Indigo Fiscal Year: Revenue Up 2.6%, Net Earnings Dip

From Shelf Awareness:

In the fiscal year ended April 1, total revenue at Indigo Books & Music rose 2.6%, to $1.02 billion (about US$755 million), and net earnings were $20.9 million (about US$15.5 million) compared to $28.6 million (US$21.2 million) last year.

Total comparable sales, including both online sales and comparable store sales, increased 4.1%.

The company said that sales grew primarily because of “continued double-digit growth in general merchandise, most notably lifestyle products and toys. Book sales remained solid as sales for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child partially offset the declining trend for adult colouring books.”

Link to the rest at Shelf Awareness

The Icelandic publisher that only prints books during a full moon – then burns them

From The Guardian:

For Tunglið, how you publish is as important as what you publish. Named after the Icelandic word for the moon, the tiny publisher prints its books in batches of 69 on the night of a full moon. So far, so weird. But keen readers must also buy their books that same night, as the publisher burns all unsold copies. Weirder still.

Why? While most books can survive centuries or even millennia, Tunglið – as its two employees tell me – “uses all the energy of publishing to fully charge a few hours instead of spreading it out over centuries … For one glorious evening, the book and its author are fully alive. And then, the morning after, everyone can get on with their lives.”

The masterminds are writer Dagur Hjartarson and artist Ragnar Helgi Ólafsson. Three years ago, the pair were discussing some promising manuscripts that they knew were languishing unpublished, and started to formulate a plan to make these books appear. But doing so, they decided, would also “have to involve making them disappear”.

Precisely why the latter was necessary is hard to discern – but nonetheless, Tunglið was born.

. . . .

They assure me that they burn books “with a lot of care and respect, using only first-grade French cognac to help to fuel the flames”. They claim the burnings “have nothing to do with history, censorship or politics”. Instead, the procedure has to do with the politics of the book itself. Unsurprisingly, they describe their publishing list as “unconventional” – books that are hard to classify. They want to keep these challenging books available, whether it be Icelandic poet Óskar Árni Óskarsson’s Cuban Diary from 1983 or Ólafsson’s own Letters from Bhutan. “The printed book is a democratic object,” they argue, but one being “pushed to the margins” as some publishers are trying to save the book “by turning it into a luxury item”; a desirable object prized for its commercial value rather than its contents.

. . . .

“The energy of the act of publishing is condensed and amplified. A lot of waiting, doubting and worrying, self-promotion and plugging is simply eliminated,” they say.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

 

Print sales might be rallying, but don’t get complacent

From The Bookseller:

In many ways, the worst thing to happen to book publishing has been the persistent strength of print books and the drop in sales of ebooks. Namely, the stalling of the digital transformation of the industry.

Yeah, I did say that. Let me explain.

Some might say that book publishing has weathered the transformation very well and is in a strong position. The numbers would tend to agree with that. Print sales up a notch, new bookshops opening, children’s book sales going from strength to strength. Time to put the kettle on then, sit back and put our feet up, yes?

Well, I tend to agree with Andrew Keen, the Internet critic and author who spoke at FutureBook in December. To paraphrase, he said publishing had come through the digital transformation mostly unscathed. However, he went on to say that this was down to good luck and not by any strategic play.

. . . .

During the early stages of the transformation, publishers threw money at a variety of digital initiatives: apps, ecommerce platforms, their own community websites… even buying the odd start-up. But big publishers spent big and lost big. I could easily list 10 initiatives that were launched with much fanfare, to be left unloved for 18 months and closed with a whimper. The intent may have been there, but the commitment certainly wasn’t. And further, their structures, people and processes did not allow for successful innovation at any scale.

But what does this matter if print sales are up and ebook sales are down? We’re fine, right?

Well yes, if we anticipate no further transformation happening. Or put another way, if we hope nobody else enters the industry looking to disrupt it; if no companies come along with new business models for books; if readers do not change how or what they buy; if no new technology emerges to offer readers a different experience, and if – a big if – Amazon, Google et al don’t come up with yet more game-changing ideas. That’s a future dependent on a lot of unlikely ifs.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Fashion is about dreaming and making other people dream.

Donatella Versace

Amazon Looking To Deal Directly With Publishers

From Forbes:

Amazon Japan notified publishers earlier this month that it would be partially ending its relationship with a major distributor. The distributor, Nippon Shuppan Hanbai Inc., had been supplying the company with large orders of bestsellers–a strategy that has worked in the industry for decades, before online retailers dominated the market and bookstore logistics dictated distribution strategy.

The announcement comes with a request that publishers make deals directly with Amazon , allowing the company to quickly sell a variety of quantities of books across the long tail to online customers.

Link to the rest at Forbes

Science fiction’s new golden age in China, what it says about social evolution and the future, and the stories writers want world to see

From the South China Morning Post:

The science-fiction genre in China was little known before Liu Cixin was honoured with the Hugo Award for best novel in 2015 for The Three-Body Problem. The first book in Liu’s Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy, it tells of an alien invasion during the Cultural Revolution and has sold more than a million copies in China alone. The English translation was recommended by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to members of his book club, and praised by former US president Barack Obama as “wildly imaginative, really interesting”.

Last year, Liu’s compatriot Hao Jingfang earned a Hugo Award for Folding Beijing, in which the city is divided into zones, each with a different number of hours in the day.

Liu has been nominated for another Hugo Award this year, for the final episode in his trilogy, Death’s End.

. . . .

The two winning books are now being adapted for the big screen in China, marking a turning point for Chinese sci-fi and potentially expanding the genre’s exposure globally.

Some 104 original sci-fi titles were published in China in 2016, compared to 75 the previous year, and 461 novelettes were released last year.

Author Regina Wang Kanyu, 27, a long-time sci-fi fan, has witnessed its growth in recent years. “It’s the golden age of Chinese science fiction,” she says.

. . . .

Last month, writers Regina Wang, Wang Yao and Hao Jingfang attended Melon Hong Kong, the city’s first science-fiction conference to bring together Chinese and Western writers.

“It’s a market miracle,” says Wang Yao, who goes by the pen name Xia Jia. “Ten years ago [when I started writing], we could never have imagined that these opportunities would be available,” she says, referring to the translation of Chinese sci-fi books and film adaptions.

It’s not the first golden age of sci-fi in China, though. Wang Yao says that was between 1978 and 1983 during reforms initiated by late Deng Xiaoping. “It was thought that science fiction could cultivate a scientific spirit, and the authorities assigned authors to write books in the genre,” says Wang.

. . . .

 Although investors are eyeing sci-fi’s entertainment industry potential, the literature itself is not so highly valued. “The payment writers receive for fiction writing is very small. I also write for fashion magazines, which pay a lot more,” says Regina Wang. Since it is impossible to make ends meet writing sci-fi, most authors do it simply as a hobby.

Link to the rest at South China Morning Post

How One Hundred Years of Solitude Became a Classic

From The Atlantic:

In 1967, Sudamericana Press published One Hundred Years of Solitude (Cien años de soledad), a novel written by a little known Colombian author named Gabriel García Márquez. Neither the writer nor the publisher expected much of the book. They knew, as the publishing giant Alfred A. Knopf once put it, that “many a novel is dead the day it is published.” Unexpectedly, One Hundred Years of Solitude went on to sell over 45 million copies, solidified its stature as a literary classic, and garnered García Márquez fame and acclaim as one of the greatest Spanish-language writers in history.

Fifty years after the book’s publication, it may be tempting to believe its success was as inevitable as the fate of the Buendía family at the story’s center. Over the course of a century, their town of Macondo was the scene of natural catastrophes, civil wars, and magical events; it was ultimately destroyed after the last Buendía was born with a pig’s tail, as prophesied by a manuscript that generations of Buendías tried to decipher. But in the 1960s, One Hundred Years of Solitude was not immediately recognized as the Bible of the style now known as magical realism, which presents fantastic events as mundane situations. Nor did critics agree that the story was really groundbreaking. To fully appreciate the novel’s longevity, artistry, and global resonance, it is essential to examine the unlikely confluence of factors that helped it overcome a difficult publishing climate and the author’s relative anonymity at the time.

. . . .

In 1965, the Argentine Sudamericana Press was a leading publisher of contemporary Latin American literature. Its acquisitions editor, in search of new talent, cold-called García Márquez to publish some of his work. The writer replied with enthusiasm that he was working on One Hundred Years of Solitude, “a very long and very complex novel in which I have placed my best illusions.” Two and a half months before the novel’s release in 1967, García Márquez’s enthusiasm turned into fear. After mistaking an episode of nervous arrhythmia for a heart attack, he confessed in a letter to a friend, “I am very scared.” What troubled him was the fate of his novel; he knew it could die upon its release. His fear was based on a harsh reality of the publishing industry for rising authors: poor sales. García Márquez’s previous four books had sold fewer than 2,500 copies in total.

The best that could happen to One Hundred Years of Solitude was to follow a path similar to the books released in the 1960s as part of the literary movement known as la nueva novela latinoamericana. Success as a new Latin American novel would mean selling its modest first edition of 8,000 copies in a region with 250 million people. Good regional sales would attract a mainstream publisher in Spain that would then import and publish the novel. International recognition would follow with translations into English, French, German, and Italian. To hit the jackpot in 1967 was to also receive one of the coveted literary awards of the Spanish language: the Biblioteca Breve, Rómulo Gallegos, Casa de las Américas, and Formentor.

. . . .

