Amazon hints at e-book price hike on Jan 1st

17 December 2014

From The Bookseller:

Amazon has warned that e-book prices will rise come January following a change in VAT law in an email to self-published authors. On 1st January Amazon will “make a one-time adjustment to convert VAT-exclusive list prices provided to us to VAT-inclusive list prices” resulting in a rise in the list price of thousands of e-books.

From 2015, VAT will be charged at the rate where the customer resides, rather than where the servers are based, meaning e-books bought by UK readers will be charged a rate of 20%, as opposed to the 3% levied by Luxembourg, where Amazon is based. The Kindle Direct Publishing team has contacted authors published on its KDP platform explaining that when the new law comes in on 1st January, Amazon will make a one-off adjustment to the prices of e-books already published, increasing, for example, a £5.00 list price of a book to £6.00 to account for the 20% VAT rate.

The one-off price-change example implies e-book prices will rise when the law comes into effect in January. In the run-up to the change, there continues to be speculation about how retailers and publishers will handle the change, with some tax experts warning that price hikes were inevitable.

. . . .

Amazon has also explained that e-book royalties would be calculated on the list price of a book minus VAT. And following the new law, minimum and maximum list prices for the 35% and 70% royalty plans on KDP will change to also include VAT. However, the retailer assured   authors that titles scheduled to run in the Kindle Countdown Deal in the UK marketplace during or after 1st January would still be eligible to finish that promotion, even if the list price does not fit the new requirements of being priced between £1.99 and £15.99, including the VAT.

. . . .

Other retailers have been less clear about what will happen to prices. A Kobo spokesperson said:  “We will continue to work closely with our publisher partners, both agency and wholesale, to bring our customers the best possible offering.” Nook did not want to make a comment about what would happen to prices.

Authors have expressed concern that the move would either impact their royalties, or, if prices rise, sales. Mark Edwards, author of several books including Because She Loves me (Thomas & Mercer), currently at Number 2 in the Kindle Chart, said he was concerned about the new VAT law’s impact. He said: “My concern as an author is that the amount of royalties we earn is going to decrease unless the price of e-books go up. But if that happens, sales might decrease. My feeling is that prices won’t go up, so authors will lose out on royalties.” He added: “Nobody wants e-book prices to rise because this could harm sales and discourage readers. It’s hard enough to make a living as an author and it’s going to be even harder now that more of the money readers spend on e-books will go to the government and less to the people who write, publish and sell them.”

. . . .

At the time, Richard Asquith, vice-president of global tax at online accounting service Avalara, said he expected retailers to adopt the “Ryanair-style” model of adding VAT at the till. He said: “Companies are getting much better at protecting their margins. If they don’t increase prices on 1st January they will do it soon [after]. Otherwise it’s a huge dent in their business model. It’s inevitable that it will come.”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Small businesses facing ‘bullying’ by corporate customers

17 December 2014

From The Guardian:

Small businesses are being pushed to breaking point by bullying corporate customers making immoral payment demands, a lobby group has said.

About one in five small companies surveyed by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said they had suffered some form of supply-chain bullying in the past two years.

. . . .

The latest big name company to be drawn into the spotlight was WH Smith, after the retailer withdrew After the Battle magazine from its shelves following the publication’s refusal to pay a £2,000 “promotional fee”.

The magazine, which has a circulation of 11,000, was told the fee would rise next year and the year after. Winston Ramsey, editor-in-chief of the history publication, said that as a large retailer, WH Smith already received a 40% to 50% discount on the cover price and was provided with the magazines on a sale or return basis.

He said agreeing to the additional fee would only increase the cost of the magazine and add to WH Smith’s profits while being “grossly unfair” to independent newsagents that supported the publication.

“I won’t cave in to what is almost blackmail,” he said.

The magazine’s readers have taken to social media to criticise WH Smith’s actions and Ramsey said he had been touched by their support. “People don’t like to see these big monopolies bearing down on small companies.”

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

The book is back … and here’s the man leading the revival

15 December 2014

From the Guardian:

James Daunt is a bookseller with a penchant for stories (Anna Karenina is one of his favourites), who is also an inveterate risk taker. In 2011, he watched a Russian oligarch named Alexander Mamut make an insane bid for commercial suicide. And then he volunteered to join him.

Mamut’s crazy venture (“Nobody invests in bookshops to make money,” says Daunt) was his bid for Waterstones, then an ailing chain, burdened with several million pounds of debt. Daunt’s reckless career move was to join Mamut as his CEO, a job widely seen as a poisoned chalice. Many Waterstones-watchers predicted various dire scenarios.

