Bonnier is Working on its Own eBook Subscription Service

8 October 2015

From The Digital Reader:

With Oyster walking away and Scribd scaling back, it would be easy to assume that the future of streaming ebook services is Kindle Unlimited, but Bonnier would disagree.

This publishing conglomerate has just started developing a subscription ebook and audiobook service in its native Sweden.

Bookbeat is not yet open to the public and is in fact still recruiting staff, so there’s not much to say at this time, but I can report that the website is describing it as a flat rate service like Scribd or KU which will let users read as much as they want. The site is promising audiobooks and ebooks, including both backlist and the latest titles.

. . . .

When it does go live, Bookbeat will be competing with Bookmate (out of Russia), Mofibo (out of Denmark), and Fabula (out of Latvia). Two of the three already offer service in Sweden. That would give them the advantage – if not for the fact that Bonnier is backing Bookbeat as a “strategic investment”.

This is one of the major publishers in Sweden, and it will be making its titles available to Bookbeat. That will give the service an advantage.

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader and thanks to Jan for the tip.

Too many books? What ‘Super Thursday’ tells us about publishing

7 October 2015

From The Telegraph:

In his new book Power of Reading, the sociologist Frank Furedi talks about “the Gutenberg Parenthesis”. This is the idea that the age of the book was, in fact, a 500-year blip; that, thanks to the internet, we’re moving from a written culture back towards an oral one.

It’s the academic version of an argument you often hear. No one buys books. No one reads books – in print, anyway. No one makes books – at least, not the good kind, the kind they used to make before publishing became commercial and commoditised.

But is any of that actually true? I came across the Gutenberg idea because I decided to engage in an experiment: to take the temperature of the book market by looking at every single book published on a particular day. And not just any day, but this coming Thursday, October 8. This is “Super Thursday”, the busiest and most important date in the publishing calendar, when the big firms and big names launch their assault on the Christmas market, accompanied by a three-day promotional blitz under the banner “Books Are My Bag”.

. . . .

And if you look at the data, what do you find? For starters, you find the book market in rather better shape than most people expected. The number of books is up – The Bookseller’s Tom Tivnan estimates that there are 20 per cent more top-tier titles than last year. And so are publishers’ profits: after years of fretting about the impact of the internet, sales of print books have risen this year for the first time since 2007. Partly, says Tivnan, this is because of the resurgence of Waterstones, but it’s also because publishers have become savvier about what works online, and what reads best in print.

. . . .

A-list celebrities, says Tivnan, “bring in revenue, but they’re a gamble – if you pay high six figures or even low seven figures, you have to sell a lot of books to earn that back”. Over the past couple of years, there were as many misses as hits, including such seemingly safe bets as Stephen Fry and John Cleese.

The celebrity market now is smaller and safer: lower advances, less risk.

. . . .

In fact, the picture that emerges from the full list is not one of commercial conformity, but bewildering variety. Of the adult titles published on Super Thursday, roughly 50 are academic, from critical portraits of Kierkegaard to a study of Adolf Hitler’s domestic interiors. Another 50 are educational or vocational. That leaves just over 200 “general” books for adults, of which fewer than a 10th are memoirs of any kind.

Yes, there are 11 books categorised as “humour”, and 10 books about football (Liverpool are top of the table, which isn’t a sentence you often hear, but Tivnan explains that they and Manchester United are the only guaranteed sellers). But taking a random set of titles yields a smorgasbord of topics: “Dogs as pets”, “Human geography”, “Dictionaries; crosswords”, “Poetry anthologies (various poets)”, “Historical maps and atlases”, “Formula One and Grand Prix”.

There is something else that leaps out from the list. These are not, in fact, books for the nation – they are books for its dads and grandads. There’s no chick-lit, for example, and the handful of novels tend to surge with testosterone: Martina Cole on crime, Harris on Rome, Bernard Cornwell on the Vikings, Melvyn Bragg rewriting the Peasants’ Revolt as a saga of blood, sex and pox.

. . . .

There’s a parallel here with television. For years, people fretted that online competition and shorter attention spans would see TV become a cultural wasteland. Instead, the big worry now is that we have reached “Peak TV”, with just too much good stuff competing for our attention. The same is true of publishing.

Yes, in the era of “Peak Book”, some worthy titles that hope to make a splash will struggle to muster a ripple.

Link to the rest at The Telegraph and thanks to Meryl for the tip.

Is it now the time for something completely different?

7 October 2015

From Futurebook:

This morning, The Bookseller reported that Waterstones was taking Kindle devices off most of its shelves due to “pitiful” sales.

