Paris vows to fight Amazon Prime Now service

27 June 2016

From The Guardian:

The mayor of Paris has promised to be “intransigent vis-a-vis Amazon” after the US retail company launched its same-day delivery service, Prime Now, in the French capital with less than a week’s notice.

In a statement released on Sunday the mayor, Anne Hidalgo, said: “While this operation is likely to seriously destabilise the balance of Parisian trade, this large American company saw fit to inform the City of Paris just days before its launch.”

She said Paris would fight Amazon on a number of fronts, including “the preservation of local shops, the quality of life of local residents, the level of pollution generated by vehicles, and Amazon’s human resources policy”.

Hidalgo also called on national legislators to establish laws aimed at preventing “unfair competition” against traders and craftsmen, mirroring current legislation that lets city mayors regulate supermarkets.

Olivia Polski, who represents trade in the Paris local government, told Politico Europe: “When an actor like Amazon shows up, that does not play by the same rules as everyone else, it messes up the playing field and creates a situation of unfair competition.

“We’re not opposed to innovation; we just don’t think it’s fair that Amazon does not have to pay the same social charges as regular businesses. What Amazon is doing is entirely new, and is not covered by our current legislation on competition, so yes, it makes sense to think of new rules.”

Link to the rest at The Guardian

Click to Tweet/Email/Share This Post

International Publishing and the UK’s Vote for ‘Brexit’

25 June 2016

From Publishing Perspectives:

We know we have shot ourselves in both feet. And a lot of us didn’t want to. And we’re rather scared.”

That’s what one member of the London publishing industry has said to me this morning, on waking to find that the Leave camp has been successful in the UK.

Another colleague in southern England writes, “All my friends and publishing colleagues just simply can’t believe that this has happened. Or that we have somehow allowed it to happen. Our economy is in free fall, and our government in turmoil.”

. . . .

Literary Agent and rights specialist Ginger Clark with Curtis Brown (the US agency, not the London-based agency of the same name) has been trying on Twitter to encapsulate some ways that American publishing people might consider immediate effects.

Clark is supporting what another literary agent, Barry Goldblatt:

. . . .

I want to quote Cader at a bit more length than usual here because his musings on what’s coming are helpful in getting focused on the gravity of the moment:

“Already, the UK’s focus on the election had reduced consumer traffic at retail stores, and earlier in the month Waterstones’ chief executive James Daunt had warned employees in an email that leaving the EU would result in a ‘significant retail downturn’ that would ‘reverse much of the hard-won gain of the last few years.’…

“In addition to the prospect of lower ‘home market’ sales right now, UK publishers face the likelihood of rising costs on a number of fronts, albeit over time. Exporting books to EU countries may become more complicated and more expensive, even as a lower British pound reduces the price of exported goods (and/or makes sales in Euros, as well as Canadian and Australian dollars, worth more in pounds). But a significantly weaker currency could put also put UK publishers at competitive disadvantage: Their advances (and royalties) are worth less to trading partners, which could mean that UK publishers need to pay more to win new properties, or may not be able to buy rights as broadly as they would like.”

. . . .

The author J.K. Rowling had written earlier about some of the cultural currents:

“Nationalism is on the march across the Western world, feeding upon the terrors it seeks to inflame.

“Every nationalist will tell you that their nationalism is different, a natural, benign response to their country’s own particular needs and challenges, nothing to do with that nationalism of yore that ended up killing people, yet every academic study of nationalism has revealed the same key features. ‘Your country is the greatest in the world,’ the nationalist cries, ‘and anyone who isn’t chanting that is a traitor!…Now place your trust in our simplistic slogans and enjoy your rage aginst the Other!”

. . . .

“Brexit” was not a rehearsal, not a testing of the waters. It was and is the real thing, and—as The Bookseller’sown survey had shown, one that was not what nearly 80 percent of the UK’s publishing industry wanted to see.