Sometimes, however, stories have happy endings. And this month, Daunt was able to announce that, finally, Waterstones is about to break even.

The news that, for the first time in a long time, Waterstones is beginning to show signs of modest growth (new shops; new optimism; new markets) is symbolic of a sea-change in the world of books. Whisper it discreetly, but the book is showing signs of making a modest comeback, with British bookselling exhibiting the symptoms of an unfamiliar, fragile optimism.

During the first decade of the new century, this sector cornered the market in gloomy predictions that the end of the world was nigh. The digital revolution, plus Amazon, plus the credit crunch, seemed to add up to a literary apocalypse. There were moments, some CEOs in book publishing now concede, when they could hardly see a commercial way forward. A mood of panic quickly spread, with many dire predictions.

. . . .

To demonstrate the resilience of the traditional book in the midst of a changing market, Daunt took the Observer on a tour of his latest shop opening, Waterstones/Hatchards in St Pancras Station, London. “What we have to do,” he says, “is adapt to new market conditions. It’s no longer enough just to stock a lot of new titles.”

Bookselling today is about bright lighting, friendly staff, cleverly designed bookcases that display new hardbacks – yes, hardbacks – to best advantage, an espresso coffee machine behind the checkout counter and finally – how can we put this ? – many unbookish things such as novelty items, jigsaws, games, children’s toys, Paddington bears, greetings cards and upmarket stationery.

“We’ve been through a fairly tumultuous period,” says Daunt, “but it does seem to be settling at last.” At times, he has seemed to be fighting a war on three fronts: the global recession; the surge in e-reading; and the threat of online selling (Amazon). “Occasionally,” he says, “we thought that people were in flight from the physical book. But now I think the book is back.”

. . . .

Daunt’s “stabilisation” programme has involved fundamentally rethinking Waterstones. Gone, for instance, is the old tyranny of central buying, the process whereby Bath, Bolton and Blackpool would be instructed by head office which books to order. “We used to be top-down,” says Daunt. “Now it’s all about what’s right for the individual shop and its local market.” Lately, in Waterstones redux, bookshops and their managers have become much more autonomous – independent states within a federal system.

And then there’s the new Waterstones vibe. The chain still has 287 outlets (roughly the same as when Daunt took over) but they have been comprehensively revamped. They are brighter, lighter, and more welcoming. “We are now selling a lot of things that are not books,” says Daunt.

This is not the end of civilisation, but a sign of the times. Reading habits are changing worldwide. The consumer’s use of leisure time is no longer dominated by book-reading. That, says Daunt, means “we have to rethink what a good bookshop should be”.

Link to the rest at the Guardian and thanks to Nick for the tip.

Iceland’s Jólabókaflóð: The Christmas Book Flood

14 December 2014

From Publshing Perspectives:

Reykjavík may have just 230,000 people, but on a night in November there were no less than a half-dozen book launches taking place on the same night. Both the mayor of the city and the President of Iceland showed up.

. . . .

Iceland is said to produce the most books per capita anywhere in the world. The average print run here is 2,000 copies for a commercial title, with as much as 60-70% of all books being sold during the Christmas season. Publishers produce a holiday book catalog that goes to every home in the country and giving books for the holidays is a tradition that dates back to the period of austerity following World War II when imports were severely limited. Books were one gift that you could give that wouldn’t break the bank.

. . . .

“What can I say,” said one friend, “we’re Icelandic, we were raised on the Sagas, we like stuff to happen in our books…action.”

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

Curtis Brown digital arm Studio 28 launches next year

12 December 2014

From The Bookseller:

Curtis Brown Literary and Talent Agency will officially launch its digital publishing arm, Studio 28, in March next year.

Studio 28 will publish in the UK and other territories, seeking rights from authors already on the agency’s books or “rediscovering and reinventing literary gems from 100 years of the agency’s backlist”. It aims to publish around 12 to 16 titles over the next year.

. . . .

Curtis Brown’s Rufus Purdy told The Bookseller: We are not any kind of threat to traditional publishing. At the moment it’s about exploring niches. It’s about working with authors and maximising their incomes and allowing them to get their books to market.”

