Indigo Reports First Quarter Decline

22 August 2019

From Yahoo Finance:

Indigo Books & Music Inc. (CNW Group/Indigo Books & Music Inc.)

Revenue for the first quarter ended June 29, 2019 was $192 .6 million compared to $205.4 million for the same period last year, a decrease of $12.8 million . This decline in sales was the result of a strategic shift to reduce promotional activity to improve profitability and eliminate unprofitable sales.

. . . .

Additionally, the general merchandise business continues to be affected by softer discretionary spending in certain categories core to the Company, while the book business has sustained historical trends.

Commenting on the results, CEO Heather Reisman said: “This quarter’s results were in line with our expectations. While we continue to face many of the same headwinds from last year, strategic steps to recharge growth, increase productivity and improve profitability are well underway. We remain confident in our investments over the long term and in the steps we are taking.”

Indigo reported a net loss of $19.1 million ( $0.69 net loss per common share) compared to a net loss of $15.4 million ( $0.57 net loss per common share) last year. This decline in profitability was attributed to the decline in sales and restructuring costs, partially offset by lower selling, administrative and other expenses as the Company continues its cost-cutting initiatives.

Link to the rest at Yahoo Finance

The new literary tastemakers: can they be trusted?

22 August 2019

From The Bookseller:

Last week, Barack Obama released his annual summer reading list, receiving 250,000 Facebook reactions and 26,000 comments. The ex-president is certainly not the first public personality to tout their literary nous; everyone from Emma Watson to Kim Kardashian West has opened their bookshelves to the world. But how are these celebrity tastemakers transforming what we read, and what does it mean for professional literary criticism?

To answer this, we need to understand why these public personalities choose to share what they’re reading. While all profess some form of altruistic mission, epitomised by Oprah Winfrey’s desire to “get the whole country reading again”, there are secondary benefits to having a successful book club.

1. Pubic perception

PewDiePie, a highly-popular YouTube creator who got his start over-reacting to scary video games, has since tried to distance himself from his past. By posting book reviews to his YouTube channel, he is attempting to adjust his public persona from immature, loud-mouthed gamer to intelligent and thoughtful cultural commentator. And it seems to be working:

This Youtuber who I used to watch because he screamed at barrels just lectured me on philosophy for 50 minutes.
– Top voted comment on PewDiePie’s latest book-related video

Nonetheless, this kind of identity shift can be hard for audiences to swallow, especially for entrenched celebrity identities. Kim Kardashian West launched her book club in 2017, and received both support from fans (“Love that idea”), and derision from others (“You can read?”). Stevie Marsden speculates (in her 2018 study ‘I didn’t know you could read’, Logos, 29(2-3), pp.64–79) that Kardashian West’s book club was “part of her redemptive re-emergence into the public spotlight following the Paris attack [where Kim Kardashian was held hostage at gun point].” However the venture didn’t get past the second book, and Marsden goes on to surmise that “few felt [Kardashian] had the relevant credentials or expertise to be a literary intermediary.” It takes a lot more than a book club to shift public perception apparently.

. . . .

3. Business opportunities

Starting as a curiosity, Reese Witherspoon’s book club now reaches over 18 million Instagram followers every month, and is used in-part to feature books in which Witherspoon owns film rights. Thus she creates “the audience for her own movies before she even starts filming”. While making possible films featuring strong female leads (WildGone Girl), this business incentive undeniably influences the books Witherspoon chooses to feature.

With secondary motives underlying the stories promoted by these emerging literary intermediaries, what has happened to the art of objective literary critique, which demands “taste, training, sensibility, some knowledge of the past, and a rare feeling for both language and argument”? Is book culture being undermined?

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

PG points out that many “professional literary critics” are book reviewers whose principal qualification is that someone hired them to review books.

Never

22 August 2019

“Never,” said my aunt, “be mean in anything; never be false; never be cruel. Avoid those three vices, Trot, and I can always be hopeful of you.

—  Charles Dickens, David Copperfield

Imported Books and Their Resale in the U.S.

21 August 2019

Yesterday, PG had a post about a Publishing Perspectives piece discussing a New York Times article condemning Amazon’s sale of “counterfeit books,” many of which originated overseas.

An alert commenter to that post mentioned a U.S. Supreme Court case that may be relevant, Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 568 U.S. 519 (2013)

PG won’t go into detail about the case, but the gravamen of the holding was that Mr. Kirtsaeng, who, through friends/family, purchased new English-language Wiley textbooks in his home country of Thailand, could legally resell those books in the United States.

The books purchased in Thailand were legitimate copies published and distributed by the Asian subsidiary of Wiley, WileyAsia. WileyAsia’s books stated that they were not to be taken (without permission) into the U.S.

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Kirtsaeng, grounding its decision a provision of U.S. copyright law generally referred to as the “First Sale Doctrine.”

[S]ection 109(a)’s “first sale” doctrine, … provides that “the owner of a particular copy or phonorecord lawfully made under this title … is entitled, without the authority of the copyright owner, to sell or otherwise dispose of the possession of that copy or phonorecord.”

