22 January 2018

A new site for sales information about books has just appeared – Bookstat.

PG hasn’t had any views behind the curtain, but the promises sound very good:

To be useful, sales data has to reflect what your customers are actually buying. When you rely on data that misses 37% of the ebook and audio dollars they spend each day, or 60% of the books they purchase online, you’re flying your business half-blind.

Bookstat is the only industry data service that tracks all online book purchases at the retail point of sale regardless of publisher type. Unlike Nielsen PubTrack and the AAP’s Statshots, which only tally self-reported sales from a narrow sector of today’s expanded publishing industry, Bookstat lets you see the whole market.

And what a difference that makes.

Bookstat reveals the hundreds of millions of additional online book purchases from nonreporting publishers that PubTrack and the AAP are blind to — untracked sales worth $1.25 billion a year.

When you can see all these ebook and audiobook dollars that others can’t, you end up with a very different picture of today’s market. Hidden genres are revealed with barely tapped potential, where burgeoning reader demand is being fulfilled by the nontraditional suppliers who currently dominate those genres. In many of today’s highest-selling online book categories, the vast majority of these consumer sales have gone entirely unreported. Until now.

A shrinking ebook market? For some, perhaps. But a billion untracked dollars a year says otherwise.

. . . .

Bookstat’s lightning-fast, responsive dashboard lets you search by publisher, genre, author, title, BISAC, ISBN, or ASIN. Discover the top-earning publishers, authors, and titles in each genre right now. See their total ebook, audiobook, and online print sales for last quarter, last week, or even yesterday. Drill down into thousands of subgenres. Analyze sales by price point. By publisher type. By online discount offered. Slice the data any way you want.

From the largest Big Five trade publishers down to the scrappiest garage micropresses, to sales from Amazon’s in-house publishing imprints and format-dominating Audible Studios to J.K. Rowling’s Pottermore — data that you’ll find nowhere else — even the sales of individual self-published authors: it’s all right there, live at your fingertips, ready for you to ask it the questions that drive your business.

Link to the rest at Bookstat

As you might have guessed, Data Guy is involved


22 January 2018

Power is not a means, it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship.

George Orwell

Madeleine Thien’s New Novel of Communist Occupation

22 January 2018

From The New York Times:

Borders are porous in Madeleine Thien’s novel “Dogs at the Perimeter,” both in the world and in the mind. The narrator is a neurological researcher whose carefully compartmentalized memories of her childhood in Cambodia living under the Khmer Rouge — the communist guerrillas whose reign of terror in the 1970s left an estimated 1.7 million dead — start to leak into her present day after a colleague disappears in search of a brother lost, like hers, in her home country. Timelines converge; suddenly nothing separates the woman in a lab in Montreal, sharing with her son the beauty of a neuron “lithe as a starburst,” from the 8-year-old girl gazing up at a swarm of airplanes over Phnom Penh as the guerrillas close in.

To navigate the slippage in her mind, she turns to case studies of brain damage — a patient who “ceases to recognize faces, including her own,” and a sufferer of asomatognosia, unable to detect the physical boundaries of her body while “her thoughts continued, anchored to nothing.” She recalls how, as a child in Phnom Penh, she gave all her dolls the same name: Vesna, after Vesna Vulovic, a Serbian flight attendant who survived a jetliner explosion in 1972, falling 33,000 feet over what was then Czechoslovakia . She even tapes a picture of Vesna — “like a drop of rain or a very tiny bird, someone whom the gods had overlooked” — to her wall when she arrives in Canada as a refugee, “ashamed that I had lived.”

Her own name, the name her parents gave her, is never revealed. Early on, a Khmer Rouge soldier urges her to “become someone else” and calls her Mei, an act of both erasure and protection, freeing her from the crimes of her educated parents. (“Families are a disease of the past,” says the Angkar, the Khmer Rouge leadership.) Later, in a foster home in Canada, she is reborn again as Janie. Both names hover over her awkwardly, like aliases. Once, “in the temple schools, a new name had been a rite of passage, a bridge from one shore of life to the next,” she muses. Now, “names were empty syllables, signifying nothing, lost as easily as a suit of clothes, a brother or a sister, an entire world.”

The revision of history and the dismantling of the self under communism were central themes in Thien’s 2016 novel of the Cultural Revolution, “Do Not Say We Have Nothing,” which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. “Dogs at the Perimeter,” first published in Canada in 2011, reads like a seed of the later novel: contrapuntal and elegiac in tone, with a white heat beneath. Where “Do Not Say We Have Nothing” is symphonic and expansive, “Dogs at the Perimeter” turns inward, to the workings of a mind in flight from itself.

Link to the rest at The New York Times Here’s a link to Madeline Thien’s books.

As visitors from outside the United States may be aware, our latest president is causing a variety of reactions and more than a little vituperation among parts of the the citizenry.

PG says the kidnapping of a publisher of embarrassing books from a train in China and the tragic and ongoing consequences of rule by the Khmer Rouge have provided him with a bit of perspective on contemporary domestic politics.


