Coronavirus Worklife: Kalem Agency’s Şafak Tahmaz in Turkey

From Publishing Perspectives:

Ask anyone in world publishing who’d like to be at this year’s canceled spring trade shows, and they’ll tell you that Nermin Mollaoğlu of Turkey’s Kalem Agency is someone they miss most. Her bustling 10-person team—and the exuberant spirit they maintain in one of the world’s most challenging regimes—are favorites in international rights centers.

. . . .

Kalem by 2017 had created more than 2,100 contracts representing Turkish literary rights in at least 53 languages. The agency also produces the annual Istanbul International Literature Festival and works as a sub-agent for agencies and publishers in a huge range of markets. The company is coming up on its 14th anniversary.

As the contagion closed in, Tahmaz says, “Nermin made up her mind very, very fast, which we all appreciated and decided to close our office down on March 11, just after it was declared that the first coronavirus case had been detected in Turkey. We got our laptops, necessary files, backups, and started to work at home the next week.

. . . .

[H]ere’s some news from one of the most aggressive agencies in Europe and the Mediterranean for the international publishing industry to consider: “It’s a funny fact that last month,” Tahmaz says, “our fiction titles doubled. And our nonfiction titles broke their own record. Children’s titles are also doing well.”

. . . .

“Publishers in Turkey haven’t given up on new titles and they haven’t lost their excitement for books. But because of the crisis, the exchange rate started to fluctuate again. Revenue streams decreased when bookstores were shut down. But in audiobooks and ebook sales, the publishers in Turkey finally have comprehended the value of digital publishing and a great many publishers have demanded ebook and audio rights for both old titles and the new deals.

“It’s like a silver lining of these dark days. Especially for me, as I feel really comfortable reading in Kindle and listening to books, as well!”

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

Amazon’s Audible used by almost 20% of the population of France in 2019

From IDBOOX (translation via Google Translate):

Audible has released the figures for its annual study on audio books in France. In 2019, the audio book recorded a good progression, especially in usage.

. . . .

Audible [study results for] 2019 Audiobook [usage show] 18.8% of French people listened to an audio book in 2019. This represents an increase of more than 19% compared to 2018.

Women between the ages of 25 and 34 mostly listen to audio books (48.9%).

We listen more to audio books and audio content in the Paris region (51.6%) and in the Grand Est region (50.4%).

. . . .

According to Audible and Opinéa, 73.5% of French people listen to audio books on smartphones, 38.8% on computers, and 33.4% on tablets. Note that 12.9% of people who listened to audio content in 2019 listened to it on a connected speaker.

We prefer to listen to audio content at home, this is the case for 40.9% of the respondents. 39.6% listen to it before falling asleep, and 30.2% by doing household chores.

. . . .

83.1% of French people listen to audio content alone. A small percentage listens with family or friends (8.4%).

Link to the rest at IDBOOX

Enemy of All Mankind

From The Wall Street Journal:

On Sept. 11, 1695, a Mughal treasure ship found itself so shrouded in Indian Ocean haze that the lookout failed to sight an English vessel until she was only 5 miles distant. She was coming on very fast—possibly making 15 knots—but this didn’t worry the captain of the Ganj-i-sawai (Anglicized into Gunsway in the copious accounts that were to follow): His ship mounted 80 guns; he commanded 400 musketeers and had 1,000 men aboard.

The British interloper, the Fancy, had a crew of only about 150, but she possessed 46 guns—an extraordinary weight of metal for a pirate ship—and a determined captain who had been waiting months for the Gunsway. The Mughal ship fired first and was at once beset by a scarcely believable run of bad luck. That initial shot burst the gun, killing its crew and leaving a swath of flaming wreckage; and the first broadside from the Fancy not only struck the Mughal’s 40-foot mainmast but knocked it right down to the deck in a tangle of spars and rigging. Amid the confusion, the Fancy ranged alongside; her men swarmed aboard the Gunsway in the smoke and, having subdued a far larger crew, made straight for her rich cargo.

This encounter, dramatic in itself, is the pivot on which far greater events turn and continue to reverberate down to this day, as Steven Johnson argues with verve and conviction in his thoroughly engrossing “Enemy of All Mankind.” “Most confrontations like this one, viewed from the wide angle of history,” he writes, “are minor disputes, sparks that quickly die out. But every now and then, someone strikes a match that lights up the whole planet.”

The man who struck this particular match was Henry Every, a Devon-born Royal Navy renegade who had turned pirate and, after stealing a fortune from the richest man on earth, became the first object of an international manhunt. On that one violent day in the Indian Ocean, he set in motion a chain of events that, as Mr. Johnson shows, did much to shape the modern world.

. . . .

The career that was to capture the world’s attention began blandly enough in 1694, when Every was hired by a group of British investors who had formed a company called Spanish Expedition Shipping to recover treasure from sunken galleons in the West Indies. They built a “ship of force” named the Charles II, which, with three consorts, got as far as Madrid, a voyage that should have taken a couple of weeks but, for reasons lost to history, consumed five months. And there they waited, without getting their promised pay, for some never-received orders, until Every, the first mate of the Charles II, seized the ship, renamed her the Fancy and set sail for the riches of India.

. . . .

Euphemisms notwithstanding, reports of the attack generated growing anger on a national level. One of the earliest, issued just days later by a local British official, held that “it is certain the pirates, which these people affirm were all English, did do very barbarously by the people of the Gunsway . . . to make them confess where their money was.” They seized a woman “related to the king, returning from her pilgrimage to Mecca, in her old age. She they abused very much, and forced several other women, which caused one person of quality, his wife and nurse, to kill themselves to prevent the husbands seeing them (and their being) ravished.”

. . . .

Mr. Johnson writes: “Against extraordinary odds, Henry Every had made his fortune. But he must have realized, listening to the screams echoing across the water from the Gunsway, that his men’s actions had now made him something else: the world’s most wanted man.”

And, surely against any desire he likely had, one of the world’s most influential ones. His attack took place during the vigorous infancy of the joint-stock company, which—then as now—allowed investors to diminish their financial risk by investing in the whole operation rather than gambling on a single voyage. The joint-stock company most crucial to Britain—really, almost an alternate, farmed-out government of its own—was the East India Co. It had already grown so important to England’s commerce that to assuage the Mughal emperor’s wrath the whole British government had to make amends by condemning the Fancy’s attack and its English captain. And, in condemning it, had to suppress piracy as a whole. A mere 30 years earlier Sir Francis Drake might plausibly be seen as a pirate operating under British protection. No longer.

Parliament passed new laws; the East India Co.—which came to have a navy of its own—enforced them, and in time it became clear that Henry Every’s profitable day had helped bring about a trading system that, despite the fall of empires and the rise of modern technology, has not in essence changed for three centuries.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (PG apologizes for the paywall, but hasn’t figured out a way around it.)

Children’s book wins Australia Book of the Year award for first time.

From The New Publishing Standard:

The Australian Book Industry awards, affectionately known as Abias, is hosted by the Australian Publishers Association to recognize excellent Australian writing, although of course with a bias towards sales rather than literary quality.

In that respect it was only a matter of time before a Bluey book came up for an Abias award.

Published by PRH Australia imprint Puffin, titles from the Bluey board book series were the 2nd, 3rd and 4th bestselling books in the country in 2019, and derive from the Emmy-winning Australian children’s TV series of the same name. Bluey being a dog, the antics of which have earned sales totaling over 1 million across 7 titles in the series.

Link to the rest at The New Publishing Standard

PG checked and Amazon (US) does appear to carry Bluey books.

Amid the global coronavirus crisis Storytel sees subscribers grow 38%, streaming revenue 45%, even as publishers that sidelined digital struggle for survival

PG Note: Storytel sells audiobooks.

From The New Publishing Standard:

The only surprise with the latest results from Sweden-based Storytel would have been if subscriber rates and earnings had dipped amid a global crisis that has left print-focussed publishers imperiled.

