Tuesday, March 31, 2009

2008 US book sales shrank by 2.8%, estimates AAP


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.

The news everyone was expecting

Slide shows the slide: BML data spells out the grim trends this week

Well, there it was in black and white (actually, purple and white) accompanied by shots of suitably inclement weather: UK consumers bought fewer books in 2008 than in 2007 - some 330m compared to 341.9m. They also spent 6% less on books, down from £2469m to £2313m. The decrease can only partly be explained by the Harry Potter effect, since spending was also down 3% in 2008, if JK Rowling's titles are excluded. Spending in 2008 was also 2% below that seen in 2006, whether the Potter titles are included or not.
Nobody expected to hear Book Marketing Limited's (BML) Research Director Steve Bohme (below) reveal anything different at today's Books & Consumers Annual Conference held at the Institute of Mechanical Engineers, near the Cabinet War Rooms in Westminster. And as ever, he delivered it all with his customary dry wit, accompanied by slides of ever worsening British weather (one of the few UK growth industries at present).

Although volume purchases have grown since 2003, when 299.7m books were bought, this does not meant that more people are buing books. "On the contrary," Bohme noted, "the proportion of 12-79s buying books fell in each of the last three years, from over 61% in 2004 to 57% in 2008."

It remained for the other speakers to put forward suggestions as to how this decline can be reversed. Charlie King, Head of Creative Marketing at Little, Brown, believes the entire industry must stress the value for money that books represent, but noted: "When you look at publishers' advertisements you won't find this." Here the industry has already ridden into a problem. There is a joint Booksellers Association/Publishers Association initiative to come up with a generic marketing campaign for books. The slogan that was chosen has already been rejected by some retailers who were unhappy about the concentration on price. Yet here was a publisher at the conference arguing for just that. It will be interesting to see what middle ground is arrived at when the campaign is released in June.

Peter Crawshaw of Lovereading looked at emotions and the consumer. "It appears that the more choice and control you give a consumer in a media channel, the less emotionally attached they feel to that media. Book reading is a high use, high engagement activity, alongside watching TV and listening to the radio, while blogs [how dare he!!], podcasts, ebooks and audiobooks score low when it comes to use and engagement."

Meanwhile, there were numerous nods and chuckles of agreement when BML's Rachel Levin presented research which showed that some consumers ended up not buying any books in three-for-twos "because of being unable to find a third title and putting them all back".

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Embarrassing admission

So Ebury has now joined the Twitter flock. That's great - as long as you know exactly what Twitter is. I still don't, I'm afraid, and there's only so much new stuff I can cope with. Not cool to admit this, but there we are.
Naturally, I've heard of it, but I don't know what it is in any detail. And another screen-based activity? Enough already. When are we going to find the time to read all the books that are written about on such things? But here's the link anyway: http://twitter.com/eburypublishing.
The service is launching with a line-a-day of a poem by Ben Okri to publicise his new novel from Rider Tales of Freedom.

Rights Market Blossoms in the Desert

Until recently, rights deals in the Arabic book market were virtually unheard of and piracy was the norm. That began to change in 2007 when the organizers of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair partnered with the Frankfurt Book Fair and made it their stated aim to “professionalize” book trade in the region. Among the top priorities was establishing a rights market. Three years later, there are signs of progress.

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

A Literary Festival for a Xenomaniac

...or perhaps a peripatetic polymath. In spite of the rumor circulating that budget cuts forced PEN USA to cull their list of invited authors by 20 at the last minute, the roster of writers at the 5th annual PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature looks downright amazing. From novelists to graphic novelists to novel ideas about the economic crisis, this Festival has a lot of everything for everyone. Of course, it doesn’t come for free – be prepared to drop a $100 or more on tickets – but it offers some fairly rare gets on this side of the Atlantic. The promise: Sixty events. Six days. 160 writers, of which approximately 100 are from overseas (or claim to be, despite a number who spend much of the year in Brooklyn). 

