Don’t follow

19 January 2017

Don’t follow trends, start trends.

Frank Capra

Paul McCartney is suing Sony to finally obtain ownership of The Beatles’ catalog

19 January 2017

From COS:

Last March, it was reported that Paul McCartney had begun the process that would allow him to legally regain the rights to his portion of The Beatles’ catalog from Sony/ATV. Facing resistance from the music publishing company, McCartney has now filed a lawsuit in a New York court seeking a judgement affirming that he’ll regain ownership to the songs he co-wrote with John Lennon by the end of 2018.

McCartney is invoking the US Copyright Act of 1976 in his argument. The legislation allows for songwriters to reclaim copyrights 56 years after a legal transfer by filing a termination notice. With the earliest Lennon-McCartney compositions hitting that mark on October 18th, 2018, Macca has issued numerous such notices to Sony/ATV over the last decade. However, the company has refused to acknowledge his rights, hence the new lawsuit. “For years following service of the first Termination Notices, Defendants gave no indication to Paul McCartney that they contested the efficacy of Paul McCartney’s Termination Notices,” reads the complaint.

. . . .

For their [part], Sony may be hoping to employ a legal tactic currently being used against Duran Duran in a similar legal situation. In that case, an English court ruled that British interpretations of contract law supersede the US termination law. Essentially, if a British contract says an artist promises not to transfer its stake in a copyright, the artist can’t then try to issue a termination without breaching the original agreement.

. . . .

This whole mess started in the 1980s when McCartney famously advised Michael Jackson to invest in song publishing rights. Jackson then went out and bought ATV, which owned the Lennon-McCartney catalog. A decade late, Jackson agreed to a merger between ATV and Sony in which the latter gained half his stack. The publishing company acquired the other half from Jackson’s estate in early 2016.

Link to the rest at COS and thanks to Matthew for the tip.

Here’s a copy of the complaint:

.



Pearson to Sell Stake in Penguin Random House

19 January 2017

From Publishers Weekly:

Faced with worse-than-expected results in its North American higher education publishing business, Pearson said this morning that it is putting its 47% stake in Penguin Random House up for sale. Pearson has held its share in PRH since it merged Penguin with Bertelsmann’s Random House in 2013, with Bertelsmann controlling a 53% stake in the giant trade publisher.

Pearson had been expected to sell its stake in PRH at some point, but the announcement of its decision today came as a surprise, as did the reason why it was putting its share on the market: Pearson’s acknowledgement that operating profits for 2016 will be below expectations and it will not hit is goal of £800 million in operating profits for 2018, the year Pearson said it expected its turnaround efforts to start bearing fruit.

Instead, Pearson reported that sales in the North American higher education market in 2016 were much worse than forecast, particularly in the fourth quarter, when revenue dropped 30% compared to the final period of 2015, leading to an 18% decline in the North American higher education group for 2016. Pearson added that while earlier it had anticipated that the North American higher education market would stabilize in 2017, it now expects further revenue declines in the year.

To meet the lower demand, Pearson said it will accelerate a number of efforts to meet the higher demand for digital products and textbook rentals. The company has already eliminated about 4,000 jobs as part of its effort to create a more streamlined company.

. . . .

Following the Pearson announcement, Bertelsmann chief executive Thomas Rabe issued a statement saying the company is “open to increasing our stake in Penguin Random House, provided the financial terms are fair.”

. . . .

It is not clear if Bertelsmann would be interested in acquiring the full stake or only part of Pearson’s share of PRH. Pearson said it wants to divest the full stake.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

PG’s analysis is as follows:

a. Pearson is having big problems in the educational publishing market.

b. Pearson has decided to get out of the trade publishing market.

c. Pearson plans to stay in the educational publishing market

d. As (almost) half-owner of Penguin Random House, Pearson has access to top PRH executives, highly-detailed financial information about PRH, etc., etc.

e. A huge public announcement like Pearson’s would not have been made without Pearson first talking to Bertelsmann, the other half-owner of PRH, since Bertelsmann would be the obvious purchaser.

f. Bertelsmann has access to top PRH executives, highly-detailed financial information about PRH, etc., etc.

g. Bertelsmann is not anxious to pay very much money to own the rest of PRH.

h. PRH is the largest trade publisher in the world.

From these facts, what can we conclude about the insiders’ view of the future of PRH and, by extension, the future of traditional trade publishing?

Happy talk to the public from top executives and the PR departments are one thing. Words are, of course, cheap.

But when one owner of the largest trade publisher in the world wants to sell out and the other owner isn’t particularly anxious to buy, what does that tell us about what smart money thinks about the future of trade publishing?