That of course did not happen, and while streaming revenue took a notional hit at SEK 429m ($44m) compared to the SEK 438m forecast, this in large part was down to “negative currency effects from the Norwegian Krone and an increase in Family subscriptions during the period.”

Overall Storytel’s Q1 results came in at 33.5% revenue growth (streaming and non-streaming) to SEK 513.2 million ($52.7) and a subscriber boost of 71,400, taking Storytel’s total subscribers to 1.54 million.

The average number of paying subscribers in the Nordic segment was 785,800, while 43,200 subscribers were added outside the Nordics, taking total non-Nordic subscription levels to 369,000.

Tellander issued a Q2 forecast of 1.25 million global subscribers, amounting to 41% YOY growth, and a 43% YOY revenue growth to SEK 458m ($47m), with the caveat that the coronavirus crisis meant there was an element of uncertainty about how things might pan out.

Addressing shareholders, Tellander, echoing a common theme that audiobook downloads had dipped as commuters stayed at home, said that afternoon and evening consumption “more than compensated” for the downturn in commuter consumption.

. . . .

New consumption patterns have started to emerge as a result of lockdown on many markets. Morning listening while commuting has gone down in some markets for obvious reasons, but this is more than compensated for by a higher rate of listenings in the afternoons and evenings. In the Nordics, we also see a clear growth in consumption on Sundays and at the beginning of the week.

Crime & Thriller and Fiction have kept their positions as the most consumed genres in our service, but the influx of new users, combined with families spending more time with each other at home, has boosted the Children category to third place. At bedtime this category actually surpasses Fiction and is the second-most popular genre among our customers. Biographies and Personal Development are two other genres that have grown pronouncedly during the coronavirus pandemic.

Link to the rest at The New Publishing Standard

Confessions of a Bookseller

From The Wall Street Journal:

In the coastal Scotland community of Wigtown, tourists can pay to operate a bookstore called The Open Book for a week or two and live in an upstairs apartment, fulfilling their dream to run their own bookshop. The rental attraction is typically booked years ahead, proving that running a bookstore is a popular dream for bibliophiles.

Wigtown, known for its many bookstores, is also home to Shaun Bythell, who’s owned the prosaically named The Book Shop—“Largest in Scotland”—since 2001. Mr. Bythell has a more cautionary view of the business, as he made clear in “The Diary of a Bookseller,” published in an American edition in 2018, and “Confessions of a Bookseller,” just out in a U.S. edition, too. “Confessions,” which like its predecessor unfolds in the form of a daily journal, excels at the same kind of acid comedy that made “Diary” such a guilty treat. Those who can’t peruse the shelves of their local second-hand bookstore during this lockdown season will find Mr. Bythell’s diaries a sharp reminder of what they’re missing. But it’s probably better to shop at a bookstore than to own one, or so readers gather from Mr. Bythell’s wryly observed accounts of his tribulations in the trade.

In “Diary,” the 40-something author takes as his muse a 1936 George Orwell essay, “Bookshop Memories,” in which Orwell pointed to his time as a bookstore clerk as a personal purgatory. For outsiders, Orwell noted, old bookshops can easily seem “a kind of paradise where charming old gentlemen browse eternally among calf-bound folios.” In reality, Orwell countered, bookstores draw a lot of hapless souls “because a bookshop is one of the few places where you can hang about for a long time without spending any money.” Dealing with this clientele, Mr. Bythell writes, has turned quite a few bookshop owners into “a stereotype of the impatient, intolerant, antisocial proprietor.” He counts himself among them. “The constant barrage of dull questions, the parlous finances of the business, the incessant arguments with staff and the unending, exhausting, haggling customers have reduced me to this,” Mr. Bythell tells readers.

In his diary, though, Mr. Bythell gets the last word. His wicked pen and keen eye for the absurd recall what comic Ricky Gervais might say if he ran a bookshop. A “short man with a wispy beard” buys a copy of “The Hobbit,” which suggests a theory: “I am putting a mental jigsaw together,” Mr. Bythell writes, “of what a hobbit looks like, based on a composite of every customer I have ever sold a copy to.” 

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (PG apologizes for the paywall, but hasn’t figured out a way around it.)

Canadian Publishers on Court Setback

From Publishing Perspectives:

After an ominously long pause in news around Canada’s bitterly contested Copyright Modernization Act of 2012, the Association of Canadian Publishers (ACP) has issued a statement of “frustration and disappointment” over an appellate court’s decision.

. . . .

fter an ominously long pause in news around Canada’s bitterly contested Copyright Modernization Act of 2012, the Association of Canadian Publishers (ACP)  has issued a statement of “frustration and disappointment” over an appellate court’s decision.

. . . .

In its simplest terms, the new April 22 decision—relative to an original ruling that favored the publishers in the summer of 2017—says that the educational community has acted wrongly but that schools and universities are not required to pay the licensing fees certified by the copyright board.

This new decision, as described in media messaging from the association’s executive director Kate Edwards, asserts that while the “fair dealing” guidelines used by the Canadian education sector “do not meet the Supreme Court’s test for fair dealing, it did not uphold the decision that tariffs certified by the copyright board are mandatory.

“In essence,” Edwards says, “the decision reaffirms that the Canadian education sector has engaged in illegal and unfair copying on a systematic basis—and makes the prospect of enforcement for small- and medium-sized publishers impossible.”

. . . .

Announcing that the publishers association is “frustrated and disappointed” by this turn of events, the organization now flatly calls the Canadian market’s copyright framework “broken,” writing, “Amendments made to the copyright act in 2012 opened the door to illegal and systematic copying by the K-12 and post-secondary education sector, which has now accrued cumulative liabilities of more than $150 million (US$105.2 million).

“At the same time, amendments have limited statutory damages for non-commercial use to a point that enforcement is impractical. Urgent action on the part of the federal government is needed to implement reforms that will correct market damage and provide a policy framework that supports future investment in Canadian writing and publishing.”

. . . .

Briefly, the disputes around the Copyright Modernization Act have to do with the scope of “fair dealing” (also called “fair use”) in educational settings in Canada.

Since the implementation of the 2012 act in 2013, universities in the English-language Canadian market have worked along the lines of a “10 percent” approach, which other educational institutions, including K-12 schools, have then adopted. In some university settings, instructors have copied up to 10 percent of a book, or a full chapter, and to then distributed this copied material to students without a publisher’s permission and without paying a licensing fee, sometimes called a tariff.

At the height of what turned into a furious standoff between educational entities and the publishers, all the school boards in Ontario and the ministries of education for all Canadian provinces except British Columbia and Québec filed a lawsuit in February 2018 against the government’s copyright collection agency, Access Copyright.

And what the Association of Canadian Publishers—which represents the Canadian-owned English-language houses—had seen as its greatest victory was a July 12, 2017, ruling in Access Copyright v. York University from the federal court of Justice Michael L. Phelan, who wrote in his decision that the Modernization Act’s guidelines as interpreted by York University were unfair and that tariffs (those licensing fees) certified by the country’s copyright board are enforceable.

Our full write on the court’s 2017 is here. To refresh you quickly, Justice Phelan wrote, in part, “The fact that the guidelines could allow for copying of up to 100 percent of the work of a particular author, so long as the copying was divided up between courses, indicates that the guidelines are arbitrary and are not soundly based in principle.

“York has not satisfied the fairness aspect of the quantitative amount of the dealing,” Phelan writes in his decision. “There is no explanation why 10 percent or a single article or any other limitation is fair. Qualitatively, the parts copied can be the core of an author’s work, even to the extent of 100 percent of the work.”

And Phelan struck down the concept that York and other educational venues had cited, that of being able to “opt out” of paying licensing fees if they wanted to, fees which normally are covered by a several dollars per student per academic term. To accept that educational institutions could simply decide not to participate in the collection of funds federally mandated in the creation of Access Copyright would, the court wrote, certainly lead to economic damage to publishing.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

The UK Scraps Its 20-Percent VAT on Digital Books

From Publishing Perspectives:

In the kind of major turnabout that publishing professionals normally can only dream about, Her Majesty’s Treasury in the United Kingdom has issued a statement today (April 30), announcing that as of tomorrow—May 1—the UK’s long-derided value added tax (VAT) on digital publications will be gone.

