Amazon Has a Lot More Room to Scale Before the E-Commerce Retail Market is Saturated

From Seeking Alpha:

A lot of investors have looked at Amazon with consternation, as the company has not only not followed the normal pattern or retailers in general, but it also hasn’t followed the pattern most tech companies have followed in the recent past. This has resulted in the company outperforming in many quarters, followed by projections it’ll get crushed under the weight of weak margins and earnings.

Granted, a lot of that happened before the emergence of its powerful AWS cloud service. Yet, even with that as a significant part of the company’s overall growth, the retail segment still is the largest part of AMZN and continues to defy the odds. This isn’t because its model is misunderstood, but I believe because the transition to e-commerce by consumers is stretching out a lot longer than other tech businesses have experienced when scaling and disrupting existing markets.

. . . .

Consumers are increasingly moving toward the convenience of online shopping and all the perks associated with it. Amazon is by far the best at doing this, and e-commerce is far from being a saturated market not only in the U.S., but also globally.

With that in mind, the announcement by Amazon it’s going to add another 100,000 jobs in the U.S. supports the thesis that it sees a lot more room to grow before it considers the U.S. market saturated. As for the rest of the world, there is even more growth potential there.

. . . .

The online U.S. retail trend has a lot of impetus left in it, and when measured by overall retail sales, remains less than 10 percent of all U.S. sales. That is only going to increase, and if Amazon maintains its superior service, it’s going to get by far the largest portion of those sales.

. . . .

What has stymied some of those commenting on what is perceived as Amazon’s weak earnings model, is they’re measuring it by the usual way tech companies perform in the early years of the business. Normally a tech company will seemingly emerge out of nowhere and disrupt a market. It isn’t concerned about generating profits in the early years, instead focusing on scaling and grabbing a big piece of market share before it looks at how to improve margins and earnings.
With Amazon, that hasn’t been how it has played out, and it makes a lot of analysts and pundits nervous, which has produced skepticism concerning whether or not AMZN has an earnings end game in mind.

I think the problem there has been growing market share on the e-commerce retail side is a much longer process than totally disrupting a market. Amazon isn’t about to settle in and work on improving margins and earnings when it could lose its momentum on the growth side.

What I’m saying is this isn’t the relatively quick play associated with the majority of tech segments.

Link to the rest at Seeking Alpha

Open Road CEO Hails ‘Tremendous’ Performance in 2016

From Publishers Weekly:

In a year-end letter to staff, Open Road Integrated Media CEO Paul Slavin praised ORIM employees for a year of “consistent and continuous revenue growth,” marked by a 23% increase in fouth quarter revenue and a 14% increase in gross profits.

Praising staff for performing “tremendously,” Slavin wrote that Open Road Integrated Media, an e-publishing and digital marketing operation, “showed better-than-expected earnings across the board in revenues from e-books, print, distribution, subsidiary rights, and affiliate.” The company reported an average quarterly revenue growth of about 8.5% and “year-over-year gross profits increased by nearly 14%,” Slavin said.

ORIM specializes in publishing, marketing, and distributing a backlist of e-books by a distinctive group of acclaimed authors. Slavin highlighted “17 backlist e-books hitting the Wall Street Journal and New York Times bestseller lists.”

Pointing to ORIM’s founding principle—“you can bring great backlist to the forefront again”—Slavin said: “Our acquisitions selection process has been honed to a highly competitive edge, and thousands of backlist titles have undergone a complete transformation of descriptive copy, metadata, and cover design.”

. . . .

Early Bird Books, ORIM’s daily deals e-book newsletter, generated the biggest growth in revenue, increasing by 232% year-over-year, which was 40% over budget. ORIM newsletters reach more than 650,000 consumers, and the company has more than 3 million social media followers. Direct-to-consumer businesses, Slavin said, contributed 7.6% of total revenue in 2016, and those businesses are expected to continue to offer “significant” growth in 2017.

ORIM also operates a network of genre-focused websites, among them the Line Up (True Crime/Horror) and the Portalist (science fiction/fantasy), that attracted 22 million users in 2016.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Barnes & Noble in North Brunswick closes

From My Central Jersey:

Township officials say business prospects are good for the township’s Route 1 corridor, despite the closing of the Barnes & Noble store at the end of last year.

“We had several discussions with the property owner in an attempt to arrange acceptable terms for a lease extension, but unfortunately we could not reach agreement,” according to a statement from David Deason, vice president of development at Barnes & Noble. “We enjoyed serving our customers there.”

. . . .

The store, which opened in November 1999, was in the North Village Shopping Center that is home to such other businesses as Bed Bath & Beyond, Michaels and Staples.

“We were certainly disappointed but not entirely surprised given Barnes and Noble’s challenges with its retail business,” said Michael C. Hritz, director of the township’s Department of Community Development.

Link to the rest at My Central Jersey

With a heavy heart that we have decided to close Wilde City Press

From Facebook:

To all our friends, readers, reviewers and fans of our authors,

Due to various personal reasons it is with a heavy heart that we have decided to close Wilde City Press. We have enjoyed every moment of our journey over the past four years, and want to thank everyone who has been a part of our adventure.

Over the next few months we will be ensuring that everyone who has worked with Wilde City will be paid in full and have their rights returned to them. We are very proud of the work our authors and editors have given to the world, and we hope these books will be published again to be enjoyed for many more years to come. For members of our book club, we will give you plenty of time to back-up any files you have purchased through our site so you don’t lose anything.

Link to the rest at Facebook (see also Wilde City Press)and thanks to A. for the tip.

Barnes & Noble pulls Nook Tablet 7-inch from sale due to faulty charger

From ZDNet:

Barnes & Noble released its latest Nook tablet, the Nook Tablet 7-inch, on Black Friday in its latest attempt to battle the success of Amazon’s popular Fire tablets. With a low price of just $50, the new Nook was supposed to compete with the dirt-cheap Fire 6, but B&N’s slate has been riddled with issues from the start.

Shortly after its launch, the Nook was found to be loaded with ADUPS firmware that could allow hackers to spy on the device’s user, presumably thanks to the Chinese manufacturer B&N used to produce it (a cost-cutting break from its partnership with Samsung and its Galaxy brand of tablets). The bookseller claims by launch it had updated the Nook to a version that did not track user data and was working on removing it from the device altogether, but it was hardly an auspicious beginning for the tablet.

Then more recently a poster on Reddit claimed to be a Barnes & Noble retail employee and claimed that the new Nook had been recalled from stores. The company’s website has also been updated to reflect that the Nook Tablet 7-inch is now “not available.”

While speculation was that B&N was unable to rid the Nook of the ADUPS spyware satisfactorily, the company told the Android Police website that it pulled the tablet from sale for an unrelated reason. It claims that three incidents of the casing of the Nook’s charging adapter breaking led to the halting of retail sales. No injuries were reported, but Barnes & Noble says that existing owners can charge the Nook via a computer instead and that the company is sourcing a replacement AC adapter.

Link to the rest at ZDNet

They carried the sky

They carried the sky. The whole atmosphere, they carried it, the humidity, the monsoons, the stink of fungus and decay, all of it, they carried gravity.

Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried

When You Name Your Fictional War Criminal After a Real Man by Accident

From The Literary Hub:

 When the name of my novel’s antihero popped up in my inbox one afternoon, I didn’t even pause for thought. I had just spent six long years with the man. Why wouldn’t he be emailing me? Even as I read the first few lines, I had no doubt this was my character writing to me. Perhaps my antihero didn’t like life out there and wanted to come back to the comfort of my imagination. Too much judgement. Too many conflicting opinions. Or maybe he wanted to complain about the story I had trapped him in—the loneliness of his exile, the loss of his childhood, all doomed to be lived out, again and again, each time the book was read.

In my own mind, the antihero I had created wasn’t fictional anymore, and neither was the imagined Bosnian town where my drama took place. I often tell students that writing is a kind of madness and the best writers are those who do not know they are mad. It’s a snappy line, but also dangerously true at times.

Novelists are used to characters intruding upon their thoughts. They insist on asking questions when you are trying to fall asleep. They whisper in your ear as you attempt to go about your day. But even so, characters don’t take on a physical form, sit down at a computer, and start sending messages to their creators halfway across the world.

Of course, the email was not from my character, but from a living, corporeal human being. And he was deeply unhappy about my use of his name in my debut novel. He had lived in Netherlands for the past two decades, not the pages of my book. He had become aware of his fictional counterpart only because his colleagues had googled him. Was it true? They asked. Was he a war criminal? Had he really been guilty of these terrible crimes? “Where there was smoke, there was fire,” the man wrote. And even though it was not yet on shelves, my book was already blackening his name. He said his wife and children would be in danger if the book even associated war crimes with his name.

. . . .

Fortunately, the book had not yet gone to print. After a panicked call to my editor, the name was changed—this time to an appellation so common it couldn’t possibly identify an individual.

Link to the rest at The Literary Hub

All Romance Ebooks & Visions of The Future Part Two

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

The indie publishing world remains stunned by the sudden closing of All Romance Ebooks (ARe), an ebook distributor that had looked—at least in the beginning—like it was very successful. Maybe it had been, and had simply been undercapitalized (which is my guess).

But whatever the reason, ARe closed its doors on December 31, 2016, and is now dealing with a heck of a financial fallout.

. . . .

ARe wasn’t the only venture to go belly-up in 2016. A couple of other companies that got their start as some kind of support, or “new” business model based solely on the indie publishing revolution also liquidated in 2016. Another—Booktrope—vanished fast as well, although unlike ARe, Booktrope gave its suppliers a month to handle the loss.

. . . .

So, what are these three intertwining factors that will impact us in the next few years?

They are:

  1. A gold rush
  2. An investment bubble
  3. A business cycle

Each has patterns so clear that a thousand books have been written about those patterns. You can find the patterns by Googling, or (in the case of gold rushes) by watching the History Channel.

Let’s start with the gold rush, because everything starts when someone discovers a shiny hunk of metal hiding in plain sight.

The ebook revolution wasn’t a literal gold rush—there were no creeks, no slipping hands in ice-cold water to shake gold flakes loose from bare rock in a little makeshift pan.