From the Guardian:

Books world alarmed by Pearson’s sale of stake in Penguin Random House

Authors and staff have reacted cautiously to news that Pearson is to sell its stake in Penguin Random House (PRH), the world’s biggest publisher and home to some of the most successful brands in books, among them Fifty Shades of Grey, Jamie Oliver and The Girl on the Train.

PRH moved quickly to address fears among staff that the sale of the 47% share to German-owned Bertelsmann would affect jobs. In a statement, global chief executive Markus Dohle promised it would be “business as usual for us”. He added: “Both Pearson and Bertelsmann continue to be very supportive of our strategy and our success, and both have been valued shareholders for us.”

. . . .

Authors and staff told the Guardian of fears that the takeover by the German-owned media corporation could lead to further consolidation at the publishing house, which is responsible for one in four books sold and the sale of 800m paper, digital and audiobooks every year.

One bestselling author, who asked not to be named, said the company was “in pretty good shape” but: “You always worry that any added pressure to streamline the business will narrow its publishing focus further.”

Echoing the concerns of other writers the Guardian spoke to, she added: “For any author, you are only as good as your last book, so it’s a worry you could be vulnerable when things like this happen.”

. . . .

Staff remained jumpy, according to insiders. “We knew it was going to happen,” said one senior executive. “But we don’t know what will happen now. Hopefully we will be OK.” Another said: “This sort of thing always makes people nervous, but especially so after what happened.”

Link to the rest at the Guardian

Leaked Windows 10 build shows Microsoft filling a major content hole: Ebooks

19 January 2017

From PC World:

For years, Microsoft has sold movies, TV shows, and music, in addition to apps—but not ebooks. A leaked Windows 10 build, however, shows Microsoft plans to shore up that gap in an upcoming release.

The leaked build obtained by MSPowerUser reveals a dedicated section of the Windows Store where Microsoft plans to sell ebooks alongside its other content. According to the site, there doesn’t seem to be a dedicated Books app yet, just integration with Microsoft’s Edge browser, which will serve as the viewer application for the new ebooks.

Microsoft declined to confirm the new Books section, but a representative seemed to imply that new information could be coming soon. “The Windows Insider Program was created to enable Microsoft to test different features and functionality which will influence future versions of Windows,” the representative said in an emailed statement. “We regularly test new features and changes to existing features to see what resonates well with our fans. Stay tuned for more information soon.”

Why this matters: If it’s going to succeed as a content provider, Microsoft simply has to have a presence in the ebook market. Whether it succeeds is, for now, irrelevant. Microsoft’s online storefronts aren’t much to write home about, but the Xbox Store is successful, and Microsoft’s Groove Music subscription isn’t bad, either.

. . . .

Microsoft has been easing its way toward ebooks. As MSPowerUser notes, Microsoft began adding support for the EPUB ebook format last year to Edge, paving the way for the new addition to the Store. You’ll be able to change the size and font of the text as well as add your own bookmarks. It remains to be seen, though, whether you’ll be able to pick up right where you left off when shifting from your phone to your PC and back again, as apps like Amazon’s e-reader do. A listing page shows both PC and mobile support for the ebooks, though, as you’d expect.

Microsoft clearly has its work cut out for it. Amazon has been virtually synonomous with ebooks for years, currently offering 10.9 million titles. Its Kindle Unlimited subscription makes over 1.4 million ebooks available to users for $10 per month, while Amazon Prime subscribers have access to “thousands.”

Link to the rest at PC World and thanks to Randall and several others for the tip.

PG says competition keeps everybody sharp.

The Trade, Its Resilience, and Its Data

19 January 2017

From Publishing Perspectives:

In its opening on Tuesday, the eighth annual Digital Book World conference in New York City attracted some 650 registrants.

. . . .

[I]t was interesting to hear Macmillan CEO John Sargent say as he opened his keynote that when conference attendees were asked to submit questions ahead of the event, “Oddly enough, almost none of the questions had anything to do with digital—here at Digital Book World.”

This had played into what Sargent wanted to say, however, about the abiding thrust of the industry’s work. While he sees “a bit of hand-wringing, still, on the digital dark side,” seven years into the digital disruption of publishing, “ink-and-paper books continue to be the favorite, not only the way for the population as a whole but for our kids to read.”

In terms of digital sales, Sargent said, “Ebook growth has stopped, and it has stopped before it forced book retailers out of the business, as it did music and video” retailers.

“All this doesn’t mean that we’re through the transition to digital” yet, Sargent cautioned. “And there are certainly many, many dangers ahead.”

What he called “the good news and the bad news” is the rise of the self-publishing sector . . . . It’s growing through Amazon Kindle Unlimited,” he said. “We don’t know how big it is, but we know it’s very big. And what it tells us [is that] there is plenty of reading going on out there.”

. . . .