As Blair put it, “We really thought it was impossible for us to take a decision like this” to pull that great nation out of the world’s largest collaborative marketplace. “The single market [of Europe] is where we sell half of our goods…We’re going to have to negotiate our way back into that.”

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

Hachette buys mobile game company Neon Play

24 June 2016

From The Bookseller:

Hachette has bought mobile games development studios Neon Play in a “substantial” acquisition. Hachette c.e.o. Tim Hely Hutchinson has said the acquisition “could be one of several” for the company in the app space.

Neon Play was founded by co-owners Oli Christie and Mark Allen in Cirencester in 2010 and to date has created over 30 games, including Paper Glider, Flick Football and Panic Traffic London, attracting over 60m downloads.

The studio, which has won 20 business awards including the Queen’s Award for Innovation, will be tasked with “creating, developing and marketing new mobile games” as a standalone business under the Hachette UK umbrella.

Although terms of the acquisition were not disclosed, Hely Hutchinson said it was a “substantial acquisition designed to lead to substantial revenues”, and was also a “serious first step” for Hachette in a bid to make its business “more digital”.

Referring to the mobile gaming industry as “complementary” to the book industry, Hely Hutchinson anticipates that trade and educational publishers will become “more like 50% digital” within the next five to 10 years. He told The Bookseller mobile gaming is “part of the future of the book industry”, with games the biggest and fastest growing part of the app market, while e-books, currently in decline, are “so similar to print books … they barely count as digital objects”.

. . . .

He added: “It’s something where we are very much on the front foot. E-book sales are not declining because people don’t like digital things. They are declining because there is less discounting in the market. So that is the main reason why e-book sales are lower this year. In fact e-books are so similar to print books that they barely count as digital objects. What people are really looking for with the digital world is more interactivity. So communicating with each other on social networks and playing games, you’re not just looking at something, you’re directly involved. And that’s where we want to be.”

. . . .

Hely Hutchinson (left) said that conversations with Christie and Allen had shown him their efforts with apps to date were “somewhat amateurish”.

“They know infinitely more than we do about the app market and how to make an app work, and I think the skills and knowledge they have at Neon Play will help us, for example with a cookery book app or an educational app that actually has nothing to do with games, so I see the acquisition as taking us several steps forward in various parallel relevant directions,” he said.

Hachette has already seen success in the games market with New Star Soccer in May, a game and a book all in one, that was produced in partnership with game developers New Star Games and Insight Studios, and contributed to by award-winning children’s authors The2Steves (Steve Barlow and Steve Skidmore). It hit 35,000 paid downloads in its first week and charted in Apple’s top 10 apps.

. . . .

Hely Hutchinson said the mobile game market “is not for all books,” because “they have to be big enough – have a big enough market – to justify the potential investment, which is quite large.”

Discussions with authors and agents whose books are candidates for gamification would start “from scratch,” Hely Hutchinson said. “Even if we happen to have a very broadly worded contract we would never go to authors and agents ‘we’ve got these rights, we’re going to exploit them’. We would always want to go to the author and agent and discuss the whole thing with them whether the games dimension is the sort of thing they want to do and we would start the terms discussion from scratch.

. . . .

“We see ourselves as having a role of taking, sensitively, creative people’s work to market and turning it into money – income – for creative people. It doesn’t mean we at Hachette can do everything, we are not of the scale to be producing Hollywood-style movies, but there are some things we can do where the investment level is affordable, which will widen our offer to our traditional author base and also give us potential new products where we can gain a very good understanding and do the job properly.”

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

PG is not familiar with the mobile gaming world, but he tried to imagine what Hachette could bring to a company that makes games. He couldn’t come up with anything but money.

Trade vows to face challenge of Brexit

24 June 2016

From The Bookseller:

Amid a mix of shock, dismay and jubilation at the “Leave” camp’s victory in the EU referendum, senior industry figures have vowed to hold off on taking any steps in response until the implications of the result become clear, and to take a positive approach to the challenges ahead. But there have also been warnings of an “enormous amount of work” in the future.