. . . .

Understandably upbeat, the Publishers Association’s CEO Stephen Lotinga says, “We’re delighted that the government has taken this step to significantly fast-track the plans to scrap VAT on ebooks and journals.

“This is a boost to readers, authors and publishers, especially important at this difficult time,” he says. “We hope that it will enable many more people to easily access and benefit from the comfort, entertainment and knowledge that books provide.”

Until now, the UK’s publishing industry has labored under a 20-percent tax on digital publications, while the print rate had been zeroed.

. . . .

Logic seems to have fallen on the chancellor of the exchequer, Rishi Sunak, who “said the zero rate of VAT will now apply to all e-publications from tomorrow (May 1)—seven months ahead of schedule—potentially slashing the cost of a £12 ebook by £2 and e-newspapers subscriptions by up to £25 a year.” That’s a saving of US$2.52 on a $15 book, and as much as $31 coming off the price of a digital newspaper subscription, by the government’s calculations.

. . . .

“We want to make it as easy as possible for people across the UK to get hold of the books they want whilst they’re staying at home and saving lives. That is why we have fast tracked plans to scrap VAT on all e-publications, which will make it cheaper for publishers to sell their books, magazines and newspapers.”

. . . .

  • The Financial Times has reported that nearly 40 percent of adults surveyed in the UK have said that reading was helping them cope while they stay at home.
  • The Reading Agency released a survey—here written up by our colleague Alison Flood at The Guardian–showing that one in three adults is reading more since the lockdown was announced on March 23.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

Helping youngsters confront their fears in our lockdown era

From The LittleHampton Gazette:

Samuel and the Monster has been self-published by Alexia Pinchbeck at £9.99.

. . . .

Alexia, aged 38, who lives in East Wittering, said: “Samuel and the Monster, a picture book for two to five-year-olds, is a short, simple story with brightly coloured, bold illustrations that overnight put a stop to my four-year-old son Samuel’s nightmares and broken nights. It is written and illustrated by me.

“After experiencing six months of horrendous nightmares and disrupted nights with my then three-year-old, Samuel, as well as the demands of a newborn baby, I was beside myself with sleep deprivation.

“Then, one night, everything changed. Trying a completely different approach, I got Samuel out of his bed, told him take a deep breath and declare with conviction ‘There are no monsters!’

“We repeated this until he was giggling, happy and in a relaxed state, when I asked him to repeat the mantra ‘I am Samuel, I am Samuel, I am Samuel and I am amazing!’

“By the end, he was a different child, and went back to bed relaxed and happy. Overnight, his nightmares disappeared. And, rather than reclaiming my night’s sleep, I went down to the kitchen and wrote and illustrated this simple story between 2am-6am.

“It was very spontaneous, with no planning whatsoever, and the words and illustrations have altered little since that initial 2am version. By the time Samuel woke at 7am, I had a story and pictures to accompany it and I read it to him. He was thrilled. And, more importantly, he has slept through the night since.

. . . .

“With everything that is going on currently, I questioned whether now is the right time to launch, but after much thought I realised that now more than ever we need a book which provides a discussion point for fears, anxieties and our monsters for youngsters between 2-5 years old.

“I believe this book now has more relevance to a child who might be experiencing greater anxiety around their existing fears, or new worries. That, and of course all of us parents at home are needing more books to read with our children than ever before.”

Alexia added: “The actual experience of writing and illustrating the initial idea was exciting. It is a simple story and idea, with brightly coloured illustrations and loveable characters. Even the monster. The whole time I was painting I was full of energy from 2am-6am, motivated by the possibility of helping Samuel to sleep and, by association, the rest of the family.

“It then took a year to get to this initial point through to publication, some points of which have been really quite challenging. It took me many months to come to the conclusion that I would self-publish, namely after a conversation with a friend who has both published and self-published books made me realise that, even if successful in eventually getting an agent, it could be two years before I would then see the book on the shelves.

“So, having run a – very different – business already, at the beginning of the year, I made the decision to self-publish. I got my website up and running, worked with a graphic designer and a book designer to turn the book into a book of the standards of a traditionally published book, explored all of the print, production, packaging and postage.”

. . . .

“Samuel and I are working on a sequel to Samuel and the Monster together, as it turns out there is more to the story that we are learning about at the minute. As he is home with me homeschooling, we’re using it as an opportunity to work on our writing and storytelling skills. His tales are marvellous.”

. . . .

“But it was only a few years ago, shortly after having my first child, Samuel, now nearly five, that I actually got really honest with myself about wanting to write and illustrate books. “Whilst initially this was children’s books, recently the desire to write something longer form has started to niggle at me, so I’m finding a few minutes every day to start to write that.

“If not writing, the words start to build up in my head, and its almost like they curdle into something negative if not siphoned off for good purpose.”

. . . .

“The feeling writing gives me is addictive, whether analogue: a gorgeous black pen spooling out across a smooth blank page of a notebook or, slightly less satisfying but still enjoyable nonetheless, letting out a flood of words on to the blank screen of my computer.”

Link to the rest at The LittleHampton Gazette and here’s a link to the author’s website, where you can order a copy.

Unfortunately, PG was unable to find the book for sale or pre-order on either Amazon or Amazon-UK.

PG was unable to resist a photo on the author’s website of Ms. Pinchbeck reading to Samuel. Click on the photo to see the author’s Portfolio and more photos.

Booksellers Association criticises Amazon for ‘ill-judged’ hardship fund donation

From The Bookseller:

The Booksellers Association (BA) has branded Amazon’s £250,000 donation to a booksellers hardship fund an “ill-judged attempt to mitigate a decades-long campaign to undermine the bookselling sector”.

Yesterday, it was revealed the retail giant was behind a huge donation to the Book Trade Charity fund for booksellers facing hardship during the pandemic. The pledge was sparked by a trade crowdfunder and brought the total fund up to £380,000.

Meryl Halls, m.d. of the BA, earlier supported the crowdfunding effort and praised the “heartfelt and moving response” from the trade for her struggling members.

However, Halls said she was now shocked by the revelation that Amazon had donated the large sum and said many of her members were angry and had responded by calling for the company to pay its fair share of tax.

She said: “The BA and our independent booksellers are taken aback by the revelation that the recent large donation is from the company held responsible by the majority of booksellers for the long-term demise of high street bookselling, and booksellers’ responses have been first stunned silence as they process the dissonance of the situation, followed quickly by a real sense of anger at the discordance at the heart of the gesture.

“There is a definite sense that this seems like an ill-judged attempt to mitigate a decades-long campaign to undermine the bookselling sector at the moment when we are facing the biggest existential threat we have ever faced.

“A common reaction amongst booksellers has been – ‘if Amazon really wants to support independent bookshops, then let them join bookshops in paying its fair share of tax’.”

The identity of the donor was originally not revealed by the charity, who said only that it had come from someone “committed to independent bookshops as part of a mixed bookselling economy”.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Perhaps he missed it, but PG didn’t see anything in the OP indicating that The Booksellers Association had refused to accept the £250,000 donation from Amazon or sent the money to Chancellor of the Exchequer as a portion of Amazon’s fair share of tax payments.

Sweden’s BookBeat Rides High on the Pandemic’s Audiobook Boom

From Publishing Perspectives:

In what many of us refer to as “normal times,” says Niclas Sandin, “the secret of the insane audiobook growth you’ve seen in the last decade in the Nordic markets comes down to premium content that the users are willing to pay for.”

. . . .

“In Sweden, for instance,” Stockholm’s Sandin says, “we have more than 100,000 books in our catalogue. But 50 percent of all the consumption comes from the 50 most popular authors. Of this, 90 percent of the consumption is in Swedish even though the English catalogue is bigger in size. And we see similar behavior in both Finland and Germany.”

