16 August 2011
At the Publishers Weekly news blog, seven writers – Clyde Edgerton, Alix Ohlin, Clancy Martin, Jonathan Evison, Sam Lipsyte, Duane Swierczyski, and yours truly – share summer music stories and lists. Mine is all about the year 1983, which I am starting to think was the most significant year of my life.
8 March 2011
I know the title of this post sounds like something from a trade magazine. I actually am a self-proclaimed un-expert on this issue, but I’m trying to get up to speed. According to Publisher’s Weekly (a week or so ago – see, I know, I’m behind), Random House was the last of the big publishing houses to switch to the agency model of e-book pricing:
In the agency model, publishers set the price and designate an agent—in this case the bookseller—who will sell the book and receive the 30% commission. Adopting the model for e-books tends to mean e-book prices will rise, something both publishers and independent retailers applaud. Publishers believe low e-book prices devalue their books and cannibalize hardcover sales. Under the agency model once a price has been set it cannot be changed or discounted by the retailer and independent e-book retailers believe the higher prices of the agency model allow them to compete with big e-book vendors.
What I’m not clear on is why Random House took so long, what were they weighing in terms of the downside of the agency model. I know it’s great for consumers if e-books cost $1.99; but it’s not good for book sales, and thus not good for authors. Some things (this author believes) are worth paying for, and if we value them, we’ll hopefully be willing to do so.
5 January 2010
From Publisher’s Weekly, hot off the press!
“…elegant debut novel… Switching deftly between different characters’ points of view, Chung portrays with precision and grace each character’s struggle to find his or her place in the family and in the world.”
14 November 2009
I know little about book fairs, but the ones we hear about tend to take place in Western Europe. Reminds me a little of when I was in the film world, and the most-attended film festivals by Americans were Cannes, Berlin, Toronto, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, etc. Mostly because of the expense of getting to African and Asian festivals, which was often prohibitive — though I think there was also a sense of going with the “brand names,” wanting not to waste time.
But it’s nice to hear about a book fair in a far-flung (from us) part of the world. The Sharjah World Book Fair, which takes place just outside of Dubai, opened on Wednesday. Here’s a blurb from Publisher’s Weekly, and here’s the Sharjah World Book Fair’s web site.
29 July 2009
From Publisher’s Weekly online yesterday:
Barnes & Noble is partnering with AT&T to provide free in-store Wi-Fi access to customers at all stores nationwide.
CEO Steve Riggio said providing free Wi-Fi to customers is helping the retailer “[extend] the sense of community that has always been in our stores.” The company also stressed that in offering free Wi-Fi, customers will be able to easily download and preview e-books. The company said the number of e-books it carries in its new e-book store is expanding daily, and it expects to hit the one million mark soon. Riggio called the addition of free Wi-Fi in all stores “a natural progression of our digital strategy to provide customers with more choices in how, when and where they want to read.”
Big change for B&N, I suspect we’ll be seeing more seating as well, and a friendlier atmosphere for lounging around in general (if you’ve ever tried Union Square or Upper West Side B&N in NYC for a lunch-hour or after-work pit stop, you’ve probably seen the hordes of people sprawled out on the floor, leaning up against bookshelves and heating units). It all makes sense: if you’re selling online, you need to give your customers access.
As for the AT&T partnership… is Starbucks next for free Wi-fi? It’s gotta be.
3 June 2009
“There are fabulous novels by William Trevor [Love and Summer, Viking, Sept.], A.S. Byatt [The Children’s Book, Knopf, Oct.] Margaret Atwood [The Year of the Flood, Doubleday/Talese, Sept.] and Dan Chaon [Await Your Reply, Ballantine, Aug.],” said Sheryl Cotleur, buying director from Book Passage in Corte Madera, Calif. “It’s as if all these authors jumped forward just when the publishing industry needed them. There’s also Paul Auster [Invisible, Holt, Oct.], Nicholson Baker [The Anthologist, Simon & Schuster, Sept.], Jeannette Walls [Half-Broke Horses, Scribner, Oct.] and Barbara Kingsolver [The Lacuna, Harper, Nov.]. For nonfiction, forthcoming are Malcolm Gladwell [What the Dog Saw, Little, Brown, Oct.], Rebecca Solnit (A Paradise Built in Hell, Viking, Aug.] and Diane Ackerman [Dawn Light, Norton, Sept.]. I was going through the catalogues just flipping out—not only who’s publishing but the quality. We couldn’t need it more.”
The Nicholson Baker and William Trevor are both going on my list for sure; Barbara Kingsolver, too.
Sherman Alexie, the National Book Award-winning author of “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” said he refused to allow his novels to be made available in digital form. He called the expensive reading devices “elitist” and declared that when he saw a woman sitting on the plane with a Kindle on his flight to New York, “I wanted to hit her.”
So far e-books represent 1 to 3 percent of total book sales. But they make up the fastest growing part of the industry, and publishers, authors and booksellers have no idea just how big they will become and how they might affect profits and reading habits in the future. NY Times article by Mokoto Rich
I’m thankful for this simple summary on e-books by Rich, who humbly confesses that, at this point, nobody knows.
20 May 2009
A friend who was in the publishing biz for years (years ago) recently said to me: “You can’t have a conversation about publishing without the word ‘Kindle.’”
I’ve subscribed to the Publisher’s Weekly daily e-mail. Not sure if this was the best idea. Recent headlines include: “Bookstore Sales Down Again” and “The Rise and Fall of Book Output.” Monday’s edition includes a number of links to articles about e-book economics: “Two Takes on E-book Pricing” (one from Mokoto Rich, a follow-up from Mike Shatzkin), “E-book Tipping Point?” and “Self E-Publishing.”
Again, it’s all Latin to me. From what I can gather, Apple’s involvement in e-reading is significant (you can read any Kindle book on an iphone now), as is Barnes & Noble’s acquisition of a major e-book retailer and plans to launch their own e-reading platform in the fall. In other words, Amazon is not — will not remain — the only e-book retailing game in town.
But with hard cover books selling generally in the $20-$30 range, and all e-books selling for $9.99 on Amazon, both publishers and authors do worry: if e-book retailers begin driving down the magic number of what they’ll pay a publisher for content, then publishers’ profit margins drop even further; and authors, well… our dregs get even dreggier, if we’re able to publish our low-profit-margin literary works at all.
I may be getting this pyramid structure all wrong; but the part about authors being at the bottom seems about right.
Everything seems to be pointing to the literary mid-list (by which I mean all non-best-sellers) becoming primarily a nonprofit and self-publishing endeavor. Perhaps some good can come of this — the proliferation of literary collectives, the birth of more nonprofit small presses? What I would hate to see is the disproportionate death of the physical book for the literary genre; it feels, somehow, like if you had to choose, you should be able to get Twilight electronically, but EL Doctorow in hard cover.
But that would assume an impossible world where I make the bottom-line decisions. Moo-hoo-haa-haaa-haaaaaaa……..