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Indie bookstores are pushing back on a ridiculously stupid law

(BUSINESS NEWS) Independent bookstores are bearing the brunt of a silly new law in California regarding autographed books.

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Certifiably silly rule

Last year, lawmakers in California unanimously voted to require those who sell autographed collectibles (more on that definition later) to include a certificate which guarantees the authenticity of the signature; if no certificate is provided, substantial financial penalties will be incurred.

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The law saw support from consumer advocates fighting against scammers, as well as film studios, and police chiefs tired of dealing with fraudulent memorabilia.

Womp womp

One group, however, isn’t pleased with the new regulations. Independent booksellers across the state are often lauded as community hubs where authors and readers can meet and engage with each other, and author signings are often a big part of that.

A signed copy of a book falls under the jurisdiction of this law, and thus independent booksellers in California must now deal with the administrative burden of hundreds (or thousands) of certificates.

Not so fast

In protest, Bill Petrocelli, the co-owner of a chain of bookstores called Book Passage, has filed a federal lawsuit that accuses the state of violating freedom of speech. Petrocelli claims the new requirements “create a nightmare for independent booksellers that thrive on author events and book signings.”

The bookstore owner says his stores host over 700 promotional events each year, which account for tens of thousands of author-autographed books a year.

These signed books cost no more than unsigned books, and the events are designed to allow customers “to be exposed to new ideas, debate with authors, and interact with other consumers,” said Anastasia Boden, an attorney with the Pacific Legal Foundation, the property-rights group that agreed to represent Petrocelli and his bookstores pro bono.

She goes on, “But the new law deters, if not effectively bans, these events.”

Ling Ling Chang, author of the now-controversial law, says that though she hasn’t seen the lawsuit, her support for the bill stands strong, and she stands by any “efforts to stop those who would rip off unsuspecting collectors.”

Expansion pack

Specifically, this new law is an expansion of an earlier regulation that only dealt with sports memorabilia. The current law now requires all sellers (except pawnbrokers and online merchants) to include a certificate of authenticity with any item they sell for $5 or more. The certificate must declare the authenticity of the signature, and state whether or not the seller was present at the signing, and identify anyone who witnessed the signing.

That last one is particularly problematic when the witnesses could be the entire audience at an author’s reading and book signing event.

And if a seller fails to adhere to those regulations, they’re liable for all kinds of expensive fees.

In part, the law grew out of evidence that $100 million worth of the $1 billion annual revenue in the national memorabilia market involved forged signatures.

However, Petrocelli isn’t convinced that the law is relevant to the bookstore business.

In the lawsuit, lawyers claim the regulations will stifle book signing by introducing “burdensome oversight and record-keeping” that won’t actually do anything useful for regulating the memorabilia industry, because neither the authors nor the bookstores make a direct profit from an author’s signature on a book. They also pointed out that the same requirements are technically imposed upon an individual who decides to sell an autographed book.

The law

The law begs a few questions. Does a name scrawled in a textbook count as a signature? How can you provide witnesses for something that was signed fifty years ago (or even five years ago, for that matter)? The scope of the law seems over-broad, not to mention unenforceable. No way are police going to track down every signed copy of an indie author’s book.

Even if they all magically had certificates of authenticity, what does that even mean? Are the cops now universal signature experts?

Petrocelli is hoping to get the law declared over-broad and exempt bookstores from its enforcement. A couple of suggestions for revision? First, the law should only apply if the signed item is being sold for more than its list price (i.e. there’s a premium for the signature – otherwise who cares?). And second, the idea of authentication should be carefully defined: who counts as a witness, and what do you do if the item is so old there are no living witnesses left?

#BookLaw

Staff Writer, Natalie Bradford earned her B.A. in English from Cornell University and spends a lot of time convincing herself not to bake MORE brownies. She enjoys cats, cocktails, and good films - preferably together. She is currently working on a collection of short stories.

Business News

So you were asked an illegal question in an interview, now what?

(BUSINESS NEWS) Interviews are nerve racking enough without having to wonder if your potential employer is playing by the rules. Be aware of these tips in case you find they aren’t.

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Interviews are universally nerve-wracking. You’ve got the resume, the references, the outfit – but you never know what your interviewer(s) are going to throw at you.

You expect questions relating to your skills and your ability to do the job, but sometimes a question comes out of left field and you’ve got to scramble for a coherent answer.

“If you were a pizza delivery man, how would you benefit from scissors,” asks Apple. And Gallup wants to know, “What was the last gift you gave someone?”

Well, when I ordered a pizza last night, I tipped the delivery person with scissors . . .

Unfortunately, some questions that seem just wacky, or harmless and friendly, are not just inappropriate to ask in an interview, but are actually illegal.

Illegal questions are generally those that request information irrelevant to the job description. Here are the most common categories of illegal questions, shared across all states:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Sex/Gender/Orientation
  • Military discharge
  • Religion
  • National origin
  • Birthplace
  • Age
  • Disability/Health status
  • Marital/family status

Any of this personal information could be used, intentionally or not, to discriminate against them. A direct inquiry regarding any of these topics is obviously off-limits, but sometimes the question might come from a tricky angle.

“When did you graduate college?” = “How old are you?”

With this information, employers could decide you’re too young or old for the role, no matter how qualified you may be.

“Orizaga is an interesting surname – is it Spanish?” = “Are you Hispanic?” A biased interviewer could use this information to determine that you are or aren’t a “good fit.” Similarly, “Is English your native language?” = “Are you from an English-speaking country or not?”

“Is that your maiden name?” = “Are you married?” And so on.

These questions are often asked innocently, by untrained interviewers looking to make conversation. Nonetheless, you don’t have to answer them, and your best bet is to tactfully avoid the question without demanding your constitutional rights in the middle of the interview.