No chance to talk about children's books

Disappointing news this week from the Children's Book Council of Australia, which has announced that its 2010 biennial national conference - the only large-scale event on children's literature in Australia - is to be cancelled 'following advice re the current economic climate.'

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

Bentleys, bands and Byng

The stage is set: Richard & Judy on stage at last year's Galaxy British Book Awards

Bookings for the Galaxy British Book Awards, which takes place on Friday, 3 April, are, inevitably, down on last year. Publishers cannot make people redundant, then take two tables at £295 plus VAT a head. But it promises to be another glitzy affair nonetheless, with some authors - notably Sebastian Faulks - being ferried to the Grosvenor House in Mayfair by Bentley (because of Faulks' reinstatement of Bentley as the car of choice for James Bond).
This year, for the 20th Nibbies - so called because of the pen-shaped trophies the winners receive, and hosted once again by the UK's Oprahs, Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan - the organisers have announced a first. Canongate Publisher Jamie Byng is to DJ at the post-Nibbie party, 'blending funk and jazz and rare groove and soul and hip hop and Latin and rock'. You certainly wouldn't get this at the Man Booker. "And now here's Booker Prize Administrator Ion Trewin with some more of La Traviata." (no offence meant, Ion).

One band who certainly won't be on his playlist is Ken Follet's Damn Right I Got the Blues. At the Nibbies in 2003, Byng said he'd rather put knitting needles in his ears than listen to them. Mind you, when the band played Mustang Sally and other such classics the dancefloor was packed.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Indies' friend saved, but...

The purchase of wholesaler Bertrams by Smiths News (not part of WHSmith, incidentally - it separated from WHS in 2006), is good news for independents, since it secures the future of a supplier many of them use. But the future still remains difficult for indies. Some publishers and chain retailers are slightly mocking at trade gatherings over various comments on the Bookseller's website calling for the Net Book Agreement to be reinstated. Yet this mockery should not be so loud.

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.

The action from Abu Dhabi

We've been posting all week from the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair, which was bigger and better than ever. You can read-up on all the action via the ADIBF blog or come back and check out this blog, where we'll be reposting and expanding some of the best articles in the coming days and weeks ahead.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Punching a hole in Google

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

Rep visit leads to bestselling line

"I want to replace the rep with the e-rep," said Jesse Kroger, Marketing Manager of the Netherlands' largest bookselling chain, Boekhandels Groep Nederland, at the Academic, Professional and Specialist Booksellers Group Conference held in Grantham last week. While he believes there is "good value to some good reps", most "just use the catalogue". He believes that the current way of subscribing books is "very outdated" and that a more digital approach is more efficient.
He's right, of course. I mean, why have Frankfurt? Why have the LBF and BEA? Let's do it all online. An agent wants to sell a book - why not just e-mail the proposal? What on earth can a face-to-face meeting add?

If you want to read more, look at Alessandro Gallezni's comments, which I loved, following the Bookseller's: http://www.thebookseller.com/news/79947-drop-the-rep-says-dutch-bookseller.html

While we're on the subject, Kroger might like to note remarks from the floor made by Andy Hayward of Constable & Robinson at the Independent Publishers Guild Conference in Brighton earlier this month. Bearing aloft a copy of Agatha Raisin and a Spoonful of Poison, one of MC Beaton's rural detective capers (think Agatha Christie in the Cotswolds) he pointed out that the house has now sold some 1.75m copies of her books. "When our reps were showing one of MC Beaton's hardbacks, which we'd only published for the library sales, a Waterstone buyer said: 'Oh, Terry Melia is importing the US edition paperbacks - why don't you buy the rights?'"

Which the house did and very profitable it has been too. Hayward's point is simple: without the rep visit, none of this would have happened.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

MVB throws down the gauntlet as e-Reader competition heats up in Germany

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.