And yet it would be wrong to credit One Hundred Years of Solitude with starting a literary revolution in Latin America and beyond. Sudamericana published it when the new Latin American novel, by then popularly called the boom latinoamericano, had reached its peak in worldwide sales and influence. From 1961 onward, like a revived Homer, the almost blind Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges toured the planet as a literary celebrity. Following in his footsteps were rising stars like José Donoso, Cortázar, Vargas Llosa, and Fuentes. The international triumph of the Latin American Boom came when the Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to Miguel Ángel Asturias in 1967. One Hundred Years of Solitude could not have been published in a better year for the new Latin American novel. Until then, García Márquez and his work were practically invisible.

Link to the rest at The Atlantic

How to get ahead in self-publishing: never stop dreaming

From The Irish Times:

We all have dreams. For many, writing a book and seeing it on the shelves of bookshops is a dream come true. The next best thing to fulfilling your own dream is to help someone else to fulfil theirs. Such was my opportunity when my father wrote his dream book.

31 Years Of Hell! 1914-1945 (www.31YearsOfHell.com) is a concise history of the two world wars and the interwar years. I undertook to edit and produce the book, then I self-published it. The process was very intensive and the lessons I learned should help indie authors to maximise potential distribution and revenue.

Long before your book goes to print, it’s important to think about how to attract readers’ attention and generate sales. Key factors include professional editing, design, print styles, publicity strategy and understanding readers’ habits.

We’ve all studied English grammar in school, right? So why would you need an eidtor editor? If you misplace an apostrophe or insert a comma splice, will the grammar police come after you, lock you up and sentence you to two weeks in punctuation prison? Maybe not, but while your freedom is not at stake, your book’s distribution options are. Most of the book buyers I approached were very welcoming. However, some were a bit cagey when they heard the phrase “self-published”. They told me that many self-published books offered to them are not well produced and contain spelling and grammatical errors. A great editor won’t just weed out typos, misspellings and punctuation errors; they will elevate your writing and “make it sing”.

. . . .

 Once your text is punctuation-perfect, it’s time to choose the style for the interior pages of your book. With my background as a content creator, I had the capability to design the interior of my father’s book myself. However, if this is not within your skill set, I recommend hiring a professional designer. In addition to adding necessary text elements such as page headings, dedication page, table of contents and acknowledgements page, a talented designer will add flourishes to separating sections of text, choose appropriate fonts and create eye-catching page layouts.

. . . .

 In order to get your book into bookshops, you need to submit to Easons, Argosy (which supplies most of the independent bookshops) and Dubray. The era of self-publishing has led to a huge increase in the number of submissions they receive, so it’s very competitive. Alternatively you can approach independent bookshops directly. When doing this, I emailed an “advance information” document first then followed up with a phone call saying my father would call in to show them his book. This strategy worked: the response was overwhelmingly positive. I also supplied “sale or return” invoices on headed paper, which was described by many book buyers as “very professional”. Sale or return is the standard arrangement: bookshops will stock your book but will only pay the percentage agreed on stock sold; unsold books are returned. The percentage that bookshops take varies from 33 to 45 per cent. Because of this, it’s more lucrative to sell from your own website or directly through personal contact, for example after giving a talk, so it’s worth putting effort into those avenues.

Link to the rest at The Irish Times

Here’s a link to 31 Years of Hell. It’s too bad the creators apparently didn’t know about ebooks.

Amazon offers UK Prime members a free, rotating e-book library

From Engadget:

While Amazon offers a variety of Prime perks for Britons, it can often take a while for some of them to make it across the Atlantic. Take, for example, Prime Reading: a “free” book subscription that launched in the US last October but is only now coming to the UK. Unlike Kindle Unlimited — which offers unrestricted access to over a million books, magazines and audiobooks for £8 a month — Prime Reading is bundled with Amazon’s annual subscription and delivers a rotating selection of popular e-books, magazines and short content.

Link to the rest at Engadget

Thriller-seekers strike big deals

From The Bookseller:

The popularity of psychological thrillers shows little sign of abating, with commissioning editors at the London Book Fair signing up many such titles—including one pre-empted for a seven-figure sum in the US.

Sphere publishing director Lucy Malagoni snapped up UK and Commonwealth rights (excluding Canada) to The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy from Jenny Meyer, acting on behalf of Elisabeth Weed at The Book Group, and plans to publish the title in 2018. The thriller, set in the wake of the abduction of a six-week-old baby, was pre-empted by HarperCollins in the US for seven figures.

Film rights to the title were sold to TriStar, with actor Kerry Washington to star and Amy Pascal to lead production. The book has sold in 12 territories to date, with Malagoni stating that “the writing really gets under your skin”.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Espresso is all that stands between us and creative defeat

From The Guardian:

Ideally I write in a silent room with a magnificent and inspiring view of the natural world. I do not always have access to such a room. Instead I have street noise and an inbox full of administrative email, and if I’m really unlucky, actual phone calls to make. When I was depressed and unpublished and in my early 20s, I developed a full-blown phone phobia. I could put off the simplest call for days at a time. I still hate having to talk to the bank or the accountant, and find it hard to concentrate on writing until I’ve dealt with that kind of task.

Both Katie and I write at home. When the sitter turns up at 10am, the household settles down. I used to waste an improbable amount of time, but I don’t have that luxury now. I create my space with headphones, big over-the-ear cans that block out the world. I play music, usually something very minimal at low volume, just enough to trick myself into the meditative concentration I need to write. No vocal music for obvious reasons, though vocals can be OK if they’re in a language I don’t understand. When something works, it disappears and becomes an environment in which I can think.

. . . .

I have a desktop computer and a laptop. For a novel I make a single Word document, but rename it every morning, so I have a way to track versions if I need to dig out something I cut. I make notes on paper, in spiral-bound notebooks, but my handwriting is terrible, particularly if I’m trying to set ideas down quickly, and it’s much faster to type. I back up. I can’t understand writers who don’t back up. I look at a monitor jacked up to eye height on a pile of books. My desk is usually cluttered. I recently bought myself a good keyboard (one with mechanical switches, but that’s not too loud) and I wish I’d succumbed to keyboard fetishism years ago. What can I say? It’s a nicer ride. I spend a lot of time on the internet, but some of it’s research. My concentration is better when I’m not toggling between my Word doc and 30 different tabs on a browser.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

Robin Stevens’ anger over snobbery towards her books

From The Bookseller:

A children’s author has described the labelling of her books as “too immature” for certain students as “heart-breaking”.

Robin Stevens tweeted about a message she received from a young fan who was told not to read her books in school because “she was too smart”. The comment gained support from other authors and publishers and was retweeted more than 250 times in two days.

The Murder Most Unladylike Mysteries (PRH) author said: “Dear teachers who tell your students that my books (or any books) are too ‘immature’ for them to read. You’re wrong. Please stop. A kid wrote to me explaining that she has to read my books at home because she is too smart to read them in school. My heart broke.”

Stevens told The Bookseller she found the situation “really concerning” in case it discourages children to read at all. She said: “It was an email that a kid of around 14 sent me from New Zealand but I’ve seen it in the UK as well. She was very smart and the teacher said she was too smart and she had to read my books at home.

“Sometimes kids in England have said ‘I love your books but teachers have said they are not high level enough for me’. It’s heart-breaking. Reading shouldn’t be like that. Kids should be able to dip in and out of different things in the way adults do – many kids are reading YA or Malory Towers [Hodder Children’s Books]. Comfort reading is about returning to books as a confident reader. Adults do it all the time – they could read The Essex Serpent (Serpent’s Tail) and The Girl on a Train (PRH) in the same week.”

. . . .

The author said she had rebelled as a child against dictated reading lists for pleasure. “My mother was given a list of books I should read when I was a child and I didn’t like this. I refused to read a book she bought me off the list which turned out to be Skellig [by David Almond, published by Hodder Children’s Books] – I read it 10 years later and loved it.”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Grade five students at Muriel Clayton set to self-publish book on Syrian refugee

From The Airdrie Echo:

Nick Stabler’s fifth grade class is set to self-publish a book on a Syrian Refugee and him finding his way in Canada.

The 26 young authors all sat down to brainstorm ideas for creating a novel under the leadership of Stabler. The students decided to write about Ammar, a Syrian Refugee whose house in Syria was bombed by terrorists.

Ammar lost his family, and gets into Canada to try and find his family. Along the way, Ammar learns about Canadian Identity, which has been a focus for the fifth grade students in Stabler’s class.

The story of Ammar and learning about Canada and its subcultures relates back to Canada and its sesquicentennial. The class is planning on self-publishing the book and thanks to some volunteers, each student/author will get their own hand bound hard copy of the book.

“We’re starting to learn the basics of what’s going on [in Syria] because it’s very confusing, which groups are fighting who and trying to keep it all straight,” said Stabler. “We’ve tried to keep it age appropriate, so there isn’t a huge amount of focus on the actual events, but rather the boy’s journey coming to Canada. There is lots of humour and funny little Canadian things that happen.”

Stabler has done this sort of exercise with classes in the past, and has students working together to write and edit the novel together.

“It has been a good experience about how to write a book,” said Eva Dooks, a student in Stabler’s class. “I’ve wanted to be an author when I grow up and I wouldn’t have thought I’d be writing a book now. At first I was like ‘Whoa, I never knew this was happening,’ and after I’ve learned about it I’m happy to tell people about what is happening.”

Link to the rest at The Airdrie Echo

Are things getting worse for women in publishing?

From The Guardian:

When Edie and Eddie started work as junior editors in the same corporate book publisher, they had much in common: firsts from Oxbridge and career ambition. And a passion for books and ideas. When Edie saw her role model moved out of the chief executive’s office to be replaced by a man, the two joked about what it took to get to the top.

But as both observed the same thing happen at one publishing house after another, the joke wore thin. And Eddie, frustrated at the lack of promotion, changed. “He donned a suit and began to walk and talk like the men he saw getting on in the business and suddenly things changed for him,” Edie recalls. “It was as simple as that.”

