PRH Still Doesn’t Like the Subscription eBook Model (The Fools!)

26 August 2016

From The Digital Reader:

Penguin Random House has in the past denied that readers want an ebook subscription service.

What with Kindle Unlimited now paying authors and publishers more than the Nook Store, and possibly even more than Kobo or Google, that excuse was getting a little thin, but recently PRH changed its tune.

The global CEO of Penguin Random House, Markus Dohle, was speaking at the Global Top 50 Publishing Summit at Beijing International Book Fair in China earlier this week . According to The Bookseller, Dohle said that:

PRH had not signed its titles up for any subscription services, such as Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited, Mofibo or Scribd, because the ‘all you can eat’ models threaten to “devalue” intellectual property (IP) at a time when most authors can barely afford to earn a living.

In the US, Dohle said 40% of the readership accounted for 85% of publishers’ revenue, so “heavy readers” switching to subscription models would have a “huge impact” on the industry.

He explained that the industry’s existing publishing model, successful for over 500 years, was “robust” and “not broken at all”, and argued that subscription models were “not in the reader’s mindset”. If they became popular, they would ultimately lead to “lower prices” and “a huge devaluation of IP”, Dohle said.

“A la carte is not broken […] I don’t see us supporting subscription models, because we just don’t need it,” he said. “Somehow we have to protect the measure of our intellectual property. Take an e-book for $12, that’s entertainment for 15 to 30 hours. That’s a fair deal compared with a movie and other media formats. I think we have a very robust pricing model in the market and subscription would just change the whole dynamic.”

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader

PG says this is wrong on so many levels (several of which are discussed in the OP), but PG has to mention one because he’s heard it so many times before from European publishing executives.

The value of a product or service is determined by the customer, not the seller.

If the customer will pay $10 for a product, that’s the product’s value. If the seller prices a product at $15 because that’s the true value in the seller’s mind, but the customer is only willing to pay $10, the product’s value is still $10.

Perhaps it’s partially a consequence of minimum book pricing laws in some European countries where the publisher sets the retail price, but, unless a customer is forced to purchase an item at a specific price (hello, college textbooks), in a free market the customer determines the value.

If a price is too high, the customer will simply not buy a product. (PG will note that readers in countries with fixed-price book laws regularly utilize a variety of technical means to disguise their physical location so they can purchase books online at lower prices.)

The idea behind the “devaluing” argument is that customers can be easily manipulated by simply charging higher prices. PG believes this is an elite executive’s ignorant view of the proletariat’s “mindset” and the epitome of stupid short-term thinking. Heaven forfend that the serfs ever hear of a lower price for anything. Prices must always go up and never go down.

If a customer, even a “heavy reader”,  enjoys reading books, but books cost more than the customer is willing to pay, the customer will respond in any number of ways — borrowing, buying used, finding something else to do that is also enjoyable and costs less, etc., etc., etc. No consumer is obligated to remain a heavy reader.

The best customer service

26 August 2016

The best customer service is if the customer doesn’t need to call you, doesn’t need to talk to you. It just works.

Jeff Bezos

Amazon offers up car advice with Amazon Vehicles

26 August 2016

From CNET:

Amazon is gearing up its car knowledge.

No, the e-commerce juggernaut still isn’t selling cars — not yet, anyway. Instead, the company on Thursday launched a new webpage called Amazon Vehicles that helps customers research new and classic cars.

Amazon Vehicles could help solidify Amazon’s place as the search engine for shopping. Bypassing Google’s own Google Shopping search engine could train consumers to start thinking about a purchase at Amazon first, even in the rare case the company doesn’t sell the item. That way, Amazon can condition shoppers to keep coming back to its site.

. . . .

The site includes detail pages for thousands of cars and trucks, with specs, pictures and videos. While these pages don’t provide a direct way for you to buy a vehicle, they do include general pricing information, like the manufacturer’s suggested price.

In a statement, Adam Goetsch, director of Amazon Automotive, said the purpose of the new site is to “support customers during one of the most important, research-intensive purchases in their lives by helping them make informed decisions.”

. . . .

Further down the road, Amazon Vehicles could provide a platform to sell cars, though Amazon would face a lot of online competition from eBay, Craigslist, TrueCar, AutoTrader, and others.

Link to the rest at CNET

PG says Amazon could provide serious competition to other car-buying websites, which don’t have much in the way of technology chops.