What there was were a few frustrated writers who used Amazon’s easy Kindle interface to upload books that these writers either couldn’t sell to traditional publishers or were too afraid to try to sell. And because the Kindle was such a nifty device and because there wasn’t a lot of content, back in them thar days (nine years ago), these books took off. Writers who had books with bad covers and poor copyediting sold and sold and sold because those writers could tell good stories.

. . . .

Gold rushes follow a pattern. The pattern goes like this:

  1. The work is so easy that anyone with the desire can do it with little or no capital outlay. It takes being in the right place at the right time with the right set of skills. (In an actual gold rush, the first skill was patience and the ability to touch ice-cold water for hours at a time.)
  2. The tools improve. They remain easy to use. There’s a capital outlay, but it’s still tiny. Again, right time, right place, right set of skills. (In an actual gold rush, the miners built sluicer boxes that quickly separated the gold from the rock. The work with a sluicer box was faster than work with a regular pan, and much faster than working by hand.)
  3. Outsiders notice and want in. That’s where the word “rush” comes in. Everyone wants a piece of gold sitting on the ground. It’s easy. Everyone will get rich!
  4. With the outsiders come the side businesses. These businesses make it “easier” to do the work. Some actually do. Some fill a need—like the general stores that rose up around the mining camps. Others are scams, trying to take gold away from the miners. (Or money away from the writers.)
  5. The easily attainable gold goes away. Now, it takes some work to make money. In gold mining, the workers actually had to start mining for gold (yes, there were other steps here—establishing claims, etc. They’re no longer relevant to our discussion). It also takes money to do this work, not a lot, by normal business standards, but still more than some people have.
  6. The operation goes from low capital with small (or no organization) to large capital and big operations. The small workers who started all of this become one of three things:
    1. big business owners (and rich);
    2. workers with expertise…for someone else
    3. retired or bankrupt or moving on to the next crazy idea
  7. The gold rush is a distant memory but it has changed the landscape forever. New towns exist. New jobs exist. New wealth exists. New businesses exist. Lost in all that newness is the destruction of old businesses and the people who suffered lottery luck. (Lottery luck: they win riches, then spend it all, with no hope of ever having money again.)
  8. Small business becomes Big Business becomes The Way We Do Things Around Here. You see that in the American West, more than 150 years after the gold rushes of the 19th century. Mining still exists. Heavily regulated, with a ton of problems. States exist where there were only territorial governments before, because of mining. And so on and so forth. Indie publishing is decades away from this one.

. . . .

Here it is, the life cycle of an investment bubble. (If you want to read about this in-depth, go to Investopedia.)

  1. Displacement: Something happens that changes an industry, something that investors will eventually notice. Introduction of new technology, for example, might make some work easier. Consumers change their behavior for a weird reason. Whatever it is changes the way things are done, and investors start paying attention. Some get in on the ground floor.
  1. Boom: Everyone wants in. Everyone wants to invest money in this new thing, whatever it is. The increased investment spurs growth, but that growth isn’t natural. There is a natural growth curve, but it’s being masked by the enthusiasm.
  1. Euphoria: We’re going to be rich! Forever! It only takes a few dollars. Or as a friend said to me during the real estate bubble, parroting what he heard from his (now-out-of-business mortgage broker), Real estate always increases in value. It never goes down. Yeah, right. And I know of this land in Florida…oh, wait! I’m referencing yet another bubble (from the 1920s).

In other words, no one researches anything. Everyone throws money at this hot thing, thinking they’ll make a killing at it. This is different from a gold rush, in that we’re talking about people with money to invest, not people who will do the actual work. Keep that in mind.

  1. Profit Taking: Smart investors leave. In fact, some of them left before the euphoria started. But people who have been doing this for a long time recognize the euphoria for what it is and get out at the height of the market, selling their holdings for a profit. Stupid money stays. And believe me, there’s a lot of stupid money in investments.
  1. Panic: Yeah, you know this one. We’ve all seen the movies about 1929, where people jumped off buildings because they lost everything. (Not that such things actually happened, but they could have happened.) We lived through 2008-2009, which was a panic as well. People want their money now, and they want what they put into the investment, which is no longer possible.
  1. Never Again: This isn’t on Investopedia but it’s there. A lot of people, burned by the bubble, will never invest in that particular business again, whether that business is stocks, real estate, tulips, or technology. The romance is over, the possibilities are dead.

How does an investment bubble relate to publishing’s gold rush? There are two points of entry for investors into a gold rush. The first is #3: Outsiders notice and want in. Non-writers think they can profit on this growing phenomenon by helping writers with their businesses, by giving loans or doing other forms of investing.

The second point of entry is #6: The operation goes from low-capital to high capital. At this point, the gold rush is established and everyone knows about it. Even investors who don’t read knew what was going on in publishing. I had several angel investors approach me about my writing or WMG Publishing in 2014. I could have had meetings with venture capitalists who were willing to put $10 to $20 million into my publishing business—for 50% of the profits. I didn’t laugh. I made note of where we were in the investment cycle. Then I laughed—and did not take the offers.

. . . .

I’m telling you about the life cycle of a business, not to help you with your writing business (although you can probably see yourself here) but to think of all of those outside businesses that have attached themselves to writers who want to indie publish.

We’ve already seen countless business go out of business because they couldn’t survive the existence phase.

Most businesses that started to augment indie writers are now in the survival stage. This new environment hasn’t existed long enough for the businesses to adequately predict the future. They can only guess.

. . . .

If the writers don’t get rich, then the businesses that are making 10-20-30% off those writers don’t make money. Those businesses are hemorrhaging capital.

If the business managers/owners are optimist types who don’t understand the various bubbles and life cycles they’re in, they’re going to try to get investment. And they won’t be able to get real investment, because smart money left the industry years ago. Stupid money has lost its interest in publishing. And only usury types remain—the kind who give loans at 30-40%. These businesses won’t qualify for anything else.

Survival is all about cash flow, and managing cash flow is an art. The concerns of the business in the survival phase, according to Churchill and Lewis, are pretty simple:

  • In the short run, can we generate enough cash to break even and cover the repair or replacement of our capital assets as they wear out?
  • Can we, at a minimum, generate enough cash flow to stay in business and to finance growth to a size that is sufficiently large…to earn an economic return on our assets and labor?

Many of these side businesses will soon learn that the answer to those questions is no, because the flood of money is gone. The gold rush is dead, and investors want nothing to do with publishing.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

My holiday shopping adventures and Amazon’s continued retail dominance

From Kotke.org:

I did quite a bit of holiday shopping this year…went a bit nuts making up for some not-so-great efforts the past two years. The kids and I shopped for Toys for Tots (twice), I bought gifts for them from me and from Santa, I bought non-holiday stuff like clothes for myself, and I shopped virtually for the gift guide. I shopped every which way: small, locally, at big box stores, and online at 4-5 different retailers. My main takeaway from that experience? Amazon is miles and miles and miles ahead of everyone else. It is not even close.

Sure, Walmart had the drone in stock, but when I’d tried shopping with them earlier in the month, the product page threw a 404 error. I switched to Safari and was able to put the item into my cart, but then a form in the ordering flow wouldn’t work, so I had to get that item elsewhere. (When I did finally create an account while ordering the drone, Walmart thought my name was “Ashley”?!)

Target’s site was so slow that it was nearly unusable (like 30-40 seconds for a product page to start loading). But I persevered because they had an item I really wanted that no one else had in stock. I got an email two days before Xmas saying they were out of stock and couldn’t ship until Jan 4 at the earliest, but that if I still wanted the item, I would have to log in to my account to verify the new shipping date. I didn’t want the item later, so I did nothing. Guess what arrived on my doorstep last week?

. . . .

And Amazon? The site is always fast, I have never seen a 404’d product page, the URLs for their products haven’t changed in almost 20 years,
each product page was clearly marked with holiday shipping information, they showed the number of items in stock if they were running low, shipping was free (b/c I’m a Prime member), returns are often free, and the items arrived on time as promised. More than 20 years after the invention of online retailing, how is it that Amazon seems to be the only one that’s figured all this out?

Link to the rest at Kotke.org and thanks to JR for the tip.

Jeff Bezos is the anonymous buyer of the biggest house in Washington

From The Washington Post:

Washington’s Kalorama neighborhood just keeps getting swankier: Amazon founder and Washington Post owner Jeffrey P. Bezos has bought the former Textile Museum, a 27,000 square-foot property, intending to convert it into a single-family home, according to a person with knowledge of the sale.

Bezos’s neighbors will include President Obama and his family, who are renting a property nearby for their post-White House home, as well as future first daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, incoming presidential adviser Jared Kushner.

. . . .

The home — the largest in Washington — sold Oct. 21 for $23 million in cash (a million over its list price) to a buyer described in public documents as the Cherry Revocable Trust. But word about the identity of the new billionaire next door has been circulating around the enclave that ambassadors and Cabinet secretaries have long called home.

. . . .

There are no indications he will move here permanently.

The home is expected to be an East Coast pied-à-terre for the family — allowing him to avoid hotel bills — but the ample square footage means there’s plenty of room for entertaining.

Link to the rest at The Washington Post and thanks to Becca and others for the tip.

Seattle’s New Favorite Place to Drink: In the Bookstore

From The Stranger:

New bars spring up in Seattle like weeds in sidewalk cracks: anywhere, everywhere, and in droves. Recently, though, there’s a new trend where people can find their favorite beverage in a place that speaks directly to the need for coziness, companionship, and intellectual fodder through the dark and damp Seattle winter: bars in bookstores.

For a place that consistently tops both “most literate city” and “best beer town” lists, the combination makes sense—it coddles the introvert nature of locals while allowing an opportunity to get out into the world. “The whole point is to build community,” says Danielle Hulton, co-owner of Ada’s Technical Books and Cafe, which recently added a cocktail bar and event space called the Lab. “Having food and drink helps.”

