Bite Me on the Barcode: More on Pricing and POD for the Aussie Author

From Annette Hamilton’s Writing Zone:

I published my children’s book The Priceless Princess with Kindle and Createspace just a couple of months ago. I had already purchased my own ISBNs which I used correctly, one on each version. Book came out, very cute, set a low price for the print version thinking of my Australian readers who would have to pay the US dollar price. Dumb me only then realised that Amazon in Australia does not sell any print versions. Australian readers would have to go to the US site, purchase in US$ and then pay a fortune to have the book posted to Australia. Or buy copies from my website. So I order a bunch of copies from Createspace and lo! I am paying  dollars per copy just to have them posted to me in Australia by the only postage option available through Createspace.

Don’t want to do that again, so I would have to do what everybody recommended and get the print version onto Ingram Spark, who do print in Australia. I download their nifty Cover Generator and it asks do I want to set a price in the barcode. What? So I go back to my Createspace version and notice for the first time that there is a code adjacent to the ISBN, and it is Code 90000. For a minute or three I am diverted by the idea that this could be a great title for a thriller, although Code 9000 would be better. But back to matters at hand! This code turns out to mean that no price has been set. Should I set a price? What price should it be – the same as the Createspace one on the Amazon site? But that is in US$ and obviously for people who are in the US.  I need these books asap, so to save time I decide to use the Amazon price in the barcode so I send the  Cover Generator to my illustrator who is putting the files together. But I am uneasy about it, and go into research mode. Should I have put the price in the barcode, or not?

Of course there is no clear answer. I email Ingram Spark, they email back almost immediately (great service by the way) to recommend that no price be put in the barcode because if you ever change your price then you have to reprint the cover and upload the new one, decommissioning the previous one. But other sources say bookshops won’t stock books that don’t have prices in the barcode. Codes begin with a number indicating where the book is published and priced. 5 is for the US. 3 is for Australia. If for some reason a store outside Australia wants to stock your book it won’t be able to sell it if the code starts with 3 because its stock system won’t be able to read it.

Some say it is another covert way to tell whether or not a book comes from a “real” publisher as against one of those pretend publishers who are really just some idiot typing something up in Word and using wicked Amazon to hide behind, people like me.

Link to the rest at Annette Hamilton’s Writing Zone

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

Self-publishing, in an instant

From The Hindu:

How visitors to a Kerala book fair walked out with their writing in a publication
‘Publish yourself’ recently assumed a different meaning, when visitors to a street book fair in Thiruvananthapuram turned contributors, their impromptu writings were turned into books as the event concluded.

Ninety-year-old Balakrishna Kurup never expected his jottings to become part of the book, which opened with a print run of 1,000 copies.

He found himself in the company of 80 others, most of them casual visitors, including school students and amateur writers. The group got published in Theruvu (‘Street’) which was conceived, written, designed, published and released on Manaveeyam Street, the cultural corridor of Kerala’s capital and a regular venue for folk art and street plays.

The entire publication happened over the course of four days, during the Street Book Fair organised by the city Corporation.

At one end, after all the book stalls, was a small stall with just a book and a pen on a table, and a laptop on another. Visitors were invited to write down their contributions — stories, poems, drawings or articles. The idea was to create a book from the street. The only condition was that the work should be spontaneous.

. . . .

As the visitors penned their thoughts, standing on the street, youth quickly worked on the layouts and designs for each page. The editing work was also taken up. The cover image by artist Sajitha Sankar is also street-inspired.

Link to the rest at The Hindu and thanks to Meryl for the tip.

Remembering Nüshu, the 19th-Century Chinese Script Only Women Could Write

From Atlas Obscura:

In 1988, Yi Nianhua, a woman in her 80s, spent many evenings scribbling elegant characters at a table in her kitchen in a small rice-farming village in Shangjiangxu, China. With only a blunt writing brush, the elongated script came out fat and blotchy on the newsprint she used for paper. But Cathy Silber, a professor at Skidmore College in New York, worked alongside Yi in her kitchen, diligently deciphering and studying the written language.

“Out of the thousands of scripts that are gender-specific to men, here we have one that we know is gender-specific to women,” says Silber, who has been researching Nüshu since 1985. Yi was one of the last remaining writers of Nüshu, a fading script that only women knew how to write and read.

Stemming from the southwestern Hunan Province county of Jiangyong, a small group of women in the 19th and 20th centuries practiced this special script that no man could read or write. The writing system allowed these women to keep autobiographies, write poetry and stories, and communicate with “sworn sisters,” bonds between women who were not biologically related. The tradition of Nüshu is slowly vanishing, but at one time gave the women of Shanjiangxu freedom to express themselves.

. . . .

 As of 2012, there were approximately 500 known texts written in Nüshu, ranging from four-line poems to long autobiographical narratives. Today, the texts that have survived give researchers such as Silber the opportunity to peer into the daily lives of Chinese women throughout this period of history.

. . . .

The first definite record of Nüshu dates to 1931, but Silber and most academics reason women likely began writing it in the early years of the 19th century. The script is syllabic, each sign standing for a distinct unit of sound in the local dialect. More than 1,000 signs have been counted thus far, according to Idema.

“It’s more efficient than Chinese because it’s phonetic,” says Silber. “A single symbol would represent every syllable with the same sound. So you get more bang for your buck with each character.”

Additionally, Nüshu’s elegant, elongated lines contrast the stocky, squat blocks of Chinese characters. The visual beauty of Nüshu is distinguished by fine wisps and thin strokes, flanked by diamond shapes and precise dots. Some people even called it ‘mosquito writing’ because the characters looked like they were drawn by the legs of an insect, says Silber.

Link to the rest at Atlas Obscura

Fictional characters make ‘experiential crossings’ into real life, study finds

From The Guardian:

It’s a cliche to claim that a novel can change your life, but a recent study suggests almost a fifth of readers report that fiction seeps into their daily existence.

Researchers at Durham University conducted a survey of more than 1,500 readers, with about 400 providing detailed descriptions of their experiences with book. Nineteen per cent of those respondents said the voices of fictional characters stayed with them even when they weren’t reading, influencing the style and tone of their thoughts – or even speaking to them directly. For some participants it was as if a character “had started to narrate my world”, while others heard characters talking, or imagined them reacting to things going on in everyday life.

. . . .

