Non-US

Digital sales up 10% in first quarter

21 July 2014

From The Bookseller:

Consumer e-book sales rose 10% in the first quarter of 2014, according to the Publishers Association, with strong performances from children’s e-books, and digital downloads of audio titles.

The figure show the continuing slowdown in digital growth rates, after last year’s  industry-wide growth rates of about 20%, but also how e-books continue to gain ground over print-book sales, which were down 2.5% in the first quarter, according to Nielsen BookScan data.

. . . .

The PA said the numbers continued the increasingly strong performance of digital formats which in 2013 represented 16% of total book sales, and has grown a massive 305% over the past five years.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Close The Libraries And Buy Everyone An Amazon Kindle Unlimited Subscription

21 July 2014

From Forbes blogs:

Amazon has launched the mooted read all you can manage service and called it Kindle Unlimited. It costs, sadly for the US only at present, $9.99 a month and gives unlimited access to some 600,000 titles. Various people have various ideas about all of this.

. . . .

HuffPo rather sneeringly argued that Amazon wants you to pay $120 a year for a library ticket. Which is true but also what sparks this little, not entirely and wholly serious, thought on public policy.

Let’s just close down the lending libraries and buy every citizen an Amazon Kindle Unlimited subscription. I’ll use the numbers from my native UK here simply because I have a better grasp of them. As a country we spend some £1 billion a year (currently around $1.7 billion) on supporting the library system. There’s some 60 million citizens meaning that we can, from that sum, afford to pay perhaps £20 (as with most numbers I use, there’s a lot of rounding here, the numbers are not meant to be accurate, just informative as to magnitude and so on) for each subscription. That’s a lot less than Amazon is currently demanding but I would bet a very large sum of money that an adequate bulk discount could be arranged for such a slug of customers.

. . . .

[P]aid subscriptions is exactly how lending libraries started out. Both WH Smith’s and Boot’s used to run lending libraries. For a fee one had unlimited access to the stock of that profit making private sector enterprise. It was the specific attributes of books as physical objects in limited supply in any one location that led to councils (ie, the State) taking over library provision. Now that the technology has changed that technological reason for State provision no longer exists. So perhaps the habit of having those physical libraries with physical books also no longer needs to exist?

And finally, the stock of books available is far larger than any physical library (other than copyright depositaries like the British Museum) has available to readers. 600,000 titles is, at a guess, some 550,000 greater than the library system of my native Bath and North East Somerset purchases with its share of my council tax (that is a guess by the way).

Link to the rest at Forbes blogs

Booksellers slam Amazon’s tests of ebook library

18 July 2014

From The Sydney Morning Herald:

Apparent plans by Amazon to test a monthly subscription library for e-books has been savaged by Australian booksellers as cultural vandalism and an attack on author royalties.

. . . .

The Kindle Unlimited program appears to offer unlimited access to more than 600,000 backlist and self-published titles as well as thousands of audio books for $US9.99 ($10.65) a month – although there is no absolute certainty Amazon will go ahead with the scheme.

. . . .

Kindle Unlimited was yet another attempt by Amazon to send a wrecking ball through its competition, said Joel Becker, chief executive of the Australian Booksellers Association.

”I think the industry – authors, publishers and creators – are finally waking up to what booksellers have already known: that Amazon’s business practice create a mammoth problem for an essential cultural industry,” he said.

”’They don’t pay their fair share of taxes, they avoid paying GST, they sell significant portions of their product at or below cost and at a loss. One day their shareholders will wake up to their practices.”

. . . .

‘I think if all publishers and authors are included in the same pool, not one is going to make money, not even Amazon. Authors won’t make enough and publishers won’t make enough,” he said.

. . . .

Digital libraries utilise an author’s backlist, the long tail of which sustains many publishers, authors and bookshops.

”I am also concerned about author royalties,” Mr Page said. ”Authors are already getting a smaller cut when it comes to e-books and when you look at the music subscription services, it is the music companies who are making money and the artists who are getting less.

”I am very surprised that publishers who have resisted library e-book lending for years are now embracing subscription services.

Link to the rest at Sydney Morning Herald and thanks to Patricia for the tip.