At the heart of the article is the recent tension between an alliance of Sony,
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.  

Last Wednesday, the Sony Reader PRS-505 became available at all Thalia bookstores, as well as bookstores serviced by Libri. However, just days before Sony's latest foray into the German retail market, and to coincide with the start of the Leipzig Book Fair, the MVB announced the specifics of its plan to make the comparable Cybook from Bookeen immediately available to booksellers via the MVB online shop, livendo.de. The recommended price of the Cybook device is 280 Euros - a full 19 Euros under the recommended price of the Sony Reader. In addition, e-books finally became available for purchase in PDF format last week on Libreka!, the MVB-operated online book search database.

The much pricier iLiad from iRex is also available via livendo.de. 

Libri executive Holger Bellmann told Buchreport, "We have nothing fundamentally against competition , but when it comes from the subsidiary of one's own association, it does leave a bad taste."

Further competition is waiting in the wings and, though Amazon has still remained tight-lipped about a European launch of the Kindle, the Berlin-based company Wizpac announced the upcoming fall release of the Txtr at the CeBIT conference in Hannover earlier this month. 

Thursday, March 12, 2009

See You in Abu Dhabi: Previewing the 2009 ADIBF

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.

Chattering classes row

No brainer time. How long do you think it took the Daily Telegraph to decide to print this picture ? Can you imagine if the author had been a man? How much would it have cost Bloomsbury to take this space?
The Julie Myerson storm continues. It may have escaped US readers, so here's a brief re-cap. Author Myerson - a former publicist at Walker Books, incidentally - writes a hard-to-classify book called The Lost Boy (Bloomsbury) which in part tells the story of an unknown Regency watercolourist called Mary Yelloly, who died at the age of 21. So far, so unremarkable. But she combines it with the story of her teenage son Jake, whom she believes has been 'lost' to drugs. She says his behaviour changed, that he became violent and that, as a desperate last measure, they had to throw him out of the house and change the locks.

The furore started after Myerson revealed the details in an interview with the Bookseller, which was then picked up by the Observer. I haven't read the book, so obviously, that qualifies me to comment authoritatively.
So she threw him out because of drugs. What? You mean she survived PlayStation 3? The constant machine-gunning of Call of Duty? The speaking through head-sets? The blank looks when you say 'supper's ready'?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Cover Versions

Publishers, editors and anyone with a hand in designing books would be well served by perusing the gems online at the Book Cover Archive. There are more than 1000 covers available.

Click a cover and you'll get the name of designer and breakdown of the various design elements. Who knows, you might discover someone new or otherwise find inspiration.

Personally, I'm partial to Gabriele Wilson's austerity, Megan Wilson's directness and Peter Mendelsund's surrealism.

You can follow updates to the site via their blog. Another interesting take on book design can be found at designer Kimberly Glyder's new site, Shelved Books, which documents designs that were, for one reason or another, rejected.

On indie publishers - and custard

Winning team: Alastair Sawday, centre, is joined by colleagues, presenters and sponsors on the stage - and on screen - at the Grand Hotel, Brighton, at the IPG Awards

No one seemed more amazed by his success at last Saturday's Independent Publishers Guild Awards, held at the Grand Hotel in Brighton during the IPG Conference, than the eponymous publisher himself, Alastair Sawday. The Bristol-based house, famed for its green ethos, won three awards: the Quayle Munro/van Tulleken Independent Publisher of the Year, Trade Publisher of the Year and the Enviromental Award.

On winning Trade Publisher, Sawday commented "to be honest I'd forgotten we entered", while on collecting the overall Independent Publisher of the Year he said: "I don't really know anything about publishing and I come to conferences like this to learn how to be a better publisher."

As ever, the two-day conference was as much about conversations in the bar, as it was about the sessions. Overlook's Peter Mayer, above, was his characteristic rumpled self, still managing to smile despite the all-pervading gloom.
The only good aspect of the recession is that the focus isn't on any one particular company: it's on everyone.