According to one of the paper’s authors, the writer and psychologist Charles Fernyhough, the survey illustrates how readers of fiction are doing more than just processing words for meaning – they are actively recreating the worlds and characters being described.

“For many of us, this can involve experiencing the characters in a novel as people we can interact with,” Fernyhough said. “One in seven of our respondents, for example, said they heard the voices of fictional characters as clearly as if there was someone in the room with them.”

. . . .

“One respondent, for example, described ‘feeling enveloped’ by [Virginia Woolf’s] character Clarissa Dalloway – hearing her voice and imagining her response to particular situations, such as walking into a Starbucks. Sometimes the experience seemed to be triggered by entering a real-world setting similar to one in the novel; in other situations, it felt like seeing the world through a particular character’s eyes, and judging events as the character would.”

Link to the rest at The Guardian

Ottawa Public Library introduces ‘express’ ebooks for speed readers

From The Ottawa Citizen:

The Ottawa Public Library is encouraging speed reading with a new “express” ebooks system, the first of its kind at a Canadian public library.

Starting Wednesday, customers can borrow new and bestselling English-language ebooks for a loan period of seven days. The express system, previously only available for print books, now includes fiction and non-fiction ebooks.

“With a shorter loan period and a no-holds policy, express items help OPL optimize its collection, catering to fast readers,” a press release states.

The OPL’s website notes: “Ottawa Public Library eBooks get returned automatically once the loan period is finished so there will never be any late fees.”

Link to the rest at The Ottawa Citizen and thanks to Tudor for the tip.

Amazon to create 5,000 jobs in UK

From The Bookseller:

Amazon has revealed plans to create 5,000 more jobs in the UK this year – boosting its workforce by over a quarter.

The company said the roles with “competitive pay” would be across the business, from software developers, engineers and technicians to entry-level positions and on-the-job training. They will be based across its UK head office in London; Customer Service Centre in Edinburgh; Fashion Photography Studio in Shoreditch and other fulfilment centres across the UK.

New jobs will also be created at its Development Centres in Cambridge, Edinburgh and London where employees work on global customer innovations like Alexa, Prime Air and Prime Video.

The extra staff will see the company’s overall UK employees grow by 26% to 24,000.

. . . .

Amazon said it plans to hire “as many individuals as possible” from staff occupying its seasonal positions into the new roles, and said that over 10,000 of its current 19,000 staff first began in a seasonal role.

The company has also announced a new apprenticeship programme today (20th February) , which it says will offer “hundreds” of apprenticeship opportunities in engineering, logistics and warehousing.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Being an Irish author is more of a Grimm fairytale than a Cinderella story

From The Irish Times:

Signing with a publisher is the ultimate fairytale for every new writer. We slave away like modern-day Cinderellas on our manuscripts, not entirely sure of what our happy-ever-after will entail, but still we long for the day when we can squeeze our toes into that glass slipper.

However, a recent article by Donal Ryan on the harsh realities of being a published writer in Ireland has put paid to the fairytale notion of big advances and handsome royalties. Ryan revealed that for the first contract he signed he earned a sobering 40c per book, which left a lot of people asking, where does the rest of the cover price go?

Most people outside of the industry assume that once you have a contract and your book is in the shop window, you’re on the pig’s back, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Traditional publishing is a bit like fight club – nobody really knows what goes on because nobody talks about it. So for new writers, it can be a bit of a blow to discover the truth.

. . . .

 When I began submitting my debut novel back in 2013, while quietly humming “Some day my prince will come”, my expectations of the publishing contract were embarrassingly Cinderella-like. I may not have been expecting a gilded carriage, but I assumed that they would take care of everything and more importantly, take care of me. This is why I am so glad that I didn’t get that publishing deal, because I would have naively left everything in the hands of the publisher.

. . . .

 Becoming a self-published author has forced me to take sole responsibility of my writing career by learning everything I could about this industry from the ground up. If you want to be an author, you have to focus on the long game and I’m not sure that traditional publishing can give authors that kind of luxury anymore.

. . . .

 There is still a lot of snobbery around self-publishing and while there are those who still view it as the poor relation, statistics show that the popularity of indie books is on the rise. A new report from Enders Analysis found that 40 of the 100 top-selling ebooks on Amazon US in March 2016 were self-published.

. . . .

 The publishing world is in flux. More and more, we are seeing traditionally published authors moving into self-publishing. Polly Courtney, author of Feral Youth, decided to ditch Harper Collins because of what she felt was their chick-lit marketing approach to her books. Claire Cook, author of Must Love Dogs, left her publisher and her agent once she realised she could earn more through self-publishing: 70 per cent royalties on ebook sales compared to the standard 25 per cent a traditional author receives is hard to ignore.

. . . .

 Traditional publishing is positively glacial in its approach to change. Digital publishing is a fast-paced environment and Amazon has responded to that. They have even created their own imprints for agented authors, showing that they can evolve and respond to the market. I believe it’s time for traditional publishers to do the same and put the author at the centre of the industry. Authors need a fair return for their work and it just doesn’t seem right to me that they are at the bottom of the pecking order when it comes to earnings. And yet, that is how the publishing industry is structured.

Link to the rest at The Irish Times

Retail wars begin as Pullman shoots to number one in pre-orders

From The Bookseller:

Less than 24 hours after the announcement that Philip Pullman is to release a new epic fantasy series entitled The Book of Dust, the first volume has shot to number one in Amazon’s bestseller charts through pre-order sales.

Retail wars have already commenced with both Amazon and Waterstones offering the first instalment, due out on 19th October, with a 50% discount off the £20 book. Independent booksellers meanwhile have vowed to think “creatively” about how best to secure a share of the sales. Waterstones m.d James Daunt has said the first book could be worth around £8m in sales to the chain alone – 2% of its overall revenue.

Zool Verjee, deputy manager of Blackwell’s Oxford, said the store is planning something “stupendous” to mark the publication of the book. Pullman lives in Oxford and is well-known in the bookshop. “Everyone in this shop is floating”, he said. “It is fantastic, we know him really well and he’s done a number of events with us. This news has got us thinking of how to make people aware. We’ll have our own ‘Philip Pullman campaign’. We want to pull out all the stops and do something stupendous.”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

A new wave of Canadian book companies taps in to the popularity of self-publishing

From The Globe and Mail:

A new wave of Canadian publishers is looking to tap in to the popularity of self-publishing and help authors do it in a more professional way.