Waterstones m.d. James Daunt, a strong Remain supporter, said: “We will do nothing in the short term. We face deep uncertainty and will learn over the next months quite how challenging the retail environment may become. Personally, I will be turning off the radio and putting aside the paper to seek solace in a good book. The Essex Serpent looks excellent.”

Tim Godfrey, chief executive of The Booksellers Association, called the vote “a seismic decision”, saying: “With so much uncertainty prevalent, what the Government has to do is to introduce as much ‘Certainty’ as possible for consumers and business. We need to have clarity on how the disengagement process will work? And what will be the ‘shape’ of our future relationship with the EU?”

. . . .

Many took a pragmatic line. In a note sent to staff this morning, Penguin Random House UK c.e.o. Tom Weldon said: “Whatever the headlines or immediate financial market response, it is worth bearing in mind that there is a two-year minimum period of negotiation before Britain will actually leave and during this time our country will still have to abide by EU law. This is uncharted territory and no-one knows what the full impact of this change will be – either positive or negative.

“We will spend the coming months evaluating the long term implications for how we will trade and do business and will ensure that we are in the best possible shape to thrive in the new world. We are fortunate to be able to do this from a robust financial position and as part of a global company and for now it is very much business as usual.”

. . . .

Juliet Mabey, m.d. Of Oneworld, said: “I believe the British publishing industry almost wholly endorsed the Remain campaign, for very good reason. The 10% reduction in the value of the pound will be a huge blow to the industry, in terms of export income. Whether publishers sell rights – and that income is consequently devalued – or like Oneworld publish a large portion of their list in the English-language market themselves, the depressed exchange rate will be hugely significant. A large part of our fiction list is translated, and if the pound stays at this low level it will have obviously further increase the costs involved in publishing fiction in translation, just at the time when it is having something of a revival here as well as in the US and Australia.”

. . . .

Writer Cathy Cassidy was equally concerned, saying: “I woke up today in a country I didn’t recognise… it’s a bit like finding yourself in the middle of a Dystopian novel, a badly written one with an implausible but terrifying baddie and that feeling that you’re heading for a very scary ending. I thought I understood what we were voting for, but this morning Nigel Farage tells me it was all about war, and that the war has only just begun. His sick parody of the ‘I have a dream’ speech frightens me. The vote was close, so close – half of the UK is reeling today, the other half joyful, but I am not sure how long that joy will last. I fear that the poorest will be the first to suffer in our brave new Britain, that our NHS will vanish before our very eyes like a half-remembered dream, that our children are heading into a harsh, cold future, a bit like Narnia… always winter, but never Christmas. ”

. . . .

Agent Diane Banks said: “Unshackling from a protectionist, undemocratic, 1950s style regional customs union is the sensible, outward looking course of action for the world’s fifth largest economy in the twenty first century.  It makes particular sense for an industry which produces an English language product and whose natural talent and customer base is in the wider world. In so far as trade agreements will remain relevant, we will be free to negotiate our own terms with those parts of the world which should constitute our largest markets, and to select talent from wherever we like.  I am hugely excited by the possibilities and relieved that the UK has rejected the insular, backward looking entity which is the EU.”

Author Susan Hill said: “I voted Leave and am pleased. But re the book industry as any other,or anything else, in the longer term NOBODY KNOWS. So stop doom prophesies the short term, nothing will change. Things always settle down. So…best to wait and see. But it’s very exciting …and hugely challenging. So let’s try accepting the challenge.”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Copyright-free material edging out Canadian educational texts

20 June 2016

From CBC News:

Are Canadian students being forced to learn from foreign textbooks?

That’s the concern of John Degen, executive director of the Writers’ Union of Canada.

“I hear again and again from professors and from teachers saying that they simply don’t feel they have access to enough Canadian works right now,” he told CBC News.