To her, it seems that “all you need to get on now is to be a suited and booted man, who looks like he has an MBA. They remind me of David Cameron and George Osborne. All of them are white, middle class and presentable.” She pauses. “And male of course, which is definitely something I cannot aspire to be.” (Edie and Eddie are not real names, but like many of the people interviewed for this piece, Edie did not wish to be identified.)

This is a harsh assessment of UK publishing; an industry that had comforted itself that the one area of diversity it need not address was gender. A 2016 survey of the gender divide in US publishing found 78% of the industry is female (no UK-wide survey has yet been done). But the same survey found that, at executive or board level, 40% of respondents were men. And Edie is not alone in the frustration she feels over the split at board level: there is growing disquiet among the rank and file.

This is not to say that women have left the boardroom completely. But, as one senior female editor notes, women such as Random House’s Gail Rebuck, Penguin’s Helen Fraser, Macmillan’s Annette Thomas and Little, Brown’s Ursula Mackenzie, who had all embodied the ideal that women publishers faced no glass ceiling, have in the last five years all been replaced by men. “There is a problem, because you get the sense with the remaining women in senior management that they have gone as far as they are going to go, and in every case they are answerable to clean-cut, fortysomething men,” the editor adds.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

On Author Central, no one knows if you’re a woman or a Klingon.

The One: The secret behind a self-published novel’s success

From The Express:

They say everyone has a book inside them waiting to be written. Back in 2012, there was a story dying to break out of me. I’d read an anonymous letter to a magazine from a woman whose husband had vanished 15 years earlier, leaving her to bring up their four children alone. All police investigations failed to find any trace of him.

I was touched by her vivid descriptions of the lows and highs of being both parents to her confused brood and never knowing why her husband vanished or if he’d ever return.

I decided to write a fictitious version of her story, but told from both hers and his perspectives. I stretched it over a 25-year period with each chapter ending on the day he returned to explain why and where he went. A year and a half and 110,000 words later, The Wronged Sons was complete.

I assumed that with more than 20 years as a journalist behind me, writing for national magazines and newspapers, I might have had a slight advantage over other new writers on the hunt for an agent. How naive I was.

I began by highlighting 80 agents listed in the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook who accepted author inquiries. Each had an individual criteria; some required an introductory letter only, others a brief synopsis, some needed the first three chapters and occasionally the whole novel. After two weeks and a well-trodden path to my local post office counter, I sat and waited.

The first few rejection letters trickled through the letterbox within seven days. More came within a fortnight and by the end of the month, my hope of becoming the next publishing success story deflated like the slow puncture of a tyre. Over the next four months, the rest of the rebuffs appeared in dribs and drabs.

Their content varied. A few only contained the words “not for us” scribbled on a “with compliments” slip; there were many photocopied generic refusal letters and, on rare occasions, more detailed notes explaining why my book wouldn’t work for them. Even as a thick-skinned journalist, it was hard not to feel a little rejected.

The novel sat in a folder on my laptop for the best part of six months before I decided to self-publish.

. . . .

But in 2007, Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing changed the entire self-publishing landscape. It enabled any hopeful to upload their original work, charge a fee of their choice and sell it online to readers to download on their Kindle or tablet. Both you and Amazon receive a cut of each sale.

. . . .

I was fortunate that enough family and friends of friends bought The Wronged Sons for it to make an impact on Amazon’s charts. Then, once visible, people I didn’t know began downloading it, too. Recommendations also came from members of online book clubs.

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

Fear not, the novel is not history

From The Bookseller:

This week the Telegraph newspaper laid a cloak of misery over the excellent UK book publishing results for 2016, concentrating of course on the negative element…(lordy, they talk of “the demise of fiction”).

In fact, the UK book industry delivered an amazingly healthy 7% increase in overall book sales (the best industry sales growth seen since 2007). Non-fiction grew by 9%. We also see the trend where e-books (Kindle books) have slowed in favour of a partial return to physical books. It’s becoming clear (in the USA too) that Kindles are liked by readers when reading books that will probably engross them once, as they read, but that they won’t return to again. And of course Kindles are so handy when travelling.

But the physical book makes sense when you might return to look at it again sometime in the future, a non-fiction subject or a literary novel say, and is, of course, the best choice for anything illustrated like cookery books etc. Plus the physical books we’ve read sit like old friends on our book shelves. Physical books matter to the publishing industry because they mean our author/publisher/agent “product” isn’t merely a file hidden within Amazon’s product. It gives the book a presence. Books give us bookshops and do something to curb the power of Amazon, the publishing Overlord. Note that Waterstones turned a small profit last year after years of losses.

The Telegraph points to the tough time being had by fiction (23% down in the past five years). That is a bad news trend; as an agent it can sometimes feel that there are as many aspirant writers of literary fiction as there are readers of new literary fiction. And yes that’s a phenomenon that everyone involved in writing needs to understand, especially authors. It’s a fact that potential readers, looking to be engrossed by storytelling, do have new choices (boxsets for me, gaming for others). And smartphones can end up owning our quiet times alone; where before a book made our best companion. But these trends don’t feel fatal at all. At an industry level they show we need the sales magic of a new writer to challenge JK Rowling’s massive historical revenue contribution to the industry (her new work, The Cursed Child is a play script and so, as far as the official statistics are concerned, is in a different category to fiction).

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

What a safe and wonderful time we see ahead. The future will be the same as the present, but more so.

PG looks to a future time when a precocious child asks, “Mommy, what’s a bookshelf?” (Alternatively, “Mummy, .  . . .” if the child is English.)

Or, “Mommy, what’s a bookshelf and who are Bill Clinton and James Patterson?”

People Who Read Books are Nicer

From The Independent:

Want to become a better person? Then you might want to consider picking up a book because according to a new study, reading regularly could make you kinder and more empathetic.

After being quizzed on their preferences for books, TV and plays, 123 participants were tested on interpersonal skills including how much they considered other people’s feelings and whether they acted to help others.

The study, conducted by Kingston University in London, found that readers were more likely to act in a socially acceptable manner compared to those who preferred watching television.

Instead, TV lovers came across as less friendly and less understanding of others’ views.

But, no ordinary book will do because it turns out the type of literature you choose also has a huge impact on your emotional intelligence.

The study revealed that fiction fans showed more positive social behaviour while readers of drama and romance novels were found to be the most empathic.

Link to the rest at The Independent

Ebooks undermine your freedom and privacy

From The Guardian:

It was disappointing to see yet another comparison of physical books and ebooks that focused on convenience, style or mere taste (Kindles now look clunky and unhip, G2, 27 April). There are substantive differences that affect the freedom of people who read. For many titles, the only copy you can buy is a printed one. The ebook versions are “licensed”, not sold, and the licence says you agree not to give away or lend “your” copy to anyone else, nor to make and redistribute more copies.

These requirements drive me away from them. My conscience balks at carrying out an agreement to be unhelpful to others; breaking the licence is a lesser evil, but I don’t want to make an agreement I know I would be obliged to break. I therefore refuse to agree to such a licence. Perforce, the books I pay for are printed copies that I truly buy.

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

How eBooks lost their shine: ‘Kindles now look clunky and unhip’

From The Guardian:

Here are some things that you can’t do with a Kindle. You can’t turn down a corner, tuck a flap in a chapter, crack a spine (brutal, but sometimes pleasurable) or flick the pages to see how far you have come and how far you have to go. You can’t remember something potent and find it again with reference to where it appeared on a right- or left-hand page. You often can’t remember much at all. You can’t tell whether the end is really the end, or whether the end equals 93% followed by 7% of index and/or questions for book clubs. You can’t pass it on to a friend or post it through your neighbour’s door.

A few years ago, I was given a Kindle. I had become a student again. I was reading lots of books and I needed them cheap and light. But now the Kindle has slipped to the back of the desk drawer behind the Blu-Tack that comes out only at Christmas. Meanwhile, the stack of hardbacks and paperbacks on the bedside table has grown so tall it has spawned sub-stacks on the floor; when I get into bed at night, it is like looking down on a miniature book city. I don’t want to speculate about what goes on in other people’s bedrooms but I suspect it might be something similar, because figures published today by the Publishing Association show that sales of consumer ebooks have dropped by 17%, while sales of physical books are up 8%. Consumer spending on books was up £89m across the board last year, compared with 2015. So why is the physical book winning through?

Ten years ago, when the Kindle launched, the idea was miraculous. Here was the ability to carry hundreds of books enfolded in a tiny slip of plastic, countless stories in a few hundred grams. It seems hard to believe when you look at the thick, black plastic surround – stylistically it bears more resemblance to a cathode ray tube TV than a tablet – that it predated the iPad by two years. Within five hours, it had sold out, despite a price tag of $399 (then £195). A decade on, lay a Kindle next to a smartphone or tablet and it looks so much older, while the reading experience it delivers has scarcely progressed.

“It was new and exciting,” says Cathryn Summerhayes, a literary agent at Curtis Brown. “But now they look so clunky and unhip, don’t they? I guess everyone wants a piece of trendy tech and, unfortunately, there aren’t trendy tech reading devices and I don’t think people are reading long-form fiction on their phones. I think your average reader would say that one of the great pleasures of reading is the physical turning of the page. It slows you down and makes you think.”

. . . .

“The physical book had become quite a cheap and tacky thing at the turn of the millennium,” Daunt says. Publishers “cut back on the quality of the paper, so if you left a book in the sun it went yellow. They were gluing, not sewing. They would put a cover on a hardback but not do anything with the hard case underneath. Nowadays, if you take a cover off, there is likely to be something interesting underneath it.”

. . . .

