Friday, August 29, 2008

Bloomsbury Reports

Commenting on his company's results and prospects Bloomsbury CEO, Nigel Newton, said:
“We have had a good first half performance, particularly, in the UK Adult and Specialist Divisions. As well as continuing to enjoy notable success from long-running bestselling titles such as The Kite Runner, we are also well positioned with strong publishing lists for the second half and beyond. We are now seeing the benefits of our focused strategy, which is positioning us well for the rest of the financial year and the longer term.”
Other points from the press release:
  • Profit before investment income increased 6.1% to £3.5m (2007, £3.3m)
  • Investment income increased to £1.9m (2007, £0.6m)
  • Earnings per share increased 41.2% to 4.97 pence (2007, 3.52 pence)
  • Interim dividend up 7.1% to 0.75p per share (2007, 0.70p)
  • Strong list for second half including Alice Schroeder’s biography of Warren Buffet; The Snowball; Just Me by Sheila Hancock; The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer; and, on December 4, JK Rowling’s The Tales of Beedle The Bard
  • Net cash balances increased by 13.0% to £53.8m (31 December 2007, £47.6m)
  • Well positioned for further organic and acquisition-related growth
  • Strongest ever first six months sales performance from the UK Adult trade division

Newton in further comments noted that:
The programme of digitising our entire English language catalogue has been completed. This will enable us to increase significantly the range of electronic products we can offer both to individual buyers and to resellers serving the library and institutional markets, where we have already made encouraging sales of e-book collections. Digitisation also enables us to make our titles more easily available as print on demand (“POD”), a particularly appropriate model for specialist publishing where a wide range of titles are sold in small numbers consistently over a long period of time. In addition to digitising the in-print backlist, we are engaged in an active process of digitising out of print titles in order to offer them POD and in a variety of electronic formats.

Bloomsbury intends to expand the academic part of its Specialist Publishing Division and a number of acquisitions under consideration. We have appointed Jonathan Glasspool as Managing Director of Bloomsbury Academic. The recent growth of the Methuen Drama list, many titles of which sell to higher education students and lecturers, illustrates how well Bloomsbury can reach the academic and higher education markets.

Our sharing of copyrights across the Atlantic and other initiatives have resulted in a considerable year-on-year improvement in the results of Bloomsbury USA, with sales growth of 10% and a 60% reduction in operating losses.

Lagardere Reports

Corporate owner of Hachette UK and Grand Central Publishing reported their first half results yesterday. Here are some relevant parts from their press release:

Lagardère Publishing– Net sales for the first half of 2008 were €908m, an increase of 1.3% on a reported basis and 4.5% on a like-for-like basis. The business achieved a respectable performance in the United States, the United Kingdom and Spain, but there was a further decline in Literature in France. Part-works were affected by a drop in French and Italian sales, partly offset by good performances in the United Kingdom and Japan.

EBIT before associates [amortization of goodwill] of €71m, unchanged from the 2007 first-half figure, with an improved operating performance canceled out by negative currency effects. Good contributions from the United Kingdom (other than in educational books) and from Education in Spain offset a decline in profits from General Literature in France and Part-works. The contribution from the United States rose by over 10%, driven by an excellent performance in Fiction/Non-Fiction.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

OCLC's Copyright Registry

Earlier this summer at an industry conference OCLC 'announced' that they would begin work on a Registry of Copyright for published works. I had some involvement in this project last year and I am glad to see that they are formally announcing the launch of the registry. The ways and hows are covered by fellow traveller Peter Brantley:
I had a long talk with Bill Carney yesterday at OCLC; Bill is the "owner" of this product. Although OCLC is concerned about the sustainability of this service, I stressed the need for an open and free api that would permit use of the contents of the registry by any (machine) comer, providing at least essential information -- perhaps OCLC could offer payment tiers with fuller, more complete data, for example including rights-holder provided notes.Bill was definitely supportive of such an api, and is actively soliciting feedback from others about the registry's desired functionality. An api (of any sort) does not yet exist, but OCLC has discussed its need, and is giving it at least a modest priority (lagging, I believe, behind constructing the necessary authorization infrastructure for user-submitted write updates). If you wish to provide feedback to OCLC, it can be left at the OCLC CER website.
Read the whole post. (Unsure why I neglected to mention this before).

Michael's Gotta Gun

Was anyone else more than slightly taken aback to find out that Simon & Schuster Editor in Chief Michael Korda has an assault rifle? Buried in this silly promo NYT's piece on his upcoming book, author Peter Manson lets us all know we better call ahead before we show up at Michael's house:
Mr. Manso called the weapon “a literary affectation” that he bought legally, before a change in gun laws made it illegal to possess, after seeing one owned by Michael Korda, the longtime Simon & Schuster editor in chief, who edited Mr. Manso’s Brando biography. “Listen, Michael Korda had one, Hunter Thompson had one, I thought it would be cool,” Mr. Manso said.

I have to get me one of those "literary affectations." I could do some target shooting out the window of PND towers. This morning there may be several S&S employees thinking twice about that request for a raise.