In a similar spirit, Third Place Books has devoted the basement and part of the main floor of its new Seward Park location, which opened in May 2016, to Raconteur, an all-day bar and restaurant by the folks from Flying Squirrel Pizza Co. The concept is meant to appeal to a wide swath of customers. In the upstairs bookshop, there’s a coffee bar and a restaurant serving fried-chicken sandwiches and halibut tacos. A staircase leads down to the bar, where you can wash down the house-made pretzels (served with beer-cheese fondue) or drive-in burger (served in a burger bag) with beers from one of their 20 beer taps (plus six wine taps), including local options like the custom-brewed Raconteur Rye by Counterbalance Brewing Company, Machine House Brewery’s Golden Ale, and Georgetown Brewing Company’s award-winning Bodhizafa IPA.

. . . .

The Lab is everything you’d imagine a bar in a store that stocks science and engineering books to be: a Marie Curie–inspired room that boasts a sleek chandelier made of test tubes and a nook wallpapered with old textbook pages. While the cafe at Ada’s serves beer and wine, cocktails are available only in the Lab, which doesn’t keep regular hours.

Link to the rest at The Stranger and thanks to Dave for the tip.

Amazon Is Quietly Eliminating List Prices

From The New York Times:

In a major shift for online commerce, Amazon is quietly changing how it entices people to buy.

The retailer built a reputation and hit $100 billion in annual revenue by offering deals. The first thing a potential customer saw was a bargain: how much an item was reduced from its list price.

Now, in many cases, Amazon has dropped any mention of a list price. There is just one price. Take it or leave it.

The new approach comes as discounts both online and offline have become the subject of dozens of consumer lawsuits for being much less than they seem. It is also occurring while Amazon is in the middle of an ambitious multiyear shift from a store selling one product at a time to a full-fledged ecosystem. Amazon wants to be so deeply embedded in a customer’s life that buying happens as naturally as breathing, and nearly as often.

. . . .

“When Amazon began 21 years ago, the strategy was to lose on every sale but make it up on volume,” said Larry Compeau, a Clarkson University professor of consumer studies. “It was building for the future, and the future has arrived. Amazon doesn’t have to seduce customers with a deal because they’re going to buy anyway.”

Or so Amazon hopes. Digital stores live by Alec Baldwin’s maxim in “Glengarry Glen Ross”: “Always be closing.” The retailer has been experimenting with another method of closing a sale. It tells the potential buyer what the price used to be on Amazon.

. . . .

“We’ve been conditioned to buy only when things are on sale,” said Bonnie Patten, executive director of TruthInAdvertising.org, a consumer information site. “As a result, what many retailers have done is make sure everything is always on sale. Which means nothing is ever on sale.”

Amazon has both benefited from that conditioning as well as encouraged it, which is most likely why it is changing cautiously. It began eliminating list prices about two months ago, pricing specialists say, both on products it sold itself and those sold by other merchants on its site. The retailer did not return multiple requests for comment.

“Our data suggests that list prices are going away,” said Guru Hariharan, chief executive of Boomerang Commerce, a retail analytics firm. Last spring, Boomerang compiled a list for The New York Times of 100 pet food products that Amazon said it was selling at a discount to a list price. Only about half of them still say that.

“Amazon is a data-driven company with very few sacred cows,” Mr. Hariharan said. “At the very least, it is conducting a storewide test about whether it should change its pricing strategy.”

Link to the rest at The New York Times and thanks to Allen for the tip.

Techdirt’s First Amendment Fight For Its Life

From TechDirt:

As you may have heard, last week we were sued for $15 million by Shiva Ayyadurai, who claims to have invented email. We have written, at great length, about his claims and our opinion — backed up by detailed and thorough evidence — that email existed long before Ayyadurai created any software. We believe the legal claims in the lawsuit are meritless, and we intend to fight them and to win.

There is a larger point here. Defamation claims like this can force independent media companies to capitulate and shut down due to mounting legal costs. Ayyadurai’s attorney, Charles Harder, has already shown that this model can lead to exactly that result. His efforts helped put a much larger and much more well-resourced company than Techdirt completely out of business.

So, in our view, this is not a fight about who invented email. This is a fight about whether or not our legal system will silence independent publications for publishing opinions that public figures do not like.

And here’s the thing: this fight could very well be the end of Techdirt, even if we are completely on the right side of the law.

Whether or not you agree with us on our opinions about various things, I hope that you can recognize the importance of what’s at stake here. Our First Amendment is designed to enable a free and open press — a press that can investigate and dig, a press that can challenge and expose. And if prominent individuals can make use of a crippling legal process to silence that effort, or even to create chilling effects among others, we become a weaker nation and a weaker people because of it.

We are a truly small and independent media company. We do not have many resources. We intend to fight this baseless lawsuit because of the principles at stake, but we have no illusions about the costs. It will take a toll on us, even if we win. It will be a distraction, no matter what happens. It already has been — which may well have been part of Ayyadurai’s intent.

Link to the rest at TechDirt and thanks to Scott for the tip.

The herd instinct

The herd instinct among forecasters makes sheep look like independent thinkers.

Edgar R. Fiedler

University Book Store Closing Bellevue, Wash., Location

From Shelf Awareness:

University Book Store, Inc.–the for-profit corporate trust that benefits University of Washington students, faculty and staff and has seven stores in the Seattle, Wash., area–is closing its 30-year-old store in downtown Bellevue on February 15.

University Book Store CEO Louise Little said that “while we have enjoyed success over those 30 years, the retail environment has changed significantly. We believe our business, and the Trust which governs our operations, will be better served by leasing the space that our store currently occupies to another retail tenant.”

The University Book Store owns the building its Bellevue store is located in; tenants include Y’ves Delorme, Zeeks Pizza, Nancy Wallace Pilates and Salon 990.

Little noted that Bellevue, an upscale city across Lake Washington from Seattle, is going through “a huge growth spurt,” with lots of development, making commercial properties more valuable. University Book Store looked at the economics of operating its own business in its 19,000-square-foot space, 1,000 of which is leased to a cafe, compared to leasing that space to another business, and found, Little said, that “it was far and away much more profitable to lease that space rather than operate our own store.”

Link to the rest at Shelf Awareness

Artificial Intelligence Looms Larger in the Corporate World

From The Wall Street Journal:

Artificial intelligence, long a subject of fanciful forecasts, is starting to enter the corporate world in a much bigger way, as costs decline and the need increases to identify patterns within ever-growing troves of business data.

Once a mainstay of startups and big-tech firms such as International Business Machines Corp. and Alphabet Inc., technologies such as machine learning are taking a larger role inside corporate giants including American International Group and Fannie Mae, which are deploying AI to automate and augment tasks previously done by humans alone.

Chief information officers say the technology helps them complete routine tasks faster and often without human help, saving money while freeing their employees to focus on value-added activities.

But as the technology becomes both less expensive and smarter, and more advanced technologies continue to emerge, companies will extend AI use beyond routine jobs to aid in decision making and spot trends and patterns that wouldn’t be evident to the sharpest data scientist.

. . . .

Less expensive, more abundant data storage, increased processing power and advances in deep-learning technology could lower the cost of artificial intelligence and make it possible for machines to learn with minimal programming from humans.

One common deep-learning tool, the neural network, uses layers of interconnected nodes to roughly mimic the operations of the human brain.

Nova Spivack, founder of AI startup Bottlenose, said the latest versions of deep learning employ hundreds of layers of neural networks. That power can be used in areas such as weak-signal detection, or the ability to spot trends more quickly.

. . . .

AIG said it recently deployed five “virtual engineers” inside its IT infrastructure that work 24 hours a day collecting and analyzing system performance data and spotting network device outages. They work alongside human engineers to learn patterns in the network data and eventually act on their own to solve technical problems.

A network device outage, for example, typically would go to a queue and take human engineers about 3½ hours to address, an AIG spokeswoman said. Using the virtual assistants, nicknamed “co-bots,” there is no queue and most incidents can be fixed within 10 minutes, she said. If a machine can’t solve a problem on its own, it is kicked back to a human engineer.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)

Amazon to Create More Than 100,000 New, Full-Time, Full-Benefit Jobs across the U.S. over the Next 18 Months

From the Amazon Press Room:

Already one of the country’s biggest employers, Amazon plans to grow its full-time U.S.-based workforce from 180,000 in 2016 to over 280,000 by mid-2018.

. . . .

Over the past five years, Amazon created over 150,000 jobs in the United States, growing its workforce here from 30,000 employees in 2011 to over 180,000 at the end of 2016. Today, the company announced that it plans to create an additional 100,000 full-time, full-benefit jobs in the U.S. over the next 18 months. These new job opportunities are for people all across the country and with all types of experience, education and skill levels—from engineers and software developers to those seeking entry-level positions and on-the-job training. Many of the roles will be in new fulfillment centers that have been announced over the past several months and are currently under construction in Texas, California, Florida, New Jersey and many other states across the country. In addition to direct job creation, Amazon businesses like Marketplace and Amazon Flex will continue to create hundreds of thousands of jobs for people across the U.S. who want the flexibility to start their own business, work part-time or set their own schedule.

“Innovation is one of our guiding principles at Amazon, and it’s created hundreds of thousands of American jobs. These jobs are not just in our Seattle headquarters or in Silicon Valley—they’re in our customer service network, fulfillment centers and other facilities in local communities throughout the country,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon Founder and CEO. “We plan to add another 100,000 new Amazonians across the company over the next 18 months as we open new fulfillment centers, and continue to invent in areas like cloud technology, machine learning, and advanced logistics.”

. . . .

Amazon provides employees with highly-competitive pay, health insurance, disability insurance, retirement savings plans and company stock. The company also offers up to 20 weeks of paid leave and innovative benefits such as Leave Share and Ramp Back, which give new parents flexibility with their growing families. Leave Share lets employees share their Amazon paid leave with their spouse or domestic partner if their spouse’s employer doesn’t offer paid leave. Ramp Back gives new moms additional control over the pace at which they return to work. Just as with Amazon’s health care plan, these benefits are egalitarian – they’re the same for fulfillment center and customer service employees as they are for Amazon’s most senior executives.

. . . .