“And they have to go elsewhere. Their institutions are insisting that they use only free material, and a lot of free material is coming from outside of Canada.”

. . . .

The reason, according to Degen, is the recent changes made to Canada’s copyright laws that exempt educational institutions from paying certain fees they used to pay.

Those changes may have been great for shrinking school-board budgets, but they’re hurting Canadian writers and publishers, some of which are getting out of the business altogether or vastly reducing what they print.

As authors gathered this week for the first-ever Canadian Writers’ Summit in Toronto, getting paid for their work was on their minds. It was standing room only at one panel highlighting that, in the age of the internet, the pressure to loosen copyright laws is growing worldwide.

. . . .

[W]riters in Canada are making less than ever, with 80 per cent earning an income (from their writing) below the poverty line, according to a 2015 Writers’ Union survey of its members and other writers’ incomes.

. . . .

The effect is not just being felt by writers. A few years ago, Emond Publishing sold more than $1 million worth of books to high schools annually. Now, said president Paul Emond, it’s dropped to about $100,000.

“That’s what falling off a cliff in the publishing business looks like,” he said.

. . . .

Schools that formerly bought a class set of 20 to 30 books — for use by perhaps hundreds of kids — started buying just a single copy of the same book, Emond explained. They then scanned or photocopied portions to distribute to students.

. . . .

The issue dates back to 2012, when Canada’s Copyright Act was updated and education was added to the list of fair dealing exemptions from paying copyright royalties. A Supreme Court ruling the same year specified that “short excerpts” for educational purposes could be copied without payment.

That allowed schools and universities to stop paying fees to copy and use excerpts of authors’ works. Educational associations have defined “short” to include up to 10 per cent of a work, a chapter of a book or an article from a periodical.

Link to the rest at CBC News and thanks to Dave for the tip.

How Kobo overcame great odds & showed maverick thinking to grow into a global leader

17 June 2016

From Kobo via Medium:

The Economist’s Canada Summit attracted a jam-packed lineup of business luminaries and big name politicians (including the Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau) to discuss the future of the Canadian economy — and how disruption is a necessary exercise in the quest for global success.

As the leader of one of Canada’s startup success stories, Rakuten Kobo CEO Michael Tamblyn was invited to weigh in. He was billed as a “Big-bang disruptor”, a business leader with the potential to shape the future of Canadian business.

. . . .

They say when you’re starting a new business, you should look for the white space, be first to market, go where your competitors are not. Or there is another option. You can do the exact opposite. In 2009, starting here in Toronto with a handful of people, we picked a fight with the largest ecommerce company in the world, with the most successful hardware company ever, with the world’s largest book retail chain, and the most profitable search engine in history. Seven years later, 27 million users, 20 countries, millions of devices, tens of millions of ebooks and a $315M acquisition later, I get to tell you why that worked, why being Canadian mattered, and why sometimes the best revolutions don’t look like revolutions at all.

Kobo was born to disrupt. More than that, it was an exercise in intentional self-disruption. We were incubated inside Indigo, Canada’s largest book chain, in 2009 in answer to the strategic question: “What happens if many of the Canadians who are currently buying and reading print, start reading digitally?” Kindle had just launched in the US, Sony had ereaders in market, the iPhone was just released. Change was coming: The only question was: was someone was going to do it to us, or would we do it to ourselves.

. . . .

 Today, about 1 in 5 books sold in Canada is an ebook, in some categories it’s 1 in 3 or higher and Kobo is, when last I checked, the largest retailer of ebooks in Canada and one of the largest in the world and the second-largest manufacturer of eReading devices globally.

. . . .

 We could tell that building a great ereading service was going to be a big, capital-intensive project — and that not only was Canada not a big enough market to sustain it, almost no most national book market was big enough to sustain the level of investment that would be required to compete with Amazon or Apple or Google. Go big, because you can’t stay home. We were leaving the era where each country has a dominant book retailer or two and entering a new era where only a few global players would have the scale to compete. The good news was that it meant that the challenge that Indigo was facing — protecting their customers in the face of digital onslaught — was a challenge that every retailer who sold books anywhere in the world was going to face.