The other thing amusing about this article (and it was pointless other than to let us know he is in the process of uncovering the dark under belly of corruption in Provincetown and writing a book about it) was that Manso has lived there on and off for 60 years and suddenly the 'corruption' is a surprise. He should come to Hoboken. There's enough here for several books.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

On The (Internet) Radio Tonight

I have been invited to speak on web radio about the publishing industry and Personanondata - in 15mins! There is a call in feature so if you are inclined follow the instructions below:

The Interview starts at 8:30 EST (8/27). Call in to talk to me on the show by dialing 646-200-4071. The show is aired LIVE at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/Circle-Of-Seven and an active chat session is online. After the show is aired, it is available for download at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/Circle-Of-Seven. Take a look at http://www.cospradio.com/ to learn more about COSP Radio.

Borders 2Q Loss Improves

On their call this morning Border's management sounded far more confident and at-ease in contrast to previous calls over the past several quarters. In the current economic environment and given the rebuilding effort going on at Borders their results were encouraging. From the press release:
Borders reported results for the second quarter, ended Aug. 2, 2008 and reported a second quarter loss from continuing operations of $11.3 million or $0.19 per share, representing an improvement over the same period last year when Borders Group recorded a loss of $18.1 million or $0.31 per share.

Borders Group achieved second quarter consolidated sales from continuing operations of $749.2 million, a decrease of 6.9% over 2007. As stated, the second quarter loss from continuing operations improved to $11.3 million or $0.19 per share compared to $18.1 million or $0.31 per share a year ago. The improvement was due primarily to expense reductions, lower interest expense and a tax benefit. Excluding non-operating adjustments, the second quarter loss from continuing operations improved to $10.5 million or $0.18 per share from $12.1 million or $0.21 per share a year ago.
CEO George Jones indicated that the Borders rewards program now has 28mm members. It has been very successful and email programs have great 'open-rates' and integrating with Internet site is generating great customer response. They are becoming more sophisticated in how they use the data associated with how their rewards customers buy - they are not just sending e-mail blasts. Since July when the Internet store "really got going" they have generated $7mm in revenue. Jones also said that they are in process of implementing interactive kiosks in the stores and that these will integrate with internet site.

CFO Wilheim noted that they are "sitting in a very comfortable position" from a cash and debt perspective. Jones stated that they have significantly improved the financial position of the company with respect to both debt (balance sheet) and expense reduction. They feel very proud of what they have done and confident that at least their commitments over the next 6-12mths will not pose a problem to the operations of the company. The company has really attacked their operating expenses and also successfully reduced inventory carry by 14%. The inventory reduction was done by eliminating titles that sold 1 copy per year per store.

The results were released yesterday after the close and their share price was up 13% in after hours trading.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Amazon.com Buys Shelfari - Updated

Via Paid Content. Hot on the heels of their acquisition of ABE books, Amazon has purchased the rest of Shelfari. Amazon had invested in the company some two years ago and had hoped it would come to rival librarything in popularity. Interestingly, librarything now also counts Amazon as an investor in it thanks to the investment ABE made in librarything 3-4 years ago. It is likely that librarything owner Tim Spalding will negotiate with Amazon to buy back the share they now own (and I would assume there was a 'change of control' provision in his original deal with ABE). It will be interesting to see who he jumps into bed with next - if anyone.



Personanondata Bookstore

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Media Week 34

TimeOut wants BBC out of Publishing (TOLine):
Tony Elliott, the owner of Time Out, the entertainment listings magazine, called for a break-up and sale of the BBC’s commercial division yesterday as he accused the corporation of overreaching itself with the £75 million acquisition of the Lonely Planet travel guides. The magazine proprietor said that Time Out, publisher of its own travel guides, could not compete with the BBC’s promotional muscle - and that the BBC should not publish books and magazines.
The TimesOnline profiles City Lights in San Francisco:
It was established in 1953 by poet and ‘beatnik’ Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Peter D. Martin to provide a progressive, all-paperback alternative to books available at the time. It’s where the Beat Generation laid their hats and where publishing and selling Allen Ginsberg’s Howl got Ferlinghetti and bookseller, Shigeyoshi Murao, arrested in 1957 on obscenity charges. Their victory in court guaranteed the sale of other previously banned books – including D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer. (Three years later British readers achieved similar rights after the failed prosecution of Penguin for publishing Lady Chatterley’s Lover.)
Enid Blyton rocks and is the subject of a preview in TOL:
With its sense of adventure and advice on derring-do for juniors, The Dangerous Book for Boys was the sort of “how to” manual that could have been dreamt up by Enid Blyton, the creator of the Famous Five, the Secret Seven and a host of other dearly loved children’s characters. Now the inevitable has happened. Booksellers are eagerly awaiting the launch on September 4 of the Famous Five’s Adventure Survival Guide, a similar tome but with the bonus of a brand-new mystery starring the ginger-beer-loving youngsters.
For my librarian friends a comparison of JCR and Scopus Impact Factors: LINK
Impact factors for journals listed under the subject categories "ecology" and "environmental sciences" in the Journal Citation Reports database were calculated using citation data from the Scopus database. The journals were then ranked by their Scopus impact factor and compared to the ranked lists of the same journals derived from Journal Citations Reports. Although several titles varied significantly in impact factor and rank, the Journal Citation Reports and Scopus lists had a high degree of statistical similarity.
Common Sense contractual terms from Random House via BoingBoing:
Random House is asking some of its authors of young adult books to sign contracts with "morality clauses" that allow the publisher to take back your advance and cancel your book if you're caught doing anything that "damages your reputation as a person suitable to work with or be associated with children, and consequently the market for or value of the work is seriously diminished."
BusinessWeek ad topic pages NYT. NYTimes has been doing this for years. (NYT via Blogrunner).