No great surprise here: the chain’s managing director James Daunt said after Christmas 2014 that device sales, once strong, had tapered off, a reflection of a digital market that has moved beyond its adoption-period.

Daunt has never made any secret that under him Waterstones’ job was to deliver what its customers want: at the time of the Kindle deal in 2012 Daunt said that a number were choosing to read digitally, and Waterstones needed to be in that game [the video of Daunt announcing the Kindle deal is still available via YouTube].

Yet he also maintained that there was room for both types of reading: that the Kindle would not entirely displace the need and desire to read physical texts.

. . . .

Should we take Waterstones’ move to de-stock Amazon’s Kindle as another signal that the era of the dedicated e-reader is over? Or simply that Waterstones, like Barnes & Noble, wasn’t a good seller of tech? In other words, is it Waterstones, or the Kindle that we should be worried about?

In response to the second question, Amazon says no. The company said it was “pleased with the positive momentum and growing distribution of Kindle and Fire tablet sales” and added that kindle book sales in the UK were also growing. Amazon said: “Our devices are now available in over 2,500 retail locations across the UK, including Argos, Tesco, Dixons, John Lewis and recent additions like Sainsbury’s, Boots and Shop Direct. Our UK, US and worldwide Kindle book sales are growing in 2015.”

It made a similar point to the Wall Street Journal a couple of months ago. Kobo and Nook, both of which continue to launch new devices, would doubtless agree. When Kobo first arrived on the scene, its founder Michael Serbinis said he expected this to be a 25 year transition. We are one-fifth of the way through.

. . . .

Waterstones wasn’t the best tech-retailer in the business. It’s m.d. didn’t believe in the product, its booksellers only sold them through gritted teeth, and its offer was confused. Yes, you could buy a Kindle, but no you could not buy content for it through Waterstones. At the time of the deal, Waterstones promised a Waterstones specific home-page for Kindle users, but if it was ever implemented I never saw it. Waterstones simply never bridged the gap between the sale of the device and the sale of the content. Instead the chain still sells ePub e-books from its website, pointing out that they can be loaded on to all devices “except for Kindle”.

Link to the rest at Futurebook

To Defy Amazon, Kinokuniya Plans to Monopolize More Titles

5 October 2015

From AsiaOne:

Kinokuniya Co. plans to increase direct purchases of books from publishers – as opposed to buying them through wholesale booksellers, the conventional practice – as the major bookstore chain has received positive responses to its direct purchase of a new title by popular writer Haruki Murakami, the company president, Masashi Takai, said during a recent interview with The Yomiuri Shimbun.

Kinokuniya purchased 90,000 copies of Murakami’s “Shokugyo toshite no Shosetsuka” (Novel writing as a profession), of 100,000 copies printed, directly from Switch Publishing Co. when the book was released on Sept. 10.

Kinokuniya’s action is aimed at striking back competitively against online retailers, which have increased their presence in the publishing market.

“We’ll rely more on the direct purchase system so that local bookstores will be revitalised,” Takai said.

Under conventional deals via wholesale booksellers, retailers are allowed to return unsold books to publishers.

By buying copies directly from Switch Publishing, Kinokuniya has to keep them in stock if they are not sold, but the firm has been able to reduce the number of copies that would have been supplied to rival online retailers, thus boosting its market presence.

Kinokuniya can also secure higher profit margins because no intermediary party was involved in the deal.

There are also some benefits for the publisher in Kinokuniya’s direct purchase approach, as no unsold copies will be returned from the retailer.

. . . .

While the value of book sales at conventional bookstores have been on the decline, the total sales of online retailers increased to ¥160 billion (S$1.9 billion) in fiscal 2013, up about 70 per cent from fiscal 2007.

Link to the rest at AsiaOne

The article doesn’t mention it, but PG expects there must be some formal or informal agreement with the bookstore chain that the publisher will limit the total print run (and email “run”?) in order for this to work.

At least at the beginning, a publisher would probably love to limit a run in exchange for the purchaser agreeing there will be no return of unsold books. The publisher’s profit margin is locked under that model.

Of course, PG knows nothing about Japanese antitrust laws, but he wonders if there can ever be break-out bestsellers under this model.

Miss Congeniality: South African Fiction

4 October 2015

From Calling Through the Fog:

Authors’ incomes collapse to ‘abject’ levels.

That’s what the headline on The Guardian said, and I was frantic to know more. Which authors? Was it me? Were my annual royalty cheques of R250 about to plunge to R50? Less?

Usually I read like a millenial, which is to say I base my world view on the first three words of headlines from Buzzfeed articles on Twitter. But this time I read on.