. . . .

The second thing we did right was to let go of the gravitational pull of the US. in our first couple of years, we could already see that the US, the richest market for ebooks in the world, was about to become a battleground. It was the home turf of Amazon, Apple, Google, and Barnes & Noble, and everyone wants to win at home. So while our competitors were all engaged in a very expensive fight for control of the US market, we quickly and quietly expanded into every other single country that looked like a candidate for digital growth, places where we could get in early, start building brand and market share. And we gained months, sometimes years of breathing room as competitors later struggled to internationalize systems that had been built to serve the US market alone. As those markets have grown, we have been able to grow with them. So now we find ourselves with the majority of our revenue coming from outside of Canada, with active retail presence in 20 countries, delivering ebooks to another 170.

. . . .

 Publishers and retailers in France are particularly cautious about working with foreign retailers, especially related to ebooks, but our membership in La Francaphonie and sensitivity to France’s tradition of cultural protection helped to get us a partnership with France’s largest retailer FNAC and a very significant French business. Our history as a Commonwealth country who had forged our own distinct English literature helped our partnerships in Australia and New Zealand. In Belgium and Switzerland, we understood multilingual politics, with all of its richness and complexity. In Mexico, we shared with both publishers and retailers the struggle of fighting to keep a distinct national culture while living right next to a neighbour who casts a very long media shadow.

Link to the rest at Medium

E-book tablet to be launched to popularise Mahatma’s books

15 June 2016

From The New Indian Express:

To popularise books on Mahatma Gandhi and cater to the ever-changing reading habits, a city-based trust has decided to come up with their own tablet, lending people the facility to read Gujarati and Hindi e-books published by them on the Father of the Nation.

Kindle-like e-book tablet, which the Navjivan Trust is planning to bring, will have 170 books mostly on Mahatma Gandhi allowing people to read those in Hindi and Gujarati.

. . . .

Till now, the trust, established in 1919 by Gandhiji himself, has sold around 10,500 online versions of around 170 of their books, converted into e-books, which according to Desai, is the key motivating factor for the trust to venture into the territory of an exclusive tablet parallel to online conglomerate Amazon’s “Kindle” e-book reader.

. . . .

“At present, Kindle does not support Gujarati or Hindi language. Thus, we have decided to create a new platform to reach out to people wanting to read Mahatma’s books in those languages. We are in process to make a tablet equivalent to Kindle. This device will allow readers to type and search in Gujarati or Hindi,” said Ashar.

Link to the rest at The New Indian Express

If you doubted there was gender bias in literature, this study proves you wrong

14 June 2016

From The Guardian:

A new study has confirmed what many already suspected: the careers of Australia’s female authors are suffering due to gender bias within the literature industry. That female writers are still consistently being overlooked in the 21st century is not only unacceptable; it is embarrassing.

The study, conducted jointly by Dr Julieanne Lamond from the Australian National University and Dr Melinda Harvey of Monash University, looks at reviewing patterns in leading Australian publications from 1985 to 2013.

Male authors were found to be more likely than their female counterparts to have their work featured in published reviews. Despite the fact that two-thirds of published authors in Australia are women, two-thirds of the books being reviewed are by men – a ratio that has remained largely the same for 30 years.

. . . .

Australia’s statistics are part of a global trend; the international body Vida also releases annual stats that year on year have shown disparities between how writing by women and writing by men is received in Britain and the US.

The reviewing pages are just the beginning. Male authors are also more likely to win awards and are significantly more likely to be included on course syllabuses at both high school and tertiary levels. In short, writing by men is considered more culturally important.

The under-representation of women in our literary culture is an embarrassment to an industry that prides itself on being intellectual and progressive. It’s also puzzling when considered in the economic context of the publishing industry.