“Everything we do is totally customized for the author and their book and their audience,” says Trena White, principal and co-founder of Vancouver-based Page Two Strategies.

Her company offers a variety of services to authors, such as editing, design, marketing and distribution support on a fee-for-service basis. In other cases, it acts as a traditional agent, representing authors to publishers.

“We felt that there are a lot of authors with really great book ideas that deserve a market that just are not getting picked up by traditional publishers,” Ms. White says.

. . . .

For self-published authors, standing out from the crowd is a challenge. After all, even big publishers don’t always get the marketing right, says Chris Hall, the co-owner of McNally Robinson, a Winnipeg bookstore that also has a location in Saskatoon.

“The vast majority of self-published authors sell to friends and family,” says Mr. Hall. He says that authors who use self-publishing services are often setting themselves up for disappointment. “They end up with hundreds of copies of their book and, realistically, most of them don’t get sold,” Mr. Hall.

He is wary of marketing services aimed at self-published authors and says writers should be careful they’re not getting taken advantage of. “People want to believe that their book is the best,” he says. “I hate to be the person to bring the realistic news, but the chances of success are very low.”

Link to the rest at The Globe and Mail

Thieves steal £2m of rare books by abseiling into warehouse

From The Guardian:

Antiquarian books worth more than £2m have been stolen by a gang who avoided a security system by abseiling into a west London warehouse.

The three thieves made off with more than 160 publications after raiding the storage facility near Heathrow in what has been labelled a Mission: Impossible-style break-in.

The gang are reported to have climbed on to the building’s roof and bored holes through the reinforced glass-fibre skylights before rappelling down 40ft of rope while avoiding motion-sensor alarms.

Scotland Yard confirmed that “a number of valuable books”, many from the 15th and 16th centuries, were stolen during the burglary in Feltham between 29 and 30 January.

. . . .

One source familiar with the case said: “They would be impossible to sell to any reputable dealer or auction house. We’re not talking Picassos or Rembrandts or even gold bars – these books would be impossible to fence. It must be for some one specialist. There must be a collector behind it. The books belong to three different dealers working at the very top of the market and altogether they form a fantastic collection.”

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

PG learned that abseil is another word for rappel.

This Small Village In Spain Is Home To More Books Than People

From All That is Interesting:

Imagine a small medieval town behind a high wall. A castle stands on one end, and all around are vineyards and fields of wheat. Imagine that within the walls the entire town is devoted to reading and writing. Imagine that the entire town is, in essence, one magical bookstore.

One of many European wonders, this fairytale for bibliophiles exists in Spain. The place is called Urueña, and it is only a two hour drive northwest from Madrid. The town sits within a medieval wall, surrounded by vast plains, in the region of Castilla y León. In recent years, it has transformed itself into a Villa del Libro, a village that celebrates books.

. . . .

Fewer than 200 people live in Urueña, according to the 2014 census. But these few villagers run 12 different bookstores, meaning that there’s one bookstore for every sixteen or so people. Some are general interest shops; others specialize in old and rare books. One focuses on the region of Castilla y León, another on children’s books. A shop called El 7 Bookshop specializes in books about bullfighting. Another concentrates its collection on books about wine, and this one is called The Cellar.

Link to the rest at All That is Interesting

PG says there are some nice photos at the link.

Toronto Public Library Discusses Audiobook and e-Book Curation

From GoodEReader:

The Toronto Public Library had 3.7 million audiobook and e-book checkouts via OverDrive in 2016 and their total digital circulation was over 5 million if you factor in Hoopla, OneClickDigital and Zinio. These type of loan figures are the byproduct of a unified strategy to put the emphasis on e-book discovery via their website and promote the library system in the city of Toronto.

The city of Toronto is the e-book capital of Canada and many of the most popular digital companies are located there. Wattpad is the current undisputed market leader in fan-fiction, short stories and serialized fiction. Readers spend 15 billion minutes on Wattpad every month and more than 500 writers have published completed works that have been read more than a million times. There are over 350 million stories, in 50 languages, on the site. Kobo is also located in Toronto and they are known all over the world as being the number 2 e-reading company, next to Amazon. They have a digital catalog of over 5.1 million titles and millions of readers consume digital content each month. Booknet Canada specializes in analytics and data on the entire Canadian digital publishing and traditional publishing industry.

The Toronto Public Library loans out the most digital titles consistently for the past three years. Maria Cipriano is in charge of adult eBook purchasing and curating and gave her thoughts on how she approaches audiobook and e-book curation to serve the needs of the community.

“Our ultimate goal is to promote the enjoyment of reading and to facilitate this by uniting readers with the books they are seeking in the most user friendly way possible. The curation of eBook collections is an integral part of our service and providing easy access to great content significantly enhances the user experience for our customers, here are some key points.”

. . . .

Libraries have finite budgets and are unable to purchase enough copies to provide immediate access to his week’s best sellers (unlike bookstores) and the hottest titles will, inevitably,  be checked out with lengthy holds lists.  This is where curation plays a key role in providing a readers advisory service – we can create collections of great reads with available copies that allow customers to find something to read immediately.  Customers can read something else while they wait for the latest blockbuster title they placed on hold on.   We guide customers to last year’s bestsellers  (books that they never got around to reading and forgot about),  award-winning titles,  best books lists, slightly older books that had media attention,  books library staff personally enjoyed, etc.   We actually have to work at this a lot harder than online bookstores who have unlimited copies of new books and don’t have to promote mid and backlist titles that much.

. . . .

In Canada, our customers like to read books by Canadian authors and we can easily gather these together for them.   Libraries play a role in promoting indie titles as well.  For example, I curated a list of 295 titles of books set in Toronto – it is fun to read books set in your own backyard.   I am sure this is the case for readers in  San Francisco, Auckland, etc.

Link to the rest at GoodEReader

How To Get Published

From The Writing Cooperative:

“Sorry we don’t publish unpublished authors.”

This is the conundrum I found myself in when I finished writing Hellbound. I had sent submission letters to as many agents and publishers as I could find on the Internet. Their responses were largely saying the same thing; unless you have a successful body of recognised work behind you, we won’t even read your manuscript.

Somewhat disheartened, I turned to my contacts to see what I could do, or whom I could approach to at least get an unbiased opinion on the story. My search led me to Michael Williams, a man connected with a radio station I was doing the weekly surf report on Friday mornings. Michael had previously worked for one of Australia’s largest independent publishing houses, Text Publishing. He ever so kindly accepted my request to take a look, and offer some advice.