ExLibris was sold by one fund to another. PR

Slow week....

Friday, August 22, 2008

Publishers Worry About Amazon

Mike Shatzkin and I were intereviewed for an article published by SNL/Kagan about Amazon.com's relationship with publishers in light of the Hachette UK situation, Booksurge and the Kindle.

Excerpt:
Mike Shatzkin, founder and CEO of the publishing advisory firm The Idea Logical Co., said in a June 26 interview with SNL Kagan that Amazon is likely not getting those titles from publishers for under $9.99 and is probably taking a loss on those books. But Shatzkin added that situation could change if Amazon succeeds in establishing the Kindle as the dominant e-book platform. "If the Kindle reaches a critical mass, Amazon will have the ability to tell publishers that if they want their books available on the Kindle, they will have to sell them to Amazon for $6 or less," Shatzkin said. "That's going to be pretty rough." One reason it is so hard for publishers to meet Amazon's demand for increasingly lower prices, Cairns said, is because they must continue to offer their authors competitive advances and royalty packages to ensure they get the best titles. "Particularly for the brandname authors, publishers have to pay a very high price for that content," Cairns said. "It would be difficult for publishers to go back to their authors and say 'Give me a better price for your books.'" As a result, when Amazon asks for steeper discounts on titles, publishers are left trying to maintain their margins in other ways — such as by putting their marketing and distribution expenses. "And in this day and age, many of the larger publishers have already sweated out as much expense out of those cost areas as they possibly can, so there's not very much room left at all for them to do that," Cairns said. "It's very tight."

Thursday, August 21, 2008

B&N Reports: Operating in Soft Retail Environment

B&N reported slack sales typical of many retailers this morning and even excluding the huge impact of Harry Potter in the comparable quarter numbers were down versus last year. Here is their press statement:
Sales for the second quarter decreased 1.6% to $1.2 billion largely due to last year’s record sales of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Barnes & Noble store sales decreased 1.6% to $1.1 billion, with comparable store sales decreasing 4.7% for the quarter. Barnes & Noble.com sales were $99.8 million for the quarter, a 3.6% comparable sales increase. Excluding prior year sales of the Harry Potter book, comparable sales decreased 1.5% in stores and increased 13.9% online. Bestselling titles during the quarter included Stephenie Meyer’s Breaking Dawn, Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture, Lauren Weisberger’s Chasing Harry Winston and David Wroblewski’s The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. Second quarter net earnings were $15.4 million or $0.27 per share. Included in second quarter net earnings was an after tax benefit of $0.12 per share, resulting from a more favorable physical inventory shortage rate than previously estimated and accrued. Excluding this benefit, second quarter net earnings were $0.15 per share, higher than guidance of $0.08 to $0.13 per share. Despite the softer sales environment, the company’s management of operating expenses and higher than forecasted gross margins enabled it to exceed its second quarter earnings per share guidance. Gross margin was stronger than expected due to greater utilization of the company’s distribution centers and a lower markdown rate.
Other points from the conference call:
  • Last year for the same period comp store increase of 4.4% and online increase of 17.9% for a total sales increase of 7.6%
  • This year 1.6% decrease versus last years 7.6%.
  • Excluding Harry Potter effect same store sales declined 1.5% this quarter
  • Opened 10 and and closed 4 B&N stores for 723 total. Continued to close Dalton stores for a total of 73.
  • Sales at B&N.com were $99.8mm for the quarter up 3.6% on top of last years 17.9% increase. The company noted that excluding HP sales at B&N.com were up 13.9% and this quarter was the 7 straight quarter of increased sales.
  • Gross margins were up 150 basis points as a result of less highly discounted HP books and an significant quarterly improvement in stock shrinkage. (after tax benefit of 12cents per share)
  • Guidance: The company is lowering its full year comp sales to slightly below 1%. Keeping EPS at previously issued guidance based on improved financial performance.
The company may have got off easily on the question period. No one asked about the recent resignation of Marie Toulantis (CEO of B&N.com) especially in light of the continued performance gain. Riggio commented that internet sales "were clearly a bright spot in the quarter" and traffic to the site, conversions and sales are up. In addition, the company continues to improve the site and is experimenting with web only offers. Given this performance is there a risk factor introduced with the departure of Toulantis and if she was asked to leave what do they want to do differently given this track record of continued improvement? No one asked about the competitive threat from the launch of Borders.com which based on the following chart could be a factor.



