Brexit-hit firms fear talent drain

21 October 2016

From The Bookseller:

Multinational publishers have warned of the consequences of a “hard Brexit” on their businesses, with concerns over whether restrictions on migration would hamper their ability to attract the right talent to work for them.

. . . .

Cengage Learning c.e.o. Michael Hansen said his company would consider moving its European headquarters out of London should a “hard Brexit” strategy be adopted by UK prime minister Theresa May (pictured).

Meanwhile Ian Hudson, c.e.o. of DK Publishing, has said the uncertainty around who will be allowed to work in the country is already impacting recruitment. He said: “I’d like to be able to provide assurance to those staff affected that their futures are secure—and I cannot. We are already seeing this affect the types of people applying for jobs with us, which impacts on the diversity of the workforce, which we all need to improve on.”

Hansen said: “Our concern on the Brexit side, which many businesses in the UK share, is Britain regressing to an isolationism is going to make it harder and less attractive for us to do business in the country. We have, for now, maintained the position of our European headquarters in London. But we will observe what transpires over the next couple of months and I will make a decision that is in the best interests of the company.”

When asked if he could move the European headquarters, which employs “hundreds” of people, out of London, Hansen confirmed: “Yes. We might move it. For us it is important that we can attract, in an easy fashion, talent to wherever our locations are. Obviously, depending on how negotiations between Britain and the EU are going, if it leads to what is now being termed a ‘hard Brexit’, I think that is going to make it harder for us to attract talent.”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

PG seems to recall that Britain has been a premier international trading power for several centuries before the EU came into existence. He will rely upon the UK visitors to inform him whether the OP is a real thing or sour grapes.

Most UK authors’ annual incomes still well below minimum wage, survey shows

20 October 2016

From The Guardian:

As publishing prepares for the Christmas rush, with a blizzard of titles due for launch this week on “Super Thursday”, a European commission report has shown that life is less than super for many authors in the UK, with average annual incomes for writers languishing at £12,500.

This figure is just 55% of average earnings in the UK, coming in below the minimum wage for a full-time job at £18,000 and well below the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s minimum income standard of £17,100.

In an industry that is becoming increasingly unequal, those at the bottom of the income distribution continue to struggle. Only half of the 317 UK authors who responded to the survey said writing was their main source of income, with respondents who offered a figure reporting total earnings from their latest book averaging at £7,000.

The survey confirms a picture of steady decline in author incomes that was revealed in a 2015 survey published by the Society of Authors (SoA). While the publishing industry has seen revenues begin to rise, with sales up 1.3% in 2015 to £4.4bn, median incomes for authors (a measure that better reflects the experience of most authors) were down 29% in real terms in the last decade.

According to the writer Lucinda Hawksley, who sits on the SoA management committee, initiatives to make life fairer for authors are “utterly necessary”.

“I know from personal experience how difficult it is to be creative when panicking about the state of one’s finances and worrying about the rent [and] trying to meet a publisher’s demands,” Hawksley said. “My books have been well-received and plentiful, which might be assumed to bring in a healthy income, but it is impossible to support myself by writing alone.”

. . . .

A comparison of the legal protections enjoyed by writers across the continent put the UK and Ireland at the bottom of the ranking, with the UK also performing poorly in a measure of authors’ power in collective bargaining. . . . [A] comparison between two countries with the highest number of responses, the UK and Germany, could suggest “that a more protective legal framework may have a positive effect for the authors’ average income”.

In a world where the digital revolution is opening up a bewildering array of new ways for publishers to make money out of writers’ work, the report argues for written contracts that specify where and how an author’s work is to be used. It adds that rights should be limited to uses that are known or foreseeable.

. . . .

“This detailed study shows, yet again, that authors are disadvantaged by an unfair playing field,” Solomon said, “and conclusively demonstrates that simple legal remedies such as controlling the term and scope of contracts can have a positive effect on authors’ earnings, which remain woefully low.”

Link to the rest at The Guardian and thanks to Dave and several others for the tip.

The Library Is Dead. Long Live the Library!

20 October 2016

From The Millions:

“Close down the lending libraries and buy every citizen an Amazon Kindle Unlimited subscription,”Forbes contributor Tim Worstall wrote in July 2014, arguing that his native U.K. might thus save a lot of taxpayers’ money.

