope at the end of it all. – V.P.

Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng

Our Missing Hearts, in the grand tradition of near-future dystopian fiction like The Handmaid’s Tale or 1984, presents a vision of our country that feels far too close for comfort. In Ng’s third novel, she writes of a 12-year-old boy named Bird and his father, who live in a United States where laws enshrining America-first culture have been put in place following years of economic and social turmoil.

In this world, Asians have been made the scapegoat for all of America’s ills; while Asian Americans are still technically free and full citizens, many of them are under the thumb of police and subject to various degrees of violence from so-called “real” Americans. And any parents deemed to be un-America could have their children immediately confiscated – no questions asked. As in any good dystopia, books deemed unpatriotic have also been seized and destroyed, including a book of poetry by Bird’s mother, a woman who disappeared years earlier.

This story is simultaneously small and universal. The meat of the narrative focuses on Bird pushing to learn more about his mother and the circumstances of the world he’s living in, and there are only a handful of major characters. At the same time, Ng skillfully paints a plausible picture of an America that’s given in to its worst instincts. Ng has pointed out multiple times that all the atrocities being committed in Our Missing Hearts are things that have taken place in the US or other parts of the world already – not a comforting thought.

But as bleak as this world is, the book is filled with moments of unexpected beauty and small triumphs. Perhaps most crucially, there’s a sense that while an extremist minority currently may rule over a more sensible populace, there’s a way out of the darkness. Our Missing Hearts isn’t a light story, but it’s an important one, artfully told by a writer who can deftly weave together a compelling narrative with poignant social commentary. Ng may have made a big impact in popular culture with Little Fires Everywhere (and its accompanying Hulu miniseries), but Our Missing Hearts feels like her definitive work thus far. – Nathan Ingraham, Deputy Editor

The Creative Gene by Hideo Kojima

Simon and Schuster

Hideo Kojima is a video game designer best known for the Metal Gear series, which popularized the stealth genre and had a plot that could charitably be described as ridiculous. Perhaps shamefully, I am a Kojima fan. His studios’ games are often in dire need of an editor and almost constantly tow the line between insight and navel-gazing. Sometimes, they’ve also seemed incapable of treating their female characters with respect. But they are always bursting with ideas, trying things with an unmistakable voice and a ceaseless, pulverizing earnestness. His post-apocalyptic delivery sim Death Stranding is at once laughably on-the-nose (one hard-to-kill character is called “Die-Hardman” AKA: John McClane, of course), and one the most enchanting games I’ve played in the past decade.

I give you this background to help explain how I ended up reading Kojima’s book, The Creative Gene, earlier this year. (It was technically published in late 2021.) Instead of telling some weirdo techno-thriller or a behind-the-scenes look at game development, though, this is a collection of previously published essays about the books, movies and other cultural objects that Kojima finds essential to his being. Like his games, it can border on hokey and self-mythologizing, but it is disarmingly honest, personal and anti-cynical.

In many ways, the Metal Gear games are about identity – who we are and how we got there. That’s more or less what Kojima gets at here; for about 250 pages, he raves about things he likes with a tangible verve, not to recommend them to consumers, but to explore how they’ve shaped his experience. More than a memoir, though, The Creative Gene is an appreciation of how art of all stripes can spark inspiration in a recyclable process.

The prose is nothing extraordinary, and there are certainly more essential subjects out there. While you don’t need to be a gamer to get something out of this, having a familiarity with Kojima’s work doesn’t hurt. Still, The Creative Gene’s sincerity and enthusiasm are easy to appreciate in a time of widespread detachment. – Jeff Dunn, Senior Commerce Writer

Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel

Penguin Randomhouse

Emily St. John Mandel delivered one of the essential reads of the pandemic when she published The Glass Hotel in March 2020. It was no small feat given she previously wrote the award-winning Station Eleven, a novel that’s set partly after a world-ending flu. Given that there was a five-year gap between Station Eleven and Glass Hotel, I didn’t dare hope one of my favorite authors would release a new novel so soon, and that it would be as good as her previous works. Thankfully, Sea of Tranquility does not disappoint.

It shares many of the same strengths as Mandel’s past novels, including a brilliant sense of atmosphere and prose that rewards close reading. Sea of Tranquility is also in conversation with Station Eleven and The Glass Hotel in a way that will delight fans. That’s not to say you need to have read those books to enjoy her latest, but it may make you look at them (and Mandel’s career) in a new light. Add to that themes that will resonate with anyone who has lived through the past two years and you have one of the best books of 2022. – Igor Bonifacic, Weekend Editor

Feds charge Russians linked to the 'world's largest' pirated e-book library

US law enforcement isn't just interested in shutting down video pirates. The feds have charged two Russian nationals, Anton Napolsky and Valeriia Ermakova, for allegedly running the pirate e-book repository Z-Library. The site was billed as the "world's largest library" and held over 11 million titles, many of which were bootleg versions stripped of copyright protections.

