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On the Books: Product placement comes to ebooks

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Find Me Im Yours

– It’s a fact of the modern world that product placement is everywhere. Books, however, were always sacred in that regard, untainted by commercial messaging: a slice of media we could consume without being not-so-subtly persuaded to consume something else, too. That assumption was upended yesterday with the release of Find Me, I’m Yours by Hillary Carlip—a new ebook and sponsored-content vehicle from RosettaBooks. Take the following scene from the romance/comedy novel, as retold by The New York Times, in which a character named Mags is made fun of by her coworker for using the artificial sweetener Sweet’N Low to sweeten her cup of joe.

“Hellooo, isn’t it bad for you?” the friend asks. Mags replies that she has researched the claims online and found studies showing that the product is safe: “They fed lab rats twenty-five hundred packets of Sweet’N Low a day … And still the F.D.A. or E.P.A., or whatevs agency, couldn’t connect the dots from any kind of cancer in humans to my party in a packet.”

That exchange was brought to you by Cumberland Packing Corporation, reports The Times—the manufacturer of Sweet’N Low paid about $1.3 million for that and a handful of other positive references to the product. If product placement in novels seems a bit, well, out-of-place to you, consider that at one time, it seemed strange to TV audiences too. Find Me also has a range of multimedia marketing opportunities online: Carlip has helped create over 30 sites, social media accounts, and web videos based on the book. If RosettaBooks’ ad venture succeeds, The Times writes, “it could usher in a new business model for publishers, one that blurs the lines between art and commerce in ways that are routine in TV shows and movies but rare in books.”

– Listeners of the BBC’s Radio 4 are angry about its “shameless” promotion of the habitually offensive comedian-cum-political theorist Russell Brand’s new book, Revolution—his take on what’s wrong with British politics today. The Independent reports that listeners called in and tweeted to complain about the segment featuring the contrarian comedian and several other guests discussing, among other things, the political issues covered in his book, calling it “abysmal and embarrassing,” “self-serving,” and “pathetic.” The controversy comes in the wake of an appearance on the BBC’s Newsnight during which Brand blasted British politicians and said he was “open-minded” about 9/11 conspiracy theories.

– Cast your second ballot of Election Day over at the online book-lover’s democracy Goodreads.com: The first round of voting for the 2014 Goodreads Choice Awards opened yesterday. The book-review site has nominated 15 selections in 20 categories of literature—including sci-fi, business, humor, YA, and memoir—and readers are welcome to write in their own votes. Past winning titles include favorites Gone Girl and The Casual Vacancy. Semifinals begin next week. [Mediabistro]

– Jill Abramson, the fired executive editor of The New York Times, is launching a short story publishing venture with acclaimed journalist Steven Brill. Poynter reports that they are currently nearing an investment deal for a startup in which they plan to pay authors $100,000 advances for short stories and publish one per month via a reader subscription platform.