Thursday, May 28, 2009
This is weak because it does not go far enough. What we want is a piece from Marr saying how bookshops are to be protected. There's no point in 300 middle class words on the smell of books and aren't they wonderful mmmm dusty bookshops I love them blah blah blah. We all know that and we all agree. What would be far more interesting would be to read Marr's ideas on what should be done. But of course, that is much, much harder and throws up all sorts of interesting questions concerning the free market and intevention.
But why didn't he have a shot? Why no speculation on lower rents for bookshops because they are educational? Why no discussion of the NBA? Why no discussion on what the situation is like in other European countries? Why no discussion of the Robinson Patman Act?
He might argue that he isn't qualified and that he'll leave that to the experts. But is he necessarily any more qualified to present a TV series on Charles Darwin? This might sound like I am launching an attack on Marr. I'm not. I agree with what he said - I just think it's easy to state the problem without any attempt at suggesting how it might be addressed. And I'm afraid pieces like his do sneak rather closely to bufferdom territory.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
'You put last book in,
Your last book out,
In, out, in, out, shake it all about
You do the Google Boogle
And you turn around
That's what it's all about!
Oh, the Google Google Boogle
Oh, the Google Google Boogle
Oh, the Google Google Boogle
Pay low, rights lost ra! ra! ra!
You put your next book in,
Your next book out,
In, out, in, out, shake it all about
You do the Google Boogle
And you turn around
That's what it's all about!
Oh, the Google Google Boogle...'
....and continue for the next 27 verses until you've run out of money to pay the lawyers.
Monday, May 18, 2009
But equally more and more people are reading now because of the supermarkets' invovlement in bookselling, and that has to be good.
One point everyone surely has to agree on though is that the front-of-store in chain bookshops has become dull. Same same same. Where are the surprises?
Friday, May 15, 2009
15 September 12.01AM: Publication day! Dan Brown’s UK editor Bill Scott-Kerr is woken by a furious banging at his front-door. It’s the first writ, from a Solomon Kee of High Wycombe, who claims his name has been used without permission. “That was The Solomon Key you fool,” the bleary-eyed publisher tells him. “We changed the title.”
6.00AM: Amazon’s warehouse in Wales is picketed by Christian militants who believe Dan Brown is the devil in chinos. The ‘symbol’ of the title is the mark that Christ allegedly made in the stone that guarded his tomb after the Crucifiction. Sorry, that should read Crucifixion
7.00AM: The website www.rosicruciananorak.org uploads a line-by-line demolition of the book’s plot, plus a subscription offer for their newsletter The Nutter
8.00AM: KwikSave takes 75% off the cover price, selling the book for £4.75.
Transworld’s promotional chocolate ‘symbols’ go into Tesco. They are produced by Galaxy, with the slogan: ‘Unlock your tastebuds for the adventure of your life – with Galaxy and Dan Brown’
9.00 AM: KwikFit decides to stock the title – its first book ever. It also promises to give customers a new exhaust at the same time, all for a tenner
10.00 AM: Waterstone’s slashes its price to 50p, plus dinner with the “real life Robert Langdon”, who turns out to be an unpacker (the last in the company in fact) at the chain’s Bradford branch
11.00 AM: On the streets of Delhi, the first pirated copies appear. They’re rather good, having been produced on the Espresso PoD machine that went missing after the London Book Fair. The PA’s Simon Juden is flown to the scene
NOON: Borders announces a 25p cover price, ‘plus a free Da Vinci Code Tarot Pack as well as The Holy Grail for Dummies'
1.PM: Exasperated by all the crazy discounting, Patrick Neale of Jaffe & Neal tells the Bookseller: “It’s madness. We’re refusing to stock it.” A clutch of other indies follow suit, drafting the NBA – the No Brown Agreement
2.00 PM: The author lands at Stansted on Air Force One which President Obama has lent to Random House “because of Dan Brown’s importance to the US economy”. In thanks, Brown promises to include Bo, the Obamas’ Portuguese water poodle, in his next book, The Knights Templars go Walkies
3.PM: The author arrives at the studios of QVC for his interview on Richard & Judy’s new show. The book’s ISBN appears inside a giant crop circle in Wiltshire. Tony Mulliken of Midas, brought in to handle the launch, denies all knowledge
4.PM: Footage on YouTube is alleged to show Dan Brown copying parts of Discovering Ley Lines by Shire Publications. The title moves to Number two on Amazon
5.PM: Transworld orders the first reprint. Sainsbury’s cuts its price to £1.50. Asda offers the book for 1p with a year’s free groceries. Nielsen computers crash after attempting to calculate the amount of money given away
Monday, May 11, 2009
Sunday, May 10, 2009
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Friday, May 1, 2009
Some angry booksellers in the chain - and not just those facing redundancy as a result of the distribution hub - might like this idea to be extended to head office. Johnson works Monday to Wednesday, say, then another MD comes in. "Being full-time or part-time does not change your passion and enthusiasm for management....." etc etc.
