Monthly Archives: January 2016

Amazon Aiming Its Guns Directly at Spotify and Apple Music

29 January 2016

From Digital Music News:

According to reports Amazon is planning to launch a subscription-based music streaming service to compete directly with Spotify and Apple Music.

Plans are said to be in the early stages, although there is talk that the service is to launch as soon as this fall.

While Amazon Prime users can already listen to roughly one million songs for $99-a-year, reports state the newly-proposed streaming platform would charge a separate monthly fee.  Sources are saying that there have been several meetings in the past few weeks to discuss licensing tunes for the new subscription music service.  The new service is said to cost $9.99 per month, but will contain a more diverse music selection than what is currently available via Prime.

This is another attempt from Amazon’s Chief Executive, Jeff Bezos, to become the premier distributor of entertainment content. Just the other day, Amazon launched it’s Pandora-like radio service which already boasts hundreds of prime stations across all genres.

. . . .

Amazon currently claims to be the biggest seller of physical music in the US, and the second-best seller of digital music.

Link to the rest at Digital Music News and thanks to Alice for the tip.

She wasn’t doing a thing that I could see

29 January 2016

She wasn’t doing a thing that I could see, except standing there leaning on the balcony railing, holding the universe together.

J. D. Salinger

Swear Word Coloring Book Will Help You Stop Swearing And Start Coloring In 2016

29 January 2016

From Bored Panda:

It’s no secret that lately adult coloring books have been taking over bookstores. Most of them are very detailed and sophisticated, even spiritual. But Sarah Bigwood, a 30-year-old artist from UK, known as PixieRah Design, has taken a whole different approach – relaxation by coloring… swear words.

Sarah’s book, called “Sweary Colouring Book,” consists of 20 different swear words . . .  – you can definitely find something suitable for the occasion. And many people already have.

Although the artist planned it to be a less mainstream project, released only in a digital format, the book had attained so much attention, that she had to make a physical version of it

Link to the rest at Bored Panda

PG wonders why you would ever buy ebook version of a coloring book.

Amazon Reports Best-Ever Earnings But Still Disappoints

29 January 2016

From The Wall Street Journal:

Amazon.com Inc. on Thursday delivered the largest quarterly profit in its 20-year history, but investors apparently are thirsty for more after subsisting on thin margins for years.

The online retailer’s shares plunged as much as 15% in after-hours trading, erasing more than $30 billion in market value despite a profit that more than doubled to $482 million in the holiday period. It was also the third straight quarter of profits, the first time Amazon has done so in more than three years.

The failure to meet outsize expectations underscores the pressure Amazon now faces after teasing Wall Street in recent quarters with tighter costs and black ink. Amazon until recently put nearly every dollar it generated back into the business.

The company was one of the big growth stories among technology stocks in 2015, more than doubling its market value to over $300 billion last year and easily outperforming other tech giants like Alphabet Inc., Apple Inc. and Facebook Inc.

. . . .

For the year, Amazon passed $100 billion in revenue for the first time in its two-decade history. It took rival Wal-Mart Stores Inc. 35 years to reach the same mark in 1997, two years after Amazon.com opened for business.

Amazon has captured more customers by aggressively building out new warehouses near urban centers to speed deliveries and by bulking up its Prime unlimited shipping membership with streaming video and other benefits.

And it has built up a huge lead on rivals in offering cloud-computing services through its lucrative Amazon Web Services unit, which rents computing power to other companies from thousands of servers. Sales from that business jumped 69% to $2.4 billion, while operating profit nearly tripled to $687 million, reinforcing its place as Amazon’s fast-rising growth engine. Still, AWS’s revenue growth slowed from 78% in the previous three months as Amazon drained more costs.

. . . .

The company said nearly half of the units of merchandise it sold in the quarter came from third-party sellers who store their goods in Amazon warehouses. That is good news for Amazon because most observers assume such sales are generally more profitable than the merchandise it purchases itself for resale.

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

At Authors United Event, a Call to Bust Amazon ‘Monopoly’

29 January 2016

From Publishers Weekly:

If Amazon’s business practices continue unchecked the result could be a “nuclear winter” for book publishing, said founder and CEO of Smashwords Mark Coker during a January 27 event called Amazon’s Book Monopoly—A Threat to Freedom of Expression?