Sandin is CEO of BookBeat, which in these not-at-all normal times is experiencing its highest rates of growth in its history during the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. For all the dependability of the kind of content that draws consumers, he’s watching his service’s numbers jump fast.

“So far, about one month into this strange new world,” Niclas tells Publishing Perspectives, “we’ve had the highest number of new users registering with BookBeat ever, since our launch in 2016. The effect has been most apparent in Finland and Germany, which have stricter lockdowns than Sweden.

“In Finland during the last week,” he says, “we’ve actually been the fourth most-downloaded app in the App Store, shadowing communication tools like Microsoft Teams, Google Hangout, and Zoom. This means we’ve already reached 300,000 paying users just a couple of months into 2020 and there’s no sign of the growth slowing down on any of our core markets.”

. . . .

“Later in 2020, we’ll add Denmark and Poland to our core markets since they’ve shown a lot of potential and we see room for more players. The other 23 markets are currently in an evaluation phase in which we try to establish the potential to do a broad launch. The key is to make sure that consumer behavior is there and that they’re willing to pay for digital audiobooks.

“And at the same time, we need to see an interest from publishers to produce books for each market so there’s a sustainable ecosystem.”

That’s an important key to success for audio subscriptions, he says. Sandin has learned that waving huge numbers of titles at consumers without being able to purvey the most popular books of the day just won’t work. “They will call your bluff if you pretend to have a wide offering that merely consists of hundreds of thousand titles that almost nobody will ever listen to on that market.

“If you want to fix this, we believe the most rational and sustainable solution is to get local publishers onboard and get them to invest in audio. To achieve that, you have to make sure you offer them transparent and predictable revenue so they benefit as the market starts growing.

“Because of this, our standard offering to publishers is a net-price model instead of the variable-revenue share model many other services seem to push.

“Meaning the key is to get the major publishers in each market onboard. So we focus our efforts where this is a possibility, as in Germany and Poland instead of trying to do it all by ourselves on new markets without the publishers’ backing.”

. . . .

“Looking at what’s popular, the clearest trend is actually great and long fiction series.

“Last time I looked,  the seven Harry Potter books had all reached the Top 10 list of our most listened-to titles during the first two weeks of April. I guess people, both young and old, need other stories in their life than just the continuous news flow right now, and what could be better than bingeing through 100 hours about the world’s most famous wizard?”

. . . .

“And the big shift we see,” Sandin says, “is that we’ve lost the commuter peaks. “They’ve been replaced by more listening at other times during the day.

“Overall, the average listening levels are the same and in some markets even higher than before. We actually had the highest listening hours ever for BookBeat on the Monday after the Easter weekend.”

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

Causeway Bay Books Owner Attacked

From Shelf Awareness:

Lam Wing-kee, one of the five Hong Kong publishers and booksellers kidnapped by China in 2015, was attacked yesterday by a man who threw red paint at him, days before he was to open a bookstore in Taiwan.

. . . .

“I was attacked with red paint in the cafe,” Lam told Reuters. “Some people don’t want me to open the bookshop in Taiwan.” He described the attack as a threat by supporters of Beijing.

Last week, Lam said he plans to open Causeway Bay Books, named after the original store in Hong Kong, this coming Saturday, April 25, in Taipei.

Lam moved to Taiwan last year, when a law that would have allowed people to be sent to China for trial came close to passage in Hong Kong. Mass protests led to the withdrawal of the law. But in recent days, Hong Kong authorities have arrested many pro-democracy activists.

The five owners and staff members of publisher Mighty Current and its bookstore, Causeway Bay Books, were kidnapped and detained in 2015 by China, which was unhappy that they published and sold books critical of the Chinese leadership. In 2016, Lam was released on bail and allowed to return to Hong Kong to retrieve a hard drive listing the bookstore’s customers, but he went public, telling about being blindfolded by police and being interrogated for months.

Link to the rest at Shelf Awareness

PG thinks it’s good to be reminded that, as difficult as the book business can be for authors, publishers and booksellers in Western nations, our challenges are minuscule compared to those doing the same things elsewhere in the world.

Here’s a 2016 article about this same subject, from The Bookseller:

Author publishes missing Hong Kong booksellers’ title online

The author of a controversial book on China’s president has released the title online.

The provocative book, believed to be the reason five booksellers from the Mighty Current publishing house in Hong Kong went missing between October and December 2015, is a tell-all about the love life of China’s president, Xi Jinping, entitled Xi Jinping and His Lover.

Its US-based Chinese author, who writes under the pseudonym Xi Nuo, told the BBC he published it online to challenge the Chinese authorities and that the publishers should not be held responsible. His co-author has not been named in the interests of safety.

The book was completed in 2014, but publisher Gui Minhai decided against releasing it, according to Xi Nuo, following a visit from a Chinese government agent.

Described by the BBC as “written in simple and almost vulgur language”, the title is presented as a work of fiction but includes real life figures, with details of purported affairs of China’s leader as well as “alleged incidents” within his marriages.

Xi Nuo told the BBC: “I decided to publish this book. I want to tell the Chinese authorities and Xi Jinping, the president of China, that you are wrong. Completely wrong. You better release the five guys. Let them go back home.”

The author of a controversial book on China’s president has released the title online.

The provocative book, believed to be the reason five booksellers from the Mighty Current publishing house in Hong Kong went missing between October and December 2015, is a tell-all about the love life of China’s president, Xi Jinping, entitled Xi Jinping and His Lover.

Its US-based Chinese author, who writes under the pseudonym Xi Nuo, told the BBC he published it online to challenge the Chinese authorities and that the publishers should not be held responsible. His co-author has not been named in the interests of safety.

The book was completed in 2014, but publisher Gui Minhai decided against releasing it, according to Xi Nuo, following a visit from a Chinese government agent.

Described by the BBC as “written in simple and almost vulgur language”, the title is presented as a work of fiction but includes real life figures, with details of purported affairs of China’s leader as well as “alleged incidents” within his marriages.

Xi Nuo told the BBC: “I decided to publish this book. I want to tell the Chinese authorities and Xi Jinping, the president of China, that you are wrong. Completely wrong. You better release the five guys. Let them go back home.”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Love, hope and business

From The Bookseller:

Contrary to what you might read elsewhere, there are three stages to a pandemic. The up curve, the downwards one and the bit in between. I don’t wish to get ahead of myself, but with Italy allowing bookshops to re-open and other first-wave countries slowly and carefully relaxing their restrictions, the United Kingdom will also shortly be in transition too.

There is some way to go, of course, and with Covid-19-related deaths continuing to escalate, this will remain for many a scary and discombobulating time. A generation-defining moment of fear, change and renewal. Not unique to the book trade, but deeply felt by this most social and empathic of businesses.

. . . .

“Love is keeping our distance.”

. . . .

A few weeks ago, I alluded to the sentiments of France’s President Macron in arguing that no bookshop should go down as a result of the economic fallout created by the coronavirus. But there remains other areas of the trade also severely impacted. Small presses have seen their revenue drop by as much as 90%, and now face increased costs from storing books that were meant to be in bookshops. Freelances’ commissions have dried up, and they must wait for invoices to be paid—never on time, of course. As we note in the magazine this week, many suppliers, such as printers and distributors, have kept on, albeit at reduced levels. Libraries’ doors have been shut at a time when their services have never been more in demand. Event organisers’ businesses have vanished. And many authors’ books may not now have the lives their creators would have wished.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Camus’s Inoculation Against Hate

From The New York Times Book Review:

Toward the end of January, I began to notice a strange echo between my work and the news. A mysterious virus had appeared in the city of Wuhan, and though the virus resembled previous diseases, there was something novel about it. But I’m not a doctor, an epidemiologist or a public health expert; I’m a literary translator. Usually my work moves more slowly than the events of the moment, since translation involves lingering over the patterns of a sentence or the connotations of a word. But this time the pace of my work and the pace of the virus were eerily similar. That’s because I’m translating Albert Camus’s novel “The Plague.”