Without the First Sale Doctrine, there would likely be no used book stores in the United States.

A new book store acquires the right to sell new books via the publisher which has a publishing contract with the author, who is (or should be) the owner of the copyright to the book. Under the publishing contract, the author grants the publisher the right to make copies of the author’s book and sell them (directly or through distributors) to bookstores which, of course, can sell those new books to readers.

After a copy of the new book is sold to a reader, the author’s rights to that particular copy of the book are exhausted. The purchaser can lend it, resell it, donate it, etc., without violating the author’s copyright.

To be clear, the purchaser of a copy of the book cannot make copies of the book to give or sell to others, because the First Sale Doctrine applies only to that particular copy of the book the purchaser legally acquired.

So, when Mr. Kirtsaeng purchased multiple copies of the English language textbook in Thailand and resold them in the United States, the Court held that the Thai purchase was the First Sale of each textbook and Mr. Kirtsaeng was effectively in the same position as a used book store operating in the US.

Back to the NYT condemnation of Amazon for selling “counterfeit books,” it is possible that Amazon is doing so. However, it is also possible that Amazon (or third-party sellers on Amazon) is/are acquiring books from foreign publishers in the same way that Mr. Kirtsaeng was acquiring the Wiley textbooks.

If a U.S. publisher decides to permit foreign publishers to print, publish and sell books in the English language for a cost/royalty that is lower than the price the U.S. publisher charges its U.S. customers for the same text, that’s a business decision for the U.S. publisher to make (and, incidentally, that the author has no control over under typical publishing agreements).

If a foreign publisher decides to sell English language copies of a book at a much lower price than the price set for English language books in the U.S. and has a contract with the U.S. publisher that sets no price limits for the book (which might be a violation of antitrust laws somewhere), the foreign publisher can set the price and make the sale directly or through distributors or bookstores.

Under Kirtsaeng and the First Sale Doctrine, once the foreign publisher sells a copy of the book, under U.S. copyright law, the wholesaler, retailer or other purchaser of that copy can do anything with it that a purchaser of the same book from the U.S. publisher could do in the U.S., including resell the new book or ship it to the U.S. or any other destination for resale.

(A contract between a publisher and distributor could impose geographical limits on where the distributor could offer the book for resale, but once the book is sold at retail, First Sale definitely kicks in. PG has no idea what might happen legally if each bookstore required each purchaser of a book to sign a contract agreeing not to resell or give the book away. From a commercial standpoint, PG suspects such a requirement would dampen sales of the book.)

Is there a solution to counterfeit or unauthorized books?

In PG’s internationally-celebrated humble opinion, requiring Amazon to determine whether books that an Indian or Chinese publisher delivers directly to Amazon or via a U.S. book distributor or other intermediary are properly authorized by the party who owns or controls the copyright is an unreasonable burden to place upon Amazon or Barnes & Noble or Shirley’s Books located on Main Street, USA.

PG does think Amazon’s idea for the establishment of a central database that permits sellers to know if a publisher in the U.S. or anywhere else is authorized by the copyright holder to create and sell a particular book is a good idea. It’s not a complete solution, but a practice that would diminish the flow of improperly licensed books through commercial sales channels.

What organizations are in the best position to create such a database and populate it with accurate data?

Publishers.

And, in particular, large publishers, including large international publishers. They know who holds rights to the books they publish in various geographical areas. They know who has translation rights in those same areas. They and their authors bear the largest losses from pirated copies of their books in various nations and languages.

In conclusion (finally), PG asks a rhetorical question:

How likely is it that Penguin Random House will lead such an effort to create a central database of literary rights and permissions and put up a significant share of the costs necessary to do so?

Pearson? ThomsonReuters? Wolters Kluwer? Hachette Livre?

 

The reading of all good books

21 August 2019

The reading of all good books is like conversation with the finest (people) of the past centuries.

– Descartes

The Twenty-Six Words That Created the Internet

21 August 2019

From The Wall Street Journal:

Americans are of two minds about the internet: They rely on it and fear it, they immerse themselves in it for hours and deplore its social consequences. Even some tech writers, people who a decade ago gushed about the web’s limitless possibilities for connectedness and free expression, now frequently sound like Gollum emoting about the Ring. It’s still their precious, but they hates it.

Jeff Kosseff’s “The Twenty-Six Words That Created the Internet” is in many ways the story of how and why this happened. The 26 words are these: “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.” They form Section 230 of the otherwise irrelevant Communications Decency Act, itself a part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Without them the internet would play a very different, and a much smaller, role in our lives.

Section 230 shields online platforms from legal liability for content generated by third-party users. Put simply: If you’re harassed by a Facebook user, or if your business is defamed by a Yelp reviewer, you might be able to sue the harasser or the reviewer, assuming you know his or her identity, but don’t bother suing Facebook or Yelp. They’re probably immune. That immunity is what enabled American tech firms to become far more than producers of content (the online versions of newspapers, say, or company websites) and to harness the energy and creativity of hundreds of millions of individual users. The most popular sites on the web—YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, eBay, Reddit, Wikipedia, Amazon—depend in part or in whole on user-generated content.