While U.S. state laws require that new cars be sold through a licensed dealership physically located in each state (and not owned by auto manufacturers), there is no such restriction on the sale of used cars. The current auto sites with which PG is acquainted provide used car listings from dealers and private sellers and detailed information on new cars with listings of new cars available through at least some local dealers.

PG is most definitely not an expert on a single state’s auto dealership laws, let alone 50, but would be surprised if Amazon didn’t have a way to sell both used and new cars online in its plans.

While new auto dealerships are valuable businesses, Amazon has enough money to purchase new car dealerships wherever it wants to do so if permitted by law. If modifications in state dealership laws are needed, the offer to build or expand large Amazon fulfillment centers and Amazon Web Services data centers in a state could help persuade state legislatures to tweak those laws to open doors for Amazon.

As far as auto manufacturers are concerned, Amazon should have some interesting pricing strategies to discuss with them, just like it did with large publishers. PG speculates that Tesla will be all in with Amazon Vehicles, but he could be wrong.

And what about Alexa? PG would love to get into a car and say, “Alexa, take me to a nice restaurant” or “Alexa take me to Los Angeles,” then start reading a book.

Bill Nye to write middle grade science series

26 August 2016

From Entertainment Weekly:

Bill Nye has made a career out of his knack for getting kids excited about science — and he’ll reach even more budding Einsteins with a new middle grade chapter book series, Jack and the Geniuses, co-written with Gregory Mone.

“The fire of excitement that I feel about science today was kindled when I was a kid,” Nye told EW in an exclusive statement. “Like any kid of any age, Jack and the Geniuses love science and seek adventure. Here’s hoping that a few kids read these books and have scientific adventures for the rest of their lives.”

. . . .

The titular geniuses are Jack’s foster siblings, Ava and Matt. Ava is fluent in multiple languages and builds robots as a hobby, while Matt’s subjects of excellence are astronomy and math.

Link to the rest at Entertainment Weekly and thanks to Matthew for the tip.

Amazon plans to open a Chicago bookstore in Lakeview

26 August 2016

From The Chicago Tribune:

Amazon is opening an offline bookstore in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood.

“We are excited to be bringing Amazon Books to Southport in Chicago,” Amazon spokeswoman Deborah Bass said in an email Thursday.

Bass said the store, targeted to open next year, will be at 3443 N. Southport Ave., the former location of the now-closed Mystic Celt bar and restaurant.

. . . .

Amazon plans to mix the benefits of online and offline book shopping, with a selection chosen based on customer ratings, pre-order and sales figures, and its employees’ assessments. Customers can wander the aisles and page through a title before buying, but books face the customer, accompanied by reviews from Amazon shoppers, as they would be online. Customers can buy in-store or place an order for delivery. Amazon devices, such as the Kindle e-book reader and Fire Tablet, are also available for in-store testing.

. . . .

“I think a big part of the bookstore is building awareness of Amazon and bringing more of a human face to the brand,” said Neil Stern, senior partner at Chicago-based McMillanDoolittle. “Forty-one million of us and counting are Prime members, but you can spend a lot of money and never interact with a human. It’s a way to personalize it.”

Link to the rest at The Chicago Tribune

PG says the new store will be a short walk from Wrigley Field, the home of the Chicago Cubs and the location of many a pleasant afternoon during PG’s younger days.

The Cubs won back-to-back World Series championships in 1907 and 1908, an amazing feat. Unfortunately, the Cubs have not won a World Series since 1908. They have not played in a World Series since 1945.

As all educated persons know, the Cubs’ World Series drought is due to the The Billygoat Curse.

The curse began in 1945 when Billy Goat Tavern owner Billy Sianis was thrown out of game 4 of the World Series against the Detroit Tigers. Cubs owner P.K. Wrigley gave the order because the strong odor of Sianis’ pet goat, which accompanied Billy to the game, was bothering other fans.

Sianis, a Greek immigrant, was deeply offended. For his revenge against Wrigley, he uttered the fateful words, “Them Cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more,” which has been interpreted to mean that there would never be another World Series game won at Wrigley Field.

The Cubs immediately lost that fateful game and Detroit won the series.

Sam Sianis, nephew of Billy Sianis, has been brought out to Wrigley Field with a goat multiple times in attempts to break the curse. In 2008, a Greek Orthodox priest sought to end the curse during the 2008 playoffs with a spraying of holy water in and around the Cubs dugout to no avail.