 We met for a beer one night in Melbourne near his home, I having emailed him the manuscript a month prior. I’ll never forget what he said. “I’m glad I don’t have to give you the ‘stick to your day-job’ talk. But, you need to know, getting any kind of novel published is incredibly tough and this one will be near impossible. The genre isn’t huge in Australia. It has big, and maybe too many, original ideas. It is the kind of manuscript every publisher dreams of taking a chance on but never, ever does.” So what do I do? I asked. “Firstly you need to edit it. It’s really only about fifty percent complete, there are some plot holes you need to fill, and you need to build the main character more. But more importantly you need to get the right people to read it, without them thinking they need to make a yes or no decision on it.”

Link to the rest at The Writing Cooperative

Amazon launches £20,000 prize for self-published ebooks

From The Telegraph:

Online retailer Amazon UK has taken on big awards such as the Man Booker and Costa Book Awards by launching its own literary prize – for self-published ebooks.

The Kindle Storyteller Prize carries a cash award of £20,000: far smaller than the £50,000 Man Booker Prize, but equal to the winner’s purse offered by the country’s two biggest poetry book awards, the TS Eliot Prize and Forward Prize.

The prize is open to any author who publishes their book through Kindle Direct Publishing between February 20 and May 19 this year. Entries from any genre are eligible – including fiction, non-fiction and collections of short stories – so long as they are more than 5,000 words and previously unpublished. Once published, individual printed copies of any of the books can also be ordered via Amazon’s print-on-demand service.

. . . .

“Great books deserve to be celebrated and that’s what we want to do with the Kindle Storyteller competition,” said an Amazon spokesperson. “Publishing a book has never been easier, and the Kindle Storyteller Award will reward the author whose story resonates most with both readers and literary experts.” Amazon will use readers’ interest in different titles online to help decide the shortlist, before the winner is chosen by an as-yet-unannounced panel of “both Amazon experts and literary authorities.”

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

PG suggests Amazon would have been more disruptive if it had offered a prize larger than the Mann Booker Prize.

As celebrity books boom, professional authors are driven out of full-time work

From The Guardian:

Despite scoring three bestsellers in five years and a clutch of awards, The Spinning Heart author Donal Ryan has been forced to return to his day job in the Irish civil service in order to pay his mortgage.

Ryan has become the latest casualty of tumbling incomes for writers. Despite receiving advances and signing a deal to write three more books with his publisher, the Irish novelist said he had found it impossible to earn a living wage as a full-time writer.

. . . .

Saying his earnings amounted to about 40 cents per copy sold, he told the newspaper he had taken a job in the Workplace Relations Commission.

. . . .

Ryan’s decision came as children’s authors hit out at celebrity children’s books. Tales of Terror author Chris Priestley told the Bookseller that professional authors were finding it hard to compete for advances and shelf space. “It’s a tricky time in publishing at the moment,” he said. “I met a lot of writers last year who were having a hard time and in negotiations they were finding it harder to get the advances they got a couple of years ago.”

Priestley said that while the market was tough for all writers, celebrities were at an advantage competing for book deals. “It seems as though if you’re a celebrity you can just express the idea you would like to do a book – like [radio DJ] Christian O’Connell did on Twitter – and you will get a deal. I still have to pitch my books.”

In the last two years comedians and YouTubers have rushed into the market, some signing six-figure deals, while professional authors’ advances slipped to as low as three and four figures. Adding “children’s author” to their CV are the likes of David Walliams, Russell Brand, Danny Baker, Frank Lampard and Pharrell Williams.

CJ Daugherty, who writes thrillers for young adults, claimed ghostwritten children’s books risked undermining readers’ trust. “We can tell ourselves that readers must know a C-List celebrity, famous for opening makeup boxes on YouTube, isn’t capable of writing an 80,000-word novel,” she told the Bookseller. “But the whole system seems designed to fool people into thinking they are.”

Author and children’s book critic Amanda Craig told the trade magazine: “It’s distasteful [that] celebrities and their agents seem to think publishing a novel is a way to use their brand to make more money and, with the exception of David Walliams, they’re not very good.”

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

The €500 a year career: do Irish writers get paid enough?

From The Irish Times:

Donal Ryan’s literary success story is one that most up-and-coming Irish authors – and many established ones – would love to emulate. How sobering it must be then for them to learn that the author is having to return to his full-time civil service job at the Workplace Relations Commission to pay his mortgage.

The arc of Ryan’s story has a fairytale quality – the 47 rejection letters from publishers before his novel The Spinning Heart was finally rescued from the slush pile in 2011 and went on to win a host of prizes including the Guardian First Book Award and Dublin Book Festival’s Irish Book of the Decade as well as being longlisted for the Booker and shortlisted for the Impac Dublin Literary Award.

Despite following up with three critically acclaimed and bestselling books in four years – The Thing about December, A Slanting of the Sun and All We Shall Know – the author revealed in a newspaper interview yesterday that his literary career has not had the traditional happy ending one might have expected.

“It’s nearly impossible to make a living as a writer,” he told the Sunday Independent. “You need to have something else on the go. You could take a chance and scrape a living through bursaries and writing books, but I’d get too stressed out. It just isn’t worth it. I have two kids in school and I have a mortgage to pay.”

“I reckon I get about 40c per book. So I would need to sell a huge amount of books to make a good salary out of that. I can’t complain. My publishers are fantastic. I have just signed a contract for three more books and my advances are really good but, still, I have to look at the long term and the fact that I have 20 more years of a mortgage, so you would need to sell a lot to earn a living from that alone.”

. . . .

“I thought Donal Ryan was incredibly brave to come out and lay out the realities of being a writer – because the public often has a very skewed view,” said author David Gaughran. “But I would like to talk about the publisher in this scenario. I’ve no issue at all with Lilliput Press, I actually like them a lot, but the system as a whole needs to be examined.

“Everyone in the publishing chain claims to be broke. Publishers always say this is a low margin business. Agents have greater and greater trouble placing books. Booksellers, of course, are constantly feeling the pinch. But publishing as a whole is huge, generating $125bn in global sales every year. Where does all that money go? Why are authors paid so poorly? Contracts are terrible across the board – the system is designed that way. But it can change and it has to change.”

Link to the rest at The Irish Times and thanks to Alexis for the tip.