Given that the amount of new digital content produced in 2011 amounts to several million times the combined contents of every book ever written, it is easy to see why technology-fascinated experts and non-specialists alike have propagated the idea that libraries will soon fall prey to Google, Amazon, and other technological giants. However, public libraries around the globe are increasingly disproving hardcore pessimists like Worstall and others who find libraries irrelevant in the modern age. Simply put, these pessimists make a fundamental mistake: They look at libraries as reactionary spaces filled with nothing but shelves.

Another feature of the modern age is the expanding gulf between the information rich and the information poor. According to the Pew Research Center, adults with more education, higher household incomes, and more technologies connected to the Internet “are more likely to be participants in today’s educational ecosystem and to use information technology to navigate the world.”

The digital divide poses numerous challenges in affluent countries like the United States, as well as in poorer and smaller countries like Bulgaria (where I come from).

. . . .

“With all these technologies, libraries are becoming more important because the process of critically sifting out information and finding the right information will be growing more important,” explains Spaska Tarandova, director of the Global Libraries Foundation in Bulgaria. “The freedom of space requires that one has basic skills in evaluating which resource is reliable [and] which one is the product of someone’s imagination and speculation.”

Many people, particularly the young, have a fundamentally incorrect understanding of information literacy, says Elitsa Lozanova-Belcheva, a researcher and professor at Sofia University who has also worked as a librarian. Young people, she says, interpret information literacy as the ability to do a simple Google search, write and read emails, and chat with friends on Facebook. These and other activities are a long way from information literacy, she says, and that’s why most people should go through training to master more of the resources available online.

. . . .

Public libraries in Bulgaria and many other countries benefit the less privileged members of the communities outside the capital city. Lozanova-Belcheva agrees with Tarandova that libraries can help bridge the digital divide. She explains that this divide is still more serious when one takes into account ethnic minorities, such as the Roma in Bulgaria, and citizens with disabilities who face a greater risk of social exclusion. Properly maintained public libraries empower minority communities by providing access to modern technologies and the training to use these technologies for education- and work-related purposes.

In addition to information and computer literacy, libraries have discovered another promising niche: e-government.

“Over the past few years, libraries have come to serve as an intermediary between [citizens and authorities] through e-government services,” says Lozanova-Belcheva, explaining that some libraries in the U.S. have e-government librarians who help users navigate the sea of administrative and oftentimes incomprehensible language of modern-day bureaucracies. “Global trends show that users themselves prefer to use e-government services through the library because they trust this institution.”

E-government services, through which citizens can access administrative information and contact public institutions and officials from a distance, have now left the confines of American libraries and have popped up in their counterparts in Bulgaria.

. . . .

This spring, the regional library in the city of Varna, in cooperation with a local robotics school, organized a 3-D printing and modeling course. The library, which in March became the first public library in Bulgaria to introduce self-checkout, offered several three-hour editions of the course in the span of a few months. During the course, participants, who had to be at least 12 and bring their own laptops, learned to model 3-D objects such as a simple cube, a favorite character, or a practical tool for daily use.

For its part, the regional library in the town of Stara Zagora has launched a service unique for Bulgaria: bibliotherapy. Eleven certified consultants, who have completed training organized by the library and funded by the Global Libraries Foundation, consult library users and assist them in finding books that address some of their troubles. “With this service, readers receive special attention, enough time to share the problem that bothers them, conversation confidentiality, and a specially selected book,” explains Nadezhda Grueva, director of the Stara Zagora Regional Library.

Link to the rest at The Millions

Pearson sales drop 7% after third quarter

17 October 2016

From The Bookseller:

Pearson sales dropped 7% year-on-year in the first nine months of 2016 as the company’s c.e.o John Fallon again described market conditions as “challenging”.

The results are in line with the company’s half-year results, which also saw a 7% drop.

The fall in revenue was attributed to expected declines in UK and US assessment businesses, as well as “cautious buying patterns” among US college campus bookshops, which it said were managing their own supply chain and inventory “more efficiently”. Fallon refered to it as a “temporary phenomenon” and pointed out there was no fundamental change in the buying behaviour of students or the propensity of professors to adopt its books.

. . . .