Lastly (and thankfully) no asked about their decision not to go after Borders but someone did ask about thoughts on the Kindle which they deflected.

Social Recommendations

In Business Week, author Sarah Lacy has some suggestions for publishers on how to develop, market and sell books by taking advantage of Web 2.0 opportunities. This is only one of her five suggestions:
Create stars—don't just exploit existing ones.When an author is established, publishers have to do less to make a book sell. So bidding wars start. As a result, even some best-sellers aren't very profitable. Instead, publishers should take a page from the handbook of Gawker founder Nick Denton and create stars. Find micro-celebs with a voice, talent, a niche base of readers, and most important—enthusiasm. Then leverage the publisher's brand (and the techniques I advocate, of course) to blow them out. Require as part of the contract that the author blog, speak on panels, attend events. Give them incentives for delivering—say, though Web traffic of the number of followers they amass on Twitter. Sure, publishers would have to spend more on promotion. But because they're spending less on an advance—say, $50,000 for a lesser-known writer than the hundreds of thousands of dollars (or more) they'd spend on a star—they can afford the bigger promotional budget. "It's taken some time for publishers to recognize that a successful site is as
strong a 'platform' as a magazine, newspaper, or TV gig," says Patrick Mulligan,
my editor at Gotham.

Bertelsmann Interested in Reed Business

Reuters reports that Bertelsmann's magazine unit Gruner & Jahr maybe in the mix to acquire the RBI unit from Reed Elsevier. Reuters learned of the tip via a German newspaper. In the report, Reuters also notes that indications of interest for the RBI business unit have been received and offers range between £1.0bill and £1.25bill. If correct, this range appears to match Reeds initial expectations for the deal. Reuters expects final bids to be submitted in October. Followers of Bertelsman may recall they have created a sizable fund with some PE companies with the express view to make some large (or one very large) deal. They objective was to be able to participate in the bidding process for these large media deals and not be priced out by pure PE deals. As a case in point they were very interested in the Cengage auction last year and by some accounts came quite close.

Reuters

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Melbourne, City of Literature

Sydneyites (namely my cousin) used to say the only good thing to come out of Melbourne was the Hume Hwy. Unfair and untrue and in reflection of its world status, the city has been named a City of Literature (The Age).

Three days before the opening of the Melbourne Writers Festival, UNESCO has named Melbourne as its second City of Literature. Edinburgh became the first in 2004. The United Nations' cultural arm responded to an ambitious bid by the State Government that has as its centrepiece the establishment of the Centre for Books and Ideas at the State Library of Victoria. Arts Minister Lynne Kosky said the decision was confirmation of the value of a lot of people who have been working in the literature industry - writers and publishers and those who support writing and publishing.

Melbourne is a great place and this is well deserved in my view. Thanks to my Australian stringer for the tip.

Another Obama Book Controversy

No doubt Chelsea Green publishing thought they had come up with a reasonable marketing concept when they agreed to POD their upcoming Obama title (Obama’s Challenge: America’s Economic Crisis and the Power of a Transformative Presidency) with Booksurge and offer Amazon a three week exclusive sales window. Whether this promotion had its genesis in an inefficient editorial and manufacturing process that failed to deliver what must be their single most important title in the company's history on a date that's been on the schedule for months, becomes immaterial when considered against the antipathy that has resulted. The small company has succeeded in upsetting both independents and B&N by giving Amazon this exclusive.

B&N has now cancelled their order for the non-POD version and will only sell the title on their web site via special order. Admittedly, my immediate reaction would have been much the same: Cancel the orders. On reflection however, why didn't B&N double the order and publicise that they would honor the discount coupons once the book hit the stores? Even better, offer a special discount on pre-orders. Secondly, surely the number of attendees at the convention who will actually purchase the book is small compared to the market spread of customers walking into B&N stores across the country.

The publicity surrounding this book may now have more to do with the B&N reaction (perhaps more so within the publishing community) but assuming the publicity and enthusiasm continues to grow for this book, B&N's reaction will seem increasingly ridiculous. With a little more perspective and strategic thinking B&N could have stolen a lot of the thunder from Amazon; that is, if it even existed before B&N made such a big deal about it. On a larger point, if this is how non-Amazon retailers react, how soon will it be before Amazon, encouraged by this reaction, can claim that their retailing competitors don't have the product spread they do. I don't think that is a vortex any retailer wants to be on the cusp of.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Unprecedented!

The Gossip Girl book is being packaged as part of a DVD release of the TV show. The NYTimes notes the 'unprecedented' twist on how 'publisher's hitch their wagons to Hollywood projects:
Now, however, the DVD set “Gossip Girl: The Complete First Season,” which goes on sale this week, includes a free electronic version of the original novel by Cecily von Ziegesar on which the show is based. But — OMG! — it is totally not a book that you read! It is, rather, an audio book narrated by Christina Ricci, with other bonus material like scenes that were not broadcast and “LOL: Gag Reel.” The three-hour abridgement of the novel, which Hachette Audio first released in CD format in 2003, can be transferred to an iPod. This collaboration, by Hachette Audio and Warner Home Video, which made the DVD, is an unprecedented twist on how publishers hitch their wagons to Hollywood projects. With films, publishers typically reprint a paperback with movie-poster artwork, and audio divisions similarly repackage audio books.