In addition to empowering its own employees to innovate and achieve their professional and personal dreams, Amazon offers a series of programs that empower people outside the company and create hundreds of thousands of additional jobs in the U.S. Amazon’s Marketplace business fuels 300,000 jobs in the U.S. for people who’ve started or are growing their own businesses by selling on Amazon. Last year alone, more than 100,000 sellers generated more than $100,000 each in sales.

Kindle Direct Publishing enables anyone to self-publish eBooks and paperbacks for free and reach millions of readers. Authors earn up to 70% royalty on sales to customers, keep control of their book rights, and set their own list prices. KDP has empowered thousands of authors to achieve their dreams and make a living writing books for readers around the world to enjoy.

Link to the rest at Amazon Press Room

City of Asylum bookstore opens Saturday

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

When City of Asylum opens its distinctive new bookstore on Saturday, visitors to the North Side will be able to browse a carefully curated selection of 8,000 volumes by authors from all over the world in a renovated Masonic hall now called Alphabet City.

For a dozen years, the nonprofit City of Asylum has offered refuge to writers in exile. Now, the diverse work of those authors will receive prime display.

The writers’ voices will be heard in Alphabet City, too, because the building’s first floor has a state-of-the-art broadcast studio next to the bookstore. The rest of the 9,000-square-foot space will house a wine and cheese restaurant, Casellula @ Alphabet City, which is expected to open Jan. 28.

. . . .

For Lesley Rains, opening the bookstore at 40 West North Ave. marks a milestone in her career as a bookseller.

“Five years ago, I was carting books around in my car,” said the 36-year-old woman.

Ms. Rains is pleased to be managing a bookstore with such a distinctive list of literary titles. Back in 2011, she sold books from pop-up displays at the Pittsburgh Public Market in the Strip District and Assemble, a hands-on creative space in Garfield. To acquire inventory, she visited prime hunting grounds such as yard and church sales.

Link to the rest at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

When Writing Becomes Just Another Lifestyle Good

From Literary Hub:

The bookstore next to my apartment is one of the few places where a budding writer can go in New York to and feel nothing but optimism about their literary prospects. People don’t just go there to buy books: they go there to gape at books, to think about books, to read—or fondle—books. Among the shelves of essays, short stories and criticism, the store has also set aside a few rows for writing manuals penned by icons like Stephen King and Haruki Murakami, advising aspiring writers on everything from how to construct a sentence to the best time to go to bed. Those who have gathered the courage to actually put words on paper can move on to the store’s book printing machine; I’ve seen many MFA grads pay a few bucks to get their thesis printed in book form, just as I’ve seen many hopefuls pay some additional bucks to display their paperbacks on the store’s self-publishing shelves.

Having recently graduated from an MFA program with a price tag higher than the average annual household income myself, this store is a comforting place for a writer. Inside, it feels less outrageous to have spent all this money to study how to be a writer. If so many places and services exist just to cater for writers like me, then surely that means the industry is booming?

This daydream extends beyond my book store. After graduation, an informal system of readings, talks, and other events exists to fill up the time I would have otherwise spent in school. I can go to a panel on Elena Ferrante to mingle with other writers and feel part of a literary community. Instead of my neighborhood cafe, I can take my laptop to one of the many co-working spaces especially designated for writers that can offer me a desk, like-minded company, and a reason to get dressed in the morning. Even if I were to move away from New York entirely, the internet would still offer a wide enough net of writerly support: there are complete industries offering online seminars on pitching, or remote workers that provide an editor’s eye—as long as I’m willing to pay the fee.

What all of this seems to point to is the emergence of writing as a lifestyle good.  Grad programs and services catering for writers are growing while newspapers and magazines shrink from repeated rounds of lay-offs, and this demonstrates exactly how living like a writer is no longer necessarily correlated to actually working as one.

Link to the rest at Literary Hub

There’s A Reason Why Indie Bookstores Are Thriving

From The Huffington Post:

At the tail end of last year, the New York book community was hit with unsettling news. BookCourt, the independently run store serving Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Brooklyn Heights, and readers willing to venture from their own neighborhoods for the sake of author events and stocked shelves, was closing.

For avid readers, the loss of a bookstore leaves a mark. Bookstores ― the brick-and-mortar variety ― foster so many chance encounters and reflective moments; true love of the glue-and-paper sort blossoms among their shelves. And, a shuttered indie doesn’t bode so well for the looming Bezospocalypse, even if their sales are increasing at a steadier-than-average clip compared with non-indie vendors.

But, like magic, the closing of BookCourt coincided with the announcement of another store, to be opened by Emma Straub, author of Modern Lovers, The Vacationers and Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures. A onetime BookCourt employee and longtime lover of literature, Straub hopes her store will be “salve for the wound.”

. . . .

 When did you decide to open Books Are Magic!?

The second that we heard that BookCourt was closing. Which was mid-October. We found out earlier than most of the public in the neighborhood. Immediately, we thought, no, no, this can’t happen. We live a few blocks away from BookCourt, and we’re there, I would say, three or four times a week. I truly couldn’t fathom the notion that we would live in a neighborhood without an independent bookstore.

We know ― oh, yeah, this is our job to fix. So, we’re working on it.

In your announcement you highlight the importance of a bookstore to a community or neighborhood. How, in your experience, have bookstores played that role?

I work from home, and for me a bookstore is a place that I can always go. It’s a place I can go to find new ideas, and see old friends, and to read a poem, and to pick up a picture book for one of my children, and to buy a gift. Books are the only presents that always fit. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a book and thought, oh, god, this is just, the wrong thing.
Even when I don’t buy something, I always fondle a lot of things. As a writer, bookstores have been enormously important to me. BookCourt in particular, but also other independent bookstores across the country. There’s nothing like it. There’s nothing like a bookstore. It falls in a certain in-between space, between public space and private space. Bookstores always feel intimate but welcoming. I think they’re important and necessary for people like me who have small children, and where it’s not always warm outside. It’s nice to have a place to go.

Link to the rest at The Huffington Post and thanks to Dave for the tip.

Case of ‘fattened’ Jorge Luis Borges story heads to court in Argentina

From The Guardian:

One of the best-known stories by the Argentinian author Jorge Luis Borges takes the form of a fake literary essay about a Frenchman who rewrites a section of Don Quixote word for word and is showered with praise for his daring.

It is probably safe to say that Borges’s 79-year-old widow, María Kodama – sole heir and literary custodian of his oeuvre – takes a dimmer view of such rewrites.

The novelist and poet Pablo Katchadjian is facing trial for “intellectual property fraud” after publishing a reworking of Borges’s 1945 story The Aleph. The Fattened Aleph – originally published by a small press in 2009 – extended Borges’s work from its original 4,000 words to 9,600.

Most of the alterations consist of the addition of adjectives and descriptive passages and do not change the original plot, which revolves around a “a small iridescent sphere” in a Buenos Aires basement, through which a person can see the entirety of creation.

. . . .

After five years, a court hearing has finally been set for 14 February, and the judge in the case appears to be leaning in Kodama’s favour. “The alteration of the text of the work by Borges is evident,” Judge Guillermo Carvajal stated in his ruling for a trial.

Kodama’s lawyer Fernando Soto dismissed Katchadjian’s claims that the work was a literary experiment. “Only Katchadjian’s name appears on the cover. It doesn’t say ‘The Aleph by Borges, altered by Katchadjian’. Borges is not mentioned in the index or the copyright page either. The only place Borges appears is in a brief postscript at the end of the text,” Soto said.

. . . .

Katchadjian has rarely spoken in public about the case (and did not respond to an interview request), but he did discuss it at at an event last year at the National Library in Buenos Aires.

“The Fattened Aleph is not plagiarism because no plagiarism is open about its source,” Katchadjian said. “Neither is it a joke that went wrong, or one that went right. It is a book I wrote based on a previous text.”

. . . .

Katchadjian’s laywer, Ricardo Strafacce, said he was confident the lawsuit would not prosper. “Legal forensic experts have already established that The Fattened Aleph is a new work of art. Secondly, the court will also take into account that there was no intent by Katchadjian to deceive the reader as to Borges’s authorship of the original The Aleph, which is clearly stated in Katchadjian’s book.”

Link to the rest at The Guardian

The Industry Finally Acknowledges Indies Are Authors

From GoodEreader:

The gates have finally been thrown open, all are welcome here… Such is the dramatic sentiment now that indie authors have been given their very own day at one of the previously excluding events, Digital Book World. With the laughable and out-of-date self-titled proclamation, “DBW Indie Author: The First Conference For The New Professional Author,” industry leaders are once again convincing themselves that they set some kind of standard for self-published hangers-on.

Backing up, DBW has not been kind to self-publishing in the past. It has largely been an event aimed at patting the traditional publishing industry on the back for all of its innovation, while publishing regular blog posts that mock indies and shoot down any effort to prove that self-publishing can produce solid sales numbers.

This has been nowhere more evident than in DBW’s own author survey and its longtime scorn for the Author Earnings report. The company’s stance has long contained a negative refusal of acceptance that has questioned everything from Hugh Howey’s methodology in compiling sales figures–you can read about it in blog posts with titles such as, “Ten Reasons You Can’t Trust Everything You Read About the Author Earnings Report“–to asking if Data Guy was actually a real person.

Link to the rest at GoodEreader and thanks to Cathy for the tip.

Perhaps because PG has attend ten zillion (more or less) trade shows for various industries, he’s very picky about which shows are worth the time/cost and which are not.

Hint: The majority of trade shows are not worth the travel hassles, expenses, etc. In more than a few cases, people attend a show because they think others will draw negative inferences about them or their businesses if they don’t attend.

To be clear, PG has never attended a Digital Book World Conference, so he doesn’t have any knowledge of the quality of its shows.

PG admits a bias against shows in New York City. For him, food and lodging expenses, airport hassles, etc., are greater in NYC than other venues.

A few years ago, PG traveled to New York on business every other week for about a year with his employer paying the bills. He worked to keep the experience as non-stressful as possible, staying in the same (nice) hotel, using the same car service and driver, leveraging all the perks included in the top-level mileage category of a major airline, etc.