Pearson has rolled out “very tight cost management” measures across the company since January and its restructuring program to make £350m savings over two years is now 90% complete, the company said. It had aimed to cut a tenth of its global workforce, accounting for 4,000 redundancies. According to c.f.o. Coram Williams, Pearson also continues to consolidate its real estate, with the closure of 19 office properties from around the world. Meanwhile a new finance system also went live in the UK in its third quarter.

Pearson said it was beginning to realise the benefits from systems integration and warehouse consolidations following the merger of Penguin Random House, and this was was “softening the expected impact of reduced demand for e-books” after last year’s changes to digital-terms. PRH was said to have benefited from million-copy multi-territorial film-tie-in sales for The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, Me Before You and After You by Jojo Moyes, and The BFG and other classics by Roald Dahl, as well as from sales of The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead and John le Carré’s The Pigeon Tunnel. “The fourth quarter [for PRH] will benefit from new fiction, nonfiction, and movie tie-ins across all formats from bestselling and prize-winning authors,” Pearson said.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Penguin boss admits the company read too much into the eBook hype

15 October 2016

From The Telegraph:

Penguin wrongly lost confidence in the power of the printed word and invested “unwisely” amid the rise of eBooks, one of the company’s bosses has admitted.

Joanna Prior, the managing director of Penguin’s general books, said the firm jumped the gun and incorrectly pre-empted a major shift towards digital books.

The “bad moment” means Penguin – one of the UK’s biggest publishers– now takes steps “much more cautiously” than it would have five years ago.

The comments came after figures showed eBooks sales fell for the first time since 2014 last year. Experts said the data showed reports about the death of the traditional book had been greatly exaggerated.

Speaking at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, Ms Prior said: “There was a definite moment when we all went shooting out after the shiny app thing and spent money on that and invested probably unwisely in products that we thought could in some way enhance the book.

“We somehow lost confidence in the power of the word on the page, which was a bad moment.”

. . . .

During the talk, the two women also suggested it was a good time to be a debut novelist, as publishers were looking for writers with “no track record”.

They admitted this was sometimes bad news for authors who had already produced two or three books.

“If you are a brand new name it is fantastic, and success is bigger than it has ever been, but to be in the middle it is very difficult… talented people are in danger of being sidelined,” Ms Alexander said.

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

PG says you can be wrong. And you can be wrong about being wrong.

Wrongness knows no boundaries.

Problems of Self Publishing – Currency Exchange

14 October 2016

From author Edmond Barrett:

At the start of this year I had hoped would putting out by now my next book; due to various changes in personal circumstances that basically isn’t going to happen. The amount of time I got to commit to all thing writing related took a hit and I decided to concentrate what little I got on the writing part of writing as opposed to the business part of writing, however with the benefit of hindsight that might have been for the best. As followers of this blog are no doubt aware I live in Dublin, Ireland, which is part of the Eurozone. What you might be less aware of, is that over half my book sales to date have been through Amazon.UK, which is priced and pays me in sterling. At the moment that’s not such a good thing.


On the 23rd of June of this year Britain voted to leave the European Union, since then the Pound exchange rate against the Euro has done this:

. . . .

My first book – The Nameless War – is currently for sale on Amazon.UK for £2.90 for the ebook version, so the breakdown is as follows:

£2.90 selling price, 30% of which goes to Amazon, leaving £2.03. Multiply this by 1.42 (£ to € rate on 19th Nov 2015) equals €2.88.

Do the same calculation again at today’s rate and:

£2.90 selling price, 30% of which goes to Amazon, leaving £2.03. Multiply this by today’s rate of 1.11 equals €2.25.

This is a drop of €0.63 or nearly 22%.

Link to the rest at Edmond Barrett

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

Publishing risks ‘becoming irrelevant’, warns Penguin Random House boss

14 October 2016

From The Guardian:

The chief executive of the UK’s largest publisher has warned that the books industry will “become irrelevant” if it continues to fail to reflect the society we live in.

Tom Weldon, chief executive of Penguin Random House UK, was speaking as the publisher launched a new scheme intended to discover and mentor authors from the UK’s under-represented communities, whether this means they are writers from a poorer backgrounds, from LGBTQ or BAME (black, Asian, minority ethnic) communities, or writers with a disability.

“We feel very strongly about diversity in publishing. For me it is a real problem when we don’t reflect the society we live in. It’s not good for books, or culture, or commercially. We are going to become irrelevant,” said Weldon. “We know we have a real issue, and we have been slow. We have to address it.”