How print beat digital in the book world

From The Straits Times:

If the media industry needed proof that it moved too quickly to devalue its print products on the way to chasing digital audiences, the book industry has been making a convincing case in the last few years. The rise of print book sales and decline in e-books in 2015 was no accident. Last year, the trend continued, and self-publishing in electronic form no longer seemed as good a bet as in previous years.

Last year, the unit sales of printed books in the United States increased by 3.3 per cent. That’s not unusual, except that the publishing industry didn’t produce any runaway bestsellers such as 2015’s The Girl On The Train, and only a handful of books, mostly from previous years, sold more than one million copies. The industry made up that deficiency by selling more non-fiction books. That’s an indication of book publishers’ overall health: They are flexible and versatile.

In dollar terms, hardback and paperback books were both headed for solid growth in the first eight months of last year, while e-books appeared destined for an even bigger decline than the 14 per cent drop registered in 2015, according to the most recent data released by the Association of American Publishers. If traditional book publishers accepted that the digital revolution meant a total overhaul of their business – the way the music and media industries have largely done – they would be locked in the same race to the bottom that those two industries have faced. The ease of digital self-publishing and readers’ sense that digital books should be cheaper than paper ones have resulted in growing unit sales but falling revenues – much like how the audiences of major news media have snowballed since the turn of the century without a concurrent growth in revenue.

. . . .

Even in the US, the most mature e-book market in the world, printed books are far more popular. Last autumn, Pew Research found that 65 per cent of Americans had read a paper book in the past 12 months, while only 28 per cent had read an e-book. The popularity of both formats has been steady since 2014, thanks to older consumers who refuse to leave print behind and younger consumers who seek a more analog lifestyle. Reading a paper book – or listening to vinyl records – is a statement, a human being’s answer to being increasingly surrounded, and now even threatened, by machines.

Link to the rest at The Straits Times and thanks to Eustacia for the tip.

PG is anything but an expert on “younger consumers”, but doubts that large numbers are seeking “a more analog lifestyle.”

Balancing the books: how Waterstones came back from the dead

From The Guardian:

Late on Thursday afternoon, would-be wizards across the UK dropped what they were doing to join the professors of Hogwarts for Harry Potter night. At 6pm in the basement of Waterstones’ six-storey London Piccadilly building, staff were scurrying around with bowls of jellybeans and bottles of raspberry lemonade, but the Harrys and Hermiones were nowhere to be seen.

A couple of elderly customers looked faintly disgruntled to find their favourite section closed for a private party. Two young sisters, Alex, 11, and eight-year-old Polly, fidgeted by the closed door clutching a box of quidditch balls, while Yang, a 22-year-old physics student from Korea, appeared baffled.

Five minutes later they started to arrive, threading their way through book-browsers on the hushed shop floor. Young women pulled Hufflepuff blazers and Hogwarts ties out of backpacks, a small girl produced an owl cage, a larger one donned scholar’s robes. Soon, the queue snaked up the stairs and across the ground floor. “I’m reading the fifth book again at the moment,” said 28-year-old

Alex, jiggling her wand. “This is the third event I’ve been to and it’s quiet compared with the launch of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child last year, when they transformed the second floor into Diagon Alley.”

In many of of the chain’s 275 branches across the UK, similar scenes were being played out. “Our first wizards have arrived for #harrypotterbooknight” tweeted staff at the Bradford store, who had earlier professed themselves “totally giddy kippers” at the prospect of the night’s revels.

But Harry Potter night wasn’t the only cause for celebration for staff and customers of the 35-year-old company. A day earlier it had revealed that it had gone back into profit for the first time since the recession under the leadership of its very own wizard, banker turned career bookseller James Daunt, who was brought in to rescue the chain in 2011 after a buyout by the Russian billionaire Alexander Mamut.

. . . .

With a mixture of tough love and an unshakeable belief in the power of the physical book, which seemed quixotic in the era of e-readers and online discounting, Daunt began to turn things around. He closed underperforming stores and fired 200 booksellers, at the same time as declaring that his managers would be given back responsibility for their own stock, because what sold in Hampstead might not go down well in the Highlands. One of his boldest moves was to inform publishers that he would no longer do business through sales reps and they could no longer buy window space – which meant turning his back on £27m a year.

Instead, a small team of buyers – in close consultation with Daunt himself – would select titles to feature as books of the month across all the stores, while individual managers were free to tailor much of their stock to their customers’ tastes. One of the centrally chosen books of the month for 2016 was a historical novel, The Essex Serpent, from Serpent’s Tail, an inprint of indie publisher Profile Books. Its author, Sarah Perry, had written one previous novel, which had been respectfully received before sinking beneath the waves.

. . . .

“Waterstones’ role in the success of The Essex Serpent is nothing less than extraordinary,” says Franklin. “They have – to date, and they haven’t finished yet – bought 100,740 copies of the hardback. And that gives them a 70.53% market share.”

. . . .

When a book has become as successful as The Essex Serpent, it’s easy to forget how it so easily could not have happened. For a tiny outfit like Somerset-based children’s publisher Chicken House Books, selection by Waterstones can make the difference between many thousands of sales and virtually none at all. Chicken House has had four of its titles selected as children’s books of the month – the latest being Maz Evans’ debut novel Who Let the Gods Out, a “freewheeling fantasy” in which a 12-year-old boy finds his home near Stonehenge beset by bumbling Greek gods.

Barry Cunningham, who set up Chicken House in Frome in 2000, points out that the relationship with Waterstones doesn’t simply involve selling the book. “They’re experts in how to catch the fleeting attention of buyers, so they’ll advise on how a book looks, the words on the back, or even the title. In this particular case, there’s a lightning flash running around the edge. They said they really liked that, but could we bolster it.”

Part of the new strategy has been to customise orders, so as to drastically reduce the numbers of unsold copies that are returned to publishers. A report from the US in 2013 revealed an average return rate across the bookselling trade of 15%. When Daunt took over, the percentage returned by Waterstones was “far higher than that”, but has now been reduced to 2-3%.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

Waterstones back in the black after five years

From The Bookseller:

Waterstones has reported a profit for the first time under the ownership of Russian businessman Alexander Mamut and direction of its m.d. James Daunt.

Boosted by “better standards of bookselling”, the 270-store chain saw sales rise by 4% to £409.1m in the year to 30th April 2016, helping it achieve an operating profit of £18.8m, resulting in a pretax profit of £9.9m, after finance costs, compared to a pretax loss of £4.5m a year earlier.