Hong Kong bookseller Gui Minhai ‘snatched’ by mainland Chinese authorities from train to Beijing

22 January 2018

From The South China Morning Post:

Hong Kong-based publisher Gui Minhai, one of the Causeway Bay booksellers whose disappearance two years ago caused an international storm, was snatched again by mainland Chinese authorities from a train heading for Beijing over the weekend, his daughter reported on Monday.

Angela Gui told the Post that her father, accompanied by two Swedish diplomats, was travelling from Ningbo city in Zhejiang province on Saturday when around 10 police officers in plain clothes boarded their train near the capital and grabbed him.

She did not go into details, but confirmed a New York Timesreport saying her father, a naturalised Swedish national, was visiting Sweden’s embassy in Beijing for a medical examination.

Patric Nilsson, of the Swedish foreign ministry, said the Swedish government was “fully aware of what happened on January 20”.

“Firm actions have been taken at a high political level and we have been in contact with Chinese officials who have promised us immediate information about his condition,” Nilsson said.

. . . .

Gui was one of five booksellers who ran afoul of mainland authorities over their Hong Kong publications banned across the border for featuring political gossip about the Chinese leadership.

They went missing in 2015, sparking concerns that they had been kidnapped by mainland agents, and later resurfaced in custody across the border. They were all shown on state media saying they were in mainland China voluntarily.

“I just know that things have taken a very drastic turn for the worse,” the Times quoted Angela as saying. “This group of about 10 men in plain clothes just came in and grabbed him from the train and took him away.”

Link to the rest at The South China Morning Post

PG says the publishing business is more of a contact sport in some parts of the world than in others.

He’s going to raise a glass (Coke Zero) to the First Amendment of the United States Constitution:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Amazon’s Cashierless ‘Go’ Convenience Store Set to Open

22 January 2018

From The Wall Street Journal:

Nearly a year after it was promised, Inc.’s cashierless convenience store is slated to open to the public on Monday.

The new Amazon Go store, located in the base of Amazon’s main headquarters in Seattle, uses computer vision and machine-learning algorithms to track shoppers and charge them for what they select, thereby eliminating checkout counters.

In an interview last week, Dilip Kumar, vice president of technology for Amazon Go and Amazon Books, said testing with employees has trained the technology to work in the store, an experiment that is part of the company’s broader effort to reinvent how consumers shop.

. . . .

According to Mr. Kumar, while the store was originally expected to quickly open to the public to gain extra traffic needed for testing, the company decided it had enough employees to teach the system instead.

That training helped Amazon Go’s technology better identify objects and follow the different speeds and patterns of shoppers, tasks Mr. Kumar described as particularly challenging in a crowd.

Some people “move in very unpredictable ways,” Mr. Kumar said. “You’re always bending down, you’re examining items, you’re picking things up.”

. . . .

Amazon Go’s technology uses cameras throughout the store to track shoppers once they are inside, though it doesn’t use facial recognition, Mr. Kumar said. A customer entering the store scans his or her phone and then becomes represented internally as a 3-D object to the system. Cameras also are pointed at the shelves to determine interactions with goods.

. . . .

Among the challenges for the technology was telling the difference between similar looking products—say containers of vanilla and regular yogurt. Adding to the complexity, when customers pick up products, they usually cover the distinguishing aspects of the label with their hands.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

The soul

21 January 2018

The soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts.

Marcus Aurelius

Adult coloring class promotes creativity and camaraderie

21 January 2018

From the Sioux City Journal:

At age 76, Kris Bergstrom is finally getting in touch with her inner artist.

“I never considered myself to be artistic in the past,” she said, methodically coloring in intricate patterns with a pencil, “but I’m amazed at how relaxing coloring books can be.”

No, you read that right.

Bergstrom is one of the regulars for Coloring Corner, a weekly class held every Wednesday at the Siouxland Center for Active Generations.

“When I heard about this class, I couldn’t believe my ears,” Bergstrom’s sister Kathy Anders, 65, admitted. “C’mon, coloring books at our age? Before we knew it, we were both hooked.”

. . . .

A former teacher before she married, Card dabbled in different forms of art. But the 70-year-old never tried her hand at drawing.

“I like the creative challenge of drawing,” she said. “Even more than that, I like spending time with my friends. Every member of the Coloring Corner has become friends, since there’s so much camaraderie in this group.”

. . . .

Miriam Clayton, 84, can’t help but smile when Wickstrom mentioned the marketplace for art.

“You know it’s the book publishers who are making millions of dollars by selling coloring books,” she said. “Go into any book store and you’ll see coloring books aimed at every age and every interest.”

“When I was a kid, coloring books were inexpensive,” Card interjected. “This isn’t the case anymore.”

Link to the rest at Sioux City Journal

Walking as a Creative Device

21 January 2018

From Brain Pickings:

[Maira] Kalman’s proclivity for walking and movement as a gateway to a higher sensibility is something a number of great creators have in common. Dickens and Hugo were avid walkers during ideation; Burns often composed while “holding the plough”; Twain paced madly while dictating; Goethe and Scott composed on horseback; Mozart preferred the back of a carriage; Lord Kelvin worked on his mathematical studies while traveling by train.

. . . .