A Publisher of One’s Own

18 July 2014

From Inside Higher Ed:

Self-published books are on the rise, to the dismay of onlookers who wonder what to expect from a sector where E. L. James’s Fifty Shades of Grey – originally published as online fan fiction by a tiny Australian e-book company – appears to be the best of the lot. More than 391,000 self-published titles appeared in 2012, according to Bowker, the official ISBN-issuing agency for the U.S. The self-published titles appear to be selling. In 2012, a quarter of Amazon’s top 100 bestselling Kindle books had been self-published through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing service. And in 2013, readers in Britain bought 18 million self-published books, a 79 percent increase in market share compared to the year before.

Academics, meanwhile, inhabit a parallel publishing ecosystem: a constellation of university presses and journals that publish slowly, offer few economic returns, and subject all work to painstaking peer review. Scholars and publishing experts in the U.S. and Britain say self-publishing by academics remains a rarity. A handful of scholars, however, have turned to self-publishing to produce pet projects, such as blistering critiques of academic life. And others have struck away from the publishing mainstream in other ways: by founding journals, establishing independent presses and writing on blogs.

. . . .

Almost no active scholars have eschewed conventional publishing entirely. Educational technologist Martin Weller, a professor at the Open University in the UK, argued in a blog post that “external prestige is probably the greatest factor” spurring academics to chase book contracts rather than publish their own work.

“Self-publishing is seen as rather sordid,” Weller wrote, “the last recourse for the demented author who couldn’t get published anywhere else.”

. . . .

Academic books are almost never bestsellers, but a book that becomes a required text for a university course can be quite profitable.

“You do all the work, and the returns are very low,” Weller said. “You sign away a ridiculous amount of rights – the form includes future TV rights, merchandising, etc., but you take all the risks … if someone sues because of the book’s content it is your liability.”

. . . .

In 2011, Rojas self-published a book called Grad Skool Rulz: Everything You Need to Know about Academia from Admissions to Tenure. The book emerged from an online advice column he had written for graduate students.

“People for years kept saying, ‘You should write this as a book,’ ” he said. “And I thought, no press would ever publish it, because I’m blunt about academia.” (The title’s fast-and-loose spelling might not have passed muster at a scholarly press either.)
The book now sells for $3 online. Rojas said the ability to charge a low price was another advantage self-publishing offered.

. . . .

Roger Whitson, an assistant professor of English at Washington State University, said he thought self-publishing books was, on the whole, an activity that only already-tenured professors could afford to undertake.
“Part of the reason why academics publish pre-tenure is that they want to receive credit for becoming a specialist in the field, and one of the main ways they see that happening is through peer review,” Whitson said. “For pre-tenure people who haven’t established a name in the field, academic publishing is really important.”

Link to the rest at Inside Higher Ed

Amazon’s E-Books Antitrust Clash in Germany on EU Radar

16 July 2014

From Bloomberg:

Amazon.com Inc.’s e-books clash with a publisher is on the European Union’s radar after EU officials said they’re seeking to understand the dispute, which also spurred a German antitrust complaint by booksellers.

Germany’s association of booksellers said they were told of the EU’s interest by Germany’s Federal Cartel Office.

. . . .

Book retailers already sought a German probe of Amazon’s negotiation practices for buying rights to e-books in a dispute with Amazon over delays for deliveries of Bonnier AB physical books to force it to accept lower prices, according to a complaint filed last month.

The European Commission is “trying to understand the issues involved,” said Antoine Colombani, a spokesman for the commission, in an e-mailed statement.

Link to the rest at Bloomberg

Amazon Charges a Penny After France Bans Free Shipping

13 July 2014

From Time:

‘Okay, we’ll charge one cent’

Amazon thumbed its nose at a French ban on free shipping of book orders, agreeing to raise the shipping price to exactly $0.01 Euros, or a single penny.

France24 reports that Amazon’s move comes one month after the ban sailed through France’s National Assembly. Lawmakers argued that the nation’s roughly 3,500 bookstores needed protection from online competitors, whom they accused of “dumping” books on the market at a loss.

“We are unfortunately no longer allowed to offer free deliveries for book orders,” Amazon explained in an FAQ to shoppers, who might reasonably wonder why the company would bother to charge one cent. “We have therefore fixed delivery costs at one centime per order containing books and dispatched by Amazon to systematically guarantee the lowest price for your book orders.”

Link to the rest at Time and thanks to Patricia for the tip.

Traditional publishing is ‘no longer fair or sustainable’, says Society of Authors

11 July 2014

From The Guardian:

After figures released this week showed professional authors’ median annual incomes have collapsed to to £11,000, The Society of Authors’ chief executive has claimed that traditional publishers’ terms “are no longer fair or sustainable”.

. . . .

