FutureBook Conference

13 October 2015

From FutureBook:

In programming this year’s FutureBook Conference (4th December), I’ve had the privilege of discussing publishing’s digital future with numerous people from across the sector. The conversations, all done for the purposes of background, have informed both the direction of the conference and my understanding of where the industry is headed.

Here are 3 conclusions, and how they the fit into the FutureBook Conference 2015.

1) Product innovation is not dead: in fact I believe we are just beginning to see a new wave of different types of books, from the Harry Potter enhanced iBooks to Hachette’s app programme. But what we think of as the next phase of ‘the book’ needs to broaden. What Asi Sharabi has done with Lost My Name and what Quarto is doing with This is Your Cookbook, shows that new types of books need not only be confined to digital. New technologies change all sorts of things, and printing (particularly print-on-demand) is only just beginning to be explored by publishers (and consumers). We will see more developments in the cross-over between digital and print, as well as more digital only solutions.

. . . .

2) Agency is not killing the e-book market, but it is creating opportunities as the big groups transition: the first implementation of agency was an important shift for publishers at a time when they needed to take some control back over the e-book market, and prevent Amazon entirely killing off the competition. It worked, to varying degrees. The second coming of agency looks more problematic – prices have lowered during the interim ($9.99 nows looks a decent price for some books) and Amazon is no less powerful. Ironically, it is Amazon that is now pushing publishers to agency because the Seattle giant no longer wishes to take the hit on dramatically lowered e-book prices. This throws the challenge back to agency publishers, and it is not easily resolvable. The Kindle platform now sells many more e-books at very low prices, than it does at the higher end. We often talk about how publishing avoided going through that destructive Napster period music publishers faced: but actually the dramatic devaluation of content now prevalent on the Kindle represents an acute challenge for everyone. If publishers cannot sell e-books at volume at prices that support their wider business, then this transition to digital suddenly looks to have a sting in its tail. That said, it also represents huge opportunities for indie writers, e-book only publishers, and new content businesses — or in fact anyone more concerned with growing e-book sales than servicing their over-head.

. . . .

3) Mobile is going to impact this sector hard. As I wrote last week in relation to FutureBook’s book tech showcase, the transition to mobile reading and platforms is going to change and alter this industry irrevocably. As one mobile expert said to me recently, just measure how many times you use your mobile in an hour, and you’ll have some perspective on how important this will become for the content businesses. Over the past few months, Harry Potter website Pottermore has shown a glimpse of this future, with a mobile-first relaunch of its website, and the launch of Harry Potter enhanced iBooks. But that is not an end to it, from new retailing opportunities to new content platforms mobile already offers a different way for authors, publishers and readers to interact. There is a sense that publishers do not yet get this. Can this be true?

From FutureBook

When you are deciding

13 October 2015

When you are deciding what to leave out, begin with the author. If you see yourself prancing around between subject and reader, get lost.

John McPhee

A word is dead

13 October 2015

A word is dead
When it is said,
Some say.
I say it just begins
to live that day.

Emily Dickinson

Magazines Try New Tactic: Money Back if Ad Fails to Deliver

13 October 2015

From The Wall Street Journal:

Magazine publishers say it is an offer advertisers can’t refuse. Their money back—or free ad pages—if sales don’t increase after running print ads in their publications.

The new industry guarantee was organized by the MPA, the Association of Magazine Media, which said that 16 major media companies representing 72% of the total magazine audience in the U.S. qualify to offer the program.

. . . .

A year ago, the industry trade group moved to boost publisher credibility with marketers by launching a monthly audience measurement tool that counts how many readers are consuming magazine content in print and online (including video), and via their smartphones, computers (desktop and laptops) and tablets.

Both initiatives reflect the association’s efforts to counter the perception that magazines are losing clout with readers as witnessed by a decline in print advertising. U.S. magazine print ad spending is expected to shrink 1.8% this year to $17.4 billion, according to a forecast from ZenithOptimedia, a media buying firm owned by Publicis Groupe SA.

