Monthly Archives: January 2017

College Accused of Monopolizing Textbook Market

30 January 2017

From Courthouse News:

The local, off-campus competitor of an Illinois community college bookstore claims in court that the school is trying to put it out of business by selling textbooks below cost and withholding course book information.

Joliet Textbooks, which owns a store selling textbooks and related items across from the entrance of Joliet Junior College’s campus in Joliet, Ill., filed a lawsuit Tuesday in Will County accusing JJC of violating the Illinois Antitrust Act.

The off-campus store claims that JJC “engaged in a concerted scheme to thwart competition in the market for the sale of used and new textbooks and to destroy competition in the marketplace by undermining plaintiff’s business through anti-competitive pricing strategies.”

The school’s official bookstore, a half-mile from Joliet Textbooks, “enjoys certain institutional advantages over a private sector competitor like plaintiff,” such as not paying rent and not needing to generate a profit to stay open, the complaint states.

Both stores purchase their new and used textbooks from the same sources, says Joliet Textbooks, and the standard practice is to charge 20 to 30 percent above cost.

However, JJC has allegedly been selling textbooks to its students below cost and is giving out rebates and calculating sales taxes on the artificially lower price.

Link to the rest at Courthouse News and thanks to Nate for the tip.

PG is not familiar with the Illinois Antitrust Act, so he can’t opine about the plaintiff’s chances in court.

He was, however, reminded, of an antitrust suit by the American Booksellers Association and a number of independent bookstores against Barnes & Noble and Borders in 2001. The principal claim was that the big bookstores received secret discounts from big publishers and distributors. The case was ultimately settled before a final verdict.

The Life Cycle of the Book

30 January 2017

From Shelf Awareness:

A story titled “The Life Cycle of the Book,” even if it is set at a Wi12 panel, should have a great opening line, and Elizabeth Strout provided a fine one when she remarked at the start of Saturday’s session: “I’m the one who writes the book.”

Moderated by Betsy Burton of the King’s English Bookshop in Salt Lake City, Utah, the panel explored the life cycle of Strout’s bestseller My Name Is Lucy Barton from the perspectives of the author, her agent Molly Friedrich, her Random House editor Susan Kamil, Ruth Liebmann (v-p & director, account marketing, PRH) and bookseller Pete Mulvihill of Green Apple Books in San Francisco, Calif.

“I think that a lot of what an agent does is try to help the author manage expectations, focus on the work, the work; stay honest to the work,” Friedrich said, adding that with Strout’s manuscripts, “she’s been over that work so many times and with such lapidary attention that there’s very, very little to say except to be in a kind of swoon of admiration…. And with Lucy Barton in particular, it was kind of perfect.”

Kamil observed that “editors are like literary shape shifters. We become exactly what our authors need us to become,” and recalled that after reading the Lucy Barton manuscript for the first time, “I can’t quite describe the feeling to you, though as book lovers I’m sure you know what I mean when I say I was stunned and I was speechless…. I also knew it was a masterwork. It’s all about the book. And in this particular case, what a book! I had to get it into the hands of our publishing team.”

Link to the rest at Shelf Awareness

Authors fear accusations of cultural appropriation

30 January 2017

From The Bookseller:

Cries of cultural appropriation could be dissuading authors from publishing books that reflect black, Asian, ethnic minority (BAME) audiences, the Westminster Media Forum has heard.

The issue, which emerged at the discussion forum yesterday, (24th January), was raised by Nicola Solomon, chief executive for the Society of Authors, who pleaded with publishers “please don’t troll our authors for cultural appropriation”.

“We need to have as many diverse voices as we can,” she said. “This is often hard to hear for publishers and others, but for our authors who maybe are trying to include other voices in their books – because after all, writing fiction is about imagination, and you ought to be able to imagine other worlds to your own and other faces than your own – please don’t troll writers for cultural appropriation every time they put a black face in their book if they are not black. We absolutely need as many authors as possible but we also need authors to write about a range of people and to imagine people they are not.

“It’s a terribly important thing and our authors are finding they are very, very caught between two stalls here,” she said.

Author and illustrator Shoo Raynor, who is on the committee of the writers and illustrators’ group at the SoA, said the issue of cultural appropriation was coming up in “every meeting”.