The subject of the Net Book Agreement came up with Peter admitting that he had argued for its retention when Tim Hely Hutchinson, then at Hodder Headline, and HarperCollins' Eddie Bell and Random's Gail Rebuck conspired to see it collapse. Or rather, Peter argued strongly that it should not be dispensed with unless you had something in its place to ensure parity of discount for retailers. "I said to them that, otherwise, what will happen is that you will be forced to discount by the supermarkets." Which, of course, is precisely what has happened.

Given that this was a conference for independents, one rumour circulating concerned a once proud indie: Dorling Kindersley. The story going around is that it is for sale. But who would buy? Bloomsbury has the cash, but is more interested in academic than educational.

Some cynical views of the conglomerates' job cuts were aired too. One indie publisher, who used to work for such a major house, was of the view that "publishers are getting rid of ones and twos, then announcing that they are cutting 5%. The real figure is actually higher".

Among indies at the conference was Birmingham's Tindal Street Press. The house published the acclaimed novel What was Lost by Catherine O'Flynn in 2007, which won the Costa First Novel Award and has sold some 75,000 in the UK, as well as being published in numerous territories worldwide. The house has just received the manuscript of O'Flynn's second novel. That's the good news. The bad news is that agent Lucy Luck has, understandably, sent it to all and sundry, including to those majors which turned down the first book. So now Publishing Director Alan Mahar knows what will happen. "We may be able to sort out a co-publishing deal with one of the big houses, but obviously, with the offer, there's only a certain level to which we can go."

Perhaps he should bid for the memoirs of Business Secretary Peter Mandelson instead. Tindal Street's offices are in a former custard factory. The news may not have reached beyond these shores, but the minister was recently splattered with custard by an environmental protester. You can watch it here, if you like: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7927668.stm. It's a rather quiet, dignified, well-spoken, very British protest - and also has something of the independent about it, being magnificently fleet of foot.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

A New Home for Aufbau Verlag

A new page has been turned for one of Berlin's most storied book publishers. After months of speculation about its fate, Aufbau Verlag celebrated the opening of its new offices in Kreuzberg on Friday afternoon.  

There were no speeches and the fare was intentionally unpretentious, with pretzels and prosecco aplenty, but there was a definite sense of camaraderie and resilience throughout the labyrinthine halls of Aufbau's temporary home, just a few doors down from the Daniel Libeskind-designed Jewish Museum. Managing Directors Rene Strien and Tom Erben warmly welcomed their guests as they arrived and the rest of the Aufbau team, including executive editor Franziska Günther and Gunnar Cynybulk, Editor-in-Chief of Gustav Kiepenheuer Verlag, opened their doors to inquisitive well-wishers.

Guests included Ullstein's Andrea Wildgruber, journalist Tobias Lehmkuhl of the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Nina Arrowsmith of the eponymous, Hamburg-based literary agency, and Eva Semitzidou of the Michael Gaeb Literary Agency, among many others. 

Though the move is bittersweet, Aufbau has certainly come a long way since it declared insolvency in May 2008, leaving the publisher's 60 employees and countless authors in an extremely precarious situation. In October 2008, Berlin investor Matthias Koch took over the company from Bernd Lunkewitz, who had been embroiled in a fifteen-year legal battle for ownership of the publishing house. Though Lunkewitz was ultimately named sole owner of Aufbau in March 2008, he responded by severing all financial ties to the publisher and suing for damages. For a comprehensive look at Aufbau's tumultuous past few months and the nearly two decades of legal battles leading up to them, see the July 2008 issue of Publishing Trends (www.publishingtrends.com). 

The dignified house in Hackescher Markt that Aufbau formerly occupied, once marked with the publisher's name in bold red letters, now boasts a simple sign in its window announcing the move and new address at Lindenstraße 20-25. 