In listing more hurdles, Sargent said “There are fewer and fewer newspapers out there, and their audiences are shrinking. Discovery is an ever-growing problem. Big titles get bigger, and everything else gets harder and harder to find and sells fewer and fewer copies. Retail power is consolidating.”

But publishing, Sargent said, is an “instinctual business” exemplified that “no algorithm could have predicted that a book by the least popular president of our time, George Bush, would outsell a book by the most popular president of our time, Ronald Reagan. That happened.”

Still, despite the importance of gut instinct, many decisions made in publishing “can be improved,” Sargent said, “by using data, in every aspect of our business from supply chain and workflows to editorial acquisitions.”

Sargent mentioned Macmillan’s acquisition of Pronoun, a self-publishing platform, as a way of getting closer to data-driven decisions and self-publishing. One reason for the acquisition, he said, is to gather data and “insights into the self-publishing model and how it works.”

In an observation on the comparative advantages the industry has over “our friends in Seattle,” he asserted that “as a community, we can do better” in terms of marketing.

But he also conceded that the smartest decisions in that regard haven’t always been on view: “We’ve pissed away millions of dollars over the years on ads on the back page of The New York Times to sell eight more books.”

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

PG says a bit of tweaking around the edges won’t save Big Publishing.

Not knowing anything about self-publishing, not only the size of the market but why authors choose that market, would be an unforgivable blind spot in any reality-based industry.

Copyright Vultures Are At It Again!

19 January 2017

From American Thinker:

The Copyright Industry, especially the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America), and MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) have suppressed every form of innovation, and technology to protect their questionable rights.  In the 80s, they sued to stop video recorders, but were thankfully held back by the Supreme Court in the famous Betamax case.  The Media Industry forced manufacturers of blank cassettes, tapes, and CDs to pay a royalty to reimburse the industry because the blank recording media might be used to infringe copyright. That is right; your preacher’s sermon tapes actually were forced to subsidize Hollywood.

In 1998, the RIAA sued to stop the first portable Mp3 player, Diamond Rio, from being sold.

In 1999, they took down Napster, the breakthrough file sharing program upstart.  Then they cut a swath of destruction going after a plethora of file sharing services, with such vicious tactics as suing children who downloaded songs for unconscionable amounts of money.

Upping the outrage, they tried to gut the First Amendment with the SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act), which imperiled the whole Internet by making search engines and hosting companies liable for piracy that the technology companies had nothing to do with. Only when technology giants apprised Congress that technology produced more jobs than the media, did Congress back off. Temporarily!

In 2014, the RIAA considered suing Google for even listing sites that people could use to rip media.

. . . .

Hollywood media moguls are intent on preserving a dying business model. Worse yet, they expect technology companies to provide the technical expertise to protect their quasi-monopoly.  It is much cheaper to have Google, Microsoft, and Facebook pay programmers to fight piracy than the RIAA actually hiring programmers to come up with the technology themselves.

Then again, their incompetence in this area has been humiliating.

In an attempt to curb music piracy, major labels such as Sony started selling music CDs that have built-in “copy-proof” technology. The technology was meant to stop people from copying music from these discs onto recordable CDs or hard drives. There’s a fatal flaw in this technology, however, which allows you to bypass the copy protection with a simple marker pen, and a recent upsurge in Internet newsgroup talk about this flaw has brought it to light again.  — Geek (2002)

Link to the rest at American Thinker and thanks to Doug for the tip.

Alexa Gives Amazon a Powerful Data Advantage

19 January 2017

From the MIT Technology Review:

“Hey, Alexa”—a phrase that millions of people call out at home just before telling Amazon their desires at that moment. All those people asking Alexa to order kitchen supplies, turn on the lights, or play music gives Amazon a valuable stockpile of data that it could use to fend off competitors and make breakthroughs in what voice-operated assistants can do.

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“There are millions of these in households, and they’re not collecting dust,” Nikko Strom, a speech-recognition expert and founding member of the team at Amazon that built Alexa and Echo, said at the AI Frontiers conference in Santa Clara, California, last week. “We get an insane amount of data coming in that we can work on.”

Strom said that data had already helped the company make progress on a longstanding challenge in speech recognition known as the cocktail party problem, where the challenge is to pick out a single voice from a hubbub of many people talking.

Initially Alexa could easily tell that someone had called out its name, but—like other voice-recognition systems—it struggled to know which words being said around it were the request being issued. Then Strom’s team developed a system that notes characteristics of a voice that calls out “Alexa” and uses them to home in on the words of the person asking for help.

The data Amazon is amassing to take on problems like that could be unique. Standard datasets available for training and testing speech recognition systems don’t usually include audio captured in home environments, or using microphone arrays like that the Echo uses to focus on speech from a particular direction, says Abeer Alwan, a professor at University of California, Los Angeles, who works on speech recognition.