The pair was arrested in Cordoba, Argentina at the US' request on November 3rd. The American government disabled and seized the public Z-Library site at the same time. Napolsky and Ermakova each face charges of copyright infringement, money laundering and wire fraud.

As TorrentFreakexplains, it's not clear how central Ermakova and Napolsky were to Z-Library. While the indictments only cover activity starting in January 2018, FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Michael Driscoll said the two had been running a pirate site for "over a decade." Z-Library is still accessible on the dark web and responding to email.

The pirate bookshelf's social media presence contributed to its undoing. Ars Technicanotes The Authors Guild complained to the Office of the United States Trade Representative after a "#zlibrary" hashtag started trending on TikTok, with over 19 million views. Students and other users were touting Z-Library as a way to get textbooks and other course material for free.

As with many pirate site shutdowns, this isn't likely to be a permanent blow. The Authors Guild pointed to alternatives like Libgen when it filed its complaint, and Z-Library itself is carrying on in a limited form. It's a high-profile victory for the anti-piracy camp, however, and suggests that other digital book pirates could face similar legal action.

Hitting the Books: The Fall 2022 reading list

Welcome back, gentle reader, to the second installment of Hitting the Books Quarterly. This time around we’ve got a seven-layer dip of delicious literature for you, starting with a harrowing investigation into the heart of California’s firestorms, followed by some sage advice for best burning your Facebook bridges, and then a chance to wave goodbye to Earth’s billionaire class as they race off for the stars, hopefully never to return. But that’s not all, we’ve got some stellar sci-fi titles to share too, as well as The Dawn of Everything which Engadget Senior Editor Devindra Hardawar describes as “dense, but worth a read for sure.”

California Burning: The Fall of Pacific Gas and Electric—and What It Means for America's Power Grid - Katherine Blunt (Amazon)

California wildfires caused an estimated $80 billion in property damage in 2021 alone, they’re only getting worse, and the state’s utility company, Pacific Gas and Electric, seems to be doing anything but helping. Following years of neglected maintenance, PG&E’s infrastructure has started numerous deadly blazes in recent years, exacerbating an already existential climate crisis. In California Burning, Pulitzer-nominated WSJ journalist Katherine Blunt dives into the utility’s sordid history of putting profits over public safety. Decades of mismanagement have led California to this point, Blunt’s deeply researched narrative explains why. I had originally looked at this title for the regular excerpt column but the dang thing reads like a Grisham novel. Make sure you block off an afternoon because you won’t be able to put this one down.

James Acaster's Guide to Quitting Social Media - James Acaster (Amazon)

With the general level of suck in the world today, we could all probably do with a laugh and to get off the internet for a while — touching grass and whatnot. Comedian James Acaster’s newest book, James Acaster's Guide to Quitting Social Media, Being the Best You You Can Be and Saving Yourself from Loneliness Vol 1, does both. You will laugh (probably) and get off the internet because you will be reading a book about how he quit social media in 2019 and how you can do the same while still saving yourself from loneliness. Brilliant.

Everything I Need I Get from You - Kaitlyn Tiffany (Amazon)

Fans, stans, and boybands, oh my. Everything I Need I Get from You is a fascinating look at the superfan subculture surrounding modern pop music acts from Atlantic staff writer Kaitlyn Tiffany. Fanclubs have been around since the Roman era but the advent of social media has enabled fandom to a startlingly granular degree. Today’s superfans know what foods the Jonas brothers are allergic to, have lore and inside jokes that only other members of the BTS ARMY will understand, and routinely engage in light subterfuge to game play charts into featuring their favorite stars. Tiffany also explores the influence that these hyper-connected cadres of vivaciously like-minded people have on internet culture as a whole, like why we spent weeks looking for Becky with the good hair.

Survival of the Richest: Escape Fantasies of the Tech Billionaires - Douglas Rushkoff (Amazon)

Let’s not kid ourselves. Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk aren’t developing space flight for the good of humanity, Mark Zuckerberg isn’t pushing his vision of a metaverse for anything resembling altruistic intent. They just want a bolt hole for when things really start going downhill, argues theorist Douglas Rushkoff. In his new book, Survival of the Richest, Rushkoff examines what he dubs “the Mindset,” wherein the world’s ultra-wealthy believe that they and theirs will somehow be able to spend their way out of the coming climate crisis — we plebes be damned — as well as discusses what the rest of us can do while the people with the power to avert it are busy eying the exits.