One morning, my task was to revise a scene in which the young doctor Rieux, realizing that plague has broken out in the Algerian city of Oran, tries to persuade his bureaucratic colleagues that they should take the outbreak seriously. He knows that if they don’t, half the city will die. The city’s leader doesn’t want to alarm people. He would prefer to avoid calling this disease what it is. When someone says “plague,” the politician looks at the door, making sure no rumor of this word has escaped down the tidy administrative hallways. The dramatic irony is delicious — like watching characters debate the word “bomb” when there’s one ticking under the table. Dr. Rieux is impatient. “You’re looking at the problem wrong,” he says. “It’s not a question of vocabulary, it’s a question of time.”

As I translated that sentence, I felt a fissure open between the page and the world, like a curtain lifted from a two-way mirror. When I looked at the text, I saw the world behind it — the ambulance sirens of Bergamo, the quarantine of Hubei province, the odd disjunction between spring flowers at the market and hospital ships in the news. It was — and is — very difficult to focus, to navigate between each sentence and its real-time double, to find the fuzzy edges where these reflections meet.

. . . .

“The Plague” did not come easily to Camus. He wrote it in Oran, during World War II, when he was living in an apartment borrowed from in-laws he disliked, and then in wartime France, tubercular and alone, separated from his wife after missing the last boat back to Algeria. Unlike the shorter, harsher sentences of “The Stranger,” which Sartre quipped could have been titled “Translated From Silence,” the sentences of “The Plague” bear witness to the tension and monotony of illness and quarantine: They stretch their lengths to match the pull of anxious waiting. By the time the book was published in 1947, writers were looking for a way to bear witness as well to the Nazi occupation of France, and “The Plague” was championed as the novel of the occupation and the Resistance. For Camus, illness was both his lived experience and a metaphor for war, the creep of fascism, the horror of Vichy France collaborating in mass murder.

Link to the rest at The New York Times Book Review

Books from Scotland: the big picture

From The Bookseller:

It feels slightly strange to be writing this introduction to the Books from Scotland special as the world, and the world of Scottish books, has changed greatly, perhaps even irrevocably, since we started planning these features some months ago. The impact the coronavirus will have on Scottish publishers, booksellers, authors, agents, libraries and festivals—in short, Scotland’s entire books industry—is substantial, very real and absolutely immediate. It would be unrealistic to pretend that the next year or two will be anything but challenging for most of the sector.

Even so, there are many reasons to be optimistic (even if cautiously so) about the next few months and years. Spending even just a brief amount of time in the Scottish books world will give readers an appreciation of the strength and depth of talent and innovative spirit on hand, and give an insight into why it is one of the most vibrant of the UK’s cultural sectors.

That vibrancy is undoubtedly partly due to the changing face of modern Scotland itself. In the past few decades—particularly, it could be reasonably argued, since devolution—the country has become more and more of a dynamic, progressive and outward-facing nation. Its arts, and its publishing sector, have both reflected and helped to drive that.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the Scottish book scene is how diverse and cutting-edge it is. We have showcased just a handful of the new voices of modern Scottish literature across this special, including the Cairo-born, Aberdeen-based author Leila Aboulela; the working-class queer Glaswegian kid-turned- fashion designer-turned-acclaimed novelist Douglas Stuart; and Melanie Reid, the high-flying journalist who writes movingly and humorously, but in a very honest and clear-eyed manner, of adjusting to a life with a disability after she was paralysed following an accident.

. . . .

The Scottish book trade entered 2020 off an incredibly strong year. Physical book sales rose across the country for the fifth consecutive year in 2019; the Edinburgh International Book Festival welcomed a record 265,000 attendees; a string of new indie bookshops opened (including Topping & Company and the Portobello Bookshop in Edinburgh); and another Edinburgh bookshop, Golden Hare Books, was crowned the UK’s best indie at the British Book Awards. Meanwhile, major award wins included Sandstone Press-published Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi (translated by Marilyn Booth) winning the International Booker Prize.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Down but not out.

From The New Publishing Standard:

[O]ne of the regular features of our global publishing industry coverage has been the phenomenon that is Big Bad Wolf, the Malaysia-based reseller of remaindered English-language books that astonishes at every turn by selling said books, by the million, in countries where English is not the first language.

Take Indonesia for example. Since its first event in 2016 Big Bad Wolf has been taking typically 5 million books at a time to Jakarta, and millions more to smaller Indonesian cities, stacking them high in huge halls, and attracting hundreds of thousands of eager buyers.

And doing the same thing, with millions more books across, in 2019, more than thirty cities in ten countries, from Taiwan to the UAE, from Pakistan to the Philippines, from Sri Lanka to South Korea. And also Thailand, Myanmar, and homeland Malaysia, in addition to Indonesia, for those curious.

This year started with high expectations to far exceed that. A debut event in Phnom Penh, Cambodia kicked off the 2020 Big Bad Wolf calendar, quickly followed by visits to Yangon in Myanmar, Manila in the Philippines, and Pahang in Malaysia before arriving in Indonesia in March.

But despite having thermal scanners at the entrances to check visitor temperatures, the Jakarta event was a race against time as Covid-19 spread across the country, and in fact the event was wisely called off early when it became clear the virus was gaining ground in Jakarta.

And then the Big Bad Wolf fell silent, with no events lined up in April or beyond, and with the home country Malaysia under a strict lockdown.

Link to the rest at The New Publishing Standard

Italy gives bookshops permission to reopen

From The Bookseller:

Italy, the country worst affected so far by the coronavirus pandemic in Europe, is allowing bookshops to reopen.

Italian premier Giuseppe Conte announced the development, with stationery shops and children’s clothes shops also among the small number of stores allowed to reopen this week. However, it was confirmed the country’s wider quarantine and travel restrictions will remain in place until 3rd May.

Ricardo Franco Levi, president of the Italian Publishers Association, issued a statement to say re-opening bookshops marked “a first step” in a return to normality for the world of books, and aid to support publishers and booksellers would be indispensable.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Fantasy Is a Dangerous Tour Guide

From Electric Lit:

Although I read Cortázar stories many times, in high school and university, I never got tired of them. There was always something new to be said about his sense of humor—especially in that story about a guy who can’t stop vomiting rabbits—and the way in which he combined mystery, taboo and a sense of the uncanny. His stories were perfect artifacts, simple, but at the same time profoundly complex structures in which reality was disturbed by strange, marvelous or fantastic events. In an interview with Margarita García Flores, in Mexico’s Radio Universidad, Cortázar talked about the importance of play, about the “right to play, to imagination, to fantasy and magic.” After all of those lessons with all those different stories as teachers, at least one thing  became clear to me: when Cortázar wrote, he had fun. 

All Fires the Fire was the first Cortázar book I read, when I was twelve. Many of the stories in that book stayed with me, especially the first one “The Southern Thruway,” the story of a traffic jam that lasts several months, which felt like something that could happen any day on Mexico City’s highways. I didn’t, however, remember “Island at Noon.” It is not one of the most quoted or studied stories by Cortázar, but now that I reread it, that seems unfair. It’s a small jewel, like the view of a perfect island through the window of a plane. The protagonist is called Marini, and he’s a flight attendant who watches every day at noon from the plane’s window the outline of the same Greek island, Xiros. He becomes obsessed with it, with all the new details he discovers by contemplating it from afar, just for a few seconds: “the smallest details were implacably adjusted to the memory of the preceding flight.”

Link to the rest at Electric Lit

Providence Lost

From The Critic:

Of all the events in the history of British Isles from the Conquest to the present day perhaps none is quite so important to understand as the Reformation and, with that, to understand one of its main and more immediate offspring and consequences, the English civil wars. Their legacy is everywhere, as was outlined in one of the best history books of the last 20 years, Blair Worden’s Roundhead Reputations. Some of the fundamental divisions in our society, not necessarily between Labour and Conservatives, but of attitude and broader questions of ideology, can be traced back to them.