Studio 28 was started after restaurant critic and author Jay Rayner came to Curtis Brown to say he wanted to publish The Apologist as an e-book with Amazon’s White Glove programme. The agency instead decided it would set up its own digital publishing arm.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Kindle Unlimited Launches In France, Brazil

12 December 2014

From The Digital Reader:

Local sources are reporting that Kindle Unlimited launched today in Brazil and France. Readers in those two countries can now subscribe and pay Amazon 10 euros or 19.90 reals per month for access to a catalog of over 700,000 titles, although given the limited number of local titles I am not sure they will want to do so.

Actualitte broke the news that Kindle Unlimited launched in France with 20,000 titles in French. The service costs the same as in Germany, Italy, and Spain, and enables readers to read as many books as they like each month from a catalog of 700,000 mostly indie titles.

. . . .

I thought Amazon would have trouble rounding up enough titles that they wouldn’t be able to hit their minimum quota, and it seems I was right. Amazon launched KU in Brazil with far fewer titles in Portuguese than in any other local language. Whether that will negatively impact reader adoption is going to have to be left up to the market.

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader

Spanish news to vanish from Google News globally

11 December 2014

From the Associated Press:

Google announced Thursday it will close Google News in Spain and block reports from Spanish publishers from more than 70 Google News international editions due to a new Spanish law requiring aggregators to pay to link content — a decision that will reverberate around the globe.

. . . .

That means people in Latin America, where Spanish news organizations have sought to boost their audiences, won’t see news from Spain via Google News in Mexico or elsewhere. Also set to disappear are reports in English from Spanish publishers like Madrid’s leading El Pais newspaper.

People who use Google’s standard search in Spain and anywhere else around the world will still be able to find articles on their own from Spanish publications, because the law applies only to aggregators and not to individuals who do their own searches outside of Google News.

The decision by Google Inc. is the first shutdown since Google News debuted as an experimental project in 2002.

. . . .

“This new legislation requires every Spanish publication to charge services like Google News for showing even the smallest snippet from their publications, whether they want to or not,” Gingras wrote in a blog. “As Google News itself makes no money (we do not show any advertising on the site) this new approach is simply not sustainable.”

. . . .

Alejandro Tourino, a Madrid-based lawyer who specializes in media issues and has worked for The Associated Press on several legal cases, said Spanish news publishers may “have shot themselves out of the market. Time will tell.”

Link to the rest at the Associated Press

Are book publishers blockbustering themselves into oblivion?

11 December 2014

From The Globe and Mail:

Publishers Weekly, the U.S. trade magazine, recently ran an article confirming that the number of seven-figure advances for novels is actually on the rise. It lists several recent acquisitions by big American publishing houses, mostly for debut novels, that involved payouts of more than $1-million. That’s right – debut novels.

. . . .

You might be wondering if you read that right, given what else you have heard recently about the demise of book publishing and the alleged poverty of respected authors. You likely have read that a famous writer was contemplating working in coal mines to make ends meet, and that, in this country at least, several foreign-owned publishing companies have been flailing about in a kind of budgetary panic, having fired, laid off or rearranged senior staff. This after a decade of decline in the book-selling business, with bookstore chains in decline and a near-universal sense that Amazon is the Eye of Sauron. It looks, from the inside, like turmoil.

So what on earth is going on? Are the publishers actually rich?

There are a few other things in the Publishers Weekly article that don’t make any sense. The story claims that the fierce competition for new novels stems from “a dearth of great material.” One anonymous publishing insider is quoted as saying, “The whole pool of talent is shrinking.” He or she even claims that there are “fewer submissions” nowadays.

. . . .

So they must mean that they are not, in fact, interested in the real talent pool, or in a wide variety of literature. What they are looking for are bestsellers, which tend to be particularly narrow kinds of books. Most of the gargantuan advances that have made headlines in the U.S. recently are for science-fiction and fantasy books. Every publisher is looking for exactly the same book – basically, they are looking for The Hunger Games again and again. When they say “quality,” they mean “mass appeal.”

The debut-author thing is also not representative of any effort to seek out the new and innovative. It’s simply a reflection of the fact that previously published authors have their sales figures already against them. Any writers without previous sales figures are actually at an advantage. They represent unblemished potential (or as some might call it, pure fantasy).

. . . .

Needless to say, things can get a little bit frantic in the process. When a buzz about a potential success begins, particularly at a booze- and caffeine-fuelled book fair in a foreign city, editors occasionally make large bids on books they haven’t even read. These bidding frenzies reflect a sort of modern-day tulip mania, and don’t always pay off.