Coker participated via Skype in a panel called “Amazon and the Author” at the afternoon-long event sponsored by the Authors Guild, the American Booksellers Association, the Association of Authors’ Representatives, and Authors United, and held at the New America Foundation in Washington, DC.

Last year the event sponsors asked the Department of Justice to examine Amazon for antitrust violations. After a meeting with the DoJ that Authors Guild executive director Mary Rasenberger said “went very well,” the organizations planned this event to delve into antitrust concerns, as well as ways in which Amazon’s “book monopoly” affects ideas and their dissemination in a democratic society. As the invitation to the event from Authors United founder DougPreston said: “Never in the history of our country has a single corporation dominated a vital marketplace of information—until today.”

. . . .

 Foer claimed that Amazon is “destroying the culture of book publishing.”

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly and thanks to Randall and others for the tip.

Indie Contracts

29 January 2016

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

Boy, I’ve been seeing a lot of crappy contracts lately, and not at all from the place I would have expected. I expect bad clauses in traditional publishing contracts. Too many writers don’t hire intellectual property attorneys to vet those contracts, relying instead on agents, and that leads to all kinds of terrible book contracts. If you want to see what some of those are, look up the contract posts here  or pick up a copy of Deal Breakers 2013 (or wait for the new version).

However, the bad contracts I’ve been seeing these last few months don’t come from traditional publishers—directly, anyway. They come from indie writers and brand-new small press publishers. And these contracts aren’t just bad, they’re often worse than traditional publishing contracts.

The motives behind the contracts are different. Traditional publishers are trying to see how much they can get from ignorant writers with complicit agents. Indie writers/small press publishers are just as ignorant as those traditionally published writers, but the indie writers/small press publishers believe they’re on the side of the angels.

They’re not because they’re making huge mistakes.

. . . .

The bump in the road [for Newbie Publishers and Newbie Editors that run them] that I hadn’t expected were the contracts. Most of the readers who support these new projects never see the contracts between the publisher and the writer. That’s one of those arcane little details that matter only to the publisher and writer.

Unfortunately, this is an area where Newbie Editor and his publisher violate their own ideals. Usually, Newbie Editor was (once upon a time) a traditionally published writer. The publishing company is often owned by Newbie Editor.

And Newbie Editor is just like any other traditional writer: he never hired an IP attorney to vet his book contracts. He let his agent do it. Newbie Editor never negotiated his own short story contracts either, so he has no idea what the good or bad clauses are. In fact, Newbie Editor knows nothing about copyright or contracts—and it shows.

. . . .

Newbie Editor sends a contract to Short Story Writer. Most short story writers are happy to make that sale. They sign the contract and send back without a second thought.

But people who read my blog and/or who have been my students know better than to do that. They actually read the contract.

And what they find is that the contract is a nightmare.

Most of the contracts I’m seeing from Newbie Editors and new online magazines make no sense. I mean it. They contradict themselves on every page. Sometimes they ask for things they don’t need while ignoring things they do.

The most egregious contract I saw was just a few weeks ago. Some idiot publisher/editor had changed the language in his very bad traditional book contract to be a short story contract. This ten-page short story contract (not kidding) including right of first refusal of the poor author’s next short story! And a non-compete. And all the other horrid things we’ve been discussing about traditional publishing contracts.

That contract at least made sense. I could see exactly what that idiot publisher/editor had done. She had modified an existing document by using a global search & replace, substituting the word “book” for the words “short story.” Apparently the idiot publisher/editor thought that was what she needed to buy a 3,000 word short story.

Sigh.

. . . .

But most of these newbie editor/publishers take clauses at random from every contract they’ve received in their publishing careers. The contract have boilerplate traditional publishing language that refers to other parts of a contract that aren’t there. It’ll ask for North American Rights and then say that the story will be on sale around the world in all languages. It’ll claim that the contract is for non-exclusive rights, but the writer can’t sell or publish the story without the publishers permission.

And on and on and on.

In other words, these newbie editors and publishers are too damn cheap to hire an IP Attorney to develop a valid publishing contract. Just like these people were probably too cheap to hire an IP attorney when they got their own book contracts.

I’ve received some of these cobbled-together contracts myself. I’ve worked with the editor/publisher to devise a fair contract for me, although in one or two instances, I just walked away. The handwriting was on the wall that the project was going to be a disaster, and lo and behold, it always ended up being one.

The flip side of the cobbled-together indie contract is the draconian one. Some of these new companies have hired some young, cheap attorney to develop the company’s contract. Often that attorney is the friend of a friend, and not an IP attorney at all.