“Certainly at the moment, the thing that comes up every meeting is cultural appropriation and how we are often stuck between a rock and a hard place,” Raynor said. “Publishers will often ask to have ethnic characters removed from stories. I’ve not had that problem myself but various people have, purely because they’re not going to sell the book. We hear lots and lots of stories, horror stories.”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Self-Publishing in 2017: The Year in Preview

29 January 2017

From Publishers Weekly:

As 2017 begins, indie authors and publishers are having to navigate a fast-growing industry filled with new opportunities, but one that also presents challenges related to that expansion. To find continued success in self-publishing, it has become more important to expand the definition of “self-published author” to encompass new roles and new formats.

. . . .

“We can expect 2017 is going to continue to be a challenging market for all authors and publishers,” says Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords. He attributes this to the flood of titles that have entered the e-book space.

The growing supply is creating one set of difficulties for authors who are trying to get their titles discovered, and Coker says Amazon has not made anything easier for indie authors’ bottom lines with KDP Select, which requires participating authors to publish e-books exclusively with Amazon and allows titles to be eligible for Kindle Unlimited—a program that provides unlimited books for readers who pay a monthly subscription fee. He is critical of the online retail giant’s shift from compensating authors per books sold to a system based on the number of pages read.

Robin Cutler, director of IngramSpark, says that as a result of this drop in revenue from e-book content, indie authors who had previously focused on digital are looking to publish in print and other formats. “Getting their titles into brick-and-mortar bookstores as well as into libraries continues as a goal for many indie authors this year and into next year,” says Cutler.

Joel Friedlander, book designer and publishing consultant, seconds that, emphasizing that while getting print books into stores is not always easy, successful indie authors will be those who think outside traditional formats. “Authors are starting to understand that the world of book publishing is much bigger than e-books and print on demand,” he says.

. . . .

Just as 2017 will likely see self-publishing expand into different formats, it may also be a time when authors have to find ways to expand their own roles. They are adding such words as consultant, publisher, and marketer to their business cards and passing on lessons for success to other authors.

“They typically begin publishing their own work and through that experience learn how to establish a publishing business or service to help other authors,” says IngramSpark’s Cutler.

Friedlander predicts that more indie authors will become indie publishers by assisting other writers in bringing their books to market in 2017. “They figure out book publishing on a small scale with their own books, and then they say, ‘I could help Jane out with her books,’ and it’s a natural evolution,” he says.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

I am not

29 January 2017

I am not a speed reader. I am a speed understander.

Isaac Asimov

If you want to get smarter, speed-reading is worse than not reading at all

29 January 2017

From Quartz:

We all know that reading is important. But we’re also busy. So we try to optimize by reading more quickly. And in this way, we miss the point of reading entirely.

I’ve noticed this tendency since I began posting about what I learn from reading over 100 books a year. One of the most frequent questions I get is about how to read faster. Inevitably this request includes a link to a book, “scientific article,” or random blog post declaring that there’s a way to read 10 times faster. But if you care about more than bragging rights, the point of books isn’t how fast you read, or even how much you read. It’s reading for deep understanding.

. . . .

Moreover, while reading is the key to getting smarter, speed-reading is really just a fancy way of fooling yourself into thinking you’re learning something. In reality, you’re just turning pages quickly. A May 2016 review of studies on speed-reading, published in Psychological Science in the Public Interest, reported, “there is a trade-off between speed and accuracy. It is unlikely that readers will be able to double or triple their reading speeds (e.g., from around 250 to 500–750 words per minute) while still being able to understand the text as well as if they read at normal speed.”

Link to the rest at Quartz

These Buses Have Bookshelves With Free Books

29 January 2017

From BuzzFeed Books:

VHH, a bus company in Hamburg, Germany, decided to install shelves in some of their buses so that passengers can easily borrow books during their ride.

. . . .

All passengers have to do is pick a book they like, and start reading. If they don’t finish their book during their bus ride, they can take it home and either bring it back to the bus or mail it to the store that provides the books.

VHH started “Buchhaltestellen,” which means “book stop” in 2010 as a collaboration with second-hand department store Stilbruch. Over the past seven years, Stilbruch has provided almost one million books for the 150 buses that feature the shelves.

Link to the rest at BuzzFeed

Confessions of a Book Adopter

29 January 2017

From BookRiot:

I need to make a confession.