But in concentrating on bestsellers to the detriment of other literature, the publishers are simply following the model of all the entertainment industries. Providing an eclectic variety of entertainments to please a diverse audience, as the free Internet can do, just hasn’t been lucrative for the conglomerates that own film studios and recording labels. They are in constant search of blockbusters.

As they grow larger and concentrate their efforts and investments on massive, sure-fire hits – the next Marvel movie, the next Taylor Swift album – the cultural landscape seems paradoxically smaller.

Link to the rest at The Globe and Mail and thanks to BS for the tip.

Taking a cue from nightclubs, 24-hour bookstores boom in Taiwan

11 December 2014

From The Christian Science Monitor:

Is a 24-hour “nightclub for books,” where hipsters and bookworms alike hang out all night reading and chatting, the solution to the woes of the modern bookstore?

The Eslite Group, which owns an enterprising chain of bookstores inTaiwan and Hong Kong, thinks so. While bookstores in countries across the world struggle to survive, business at the Taiwanese book chain is booming, and observers credit the chain’s unusual model.

The Eslite bookstore is open 24 hours “and has more night owl visitors than most Western bookstores could dream of during their daytime hours,” writes CNN.

. . . .

The secret? The bookstore is as much about books as it is about design, food, and culture, making it an attractive hangout for customers of all stripes.

“It’s a cool place, a bit like Soho in New York,” Huang Yu Han, a customer at the Taipei store told CNN. “Many cool people hang out here. Some come here to read, others just to kill time and meet friends. It’s like a place for modern culture and it’s close to some of the best nightclubs and bars.”

. . . .

“It is our belief that the more digital the society [becomes], the more we treasure the warmth of the interconnection,” company spokesman Timothy Wang told CNN. “This core idea makes Eslite barely impacted by the changes of the industry.”

Link to the rest at The Christian Science Monitor and thanks to Dave for the tip.

Ebooks can tell which novels you didn’t finish

11 December 2014

From The Guardian:

The Goldfinch may have won Donna Tartt the Pulitzer, praised by judges as a novel which “stimulates the mind and touches the heart”, but the acclaimed title’s 800-odd pages appear to have intimidated British readers, with less than half of those who downloaded it from e-bookseller Kobo making it to the end.

New data from Kobo shows that, although The Goldfinch was the 37th bestselling ebook of the year for the retailer, it was completed by just 44.4% of Kobo’s British readers. Kobo speculated that it “likely proved daunting for some due to the length of the novel”.

Twelve Years a Slave, Solomon Northup’s account from 1853 of how he was kidnapped and sold into slavery – “I sighed for liberty; but the bondsman’s chain was round me, and could not be shaken off” – was, according to Kobo, similarly overwhelming. Ninth on their British bestseller list, following the hugely successful film adaptation, the book was completed by just 28.2% of British readers.

The onset of digital reading means that Kobo – and other ebook retailers – are able to tell more than ever before about how readers engage with books: which they leave unopened, which they read to the end, and how quickly they finish.

. . . .

Kobo’s first analysis of trends in e-reading, released on Wednesday, reveal an unexpected divide between bestsellers, and the books that readers actually complete.

After collecting data between January and November 2014 from more than 21m users, in countries including Canada, the US, the UK, France, Italy and the Netherlands, Kobo found that its most completed book of 2014 in the UK was not a Man Booker or Baileys prize winner. Instead, readers were most keen to finish Casey Kelleher’s self-published thriller Rotten to the Core, which doesn’t even feature on the overall bestseller list – although Kelleher has gone on to win a book deal with Amazon’s UK publishing imprint Thomas & Mercer after selling nearly 150,000 copies of her three self-published novels.

“Rotten to The Core by Casey Kelleher was the most completed book in the UK, with 83% of people reading it cover to cover,” said Kobo, “whereas the number one bestselling ebook in the UK, One Cold Night by Katia Lief [also a thriller] was only completed by 69% of those who read it.”

. . . .

A book’s position on the bestseller list may indicate it’s bought, but that isn’t the same as it being read or finished,” said Michael Tamblyn, president and chief content officer at Kobo. “A lot of readers have multiple novels on the go at any given time, which means they may not always read one book from start to finish before jumping into the next great story. People may wait days, months, or even until the following year to finish certain titles. And many exercise that inalienable reader’s right to set down a book if it doesn’t hold their interest.”

Kobo also revealed that the people of Britain were most likely to finish a romance novel, with 62% completion, followed by crime and thrillers (61%) and fantasy (60%). Italians were also most engaged by romance (74% completion), while the French preferred mysteries, with 70% completion.

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

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