Once upon a time, people bought books because they liked reading. Now they buy books because they like books. “All these people are really thinking about how the books are – not just what’s in them, but what they’re like as objects,” says Jennifer Cownie, who runs the beautiful Bookifer website and the Cownifer Instagram, which match books to decorative papers, and who bought a Kindle but hated it. Summerhayes thinks that “people have books in their house as pieces of art”.

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

PG says this is a big day for Amazon Derangement Syndrome at The Guardian. The books department must be cutting their pills in half again.

As for the Bookifer crowd, here’s a better alternative.

‘Screen fatigue’ sees UK ebook sales plunge 17% as readers return to print

From The Guardian:

Britons are abandoning the ebook at an alarming rate with sales of consumer titles down almost a fifth last year, as “screen fatigue” helped fuel a five-year high in printed book sales.

Sales of consumer ebooks plunged 17% to £204m last year, the lowest level since 2011 – the year the ebook craze took off as Jeff Bezos’ market-dominating Amazon Kindle took the UK by storm.

It is the second year running that sales of consumer ebooks – the biggest segment of the £538m ebook market, which fell 3% last year – have slumped as commuters, holidaymakers and leisure readers shelve digital editions in favour of good old fashioned print novels.

“I wouldn’t say that the ebook dream is over but people are clearly making decisions on when they want to spend time with their screens,” says Stephen Lotinga, chief exeutive of the Publishers Association, which published its annual yearbook on Thursday.

“There is generally a sense that people are now getting screen tiredness, or fatigue, from so many devices being used, watched or looked at in their week. [Printed] books provide an opportunity to step away from that.”

. . . .

The issue with consumer ebooks aside the UK book industry is in fine fettle. Total sales of print and digital books and journals climbed 7% to £4.8bn last year, the largest growth since 2007 when digital sales were first included.

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

PG didn’t see any reference to how many ebooks were sold by publishers and authors who don’t report their sales to the Publishers Association. He also didn’t see Amazon’s name on the list of members on the Publishers Association website.

“Screen fatigue” sounds like something the marketing department invented. PG wonders if they considered “bookstore fatigue” or “high prices fatigue” while they were brainstorming.

Here’s a link to an interesting analysis of last year’s Publisher’s Association Yearbook at Publishing Perspectives, ‘As We Trade Less Neurotically’: A Nice Chat About Those UK Publishing Numbers.

The Publishing Perspectives article raises an issue PG would like to address more directly: Absent Amazon Derangement Syndrome, a decline in ebook sales of traditional publishers is hardly something the traditional publishing business should be celebrating.

Ebooks are a great business for traditional publishers – send an ebook file to Amazon and check once a month thereafter to see how much money Amazon sends back. No printing and shipping bills to pay, no inventory to manage (or to pay someone else to manage), no returns to deal with.

If Amazon hadn’t opened the gates to the unwashed horde of self-published authors, demonstrated that lower ebook prices resulted in much larger sales and then started its own imprints when the first ADS plague hit traditional publishing, the Publishing Association would be giving Amazon an award each year at its annual meeting for improving the profitability of UK publishers.

A pound (or dollar) of profit from an ebook licensed to a reader by Amazon counts for just as much as a pound of profit from a printed book sold by Blackwell’s.

A 17% drop in ebook sales is a disaster for the UK publishing business. Any assumption that each ebook not acquired is offset by a printed version that is purchased instead doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny.

For one thing, obtaining an ebook by touching an iPad screen is a much more effortless transaction than going to a physical bookstore to locate and buy a printed book. The alternative to an iPad ebook transaction may well be tapping on the Amazon Video app to watch a show.

 

Amazon in Australia: what it means for you as a shopper

From The Sydney Morning Herald:

The expansion of US online giant Amazon in Australia will most likely be a game-changer in the country’s retail landscape, transforming the way we shop and threatening the supremacy of established local retailers.

“We are going to destroy the retail environment in Australia,” an Amazon executive behind the Australian roll-out told Justin Braitling, the chief investment officer at Watermark Funds Management, late last year.

. . . .

Australians, of course, can already buy a limited range of items from Amazon.com.au. Presently these are mostly limited to entertainment, including Kindle e-books, audiobooks, e-readers, and some items on the streaming site Amazon Prime Video

So what will be available when Amazon rolls out its full suite of retail services into the Australian market? Perhaps an easier question is: what won’t be available?

Before launching its operation in Australia, it’s understood Amazon will go through and collect price-points on everything, before setting prices at a 30 per cent discount.

The roll-out here is expected to be gradual, with an initial focus on consumer and home electronics, including non-perishables, such as canned food and other household necessities.

. . . .

Determined Australian bargain-hunters can already buy items from the US Amazon store that aren’t available locally, but it can be a time-consuming and more expensive process.

Amazon will often refuse an Australian billing address or credit card when an attempt is made to buy from the US site, but third-party forwarding businesses have popped up to fill this void.

Shoppers can sign up to these businesses, which provide an intermediary US address, from which the item will be forwarded to Australia. To skirt around the billing problems, Australian shoppers pay the intermediary business, which then pays Amazon on the shopper’s behalf.

Essentially, Amazon’s further expansion into Australia will eliminate this prolonged process. Local warehousing will dramatically slash delivery times, shaking things up for established retailers.

Link to the rest at The Sydney Morning Herald

PRH UK to pay work experience participants in diversity drive

From The Bookseller:

Penguin Random House UK will now pay its work experience participants the National Living Wage in a bid to make the publishing industry more accessible and diverse. The initiative will make it the first publishing house in the UK to offer fully paid work experience placements, the company has claimed.

Every year, 450 work experience placements will be offered at PRH UK to give people a taste of what it’s like to work for the trade publisher as part of a two-week structured learning programme. The new pledge means that all participants will now receive a salary of £262.50 per week. Previously they would have received only travel and food expenses.

. . . .

Unpaid internships and work experience placements have been a hot topic in the publishing industry for years, with numerous people calling for them to be abolished.

Internships at the publishing house are already fully paid. The difference between work experience and internships, as PRH defines it, is that the latter offers interns “the opportunity to immerse themselves in the company for a longer period of time and deliver a specific work project”. As such, interns undergo an application and interview process, similar to applying for a job at the company. Work experience candidates, by contrast, are “randomly selected”, without any pre-requisite skills or experience necessary, and are referred to as “students” in so much as they are there to learn rather than to work.

As part of the “random selection” process, all personal referrals for work experience were banned last year when it “professionalised” the programme, which also intended to ensure selection was fairer and more transparent. As the result of the changes, PRH says its work experience applicant pool now reflects the ethnic diversity both of London and the UK, reaching and appealing to more young people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities, while two thirds of its applicants have grown up outside of London or the South East.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Now if they would pay a National Living Wage to their authors.

Amazon expands its literary horizons, making big imprint in translation niche

From The Seattle Times:

The literary translation community in the U.S. has a tradition of being highbrow, a carefully tended yet narrow reflection of the stirrings of global culture beyond the Anglosphere.

Then Amazon.com jumped in, like a whale into a koi pond.

Armed with financial might and an intimate, machine-learned knowledge of reader behavior, the e-commerce giant made a big splash.

That annoyed some literary types, wary of the leviathan that has shaken up almost every aspect of the media world.

But AmazonCrossing, the publishing unit devoted to scouring the world for good tales, has in a short time become the most prominent interpreter of foreign fiction into English, accounting for 10 percent of all translations in 2016, more than any other publishing house in a field populated by small imprints.

. . . .

The goal “is to find great stories, and we think you can find them anywhere,” said Gabriella Page-Fort, AmazonCrossing’s editorial director.

. . . .

Yet Amazon’s shine has been tarnished by a contentious relationship with New York publishing houses, bookstores and some authors. Many bookstores — hurt by the online retailer’s dominance in book sales and its pricing power — have boycotted titles published by Amazon. They’re also less likely to get reviewed by the traditional literary outlets, experts say.

But some members of the literary-translation community, long beset by indifference from major publishers and a lack of resources, appreciate Amazon’s foray in their field.

“It’s kind of amazing. They have the resources and the ability,” says Chad Post, an academic at the University of Rochester who publishes Three Percent, a blog about international literature that draws its name from the estimate that only 3 percent of all books published in English are translated from foreign languages.

. . . .

In a way that befits Amazon’s online roots, AmazonCrossing has set up a website that allows authors and translators to submit books for consideration to be translated into English.

There’s also an invitation-only program for translators to be matched with projects. It has received some criticism from translators who perceive they’re bidding against each other for jobs, according to Bernofsky, the Columbia University academic. “A lot of translators absolutely refuse to do that,” she said.

Page-Fort contends that the website lets translators discover new projects, translate sample pages and submit proposals. “Crossing editors then review how a translator will approach the specific text and choose the translator who best complements the voice and tone of the author,” she said.

AmazonCrossing is also globalizing, translating from English into French and various other languages. Overall the imprint has translated more than 900 books into five languages by authors from 35 different countries and 21 languages.

Link to the rest at The Seattle Times and thanks to C.G. for the tip.

Writer seeks Kindled spirit: Six novelists reveal how to self-publish successfully

From Mail Online:

The dawn of the digital era means that authors can self-publish their books – and make a fortune. Laura Silverman asks six independent novelists to reveal the secrets of clicking with your readership.

. . . .

WHO: Mel Sherratt, 50, Stoke-on-Trent

EBOOKS SOLD: 1 million

SELF-PUBLISHING SUCCESS: The former housing officer had spent 12 years trying to bag a traditional deal, but was continuously turned down for being ‘cross-genre’ (her writing is a mix of women’s fiction, crime and thriller). At the end of 2011 she self-released her debut Taunting the Dead which reached No 3 in the Kindle UK fiction chart, topped the police procedurals category and has been downloaded 200,000 times. Mel has written 12 more ebooks – six of which she has published herself.