. . . .

The crucial moment came a few years later when someone—it was never clear who—posted an accusatory rant about the president of a brokerage firm to a message board hosted by the online service Prodigy. The firm, Stratton Oakmont, sued Prodigy for punitive damages. In 1995 a New York state judge ruled, in Stratton Oakmont v. Prodigy, in favor of the brokerage firm on the grounds that Prodigy, unlike its competitor CompuServe, exercised editorial control over user-generated content hosted on the site. Advancing technology was just then making content generated by users—comments, reviews, photos, videos—a more pronounced feature of online services. The Stratton Oakmont decision raised the possibility that aggrieved parties could sue the pixels off these companies if, like Prodigy, they moderated user content in any way.

That, in essence, is why Ron Wyden and Chris Cox, then members of the U.S. House, wrote Section 230. The results are everywhere around us. The U.S. was able to cultivate online companies in ways that other countries—even countries in the developed world—could not. Social-media companies, for example, could never have flourished in Canada or the European Union, where laws don’t shield online platforms from liability to the degree Section 230 does. In American law, Mr. Kosseff rightly says, “the Internet is different.”

. . . .

Mr. Kosseff acknowledges the dreadful problems caused by internet exceptionalism, but he still sides, reluctantly, with Section 230. “I remain convinced that the massive industry, social change, and free speech that we have seen since 1996 would not have been possible without Section 230.” Clearly there is truth in that, and in any case Section 230 isn’t going anywhere for the simple reason that Congress isn’t going to wreck the tech industry. But I’m not sure user-driven web platforms have brought about even the happy results Mr. Kosseff alludes to. “Massive” social change? Yes, if by that we mean the destruction of local newspapers, the mainstreaming of conspiracy theories and crank politics, and the cultivation of an entire class of educated people who think Twitter is reality. “Massive” free speech? They’ve given us more speech, for sure, but they’ve also enabled stupid and vicious verbiage to drown out reasonable speech and encouraged a younger generation to wonder what the point of free speech was in the first place.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Sorry if you encounter a paywall)

6 Platforms to Add to Your 2019 Paid Social Toolkit

21 August 2019

From Social Media Week:

According to Hanapin, 26% of marketers plan to reduce their ad spend on Facebook. Inspired by the report, we suggest other places to fill in the gaps.

. . . .

Paid social is becoming a crowded space, with 97% of marketers reportedly dedicating money to advertising through social media. Between the growing audiences of these platforms, and the rising cost of similar ads in search, ad spends across social make far more sense to the budget-conscious and the efficiency-obsessed. To that end, Hanapin Marketing takes time every year to assess the state of the paid social marketing landscape, and this week they shared their latest learnings with the world.

Where is most of the crowd congregating? To the surprise of no one: Facebook, who has garnered the attention of 91% of the surveyed population. Brand managers and agency reps aside have grown to depend on it for reliable reach and sophisticated analytics. But in a number of ways, new platforms are rising to rival its dominance…especially as 26% of marketers reported they plan to spend less on the platform throughout 2019.

. . . .

“We are becoming conditioned to favor video as a means of communication,” Hanapin reported in their study, “and it is unsurprising that social media consumption would reflect that behavior.” Moreover, it is unsurprising that platforms who are friendly to video – both algorithmically and in terms of features – will rise quickly as this conditioning takes root. As such, Instagram and YouTube were the two platforms Hanapin found that have the biggest chance of rivaling Facebook.

On each platform, highly dynamic ad formats were found to be both incredibly popular and highly effective. For YouTube, pre-roll (skippable) ads are far and away the most frequently used format; even when skipped, they do play a role in consumer decisions. And for Instagram, compelling Story Ads have fast become the most effective form. Not only has each become more hospitable to how we regularly consume content, but the interfaces that allow us to craft and place ads have grown in sophistication—making our time and energy in these spaces ever more worthwhile.

. . . .

“Quora was predicted in last year’s report to be an up and coming platform for advertising,” Hanapin shared in this year’s report, “and it sure has proven itself.” While numbers are still small for paid social, investment in ads on the question-and-answer based platform has quadrupled in 2019. Much of this can be attributed to the attention Quora itself has given to advertising; they’ve released 5 beta programs to target and place ads, and stand to release several more before year’s end. You’d be wise to explore the platform before it too gets crowded; 27% of marketers want to up their spend there (compared to 9% the year before).

For the fringe treatment that Reddit often gets, Hanapin rightfully points out the highly engaged and authentic nature of its users, additionally sharing that its average use and engagement outpaces other outlets we look to more readily for advertisement—including Twitter, Pinterest, and the aforementioned Snapchat and Pinterest. As with Quora, their ad targeting, reporting, and campaign management tools are continuing to evolve, likely to anticipate more advertisers wanting to be there. For brand managers and agencies hoping to help clients stand apart, this pair of rising platforms could be worth your time, energy…and ad dollars.

Link to the rest at Social Media Week

You can never get a cup of tea

20 August 2019

You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.

– C.S. Lewis

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