Rosamund E. Harding suggests in the 1932 gem An Anatomy of Inspiration:

It is possible that the rhythmical movement of a carriage or train, of a horse and to a much lesser degree of walking, may produce on sensitive minds a slightly hypnotic effect conducive to that state of mind most favourable to the birth of ideas.

Link to the rest at Brain Pickings

The Real Reasons Behind The Amazon Prime Monthly Price Boost

21 January 2018

From Seeking Alpha:

It’s no secret that the e-commerce business of Amazon is driven by its Amazon Price subscribers, who spend about double the amount on products served up by Amazon than non-subscribers do.

So when it announced it has boosted its monthly subscriber price from $10.99 to $12.99 for Prime members, and from $5.49 to $6.49 for students, it definitely warrants a look as to what is probably behind the move, which goes into effect on the first payment after February 18.

The new annual costs from the monthly increase will climb from $131.88 a year to $155.88 a year.

It’s important to know that in both increases, the annual fee of $99 for regular customers, and $49 for students, remain the same. This at least partially plays into the reasoning behind the decision.

. . . .

While Amazon has never released specific numbers concerning the number of customers subscribing to Prime, the general consensus is that in the U.S. there are about 90 million households subscribing. Again, those subscribers spend about twice as much as customers that don’t subscribe.

Growth for the service has continued to accelerate. In January 2018, the company said “more new paid members joined Prime worldwide this year than any previous year.”

. . . .

It has to be kept in mind that Amazon’s performance is driven by Prime subscribers, so when it raised its monthly price, it had to know there was little risk to that customer base in regard to churn.

The first and probably most important thing to consider about the monthly price increase is, if customers were to cancel their subscriptions over $2 a month, or $24 a year, they aren’t the type of customer Amazon is trying to reach with the service in the first place. If they aren’t spending on average like other Prime subscribers do, they are costing the company money to retain them.

So while it’s probable there will be some churn as a result of the increase in subscription price on a monthly basis, it’ll almost certainly be customers that aren’t generating much in the way of e-commerce sales for the company.

. . . .

What’s most interesting about the price move to me is the widening gap between the monthly costs and annual costs, which are now over 50 percent more. I think that’s the key to understanding what’s behind the decision.

I see Amazon trying to change subscribers’ behavior by making it much more desirable to choose an annual subscription against a monthly subscription. Why that’s the case is that it provides more visibility, continuity, and predictability to the performance of the company over time.

. . . .

Most of the churn will come from customers that aren’t contributing much if anything to its bottom line.

Link to the rest at Seeking Alpha

Your Book Editor Just Snagged Your Spot on the Best-Seller List

20 January 2018

From The New York Times:

Four years ago, when former book editor Daniel Mallory purchased his 550-square foot Chelsea apartment, its main draw was the book storage: floor-to-ceiling shelving, which covers a wall of his living room, plus numerous nooks above doorways and under the flat screen TV that shares space among the shelves. Recently, after receiving 32 hardback copies of his debut novel, “The Woman in the Window,” published under the pseudonym A. J. Finn, Mr. Mallory had to decide which of his collection would be relegated to storage. In the end, the Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene and Henry James novels got the heave-ho.

“They’re dead,” he said of his early literary idols. “They’re not going to complain.”

Last week, “The Woman in the Window,” a psychological thriller that pays homage to Hitchcock classics, debuted at No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list. It is a happy if unsurprising endnote to the book’s publishing saga, which began in the fall of 2016, when word got out that the debut thriller at the center of an eight-house bidding war was written by an anonymous book editor.

. . . .

Even William Morrow’s acquiring editor, Jennifer Brehl, didn’t know the author’s identity when she received the manuscript. Having read most of the book in one sitting, it was only when Ms. Brehl pitched it to William Morrow publisher Liate Stehlik, that she learned it had been written by their own colleague, Mr. Mallory, then the vice president and executive editor of William Morrow.

Despite Ms. Brehl’s friendship with Mr. Mallory, she was shocked. “I had no idea that he was writing a book,” she said. Had Mr. Mallory not prudently scheduled a weeklong trip to Palm Springs, which began the day his agent sent the manuscript to publishers, Ms. Brehl imagines she may have walked the book into his office to ask for his thoughts on it.

Mr. Mallory had always planned to submit the manuscript under a pseudonym, which is a mash-up of his cousin’s name, Alice Jane, plus the name of another family member’s French bulldog.

“I felt it would be disconcerting for my authors to wander into a bookshop and see their editor’s name writ large across a hardback,” he said.

. . . .

Over the next two days, Mr. Mallory wrote a 7,500-word outline for a novel about a former child therapist who, trapped in her Harlem townhouse by her crippling agoraphobia, becomes obsessed with the family that moves into the building opposite her own. Once finished, Mr. Mallory sent the outline to his friend Jennifer Joel, a partner and literary agent at ICM, who encouraged him to pursue the project.

For the next 12 months, Mr. Mallory wrote on nights and weekends, telling nobody but his sister and then-boyfriend, to whom the book is dedicated. His aim throughout the process, he said, was to write a book that felt like a film, and while the plotting came to him in an easy burst, the writing proved more of a challenge.

Link to the rest at The New York Times

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