. . . .

“It ties in to some of the conversation since Brexit. Whatever you think about the outcome of that vote, it was a very clear signal, not just to the publishing bubble, that voices are not being heard,” said Weldon. “People recognise it is a real issue. I don’t think we realised we had a problem 10-15 years ago, but now we do … When a publisher has a bestseller, it’s easy to [just keep publishing] what sold yesterday. [But] there are amazing writers out there who we aren’t commissioning. The whole industry needs to change.”

Penguin Random House is not alone in attempting to address what a report into diversity in the books industry described last year as “an old mono-culture” still prevailing in publishing. The Writing the Future study found that “the past 10 years of turbulent change affecting the UK book industry has had a negative impact on attempts to become more diverse” and that if the books world fails to become less homogenised, it “risks becoming a 20th-century throwback increasingly out of touch with a 21st-century world”.

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

Local media mogul embroiled in foodie fight over alleged plagiarism

13 October 2016

From The Ottawa Citizen:

An Ottawa food empire has left a bitter taste in the mouth of a cookbook author in Japan who alleges it stole and served up her recipes.

The foodie fight over soy-pickled eggs and sashimi on hot rice has turned blistering.

Ottawa entrepreneur Chris Knight vehemently denies any infringement and says Gusto Worldwide Media will file a lawsuit and an injunction stopping Nancy Singleton Hachisu from attacking its “wonderful” reputation on social media.

. . . .

Hachisu lives in rural Japan but says she was strolling through the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards in Yantai, China, in May when she picked up the winning One World Kitchen. It’s a 2015 collection of recipes from the Gusto TV show, penned by Knight and featuring recipes from Argentina, Italy, India, Thailand and Japan.

She flipped open the Japanese section — and saw “smashed cucumber pickles with garlic,” a title she says she had coined.

“OK, this happens,” thought the author of 2012’s Japanese Farm Food, which won a Gourmand Award and has a back-cover blurb from famed farm-to-table pioneer Alice Waters. Hachisu, a Californian who married a Japanese organic farmer, read on.

“More of my own words jumped off  of the page,” Hachisu. “My exact words and unique turn of phrase had been copy-pasted into this … cookbook. Shaking, I flipped through more pages and discovered five other recipes that had been plagiarized.”

She did a side-by-side comparison of recipes that appear in her book, Knight’s, and on Gusto TV’s website.

“Lay the cucumbers on a large cutting board and bang them gently but firmly with a Japanese pestle (surikogi) or rolling pin to crack (and slightly smash) the surface of the cucumbers,” instructs Hachisu’s book. “Break into rough chunks with your hands and drop into a freezer-style gallon-sized resealable plastic bag.”

“Lay the cucumbers on a large cutting board, and bang them gently but firmly with a Japanese pestle or rolling pin to slightly smash the cucumbers, which will form cracks in the surface,” reads Knight’s. “Break into rough chunks with your hands, and drop into a large resealable freezer bag.”

Hachisu’s recipe for eggs pickled in soy sauce tell the cook that “when the eggs are cool, gently crack by rapping and rolling on a cutting board.”

Knight writes, “When the eggs are cool, gently crack the shells by rapping and rolling the eggs on a cutting board.”

. . . .

Months later, Hachisu now says she’s seeking a total of $30,000 in compensatory damages, pursuing “the principle of the matter” on her own.

But according to Gusto World Media, it will be they who file a lawsuit in Ontario shortly.

“To avoid any confusion, I wish to be clear, the One World Kitchen cookbook does not infringe any alleged rights of Ms. Hachisu,” Knight, the author of a string of cookbooks along with his work on television, said in a statement.

Link to the rest at The Ottawa Citizen and thanks to Tudor for the tip.

PG reminds one and all that he is not an expert on Canadian copyright law.

In the US, the general rule is that a simple recipe cannot be protected by copyright. Here’s what the Copyright Office says about the subject:

Copyright law does not protect recipes that are mere listings of ingredients. Nor does it protect other mere listings of ingredients such as those found in formulas, compounds, or prescriptions. Copyright protection may, however, extend to substantial literary expression—a description, explanation, or illustration, for example—that accompanies a recipe or formula or to a combination of recipes, as in a cookbook.