The chain is in an awful position, perhaps even worse than some independents. It has huge overheads, which indies don't, and Amazon seems unstoppable. I met a senior publisher the other day who admitted to having two Amazon accounts, "one at the office, and one at home - it's just so easy".
Thursday, April 30, 2009
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
This year, the New York City and Poetry Society of America are collaborating to bring John Waldman's "Envelope Project," into public schools. It's a fantastic classroom exercise that encourages students to take the first line of a famous poem as the starting point for one of their own.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg is a fan. Last year he contributed his own poem, entitled Press Conference, to the New York Public Library's blog -- and it's pretty darn good.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Monday, April 20, 2009
Jonathan Karp has an insightful essay in this week's Publishers Weekly outlining twelve steps publishers can take to improve the business. The precis comes early:
It seems likely that the influence and cultural centrality of major publishers, as well as other producers of information and entertainment, will diminish as digital technology enables more and more people to create and share their work. This is exactly why publishers must distinguish themselves by doing better what they've always done best: champion books that offer carefully conceived context, style and authority.
The number Twelve is an obvious echo of the name of Karp's own imprint at Hachette where he's had an impressive track record since its launch in August 2005. The press, which publishes and promotes just a single book per month, has had numerous bestselling titles, notably God is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens.
This is not the first time Karp has said as much, but what he outlines is worth repeating. I happen to agree with him that publishers need to focus on publishing unique, distinct titles and stop echo chamber publishing. As a publishing reporter, I also find it refreshing that he calls for more transparency and less BS when dealing with booksellers and the media. Hear, hear.
Penguin MD Helen Fraser chaired a session on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and noted that "many companies have now picked the low hanging fruit: they've reduced travel, they print on FSC paper, they've reconfigured their buildings, and yet they still find they have not met their carbon neutral targets".
The difficulty - and complexity - of CSR was underlined by all the speakers. The eponymous Alastair Sawday said that "in an ideal world governments would support companies who behaved morally". Michael Green, author of Philanthrocapitalism, favours a "capitalism that gives back", and cited Bill Gates as its poster boy. He also praised Starbucks for "working further down the supply line and giving better rewards to farmers". Veruschka Selbach of Earthscan said the house was planning a "biodegradable stand", which will surely be a first.
Of course, despite the crowded stands, if you bump into an editor out on the aisles - Cape's Dan Franklin, for example - it's all: "There are no books, it's very quiet...." which is always the tradtional response. After all, you don't want to admit to having missed something (not that Dan would miss anything).
David North ( left), here at his first LBF as MD of Quercus, was frequently punching the air and beaming. Nothing to do with a new rights deal, but everything to do with his beloved Everton making it into the FA Cup Final.
Meanwhile, Profile's Andrew Franklin, had his jacket over his shoulder. "I've just been to Brompton Road Cemetery. It's full of publishers....." Let's hope his words aren't prophetic.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
While many of my friends and colleagues in Europe are preparing for this week's London Book Fair, I am 10,552 km (6557 miles) away at one of Asia's most popular book fairs, the Kuala Lumpur International Book Fair.
Malaysia's major book fair - or Pesta Buku Antarabangsa as it is know locally - is more of a consumer fair than a trade fair and attracts massive crowds over its ten days. Over 2 million visitors were estimated to attend last year's fair and, judging by the shoulder-to-shoulder crush on opening weekend, similar hordes are planning on attending this year.
While consumers attend the fair to snap up bargains from the 190 exhibitors, 160 of which are Malaysian, the fair's central location in south-east Asia also attracts exhibitors from other Association of Southeast Asian Nations (or ASEAN) countries, such as Singapore and the Philippines, international companies such as John Wiley & Sons, the Oxford and Cambridge university presses and Cengage Learning, plus some from as far away as Brunei, Egypt and India.
