Monthly Archives: October 2017

Amazon Kindle deserves some praise on its 10th birthday

30 October 2017

From The National:

The iPhone has received a good deal of hype this year as it celebrates its 10th anniversary, but another important device is just about to reach that same milestone.

The Kindle is set to turn 10 on November 19, and while not as revolutionary as Apple’s flagship product, Amazon’s e-book reader is responsible for its own share of change.

And, just like the iPhone, it has also been emblematic of Amazon’s approach to both innovation and customers. It’s a good example of why the two companies are currently positioned so differently in consumers’ minds.

Just as Apple didn’t invent the smartphone, the Kindle wasn’t the first electronic book reader. Amazon improved on predecessors such as the Sony Librie and the long forgotten Rocket eBook with a lightweight and portable device that used an innovative “electronic ink” display to take the pain out of reading books on a screen.

More importantly, it was affordable.

. . . .

If the iPhone unleashed the app economy, then the Kindle sparked a self-publishing revolution that changed how the long-form printed word is created, distributed and sold.

Kindle Direct Publishing, which launched in conjunction with the e-reader in 2007, allowed writers to skip publishers and sell their works straight to consumers. E-books could be sold for as low as 99 cents, with Amazon keeping just a small cut rather than the lion’s share, as publishers generally do.

. . . .

Amazon has never disclosed how many e-readers it has sold, but estimates have pegged the number in the multi-millions. E-books, meanwhile, have gobbled up as much as a quarter of the overall book market in a number of countries.

. . . .

Amazon and Apple’s biggest clash was over e-books. Publishers, fearing Amazon’s growing power, conspired with Apple to counter that influence by fixing e-book prices. In 2014, Apple settled with U.S. anti-trust authorities, giving Amazon customers credits for the over-payments they were forced to endure.

Link to the rest at The National and thanks to Dave for a second tip today.

Gould’s Book Arcade owners blame ‘white bread’ culture for imminent closure

30 October 2017

From The Daily Mail:

Proudly left-wing Sydney institution Gould’s Book Arcade is facing the axe as commercial pressures force it out of its decades-long home in Newtown.

The iconic Sydney University hangout, a one-time rallying centre for anti-Vietnamese war protesters and lately an unofficial office helping asylum seekers, has just three months to find a new home or a benefactor.

Owners of the King St business, founded in 1967 and billed as Australia’s largest retailer of used, remaindered, out-of-print and rare books under one roof, say they can’t afford the rent after enduring years of losses.

They are already looking for new premises.

“My father Bob started this as a bookshop of resistance during the Vietnam War. It belonged to resisters and was run by resisters,” said current owner Natalie Gould. “I wouldn’t have spent the past 6½ years trying to keep it open if it wasn’t.

“I’m a socialist, always have been and always will be. I don’t understand capitalism. I grew up in the shop, crawling on the floor when it was in Goulburn St. I love books and I just identify with the joint.

“But it has been a struggle trying to stay afloat.”

. . . .

“Every second shop is a dress shop, a bar or a coffee house. Is that the only kind of culture you want in the city?

“It’s slowly becoming white bread and I think that’s sad.”

Link to the rest at The Daily Mail and thanks to Dave for the tip.

PG’s business advice for the day is don’t build your business on Vietnam war protesters. If the war didn’t kill your target demographic, age will.

Nook Glowlight Plus Quietly Went Out of Stock on B&N’s Website

30 October 2017

From The Digital Reader

Barnes & Noble is no longer selling new Nook Glowlight Plus ereaders on their website. They’ve run out, and are now only selling refurbished units.

B&N is of course selling that malware-infested budget Android tablet and Samsung tablets under the Nook brand,  but if you click on the link for the Nook Glowlight Plus you will be sent to a page for refurbished Nooks instead of new ones.

. . . .

No one really knows what B&N is doing, and that includes B&N.

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader

PG notes that this development correlates with reports from traditional publishing that ebook sales are down. Regular visitors to TPV will understand that ebook sales are actually doing quite well because most ebook sales happen on Amazon and, thanks to Author Earnings, we know most Amazon ebook sales are from books written by indie authors.

He suggests Barnes & Noble and Big Publishing are admitting that Amazon has won the future of books. “Screen fatigue” and other imaginary sources of relief for the dead tree side of publishing will not save them.