Our forebears, even 250 years after the events, had a better understanding of these things than we do. When, in the late 1890s, it was decided to put up a statue to Oliver Cromwell outside parliament, there were such fierce objections to the state paying for it that Lord Rosebery — who as prime minister had been one of the progenitors of the idea, but who was by this stage no longer in office — paid for it out of his own considerably well-lined pockets. It was strangely appropriate that he did, because the Primrose family coffers had been boosted by his marriage to a Rothschild; and it was one of the Lord Protector’s more enlightened policies, in 1656, to re-admit the Jews to England, whence they had been expelled more than 300 years earlier.

The concerns about Cromwell rumbled on well into the twentieth century. When Winston Churchill, as First Lord of the Admiralty, suggested to King George V that one of the new Dreadnoughts be named after the Lord Protector, the King roundly objected, reminding Churchill that there had been an unhappy sequence of events involving Cromwell and his distant predecessor, Charles Stuart.

. . . .

Providence Lost: The Rise and Fall of Cromwell’s Protectorate, by Paul Lay, concentrates on the period of less than five years between Cromwell assuming control of England as Lord Protector in 1653 and his death — supposedly from gout and “various distempers” (which may have included Fenland malaria, contracted long before in Cromwell’s earlier life as a Huntingdonshire farmer) — on 3 September 1658, the anniversary of his famous victories at Dunbar and Worcester. Cromwell was 59 — far from a bad age for those days — and as Lay also points out, his health had been broken by the hard physical campaigning of the civil wars, and by the illnesses, including dysentery, that he had contracted during them.

. . . .

What Lay gives us is a warts-and-all picture of a man with the weaknesses of any other, and who struggled heroically to stabilise, and to attempt to unite, a country shattered by a decade of civil wars.

More than that, of course, Cromwell had to unite a country that had gone against an ancient precept, that of hereditary monarchical rule. He was one of the more prominent men who signed Charles Stuart’s death warrant, but it was far from clear at the time, in the winter of 1648-49, that Cromwell would be the man who ended up as the next English head of state. The new form of rule was meant to be parliamentary; but when Cromwell and others close to him in the Commonwealth forces discerned just what a shambles this was, a new form of administration had to be found: and that was the Protectorate.

Link to the rest at The Critic

Sheltering in Place with Montaigne

From The Paris Review:

By the time Michel de Montaigne wrote “Of Experience,” the last entry in his third and final book of essays, the French statesman and author had weathered numerous outbreaks of plague (in 1585, while he was mayor of Bordeaux, a third of the population perished), political uprisings, the death of five daughters, and an onslaught of physical ailments, from rotting teeth to debilitating kidney stones.

All the while, Montaigne was writing. From a tower on his family’s estate in southwestern France, he’d innovated a leisurely yet commodious literary mode that mirrored—while also helping to manufacture—the unpredictable movements of his racing mind. Part evolving treatise, part prismatic self-portrait, the essai, in Montaigne’s conception, was the antidote to self-isolation, a recurring conference in the midst of quarantine, perhaps even a kind of textual necromancy—his best friend and intellectual sparring partner, the poet Étienne de La Boétie, had died of plague in 1563.

. . . .

Given the subject matter, “Of Experience” has about it a remarkably buoyant magnitude. Take, for instance, the following passage, as translated by Donald Frame in The Complete Essays of Montaigne:

It takes management to enjoy life. I enjoy it twice as much as others, for the measure of enjoyment depends on the greater or lesser attention that we lend it. Especially at this moment, when I perceive that mine is so brief in time, I try to increase it in weight; I try to arrest the speed of its flight by the speed with which I grasp it, and to compensate for the haste of its ebb by my vigor in using it. The shorter my possession of life, the deeper and fuller I must make it.

Propelled by verbs—perceive, arrest, grasp, make, try, try—the sentences wheel and wrestle across the page, resisting stasis at every turn, refusing to wait around. They achieve that mimetic, nearly miraculous work of performing the very action they describe. Here and elsewhere, Montaigne’s musings on mortality, his gripes about illness and aging, his love-hate relationship with the natural order, not to mention his fervent epistemological stocktaking, make for a stubborn blueprint for life in the red zone, an operative action plan for how to wring futility’s neck.

Link to the rest at The Paris Review

Libraries Connected launches online services round-up

From The Bookseller:

Our buildings may be temporarily closed but public libraries still have lots to offer their communities. Here at Libraries Connected, we are showcasing the best digital services from public libraries in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Working with a team of public librarians from across the country, we’ll be highlighting key services that can be accessed through library websites and social media platforms.

. . . .

On this page you can find some of the excellent online rhyme times, story times and lego clubs that keep children engaged and support early literacy and creative thinking. We want to help families to choose live and recorded events not just from their own library service but anywhere in the country.

We’re also promoting activities to keep adults connected through library reading groups and book discussion groups.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

It appears that some, but not all, activities may require a British library card. PG didn’t check to see if non-UK residents could apply for a remote guest card.

The following library program appears to originate on the island of Guernsey, part of the Bailiwick of Guernsey, consisting of the Channel Islands of Guernsey, Alderney and Sark.

The Bailiwick of Guernsey goes back to 933, when the islands came under the control of William Longsword, having been annexed from the Duchy of Brittany by the Duchy of Normandy. The island of Guernsey and the other Channel Islands formed part of the lands of William the Conqueror. In 1204 France conquered mainland Normandy – but not the offshore islands of the bailiwick. The islands represent the last remnants of the medieval Duchy of Normandy.

The Bailiwick of Guernsey is not to be confused with The Bailiwick of Jersey, also located in the English Channel consisting of the island of Jersey together with nearby uninhabited islands and rocks collectively named Les Dirouilles, Les Écréhous, Les Minquiers, and Les Pierres de Lecq.

Novel Rejected for Pandemic Lockdown Published 15 Years Later

From The Kashmir Observer:

A dystopian novel about a deadly pandemic wreaking havoc across the world that was rejected 15 years ago has finally been published after reality once more proved itself stranger than fiction.

Scottish author Peter May, 68, a former journalist and BBC screenwriter, wrote Lockdown in 2005, imagining London as the epicentre of a global outbreak, only to see his manuscript turned away by publishers, who deemed its subject matter “extremely unrealistic and unreasonable”.

“At the time I wrote the book, scientists were predicting that bird flu was going to be the next major world pandemic,” Mr May told CNN.

“It was a very, very scary thing and it was a real possibility, so I put a lot of research into it and came up with the idea, what if this pandemic began in London? What could happen if a city like that was completely locked down?”

His novel centres around a police detective investigating the murder of a child after their bones are discovered at the site of a makeshift hospital, an idea anticipating the opening of the NHS Nightingale at the capital’s ExCeL Centre this week.

“British editors at the time thought my portrayal of London under siege by the invisible enemy of H5N1 [bird flu] was unrealistic and could never happen – in spite of the fact that all my research showed that, really, it could,” the author told iNews

Following the thriller’s dismissal, Mr May abandoned the project and eventually came to forget he had ever written it, until a fan contacted him on Twitter suggesting he write something for the age of the coronavirus, refreshing his memory and prompting him to retrieve the file from a Dropbox folder.

“I thought about it for a minute before I realised that I’ve kind of already done it,” he recalls. “I told my publisher about it and my editor just about fell out of his chair. He read the entire book overnight and the next morning he said, ‘This is brilliant. We need to publish this now.’”

Link to the rest at The Kashmir Observer

Lockdown was unavailable on Amazon when PG checked, but the preview below worked right after PG posted it.

Book sales surge as self-isolating readers stock up on ‘bucket list’ novels

From The Guardian:

Book sales have leapt across the country as readers find they have extra time on their hands, with bookshops reporting a significant increase in sales of longer novels and classic fiction.

In the week the UK’s biggest book chain, Waterstones, finally shut its stores after staff complained that they felt at risk from the coronavirus, its online sales were up by 400% week on week. It reported a “significant uplift” on classic – and often timely – titles including Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar.