KEY ADVICE: Get to grips with your marketing. ‘I often review my backlist and produce a yearly marketing schedule to offer my books at different prices,’ she says. ‘I can put the books on promotion whenever I want.’

THE PAYOFF: ‘I started self-publishing five years ago and have made a six-figure salary in each of the past three years.’

. . . .

 WHO: Janet MacLeod Trotter, 59, Northumberland

EBOOKS SOLD: 800,000

SELF-PUBLISHING SUCCESS: ‘My success has only come about because I self-published,’ says Janet, who had 12 of her novels published in the traditional way but was dropped by her publisher in 2010. She turned to self-publishing to raise money for her brother after he was injured in a bike accident.

The Vanishing of Ruth went to No 1 in the Waterstones crime and romance categories in 2011. After the success of her first ebook, she self-published her backlist and now has 22 books to her name. The Tea Planter’s Daughter was one of the top ten bestsellers of 2012 for a self-published author.

KEY ADVICE: Judge your book by its cover. ‘Give your books a new look every so often,’ she says. ‘I’m currently revamping the covers for my Jarrow trilogy. When you’re self-publishing, the design and look of your book or series is all down to you.’

THE PAYOFF: ‘For the first time in 30 years, I’m making a decent living from my writing.’

Link to the rest at Mail Online and thanks to Mike for the tip.

The Greatest Poetry Reading I’ve Ever Seen

From Literary Hub:

An invitation to represent England at the 100th Anniversary of the Nobel Peace Prize in Norway was scary enough. But to share a stage with the Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko at the same time: absolutely terrifying. I remember Yevtushenko from the 1960s when I was a Columbia student. He was the pop star of the intelligentsia in those days, everybody’s idea of a poet, passionate, young, courageous, glorious to look at. Women screamed and fainted at his performances.

The conference was to take place in Tromsø way high up above the Arctic Circle in the summer of 2001, a pretty town, an island city right out of a child’s toy chest. The theme was War and Peace—Tolstoy’s grandson as the guest of honor. The moderator of my session asked me if I minded speaking first.

“If you don’t,” he laughed, “you might not get a chance to speak at all.”

“Oh?”

“It is a little, er, difficult to stop this poet once he gets going.”

But there was no Yevtushenko in the theater when the session started. A minute or two into my speech, a figure appeared in the front row. I’m no good at faces, but I was pretty sure I’d spotted him because he stared at me in that disconcerting, unblinking way that Russians do. When I finished, the moderator thanked me especially—and pointedly—for keeping to my 20-minute limit. A Dane spoke after me. When he finished, the moderator thanked him too—again pointedly—for keeping to the 20-minute limit.

Then Yevtushenko approached the podium. He was nearly 70, hair thin, face deeply lined, back no longer straight. Even so it was clear at once what all the fuss was about. This was a hell of a delivery. Maybe his English belonged in a farce, but no Western voice soars and swings like that. Up and down. Loud and soft. Face and body in motion too. He began with an unpublished poem and went on to something about a Russian nutcracker, Tchaikovsky’s swans and great big dinosaurs. But he could have been saying anything, anything at all. With a delivery like that, who cares?

And he’s a man who knew how to handle a moderator as well as an audience. After 40 minutes or so, he turned to the moderator—visibly restive by this time—and said, “Is all right? I can finish? You permit?” Then came questions. As soon as the first one started, Yevtushenko leaned across to me and said, “What is phrase seel-kee prose? What this mean?” In my speech, I’d described an American I knew as being master of the New Yorker’s “silky prose.” I explained as best I could. “Is good,” he said. “Is little bit ironic, yes?” I nodded. He leaned back in his chair, then forward again. “You sink?”

Sink? “I’m not sure what you mean,” I said cautiously,

“You sink?” he said louder.

Could he mean think? Could I have said something really stupid? I gave him a puzzled look.

He leaned back in his chair. “You have beautiful voice. All seel-kee.”

Link to the rest at Literary Hub

PG says the best poetry is meant to be spoken and heard. In a tradition going back a few centuries, poets generally wrote and performed their poetry because the sound and tempo of the words was crucial to full understanding of the poem. Poetry was a performance art. Unfortunately, poetry is primarily a subject for academic study today.

In the middle of the twentieth century, several poets were well-known for their performance abilities. Dylan Thomas performed his poems on the BBC during World War II and even wrote and performed a poem, A Refusal to Mourn the Death, by Fire, of a Child in London, commemorating a young victim of a German bombing attack.

Yevgeny Yevtushenko was an accomplished performer of his poetry as well, both in Russian and English.

Below are a couple of YouTube videos of Yevtushenko’s poetry performances, first in Russian, then in English.

The poem is Babi Yar. The first lines of the poem are:

No monument stands over Babi Yar.
A steep cliff only, like the rudest headstone.
I am afraid.
Today, I am as old
As the entire Jewish race itself.

Babi Yar is a deep ravine near Kiev where Einsatzgruppen (Nazi SS paramilitary squads who followed the German army to pacify and cleanse the civilian population in conquered territory) killed 34,000 Jews in two days, September 29-30, 1941. Later, additional Jews, gypsies, Communists and Soviet prisoners of war were slaughtered there.

Two years later, while retreating over the same ground, the SS tried to cover up any signs of this atrocity. The bodies were dug up, burnt, and all the evidence destroyed. Babi Yar is the grave of over 100,000 victims of the SS.

Following the war, the Soviet government refused requests to erect a monument at the site and it remained unmarked for over 30 years. An official memorial to Soviet citizens shot at Babi Yar was erected in 1976. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Ukrainian government allowed the establishment of a memorial specifically identifying the Jewish victims.

In 1962, Dmitri Shostakovich wrote his Symphony No. 13 in B-flat minor, subtitled Babi Yar.  The first movement, Babi Yar: Adagio, includes choral settings for Yevtushenko’s poems including references to the Dreyfus affair, the Białystok pogrom and Anne Frank.

Following Yevtushenko is a recording of Thomas performing his wartime poem.

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Manchester is ‘an indie author hotspot’ for Amazon

From The Bookseller:

Amazon has revealed statistics from its Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) programme claiming Manchester as “an indie publishing hotspot”.

The northern city is home to more independently published authors per capita than any other town or city in the UK, based on Amazon’s ranking of the highest concentrations of self-published authors using its Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) platform. ​The data reflects the number of KDP authors in “top 50” towns – in terms of population – divided by population.

Manchester is the only place in the North West to feature in KDP’s “top 10 publishing hotspots in the UK”. After that, York was the second highest, followed by Nottingham; Bristol; Southampton; Plymouth; Milton Keynes; Northampton; Portsmouth; and Edinburgh.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Australia’s copyright reform could bring millions of books and other reads to the blind

From The Conversation:

Proposed changes to Australia’s copyright law should make it easier for people to create and distribute versions of copyrighted works that are accessible to people with disabilities.

The Copyright Amendment (Disability Access and other Measures) Bill was introduced to Parliament on Wednesday.

If passed, it would enable people with disabilities to access and enjoy books and other material in formats they can use, such as braille, large print or DAISY audio.

The Australian Human Rights Commission has long been calling for action to end the “world book famine” – only 5% of books produced in Australia are available in accessible formats. This means that people with vision impairment and other reading disabilities are excluded from a massive proportion of the world’s knowledge and culture.

Under the current law, educational institutions and other organisations can produce accessible copies of books, but the system is slow and expensive. Only a small number of popular books are available, and technical books that people need for work are often out of reach.

Technology should make accessibility much easier, but publishers have been slow to enable assistive technologies.

. . . .

Amazon’s Kindle, for example, used to allow text-to-speech to help blind people read books, but Amazon gave in to publishers’ fears and allowed them to disable the feature. Apple’s electronic books are much better, but there are still major gaps.

Link to the rest at The Conversation

Currency concerns could exile illustrators

From The Bookseller:

This year’s Bologna Children’s Book Fair began with “a positive vibe” for many UK fairgoers, despite some anticipating a “rocky road” ahead as the impact of Brexit begins to hit their businesses.

. . . .

Usborne UK and commercial sales manager Christian Herrison noted a “positive vibe” at the fair, and said Brexit had rarely been mentioned in meetings at the fair. But he added: “I’d say Brexit is not at the forefront of people’s minds, but it’s there. It’s a concern. The only effect we’ve felt is the drop in the pound, which is hurting lots of publishers and making print buying more expensive. We will have to review r.r.p.s and how we produce books, and consider things such as whether we can afford to put as many stickers in our sticker books.”

United Agents’ Jodie Hodges echoed Herrison’s concerns. She said: “I worry about the costs of expensive books: picture books, novelty, pop-ups, board books etc. If the pound continues to suffer then the costs associated with producing these books will rise and inevitably start having an effect on authors and illustrators… It’s possible that advances and royalties will be hit.”

Hodges also pointed out the “Catch-22” for illustrators: they “are already barely earning enough from their advances and royalties, and they are also discouraged from publishing too widely for fear of cannibalising their own sales (domestically and internationally)… If it becomes even harder [for them] to earn a living from books then this will become a bigger issue.”

Agent Ben Illis said “the path ahead is a rocky one”, and he too envisioned a squeeze on authors and illustrators as publishers’ costs rose. Yet there may be a bright side, he said. “This may provoke a shake-up in the standard terms of agreement between authors and publishers. It may even open the door to some interesting new contractual models, which many would say would not be before time.”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

What I’m really thinking: the failed novelist

From The Guardian:

My biggest mistake? Thinking it was my destiny. After all, I’d written stories since I could hold a pencil, won every creative writing prize at school, then, as an adult, short story competitions. I joined writers’ groups, honed my craft, completed a great manuscript. I found an agent, finally. He was reputable and confident, and initially there was a flurry of interest from publishers. How could I fail?