While there is no perfect convention city, New York never became as easy as other major business travel destinations – San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Boston or Florida cities like Miami and Orlando.

PG will quit rambling about New York.

Another alternative to traveling to gather information is the internet. Particularly for indie authors who don’t need to impress a publisher, editor or agent, the internet may provide up-to-date information in better and certainly cheaper ways than a convention does.

PG doesn’t discount the potential business benefits derived from meeting people face-to-face. It can be vital for many types of businesses. However, PG wonders if it’s as important for indie authors as it is for many other business professionals.

PG was about to pontificate about introverts and large conventions, but he’ll let visitors to TPV let him know what he’s overlooked about trade shows and indie authors.

Riggio Reaffirms Commitment to Bricks-and-Mortar

From Publishers Weekly:

Barnes & Noble’s disappointing holiday sales have not diminished the retailer’s resolve to get its bricks-and mortar stores on firm ground, CEO Len Riggio told PW in an interview last week, following the announcement that comparable store sales fell 9.1% in the nine-week period ended December 31, 2016.

For the fiscal year ending in April, Riggio said B&N still plans to close a total of 12 outlets while opening four. In fiscal 2018, he expects B&N to be “store positive.” Riggio attributed the weak holiday results largely to a decline in customer traffic that affected many retailers for much of 2016. Riggio observed that with traffic down for many retailers, it was difficult for an individual store to build sales momentum on its own.

Riggio was widely quoted as predicting that store traffic would improve after the presidential election, but he acknowledged that this did not occur. “People were not in a celebratory mood,” Riggio said. In the four days following the close of the holiday period, sales and traffic did improve, but Riggio admitted it was hard to draw too many conclusions from such a small sample. Still, he still expects customer traffic to rebound at some point in the new year. “People will be looking to move on with their lives,” he said.

. . . .

With more sales moving online, Riggio said he was encouraged by the performance of BN.com, which had a 2% gain over the holidays. He acknowledged that the company had a hard time improving the consumer experience of the site, but believes the newest version is much more consumer friendly. “We finally saw an uptick [in sales] at BN.com. It has finally been debugged,” Riggio said. “We have plenty of room for growth.”

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

If you can look

If you can look into the seeds of time, and say which grain will grow and which will not, speak then unto me.

William Shakespeare

Here’s Another Way Digital Could Complement Print

From Digital Book World:

As I’ve said before, the publishing industry needs to get beyond the current “print or digital” mindset and instead explore ways for one to complement the other. Plenty of industry stats show that most readers are comfortable with either format and that many prefer the convenience of switching between the two (e.g., reading the news digitally but mostly sticking with print books).

After several years of going exclusively digital with books, I have to admit I’ve been reading a few more print books lately as well. Sometimes it’s because the book was given to me, and other times I simply opted for the format that was right in front of me at the store.

What I’m finding, though, is that the reading experience would be better if we could narrow the gap between print and digital. Here’s a great example: As I continue reading The Content Trap, I’m highlighting more and more passages. When I do that with an ebook, I can quickly search and retrieve those highlights using my phone, my iPad or whatever device is handy. With print books, however, those highlights and notes are only accessible if the physical book is nearby.

I’d love to see someone develop a service where I can take pictures of the print pages with my yellow highlights and allow me to upload them to a cloud service where they’ll be converted to a digital format. Since I’ve now got a nice library of both Kindle and Google Play ebooks, it would be even better if I could add those print highlights to my existing bookshelves.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

PG says he finds it quite simple to use his phone to take photos of printed documents (or pages) he wants to keep, then save them to Dropbox and/or Evernote, where they’re stored in digital form in the cloud and on each of his computers if he needs them offline. Evernote even performs OCR on the document so it’s full-text searchable.

If PG wants to have a printed document (or photo) automatically transformed into a cleaner image, he takes a photo with his phone using an app called PhotoScan from Google. PhotoScan automatically improves the quality of the image, frames it properly in the photo, instantly uploads it to Google Photos in the cloud and saves it to his phone’s camera roll.

He doesn’t get any OCR or text searching capabilities with the PhotoScan documents, but nothing prevents him from sending those documents from his phone to Dropbox.

You Can Write a Best-Seller and Still Go Broke

From Slate:

In 2012, a month after the publication of her memoir, Wild [Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail], Cheryl Strayed was on a book tour, soaking up the wonder of her first big success as an author, when her husband texted her to say that their rent check had bounced. “We couldn’t complain to anyone,” Strayed told Manjula Martin, editor of the new anthology Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living: “My book is on the New York Times best-seller list right now and we do not have any money in our checking account.”

Few connections are more mysterious than the one between writing books and making money. Strayed most definitely did make money on Wild, which was adapted into an Oscar-nominated film with Reese Witherspoon, but she didn’t get her first royalty check for it until 2013, “so it was almost a year before my life actually changed.” Yes, there was that $400,000 advance—an amount to make any aspiring memoirist’s eyes go dreamily unfocused—but Strayed and her husband had run up so much credit card debt that almost all of the money went to paying it off and supporting her family while she finished writing the book. Book advances, which are advances against the royalties that will be earned after the book is published, aren’t forked out in one lump sum, either. The payments come parceled out in (typically) three or four checks paid on signing the contract, on delivery of the manuscript, and on publication. The writer’s literary agent then takes a percentage of that. When Strayed sold her first novel a few years earlier for the seemingly handsome sum of $100,000, the advance amounted to, as she puts it, “about $21,000 a year over the course of four years, and I paid a third of that to the IRS … it was like getting a grant every year for four years. But it wasn’t enough to live off.”

It’s worth leading with all these numbers because, as Scratch repeatedly demonstrates, the nitty-gritty on this stuff is in short supply in the wider writerly imagination, while fantasy, evasion, and envious brooding runneth over. Strayed is among the few prospering contributors to this collection of essays and interviews who speaks so explicitly. (“We’re only hurting ourselves as writers by being so secretive about money,” she told Martin.) Another is Roxane Gay—author, columnist, editor, publisher, professor, public speaker—who reports that she made approximately $150,000 in 2014. That’s a good income by almost any standard, but does it match your sense of Gay’s prominence and productivity? (Surely there are plenty of professors who make that much, or more, from their academic work alone.) Depending on your media diet, Gay may or may not constitute a “famous writer” in your eyes, and depending on how much you think famous writers must earn, her income may strike you as surprisingly modest. Or perhaps this entire topic offends you. There are still a few idealists out there cherishing the belief that writing, as art, mustn’t be contaminated by filthy lucre.

. . . .

If they are novelists (or—God forbid!—poets), they almost always rely on teaching for steady income. What they teach, for the most part, is writing; that is, as none of the contributors has quite the nerve to state baldly, in order to support themselves, they train others to do the work that isn’t providing them with a viable living. At times, the entire fiction-writing profession resembles a pyramid scheme swathed in a dewy mist of romantic yearning. Many of these essays begin with wry descriptions of the author’s youthful madness in moving to New York or throwing away a dependable day job or career path to “be a writer,” a phrase that often connotes earning enough money to live by writing alone. Yet this is never a simple transaction. For authors, money, however obscurely, is always entangled with legitimacy because writers have for centuries equated publication with professional and artistic anointment.

It’s indeed a significant testimonial when someone else wants to invest their own money in a writer’s work, so it’s easy to forget that a publisher is actually the writer’s business partner, not a conferrer of literary worth. In their candid moments, most publishers will admit going into business with writers whose work they regard as subliterary because they believe that they can profit from their books. This is still considered shocking in some unsophisticated quarters, but publishing isn’t literature: Literature is literature. Publishing is a separate, if related enterprise.

Link to the rest at Slate and thanks to Matthew for the tip.

Stolen good books: why Canadian thieves outclass the British

From The Guardian:

They have a better class of book thief in Toronto. Whereas in the UK, Potters Harry and Beatrix, as well as travel guides, top the list of titles most likely to be stolen from bookshops, thieves working the aisles in the Canadian city are targeting Haruki Murakami’s work.

One bookseller said he was C$800 (£500) lighter after a shoplifting spree that cleared an entire shelf of the Japanese author’s work from his shop. “They took my Norwegian Woods, my Sputniks, all of them,” lamented Gary Kirk of the A Good Read Bookshop, telling broadcaster CBC Toronto that he doubted the thief had ever cracked open a Murakami.

In the UK, though the Booksellers Association keeps no records about “shrinkage” – as it quaintly refers to shoplifting – it appears shoplifters (shrinkers?) browsing its members’ shelves have less highbrow tastes. Philip Downer, former head of Borders UK and managing director of Calliope Gifts told the Guardian that thieves targeted “big brands – Harry Potter, Peppa Pig – where the thief can take a pile of the same title with an easy guarantee of being able to shift the goods.”

. . . .

But am I alone in feeling a bit embarrassed that our thieves can’t raise the bar a bit? Must they make us look so dumb compared with our Canadian cousins?

It isn’t as if our taste in knockoff books has always been books with a reading age of 12 and lots of pictures. As with our bestsellers, our stolen books have dumbed down.

Go back 40 years and any self-respecting book thief in London could be found at Soho’s Coach and Horses knocking back booze with Peter Cook, Lucien Freud and Tom Baker, according to Jeffrey Bernard’s memoirs. Their taste in quality art books and highbrow literary works makes them look like “gentleman thief” Raffles compared to modern-day thieves.

According to former “gentleman bookseller” Steerforth, whole shelves of Nabokov used to disappear from his Richmond shop. One thief, the notorious curmudgeon Roy Faith, who specialised in high-end art books, ensured so much business for store detectives that one firm sent a rep to his funeral. Another wore a specially adapted raincoat to lift copies of the Times Atlas – £75 a pop – two at a time.

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

Rumors of the Demise of Books Greatly Exaggerated

From Gallup:

Despite the abundance of digital diversions vying for their time and attention, most Americans are still reading books. In fact, they are consuming books at nearly the same rate that they were when Gallup last asked this question in 2002 — before smartphones, Facebook or Twitter became ubiquitous. More than one in three (35%) appear to be heavy readers, reading 11 or more books in the past year, while close to half (48%) read between one and 10 and just 16% read none.