PG predicts the nearby Amazon store will, at long last, lift the curse. When the Cubs finally win the World Series, grateful Cubs fans will erect a statue of Jeff Bezos outside Wrigley Field, right next to the statue of Mr. Cub, Hall of Fame first baseman Ernie Banks.

Books in Nicks

26 August 2016

From The London Evening Standard:

‘Books in Nicks’ is the brainchild of SC Steve Whitmore, who has worked closely with charity Give A Book to offer books free of charge to detainees in all 43 custody suites within the MPS estate.

SC Whitmore said the inspiration for the scheme came when he arrested an 18-year-old man for assault and possession of drugs earlier this year.

Knowing he was going to be in custody, the teenager asked if he could borrow a book, but SC Whitmore said he struggled to find anything of interest for him.

He explained: “The range and type of books available didn’t appeal to him, so I offered him my own book, ‘Catcher in the Rye’, and told him to keep it.

“The look on his face was amazing, his attitude and hostility towards me completely changed and it created common ground for us to talk about. He said he’d never been given a book before to own, and that really moved me.”

Prisoners will have the choice more than 30 titles, which they can then take away with them, including classics such as Moby Dick, Great Expectations, Catcher in the Rye and Treasure Island.

Link to the rest at London Evening Standard

Creating Incredible Dialogue

25 August 2016

From FastCoCreate:

Look on the coffee-stained, Post-it strewn desk of most aspiring screenwriters and you’re bound to find the same mighty tome. Robert McKee’s Story has been hailed like ancient scrolls handed down unto the mountain. It is the alpha and omega of three-act structure; the (type)face that launched 1,000 laptops into San Fernando Valley coffee shops. McKee’s Academy Award-winning acolytes are populous enough to fill a modest-sized concert venue.

. . . .

Although he got about halfway through writing Character, and still plans on finishing it soon, the author’s latest work is Dialogue: The Art of Verbal Action For The Page, Stage, and Screen. What separates this book from its predecessor beyond the tighter focus, however, is the range of media McKee covers in it. The don dada of screenwriting gurus is now doling out advice for playwrights, novelists, and TV writers as well—an entire spectrum of scribes—and teaching them all the ins and outs of verbal sparring.

. . . .


“There’s always an element of natural talent and some people have it more than others, but the ability to write great dialogue depends on the genre and medium you’re writing in,” McKee says. “If you’re writing for the screen especially, having a great poetic touch helps. If you’re writing a novel, you can write without any explicit quotable dialogue. The whole thing could be implicit. But if you’re writing for the screen, it’s amazing how far you can get with a mastery of technique. When people say that they don’t have a natural instinct for dialogue, it’s often not a reality—it’s just a doubt.”

. . . .


“Bad writing can be more helpful to read than good writing,” McKee says. “Because the first draft of anything you write is not going to be your best work. So you have to figure out how to rewrite yourself to make it better. One of the best ways I know to rewrite yourself is to get bad writing and rewrite it. Rewriting other writers and making their scenes better teaches you the techniques of what you need to do with your own writing to make it the best it can be. So you listen and you watch onscreen and then when you see something that’s either particularly bad or particularly good, stop and reread it. Find out why you responded to it. In the book, I do a scene from Gladiator, which is a superb example of on-the-nose writing—subtext into the text—and it is just amazing. You don’t have to look far, though, for examples.”

. . . .


“The character’s first actor is the writer,” McKee says. “You’ve got to be able to put yourself in the mind of the character you’re creating, and imagine yourself in that situation as if you were the character yourself. So you’re writing inside out. The starting point of dialogue is desire, what does my character want overall and what does this character want in this scene, and given that, what would my character do to take a step toward their desire at that specific moment? What they would do is use language to cause a reaction in another character, or the world around them. And they would realize that they cannot just say out loud ‘I want you to stop doing this, and do that instead.’ They’re not going to say exactly what they’re thinking and feeling. They’re going to say something that will be effective, they feel, in persuading somebody to change their behavior. People never say out loud exactly what they think and feel. There’s always a subtext.”

“The hallmark of beautiful dialogue is transparency, you see characters saying whatever they say, and you go right through those words to what they’re thinking and feeling, even down to the subconscious level,” McKee says.