But, over several months, my manuscript was rejected for reasons that bewildered me: often because all the slots for debut literary fiction that year were taken; once because I was a woman; but mostly because editors “just didn’t love it enough”. When I took the call from my agent saying we had no deal, I cried like a little girl.

I defiantly started a second novel. It was my masterpiece, but it bombed, too. Years of work and emotional investment wasted, I finally gave up, to save my sanity.

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

Hong Kong English books publisher on the secrets to a best-seller, shops closing, and dangers and rewards of the trade

From The South China Morning Post:

The closure of Singaporean bookstore Page One’s Hong Kong stores and branches of Australian franchise Dymocks over the past two years does not bode well for Hong Kong’s English book market. The corners in Chinese bookstores reserved for English titles are also getting smaller.

This hasn’t deterred Pete Spurrier, though, who continues to publish books in English with Hong Kong themes. From a penniless backpacker who arrived in the city in 1993, to the publisher of Blacksmith Books with a dozen local best-sellers to its name, the Londoner has come a long way. Spurrier has also written a series of popular hiking guides. He talks to SCMP.com about his love of books and Hong Kong.

. . . .

How do you choose which books to publish?

I am very flattered that I get manuscripts sent in from all over the world. I get three or four manuscripts every day. Often I can read the first three pages and know whether it will work or not.

English books written by local authors sell well. People see the Chinese names and think the books are bound to be interesting, as it’s quite rare for local [Chinese] authors to write in English. I have 80 writers now, with some having written several books already. If the first print run of 1,500 books sells out, the cost is covered. You make a profit from the second and third print runs.

Does the closure of English bookstores mean Hongkongers are losing interest in English books?

Not really. My book sales are quite steady. I don’t think English readership in Hong Kong is shrinking, but running a retail operation in Hong Kong is quite daunting now due to the high overheads.

Physical books still appeal, because you can make notes in them and give them to people as gifts. It’s not so easy to read an e-book in the bath. For the books I publish, the e-book version comes out six months after the paperback version. But they just make up 10 per cent of sales, with the bulk of the sales being paper books.

Link to the rest at The South China Morning Post and thanks to Dave for the tip.

Lords urged to make ‘positive intervention’ in decline of libraries

From The Bookseller:

Libraries body CILIP has urged peers to intervene in the declining library service ahead of a debate in the House of Lords today (30th March) on libraries and other arts services.

The library and information association has highlighted the “profoundly damaging” effect the “severe neglect” of the public library service has had on society ahead of the debate, which takes place in the House of Lords at 1pm today.

The debate will see Nicholas Le Poer Trench, the Earl of Clancarty, ask the government what steps it intends to take to protect and improve local arts and cultural services, including museums, libraries and archaeological services.

In a briefing provided ahead of the debate, CILIP said that despite the positive impact of libraries and librarians, the UK’s national library network has suffered from “severe neglect” as a result of successive programs of government policy. Recent CIPFA figures have revealed that 478 libraries have closed across England, Scotland and Wales since 2010 and budgets have been slashed by £25m.

. . . .

Ian Anstice, librarian and editor of Public Libraries News, told the Bookseller that he believes the debate is necessary as the government has “shown it needs to be told, apparently repeatedly, that it is not doing enough for libraries”.

“I’m delighted that the Lords will be debating this important national public service”, Anstice said. “If libraries are not talked about then there’s a danger that people think the issue is settled, which would be disastrous seeing the potential cuts that they are facing, and have already endured. While I am pleased with the setting up of a Taskforce and know the people within it genuinely want the best for the sector, it is tied to the government line of austerity and localism. The first means there is less and less money and the second means that local councils can happily atomise their services with no central direction. Each separately makes little enough sense for a national service but both together spells a disaster for the sector.”

Children’s author and library campaigner Alan Gibbons said that while he “always welcome politicians paying attention to libraries”, the “deliberations of the Libraries Taskforce have been long and labyrinthine”, and meanwhile “hundreds of libraries have closed, a quarter of librarians have lost their jobs, opening hours have been slashed, book stocks have shrunk and inevitably some of the public have drifted away, discouraged by this failure”.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Hachette launches The Future Bookshelf for underrepresented writers

From The Bookseller:

Hachette UK has launched a new diversity initiative, a creative writing hub called The Future Bookshelf, to make publishing more accessible for writers who feel they aren’t well represented by the industry.

The initiative aims to “demystify publishing”, by guiding users of the website through the process of writing, editing, submitting and publishing, and will offer monthly tips and shareable infographics from its own authors and other experts.

It will also hold an open submissions period from 1st – 7th December this year for writers who are both unpublished and unagented and “feel the industry doesn’t adequately represent people from their background or with their experiences”. They may be authors of either novels or non-fiction.

. . . .

“Publishing has long suffered from a perception that it is a closed shop. But things are changing. There is increased room for diverse new voices. Authors from non-traditional backgrounds and communities bring colour and stories from all over the world – there is a new appetite in the publishing industry for this sort of work. I was delighted to be asked to contribute to The Future Bookshelf initiative as I am a living breathing example of how the winds of change are sweeping through the industry. Helping Hachette nurture other writers from similar backgrounds gives me immense personal satisfaction … I am truly excited to see what comes out of the box.”

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

Does celebrity sell?

From The Bookseller:

If you thought the children’s books market had reached peak celebrity then look away now for there is a veritable deluge coming in 2017. This includes, though is by no means limited to, David Walliams, David Baddiel, Tom Fletcher, Clare Balding, Adrian Edmondson, Julian Clary, Christian O’Connell, Mo Farah, Greg James, Chris Smith, Dermot O’Leary, Miranda Hart, Danny Baker, Dara O Briain, Fearne Cotton, Jessica Ennis-Hill, Chris Hoy, Isla Fisher, Gemma Cairney, Frank Lampard, Chris O’Dowd, Brooklyn Beckham, various YouTubers and rather curiously, George Galloway.

In a culture where celebrity sells I understand why publishers go down this route. The phenomenal success of David Walliams has put every publisher under pressure to have their own chart-topping version. Celebrity authors are a ready-made PR story, they have existing fan bases, social media followers and famous friends to endorse their books. When celeb books work they can be hugely lucrative which, in theory at least, means profits can be invested in nurturing new talent.

For me the big positive is that celebrities can be such powerful advocates for books and reading. In our publishing bubble it’s all too easy to forget that vast numbers of families don’t own books and never visit bookshops or libraries.

. . . .

I’ve read some good celebrity books, I’ve read some terrible ones.  Some celebrities can write, have big imaginations and comic timing, many don’t and need a talented editor and ghost writer. However, some of the formats favoured for celebs are starting to look pretty lazy. Illustrated comic middle-grade feels utterly saturated, magical young series fiction somewhat less inspiring than the famous names on the covers.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Male crime writers eclipsed by golden age of female authors brought back into print

From The Telegraph:

The British Library is working to bring forgotten male crime writers back into print, after they were eclipsed in their own Golden Age by women who were simply better.

The British Library’s classic crime project, which sees long-lost novels rediscovered and published for a new generation, features a disproportionate amount of men, the managing editor behind it said.

But the discrepancy is not down to modern day sexism, but a rare quirk of publishing history which made 1930s Britain arguably the only time and genre where women firmly ruled the roost.

As such, the best-selling and most-acclaimed writers of the day were women, leaving their male rivals swiftly falling out of print and the public consciousness.

The British Library project is now helping to correct that imbalance, bringing lesser-known works back to readers’ bookshelves.

The works, which are designed with vintage covers and have been bestsellers, are sold by the library, with profits ploughed back into its archival and exhibition work.

. . . .

The current catalogue shows just three out of 38 books written by a woman, and all of those from one author, Mavis Doriel Hay.

But, he said, the reason was simple: those male writers were “next tier” in their own day, overshadowed by the so-called “crime queens” including Agatha Christie, Dorothy L Sayers, Marjorie Allingham, Ngaio Marsh, Josephine Tey, and Gladys Mitchell.

“It’s something I’ve been challenged about in the past, that so many of the writers we publish are men,” he said.

“That’s not because of sexism, that’s because the women’s writers were often still in print and retained their popularity.

“It was actually their male contemporaries who dropped out of view.

“It might be unique in this genre, that the women writers are the ones who survived.”

Link to the rest at The Telegraph

To Walk Invisible: The Brontë Sisters

From The Wall Street Journal:

‘To Walk Invisible” presents the Brontë sisters as they’ve never quite been seen before. Nor is it likely that devotees of Charlotte’s (Finn Atkins) “Jane Eyre, ” or Emily’s (Chloe Pirrie) “Wuthering Heights” or Anne’s (Charlie Murphy) “The Tenant of Wildfell Hall” ever paused long to consider the circumstances in which all three of these writers lived together, or rather, survived together, as sisters.

. . . .

In this darkly acerbic, and riveting, Masterpiece drama, written and directed by Sally Wainwright (writer of the wonderful “Last Tango in Halifax”), it is the struggle to survive, not literary ambition—though that ambition is a strong one—that takes precedence in the lives of these sisters.

. . . .

A flamboyant sort, Branwell continues to harbor dreams of literary achievement, with no hope of fulfilling them. He’s a drinker and can’t stop, the chief cause of the somberness that sits heavily on life at the Yorkshire parsonage where the Brontës lived.

He’s not, however the only cause of the gloom and tension that hang in the atmosphere, that seems to touch every conversation between the sisters, each with literary ambitions, each secretly—at least at first—trying her hand at writing. Their ultimate triumph arrives with the emergence of their actual identities after writing wildly successful works, all under male-sounding pseudonyms.