Waterstones’ m.d James Daunt told The Bookseller that the company benefitted from a slow down in the growth of e-book sales and enticed customers back to its high street shops my making them “better, different, nicer” environments to be in. He stressed the importance of the booksellers. “Everything relies on bookselling and offering a better service around bookselling,” Daunt said. “People come into our shops for the knowledge and the service, the success of The Essex Serpent (Waterstones’ 2016 Book of the Year by Sarah Perry, Serpent’s Tail), shows you that. Our support meant a book which would otherwise have achieved modest sales became a bestseller in the most competitive month of December. That is all about the service from bookselling. It is not about posters on the underground, but individual recommendations.”

. . . .

Higher sales of non-book products also helped the chain, now accounting for 12% of the company’s turnover. But while Waterstones plans to grow this to 15% over the next three years, the company will always revolve around sales of books, Daunt said. “We are still absolutely 80% a seller of books. I think non-book product simply makes bookshops better. People want the option of buying a children’s toy or stationery as well as books,” he said.

. . . .

“Amazon is our only real competitor,” he said.

. . . .

Daunt said the company was not missing sales from its direct e-books store, after closing it in May last year to direct customers to Kobo’s. “E-books are a duopoly market and we never really competed in it,” he said. “It is a big boys game.”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Fresh fears for libraries as councils face £5.8bn funding gap

From The Bookseller:

Fresh fears for the future of libraries have emerged with the revelation that local councils are facing a £5.8bn spending gap by 2020.

The concerns have surfaced on the eve of the relaunch of the all party parliamentary group tonight (31st January), which campaigners hope will work to put pressure on government to affect real change in the public library service.

According to the Local Government Association (LGA), the long-term funding crisis means local government will continue to face an overall funding gap of £5.8bn by 2020 and that more than two thirds of the 375 councils in England and Wales will be forced to find millions in savings to plug the funding gaps in 2017/18.

Lord Porter, LGA chairman, said: “No new money from central government is being provided to councils in 2017/18. In fact, more than two thirds of councils will actually be worse off next year than they were expecting. [Even] if councils stopped filling in potholes, maintaining parks and open spaces, closed all children’s centres, libraries, museums, leisure centres, turned off every street light and shut all discretionary bus routes they would not have saved enough money to plug this gap by the end of the decade.”

. . . .

“We obviously think public libraries are amongst the most loved and widely used public services in the country and councils have a legal duty to ensure provision,” he said. “If these figures are even close to true then it’s very hard to see how [councils will be able to] fulfil the legal requirement [to deliver a comprehensive and efficient library service as defined by the 1964 Public Libraries Act].

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Facebook Is Trying Everything to Re-Enter China—and It’s Not Working

From The Wall Street Journal:

Facebook Inc.’s chances of getting back into China appeared to take a rare turn for the better when an employee noticed an official posting online: Beijing authorities had granted it a license to open a representative office in two office-tower suites in the capital.

Such permits typically give Western firms an initial China beachhead. This one, which Facebook won in late 2015, could have been a sign Beijing was ready to give the company another chance to connect with China’s roughly 700 million internet users, reopening the market as the social-media giant’s U.S.-growth prospects dimmed.

There was a catch. Facebook’s license was for three months, unusually short. Facebook executives found the limitation unexpected and frustrating, people familiar with the episode said.

Facebook never opened the office. The official posting disappeared and now exists as a ghost in cached versions of the government website. “We did, at one point in time, plan to have an office,” said Facebook spokeswoman Charlene Chian, “but we don’t today.”

The episode is part of Facebook’s running tale of woe in China, where it has been trying to set the stage for a return. Blocked on China’s internet since 2009, Facebook has courted Chinese officials, made Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg more visible in China, hired a well-connected China-policy chief and begun developing technology that could cull content the Communist Party deems unacceptable.

. . . .

It has made no visible headway. And as time passes, Facebook is watching from the outside as Chinese social-media giants mop up the market that might have been its own. Weibo, along with Tencent Holdings Ltd.’s WeChat and QQ, are now dominant in China, and it may be too late for Facebook, said industry executives including Kai-Fu Lee, Google’s former China head and now CEO of Innovation Works, a Chinese incubator.

“At this stage and time with WeChat, Weibo and other products, it’s hopeless,” Mr. Lee said.

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

Authors fear accusations of cultural appropriation

From The Bookseller:

Cries of cultural appropriation could be dissuading authors from publishing books that reflect black, Asian, ethnic minority (BAME) audiences, the Westminster Media Forum has heard.

The issue, which emerged at the discussion forum yesterday, (24th January), was raised by Nicola Solomon, chief executive for the Society of Authors, who pleaded with publishers “please don’t troll our authors for cultural appropriation”.

“We need to have as many diverse voices as we can,” she said. “This is often hard to hear for publishers and others, but for our authors who maybe are trying to include other voices in their books – because after all, writing fiction is about imagination, and you ought to be able to imagine other worlds to your own and other faces than your own – please don’t troll writers for cultural appropriation every time they put a black face in their book if they are not black. We absolutely need as many authors as possible but we also need authors to write about a range of people and to imagine people they are not.

“It’s a terribly important thing and our authors are finding they are very, very caught between two stalls here,” she said.

Author and illustrator Shoo Raynor, who is on the committee of the writers and illustrators’ group at the SoA, said the issue of cultural appropriation was coming up in “every meeting”.

“Certainly at the moment, the thing that comes up every meeting is cultural appropriation and how we are often stuck between a rock and a hard place,” Raynor said. “Publishers will often ask to have ethnic characters removed from stories. I’ve not had that problem myself but various people have, purely because they’re not going to sell the book. We hear lots and lots of stories, horror stories.”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

These Buses Have Bookshelves With Free Books

From BuzzFeed Books:

VHH, a bus company in Hamburg, Germany, decided to install shelves in some of their buses so that passengers can easily borrow books during their ride.

. . . .

All passengers have to do is pick a book they like, and start reading. If they don’t finish their book during their bus ride, they can take it home and either bring it back to the bus or mail it to the store that provides the books.

VHH started “Buchhaltestellen,” which means “book stop” in 2010 as a collaboration with second-hand department store Stilbruch. Over the past seven years, Stilbruch has provided almost one million books for the 150 buses that feature the shelves.