The article goes on to briefly discuss why audio books don't appeal to youngsters which would have been a far more interesting analysis than suggesting publisher's product development is dependent on ride-alongs with Hollywood.

First Chapters Grows in The UK

Dial a Book which owns First Chapters has announced the addition of a major UK partner in Gardners. DAB will be licencing all 210,000 first chapter files to Gardners for their use with their publishing and retail partners. From the press release:

Dial-A-Book Inc, the largest creator and distributor of book text excerpts in the United States and Gardners Books Ltd., the largest book wholesaler in the United Kingdom, have announced a joint book excerpt distribution program.

The excerpts of US books which Gardners will distribute in the UK and throughout the world contain full bibliographic data, tables of contents and five to nine pages on initial text.

"Gardners are pleased to bring this invaluable sample material, which has reviously only been available within the USA, to retailers, librarians and book buyers, through our Digital Warehouse. Giving professional book buyers in retail and libraries, and consumers buying on our customers retail websites, access to sample content prior to purchase will greatly enrich their buying decision." said Bob Jackson, Commercial Director of Gardners Books Ltd.

Stanley R. Greenfield, President of Dial-A-Book Inc. indicated that the extended distribution of this book data will means more widespread sales of US works in the global marketplace.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Media Week 33

The NYTimes looks at The Daily Show's Jon Stewart. NYT.

Gannett is the latest Newspaper to cut headcount. SFGate.

A very interesting application of Anti-Span technology used to translate text. TimesOnline
Captchas are little boxes on web pages which show a squiggly set of letters and numbers that the user is required to transcribe correctly in order to register or enter the site. They were devised eight years ago as a way of preventing computers from setting up e-mail accounts automatically which could then be used to send out spam, but a clever tweak means they are now being used to transcribe newspapers dating from the nineteenth century and earlier. Instead of displaying a random collection of letters and numbers, the newly designed Captchas present the user with a word from an old manuscript that a computer, somewhere, is having trouble deciphering.

The Telegraph reports on a half dozen interested parties moping around the Reed Business Assets.

And the Informa deal is still generating some interest and the Telegraph notes Blackstone's interest in perhaps joining an existing consortium. And more from Reuters and an earlier Telegraph report.

Jemima Kiss at The Guardian reports on an interesting new application in the printing industry. "In the same way that you'd use Expedia to find flights from many airlines, you'd use our service to buy exactly the prints you need from any print provider on the network."

It's never too late to write that book. From the Guardian. "A raunchy novel with a dauntless heroine has transformed the lives of a 93-year-old author and three of her friends who were living in nursing homes. Pushed by her daughter-in-law, who found the manuscript and couldn't put it down, Lorna Page has become one of the oldest debut writers on record, with equally unusual social results."

We did so much for everyone but now they're all against us and we were always misunderstood. The world according to Mrs. Conrad Black. TimesOnline.
But if the rich and well-connected cannot get justice, what chance for anyone else — a question I asked in columns about the law long before I married Conrad. What chance for the orange jump-suited, marginalised young men I saw shuffling in front of the judge in Chicago, silent while their court-appointed attorneys negotiated their freedom away in that tight little legal world, where a client’s fate never disturbs the bonhomie between lawyers. If ostensibly privileged defendants like us can be baselessly smeared, wrongfully deprived, falsely accused, shamelessly persecuted, innocently convicted and grotesquely punished, it does n’t take much to figure out what happens to the vulnerable and the powerless: they land, finally, in the 8:45am courtroom parade that takes place all over “America the Free” — the country that “wins” 90% of cases and imprisons more people than any other in the world.

GB Gold Overflow

Just an unbelievable performance by the Great Britain team over the weekend. Four gold medals on both Saturday and Sunday has pushed us up to the heady heights of third on the medal table. We're running just ahead of Michael Phelps. And it's not over yet.

How good a Games has this been for Team GB? Well, a gold today will make this our most successful since 1920. The 11 collected so far matches our total in Sydney in 2000. We are well on course to make this our second best Olympics ever. BBC

Best of British: 1908 (London): 55 golds

1900 (Paris): 14 golds

1920 (Antwerp): 14 golds

2000 (Sydney): 11 golds

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Random Searches

A curious search string delivered someone to my site today:

"if you have a felony conviction can you travel to the UK"

The answer to that cannot be found on this blog. Nor can I offer any guidance.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Personanondata Bookstore

People ask me whether there are any good books written on the publishing industry and of course there are. There are also many research reports that to varying degrees profile the industry and segments of the industry. With the aid of Booksinprint - I found the exercise of narrowing down my 'publishing books' selection intolerable on Amazon.com - I have built a small bookstore containing books about the publishing industry. The Amazon bookstore application building is brain numbingly easy to implement and I don't see why anyone wouldn't have a store on their own site.