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

Tencent plans e-book IPO

From LiveMint:

Tencent Holdings Ltd is planning to spin off its e-book business as it boosts spending on payments and content to lure users and keep them glued to its WeChat service.

An initial public offering of the Kindle-like business is planned for Hong Kong, the Shenzhen-based company said on Wednesday after posting quarterly earnings that trailed analyst estimates. While net income surged 47% to 10.5 billion yuan ($1.5 billion), that trailed the 11 billion yuan expected by analysts.

. . . .

China Reading Ltd, as Tencent’s literature unit is known, is said to have asked bankers to pitch for a role arranging an IPO that could raise about $500 million. President Martin Lau said it would also consider other spinoffs without identifying targets. The company also operates a music and video-streaming service.

While Tencent’s services have a massive reach in China, growth is slowing as it nears saturation in its home market. In addition to new games, it’s funding blockbusters including “Kong: Skull Island” and “Warcraft” and sitting atop a plethora of intellectual property for anime and online novels distributed via its websites. The company has aspirations to eventually create a Marvel-like movie empire, as it competes with Alibaba Group Holding Ltd for users.

Link to the rest at LiveMint

How celebrity deals are shutting children’s authors out of their own trade

From The Guardian:

Another day, another celebrity announces they are to “pen” a children’s book. Already this week, Jamie Lee Curtis has announced a “selfie-themed” tome, Chelsea Clinton a picture book about inspirational women and the Black Eyed Peas a graphic novel featuring zombies.

They join a slew of celebs cashing in on a burgeoning market. In the past month, model-turned-actor Cara Delevingne, TV presenter Dermot O’Leary and even politician and professional motormouth George Galloway have joined Frank Lampard, Danny Baker, Julian Clary and Fearne Cotton in vying to be the next JK Rowling.

Though publishers are notoriously cagey about money, industry sources say the advances paid to celebrities are considerably higher than the amounts usually doled out to children’s writers, whose contracts are won on talent rather than fame. Which explains the resentment many authors feel towards these incomers.

One prize-winning writer, who didn’t want to be named, left her last publisher after a new media star received a huge advance for a ghostwritten novel that consequently bombed. “The massive advances mean publishers put all their marketing into making these books work in order to earn back the investment,” she says. “So when they fail, not only have they taken money for publicity that could have helped the rest of us, but there is no money left.”

Link to the rest at The Guardian

But, but, curators of culture!

Did technology kill the book or give it new life?

From the BBC:

Digital technology has certainly had a profound effect on the traditional book publishing and retailing industries, but has it also given the book a new lease of life?

At one point it looked as if the rise of e-books at knock-down prices and e-readers like Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s Nook posed an existential threat to book publishers and sellers.

“Literature found itself at war with the internet,” as Jim Hinks, digital editor of Comma Press, succinctly puts it.

But contrary to expectations, the printed book is still surviving alongside its upstart e-book cousin, and technology is helping publishers and retailers reach new audiences and find new ways to tell stories.

. . . .

In the UK, roughly £1.7bn was spent on print books last year, compared with £393m on e-books, says Nielsen Book Research’s Scott Morton. The digital newcomers’ share of the market seems to have settled at about 30%.

On the high street, Waterstones saw physical book sales grow 5% over the Christmas period compared with the year before, while Foyles saw sales rise 8.1%.

The era of the printed book, it would seem, is far from over. But a lot depends on the sector you’re looking at.

Adult fiction – particularly romantic and erotic – has migrated strongly to the e-book, whereas cookery and religious books still do well in print, as do books with illustrations. All for fairly obvious reasons.

. . . .

London-based tech start-up Bookindy is using technology to encourage people back to struggling local bookshops.

It does this with a Chrome browser plug-in – each time you search Amazon for a book, a window pops up saying how much it would cost at your nearest independent bookseller.

Founder William Cookson, who describes himself as “just an average sort of book reader”, says his creation took just three days to code.

It helped that he could tap in to an existing network of 350 independent British bookshops called Hive, which enables retailers to check stock and fulfil orders.

Link to the rest at BBC and thanks to Bruce for the tip.

Outrage as Library Service of the Year shortlistee slated for closure

From The Bookseller:

Walsall Council is to reduce its library service – which has been shortlisted for Library of the Year at the British Book Awards – by more than half, in what has been described as a “highly ironic” and “criminal” decision.

The nine libraries threatened with closure (out of a total 16) are Beechdale, Blakenall, New Invention, Pelsall, Pleck, Pheasey, Rushall, South Walsall and Walsall Wood. They are due to close this June, despite the service being nominated for Library of the Year at the British Book Awards last week.

According to the judges, Walsall Libraries were shortlisted for the award because they were a “fine example of how libraries can go on changing lives despite constant uncertainty over funding”.

. . . .

Councillor Julie Fitzpatrick, portfolio holder for community, leisure and culture, told The Bookseller she was “delighted” that the library service had been shortlisted for Library of the Year, adding that although there will be fewer libraries in the borough, the libraries would be “fit for the future”.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Japan’s Manga Market Grows 0.4% in 2016, Digital Sees 27.5% Increase

From Anime News Network:

The All Japan Magazine and Book Publisher’s and Editor’s Association (AJPEA) released a report on February 24 that estimated that the combined physical and digital sales of the manga industry in Japan amounted to 445.4 billion yen (about US$3.91 billion) in 2016, a 0.4% growth compared to the previous year’s 443.7 billion yen (about US$3.89 billion). The combined sales of both physical and digital approach 2008’s 448.3 billion yen (about US$3.93 billion) total.

Sales of print manga volumes amounted to 194.7 billion yen (about US$1.71 billion) in 2016, a 7.4% decrease from the previous year, while sales of manga magazines amounted to 101.6 billion yen (about US$892 million), a 12.9% decrease from the previous year. The combined 296.3 billion yen (about US$2.60 billion) total of print sales of manga from both compiled book volumes and magazines saw a 9.3% decrease from last year. This the 15th year in a row to mark a decline in sales for manga’s print market. The print-only market is now about half of what it was in the mid-1990s.

However, sales of digital manga volumes amounted to 146 billion yen (about US$1.28 billion), a 27.1% increase from the previous year, while sales of digital manga magazines amounted to 3.1 billion yen (about US$27.24 million), a 55% increase from the previous year. The combined 149.1 billion yen (about US$1.31 billion) total of digital sales of manga from both compiled book volumes and magazines saw a 27.5% increase from last year.

Link to the rest at Anime News Network and thanks to Eugene for the tip.

‘It’s no longer about the vanity press’: self-publishing gains respect — and sales

From CBC News:

Vancouver-based author Sharon Rowse was thrilled when after years of trying she finally landed a book deal with a New York publisher.

“It had always been my dream to be published,” Rowse said.

Her novel, a historical crime story that takes place in her home town, had been “a bit of a hard sell” for the American market.

But reality poured a big bucket of cold water on her dreams when the publisher was bought out, and its mystery section discontinued.

“My book was the last one to come off the press, which meant that I was suddenly without a publisher with a book that had just literally come out two weeks before the publisher closed,” she said.

Rowse searched for a new publisher for her book, but “nobody wanted to pick it up.”

Instead of letting her writing languish, she decided to take control of the process and added it to the the growing trove of self-published works that are increasingly finding their way into the hands of readers.

. . . .

Writers like Rowse are the target of a pending new collection of local self-published authors at the Vancouver Public Library — and other libraries across Canada are doing the same.

“Knowing that there’s been this huge outpouring of self-publishing over the past few years, we want to make sure that we’re finding that kind of content when it’s coming from Vancouver,” said Christina de Castell, VPL’s director of collections and technology.

“We really want to give Vancouver authors an opportunity to have a platform to share their work.”

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

Blackwell’s 2016 financial results reflect ‘challenging’ year

From The Bookseller:

Blackwell’s losses deepened in its last financial year, with the move of one of its flagship campus shops in Manchester to a temporary venue a contributing factor. However, investment in its stores and an increase in e-textbook sales have lead to a 10% growth more recently, the company said.

In the year to 25th June 2016, Blackwell’s recorded a loss of £2.9m on a total turnover of £43.3m on its continuing business, down from £2.2m on sales of £45.8m in the 52 weeks to 27th June 2015 (excluding the closure of its library services US contracts in the prior year).

. . . .

The company has also invested in its e-commerce site, distribution capabilities and grown its London-based Blackwell Learning team. With digital resources being used more widely in UK Higher Education, the company has struck a number of partnerships with universities for students to use it e-textbook platform, and sales are up 249% year on year, it said.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Annabel Karmel goes self-publishing for next title

From The Bookseller:

Bestselling child nutrition author Annabel Karmel is to leave publisher Ebury and self-publish her next title, Baby-Led Weaning Recipe Book.

Karmel’s 1991 début, The Complete Baby & Toddler Meal Planner was inspired by her son Nicholas who was a fussy eater, was rejected by 15 publishing houses and “countless” literary agents before it was represented by a book packager and sold to Simon & Schuster in the US at Frankfurt Book Fair, who then went on to order 25,000 copies. It was later sold to Ebury in the UK.

To date, she has sold 1.93 million books, for £19.6m, through Nielsen BookScan UK, with The New Complete Baby & Toddler Planner her top seller (339,646 copies). The author told The Bookseller she was self-publishing as “an experiment” and remains on good terms with Ebury, which she did not rule out returning to at a later date, adding: “I will see how it goes.”

Karmel has attracted 4.3m users a year to her her website www.annabelkarmel.com and said she was well-placed to tap into her “loyal mum” audience. She has also has a weekly average social reach of 1 million, which she considers a “powerful” platform to promote her books, on top of her experience after 25 years experience in publishing. Karmel also has a range of baby food she sells to supermarkets, with good connections in retail.