Waterstones also reported a boost for lengthy modern novels, headed by the new bestseller Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light, but also including Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch and The Secret History, David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest and A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. Dystopian tales are also selling well, particularly Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.

Nielsen BookScan, the UK’s official book sales monitor, also reported nationwide increases in sales for War and Peace, The Lord of the Rings and the first instalment of Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time.

“Our bestseller is Hilary Mantel – those 900 pages aren’t going to seem daunting any more and it’s doing really well,” said Waterstones’ Bea Carvalho. “And we’ve seen really good sales for the classics – those bucket list books, the ‘I’ve always wanted to read it’ type things such as Infinite Jest.”

Total physical book sales in the UK jumped 6% in the week to Saturday 21 March, according to Nielsen, noting a 212% growth in volume sales for “home learning” titles, a 77% boost for school textbooks and study guides, and a 35% week-on-week boost for paperback fiction, driven by supermarket shoppers. Arts and crafts book sales were also up by 38% week on week.

Adult non-fiction, however, was down by 13%, as readers sought solace in imaginary worlds.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

PG notes this is from the March 25 edition of The Guardian.

I miss the smell of the books mixed with coffee

From The Bookseller:

For 32 years my shop has been my home from home! Bookselling has been my passion for so long, everything I do and think involves books in one way or another. Every book I read I think “I know exactly which one of our customers will love this” or “I think I will go big on this one” .

I nose at people’s bookcases on TV and in photos, try my utmost to see what people read on public transport. The thought of my lovely shop empty and unloved with no energy and laughter from our customers is making me sad beyond words. I worry about our lovely customers quite a few are over 70. To a lot of them we really are so important.

I will miss my colleagues who are like second family to me, and yes of course I worry about how long this will last and what impact it will have on us in the long term.

But above all I miss my shop and I miss the smell of the books mixed with coffee. I miss the deliveries which after all these years in the business hold the same excitement for me when I open a tote and wonder what’s in it.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

India’s Juggernaut Opens #ReadInstead, a Campaign and Literature Fest

From Publishing Perspectives:

Known in the industry as one of world publishing’s most resourceful thinkers, New Delhi’s Chiki Sarkar has alerted Publishing Perspectives this morning (March 26) to her sure-footed adaptation to the COVID-19 crisis.

“As you know,” she says, “the coronavirus has closed down print business–so that part of our business is making zero money, as it is for all Indian publishers.”

Indeed, as Jeffrey Gettleman and Kai Schultz have reported at The New York Times, India’s prime minister Narendra Modi gave his nation just four hours’ notice before locking down all 11.3 billion people for three full weeks, “the biggest and most severe action undertaken anywhere to stop the spread of the coronavirus.”

. . . .

So it is that in announcing the shuttering of India on Tuesday night, Modi said, “There will be a total ban on coming out of your homes … Every state, every district, every lane, every village will be under lockdown.”

Sarkar, whose Juggernaut publishing company is two years old and presents more than 5,000 titles by some 2,000 authors, is, fortunately, a publisher whose grasp of digital marketing capabilities has defined her success. Supported by her CEO Simran Khara and a strong editorial staff, she’s been carefully watched for her understanding that making books less intimidating to many in her culture has meant also making Internet retail and development less intimidating in a tradition-bound industry.

You see how she puts across an aggressive appeal to readers on her site. The first banner in her slider at the top is a massive ad for a book offering the World Health Organization’s guidelines on safety in the pandemic. And after a single line of “Readers Club New Releases,” she’s showing potential customers an entire “COVID-19 Reading List.”

This is the sort of adaptive, social response she uses to reach into consumer interests, and as her enormous market’s physical retail channels went dark on Wednesday morning—and with some foresight—Sarkar was positioned to take advantage of her online fluency.

“Last week,” as the contagion’s approach grew, she tells us, “we initiated a massive #ReadInstead campaign.

“We made our app go free, which has been huge for us. Our installs doubled and our ebook downloads have grown four times. The campaign is also being extremely well received on social media.

. . . .

With the #ReadInstead campaign moving, she says, “We launched a massive online literature festival with Scroll.in“–the news and entertainment site that registers a reported 12 million unique users’ visits daily.

. . . .

The festival opens Friday (March 27), and Sarkar says, “We’ll run it for a month, and most of India’s top writers are taking part. The festival has talks, dialogues, and writing workshops, and some of India’s most respected actors are doing readings.”

She’s not kidding about the level. Author Amish Tripathi—who can pull seven-figure advances for his work based in Indian mythology—leads an impressive array of authors whose headshots have gone up in advance of a timed announcement coordinated with Scroll.in.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

PG noted the statement that ebook downloads have increased four-fold.

Given the lack of perceptible marketing (and marketing talent) in American publishing, particularly now, it was nice to see some innovative promotion and marketing on the part of an Indian publisher in the face of difficult business conditions. Not all publishing minds are sheltering in place.

Lady in Waiting: Self-Portrait of a Lady

From The Wall Street Journal:

Lady Anne Glenconner, the 87-year-old daughter of the Earl of Leicester, came from a generation and a class that were not brought up to express emotion. “There were no heart-to-hearts” and no self-pity was allowed, she writes in “Lady in Waiting: My Extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown.” You didn’t “dwell.” You kept the proverbial stiff upper lip. And, as her stalwart and disarmingly honest book testifies, that is what she did. Nevertheless, emotion resonates through this delightful memoir, which offers a candid, humorous look inside the royal family and the daft world of the British aristocracy.

Born Anne Veronica Coke, she grew up in one of Britain’s greatest manor houses, Holkham Hall, a North Norfolk estate she couldn’t inherit because she was female. (It went to a cousin.) Her father, she writes, “was not affectionate or sentimental, and did not share his emotions. No one did, not even my mother.” In 1939, at the outbreak of war, he was posted to Egypt with the Scots Guards. Anne and her younger sister, Carey, were sent to live with their cousins in Scotland. They didn’t see their parents for three years. Her mother never knew that Anne’s governess bound her hands to the back of the bed every night (the woman was eventually sacked, not for child abuse but because she was a Roman Catholic).

At Holkham Hall, Anne began a close friendship with Princess Margaret when, as children, they would jump out from behind the curtains to scare the footmen. Reunited at Anne’s coming-out dance in 1950, they chatted until the sun rose over the front portico. Three years later, Anne was picked to be one of six maids of honor at Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation, a ceremony Anne describes with starry-eyed detail (ivory silk dresses with gold piping). The archbishop of Canterbury offered them brandy during a recess and, later, the queen sat down on a red sofa, her skirt billowing, “and when she kicked up her legs for total joy, we did the same. It was the happiest of moments.”

Anne then fell “madly in love” with the charming Johnnie Althorp, but she made the mistake of introducing him to her friend Lady Fermoy, who, like a character out of Trollope, snapped him up for her own daughter. He vanished without telling her that the engagement was off. (Later he would become the father of Diana, Princess of Wales.) On the rebound, Anne married Colin Tennant, eventually Lord Glenconner, a millionaire with a castle in Scotland whose family fortune had come from the invention of bleach powder in 1798. Her father disapproved: Tennant was “nouveau riche.” On a Holkham pheasant-shooting weekend, where guns were “placed by rank,” an enraged Tennant was made to follow behind the lords, dukes and marquesses, walking with the beaters, the men who flush out the birds with sticks.

. . . .

[D]uring their 54 years of marriage Tennant was to lose his temper many times, often lying on the ground in a fetal position and howling. Nevertheless, Anne insists, he was “never boring.” When she asked him why he kept screaming at people, he answered: “I like making them squirm. I like making them frightened.” Why did he marry her? He said he knew she would never give up.

. . . .

In 1958 Tennant bought the island of Mustique in the Caribbean for £45,000 and developed it into a playground for millionaires and aristocrats. As a wedding present, he gave Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones a piece of land where she built a villa, Les Jolies Eaux. After Margaret’s marriage broke down, she created a scandal by staying there with her young lover, Roddy Llewellyn.