Many professional authors in the United Kingdom, I discovered, were seeing their royalties plunge. Some who had earned their living from writing books were facing the prospect of – dear reader, are you sitting down? – not being able to write fiction as a full-time occupation.

. . . .

Mal Peet, a celebrated writer of novels for children, told The Guardian that his direct income from sales had become “literally abject”. His royalty cheque for the last months of 2013, which included all his books in print, was £3 000.

That might sound like quite a lot to a South African writer, but of course Peet doesn’t live in South Africa, and for a UK resident, twice-yearly cheques of £3 000 are basically enough for a bus ticket down to Lidl and a packet of Jaffa cakes.

Still, for South African writers the alarmed cries of authors in the UK might have a slightly comical ring to them. I mean, 6 000 abject pounds a year can’t keep a Briton in Marmite but that’s still about R115 000 a year, and for most South African fiction writers that’s the stuff of pure fantasy.

. . . .

But then your publisher explains that it’s not 12% of the cover price of the book. It’s 12% of what the publisher gets, which is the price of the book minus VAT minus bookshops’ 40%-ish cut.

So if your novel costs R150 you’re looking at getting about R10 per copy.

No problem, right? You only have to sell 100 000 copies to make a million bucks, and your mom has already bought six, so that’s only another 99 994 to go. And so you scamper down to Exclusives Books and find your novel, lovingly shelved under Non-Fiction or Mind/Body/Spirit or Wildlife, and you notice that they’ve sold two copies since the last time you were there. Which is actually pretty good seeing as the last he last time you were there was three hours ago, compulsively counting the number of copies of your book on the shelf.

. . . .

But as weeks become months, and you start seeing your book in second-hand shops, marked down from R100 to R70 to R40 to Shem to Bwahahahaha, you realize that your publisher’s initial print run of 2,000 copies wasn’t a defeatist lowball estimate to knock your self-confidence. You’ve sold a thousand and change. And that’s that.

. . . .

The bottom line is that the vast majority of South African novels written in English sell between 700 and 1,500 copies. Their quality doesn’t really seem to be a factor. Some novels that are basically typed poo sell quite respectably. I know one literary prize-winning novel that didn’t crack 900.


Your novel sells 1 000 copies. You get R10 per copy. Over the entire lifetime of your book (a year or three) you’ll make R10 000. Before tax. That’s about £600.

Link to the rest at Calling Through the Fog and thanks to Jules for the tip.

Swedish Bookselling Stabilizes, as Amazon Stays Away

4 October 2015

From Publishing Perspectives:

It was an armchair kind of summer in Sweden. Perfect for book lovers. Terrible for people like me who tried to trek through the mountains in Swedish Lapland in June. But that’s another story. Svensk Bokhandel reported that as of August sales in book stores in Sweden were up 9.6 % on last year. A glimmer of hope in a retail landscape where bookstores have been steadily melting away.

. . . .

As part of the Swedish Arts Council Travel Fellowship, the academic and publishing industry expert Anne Steiner presented her reflections on the Swedish Book Market for 2014.

Following up on data she presented last year, she stated that the number of bookstores in Sweden has continued to decrease. Today 115 municipalities (of around 290) do not have a local book shop. In 1970, that number was 28. But, she said the latest data shows that book stores are finally getting out of the red. Just. The market appears to be divided between books people aren’t willing to pay a premium for (The Hunger Games) and books people are willing to pay for (Naturlära, an expensive book of nature photography by Lars Lerin, “sold in heaps” at Christmas).

. . . .

Steiner reported that the ebook market continues to be underdeveloped and online booksellers still haven’t improved their clunky interfaces. Last year, she discussed Amazon’s decision to open an office in Stockholm, but this year, Steiner says there has been no known development on that front. If Amazon did enter the Swedish market, it would be a game-changer, she says, not least because it would most likely mean that the Kindle would enter the market in a big way. She did however predict the demise of subscription book clubs, which now drive 7% of book sales.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

Apple Music, iTunes Movies and iBooks finally land in China, days after release of iPhone 6S, 6S Plus

1 October 2015

From the South China Morning Post:

Apple has launched Apple Music along with iTunes Movies and iBooks in China and said the cloud-based music streaming service will roll out on Android phones this fall.

Apple will offer Apple Music subscribers access to a vast library of songs for 10 yuan (US$1.57) a month after an initial three-month trial membership, the company said in a statement.

. . . .

Movies on iTunes will start at 5 yuan for renting in high definition and 18 yuan for buying new releases in high definition, the company said.