I have an acute addiction, and it’s one that I’m sure afflicts many of you as well. I’m reaching out for help because I need to know I’m not alone in this.

Okay, here it is: I can’t stop adopting books. Dog-eared, mint condition, sample publications or Advance Reading Copies, it doesn’t matter. I bring them all home, often with a guilty look on my face as my wife asks what I’m hiding behind my back.

All people with addictions have triggers, and mine is my Brooklyn neighborhood. Brooklyn is full of similar literary types who would rather give up their rent-controlled apartments than throw a good book in the trash. Stoops and steps are often filled with gently used copies of books that I never knew existed but now desperately need to read.

Often, on the way home from doing the laundry or visiting friends, I’ll intentionally make detours down side streets, especially if I know I’ve scored there before. It may add an extra few minutes to my commute, but I know it will be worth it if I hit the jackpot. The excitement I get when I see a brown paper Trader Joe’s bag, and the disappointment I feel if it’s empty or filled with dishes, makes the hunt that much more intoxicating.

Link to the rest at BookRiot

Why are schools in China looking west for lessons in creativity?

28 January 2017

From The Financial Times:

In the auditorium of Beijing Bayi School, on a cold morning thick with smog, props are broken, lines unlearnt and the mechanical curtain has blown a fuse. In four hours, my cast of 22 Chinese 14-year-olds, who have never acted before, will perform Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to an audience of 1,500 — in English. All their education has told them that drama is an irrelevance. As I race around the theatre, trying to track down an absent Grandpa Joe and a missing Golden Ticket I ask myself, not for the first time: what am I doing here?

Chinese education has increasingly been hailed as “superior” to the way we teach in the west in recent years. Its success in global tests for 15-year-olds reinforced this sense of a world tilting to the east: in the 2012 round of the Programme for International Student Assessment tests (Pisa), Shanghai, representing China, came first in science, reading and mathematics. Fretful western governments took note, amid mounting concern that China’s educational success would inevitably pave the way for economic and cultural dominance. Or, as the former UK government minister Michael Gove baldly stated when he was secretary of state for education, the UK can either “start working as hard as the Chinese, or we’ll all soon be working for the Chinese”.

. . . .

As I can confirm from my five weeks at Bayi School last year, school days are definitely a lot longer than in the west. Older pupils started at about 7.30am and continued until 6pm, usually backed up by evening self-study classes. Most schools have classes on Saturdays, too. If they don’t, middle-class parents will arrange private lessons with tutors. Asia is the fastest-growing market in the global private tuition industry, which is forecast by Global Industry Analysts to be worth nearly $200bn by 2020. Students in Shanghai also spend almost 14 hours a week on homework, close to three times the average given by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

. . . .

To China’s educationalists the timing of the western love affair with their system is striking. For the past decade or so wealthy Chinese parents, keen to avoid the test-dominated regime of their own educations, have been sending their teenage offspring to study in America in dramatically increasing numbers: 46,000 Chinese students attended American high schools in 2015, up from just 637 in 2005. In the UK, Chinese are also “by far” the largest group of international students according to the 2016 Independent Schools Council census.

Now these parents are also demanding a more “western” option at home. Wealthier parents have flocked to enrol their children at the newly opened Chinese arms of traditional British private schools such as Wycombe Abbey and Harrow. UK state schools are beginning to get in on the action too; Bohunt, the school from the BBC programme, is opening a private school in Wenzhou, Zhejiang province, next year. And it’s not just parents who have an appetite for something different.

More than a decade ago, the Chinese Ministry of Education issued a statement denouncing the “exam-oriented education” of China. In the past few years, the ministry has introduced a policy calling for the formal encouragement of “creativity” and “innovation” in schools. The school where I taught has clearly taken heed. Among sections about a “military training that builds spirit” and “an education in Communism”, its prospectus boasts of Bayi’s commitment to “encourage creative awareness and creative acts”.

Link to the rest at The Financial Times (if you hit a paywall, you may want to cut and paste “Why are schools in China looking west for lessons in creativity?” and see what happens)

You can’t just turn on creativity

28 January 2017

“You can’t just turn on creativity like a faucet. You have to be in the right mood.”

“What mood is that?”

“Last-minute panic.”

Bill Watterson

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