Link to the rest at BuzzFeed

Bibliomania: the strange history of compulsive book buying

From The Guardian:

When I was a young woman, I drew a sort of perverse pride from my willingness to skip a meal or two in order to afford books. Soon enough, with the ubiquity of credit card touts on campus, I could buy both books and meals. I justified my increasing debt as necessary for my education, and joked with friends that while others spent their money on cars and expensive clothes, anything of value that I owned was on my bookcases.

I realise now that my “jokes” were, in fact, humblebrags. I did love books, always had, but I also took a certain arrogant pleasure from owning so many. It was also when my first “To Be Read” (TBR) pile started – all those volumes I had bought with the intention of reading them. And while years later, adult economics has forced me to stop shopping every time I step into a bookstore, my work as a reviewer now means that an average of five new titles arrive on my doorstep each week. My TBR pile is ceiling-high, and while I’m not going into debt, the visceral pleasure that I get from being surrounded by books remains the same.

In the 19th century, book collecting became common among gentlemen, mostly in Britain, and grew into an obsession that one of its participants called “bibliomania”. Thomas Frognall Dibdin, an English cleric and bibliographer, wrote Bibliomania, or Book Madness: A Bibliographical Romance, which was a gentle satire of those he saw as afflicted with this “neurosis”. Dibdin medicalised the condition, going so far as to provide a list of symptoms manifested in the particular types of books that they obsessively sought: “First editions, true editions, black letter-printed books, large paper copies; uncut books with edges that are not sheared by binder’s tools; illustrated copies; unique copies with morocco binding or silk lining; and copies printed on vellum.”

. . . .

One of the concerns in the early 19th century regarding book collecting was the fear that by hoarding books, buyers were denying their fellow countrymen their patrimony. The image of the rich dilettante was one of the conspicuous consumer of books that would never be read – the old TBR pile – therefore keeping books out of an intellectual commons. The collector was often portrayed as having a kind of antisocial disease that kept him from contributing to the greater good by sharing his printed riches. But the origin for many literary anthologies lay in the libraries of these private collectors – who were, in their own way, establishing a national literary inheritance.

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

What readers want (and what we are not giving them)

From No Shelf Required:

For the past many months, I’ve had the privilege of stepping outside the confines of the publishing and library industries (as well as the borders of the United States) to engage in non-profit projects and initiatives that bring books and knowledge to people. There comes a point in every person’s career when we crave to turn our professional jobs into missions, and it simply isn’t enough to earn a paycheck, even amidst the most challenging circumstances. We take a leap of faith and jump.

And jump I did, from New York all the way to Croatia, where I would (not immediately upon arrival but soon thereafter) embark on the project of my life and turn an entire country into an open virtual library (available to all its people without a card and access code and regardless of status, geography, background, citizenship, etc). In early December 2016, Croatia (the country of my birth) became the world’s first Free Reading Zone for one entire month.

During that time, anyone in Croatia, including residents and tourists, could read (online and offline) freely over 100,000 books from well-known publishers (some old, most brand new releases), in several languages, via a free reading app, called Croatia Reads. While I plan to share the full story of how we pulled it off (I managed the project in cooperation with Total Boox and a few local enthusiasts), and what we hope to accomplish next in another article on NSR, here, however, I want to briefly shed light on the most prominent lessons learned from this transforming experience (there have been many). And it has to do with understanding what readers really want from ebooks and digital content.

The pilot wasn’t just a passionate attempt to ‘free’ books from the confines of library walls and expensive ebook platforms and bring them to people in rural areas and places with no bookstores or libraries. It was an attempt to prove to the book and library industry on both sides of the Atlantic that there is genuine interest among consumers to read ebooks when the right conditions are created for them, just as there is genuine interest in engaging with all sorts of information in digital format. With all due respect for all our arguments about the emotional attachment to paper, ebooks hold the promise of a future in which paper books do not perish but knowledge flows freely to all who want it, while publishers and content creators get their fair share.

Long story short: readers will read books in digital format enthusiastically when they are offered to them for free. Does this mean that publishers will not get paid? Of course not. The whole concept of the Croatia Reads project was designed around the idea that publishers always get paid for everything read (that’s why we opted for the Total Boox model, which pays publishers only for the content read). But more importantly, the reading is always sponsored by a third-party, in this case it was No Shelf Required. In other words, the burden of paying for the reading is transferred from the reader onto the sponsor.

Link to the rest at No Shelf Required and thanks to SFR for the tip.

Eason opens two new stores ‘despite fragile economy’

From The Bookseller:

Eason plans to continue to open new stores “despite the fragile economic recovery,” its m.d Conor Whelan has revealed, beginning with a store in Limerick and another in Dublin.

The 4,000 sq ft Limerick store opened in the Crescent Shopping Centre in November and the new Dublin store located at Clare Hall Shopping Centre on the Malahide Road also nearly 4,000 sq ft, will open in March.

The two stores combined will create 30 new jobs, the company said, and is part of the retailer’s €2million investment its store estate in 2016.

The two new openings when complete will bring its number of company stores to 65 in Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Whelan said: “Despite a fragile economic recovery and ongoing challenges in the retail market, our ambition is to continue growing and developing the Eason business and we’re very pleased to add these two highly sought after locations in Limerick and Dublin to our store estate.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

In the Face of Constant Censorship, Bulgakov Kept Writing

From The Literary Hub:

Before his death at a Siberian transit camp in 1938, Osip Mandelstam famously uttered, “Only in Russia is poetry respected—it gets people killed.” Today, Mikhail Bulgakov is one of the most iconic Russian authors. But his life as a writer in Moscow from the early 1920s until 1940 was replete with informants and searches, censorship and secrecy, until it ended suddenly and tragically at the age of 49. He’d spent his last 12 years working on a novel in secret—The Master and Margarita. He considered it his masterpiece. His widow, who was the inspiration for his Margarita, recognized the inherent danger of his satirical portrayal of Soviet bureaucracy and hid the manuscript until after the death of Stalin. Heavily censored, The Master and Margarita first appeared in serialized form in 1966 and 1967. Only in 1973 was it published in its entirety. It has been translated into every major world language and rendered in countless film and television and stage productions. It has been cited as the inspiration for The Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil.”