Anne was made lady in waiting in 1971, a role she held for nearly 30 years. She was devoted to the princess, whom she feels was much maligned. Margaret was rude when she was bored, but she was also capable of great kindness. Anne saw to all her needs, accompanying her on royal tours and even living with her for a year in Kensington Palace, where one of Anne’s duties was to turn the garden hose on the cats of their neighbor Princess Michael of Kent.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (PG apologizes for the paywall, but hasn’t figured out a way around it.)

China Bestsellers February 2020: A Market Stilled by Contagion

From Publishing Perspectives:

With Italy the new world epicenter of the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak—and World Health Organization specialists saying that New York City is the next likely epicenter (as reported by Adam Bienkov at Business Insider)—it can be difficult at times to remember that for more than two months, businesses have been closed and workers have been displaced in China.

Most physical bookstores—a major feature of China’s book retail system—have had to remain closed. And our associates at Beijing OpenBook tell us that while online retail in books is a robust force, shipping logistics have been disrupted, making the digital alternative to a bookshop trip far less efficient than usual.

“In our February data,” OpenBook’s Rainy Liu tells us, “we’ve also seen the effects of weak marketing campaigns, but we look forward to more new content after we overcome the outbreak.”

. . . .

OpenBook’s researchers believe that they’ve seen increased reading time engaging some of the Chinese population during the struggle, but the most striking effect they can detect in February’s analysis is a significant drop in the release of new titles.

No new book entered the overall charts in February, and key sales went to two types of books: classics (including international work such as Albert Camus’ The Stranger but apparently not The Plague), and popular novels which likely were welcome for filling slow time out of work. A heavy contemporary tradition of reading classics in China these days is driven by school assignments, and once those were accomplished, even more popular work seems to have come into play.

. . . .

Titles related to epidemics and plagues also have found new footing on the charts in China, with Gabriel García Márquez ‘s Love in the Time of Cholera at No. 11. Its popularity is in part thanks to promotional schemes around Valentine’s Day, when news media focused on issues of affection amid infection and romance in isolation.

In nonfiction, as in fiction, no new titles appeared on the charts in February, although eight titles made a return. Chen Lei’s hugely popular “30 Minutes” books remain big sellers, with as many as 10 featured on the list in February. 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon is perpetually in the lead among these books from Chen.

Wang Xiaobo’s Silent Majority has found readers during the outbreak, as has the late Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

Collins makes hundreds of books and resources available for free

From The Bookseller:

Collins has made hundreds of books and learning resources free for teachers and families as schools close over the coronavirus.

The firm is giving free access to its online learning platform, Collins Connect, for the length of the school closures. The platform is for both primary and secondary schools and is home to learning and teaching resources for a range of subjects including English, maths and science at all levels, as well as international curricula.

On collins.co.uk it will also be providing free resources and support to parents who have children at home. It includes more than 300 e-books from its Big Cat reading programme, activity sheets, a times tables practice tool, revision and PDF downloads of many of its titles. Collins is adding resources daily to the site.

In addition, Collins will be enabling free access to textbooks in e-book format for schools that are already using its titles in the classroom so that pupils can continue their learning at home.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

As Brits treat social distancing as a game, UK’s Waterstones opts to close stores nationwide just days after Daunt asked for books to be given special status

From The New Publishing Standard:

Sometimes it can be embarrassing to be British. First we had Brexit. Then the coronavirus arrived and our government looked the other way. Now the coronavirus is firmly established in the UK, spiralling out of control, and the Prime Minister is sending out mixed messages about social distancing, one second telling everyone it’s fine to go out to the park, the next telling them he will impose stricter controls if people go out to the park.

Against such a background businesses like Waterstones are forced to juggle the well-being of staff and business against the sad reality that, absent legal enforcement, social distancing and other virus containment measures are next to meaningless.

While the governments of Italy, Spain and France among many have acted swiftly to reduce the social mobility that spreads disease, Boris Johnson has chosen a more populist path, like a weak teacher appealing to a class to behave, knowing full well a handful of selfish pupils will do no such thing so long as they have the option.

As the week ended James Daunt, CEO of Waterstones, the UK’s biggest national bookstore chain, spoke of unprecedented demand for books as the majority of the British public tried to stay at home more, and picked up more books during their occasional forays out.

Daunt went so far as to call on the government to exempt books from the inevitable retail closures that Boris Johnson must, at some stage, when things get so bad it’s too late, impose upon the nation.

. . . .

But just this weekend, as it became apparent a substantial minority of the British public were treating Johnson’s government guidelines as a joke, James Daunt has taken a bold decision to not even bother waiting for Johnson to do the right thing, but to close all the Waterstones stores nationwide.

To help prevent spread of the Coronavirus, and to protect the wellbeing of our customers and staff, sadly Waterstones will temporarily close its doors by the close of trade Monday 23 March until further notice.

It gives consumers one full shopping day to make their final book purchases before Waterstones shuts shop for the foreseeable future, because neither the Prime Minister nor certain of the British public can be relied upon to do the right thing.

Link to the rest at The New Publishing Standard

Coronavirus Worklife: Dioptra’s Rights Staff and Colleagues Go Remote in Greece

From Publishing Perspectives:

When Dioptra Publishing’s staff was informed on Monday (March 16) that it would begin immediately working from home, “Mr. Papadopoulos made the announcement outside our office building under the sun,” says Ermioni Sakellaropoulou.

Of course they were in sunshine. Dioptra’s offices on Paraskevis Street are set in Peristeri, a suburban municipality in metropolitan Athens, northwest of the city center.

Established in 1978, the company focuses on nonfiction. Originally concentrating on nutrition and health, personal development, psychology, and spiritual life, the house has gone on to expand to  parental care, cooking, and Greek and international fiction including detective novels and children’s books.

Sakellaropoulou, who is the company rights and acquisitions editor, tells Publishing Perspectives, that CEO Constantine Papadopoulos “urged us to continue our work responsibly as always and added that everything will be back to normal as soon possible—but only if we collaborate and cooperate successfully together.”

And so, Sakellaropoulou and her colleagues said goodbye to each other and dashed home to start sorting out how to work by remote, some caring for kids and other family members while trying to keep the company going from home—an experience being replicated among the staffers of publishers in markets all over the world.

. . . .

At this writing, Greece has 464 cases of the coronavirus COVID-19, and has registered six deaths from the contagion. . . . In a way, it’s a blessing that Greece so far doesn’t see a more fearful level of spread, being relatively close to its Mediterranean neighbor Italy—which now has surpassed mainland China for deaths, its terrible toll standing at 3,405 and 41,035 cases among the living.

“Admittedly,” Sakellaropoulou says, “our correspondence from other publishers abroad has kept coming in, although not at the same pace as in the past in the follow-up period after a London Book Fair. But this indicates to us that the work still is going on.”

The bulk of what’s coming in at this point, she says, are new offers and updates on various companies’ interest, inquiries on titles available, and, of course, correspondence about previously made plans for collaborations ahead.

“Hopefully,” she says, “these trying times will come to an end as soon as possible.

“Nevertheless, we’re getting a chance to catch up on some of the tasks we often have to put off—manuscript readings, rights list readings—and we’re giving a lot of attention to titles that have been scheduled for publication and need attention from us.

“As far as my colleagues are concerned,” Sakellaropoulou says, “again through remote working, we’re trying to exchange ideas on how to keep up with the day-to-day workload. We’re exchanging photos and tips for working under these circumstances.

“And of course one of the main talking points in my department is what demands the readership will have after this crisis. Will they still want to buy nonfiction and self-help titles, as they used to in the past few years? Or will they buy fiction so that they can escape from the reality of the present?”

. . . .

“I want to send my warmest wishes to all the people of publishing,” she tells us, “and I look forward to seeing you all in person, once again, at our international book fairs, when they finally start operating again.”

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives (The OP includes photos of Greeks working at home.)