“I sell my food into supermarkets, we know the brand better than anybody else, and so we are the best-placed to help sell and market a book,” she said.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Here’s a link to Annabel Karmel’s books.

Hudson slams ‘inhuman’ May’s EU dallying

From The Bookseller:

DK c.e.o. Ian Hudson said UK Prime Minister Theresa May was “inhuman” for “playing with people’s lives” in her Brexit negotiations, adding that he was struggling with recruitment as a consequence, while HarperCollins UK c.e.o. Charlie Redmayne said uncertainty around freedom of movement could hit businesses that use temporary workers—such as HC’s distribution centre.

In a strongly worded speech at yesterday’s London Book Fair (14th March), Hudson called for “an immediate commitment” guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens living in the UK, so that the 81 EU nationals among DK’s 500 London-based staff could be confident that Brexit would not impede their career at the firm.

“The reluctance of Theresa May to do this isn’t a smart negotiation ploy, it’s just inhuman,” he said. “Why are we playing with people’s lives?” Hudson told The Bookseller that a talent drain should be a “big concern” for the book trade, and that DK was “struggling to recruit people for jobs in London”.

Redmayne, who attended Hudson’s speech, echoed his plea. He said the uncertainty around freedom of movement had resulted in staff departures from HarperCollins’ distribution centre in Scotland, where a “significant proportion” of staff hail from Eastern Europe.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Writers’ Earnings in New Zealand

From Horizon Research:

Writers’ earnings

On average, writers in the survey earned $56,900 per annum. Writers’ average personal
incomes were 56% of their average household incomes.

Writers earned an average of 24% of their personal income, or around $13,500 per annum,
from their writing.

While female writers in the sample had total personal incomes 10% below male writers in the
sample, they earned 10% more per annum from their writing (an average of $13,800 per
annum) than male writers ($12,600 per annum).

Income earned overseas from writing averaged 14% of total writing earnings, around $2,000 in
the past 12 months.

Overall, 27% said their income had increased in the past 12 months, while 32% said it had
decreased. 34% said their income had remained the same over the past 12 months.
Royalties were by far the most common sources of writing earnings. Around half of those
earning royalties for printed books received them at 10% RRP or 17.5% of publishers net
receipts, while nearly 4 out of 10 received less than that.

More than half of the writers in the sample had never received an advance and 27% of those
who had said the value of the advances received from publishers had remained the same over
the past 5 years.

Half the respondents said that in addition to any income they earned from writing they relied on their partners’ income, and nearly two-thirds said they relied on having a job. For nearly half of the writers, the employment they had was unrelated to being an author.

Nearly a third said they relied on National Superannuation; this reflects the age distribution of the respondents, with 32% aged 65 years or over.

Link to the rest at Horizon Research and thanks to Erica for the tip.

Here’s a link to a discussion of the study on Radio New Zealand

New media arrives at LBF with ‘huge sums’

From The Bookseller:

An unprecedented wave of new-media players are descending on the London Book Fair, triggering a “dramatic explosion” in book-to-film/TV and audio deals.

Hannah Griffiths, head of literary acquisitions at production company All3Media, said the “exponential growth” in hours of airtime, owing to the rise of streaming platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, marked an “optimistic moment” for the trade. She added: “It’s like if five major dedicated book chains opened up in Britain tomorrow, each needing to fill the shelves… and with loads of money to spend on stock.”

. . . .

Katie McCalmont, Netflix’s literary scout in the UK at Maria B Campbell Associates, said the number of new-media buyers had gone up “big time”, in tandem with “a blurring of boundaries” between different media. She said the climate was “a huge opportunity” for publishers and agents.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

High street sees 4% rise in book sales

From The Bookseller:

The British high street saw a 4% rise in book volume purchases through physical stores last year, while online sales flatlined. However, online retailers continued to grow their market share of the print market with a 1% rise to 32% of volume purchases in 2016.

These were the findings of Nielsen’s Books & Consumer annual survey.

. . . .

In terms of volume, online purchases remained the same as last year due to the flatlining in e-book buying, whereas the high street saw a rise of 4%. Both online and store purchases were up in terms of value, with sales through online channels up 5% to £1169m and sales through stores up 7% to £1130m in 2016.

Bohme’s findings also confirmed that purchases of e-books are in decline, with consumers buying 4% fewer in 2016 – a trend which coincides with a slowing in the growth of device ownership and the increasing of e-book prices. In addition, multi-function devices, such as mobile phones and tablets, overtook dedicated e-reading devices as the most commonly used for e-reading, with a 48%-44% split respectively.

. . . .

Jacks Thomas, director of The London Book Fair, added: “Much has been said in recent years about e-reading cannibalising the sales of print books, so it is very interesting to see how this trend has reversed and how print is now very much back on the up.”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Young author inspired to write and publish own book

From the Eastern Courier:

A talented East Auckland teenager has written, illustrated and self-published her own book.

Jennifer Cheuk, 17, from Howick, penned the collection of short stories and poems entitled The Peculiar Thoughts of a Hummingbird.

Cheuk began the adult’s anthology at the mere age of 15, compiling 13 quirky tales that delve into the ideas of society, the perspective of children and multiculturalism.

“I drew inspiration from Shaun Tan, an artist I really like; Katherine Mansfield; and all the other little random books I read when I was growing up,” Chuek says.

. . . .

The home-schooled student also illustrated the book and arranged self-publication on her own.

“I wanted to be able to say I had done this rather than had help from other people,” she says.

“It made it feel like more of an achievement for me.”

. . . .

Senior librarian Tina Brown says: “Jennifer has been coming to Highland Park Library since she was a toddler and has always joined in summer reading programmes, story times and school holidays programmes.

“Her book is not only delightful but also thought provoking.”

Link to the rest at Eastern Courier

EU Court Rules Lower Sales Tax Only Applies to Print, Not eBooks

From The Digital Reader:

European countries must levy standard rates of sales taxes on digital books and newspapers rather than the reduced levels possible for their printed equivalents due to e-commerce rules, the EU’s top court ruled on Tuesday.

The European Court of Justice was called to interpret EU rules on value-added tax (VAT) after Poland’s commissioner for civic rights questioned whether the system of allowing lower rates only for printed publications was fair.

The court said the rules allowed EU countries to apply reduced VAT rates to printed but not digital publications even though both met the European Parliament’s objective when passing the VAT directive – the promotion of reading.

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader

Hachette UK sales up 11% for 2016

From The Bookseller:

Hachette UK’s parent company Lagardère has published its annual results, reporting sales in the UK grew by 11% in 2016, helped by Little, Brown titles Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and Fantastic Beasts that helped to offset the full-year impact of a return to the agency agreement for e-books.

The annual results provide further detail following Lagardère’s Q4 financial results in February, when the same two books were credited in contributing to 17.5% sales growth for Hachette UK in 2016’s fourth quarter.

. . . .

Lagardère Publishing improved its operating margin by 0.2 points to 9.2% and this increase in profitability was attributed to three things: profitability gains in the US, due to “disciplined cost management”; the performance of Partworks in Japan and Spain; and the impact of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and Fantastic Beasts in the UK, which it said “more than offset the decline in digital revenue in the UK”.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

PG suspects “disciplined cost management” includes smaller author advances.

Why e-readers succeeded as a disruptive innovation in the US, but not in Japan

From The London School of Economics Business Review:

The concept of disruptive innovation has captured the attention of executives around the world. As explained by Clayton Christensen, a disruptive innovation is initially seen as unattractive by mainstream customers and by the leading firms who serve those customers. Eventually, however, those firms lose their leadership positions to new entrants who are willing to develop and improve the innovation in ways that make it more attractive to mainstream customers.

. . . .

One intriguing example of a bundled disruptive innovation is the e-reader. Many American consumers responded enthusiastically to Amazon’s introduction of the Kindle reader in 2007, in part because, in a relatively short amount of time Kindle customers were able to choose from hundreds of thousands of titles. In contrast, Japanese e-readers introduced both before and after the U.S. Kindle launch received a lukewarm response from Japanese consumers.

One obvious explanation was the relative lack (compared to the US) of best-selling novels and other popular books in e-book form. To try and understand the reasons for the disparity in e-book availability between the U.S. and Japan, we interviewed key figures from both the American and Japanese book industry. Our research revealed a number of interesting insights, which we organise into three categories: organisational, environmental and technological factors.

. . . .

In part, the limited availability of e-books in Japan reflected industry perceptions of Amazon’s critical role in the success of the Kindle. Our informants did not believe any single Japanese company could play an Amazon-like role in Japan, in the sense of developing a Japanese e-reader and securing a supply of hundreds of thousands of e-books for that reader. For this reason, publishers and retailers were unwilling to invest large amounts of money developing e-book editions of popular Japanese books.

The availability of Japanese e-books has also been influenced by the interdependence among book retailers, wholesalers, and publishers in Japan. Japanese wholesalers were most likely to be hurt by the introduction of e-books. Publishers and retailers were heavily dependent on the two major wholesalers for sales of paper books. These concerns were amplified by pricing concerns. In Japan, publishers had the legal right to set the prices of paper books, which eliminated price competition for new books. Although the resale price law does not affect the pricing of e-books, Japanese publishers worried about the potential impact of e-book discounting on the performance of wholesalers and other industry players. For this reason, many publishers were reluctant to offer discounts on e-books, despite the success of Amazon’s aggressive discounting in the US.

. . . .

Another factor that emerged in our research involved differences in the perceptions of Japanese and American consumers. Amazon marketed the Kindle as a “library in one’s pocket.” A number of our informants believed that Japanese readers place less value on this benefit because Japanese publishers already sell paperback books in a size that fit easily in a jacket pocket, and book stores are conveniently located within or near major train stations.

Link to the rest at The London School of Economics