Publishing industry reels after nine million fewer books are given as gifts in 2013

29 July 2014

From The Independent:

The number of books being given as gifts has fallen by nine million in a year, delivering a new financial blow to the publishing industry as UK consumers turn away from hard copies in favour of digital reads.

The trend was revealed in Nielsen Book’s UK Books & Consumers Annual Review for 2013, which identified a four per cent year-on-year decrease in the UK book market between 2012 and 2013 both in terms of volume and value.

. . . .

“In view of the importance of the gift market to the book industry,” she said, more work was needed to examine the causes of “the apparent decrease in the value that consumers are placing on books as gifts”. Similar patterns have been identified in the United States. Gifts accounted for 22 per cent of book sales in 2013, down from 24 per cent in 2012.

The survey found that digital e-books now account for 25 per cent of all book purchases (up from 20 per cent in 2012) and that their growth is at the expense of paperbacks (down to 50 per cent from 55 per cent) but not of hardbacks (steady at 21 per cent).

. . . .

Accounting group PwC recently predicted that the e-book would overhaul the paperback and hardback as the preferred reading format by 2018.

Link to the rest at The Independent and thanks to Robert for the tip.

My Independence Day: An Open Letter to Jeff Bezos of Amazon

27 July 2014

From author Michael Stephen Fuchs:

Dear Mr. Bezos,

I have been an enthusiastic Amazon customer since early 1996, and thus consider myself to be one of your first. A couple of years later, you guys sent me a nice mousepad with one of my orders. I added up what I had spent with Amazon to that date, and it was already thousands of dollars, so I wrote back and suggested that, for that kind of customer spend and loyalty, I deserved at least an Amazon t-shirt. You sent me a t-shirt. I’ve been in love with Amazon ever since.

. . . .

And that was prior to Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP).

As it happens, I have been a fiction writer since 1994. Eventually – after literally thousands of rejections – I got picked up by Macmillan, who published my first two books in 2006 and 2007. The second sold less well than the first – so they unceremoniously dropped me. (*) That was it. Dream over.

And then along came KDP. And in December of 2012, I had the first month of my life when earnings from my writing actually paid my bills – thanks utterly and entirely to KDP. My earnings have gone up from there, and I have been writing full-time ever since. And I have now achieved my dream of being a jobbing novelist.


And I have, not at all incidentally, been freed from the cartel practices, unconscionable contract terms, and not to mention soul-crushing rejection and frustration, of the Big Six publishers in London and New York, and the literary agency system. Now I write books for my readers, who buy them. Now I am free.


Thank you very, very, very much indeed. And please don’t ever change it (KDP). And sod Hachette.

Link to the rest at Dispatch from the Razor’s Edge

Here’s a link to Michael’s books

Writers unite in campaign against ‘thuggish’ Amazon

26 July 2014

From The Guardian:

Nearly 900 authors across world back criticism of online retailer’s business tactics in ebooks dispute with US publisher Hachette.

They include some of the biggest literary names on the planet, among them Stephen King, Donna Tartt, Paul Auster, James Patterson and John Grisham; a Pulitzer prize winner in Jennifer Egan; and four from this year’s Man Booker longlist, Joshua Ferris, Karen Joy Fowler, Siri Hustvedt and Joseph O’Neill. Then there are first-time writers, historians, biographers – all of them part of an unprecedented campaign against the world’s biggest books retailer, Amazon.

. . . .

As the standoff continues, Amazon has been slowing down delivery of Hachette books, preventing pre-order and removing previous discounts.

It is “thuggish behaviour”, said the Maine-based thriller writer Douglas Preston. “I’m talking to so many young authors, struggling debut authors who have worked for years and years to get published and then Amazon does this and crushes their hopes and dreams of building an audience.”

Earlier this week Preston had nearly 900 names – also including Jeffery Deaver , Lee Child, Barbara Kingsolver, Clive Cussler, Anita Shreve and Philip Pullman – backing a letter that he intends to publish, full page, in the New York Times.

“I have never seen in my entire life authors coming together like this,” he said. “Ever. For any reason.

“Amazon has been throwing its weight around for quite some time in a bullying fashion and I think authors are fed up. We feel betrayed because we helped Amazon become one of the largest corporations in the world. We supported it from the beginning, we contributed free blogs, reviews and all kinds of stuff that Amazon asked us to do for nothing.

“We thought we had a fairly good partnership but i n the last half dozen years Amazon’s corporate behaviour has not supported authors at all.”

. . . .

“We’re not against Amazon as a company – we would like to see it sell books, be profitable and successful. What we object to is harming authors who have nothing to do with this dispute to gain leverage.”

. . . .

Philip Jones, editor of the Bookseller, said: “Everybody I speak to thinks this negotiation is pivotal to what happens next. We won’t know what the terms are when they eventually settle at but I think there will be a line drawn in the sand – a line we all have to live with.”

It is not the first time this sort of dispute has happened.

“The difference here is that Amazon is so big, so dominant that it has a much wider and chilling effect,” said Jones. “Particularly on the ebook market where if you are not being sold or actively promoted on Amazon you really are dead in the water.”

He too had never known writers so angry. “That’s the thing that’s different this time – we’ve seen writers take sides which is remarkable and deeply worrying for Amazon. Becoming widely known as book author-unfriendly is not a great place for Amazon to be.”

. . . .