Will Randy Penguin and its buddies disappear?

Sort of.

Big Publishing is sitting on a mother lode of intellectual property in the form of publishing contracts for a lot of evergreen books. The expensive part of its business is the people side associated with new product development and launches – people who talk to agents, read and edit manuscripts, pitch stories about books and authors to the New York Times, make sales calls on Barnes & Noble book buyers, etc.

PG suggests that a good argument can be made that spending money on this part of the business is a bad business decision. It’s also an area with a lot of risk. Offering an author an advance is rolling the dice. Most new books are money-losers and, as mentioned, most of the people expenses of a traditional publisher fall into the new book part of the business. Get rid of that function and related expenses and you’re well on your way to transforming a publisher into a lean, money-making operation.

Printing paper books happens in low-wage locations overseas. Warehousing and distribution of paper books is outsourced to Ingram and Baker & Taylor, although PG suggests there may be profit opportunities in seeking lower-cost warehousing/shipping service providers.

Is there really anything about receiving, storing and shipping a box of books that’s different from doing the same thing with a box of laundry detergent?

For paper books, Ingram is providing a service that is available elsewhere. Any number of companies offer highly-sophisticated outsourced logistics services and supply chain management, including processing orders, forecasting demand, distribution, fulfillment and returns on a far larger scale than Ingram does. There’s another solution to dealing with the whole paper book challenge that PG discusses below.

Let’s get back to the mother lode of intellectual property. The mother lode has been created by standard publishing contracts under which authors grant their publishers exclusive rights to their books, including movie, tv, etc., rights, for the full term of the author’s copyright. In most western countries, a copyright lasts for the remainder of the author’s life plus several decades more – 70 years, 50 years, etc.

PG suggests that if a traditional publisher is downsized to a handful of managers, a couple of accountants, someone to keep the accounting/royalty system running on Amazon Web Services and an outside law firm, it could be a long-term money machine.

For contractual purposes, a lite publisher would have to keep print books available for sale (to avoid the exercise of out-of-print clauses), but Amazon could handle that. If all paper books are sold via Amazon, you can eliminate the Ingram costs and the overhead associated with taking orders for books from traditional bookstores would go away. If you’re looking to maximize profits from your intellectual property, you don’t want to spend money dealing with small orders from mom and pop shops.

The real money is in sending ebook files to Amazon, etc., and specifying a direct deposit banking institution to receive the cash that comes in each month. That’s how your really run a lean publisher as a money machine.

As with all aging assets, the income from sales of existing books would decline over time, but with large catalog of books and somebody to answer phone calls for random movie and tv rights deals that come in over the transom, operating a traditional publisher in this manner could yield extremely high profit margins for a very long time.

But what does PG know?

The Ghost: A Cultural History

29 October 2017

From The Guardian:

As Halloween approaches, we prepare to confront our ghosts. Soon we’ll be used to ghoulish children leaping out of shadows in the street. Meanwhile in churches, for the three days of Allhallowtide, Christians will remember the faithful dead.

But ghosts aren’t always as recognisable as they are now in the guise of trick-or-treaters. “Ghosts have grown up,” Elizabeth Bowen wrote in a preface to a new book of ghost stories in 1952. They had laid aside their original bag of tricks – “bleeding hands, luminous skulls and so on” – and were now more likely to be found in a prosaic scene. “Today’s haunted room has a rosy wallpaper.” Most frighteningly, “contemporary ghosts are credible”. They lurked at the border of known reality, just believable enough to unnerve those who encountered them in life or art.

In fact, the growing up that Bowen describes began much earlier. Ghosts in Britain have a long history since Grendel crashed through the door in Beowulf, eating the warriors who get in his way, and Susan Owens has set out to tell it in an eloquent and lively account. For Owens, ghosts – and especially their appearances in art and literature – offer a window on to “the great changes that, over time, have made us see the world in new ways”. The Reformation, the Enlightenment, the age of technology – all have shaped the development of ghosts, and look different when seen through a ghostly lens.