. . . .

Although the survey did not track the types of books that Americans read by age group, book reading in general is fairly similar by age group among U.S. adults. It is a bit more prevalent among the oldest and youngest age groups than among those in the middle years. Roughly nine in 10 adults aged 18 to 29 (91%) report reading at least one book in the past year — possibly related to the required reading among college students within this age group. The percentage among those aged 65 and older is 85%. Nearly four in 10 respondents in both age groups say they read more than 10 books.

The most meaningful differences in reading behavior since 2002 are evident among Americans aged 65 and older. Collectively, they are reading more books than the same age group did in 2002.

Link to the rest at Gallup and thanks to Dave for the tip.

Print Book Sales Rose Again in 2016

From Publishers Weekly:

Despite a less-than-ideal environment—no breakout bestsellers on the adult fiction side and a lengthy, brutal election cycle that sucked nearly all of the air out of the cultural conversation—unit sales of print books were up 3.3% in 2016 over 2015. Total print unit sales hit 674 million, marking the third-straight year of growth, according to Nielsen BookScan, which tracks about 80% of print sales in the U.S.

Most print formats had an outstanding year, with hardcover up 5.4%, trade paperback up 4%, and board books up 7.4%. Mass market has been on the wane since the introduction of e-books, and its slide continued in 2016 with a 7.7% drop in unit sales. Physical audio, where sales were down 13.5% on the year, also took a big hit from digital.

The largest gains came in the adult nonfiction category, where sales were up 6.9% from 2015. Several subcategories posted substantial increases, among them crafts and hobbies, where the adult coloring book boom—though slowing down from 2015’s blitz—continues to have a large impact. The religion and self-help areas also saw boosts, though for different reasons. Several big-name religion authors published new titles last year and racked up six-figure sales (Pope Francis, Lysa Terkeurst, Sarah Young), whereas backlist powered the self-help category: of the top five self-help titles, only one, Angela Duckworth’s Grit, was published in 2016.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

I have seen

I have seen the future and it is very much like the present, only longer.

Kehlog Albran

Execs foresee leaven 2017

From The Bookseller:

Book trade executives are optimistic and bullish about 2017, despite the political uncertainty of Brexit, looming European elections and Donald Trump taking up office in the US this month.

Publishing chief executives, leading agents and booksellers have given their predictions for the year ahead, with the overall outlook positive on the back of a second consecutive year of rising print sales.

Opportunities for the trade include an increase in export sales following a decline in the value of the pound, desire to read deeper non-fiction books in a so-called “post-truth world” heralding a “golden era” for the genre and the continuing boom in audio book sales –with Hacehtte UK chief executive Tim Hely Hutchinson predicting a 25% year-on-year growth in the format in 2017.

Ethnic diversity numbers will increase across the industry, foresees Pan Mac c.e.o Anthony Forbes Watson and the trade will then turn its head towards economic diversity in its staff. HarperCollins’ c.e.o Charlie Redmayne believes that the diversity initiatives of 2016 will continue in 2017, “fundamentally changing the look of our industry and the books which we produce – ultimately growing our businesses and making us more relevant to the society in which we live”.

Meanwhile, the perennial quest of how to reach new readers in an unpredictable age will be the focus for Penguin Random House’s chief Tom Weldon.

. . . .

While most are optimistic about the year ahead, there are some who are concerned about its prospects, particularly taking into account wider political events.

“Anyone who is optimistic about a world where a homophobic, racist, lying braggart is the president of the most powerful country in the world, and where Britain deserts its friends and allies in Europe is missing the greater part of their cerebral cortex,” according Profile’s c.e.o Andrew Franklin.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

PG is not terribly impressed by the methods these experts utilize to forecast future book sales.

Ritually slaughtering an animal and examining its entrails might produce more accurate results.

The Big Freeze

Nothing to do with books, but many parts of the US are experiencing severe winter weather.

The following film was created in 1965 and features British rail workers during “The Big Freeze” of 1962-63, one of the UK’s coldest winters.

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How ‘Sherlock of the library’ cracked the case of Shakespeare’s identity

From The Guardian:

Deep in the Folger Library, in Washington DC, Heather Wolfe says that studying Shakespeare makes an ideal preparation for the onset of Trump’s America. You can see her point: Shakespeare would have revelled in the mad excesses, the sinister vanities and the pervasive stench of cronyism and corruption surrounding the president-elect as America makes the painful transition from Barack Obama.

Dr Wolfe is a willowy, bright-eyed manuscript scholar, a paleographer specialising in Elizabethan England who in certain moods of candour might put you in mind of Portia or perhaps Cordelia. She’s also a Shakespeare detective who, last year, made the career-defining discovery that is going to transform our understanding of Shakespeare’s biography. In the simplest terms, Wolfe delivered the coup de grace to the wild-eyed army of conspiracy theorists, including Vanessa Redgrave and Derek Jacobi, who contest the authenticity, even the existence, of the playwright known to contemporaries as Master Will Shakespeare.

Wolfe is an accidental sleuth. Her scholar’s passion is as much for old manuscripts as for the obscurities surrounding our national poet. Project Dustbunny, for example, one of her initiatives at the Folger Shakespeare Library, has made some extraordinary discoveries based on microscopic fragments of hair and skin accumulated in the crevices and gutters of 17th-century books.

. . . .

Before Wolfe arrived on the scene, all that scholars could be certain about was that a man named Shaxpere, Shaxberd or Shakespear was born in Stratford in 1564, and that he was an actor whose name is printed in the collected edition of his work published in 1623. We also know that he married Anne Hathaway, and died in 1616, according to legend, on his birthday, St George’s Day. The so-called “Stratfordian” case for Shakespeare rested on these, and a few other facts, but basically, that was it.

. . . .

Wolfe’s appetite for manuscript corroboration has led her into many dusty corners of the Elizabethan archives. It was this research instinct that first led her to reopen the file on the coat of arms granted to Shakespeare’s father, the small-town glover, in 1596.

John Shakespeare, from Stratford-upon-Avon, was ambitious to rise in the world. He was certainly not the first Englishman keen to put his origins as a provincial tradesman behind him. Among his contemporaries in Stratford, he was a figure of fun for his social climbing. English class snobbery has a long pedigree. His son, who would continue the quest for official recognition after his father’s death, also attracted metropolitan disdain as “an upstart crow beautified with our feathers”. In 1601, after his father’s death, Shakespeare the upstart returned to the college of arms to renew the family application for a coat of arms. He had made a small fortune in the theatre, and was buying property in and around Stratford. Now he set out to consolidate his reputation as a “Gentleman”. Under the rules that governed life at the court of Elizabeth I, only the Queen’s heralds could grant this wish.

A much-reproduced sketch for a coat of arms crystallised Shakespeare’s hopes for legitimacy in the antique jargon of heraldry: “On a Bend Sables, a Speare of the first steeled argent. And for his Crest, a falcon, his winges displayed Argent, supporting a Speare Gould …” The needy applicant also attached a motto: Non Sanz Droit (“Not Without Right”). All this, and much more, is buried in the archives of the college of arms in London.

Wolfe’s fascination with Shakespeare’s quest for a family crest grew out of her immersion in the manners and customs of late Elizabethan England, in particular the College of Heralds. These court officials were required to administer the complex rituals governing the lives of the knights, barons and earls surrounding Queen Elizabeth.

An adjunct to the court, the College of Heralds was not exempt from its own secret feuds. In 1602, the internecine rivalry between Sir William Dethick, the Garter King of Arms, and another herald, Ralph Brooke, burst into the open when Brooke released a list of 23 “mean persons” whose applications for crests (he claimed) had been wrongfully preferred by Dethick. When “Shakespeare the Player” found himself on this list, his campaign for social advancement seemed in jeopardy. A bitter row broke out at court between two factions. Shakespeare himself became an object of ridicule. Another rival, Ben Jonson, in his satire Every Man out of his Humour, poked fun at him as a rustic buffoon who pays £30 for a ridiculous coat of arms with the humiliating motto “Not Without Mustard”.

It’s at this point in the story that Wolfe discovered “the smoking gun”. In the Brooke-Dethick feud, it becomes clear that “Shakespeare, Gent. from Stratford” and “Shakespeare the Player” are the same man. In other words, “the man from Stratford” is indeed the playwright. Crucially, in the long-running “authorship” debate, this has been a fiercely contested point. But Wolfe’s research nails any lingering ambiguity in which the Shakespeare deniers can take refuge.

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

A Brief Survey of the Great American Novel(s)

From Literary Hub:

On this date in 1868, novelist John William DeForest coined the now inescapable term “the great American novel” in the title of an essay in The Nation. Now, don’t forget that in 1868, just a few years after the end of the Civil War, “America” was still an uncertain concept for many—though actually, in 2017 we might assert the same thing, which should give you a hint as to why the term “great American novel” is so problematic.

At the time of his writing, DeForest claimed that the Great American Novel, which he defined as “the picture of the ordinary emotions and manners of American existence,” had not yet been achieved, though he thought he could spot it on the horizon—he noted that Uncle Tom’s Cabin was “the nearest approach to the desired phenomenon.” (He also pooh-poohed both Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter and Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans, which is why, though others have dubbed them GANs, they don’t appear below.)

In the nearly 150 years since the essay was written, the argument over the Great American Novel—what it is, what it should be, do we have one, do we need one, why so many white men—has gone on and on. As A.O. Scott memorably put it, “the Great American Novel, while also a hybrid (crossbred of romance and reportage, high philosophy and low gossip, wishful thinking and hard-nosed skepticism), may be more like the yeti or the Loch Ness monster—or Sasquatch, if we want to keep things homegrown. It is, in other words, a creature that quite a few people—not all of them certifiably crazy, some of them bearing impressive documentation—claim to have seen.”

. . . .

F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Gatsby’s magic emanates not only from its powerhouse poetic style—in which ordinary American language becomes unearthly—but from the authority with which it nails who we want to be as Americans. Not who we are; who we want to be. It’s that wanting that runs through every page of Gatsby, making it our Greatest American Novel. But it’s also our easiest Great American Novel to underrate: too short; too tempting to misread as just a love story gone wrong; too mired in the Roaring Twenties and all that jazz.