I'm here as part of a Matrade-funded 'incoming buying mission,' along with publishing colleagues from Germany, Taiwan, Denmark and Italy. We're here to discover more about Malaysian literature and meet with our Malaysian peers.
Malaysia has a population of 27 million and has one of the highest literacy rates in the region (93.2% for citizens over 15). While not traditionally a country with a strong book-reading culture, the Malaysian Government, through the various agencies of its Department of Education (which include the Malaysian National Institute of Translation, which co-funds translations of Malay language works).
More about the fair will follow shortly.
Friday, April 17, 2009
You know the face, but can’t remember the company
You know the company, but can’t remember the face
You can’t remember the company or the face (but let’s do business anyway!)
You’ve just spent £23 on teas and coffees
You can’t work find your own stand or anyone else's (that's because you've come to Olympia, duh)
You’ve run out of business cards (but seem to have everyone else’s)
Have a good one. See you there.
Monday, April 13, 2009
Friday, April 10, 2009
Now, Lizzie Noble - the author, Elizabeth Noble (The Reading Group, The Girl Next Door), whose husband is Hachette US CEO David Young - is putting together a book of stories about Peter to give to his children. It's a lovely idea. Here is her letter about the project, which contains contact details should you wish to contribute.
Dear Friends of Pete and Clare
We were all incredibly sad to lose Pete in January. One of the greatest sadnesses for me, and, I know, for many of you, is that Anna, John and Sally can only know and remember and understand what a fantastic man their dad was through what all of us tell them; their own memories will be all too brief, sketchy and incomplete. To that end, and with Clare’s blessing, I need your help.
I am putting together a collection of stories about Pete, which will eventually be bound together in printed books for each of Pete’s family to keep. I’m not looking for condolences or for tributes – I’m hoping for great, colourful Pete stories that will, together, create a picture of who he was, at every stage and in every arena of his life. Funny stories, naughty schoolboy stories, work stories, sweet stories…whatever comes to you when you think of him.
If there are songs that especially remind you of him, send those too (we’ll burn a disk to go with the book). And if you have pictures, send a copy.
I’d like this to be as complete as possible, so if this has reached you, and you can think of other people who may like to contribute, but who we might not have reached, please do circulate and forward this as you wish. The more stories we get, the better – the more Anna and John and Sally will have to read as they grow older.
Please send your stories to me at the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s difficult to put a deadline on this, I know, but if you could try and get your contributions to me by May 31st, then I can get a book into production for the summer.
Thank you so much for helping me put together something that I hope will give Pete’s children something amazingly precious and special in the years to come.
Aloha! I don't want readers of this blog to feel sorry for me, but I've had to spend this week working in Hawai'i. (A tough assignment, I know, and - yes - this is the view of Waikiki Beach from my hotel window.)
You really couldn't get further away from anywhere than the 50th state of the USA - it's slap bang in the middle of the North Pacific, 9 hours' flight from Sydney, Australia and 5.5 hours from Los Angeles.
Impressively for a state of less than 1.3 million people, Hawaii has a healthy publishing industry, the Hawai'i Book Publishers Association having 19 members, most of which are attached to institutions (there are also many self-publishers, as there are everywhere). The most eminent is undoubtedly the University of Hawai'i Press, which specialises in the humanities, anthropology and natural history with a clear bias towards Asian and Pacific subjects.
Hawaii's leading independent publisher is The Bess Press, founded by owner Ben 'Buddy' Bess way back in 1979. I had met Ben many years ago at a trade fair (I couldn't recall whether it was Frankfurt or BEA - encouragingly, neither could he) and it was great to meet him again this week and see that he's very much still in business, albeit having had one major restructure in recent years.
The Bess Press does what many regional trade publishing houses around the world do well, which is specialise in topics of local interest. Its list includes over 200 titles - guides to Pacific languages, Pacific history (especially related to the WW2 in the Pacific), educational/children's books and natural history. They sell well across the Pacific and North America - and sell boxloads of their titles through Costco's Hawai'ian stories (although Ben tells me they've yet to crack Costco on the mainland). The Bess Press is planning to attend this year's Frankfurt Book Fair, so look out for Ben at the Independent US Publishers exhibit in Hall 8.