Amazon has also had support from self-publishing authors. Hugh Howey, something of a poster boy for self-publishing, was one of those behind a petition on supporting Amazon for creating a level playing field and characterising Hachette as the bad guys. Under the title ‘Stop fighting low prices and fair wages’ it had, on Thursday, 7,367 signatures.

Amazon, launched by Jeff Bezos 20 years ago, is a difficult company not to use. It is also an easy company to dislike – the Guardian revealed in 2012 Amazon had paid almost no UK corporation tax despite recording £7bn sales.

. . . .

“It is a company that has managed to grow at the expense of companies that play by the rules. It doesn’t have to pay its taxes or go through any of the common practices that we demand of bricks and mortar companies. It sells its books as loss leaders in order to support nappies and batteries. An entire industry is being held hostage in Amazon’s pursuit of a wider market share.”

. . . .

A spokeswoman for Amazon made reference to statements Preston has made during the dispute.

She said: “Mr Preston says: ‘We have many loyal and committed readers. They listen when we speak. That represents power.’ He is completely missing the point. It’s not readers who should be listening to Mr Preston, but Mr Preston who should be listening to readers. And they have clearly expressed a preference for e-books priced less than $10.

“Even four years ago when readers expressed such a preference, Mr Preston responded by saying publicly, ‘The sense of entitlement of the American consumer is absolutely astonishing’. It’s pretty clear it’s Mr Preston who feels entitled. And what’s ‘astonishing’ is that he thinks readers won’t recognise an opportunist who seeks readers’ support while actively working against their interests.”

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

Should a First-Time Literary Novelist Self-Publish on Amazon?

23 July 2014

From The Huffington Post UK:

The Guardian reported recently on Amazon’s latest Author Earnings Survey, which suggests that self-published ebooks now account for 31% of the overall market, with self-published authors earning ‘nearly 40% of the ebook dollars’. This comes on the back of a longer piece in the The New York Times , a detailed examination of Amazon’s ascent and where it leaves the ‘Big Five’ traditional publishers. Times are changing. Self-publishing is no longer ‘vanity publishing’ – a vaguely embarrassing exercise in assuaging one’s writerly ambitions by paying large sums of money for a small run of leather-bound copies of a book – but a very real and increasingly credible alternative to mainstream publishing. The question for the aspiring literary author is whether to go down this route or to attempt to place one’s work with regular publisher.

Amazon’s strength in selling genre fiction is well-known, but literary fiction is a different beast. Hard to categorise, it is therefore difficult for any retailer to sell other than to its small but passionate fanbase. The new figures are particularly illuminating. Indies who publish through Amazon account for 13% of earnings for lit fic – not too shabby, and equal to earnings for romance through the major publishers.

. . . .

With UK authors earning only £11,000 a year on average, and only 11.5% making a living solely from heir writing, agents nowadays counsel their clients to consider different genres in order to remain commercially viable. Earlier this year, as an experiment, I wrote and self-published a non-fiction title through Amazon’s KDP platform. I hired someone to design a cover and format the text, as well as a freelance editor. Once everything was ready, uploading the book to Amazon was incredibly straightforward and only took a few minutes. A few hours later it was up on the site: I made my first sale shortly afterwards. Now, after a slowish start, the book is selling well. This is in no small part due to the marketing that I have done for it through social media and the content I have written linking back to it for various websites. But of course, once a book starts to sell Amazon’s algorithms pick up on the fact and it gains prominence on the site anyway. While this wasn’t a pet project like my novel, writing the book was still enjoyable – after all, writing is writing – and the process of getting it onto Amazon was incredibly simple and user-friendly.

So would I go down the same route with my – as yet unpublished – literary novel?

. . . .

But it is very hard to discount the prestige a major publishing house still confers on a book. Like with record labels, I will frequently read books I know nothing about, simply because of who they’re published by – Faber, Canongate and Vintage, for example. The best publishers are curators – the reader can usually trust them to bring work to market that has been thoroughly vetted and is of high quality.

But with marketing budgets for first-time writers being pinched in all but the most exceptional cases and microscopic advances, is a somewhat nebulous quality like prestige still worth it?

. . . .

For me personally, right now, the traditional route still feels right for my fiction. I am currently in the process of editing my novel with a literary consultant – I will begin submitting it to agents in a month or so and see what comes of it. The degree to which my age and ingrained respect for the prestige of the big publishers causes me to stick with the old model for the time being is hard to calculate. But I am also very aware of the advantages of Amazon – not least, the ease with which one can use it to get one’s writing out to readers quickly – which is after all the endgame of publishing in any form.

Link to the rest at The Huffington Post

Dutch court lets ebook reseller stay online

22 July 2014

From PC World:

Dutch publishers have failed in their efforts to immediately close down ebook reselling site Tom Kabinet.

The Amsterdam District Court ruled Monday that the reseller can stay in business, after the Dutch Publishers Association (DPA) filed a preliminary case at the beginning of July to urgently close the site for copyright infringement.

Tom Kabinet offers a platform that it says lets users legally sell used ebooks. Sellers have to declare they obtained their copies legally and agree to delete their versions when a sale is made. While the service has no way to verify whether a copy is legal or whether copies were deleted by their original owners, it does add a water mark to the ebook before it is sold in order to track down possible illegal distribution.

Tom Kabinet argued that its activities are legal under a 2012 ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) that permitted the trading of “used” software licenses.

Link to the rest at PC World

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: 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

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