You will notice I have placed the block on the upper right of my blog page. Here is the link.

The downside for me is that many of my readers are RSS subscribers so won't be seeing the Bookstore block. My attempt to add some xml script to the RSS feed has thus far been farcical but as a history major I should get points for trying. I shall not give up. As an Amazon 'associate' I get a small commission which will help pay for food for the company mascot.

Feel free to recommend some titles but please make use of the store especially if you are in need of some expensive research publications.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Is Jerome Corsi on Drugs?

Jerome Corsi says you can't trust a drug user when they say they've given up drugs. Using an argument childishly similar to 'he who smelt it delt it', Corsi and his publisher are refusing to acknowledge that Senator Barack Obama has repeatedly stated he gave up his use of drugs - other than cigarettes - long ago. Noted this drug use was never more than casual and certainly no more than the average college student is exposed to, even those from Harvard - like Jerome. Certainly, the current President has lied about a lot but has anyone suggested he has lied about giving up blow? Or Drinking? Maybe we should ask Jerome.

Jerome Corsi has no intention of correcting the errors in his book The Obama Nation: Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality. This is despite the fact he views his effort as investigative rather than prosecutorial (why either would require a lesser degree of accuracy is beyond me). Simon & Schuster the silent publisher is only likely to be interested in the revenue which is why they signed up Mary Matalin to become a 'publisher' in the first place. Fiction or non-fiction what's the difference anymore? The book hasn't been fact corrected. It may not even have been read by Matalin who commented (NYT) that the book “was not designed to be, and does not set out to be, a political book,” calling it, rather, “a piece of scholarship, and a good one at that.” What is she doing at S&S if not political books? And given the level of scholarship and the errors cited by numerous sources perhaps this book should be excerpted in the National Enquirer.

Corsi's name is emblazoned on the cover of this book with the attendant "Phd" in a visual attempt to imply scholarship. The central points made in this book are no more accurate than those in the CIA ghost written memo noted in Suskind's book The Shadow War which came out earlier this month. Interesting that the two books are published by the same publisher. There has been no discussion about inaccuracies in the latter and indeed Suskind stands on solid ground for his diligence in reporting the facts what with all the actual interview recordings. Not so Corsi who says “The goal is to defeat Obama,” Mr. Corsi said in a telephone interview. “I don’t want Obama to be in office.” Obviously, at S&S the standards vary widely depending on the purpose. On the one hand you might have factual grounds for impeachment on the other simple political mud raking.

Court Reverses Steinbeck Copyright Ruling

The son of famed author John Steinbeck who won control over some of his father's works has had the decision reversed by the US Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit Court). In mid 2006, a judge in California ruled that the rights to Steinbeck's novels should revert to the family. LATimes. (A review from a legal perspective). From the AP:

The ruling by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will leave the rights in the hands of Penguin Group Inc. and the heirs of John Steinbeck's widow, Elaine. Author John Steinbeck died in 1968; his wife in 2003. The appeals court said a lower court judge misapplied copyright law in awarding the rights in 2006 to the son, Thomas Steinbeck, and granddaughter Blake Smyle. Both already receive a portion of the proceeds of sales. The case was returned to the lower court with instructions to leave the rights with various individuals and organizations, including the publisher Penguin and Elaine Steinbeck's heirs. The heirs include her sister, four children and grandchildren.

No word on any further action that may be contemplated by either side.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Media Week 32

The Guardian reports that British magazine publishers are facing pressure from retailer ASDA for more quid-pro-quo on shelf space in their stores. Some close readers will recall some aggressive actions by Amazon and also the stance taken by A&R in Australia regarding book titles with small volumes. Perhaps an increasing trend in media retail.
The idea of a magazine giving Asda advertising space in return for appearing on its shelves, for example, is wholly implausible. Every supermarket chain would then be bound to require ads too, leading to the logical, if surreal, result that all magazines would carry several pages boosting Tesco, Sainsbury's, Somerfield, Waitrose and so on. Then there's the question of context: one publisher told me that, for many magazines, supermarket advertising would be inappropriate. How would readers of Cage & Aviary Birds or Model Railway Enthusiast take to Asda boasting of its latest cut-price offers on groceries, for instance?

Will a major city newspaper fold this year. Houston, Miami, Chicago, SF? There are sellers but no buyers according to the NYTimes.

Ad revenues are off substantially at some of those free daily newspapers but in the UK Metro is starting their first online version. MAD.co

Press Gazzette is giving up their print to go online. Guardian

Rodale announced impressive results in face of an industry slow down.

Revenues for all operations grew by 7.6% compared to the second quarter of 2007.
Rodale print advertising revenues were up 8.3% compared to an industry-wide decline of 4.9%. Revenues from all online activities increased by 27.1% over the second quarter of 2007, and uniques and page views for Rodale?s sites were up by 74% and 94%, respectively, compared to the same period last year. Revenues from international operations through June are up 14% compared to the first half of 2007.


AlleyInsider.com: Gawker notes their performance versus traditional media. Note that the chart looks like Batman.