Paid iBooks will start at 0.5 yuan.

Link to the rest at South China Morning Post and thanks to Michael for the tip.

Ever dreamed of spending the night in a bookstore? Junkudo offering the chance to do just that!

28 September 2015

From RocketNews24:

A little over a year ago, someone in Japan tweeted that they would “love to live in Junkudo”, one of the country’s largest book store chains. Little did they know that someone at that very company would not only see the tweet, but decide to make that pipe dream a reality, inviting a small band of book lovers in Tokyo to spend the night in the giant bookstore with sleeping bags, giving them entirely free rein to pick up any book or magazine they pleased.

This year, the company is bringing the “Try Living in Junkudo” project to an even bigger three-story shop in Osaka—and on Halloween, no less!

By applying via their website, you could be one of the 10 lucky people (five pairs) to spend the night inside the Sennichimae Junkudo store in Osaka. From 10:00pm on 31 October until 8:30am on 1 November, you’ll be able to cram in as much reading of the store’s 3,000 square meters (32,000 square feet) of books as you can—the only things that are off limits being the books and magazines that are sealed in plastic.

. . . .

It will cost absolutely nothing to spend the night, but you will be expected to buy at least three books or magazines. Also this is considered a “monitor tour” which is a Japanese term that means you get a heck of a deal, but only in exchange for evaluating the hotel, restaurant, or in this case bookstore you’re visiting by filling out a questionnaire afterwards. Still, that’s a small price to pay to have an entire bookstore at your disposal!

Link to the rest at RocketNews24

How to get ahead in self-publishing

27 September 2015

From author Mackenzie Brown via The Irish Times:

As a child growing up in Liverpool, I was lucky enough to have been introduced to books by my mother, who is an avid reader. Since then, I have developed a deep love of literature and, from as far back as I can remember, I’ve always had a rather fertile imagination.

Writing was almost second nature to me, but I started to learn my trade writing short stories in secret and – although I would describe them as embryonic – I have to admit, when I read them now they’re pretty awful.

. . . .

I encountered numerous obstacles in my attempt to break into the world of traditional publishing and quickly discovered it was very much a closed shop. Unless a writer is extremely lucky or is already a well-known name (or a celebrity with a ghost-writer) it is extremely difficult to make it.

Feeling like I was banging my head against a brick wall, I decided to dip my toes into the world of desktop self-publishing, which enabled me to share my books in both paperback and e-book format with readers all over the world.

. . . .

 The entire e-publishing process was completely new to me and, I must admit, I had a lot to learn. I worked hard, researching how to format the book myself, and decided to enlist a proof-reader and editor to help with the text.

. . . .

My latest release is a factual work and a bit of a departure for me, but the subject of Annie’s War is one that is close to my heart. It follows the early lives of my maternal grandparents and is set in Liverpool between 1914 and 1945. The story of Annie and Angus is one I always wanted to tell after hearing tales about their lives around the dinner table, or at family gatherings, when I was a boy.

Because it is a true story, I was forced to spend years poring over dusty microfiche machines in libraries, researching my family tree before I could hope to bring the subject to life, in what became a labour of love – but now that it’s published, it at least keeps the family happy.

Link to the rest at The Irish Times and thanks to Meryl for the tip.

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

Wrongs of rights

26 September 2015

From The Bookseller:

A key issue for us at the moment is the pressure by big global corporate publishers (and the occasional less big publisher) to try to acquire world rights or to enforce global publication dates or generally to behave as though the world is flat. This notion that the digital world is one world is given the lie in various ways.

Consider H is for Hawk, a book that was published and gained momentum in the UK where it became a bestseller. American publication was many months after UK publication and consequently fed off the excitement about the book in the UK and became a bestseller there too. But if the two editions had been published simultaneously, would the US edition have received the reviews and bookseller attention that it did without the buzz out of the UK?

Similarly, A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara was published first in America in March this year, where its cult status was growing, but it is only since publication by Picador this August that the amazing reception here is beginning to flow back to America and is now having an impact there too. At over 700 pages, it’s also a challenging book for translation but the reverberations of all the chatter around the book has now led to a dozen foreign language sales, and rising.

. . . .

This also leads to the vexed issue of publishers attempting to buy global rights. In the absence of an actual global publication strategy for the book, my guess is that in a year or two many of them will find themselves faced with an increase in their unearned advances. Unless there is an editor to advocate for a book on both sides of the Atlantic, I have seen too many global acquisitions fail. And where publishers are gambling on selling the rights themselves, few of them actually have the necessary skills in their rights departments any more.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

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