. . . .

Strom said he also hopes that his team’s data trove could eventually help upgrade Alexa to being able to follow two people speaking simultaneously. “It’s hard, but there’s been some progress,” he said. “It’s super interesting for us if we could solve that problem.”

Strom didn’t say what Alexa might be able to do once that problem is solved. But it might make it more natural for multiple people to interact with an Echo or other device at once, whether that’s kids peppering Alexa with questions or their parents rattling off a shopping list.

The data piling up from Alexa could also help Amazon fend off Google’s Echo competitor, Google Home, which launched late last year. Google can draw on years of work in Web search and voice search, and sizeable investments in artificial intelligence. But its previous products and businesses don’t naturally collect speech like that of a person calling out to a device in the home, or on the same type of requests people ask home assistants to serve.

Link to the rest at MIT Technology Review

Despite What You Heard, The E-Book Market Never Stopped Growing

19 January 2017

From Observer.com:

Over the last year, we’ve been talking to writers like A.G. Riddle who have been making a more than comfortable living selling e-books directly to readers on Amazon. That’s why it’s always seemed a bit strange to see media accounts reporting on the shrinking market for e-books.

News outlets like The New York Times report that e-book sales continue to slip, which is true if the data only covers part of the market. Reports from the Association of American Publishers has data from 1,200 publishers. They are the largest publishers, but they are also losing market share.

E-book sales never declined, according to a presentation yesterday at Digital Book World in New York City. In fact, if anything, we don’t yet have an adequate way to estimate how much the market segment has grown.

In back-to-back presentations from from the data site Author Earnings and publishing tech firm Overdrive, it became clear that “unit sales” may not be the best way to measure the size of the book market. In more and more ways it’s becoming clear that there are additional ways for writers to earn money than by readers buying whole books or even buying books at all.

 

. . . .

E-books, Data Guy told the crowd, “Never stopped growing.”

It looks as though sales stuttered because traditional publishers have been losing market share to indie authors who publish directly through online platforms. Amazon is by far the largest of these platforms.

. . . .

Reports on the e-book market tend to ignore Kindle Unlimited, Amazon’s Netflix for ebooks. Amazon splits up each month’s Kindle Unlimited revenue among participating authors based on how many pages members read.

Science-fiction author Hugh Howey said that being part of the program increased his revenue so much that it was worth pulling his books from all other platforms, such as Kobo and iBooks.

Data Guy acknowledged that some industry watchers might argue that a Kindle Unlimited download isn’t really a sale, but Author Earnings takes the position that any money in a writer’s pocket counts.

. . . .

 

Local book stores saw a 5 percent growth in sales last year, but every other channel (such as big stores, Walmart and etc) saw a 5 percent decline. Those channels were so much larger that local stores’ growth was more than made up for by the declines everywhere else. “Perhaps 10 fold,” Data Guy said.

Let’s hear it for your favorite local shop, but the truth is that Amazon has been the one closing those new print sales.

 

Link to the rest at Observer.com and thanks to Nirmala for the tip.

Why are print sales up? Data Guy gives his reason—and it isn’t adult coloring books

18 January 2017

From TeleRead:

Perhaps the reason print book sales are on the rise has nothing to do with coloring books, digital fatigue, the “ebook fad” or book store appeal. Data Guy has offered a different reason based on the data he has scraped for Author Earnings.

To start, independent book store sales are up 5 percent from 2015, but the rest of the brick and mortar stores are down 5 percent, on average. However, the industry is up 15 percent as a whole with the difference coming from Amazon.

Data Guy states that the real reason print sales are up is because a change in how Amazon priced its titles. In 2015, discounts on ebooks for large traditional publishers was eliminated. In turn, Amazon discounted the prices of print books in mid-2015 – and that’s where we see the change in print sales.

To break down the data even further, when Amazon discounted sales in some of the spring and summers months, sale units on print books were up 7 percent. However, when it scaled back its discounts just a few short months later, the overall percentage of unit sales also dropped and at the end of the year, the industry saw an increase of just 3.3 percent from a year before.

Data Guy surmises that the question really shouldn’t be about print vs. digital. People want to read, and they are going to do it in ways that are easiest and convenient for them. This bigger question is brick and mortar vs. online sales. Online sales are ever increasing with Amazon taking the bulk of the sales.

Because we are currently seeing online sales wallop brick and mortar unit sales, he said about two-third of traditionally published adult books are bought online.

Link to the rest at TeleRead and thanks to Nate for the tip.

Like dreams

18 January 2017

Like dreams, statistics are a form of wish fulfillment.

Jean Baudrillard

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