Nicola Solomon, who heads the 9,000-member strong Society of Authors, said that publishers, retailers and agents are all now taking a larger slice of the profit when a book is sold, and that while “authors’ earnings are going down generally, those of publishers are increasing”.

“Authors need fair remuneration if they are to keep writing and producing quality work,” she said. “Publisher profits are holding up and, broadly, so are total book sales if you include ebooks but authors are receiving less per book and less overall due mainly to the fact that they are only paid a small percentage of publishers’ net receipts on ebooks and because large advances have gone except for a handful of celebrity authors.”

On top of that, said Solomon, “publishers are doing less for what they get. There are still important things they do – a traditional publisher can edit, copy edit, design, market, promote, make your book better, deal with foreign sales. With ebooks, though, publishers’ costs are less, so authors should get a better share. They do not have to produce, distribute or warehouse physical copies. Even on traditional books, publishers’ production costs have gone down but authors have not benefited from these costs savings. And, increasingly authors are being asked to do a lot of marketing and promotion themselves.”

. . . .

Self-publishing, meanwhile, is becoming an increasingly attractive option for writers, according to the survey, which found that just over 25% of writers had published something themselves. Writers were investing a mean of £2,470 in publishing their own work, with the median investment at £500, and typically recouping their investment plus 40%. Eighty-six per cent of those who had self-published said they would do so again.

Mark Edwards is an author who topped Amazon’s charts with the self-published thrillers he co-wrote with Louise Voss before landing a deal with HarperCollins. Unhappy with his deal, he then returned to self-publishing, and released The Magpies, which he says sold 160,000 copies before Amazon Publishing acquired rights.

“I spent 15 years trying to get a deal before self-publishing. When I finally got a deal it was a disappointment so I returned to self-publishing, which rescued my writing career. Lots of writers are seeing other writers having success via self-publishing and deciding to try it themselves. I would encourage any mid-list author to try it. A lot of writers who’ve got back the rights to their novels are now self-publishing them and having a lot of fun in the process,” he told the Guardian.

It offers, he said, “freedom and control”, and higher royalties. “As the writer, you will always be the person who cares most about your work, and if you can channel that passion and energy and know what you’re doing, this can be more effective than having a team of people who have 10 other books coming out that week.”

Link to the rest at The Guardian and thanks to Russell for the tip.

The French Do Buy Books. Real Books.

10 July 2014

From The New York Times:

One of the maddening things about being a foreigner in France is that hardly anyone in the rest of the world knows what’s really happening here. They think Paris is a Socialist museum where people are exceptionally good at eating small bits of chocolate and tying scarves.

In fact, the French have all kinds of worthwhile ideas on larger matters. This occurred to me recently when I was strolling through my museum-like neighborhood in central Paris, and realized there were — I kid you not — seven bookstores within a 10-minute walk of my apartment. Granted, I live in a bookish area. But still: Do the French know something about the book business that we Americans don’t?

I was in a bookstore-counting mood because of the news that Amazon has delayed or stopped delivering some books, over its dispute with the publisher Hachette. This has prompted soul-searching over Amazon’s 41 percent share of new book sales in America and its 65 percent share of new books sold online. For a few bucks off and the pleasure of shopping from bed, have we handed over a precious natural resource — our nation’s books — to an ambitious billionaire with an engineering degree?

France, meanwhile, has just unanimously passed a so-called anti-Amazonlaw, which says online sellers can’t offer free shipping on discounted books.

. . . .

The French secret is deeply un-American: fixed book prices. Its 1981 “Lang law,” named after former Culture Minister Jack Lang, says that no seller can offer more than 5 percent off the cover price of new books. That means a book costs more or less the same wherever you buy it in France, even online. The Lang law was designed to make sure France continues to have lots of different books, publishers and booksellers.

Fixing book prices may sound shocking to Americans, but it’s common around the world, for the same reason. In Germany, retailers aren’t allowed to discount most books at all. Six of the world’s 10 biggest book-selling countries — Germany, Japan, France, Italy, Spain and South Korea — have versions of fixed book prices.

Even with the state’s help, French bookstores are struggling.

Link to the rest at The New York Times and thanks to James for the tip.

Let’s see. 1. The French “secret” is that publishers set book prices. 2. No discounting is allowed. 3. Bookstores are struggling.

Could it be that many French readers can’t afford high prices? Or that, in the face of high-priced books, more and more French people are choosing alternative low-priced entertainment options?