WSJ reports on the trend in Children's fiction towards more gore in an effort to appeal to more boys:
Scholastic and other publishers are heeding the research of such academics as Jeffrey Wilhelm, an education professor at Boise State University. Prof. Wilhelm tracked boys' reading habits for five years ending in 2005 and found that schools failed to meet their "motivational needs." Teachers assigned novels about relationships, such as marriage, that appealed to girls but bored boys. His survey of academic research found boys more likely to read nonfiction, especially about sports and other activities they enjoy, as well as funny, edgy fiction. Boys' literary depth is an abiding concern in educational circles. Boys have persistently lagged behind girls in reading on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, an influential federal test for gauging achievement. The gap widens by the time they reach 12th grade. Many experts attribute the lag to the time spent with the printed page. In a survey of bookstores this year by Simba Information, a publishing-industry market-research firm, only 2% said boys made up most of their children's book customers. As adults, females also outscore males on literacy exams, and continue to read more. In an age when the Internet is pulling many away from books, boys in particular spend more time than girls do on computers and videogaming.

Long article in Sunday's NYTimes magazine about Hanif Kureishi who wrote My Beautiful Laundrette.
This is, after all, the man who co-edited “The Faber Book of Pop” and whose films and novels — including “My Beautiful Laundrette” and “The Buddha of Suburbia” — are filled with raucous sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll. But this is also the man who had the presence of mind to poke around in English mosques in the late ’80s and early ’90s, sensing that something might be stirring there, as indeed it was. Kureishi’s novel “The Black Album,” set in 1989 and named after a Prince album, explored the growing discontent, disenfranchisement and radicalism of some young British Muslims.

NYTimes notes the Waking up to Content is King at Time Warner.

Profile of new Zondervan CEO Maureen Girkins. Grand Rapids Press.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Everything's Live in Prime Time

I grew up in Hawaii. Lucky me. When John Lennon died we got to experience it twice. Why, because of ‘satellite delay’. Hawaii is so far west that most ‘live’ television was taped. When most of the nation heard Howard Cosell on Monday Night Football announce that John was dead we didn’t hear him say that for more than three hours, and by then we had been listening to the monster block to end all monster blocks. Almost 30 yrs later, you could be forgiven for thinking ‘satellite delay’ had disappeared along with wooden tennis rackets, members only and Journey. Not so.

When NBC and USA broadcast Wimbledon this year they showed the majority of the matches live; that is, except for the first men’s semifinal which Federer won. Unaware viewers found out the result of the first match during the second match which was shown live. There was some hue and cry about this at the time but tennis fans are generally a polite group. Remember the world cup in Japan/Korea? Well, luckily I was in Australia but in the US fans were left scratching their heads when live games were delayed.

In 1980 there wasn’t any alternative to watching events live if the broadcaster didn’t want us to. We had no choice. Clearly that is not the case now yet NBC continues to believe they know best what the viewer is interested in. NBC believes viewers want to see ‘live’ action in prime time. Forget the fact that this morning the NYTimes had images from the opening ceremonies, we won’t see the pictures live until later tonight. Which is just about when day two action starts.
Gary Zenkel, president of NBC Olympics, said. "We have three main constituency groups: our affiliates, our advertisers and our audience. To our affiliates and our advertisers, our responsibility is to (generate) the biggest audience that we can. And to our audience, our extensive research shows, that means putting it on when they say they want it, which is when they're available to watch it - and that's in prime time." Guardian
This type of ostrich like behavior is what’s so wrong with established media. While everything has changed the media companies try to pretend by force of will they can impose the old paradigm (on the ‘audience’). We’re all smarter than that and despite the 2,000+ hrs NBC are set to broadcast many viewers are going to be disappointed. NBC is not giving us the choices we have become accustomed to in the internet world. How far out of touch are they? An amusing anecdote regarding the LA Times which publicly patted itself on the back for a huge boost in on line traffic. Only the problem was their traffic was dwarfed by upstart Gawker media. SiliconAlleyinsider

Paradoxically, NBC maybe its own worse enemy; they recently launched Hulu.com which is a fantastic site and exactly what choice, selection and access is all about. Every Olympic event should be on Hulu the minute it finishes. I bet the traffic would be immense. On top of that I would guarantee viewers would settle in during prime time and watch again.

There are work arounds. Several web sites have jumped on this issue already. So if you are willing to stay up all night to watch curling check out alleyinsider.com for all the details.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Too Late for The Sony Reader

John Gapper in the FT believes Sony has irretrievably lost the beach-head that the first to market Sony Reader established. Is it now too late to gain back some share? Since he compares Sony's Walkman with the iPod the likely answer is yes.
The danger for Sony is that it is already too late. Amazon has grabbed the market-leading position from Sony and established a stronger brand, which is what happened with the iPod and the Walkman. Sony never managed to recover, despite trying repeatedly to match Apple. The Reader is arguably less important to Sony than any of its core entertainment businesses. Even if the Reader stages a comeback, it will not become one of Sony’s “trillion-yen” businesses like its PlayStation and Bravia franchises. But books should not be written off. Annual US sales of fiction and popular non-fiction books match those of recorded music, so there is enough revenue to be worth fighting for. Sony obviously thought it was worth staking a claim to e-books when it launched the Reader.