Despite an obviously difficult year for Aufbau in so many respects, the publisher finished strongly with a 10% increase in turnover over the previous year. The Aufbau team hopes to have more to smile about in April, when they will publish Fred Vargas' latest book, Der verbotene Ort (originally published by Editions Viviane Hamy as Un lieu incertain), which has already sold over 450,000 copies in France since June 2008. 

Friday, March 6, 2009

No escaping the R word

Spreading the winnings: Natasha Mostert, centre, with her editor Selina Walker and Waterstone's Neil Jewsbury

There was only one subject on everyone's minds at the annual World Book Day party, held at the splendid 5th floor bar at Waterstone's Piccadilly (footnote: bookshops never used to be like this - we all take it for granted, but the venue, with its view across to the London Eye, is fabulous). That subject was the recession. Everyone was noting how it was Random's turn to announce job cuts that week - 5% - and how, when you open up your trade news bulletin in the morning, you never know who it will be next. Tough times for everyone.

On a happier note, the occasion was the announcement of the winner of the £5,000 Spread the Word: The Book to Talk About 2009 award (something of a mouthful). The World Book Day team had asked publishers large and small to submit books they thought 'deserved to reach a wider readership – most specifically those that would make good subjects for discussion, those that don’t merely entertain, but give greater food for thought'.

The winner was Natasha Mostert's Season of the Witch (Bantam Books), which provided some happier news for Random House and, specifically, for Transworld, which had lost two editorial staff already that week. To everyone's surprise, Mostert announced that she was donating her prize money to a charity no one in the room, outside of her editor Selina Walker, had heard of. CPAU, the Cooperation for Peace and Unity, is a Kabul-based organisation that is 'actively working for the promotion of peace, social justice and human rights and sponsors viable alternatives to war and violence. The "Fight for Peace" initiative is aimed at promoting the rights of women through sport - in particular boxing.'

Mostert said that she read about the body on a BBC News online article while researching her next novel, The Keeper, which is about martial arts. The South African-born author, who now lives in Chelsea and is a keen kick-boxer herself, said: "It touched me deeply to see pictures of Afghan women looking happy. Sport is outlawed by the Taleban. CPAU is teaching women how to be strong and confident, how to be empowered." She added that she will give a proportion of the royalties of The Keeper to the charity as well.

Waterstone's Commercial Director Neil Jewsbury made the presentation and noted that the Spread the Word website had received 40,000 visits from some 159 countries. "That reach shows that World Book Day really is about the world."

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Sorry Andrew, no

We all love Profile founder Andrew Franklin - his bicycle clips, his brilliant, idiosyncratic list and his wit. But he's talking nonsense in Profile's Autumn 2009 catalogue. He writes: 'These are very difficult times everywhere but book sales are holding up pretty well. The numbers suggest that where book sales are suffering it is the celeb, biographies and other such drek that people are turning away from.'

But celeb titles are selling well, as Philip Stone, Charts Editor at the Bookseller pointed out last December (http://www.thebookseller.com/blogs/72749-celebrity-backlash.html) : 'In the wider market, celeb memoirs have never performed better', he wrote, noting that five titles had passed the 200,000 mark by 6 December, compared with just one the previous year.

Are book sales holding up well? It all depends how you define 'well'. According to Nielsen, book sales dropped by 0.4% in 2008, although admittedly, to the eight weeks to the end of 21 February 2009 sales grew by 0.1% on the same period last year. Let's hope that tiny growth continues.

Can Franklin really be dismissing all biographies, as he seems to suggest? What, even Hugh Brogan's Alexis de Tocqueville, published by, er Profile, and listed on p24 of the catalogue?

Time to sack Profile's proof-reader, I feel. Surely what he meant to write was this: 'The numbers suggest that where books sales are suffering it is the celeb' biographies and other such drek that people are turning away from'. (my italics)

Punctuation. Such tiny, tiny pieces of print, but so, so crucial.