Another pleasant surprise during my visit was bumping into the celebrated New Zealand Maori writer Witi Ihimaera, author of Whale Rider (and also associate producer of the wonderful 2002 film of the same name. Currently holding a Citizen's Chair at the University of Hawai'i, Ihimaera today picked up a Star of Oceania award from the University of Hawai'i for his contribution to Pacific literature and film.
Sunday, April 5, 2009
.....for Ed Victor (and Jerry Hall) to make their grand entrance
Galaxy Book of the Year The Suspicions of Mr Whicher - Kate Summerscale (Bloomsbury) , pictured below
Outstanding Achievement Michael Palin
Richard & Judy Best Read When Will There Be Good News - Kate Atkinson (Black Swan)
Borders Author of the Year Aravind Adiga for The White Tiger (Atlantic Books)
Tesco Biography of the Year Dreams From My Father - Barack Obama (Canongate)
Books Direct Crime Thriller of the Year The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Stieg Larsson (Quercus)
Sainsbury's Popular Fiction Award Devil May Care - Sebastian Faulks (Penguin 007)
Play.com Popular Non-Fiction Award The Suspicions of Mr Whicher - Kate Summerscale (Bloomsbury)
Waterstone's New Writer of the Year Tom Rob Smith for Child 44 (Simon & Schuster)
WHSmith Children's Book of the Year Breaking Dawn - Stephenie Meyer Atom
Friday, April 3, 2009
If someone ask you what you did on Saturday night which sounds more interesting: "I read a book". "We went to the movies." One is a solitary activity; the other is an event.
Somehow the book trade needs to capture the 'coolness' of books - the idea that books make you cool, interesting, attractive, good company. The trouble with that, though, is that it smacks of 'something being good for you' - it's too teacherly, too prescriptive.
But here's a slogan for libraries: 'Three for two? How about five for nothing?'
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
The Association of American Publishers (AAP) estimates that book net sales totaled $24.3 billion in 2008, down from $25.0 billion in 2007 – a 2.8% decrease.
Adult and YA book sales fell 5.2 percent -- to $8.1 billion. Overall, hardcover sales fell 13% for adult books, 12.4% for childrens.
Paperback sales grew: 3.6% for adults, 6.4% for childrens. E-books, as expected, grew by a whopping 68.4% and reached $113 million in 2008. This is still dwarfed by book clubs and mail-order sales, which though shrinking by 3.4%, still accounted for sales of $600 million.
Mass Market paperback sales, despite some continue to comprise a smaller and smaller segment of the market -- just $1.1 billion total overall in 2008, representing shrinkage of 3%.
Audiobook sales fell by an even more dramatic number – 21% -- and added up to $172 million.
Education was mixed. K-12 (the little kids books) fell 4.4% to $6.1 billion, while Higher Education, which includes college textbooks, hit $3.8 billion, up 2.7% on 2007.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
At the most recent ADIBF, held March 17-22, approximately 220 rights deals were signed as part of the “Spotlight on Rights” program, a new subsidy scheme which aims to support rights deals and translation. Under the program, publishers may apply for $1,000 subsidy to support any rights deal agreed to during the Fair. “Twenty applications alone were made on the last evening of the Fair,” said Lynette Owen, copyright director of U.K. publisher Pearson, who was assisting dealmakers with the paperwork.
She indicated that the majority of applications were made for translations from western languages into Arabic, though some of the last deals were Arabic to Arabic, and were made to facilitate distribution across the region, which is otherwise problematic. Titles coming under contract included illustrated children's story books, numerous education titles, books on health and fiction.
Publishers may apply for a maximum of 10 subsidies. One publisher who took full advantage was Sondos Asem Shalabi, head of foreign books and translation for the Publishing House for Universities in Cairo, Egypt. She struck 10 deals and applied for 10 subsidies to cover the cost of the Arabic translation of a series of entry level mass communication textbooks.
Urvashi Butalia, director of Zuban publishing house in New Delhi, said that the existence of the subsidy program prompted her to actively seek out books to translate, something she might not otherwise have considered. “I found two or three books that I’m interested in and hope the deals work out,” she said.
Publishers are asked to follow their initial letters of intent with a detailed proposal within four weeks of the end of the Fair. In total, 100 applications will be accepted, bringing the total dollar amount of support to $100,000. The program is set up to run through the 2011 Fair. “This is by no means the first subsidy scheme in the world, but it is new here,” said Owen. “Not every application will be accepted and there’s not an endless pool of money, but hopefully this will help ease the way for some publishers.”