“Print is the heritage format of this industry and advertisers have pulled their business back disproportionately,” said Mary Berner, the trade group’s former chief executive, who quarterbacked the guarantee strategy. This week she joins radio station owner Cumulus Media Inc. as its CEO.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)

AmazonCrossing Announces $10 Million Commitment to Translating Books into English

13 October 2015

From the Amazon Media Room:

In celebration of its fifth year, AmazonCrossing, the literary translation imprint of Amazon Publishing, today announced a $10 million commitment over the next five years to increase the number and diversity of its books in translation. AmazonCrossing is one of the largest publishers of translated literature in the United States, with 77 titles from 15 countries and 12 languages to be published in the United States in 2015. Today’s announced investment will go toward fees paid to translators over the next five years and increasing the countries and languages represented on the AmazonCrossing list, which since 2010 has included more than 200 titles by authors from 29 countries writing in 19 languages.

To support this growing commitment to books in translation, AmazonCrossing editors today opened a new website for authors, agents and publishers to suggest titles for translation at translation.amazon.com/submissions. AmazonCrossing is now accepting submissions in mystery, thriller, women’s fiction, historical fiction, literary fiction, memoir, science fiction and fantasy categories.

. . . .

“We launched AmazonCrossing five years ago to introduce readers to voices of the world through English-language translations of foreign-language books. While we are now one of the largest publishers of translated literature in the United States, translated fiction is still a tiny fraction of new publications. Today we are committing $10 million to translations to bring more international writers to new audiences,” said Sarah Jane Gunter, Publisher of AmazonCrossing and General Manager of International Publishing. “Our new website for submissions will help us cast a broader net in finding great books for translation, with the hope of increasing the number of acquisitions from countries that are traditionally underrepresented in translation.”

Over the past five years, AmazonCrossing has published significant works such as German author Oliver Pötzsch’s million-copy best-selling Hangman’s Daughter series, Korean author Bae Suah’s acclaimed novella Nowhere to Be Found and Turkish author Ayse Kulin’s Kindle best seller Last Train to Istanbul. The 2016 list will continue a commitment to translating books by exceptional foreign-language authors including award-winning and best-selling Mexican author of Like Water for Chocolate Laura Esquivel. Her novel Pierced by the Sun, a gripping tale of murder and redemption translated from Spanish by Jordi Castells, will be published in June 2016. In July 2016, AmazonCrossing will publish award-winning Polish crime writer Zygmunt Miloszewski’s Rage, translated from Polish by Antonia Lloyd-Jones, winner of the 2014 Paszport Polityka prize for literature.

Link to the rest at Amazon Media Room

The Shannara Chronicles

13 October 2015

Based upon the Shannara books

Pressure to ‘publish or perish’ may discourage innovative research, UCLA study suggests

13 October 2015

From the UCLA Newsroom:

The traditional pressure in academia for faculty to “publish or perish” advances knowledge in established areas. But it also might discourage scientists from asking the innovative questions that are most likely to lead to the biggest breakthroughs, according to a new study spearheaded by a UCLA professor.

Researchers have long faced a natural tension and tradeoff when deciding whether to build on accumulated knowledge in a field or pursue a bold new idea that challenges established thinking. UCLA assistant professor of sociology Jacob Foster and his co-authors describe it as a conflict between “productive tradition” and “risky innovation.”

To study this tension, Foster and his colleagues assembled a database of more than 6.4 million scholarly publications in the fields of biomedicine and chemistry from 1934 to 2008. They then analyzed whether individual publications built on existing discoveries or created new connections — in effect, creating a map of the growing web of scientific knowledge. Finally, they correlated each of the two broad strategies with two types of reward: citations in subsequent research and more substantial recognition conferred by 137 different scholarly awards.

. . . .

The study found that a remarkably consistent pattern characterizes contemporary research in biomedicine and chemistry: more than 60 percent of the papers had no new connections, meaning that they primarily built on tradition and eschewed innovation.

Drawing on their analysis of scientific rewards, Foster and his colleagues argue that researchers who confine their work to answering established questions are more likely to have the results published, which is a key to career advancement in academia. Conversely, researchers who ask more original questions and seek to forge new links in the web of knowledge are more likely to stumble on the road to publication, which can make them appear unproductive to their colleagues. If published, however, these innovative research projects are more highly rewarded with citations. And scientists who win awards — especially major ones, like a Nobel Prize — have more of these innovative moves in their research portfolio.

“Published papers that make a novel connection are rare but more highly rewarded,” said Foster, the study’s lead author. “So what accounts for scientists’ disposition to pursue tradition over innovation? Our evidence points to a simple explanation: Innovative research is a gamble whose payoff, on average, does not justify the risk. It’s not a reliable way to accumulate scientific reward.”