According to Owens, ghosts have performed two functions. The first is to scare us, reminding us of the presence of death. The second is to reassure us, promising that death may not be as final a state as it seems. In the 14th and 15th centuries, they dwelt in purgatory, hovering between heaven and hell, and so were able to warn the living of the dangers of sin at the same time as offering the promise of eventual redemption. This changed with the Reformation, when purgatory was officially abolished. The clergyman Robert Wisdom lamented in 1543 that “sowles departed do not come again and play boo peape with us”. But like so many beliefs, the notion of purgatory lingered in the popular imagination long afterwards. Thus in 1609 the ghost of Hamlet’s father informed his son that he was “doomed for a certain term to walk the night”, though he didn’t actually name it as purgatory.

. . . .

And so here we are now, in an age of sceptical belief. “All argument is against it; but all belief is for it,” Dr Johnson announced in the 18th century, and I agree with Owens that not much has fundamentally changed since then. She admits to a “balance of scepticism and credulity that would probably not stand up to rigorous scrutiny”.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

The Ghost: A Cultural History

Words to me were magic

29 October 2017

Words to me were magic. You could say a word and it could conjure up all kinds of images or feelings or a chilly sensation or whatever. It was amazing to me that words had this power.

Amy Tan

Cash for Kindle ebooks – Amazon goes local down in Acapulco

29 October 2017

From The New Publishing Standard:

It’s been more than four years since Amazon launched in Mexico in 2013 with its spearhead Kindle ebook store, branching out into physical goods in 2015.

This week Amazon finally bowed to the inevitable next stage of glocalisation and started accepting cash payments to try hold its own against rival Walmex, as WalMart’s Mexico arm is known, and to try compete with the market leader, the Latin America e-commerce giant Mercado Libre,  which hails from Argentina.

. . . .

Mercado Libre has long understood that in Latin America cash is king, with few people owning a credit card and even fewer willing to risk using them online for fear of fraud. Mercado Libre accepts cash payments at convenience stores across the country which are credited to a Mercado Libre account so Mexicans can buy online. Now Amazon has finally followed suit.

While not especially aimed at the ebook buyer, the move will hopefully boost the sales of ebooks, too. Reliable data on ebook sales in Mexico is hard to come by, but anecdotal evidence suggests there are no clear front-runners, with Amazon, Apple, Kobo and Google Play all seeing steady but not exceptional sales.

The problem for all of them, aside from payment options, is localised content.

Link to the rest at The New Publishing Standard and thanks to Paul for the tip.

Amy Tan on Writing and the Secrets of Her Past

29 October 2017
Comments Off on Amy Tan on Writing and the Secrets of Her Past

From Shondaland:

In “Where the Past Begins: A Writer’s Memoir,” Amy Tan recalls the time a relative told her mother that she shouldn’t fill her daughter’s head with “all these useless stories.” Why should Amy know so much, visit her mother’s painful memories, when it was beyond her power to change the past? Her mother replied: “I tell her so she can tell everyone, tell the whole world . . . That’s how it can be changed.” As she writes in her memoir, “My mother gave me permission to tell the truth.”

Many of Tan’s novels, beginning with “The Joy Luck Club” and “The Kitchen God’s Wife,” were partly inspired by the stories of her own family. But “Where the Past Begins” is Amy Tan as we’ve not previously seen her in fiction. The book reveals her as a daughter, a seeker, and also as a writer — explicitly mining unexplained truths and unknown family secrets from her past and spinning a memoir that is generous and often breathtaking in its vulnerability.

“[O]nce the fiction-writing mind is freed, there are no censors, no prohibitions. It is curious and open to anything,” she writes. “But its most important trait is this: it seeks a story, a narrative that reveals what happened and why it happened.” What happened to her family, why it happened, and how it all contributed to her life as a writer are the questions “Where the Past Begins” seeks to answer. Many of the stories told in this memoir were only discovered in the process of writing it, while others grew from memories that returned to her as she worked on her other books. In September, I was fortunate enough to speak with Amy about her family, her life since the 2016 presidential election, her parents’ sacrifices and precarious status as immigrants, and how she wrote her new memoir.

. . . .

Nicole Chung: “Where the Past Begins” is a work of recovered history, and you say that a lot of these memories began to emerge when you started writing fiction. Do you think that’s a common experience among fiction writers?

Amy Tan: I do think it’s common. We often think that the memories we recover are those that immediately come to mind, but some memories really wend their way back into consciousness through many different means. For example, if you’ve been somewhere and associate a particular smell with that place, the smell is going to evoke that memory.