In addition to lists of ingredients, unadorned instructions in a recipe, “put the eggs, popcorn and garlic into a bowl and stir,” are also generally not protected. There are only so many ways to describe common cooking activities.

That said, Ms. Hachisu seems to be using the right language to support her claim, “unique turn of phrase.”

Revelation Surrounding Novelist Elena Ferrante Exposes Cultural Differences

10 October 2016

From The New York Times:

 The apparent unmasking of an Italian translator as the pseudonymous best-selling novelist Elena Ferrante has sparked a trans-Atlantic backlash against the publication of the findings earlier this month. But the responses to those findings also reveal a telling divide over what inspires that anger.

In the United States and Britain, the investigation into Ms. Ferrante’s true identity has been viewed by a vocal contingent through the lens of gender. Critics have accused the journalist who conducted it and the publications where his findings appeared of sexism. But in continental Europe, the criticisms have focused on invasion of privacy issues.

“In much of Europe they care intensely about privacy; they don’t think that you forfeit your right to privacy by making art,” said Lorin Stein, editor of The Paris Review, which published a long interview with Ms. Ferrante last year, conducted by her publishers. “Meanwhile, in the States, we’re especially attuned to the problems facing women writers in particular.”

. . . .

In a report published simultaneously on Oct. 2 on The New York Review of Books website, as well as in French, German and Italian publications, Claudio Gatti, an investigative reporter for the Italian financial daily Il Sole 24 Ore, said financial and real estate records led him to conclude that Anita Raja, a recently retired public librarian, literary translator and consultant at Ms. Ferrante’s Rome-based publishing house, Edizioni E/O, was actually Ms. Ferrante.

. . . .

 Though there have been a number of defenses of Mr. Gatti’s work, the outcry against it in the United States and Britain dominated the news cycle. In The New Republic, Charlotte Shane wrote a critique titled “The Sexist Big Reveal.” Others compared it to sexual assault.

. . . .

But in continental Europe the response less often invoked feminism and focused on privacy, a sensitive issue for many Europeans, personally and politically. Europe’s highest court has ruled that Google had to allow people to erase links they found compromising and regulators have also questioned Facebook’s privacy policy.

In France, revealing Ms. Ferrante’s identity was generally seen as rude, not sexist.

“It’s a bit as if a GoPro camera had been installed in Salinger’s garden at his house in Cornish, New Hampshire, to show us the recluse while he watered his geraniums,” the French daily Libération wrote of that reclusive novelist. In France, where two of the four Neapolitan novels have been released since last year and became best sellers, people are strong believers in the idea of a “jardin secret” (a secret garden), or private lives.

. . . .

The responses were also about privacy in Italy, where Ms. Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, although best sellers, have had a mixed critical reception, and where Ms. Raja’s name has been mentioned for years as possibly being behind Ms. Ferrante.

“I am already nostalgic for the unnamed Elena Ferrante,” the commentator Michele Serra wrote in La Repubblica.

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

How I Found the 4 Hardest-to-Find Bookstores in the World

9 October 2016

From Atlas Obscura:

Word on the Water, London, England

It took awhile to find this bookstore, as I was given the very general address of Regent’s Canal which snakes along quite a ways. It’s not even seen when you are in the vicinity as the canal is below street-level and accessed by descending stairs. Once strolling along the canal, one looks for the modest signage for Word on the Water, London’s only floating secondhand bookshop, among all the beautiful boats.

. . . .

 The 100 year-old Dutch book barge hosts poetry slams, book readings, and live music events on the roof stage on top of the boat. Stephen Fry and Russell Brand, among many others, are some of the many who have been on board.

. . . .

Underground Books, Coober Pedy, Australia

A mining town in the middle of Australia known as the “opal capital of the world,” Coober Pedy is one of the strangest towns in the world. With it’s impossibly high temperatures, this town is completely underground because residents can’t live on the surface.

Yet there is a bookstore. In the ultimate illustration of the perseverance of bookstores, Underground Books, is, as its name suggests, a bookstore built underground. It’s not only the only bookstore Coober Pedy, but also the only bookstore for hundreds and hundreds of miles in any direction in this remote region of the country.

“We sell a lot of books on Indigenous culture and history and the early central Australian explorers,” the owner says.

Link to the rest at Atlas Obscura

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