PG says you can’t trust traditional publishers with a nation’s literary legacy. Only authors are worthy of that trust.

UK author income survey: Another publishing bombshell

9 July 2014

From Futurebook:

The key survey revelations commissioned by the UK’s Authors’ Licensing & Collection Society (ALCS) — with full details to come in the autumn — can be expected to ratchet up an already acute sense of tension between the US-UK creative corps and the corporate entities that publish it.

And while it’s easy to criticise a base of authors squabbling amongst themselves as their leadership explores the potential for labour organisation — just two days ago, the growingly influential Hugh Howey asked Do Writers Need a Union? — a look at the ALCS figures being debated at the House of Commons this evening in Westminster should wipe the smirk off the face of anyone who wants us to believe he or she cares about literature and its artists.

Here, in professionally gathered and analyzed clarity, is what a fast-rising force of newly empowered authors will be quick to slam as the shameful gap between the publishing industry’s avowed reverence for fine writing and its willingness to pay a living wage for it.

As we hear in first comments from the Society of Authors’ Nicola Solomon to The Bookseller, we are coming face-to-face with a remarkable contradiction in concepts of corporate responsibility. Here is an industry which, as Solomon puts it, knows authors to be “100% necessary to the process” — and yet, many will say, views those authors as not worth the job security provided to day labourers and nannies.

. . . .

My colleague Sarah Shaffi has the full story on the new ALCS study, commissioned from Queen Mary, University of London, and her report is here: Typical author earnings ‘dropped to £11,000 in 2013′.

Her report includes an interesting point made by the ALCS about self-publishing. She writes: “A quarter of those who took part in the research had self-published, ‘with a typical return on their investment of 40%.’ The ALCS said the mean investment recorded by this group was £2,470 ($4,230) £500 ($856) median. Nevertheless, of those who self-published, 86% said they would do so again.

. . . .

[T]he novelist Joanne Harris — who joined us Friday in our #FutureChat live discussion — is quoted by the society as saying, “It’s good to see that finally we’re becoming aware of just how little the average author earns.”

Yes, it is.

When seen as one in a series of major industry jolts this year, the importance of such surveys as this new one commissioned by the UK’s ALCS becomes all the clearer. So do the raw nerves and hair-trigger reactions we’ve seen in recent days around assertions and counter-assertions relative to the Amazon-Hachette negotiations.

We may never have been this close to actually seeing just how badly a writing career can pay.

Even the recent angry in-fighting among authors, themselves, takes on new context when you consider how truly hard their path may be. However unhappy the news from the ALCS surely seems, if we are to claim an authentic commitment to the arts and letters of our culture, we cannot turn a blind eye to either the difficulty we have in understanding how our authors are paid — or not paid — or to the dreadful evidence coming in anew of almost preposterously bad remuneration.

Link to the rest at Futurebook and thanks to Ben for the tip.

Authors’ incomes collapse to ‘abject’ levels

9 July 2014

From The Guardian:

Will Self’s lament for the death of the novel earlier this summer has been cast into stark relief by “shocking” new statistics which show that the number of authors able to make a living from their writing has plummeted dramatically over the last eight years, and that the average professional author is now making well below the salary required to achieve the minimum acceptable living standard in the UK.

According to a survey of almost 2,500 working writers – the first comprehensive study of author earnings in the UK since 2005 – the median income of the professional author in 2013 was just £11,000, a drop of 29% since 2005 when the figure was £12,330 (£15,450 if adjusted for inflation), and well below the £16,850 figure the Joseph Rowntree Foundation says is needed to achieve a minimum standard of living. The typical median income of all writers was even less: £4,000 in 2013, compared to £5,012 in real terms in 2005, and £8,810 in 2000.

. . . .

Commissioned by the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society and carried out by Queen Mary, University of London, the survey also found that in 2013, just 11.5% of professional authors – those who dedicate the majority of their time to writing – earned their incomes solely from writing. This compares with 2005, when 40% of professional authors said that they did so.

. . . .

“My direct income from sales is abject – literally abject. There’s been an absolutely radical decline in my income over recent years,” said Peet. “I do live by writing, but that’s because I have got a backlist of educational books which keeps on selling, and I have a pension, and I have to go on the road. Because I’ve a certain reputation, I can ask for a £25,000 advance, but then you spend a year writing the book, and £25,000 is a loan against sales and you can easily spend five years earning out. So that’s £25,000 for six years.”

Link to the rest at The Guardian and thanks to Suzanne for the tip.

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