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Rotating every two years around Australia's six states, the CBCA conference normally attracts up to 1000 teachers, librarians, academics, publishers, authors and illustrators to talk exclusively about children's books for a few days. The 2008 event in Melbourne attracted a healthy international contingent, including Bloomsbury UK's Sarah Odedina.
I dare say the conference circuit generally is suffering, but given the CBCA conference relies heavily on sponsorship from book publishers to help cover its costs, we can only assume that publishers are shying away from the levels of support they have given the event in previous years.
In a letter sent out yesterday, the CBCA says 'we are taking action now to avoid the risk of a great financial burden to the CBCA ... This has been a very difficult and painful decision; however we feel that in such extraordinary times, we have no alternative.'
Given the importance of children's books in creating the readers of the future, it's a great shame. The 2012 conference is due to take place in Adelaide.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Sunday, March 22, 2009
In yesterday's Guardian, the literary biographer Michael Holroyd wrote: 'The end of the net book agreement has not worked to our long-term advantage. Would that we, like the French, could repeal it.' He was referring to last week's story in the Bookseller on the French government's decision not to reform the law on fixed book prices ( http://www.thebookseller.com/news/79885-fixed-book-price-safe-in-france.htm). MP for Savoie, Herve Gaymard said the law had been "incontestably positive" and that reform would be "imprudent".
One can hear the more hard-nosed and commercial of publishers and retailers now mocking Holroyd as the last person to comment on the business side of the industry. "He's back with the Bloomsbury Group and Lytton Strachey, isn't he?" Yet consider this. According to Gaymard, France - which has a population not dissimilar to the UK's, of 65m - has 3,500 independent bookshops. The UK, with a population of 61m, has 1,350. It can't help but make you wonder.
Friday, March 20, 2009
I had a nice surprise yesterday when I went to Google's home page to do a search. If you're thinking the illustration style is familiar, you'd be right: it's by the legendary Eric Carle. His ever-popular The Very Hungry Caterpillar celebrated its 40th birthday yesterday and Google decided to do a tribute to the book.
The tribute follows a similar tribute to Dr Seuss of 2 March this year. Google has done tributes to great artists before (my favourite is the one they did for Jackson Pollock's birthday) but these are first two tributes to children's authors/illustrators. Nice.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Buchreport ran a useful piece in its Leipzig Book Fair special issue last week shining a figurative backlight on an increasingly crowded and competitive field of e-Readers available in Germany.
Libri (Germany's largest book wholesaler) and Thalia (Germany's largest book chain) and the MVB (Marketing- und Verlagsservice des Buchhandels), a subsidiary of the German Booksellers and Publishers Association.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Next week is the start of the 19th annual Abu Dhabi International Book Fair, which runs from March 17-22.
This is third fair since the formation of KITAB, a partnership with the Frankfurt Book Fair. Since then, the ADIBF has been transformed from a modest book bazaar to a professional trade show, one that promises to permanently alter the landscape of publishing in the Middle East.
Though the changes are still nascent, the show's impact on the perception of Middle Eastern publishing is palpable. Programs such as the Sheik Zaid Book Awards and Kalima, a project to translate books into Arabic have at the very least helped raise the profile of the Arabic language literary community.
A “matchmaking” event run by the Fair is encouraging cross-cultural collaboration by introducing international publishers, agents and authors, and a new subsidy program which offers a $1,000 subsidy to any rights deals penned during the Fair is encouraging the establisment of a viable and aboveboard rights market for the region.
New this year at the Fair is an antiquarian book fair – with 16 exhibitors from the US, UK, Germany and the Netherlands – and two solid days of educational programs.
Three dozen authors will also attend, including Amitav Ghosh, Rajaa Alsanea, Assia Djebar, Yasmina Khadra, and Henning Mankell. Chefs, sponsored by Gourmond magazine, will offer cooking demos. In all, number of exhibitors is up some 25%, from 480 to 600.
Last year, 159 international publishers came for the event. This year, organizers expect close to 200.
“Two years ago, very few people knew about the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair, ” said Claudia Kaiser, general manager of KITAB. “Now, people are coming from all over the world.”
Hope to see you there...but if now, we'll be blogging live from the show floor. Look for a link on Monday.