Foster added: “When scientists innovate, they may be betting on extraordinary impact. They are playing for posterity.”

Link to the rest at UCLA Newsroom and thanks to Julia for the tip.

Not Editing New Star Trek: Strange New Worlds

13 October 2015

From Dean Wesley Smith:

I edited Star Trek: Strange New Worlds for ten fun years. It was a wonderful project that helped fans and new writers tell Star Trek stories. I was very proud of the work I did on that and the fine writers I was lucky enough to buy stories from.

This new incarnation is a scam to suck new writers into one of Simon and Schuster’s vanity publishers. Avoid this contest at all costs. More below.

. . . .

This will be short and sweet.

  1. No I am not editing or have anything to do with the new Star Trek: Strange New Worlds contest. I have not been asked, even though I edited the first ten. Standard for traditional publishing.
  2. Even if asked, I would not help them in any way because of the two first place prizes which gives some poor, beginning writer without a clue free publication of their non-Star Trek book in one of the vanity presses that Simon and Schuster own. That disgusts me more than I want to think about.
  3. The entire contest, from what a few who got letters told me, is a come-on to beginning writers for their names to be pushed to the vanity presses. Sigh…
  4. AVOID AT ALL COSTS. Write your own stories. In the long run you will be so much better off.

I hope that’s clear.

Sad that such a wonderful project that lasted for ten years is being destroyed by corporation greed and the desire to take advantage of young writers. The Star Trek franchise should be ashamed of itself.

Link to the rest at Dean Wesley Smith

Here’s a link to Dean Wesley Smith’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

Author Robert Scoble Is Glad That Independent Bookstores Are Closing

12 October 2015

From The Observer:

It’s no secret that Amazon has dominated the book and e-book markets, and the site’s lower pricing has angered authors and publishers. Brick and mortar bookstores have also been adversely affected, forced to confront decreased sales as consumers decide to read or download books at home.

But according to Robert Scoble, that’s not a bad thing at all.

The blogger and futurist, who has published several books through Amazon, posted a picture of Half Moon Bay Books, a recently closed California bookstore, on Facebook over the weekend. He admitted that “It is sad to see this business gone. A reminder of the way things used to be.”

But at that point the mourning ended, as Mr. Scoble declared “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

This store’s closure was actually a reminder for Mr. Scoble to always find new ways to improve. He claimed it reinforced his blunt motto to “Innovate or die.”

Link to the rest at The Observer and thanks to Meryl for the tip.

PG is not happy to see anyone’s business fail. Such failure almost always carries a human cost.

However, no one is entitled to business success. And, particularly, no one is entitled to business success forever.

There were lots of wonderful people in the typewriter business. The man who occasionally appeared in PG’s high school typing room to fix a typewriter was friendly and good at his job. After he finished, all the typewriters worked wonderfully.

When the high school bought Selectrics to replace its battered old Smith Coronas, a different person appeared to minister to the Selectrics. Compared to the Smith Corona, the Selectric was a magical machine upon which you could type like the wind. The keys never jammed. And a correcting Selectric even allowed you to fix typos without a bottle of white-out.

The rise of personal computers with attached printers destroyed the typewriter business and even the nicest people who worked in that business had to move forward to different businesses and jobs.

PG likes people who like books and most bookstores contain several people who like books.

For the record, Amazon also contains a lot of people who like books.

Personal computers do most everything better than Smith Coronas did plus a million different things that would be impossible for a Smith Corona.

People who put thoughts into words and words onto paper or a screen or into a digital file chose a personal computer as the best means of doing those things. In making this choice, they bore no ill will toward people who fixed Selectrics.

Perhaps we’re seeing the cell phones or tablets that will some day make the personal computer look like a Smith Corona. It is almost certain that the process of putting thoughts into words and sharing those words with others will be much different twenty years from now than it is today.

People who buy books are increasingly choosing Amazon as the best means of acquiring the books they want. They typically do this with no animus toward bookstores but a book purchased on Amazon is likely a lost sale for a bookstore.

This kind of thing happens over and over again.

My own experience

12 October 2015

My own experience is that once a story has been written, one has to cross out the beginning and the end. It is there that we authors do most of our lying.

Anton Chekhov

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