Tone is everything, but if you respond to an illegal question with something along the lines of, “Is that relevant to this role?” in a calm, mild voice, most interviewers will take the hint and move on.

If the situation allows for it, you can keep your answer nice and vague without avoiding the question.

For example, if you’re asked about your college graduation date, you could say, “It’s been a while, but I still view college as one of the best experiences of my life.”

It’s important to note that asking an illegal question is not equivalent to committing a crime. The information must be used in a discriminatory manner, as determined by a court.

If you believe that an act of discrimination has been committed, you should contact a labor attorney, or file a charge with your local Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) office. Then, order yourself a pizza and ask the delivery person about their scissors.

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Business News

10 time tracking tools for productive freelancers, entrepreneurs

(PRODUCTIVITY) We’re all obsessed with squeezing more out of each day, but what if we used one of these time tracking tools to inject more chill time into our lives?

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Part of today’s culture is seeing how much one can get done in a day. We’re always so “go, go, go” and we treasure productivity.

This is incredibly true for freelancers, and, as such, it makes total sense that app and software technology would capitalize on this need. The following apps and programs are designed to help you save time and/or increase productivity.

1. Timeular: This app is designed to visually show you how you spend your time and, as a result, become more productive. Instead of wondering where your time goes every day, you’ll see it visually. This is done through a physical time tracker, where you can define what you want to track and customize your Tracker. You then connect via Bluetooth and place the Tracker face up with the task that you are working on (if you’re taking a phone call, the symbol facing up would be a phone). It then tracks all of your tasks into a color-coded visualization of the day’s activities. Dangerous for people like me who waste a lot of time on Instagram…

2. Bonsai: This bad boy is time tracking for freelancers. You can break down each project and track time individually in order to see where your time is going and how much is being spent on each entity. You then are able to automate invoices based on the time spent. Genius!

3. Tasks Time Tracker: Say that three times fast. This is a phone app that has multiple timers so you can track more than one thing at a time. This app gives you the option to input billing rates to easily track your earning. You can then export all of the info in a CSV format.

4. Azendoo: Everything in one place. This is a time-tracking service that assists your team’s needs and workflow. It puts project organization, team collaboration, and time reporting all in one place. A cool feature on this is you can input how much time you anticipate spending on a project, and then Azendoo compares that to how much time you actually spent.

5. Continuo: Similar to Timeular, you get to see all of your activities in a color-coded format on a calendar. This lets you easily breakdown how much time is spent on each activity and allows you to plan for the future. You are able to see your progress over time, and see how you’ve gotten faster and more productive.

6. PadStats: Described as “a simple app will help you to learn more about yourself”, PadStats will help you track and analyze your daily activities or daily routine. This app includes more quanity-based tracking, allowing data to be more user-oriented and stats to be more accurate.

7. Pomo Timer: This productivity boosting app is a “Simple and convenient pomodoro timer based on the technique proposed by Francesco Cirillo in the distant 1980s made in a simple and clear design,” according to iTunes. For those who like visually simplicity, this app is for you.

8. Blue Cocoa: This program overturns the stigma of a smartphone being a distraction, by turning it into a productivity tool. You start by creating a timer and working on something, and, if you get distracted, the timer senses this and tries to help. This is all in an effort to keep you on track of your task, while tracking the time spent.

9. Timely: A fully automatic time app. This features automatic time tracking, project time management, and team time management. It works to improve timesheet accuracy, increase project profitability, and optimize team performance.

10. Toggl: This is a simple time tracker that offers flexible and powerful reporting. It works to crunch numbers that you’ll need for reporting, all while syncing between all of your devices.

Pick one or two of the above ten, and reclaim your time. No need to “go, go, go,” if you’re a more productive person – this way you can “chill, chill, chill.”

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Business News

This fake company weeds out crappy clients

(BUSINESS) The former CEO of Highrise used a fake website to weed out toxic clients. How can you keep problematic customers out of your business?

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Sorting through your client list to weed out potentially toxic customers isn’t a process which garners the same attention as a company removing problematic employees, but it’s every bit as important — and, in many cases, twice as tricky to accomplish. One innovative journalist’s solution to this problem was to set up a fake website to act as a buffer between unwanted clients and his inbox.

If you’re anything like Nathan Kontny, your inbox is probably brimming with unread emails, product pitches, and pleas from people with whom you’ve never met in person or collaborated; unfortunately, many of these “people” are simply automated bots geared toward generating more press for their services.

Nathan’s response to this phenomenon was to create a website called “Trick a Journalist” in order to see which potential clients would sign up for the service.

Hilariously enough, the trap worked exactly as planned. Anyone signing up for Trick a Journalist was blacklisted and prevented from signing up for Nathan’s CRM software, with Nathan’s justification being that the CRM software in question should never be used for something so egregiously predatory as Trick a Journalist.

By creating a product which sets apart unwanted clients from the rest of the pack, Nathan succeeded in both attracting and quarantining present and future threats to the integrity of his business.

While this model may not be practicable at face value, there’s an important lesson here: determining the lengths to which your clients will go to gain the upper hand BEFORE working for them is an important task, as your clients’ actions will reflect upon your product or services either way.

Ruthlessness in business isn’t unheard of, but you should be aware of your customers’ tendencies well in advance of signing off on their behavior.

Of course, one minor issue with Nathan’s model of operation is that, invariably, someone will connect Trick a Journalist to his brand and miss the joke entirely.

There are less risky routes to weeding out potentially problematic clients than blacklisting them via a satirical website — though one might argue such routes are less fun — but the end result is essentially the same: keeping unsavory clients out of your inbox and off of your product list.

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