Link to the rest at FastCoCreate

Some men

25 August 2016

Some men are born mediocre, some men achieve mediocrity, and some men have mediocrity thrust upon them. With Major Major it had been all three.

Joseph Heller, Catch-22

Who am I: Writer or Bookseller?

25 August 2016

From Lit Hub:

I work at a bookstore, and I wrote a book: The Sadness. I see who buys it. Sometimes people order it online, and as a bookseller, it is my job to pick up the phone and call those people when the book arrives. But as an author, what’s my job? I don’t know.

. . . .

When Unnamed Press agreed to publish The Sadness in the summer of 2015, I was two years removed from [the university] community of writers. Instead, I was in a community of booksellers, no longer talking to people about writing but talking to people about books, mostly new releases. I hadn’t written new fiction in some time, but the people at Unnamed were very smart, and in their smartness they understood that publishing a bookseller could have its perks.

Booksellers have been responsible for pushing several recent books to prominence. Their blurbs appear on many successful small press titles, including those by Yuri Herrera, Valeria Luiselli, and Martin Seay. Even big publishers understand the power of bookstore support: readers of Lit Hub surely saw the advance copy of Garth Risk Hallberg’s two-million-dollar-behemoth drowning in bookseller blurbs.

. . . .

Michele Filgate has become one of social media’s most vocal writers, but if you search for her on YouTube, you find, toward the top, an interview she conducted with Paul Harding as part of a literary event. The description of the video identifies her as a bookseller, but the video itself identifies her, with superimposed text, as an author. To me, the suggestion here is that you are one or the other—that even if you want to be both, they cannot exist in the same space.

Yet I wonder which label she prefers—and I wonder which label I prefer, because, sometimes, it seems like being a bookseller/author is a novelty act. Everyone walks around with something superimposed over his or her face. Is there room for two labels?

. . . .

In the month that my colleagues featured The Sadness—a new release by a fellow employee!—I kept walking into the store and thinking like a bookseller; that is, after all, the label superimposed over my face most of the time. So, let’s think like a bookseller walking into my store: there’s this book by some guy named Rybeck sitting at the counter, with no shelf-talker on it, except one that mentions he works there. A couple people on staff have read The Sadness: the first works mostly in the back and liked the book; the second, if told that selling my book was the only way to keep the store open, would suggest closing the store (workplace politics ain’t always pretty). But no matter, who has read it and who hasn’t: anyone you ask about the book (at my store, at least) will happily recommend it—they are sweet people, after all—and will tell you, with pride, that a fellow bookseller wrote it.

Link to the rest at Lit Hub

To suggest a book written for young adults has any less merit than the classics is sheer snobbery

25 August 2016

From Tes:

Award-winning young adult fiction author, Juno Dawson writes a response to Joe Nutt’s 19 August article: Why young-adult fiction is a dangerous fantasy

I wouldn’t usually enter into internet debates, because they’re usually just a case of rudeness versus reason, but I didn’t want to let Joe Nutt’s earlier piece go unchallenged for a number of reasons.

Let’s first tackle the deeply offensive first paragraph in which he suggests modern young adult fiction is a mealy-mouthed liberal cardigan made up of transgender and autistic wool. Firstly, I read a lot of YA, and I can assure him the vast, vast majority of characters are still white, heterosexual and cisgender. This is something I’ve been campaigning against my whole career.

Moreover, don’t minority characters belong in fiction? Is that really what he wants to be saying? Real life features both transgender and autistic characters – so should books. Also, he does rather seem to be suggesting that readers (particularly young men) wouldn’t be interested in exploring characters dissimilar to them. I think that’s utter garbage. What is reading for if not to walk around in someone else’s shoes for a few days?

. . . .

I can’t even get into the “boys’ books” argument, because it assumes there is one way to be a boy. There is not. Boys like all kinds of books, featuring all kinds of characters. Some boys, unfortunately, hate reading. Some girls hate reading too. At school, I hated football. I still hate football. There isn’t a football, or indeed footballer, out there that would get me into football. Such is life.

. . . .

Modern YA provides a link from the safety of children’s fiction to the unpredictable content of adult novels. Sure, authors like Melvin Burgess, Kevin Brooks and Louise O’ Neill have explored some very adult issues, but the key word is “explored”. Younger readers are introduced to how awful it can be to be human within parameters.

Link to the rest at Tes and thanks to Nate for the tip.

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