You Sexy Thing - Cat Rambo (Amazon)

I believe in miracles and you will too with this raucous space opera from sci-fi luminary Cat Rambo. Billed as “Farscape meets The Great British Bake Off,You Sexy Thing follows the exploits of Niko Larson, the Holy Hive Mind’s disgraced “10-Minute Admiral” as she scrambles to keep her crew of retired-soldiers-turned-kitchen-and-wait-staff safe, together, alive and out of the Hive Mind’s brain jar collective, even as space stations explode around them, sentient bio-ships kidnap them, and vicious space pirates from Larson’s past seek their revenge. Easily some of the best sci-fi I’ve read this year — tightly written with characters you can identify with and a pilot that immediately grabs you by the shorthairs and doesn’t let up. Plus, there are werelions.

Azura Ghost - Essa Hansen (Amazon)

Emma Hansen just won’t stop writing absolute bangers. Following her phenomenal 2020 debut, the heart-wrenching space opera, Nophek Gloss (which was shortlisted for a Stabby that year), Hansen returns to the Graven multiverse with Azura Ghost. Her sophomore effort catches up a decade after the events of the first book where our protagonist Caiden finds himself, and his sentient starship, still hunted across the stars by the Threi — as is wont to happen when one imprisons the the group’s leadership in an impenetrable pocket universe for 10 years. As the plot unfolds and events push his two greatest enemies into possible alliance, Caiden must reunite with family of his own, and a long-lost friend who probably shouldn’t be trusted, to make his escape.

The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity - David Graeber and David Wengrow (Amazon)

Long-held views of early civilizations as either gullible hippies or hulking brutes offer only a monochromatic and shallow understanding of history — one which arose out of an 18th century conservative backlash against brown people asking questions, no less — argue David Graeber and David Wengrow in The Dawn of Everything. They then apparently spend the next 700 or so pages laying out their exhaustive list of evidence drawn from their respective fields of archaeology and anthropology in support of this position.

The Internet Archive is building a library of amateur radio broadcasts

The Internet Archive is aiming to build up a new library of old content. It's expanding beyond Flash games and animations, movies, books and (of course) snapshots of websites with the Digital Library of Amateur Radio and Communications (DLARC). This particular archive, which will be led by tech historian Kay Savetz, will include amateur radio broadcasts and digital material from the early days of the internet.

Savetz told Gizmodo that his remit includes just about any kind of digital communications from the 1970s until the early 1990s. While the preservation project focuses on amateur radio recordings, it may also feature early podcasts, digital newsletters, photos, videos and, yes, websites. There are plans to digitize print materials as well. “I want the obscure stuff, the locally-produced ham radio newsletters or the smaller magazines, that sort of thing,” Savetz said.

The DLARC team, which has funding from the Amateur Radio Digital Communications Foundation, is looking for help to build out the collection. It's seeking "partners and contributors with troves of ham radio, amateur radio, and early digital communications-related books, magazines, documents, catalogs, manuals, videos, software, personal archives and other historical records collections, no matter how big or small." It added that every collection in the library will be accessible to everyone. The project will also offer a discovery portal designed for education and research use cases.

Amazon's updated e-book return policy looks like a big win for authors

Anyone who has been taking advantage of Amazon's liberal return policy regarding e-books could soon be in for a shock. That's because following discussions with the Authors Guild, Amazon has agreed to block automatic returns on digital books that are more than 10 percent read. 

Currently, the problem for authors on Amazon is that customers can return e-books online anytime within seven days of purchase no matter how much content has been consumed. That means if you can you read a book in less than a week, you can simply return it when you're done for free, resulting in a loss of profits for the author. 

However, under the new policy which is scheduled to go into effect sometime before the end of the year, Amazon will begin blocking automatic returns on e-books that are more than 10 read, which will then need to be reviewed by a representative to ensure that the return is genuine. The Authors Guild says the goal is to create a deterrent for people who abuse Amazon's current policy and to prevent people from treating Amazon's e-book marketplace as an ersatz library. 

Issues with Amazon's e-book return policy date back more than a decade, but had recently come under fire again after lifehacks about the company's guidelines began circulating online. And according to NPR, in some cases, abuse of the company's return policy even resulted in some authors having negative earnings balances, which typically happened when customers returned an e-book after the creator had been paid out by Amazon.

Thankfully, after concerns were raised by both the Authors Guild and the Society of Authors in the UK earlier this year, it seems Amazon has finally decided to update its policy, with the Authors Guild posting a statement thanking the company for "taking good faith action" against returns abuse.