And while many focus on Bulgakov’s posthumous triumph, the examination of his entire career raises another pressing question: Faced with constant censorship and artistic oppression, why did he continue to write? Over the span of two decades, he wrote dozens of short stories, four novels, and ten plays. Yet after his first success, the play The Day of the Turbins, he published or produced little else, and from his letters, his notes, and his wife’s diary, we can witness the heartbreak this silence engendered. He received commissions for and wrote plays—and directors like Konstantin Stanislawski and Vsevolod Meyerhold begged to work on them—only to be barred from performance. Some of his work was smuggled abroad and gained popularity, but Bulgakov was repeatedly denied permission to emigrate. In a letter to the Soviet government, he wrote, “not being allowed to write is tantamount to being buried alive.” Perhaps the government thought they could silence him. Perhaps they thought they’d succeeded.

. . . .

In a letter to the Soviet government in 1930, Bulgakov described Crimson Island as a call for creative freedom. “I am a passionate supporter of that freedom, and I consider that if any writer were to imagine that he could prove he didn’t need that freedom, then he would be like a fish affirming in public that it didn’t need water.” He further pointed out that of the 301 references to him in the Soviet press, 298 of them were “hostile and abusive.” He quotes the Komsomol Pravda in particular, “Bulgakov, ONE OF THE NOUVEAU BOURGEOIS BREED, spraying vitriolic but impotent spittle over the working class and its Communist ideals.” Bulgakov himself had typed the clause in all capitals.

Like any modern political group, Stalin’s regime was predominantly interested in propagating their own version of truth. It’s unclear if it was Gorky or Stalin himself who coined the term Socialist Realism, but they called upon writers to craft stories imbued with it, portraying the heroism and splendor of the proletariat. The artist should depict Soviet life not realistically but aspirationally, with the larger goal of engineering a new culture. Stalin recognized the power of ideas—to influence and to promulgate lies, to maintain one’s power and to topple others.

Link to the rest at The Literary Hub

Here’s a link to The Master and Margarita and to Amazon’s Mikhail Bulgakov page.

Amazon offers to scrap e-book clauses to settle EU antitrust probe

From Reuters:

U.S. online retailer Amazon has offered to alter its e-book contracts with publishers in a bid to end an EU antitrust probe and stave off a possible fine, the European Commission said on Tuesday.

Amazon, the biggest e-book distributor in Europe, proposed to drop some clauses in its contracts so publishers will not be forced to give it terms as good as those for rivals, the Commission said.

Such clauses relate to business models, release dates, catalogs of e-books, features of e-books, promotions, agency prices, agency commissions and wholesale prices.

The Commission opened an investigation into the company’s e-books in English and German in June 2015, concerned that such parity clauses make it harder for other e-book retailers to compete with Amazon by developing new and innovative products and services.

. . . .

Amazon said it was pleased with the agreement but disagreed with the Commission’s preliminary assessment, saying that e-books are not a separate market as they compete directly with print books and other forms of media.

Amazon’s offer, if accepted, would apply in Europe for five years.

Link to the rest at Reuters

Amazon launches £20,000 KDP prize

From The Bookseller:

Amazon has launched a £20,000 cash prize for authors who self-publish their work on its Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) platform.

The Kindle Storyteller Award will be given to an English language title published through KDP between 20th February and 19th May this year.

Amazon said readers will play a hand in selecting the shortlist, compiled using “a number of factors which measure customer interest in the titles” along with a panel of judges made of up Amazon executives and literary figures.

Along with being awarded a £20,000 cash prize at a central London ceremony in July, the winning author will be given a marketing campaign to support the book on Amazon.co.uk and the opportunity to have it translated for international sales.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Controversial e-book sales tactic banned in Canada

From The Globe and Mail:

Apple Inc.’s long legal struggle over alleged anti-competitive e-book pricing took another turn on Friday as the company joined a consent agreement with Canada’s Competition Bureau that will ban a controversial sales tactic for three years.

Three of Canada’s four major book publishers – Hachette Book Group Inc., Macmillan (a subsidiary of Verlagsgruppe Georg Von Holtzbrinck GmbH) and Simon & Schuster Inc. – also agreed to halt a system known as most-favoured nation (MFN) pricing, which prevented competing retailers from selling e-books at a discount compared to Apple’s minimum price. A Competition Bureau investigation had found that the MFN arrangement between Apple and the publishers led to higher prices for consumers.

There was no financial component to any of the agreements.

But a fourth major publisher – HarperCollins Publishers LLC – failed to reach an agreement, prompting the watchdog to refer the case to the Competition Tribunal, a separate body that adjudicates matters of business, economics and law.

Link to the rest at The Globe and Mail and thanks to Tudor for the tip.

How could Amazon deliver without an address?

From ZDNet:

Forget Amazon’s much-vaunted testing of drone deliveries to your home. South African startup WumDrop has launched a new precision service that delivers parcels to GPS coordinates taken from a customer’s phone, rather than a physical address.

The Deliver2Me service, which relies on old-fashioned trucks and bikes to drop off packages rather than drones, is launching with the backing of a local retail group but has been on trial since November.

Founder Simon Hartley says during the testing phase, the firm boasted “100 percent accuracy” for delivery, beating traditionally-addressed deliveries over the same space of time.

Delivery to GPS coordinates has long been mooted as a solution to a global problem that impedes the growth of e-commerce in many developing countries. Lots of people in many nations don’t have formal addresses.

Unless you’re the victim of unfortunate circumstances or have made a specific life choice, chances are that if you’re reading this, you probably know where you live. And that’s important, because without an address you probably can’t get a job, a bank account, apply for credit — and you probably can’t buy much online if no one can deliver it to you.

. . . .

UN organisation the Universal Postal Union reckons there are four billion people who don’t have a proper address, while the International Telecommunications Union estimated that 3.2 billion people were online in some form by the end of 2015.

“Even in South Africa, which has arguably the best road and address infrastructure in Africa, address data has an unacceptably high rate of inaccuracy,” Hartley says.

As in many African countries, there are large areas of South Africa which simply don’t have formal street names and numbers. This inhibits the deployment of emergency services, and postal services, even in the relatively wealthy middle classes, are still sub-par and not reliable or accurate enough for many.

Link to the rest at ZDNet and thanks to Felix for the tip.

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

From The Guardian:

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

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

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

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

. . . .

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

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

. . . .

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

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

. . . .

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

Link to the rest at The Guardian

Stolen good books: why Canadian thieves outclass the British

From The Guardian:

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

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

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

. . . .

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

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

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

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

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

Execs foresee leaven 2017

From The Bookseller:

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

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

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

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

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

. . . .

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

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

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

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

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