–Maureen Corrigan, So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby Came to Be and Why It Endures, 2014

. . . .

Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

There was no sense [upon its publication] that a great American novel had landed on the literary world of 1885. The critical climate could hardly anticipate T. S. Eliot and Ernest Hemingway’s encomiums 50 years later. In the preface to an English edition, Eliot would speak of “a master piece. … Twain’s genius is completely realized,” and Ernest went further. In “Green Hills of Africa,” after disposing of Emerson, Hawthorne and Thoreau, and paying off Henry James and Stephen Crane with a friendly nod, he proceeded to declare, “All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn. … It’s the best book we’ve had. All American writing comes from that. There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since.” … What else is greatness but the indestructible wealth it leaves in the mind’s recollection after hope has soured and passions are spent? It is always the hope of democracy that our wealth will be there to spend again, and the ongoing treasure of Huckleberry Finn is that it frees us to think of democracy and its sublime, terrifying premise: let the passions and cupidities and dreams and kinks and ideals and greed and hopes and foul corruptions of all men and women have their day and the world will still be better off, for there is more good than bad in the sum of us and our workings. Mark Twain, whole embodiment of that democratic human, understood the premise in every turn of his pen, and how he tested it, how he twisted and tantalized and tested it until we are weak all over again with our love for the idea.

–Norman Mailer, The New York Times, 1984

. . . .

Saul Bellow, The Adventures of Augie March

The Adventures of Augie March is the Great American Novel. Search no further. All the trails went cold forty-two years ago. The quest did what quests very rarely do: it ended. … Augie March, finally, is the Great American Novel because of its fantastic inclusiveness, its pluralism, its qualmless promiscuity. In these pages the highest and lowest mingle and hobnob in the vast democracy of Bellow’s prose. Everything is in here, the crushed and the exalted, and all the notches in between, from the kitchen stiff… to the American eagle.

–Martin Amis, The Atlantic Monthly, 1995

Link to the rest at Literary Hub

A Peek Inside the Strange World of Fake Academia

From The New York Times:

The caller ID on my office telephone said the number was from Las Vegas, but when I picked up the receiver I heard what sounded like a busy overseas call center in the background. The operator, “John,” asked if I would be interested in attending the 15th World Cardiology and Angiology Conference in Philadelphia next month.

“Do I have to be a doctor?” I said, because I’m not one. I got the call because 20 minutes earlier I had entered my phone number into a website run by a Hyderabad, India, company called OMICS International.

“You can have the student rate,” the man replied. With a 20 percent discount, it would be $599. The conference was in just a few weeks, I pointed out — would that be enough time for the academic paper I would be submitting to be properly reviewed? (Again, I know nothing about cardiology.) It would be approved on an “expedited basis” within 24 hours, he replied, and he asked which credit card I would like to use.

If it seems that I was about to be taken, that’s because I was. OMICS International is a leader in the growing business of academic publication fraud. It has created scores of “journals” that mimic the look and feel of traditional scholarly publications, but without the integrity. This year the Federal Trade Commission formally charged OMICS with “deceiving academics and researchers about the nature of its publications and hiding publication fees ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars.”

. . . .

OMICS is also in the less well-known business of what might be called conference fraud, which is what led to the call from John. Both schemes exploit a fundamental weakness of modern higher education: Academics need to publish in order to advance professionally, get better jobs or secure tenure. Even within the halls of respectable academia, the difference between legitimate and fake publications and conferences is far blurrier than scholars would like to admit.

. . . .

In October, a New Zealand college professor submitted a paper to the OMICS-sponsored “International Conference on Atomic and Nuclear Physics,” which was held last month at the Hilton Atlanta Airport. It was written using the autocomplete feature on his iPhone, which produced an abstract that begins as follows: “Atomic Physics and I shall not have the same problem with a separate section for a very long long way. Nuclear weapons will not have to come out the same day after a long time of the year he added the two sides will have the two leaders to take the same way to bring up to their long ways of the same as they will have been a good place for a good time at home the united front and she is a great place for a good time.”

The paper was accepted within three hours.

An OMICS employee who identified himself as Sam Dsouza said conference papers are reviewed by its “experts” within 24 hours of submission. He couldn’t provide a list of its reviewers or their credentials.

Link to the rest at The New York Times

Self publishing is about self respect, not vanity

From author Darcy Conroy via Medium:

As a woman, a writer and recently published author, I read Kamila Shamsie’s “provocation” calling for 2018 to be a year of publishing only women with great interest. I admit that my gut response to the headline was one of concern — Do we really need to exclude male authors? — but I know headlines can be misleading so I read on with an open mind. Her summary of statistics showing that the publishing industry is not serving women well was familiar. I need no convincing that we are second-class citizens in the publishing industry as writers, readers and even characters, so when she began her crescendo toward her challenge, I was right there with her.

“Enough. Across the board, enough. Let’s agree that things have improved over the last 50 years, even over the last 20, and then let’s start to ask why. Was it simply the passage of time? Should we all sit around while the world continues on its slow upward trend towards equality? Or should we step outside that fictional narrative of progress and ask what actually helped to change literary culture in the UK? Two things come to mind: the literary presses of the 70s, of which Virago is the most notable; and the women’s prize for fiction. In part, what both the presses and the prize did was to create a space for women in a male-dominated world, giving voice and space to those who wouldn’t find them elsewhere.”

Yes! I thought. We do need to take example from the suffragettes, we do need to stop being so polite and seize our own power, raise our voices and… That’s when she lost me. Because what Shamsie suggested we raise our voices to say to the publishing industry was, essentially, “Please let us in. You’re being unfair. Just for one year without any boys in the way and see if the readers like us. It doesn’t have to be right away, 2018 is fine, but give us a go? Please?”

I don’t see the spirit of the independent presses of the 70s and 80s in that. What I see is a spirit of dependence on an industry that infantilizes writers, making them grateful for any morsel of approval and attention, convincing them that a publishing house is the only way to ‘real’ publication.

Link to the rest at Medium and thanks to Joshua for the tip.

Here’s a link to Darcy Conroy’s book. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

Fridges and washing machines could be vital witnesses in murder plots

From The Telegraph:

High-tech washing machines and fridges will soon be used by detectives gathering evidence from crime scenes, experts have forecast.

The advent of ‘the internet of things’ in which more devices are connected together in a world of ‘smart working’ could in future provide important clues for the police.

Detectives are currently being trained to look for gadgets and white goods which could provide a ‘digital footprint’ of victims or criminals.

Mark Stokes, the head of the digital, cyber and communications forensics unit at the Metropolitan Police told The Times: “Wireless cameras within a device, such as fridge, may record the movement of owners and suspects.

. . . .

The new Samsung Family Hub Fridge has cameras that carry a live feed of its contents, so shoppers can tell what they need when they are out at the shop. The dates and times that people logon to the fridge, therefore could provide alibis or prove people were not were they said they were.

Mr Stokes said detectives of the future would carry a ‘digital forensics toolkit’ which would allow them to analyse microchips and download data at the scene, rather than removing devices for testing.

Link to the rest at The Telegraph and thanks to Dan, who says, “Nothing to do with publishing, except new story ideas. Not only Alexa sits on the cutting edge of crime investigation.” for the tip.

The Best Writing Advice of 2016

From The Atlantic:

2016 was not an easy year to be a writer. Not just because of the constant, concentration-wrecking pull of our devices, their glowing screens beckoning with the promise of fresh horrors.

. . . .

For the past three years (see 2013, 2014, and 2015), I’ve compiled the best writing advice from this series. In 2016, as in the past, authors shared some great insights—Alice Mattison explained how to structure a short story without a traditional plot, for instance, while Ethan Canin unpacked the art of the last line. But the bulk of the advice writers offered this year was not about “craft,” so much, as about the work of becoming a better person. In order to overcome their creative challenges, the authors I interviewed didn’t need to write prettier sentences: They needed to become more disciplined, more generous, braver.

. . . .

2016 has been filled with ugly reminders of how factional humans can be. This year’s writers suggested that their work demands something different: openness, plasticity of thinking, the ability to entertain and evaluate multiple points of view. Canin, the author of A Doubter’s Almanac, described how writing is a process of self-questioning, a method of backing away from what you’re most convinced you know. As he put it:

I’ve seen plenty of students come in and say, I want to write a novel about blah blah blah. But you just can’t do it. You can only write a novel about a character who does something wrong, and see what happens from there. Novels are compendiums of bad behavior, and literature is the gossip about it.

In other words, if you’re writing a piece of fiction, I’d urge you not to try to show anything—instead, try to discover something. There’s no way to write anything powerful unless your unconscious takes charge.

With characterization, you have to let go. You’ve got to release yourself from your grandiose intentions, your ambitions, your ideas about humanity, literature, and philosophy by focusing on the being-another-person aspect of it—which, by the way, is freeing, delightful, and one of the few real joys of writing. Stop worrying about writing a great novel—just become another human being.

In his discussion of Borges’s great short story “The Aleph,” Michael Chabon, the author of Moonglow, spoke at length about detail and description—the process by which he chooses the right words from a sea of possible choices. Writing a convincing character, he said, is an act that requires a kind of radical empathy:

Infinite pity, I think, is the proper attitude to have towards your characters. Not pity in the way we mostly tend to understand it—which is the condescension of a superior looking down at an inferior and feeling sorry for them … It’s a much more self-implicating pity, where you see and understand the tragic and routine flaws people have, the ways in which your characters fall short of the marks they set for themselves—just as you fall short of the marks you set for yourself.

. . . .

Alexander Chee, the author of The Queen of the Night, made a similar point about following what gives you pleasure. A famous writing teacher warned him never to write about parties in fiction; he found himself wanting to do the opposite. In our interview, he made a case for using party scenes in fiction, even if they seem frivolous on the surface, and are challenging to write:

The qualities that make parties such a nightmare for people—and also so pleasurable—make them incredibly important inside of fiction. There’s a chaos agent quality to them: You just don’t know who’s going to be there, or why. You could run into an old enemy, an old friend, an old friend who’s become an enemy. You could run into an ex-lover, or your next lover. The stakes are all there, and that’s why they’re so fascinating.