Those contracts don’t just want the writer’s firstborn child, they want everything the writer owns in perpetuity. They’re terrifyingly nasty, the kind of contract that makes a traditional publishing contract seem nice and cuddly.

Writers are signing these contracts because writers are mostly ignorant about legal things. And as long as the original newbie editor/publisher is in place, the writer will probably be okay. After all, the contract was born in ignorance, so it will to live in ignorance. No one will notice how horrid the clauses are. No one will ever exercise them.

But should the project become a success, and should someone with half a brain decide to buy out the editor/publisher on the project, that new someone might actually enforce the contract clauses.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

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

PG says it always costs less in legal fees to fix a contract (or walk away) before you sign a contract than it is to deal with it afterwards.

10 Women Who Changed Sci-Fi

29 January 2016

From the BBC:

Mary Shelley

Credited with founding science fiction as a field, Shelley’s key contribution to the genre was Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. She completed the novel in 1817, when she was still a teenager, after she and her lover, Percy Bysshe Shelley, were challenged to produce a ghost story by their friend Lord Byron. The book’s terrifying insight – that we could make life and intelligence – continues to be one of science fiction’s enduring themes.

. . . .

Connie Willis

With 11 Hugo Awards and seven Nebula Awards to her name, Willis has won more major science fiction and fantasy awards than any other writer. Her work is witty, varied, and often satirical. From her breakthrough story Fire Watch, which was awarded her first Hugo and Nebula awards, her fiction has often explored the great science fiction trope of time travel.

. . . .

James Tiptree, Jr.

In spite of the name, Tiptree wasn’t a man. She was, in fact, a spy who worked for the CIA. Tiptree was the penname Alice Bradley Sheldon used exclusively for her science fiction work, which she debuted in 1968. Explosively influential at the time, her short stories changed the field and there is now a literary prize named in her honour.

. . . .

Anne McCaffrey

The first woman to win a Hugo, the first woman to win a Nebula, McCaffrey also enjoyed wide commercial success. The Ship Who Sang – a 1969 work encompassing five previously published stories – combined space and artificial personalities with utter originality.

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

Publishing industry is overwhelmingly white and female

28 January 2016

From The Guardian:

A survey of American publishing has found that it is blindingly white and female, with 79% of staff white and 78% women.

Multicultural children’s publisher Lee & Low Books surveyed staff at 34 American publishers, including Penguin Random House and Hachette , as well as eight review journals, to establish a baseline to measure diversity among publishing staff. They found that 79% were white. Of the remainder, Asians/Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders made up 7.2% of staff, Hispanics/Latinos/Mexicans 5.5%, and black/African Americans 3.5%.

“Does the lack of diverse books closely correlate to the lack of diverse staff? The percentages, while not exact, are proportional to how the majority of books look nowadays – predominately white. Cultural fit would seem to be relevant here,” writes publisher Jason Low. “Or at least in publishing’s case, what is at work is the tendency – conscious or unconscious – for executives, editors, marketers, sales people and reviewers to work with, develop, and recommend books by and about people who are like them.”

When it came to gender, Lee & Low found that 78% of publishing staff overall were female. At executive or board level, however, 40% of respondents identified as men.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

In our village

28 January 2016

In our village, folks say God crumbles up the old moon into stars.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Amazon has officially won the multibillion-dollar self-publishing market

28 January 2016

From Quartz:

Penguin Random House, the largest book publisher in the world, is chopping off its self-publishing arm. The company said Tuesday (Jan. 5) that it has sold Author Solutions—the self-publishing author-tools platform that it bought in 2012—to an unnamed affiliate of US private equity firm Najafi Companies for an undisclosed sum.

. . . .
 By the numbers, self-publishing should be a lucrative endeavor.In 2015, author-published books accounted for 18% of the entire book market in the US; the industry’s growth is staggering, and some firms predict the business could eventually get as big as $52 billion.

. . . .

 Analysts told the Financial Times that Penguin Random House likely sold the company for a fraction of the $116 million it paid in 2012.

But whether driven by sinking profits or negative publicity, Penguin Random House’s exit from self-publishing is also an admission of defeat: The giant self-publishing market essentially now falls largely to Amazon, which already churns out an estimated 85% of self-published titles via its various platforms.

Link to the rest at Quartz and thanks to Jan for the tip.

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