. . . .

This all underlines a vast chasm between people who are consuming literature, who are mostly women, and those who are being lauded and rewarded for their work, who are mostly men.

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


Most YA fiction is grown-up fiction in disguise

11 June 2016

From The Guardian:

The director of the children’s programme at the Edinburgh international book festival is worried. According to Janet Smythe: “YA fiction, the major publishing creation of the last decade, means many readers will never experience some wonderful writing.” Perhaps she’s right. Perhaps all those MAAs (middle-aged adults) and OAs do feel all those major publishing creations aren’t for them. But I’m not worried about adult-adults missing out on YA fiction in the slightest.

Figures from Nielsen show that 80% of YA literature is read by people over 25. It’s a pretty astonishing and, to me, disturbing statistic. It strongly suggests that something has gone horribly wrong in publishing. (And, possibly, with those readers …) Most people involved in publishing YA books would claim that these are intended to be read by teenagers. If this figure is correct, then they are missing that target. By decades. And that’s important, because many children stop reading when they reach the teenage years – especially boys. The world, it seems, suddenly holds pleasures greater than losing yourself in a great book. Could this be because the books that should belong to them, inhabiting their hearts and brains, are actually (consciously or subconsciously) directed at older readers?

A little history. It’s possible to trace back literature pitched explicitly at teenagers to Margaret Daly’s Seventeenth Summer, written in 1942. The term “young adult” was coined in the 1960s for the US library system, looking for a pigeonhole to place books like this and SE Hinton’s The Outsiders. From there the expansion of the term was slow but steady. Until the 1990s, children’s publishers tended to use “teen fiction” to describe books aimed at 11- to 14-year-olds, and YA for 14+. At some time in the noughties this shifted again, with YA taking over the whole teen spectrum.

And this change in terminology has been accompanied by a transformation in the nature of the books produced. Writers began to produce fiction that transcended a narrow age restriction. This includes some of the very finest living novelists, irrespective of genre – writers such as Meg Rosoff and Mal Peet and Patrick Ness. There are other, less well-known writers who are equally good. I have recently read books by Faye Bird, Jo Nadin and Martin Stewart that did everything I want great literature to do, to enthral and delight and ravish the imagination.

. . . .

For me, the problem is that a huge amount of theoretically teenage publishing is churning out books that simply aren’t for teenagers at all. And that must mean, given the finite opportunities for new books, that “real” teenage books aren’t getting published.

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

Amazon Fresh launches assault on UK supermarkets

9 June 2016

From The Telegraph:

Amazon Fresh is to make its highly anticipated entrance into the UK grocery market in a move which threatens to damage yet further Britain’s already under-pressure “Big Four” supermarkets .

In a development which will be seen as game-changing for British supermarkets, Amazon will today  announce it is to offer its Prime members same-day deliveries on a range of 130,000 fresh and frozen grocery items.

Amazon Fresh is initially being launched in 69 postcodes across central and east London. Orders received before 1pm will be delivered by 11pm. Its one-hour time slots will also heap fresh demands on rival retailers which have struggled to adapt to the rapidly changing demands of consumers.

. . . .

Amazon will use its partnership with Morrisons to supply the Bradford-based supermarket’s own-branded products, such as biscuits or sausages, which will mean it can compete against supermarkets’ cheaper white-label brands.

However, the majority of its items will be branded goods, such as Flora margarine, Cornetto ice creams or Yeo Valley yoghurts, for which Amazon has said it will benchmark prices against Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda Morrisons and Waitrose.

As well as household names, Amazon Fresh is also starting a delivery service for 50 independent food retailers, such as Borough Market confectioner Konditor & Cook, London bakers Gail’s, and Soho’s Pizza Pilgrims, which will mean artisan grocery orders placed before 8am can be delivered the same day, and orders before 5pm the next day.

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

Next Page »