And it’s the same with writing fiction: I may be writing something fictional, but something will click, some element that is part of a memory, and then more of the memory comes back. This book went many, many levels beyond that. I was able to corroborate memories with these artifacts in my office, these boxes I had from my childhood. It was more than Connect-the-Dots—it was my brain suddenly coming into sync with the brain I had in the past. It was startling to me.

Link to the rest at Shondaland

Amazon And Ebay Opened Pandora’s Box Of Chinese Counterfeits And Now Don’t Know What To Do

29 October 2017

From Forbes:

A few years ago in California, a professional cartoonist, a designer of golf putters, a surfer, and a self-professed geek got together and formed a company. No, this isn’t the start of a bad joke, it’s the very real story of four guys and one good idea — a story of grassroots entrepreneurship and the struggle of the little guy against the tides of global e-commerce.

These four Californians who couldn’t have been more different bonded together over the simple fact that they were all dads who shared a similar struggle when bathing their babies. They decided that together they would solve this problem, and they set to work developing a specialized pillow that could be inserted into a sink or tub that would hold their babies in place. They called it the Blooming Bath.

They then patented the product, trademarked it, passed it through all of the required materials and safety tests, and eventually took it to market. Almost immediately, sales and major design awards began rolling in, and, for a moment, it appeared as if these four random dads from California had it made:

“When you can take a problem and solve it, that feels great. And when you can take a problem and solve it for a lot of other people, that feels even better. But when you can take a problem and turn the answer into something that’s just so darn adorable – well, there’s just no topping that.”

Perhaps unfortunately, Chinese counterfeiters also found the Blooming Bath adorable — so darn adorable, in fact, that they decided to copy it and sell it themselves on Amazon and Ebay.

. . . .

Now, the original creators of the Blooming Bath are watching their earnings slip and their reputation get dismantled by forces that are beyond their control. Not only are they losing sales but recipients of inferior-quality fake Blooming Baths are often not aware that they received a counterfeit, and mistakenly conclude that the legitimate product is junk — and often letting the world know about it via word of mouth and reviews.

Link to the rest at Forbes

PG notes that counterfeit merchandise predated Amazon and Ebay by a very long time.

The first time he ever visited New York City, long before the Internet was anything, a street vendor offered to sell him a “Rolex” at a very low price.

Of all the creative work

28 October 2017

Of all the creative work produced by humans anywhere, a tiny fraction has continuing commercial value. For that tiny fraction, the copyright is a crucially important legal device.

Lawrence Lessig

Stealing Intellectual Property

28 October 2017

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

I just had the most illuminating conversation. I had been consulting with someone about one of the TV deals I’m currently negotiating. I had run into a situation I had never encountered before, and I needed help evaluating it.

. . . .

The expert I consulted, gracious and interesting, had a lot to say about a lot of things. He gave me tips that are too on-point for my negotiations to share here.

And then he said something that scared the crap out of me.

Once a big company, studio, or someone with too much money has an option on your book, that organization will often register the copyright.

Initially, I was unconcerned when he said that, because, as I told him, the first thing I do when anyone connected to the film and TV industry comes knocking is this: I register my copyright with the U.S. Copyright office. If I answer someone’s email, it’s guaranteed that before I do, my work is registered.

If you don’t understand the value of registration, when it’s needed and when it’s not needed, then get yourself a copy of the Copyright Handbook from Nolo Press, and read the damn thing from cover to cover. I am not answering basic copyright questions here, although I did address some on a post some time ago. I also addressed a lot of copyright issues in my book on contracts and dealbreakers from last year.

It doesn’t matter if your copyright is registered, the expert said. They’ll register anyway, even before they’ve started production on anything. The strategy is to create confusion over who owns the copyright, and it’ll take litigation to straighten that confusion out.

The best thing I could do, he said, was to make sure that any agreement I have with anyone had an active termination date in which all rights reverted to me without me taking an action at all. What does that mean?

Instead of calling this a termination clause, he called it a snap-back. If the person I’ve negotiated with doesn’t have a screenplay by such-and-so date, then the rights licensed in the agreement automatically revert to me. If there’s no principal photography by such-and-so date, then the rights licensed in the agreement automatically revert to me. If the movie has not been made by such-and-so date, then the rights licensed in the agreement automatically revert to me. And so on, and so forth.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch and thanks to Colleen for the tip.

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

« Previous PageNext Page »