Link to the rest at The Atlantic

All the goodness and the heroisms

All the goodness and the heroisms will rise up again, then be cut down again and rise up. It isn’t that the evil thing wins — it never will — but that it doesn’t die.

John Steinbeck

The Most Commonly Misused English Words

From attn:

The English language is not easily mastered. Homonyms — words that are spelled or pronounced the same but mean different things — can be particularly challenging, which is why even the most highly educated English speakers get tripped up sometimes.

. . . .

  • Adverse: Unfavorable or harmful; commonly confused with “averse,” which means disinclined.
  • Appraise: To evaluate the value of something; commonly confused with “apprise,” which means “to inform.”
  • As far as: The same; commonly confused with the phrase “as for,” which means “with regard to.”
  • Begs the question: Implies a conclusion that isn’t supported by evidence; commonly confused with “raises the question.”
  • Bemused: Bewildered; commonly confused with “amused,” which means entertained.
  • Cliché: A noun; commonly misused as an adjective.
  • Credible: Believable; commonly confused with “gullible.”
  • Criteria: A plural word; commonly misused as a singular word. The singular is “criterion.”
  • Data: A plural word; commonly used as a singular noun.

Link to the rest at attn:

All Romance Ebooks & Visions of The Future: Part One

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

All Romance Ebooks and its sister website Omnilit did something incredibly awful on December 28, 2016. It sent out a handful of emails, letting writers, publishers, readers, and others know that it was shutting its doors four days later.

The letter WMG Publishing got said this,

On midnight, December 31, our sites will go dark and your content will cease to be available for sale through our platforms. This includes any content you are having us distribute to Apple.

We will be unable to remit Q4 2016 commissions in full and are proposing a settlement of 10 cents on the dollar (USD) for payments received through 27 December 2016.  We also request the following conditions:

1.     That you consider this negotiated settlement to be “paid in full.”

2.     That no further legal action be taken with regards to the above referenced commissions owed….

It is my sincere hope that we will be able to settle this account and avoid filing for bankruptcy[KKR: all bold mine]

I have no books on that site. Hadn’t for a long time. If any of my work is there, it’s there through other publishers or as part of an anthology. WMG pulled its books off All Romance Ebooks (ARe) almost a year ago, because of problems dealing with the site, the people behind the site, and just some really unsettling business practices.

How unsettling? Nothing concrete. It looked (from the outside) like their interface was breaking down. We knew of sales on our account that never were credited to our account. I believe WMG even tested the site by buying (or having someone buy) a book, and seeing if we got credited.

We didn’t. Then we tried to track down what was owed, what payments had been made, and communications issues. We had a handful of truly incompetent employees (nice people; terrible workers) in 2014, and at first, we attributed our ARe problems to them. But after some dealings, we realized that, nope, the problem wasn’t ours. It was ARe’s problem, and that was a very, very, very bad sign.

We pulled all our titles off ARe, deactivated our account, and moved on to other sites.

So when we got this ridiculous letter, we knew it would have no effect on us. But as Allyson Longueira at WMG noted, ARe (a major Apple portal) made its announcement while Apple is shut down for annual maintenance, and writers who have to switch from ARe to Apple direct can’t do so.

Not only that, authors will lose any algorithm from Apple, and probably any revenue from them.

. . . .

ARe is a distributor, mostly, and so it is dealing with its writers as suppliers and unsecured creditors. I’ve been through a bunch of distributor closings, many in the late 1990s, with paper books, and they all happen like this.

One day, everything works, and the next, the distributor is closed for good. In some ways, ARe is unusual in that it gave its suppliers and creditors four days notice. Most places just close their doors, period.

I’m not defending ARe. I’m saying they’re no different than any other company that has gone out of business like this. Traditional publishers have had to deal with this kind of crap for decades. Some comic book companies went out of business as comic book distributors collapsed over the past 25 years. Such closures have incredible (bad) ripple effects. In the past, writers have lost entire careers because of these closures, but haven’t known why, because the publishing house had to cope with the direct losses when the distributor went down.

The difference here is that ARe wasn’t dealing with a dozen other companies. It was dealing with hundreds, maybe thousands, of writers individually, as well as publishers. So, writers are seeing this distribution collapse firsthand instead of secondhand.

To further complicate matters, ARe acted as a publisher for some authors, and is offering them no compensation whatsoever, not even that horrid 10 cents on the dollar (which, I have to say, I’ll be surprised if they pay even that).

. . . .

Now, let me give you all some advice.

Lawsuits cost time as well as money. I know a whole bunch of angry writers are banding together to go to war with ARe. Which is good, on the one hand, because these kinds of things should not ever happen.

But on the other hand, it’s not good, because a whole bunch of writers are going to lose a year or more of precious and irreplaceable writing time to go after this company.

Some writers have that time; others do not.

Frankly, if the writers’ organizations put together some kind of lawsuit, sign on to that, because it will be more effective. They can afford good lawyers and they will have a huge number of writers that they represent.

I know you’re angry. I know you may have serious financial problems because of this shut-down.

You need to take a deep breath, and look at the impact ARe’s shutdown and the loss of fourth quarter earnings will have on you. Then you need to understand that any lawsuit will take a year or more (courts are slow). ARe might settle; they might not.

. . . .

Guessing now, purely guessing.

ARe had run ahead of their money since they started. They used today’s money to pay yesterday’s bills. They had no profit. So they were floating money—payments to authors, payments to creditors, payments like website and rent.

That’s why ARe’s technology grew antiquated, why they weren’t keeping up with the times, why payments in some cases were late or impossible to get. They probably got a line of credit too late or they didn’t have one or they were borrowing off credit cards.

This fall, book sales went down. I discussed some of that after the election, but I’ll be discussing it more and in a different way later in January. Like its authors, ARe was counting on a certain level of revenue. That revenue went down, starting in July (maybe sooner), and continued downward all fall.

ARe paid writers and publishers 45 days after the close of the quarter. So they had to have made the Q3 payments by early November. That probably used most of their capital. They figured the holiday season would save them, along with holiday ad buys.

I’ll wager those were below what ARe expected—significantly below. So, they tried the 2017 ad buy the week before Christmas, hoping that would save them.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch on Patreon and thanks to C.G. for the tip.

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

As usual, Kris’s advice is sound. If you’re involved in the ARe matter, you’ll want to read her entire post.

In a past life, PG represented lots of people in lots of civil litigation. He spent a great deal of time in court.

In some cases, litigation is a necessary part of solving a dispute. The parties are unable to agree, so a judge or jury must decide the matter.

On the other hand, litigation takes a financial and emotional toll on the parties. In some cases, the tangible and/or intangible rewards of litigation outweigh the financial/emotional costs and in other cases they do not.

PG was once involved in finally settling a lawsuit over the validity of a will that had lasted 13 years. He’s comfortable in saying that the costs outweighed the rewards for the litigants in that case.

PG says it is almost always a bad idea to entrust your business or personal welfare to the outcome of litigation.

You can move on with your life without a lawsuit or sue and move on with your life. The moving on with your life part is always the most important.

Court Documents Regarding All Romance E-Books’ Disturbing Business Practices Surface

From Blog Critics:

In a previous article about the sudden closing of All Romance E-Books, LLC and the owner’s announcement that she was not going to pay any royalties for the 4th quarter sales of books from the over 5000 publishers and authors with books on the site.

. . . .

In order to see the whole story, you need to go back to 2014 when a dramatic conflict began between Lori James and her business partner, Barbara Perfetti Ulmer. In fact, Ulmer sued James and All Romance E-Books, LLC in the Sixth Judicial Circuit Court of Pinellas County, Florida – where ARe was established as a legal business entity – on March 2, 2015. Ulmer filed a complaint alleging that James had been “denying access to contemporaneous and current financial information related to All Romance, breach of duties (fiduciary, care, and loyalty) unjust enrichment, inequitable distribution, and judicial dissolution of All Romance.”

The information regarding this lawsuit is easily found thanks to the open court records in the state of Florida, and can be viewed online here.

. . . .

Ulmer and James established All Romance E-Books, LLC together as full partners in 2006. Ulmer was the Chief Financial Officer, and as she was resident in Florida that’s where the physical address of ARe was established. (Remember the three addresses in Florida? One was in Ulmer’s town, Safety Harbor, and appears to be a post office box, which would be understandable as she was the CFO.) James was the Chief Operating Officer, and under the terms of their original operating agreement (Exhibit A) both partners owned 50% of the company and all decisions were to be made by “unanimous agreement” while all financial considerations –  both contribution and distribution – were to be equally shared.

. . . .

According to Ulmer’s complaint, in October of 2014, Dominick Addario, MD – a forensic psychiatrist affiliated with the University of California-San Diego – examined Ulmer to determine whether she was “disabled” and unable to perform her duties under the terms of their operating agreement, which stipulated that if a condition was “permanent or expected to be of an indefinite duration” and prohibited one of the partners from performing their duties, the other partner could assume full responsibility for the company, including all financial and operational decisions.

On November 26, 2014 Dr. Addario sent an email (Exhibit B) to both partners stating that: “…I recommended certain treatment and testing for her and suggest reevaluation in 3 to 6 months at which time she may once again be fit to carry out her duties…”

. . . .

When Ulmer asked to be included in meetings, James told her no and to “stop being a distraction.” When Ulmer asked to return to work, James said no. When Ulmer protested, James told her that “if she did not like what James was doing, that Perfetti(Ulmer) should go get a lawyer.”

Link to the rest at Blog Critics and thanks to A. for the tip.

PG will remind all that the contentions in a court filing are not proven facts.

A quick review of the case summary of Ulmer vs. James reveals that Ulmer’s filing was dismissed “because of lack of prosecution.” This generally means that the plaintiff didn’t do what he/she was required to do in order to move the case forward. There was never a trial or other disposition of the case on its merits.