Why The Embargo Doesn't Work

LA Times on book review embargos and the particular case of Ron Suskinds The Way of the World. They see something fishy:
As Ulin said Tuesday, publishers' "embargoes are contrivances designed not to protect the contents of the book but to create a media feeding frenzy when a book comes out. Often, the entire purpose is to protect some kind of exclusive arrangement with a particular news outlet. That's not about news; it's about publicity, and it implicates the news media as part of the publicity juggernaut, reducing us watchdogs to lap dogs."The willingness of major publishing houses to take on projects like Suskind's is an act of public service as well as commerce. Projects such as Suskind's don't need to be marketed with the sort of calculation routinely reserved for celebrity tell-alls. In fact, the aura created by an orchestrated publicity campaign can even undermine the authority of the sort of journalism Ron Suskind practices.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Free Books

One of the funny things about writing this blog is that I have started to get some free books. This is strange since I don't review books. I read a lot, but I generally only read the stuff I like. I don't have time to read things people send me. I also find this interesting because as President of Bowker - the publisher of books in print remember - I may have received three books in seven years. Two of those were sent by Jane Friedman. So, as a blogger operating in no official capacity I get some books, but as head of house I don't. Curious.

In the past twelve months I have received four books; not a lot thankfully. I haven't read any of them. Two management books (one from Wiley so I may end up reading it), one on being more green and one from a trade publisher. The green title had me slightly concerned since the title was so precise: "78 ways to change the planet" or something. Surely if they concentrated a little more they might have reached 100. No doubt my experience with review copies speaks both to the desperation of smaller publishers to get their titles seen and to the general indiscriminate nature of the process: Send them out in the hope that someone will review them.

I am not sure how much other heads of house share their books with one another. Do they call each other up and ask for a particular book I wonder. Would they be embarassed? If I were publishing something more compact that an 8 volume directory I would have routinely sent my titles to other publishers. I would be proud of them and I would want my peers to enjoy them as I did. (I did consider sending the CD version to publishers but discarded the idea just as quick. I didn't want to visit their office and find it under a wine glass).

About 18mths ago, I realized that my unread pile extended to 60+ books, but the back log is winding down now and so sometime in the next six months I might actually be reading books that have some currency. (At the moment I am reading a biography of Sir Christopher Wren that was published in 2001). Perhaps then I might comment a little.

Paris Hilton On Oil Dependency

Remember that tasteless ad the McCain campaign ran denigrating Obama as a "celebrity?" Well, I think the celebrity just got the better of them:


See more funny videos at Funny or Die
Here is the link for those on email or if you are using MS Explorer. Firefox seems to work fine.

I am curious why they can't afford towels at the Hilton mansion. Nice suit.

Back to our regularly scheduled programming later.

Harpercollins Closes Year Flat

Harpercollins saw a 18% increase in fourth quarter revenues that helped the company finish the year with operating income flat with 2007. Revenues for the quarter were $350mm versus $295 in the prior period. Full year revenues were $1,388 versus $1,347 in the prior period.

Here is the relevant section from the NewCorp press release:
HarperCollins reported fourth quarter operating income of $28 million and full year operating income of $160 million, an improvement of $7 million and $1 million as compared to the prior year periods, respectively. Current quarter results were led by strong sales of Bright Shiny Morning by James Frey, Stolen Innocence by Elissa Wall and an updated edition of YOU:The Owner's Manual by Michael F. Roizen and Mehmet Oz. During the fourth quarter, HarperCollins had 62 books on The New York Times bestseller list, including Read All About It! by Laura and Jenna Bush which reached number one. For the full year, HarperCollins had 165 books on The New York Times bestseller list, including 14 titles reaching the number one spot.
Thus the company had a margin improvement of 1pp in the final quarter but a slight decline over all. Well reported has been the change in senior management at Harpercollins with Brian Murray replacing Jane Friedman. Murray, in turn, has made changes in the executive suite notably the replacement of Glenn D'Agnes who was the long term COO.

Details on Harpercollins are always sparse in the NewsCorp disclosures and the company is rarely mentioned in the earnings conference calls.

Monday, August 04, 2008

When You See a Fork in the Road...

Lorcan Dempsey (OCLC) on the future of libraries,

We can see two important directions, one towards concentration and one towards diffusion.

First concentration, which we see at at least three levels. At the institutional level, there is a strong push to overcoming fragmentation by moving towards new institutional discovery layers (Primo, Encore, Worldcat Local). At the group level we see the emergence of more state or national systems which pull together resources in user-facing services. These are attractive because they present more resources to the user. And at the global level, we see library resources being represented - through linking or syndication strategies - in search engines, Flickr, Google Scholar, Worldcat and other network level resources.

The second is atomization of content and services so that they can be better integrated into diffuse networking device and applications environments. Here think of RSS/AtomPub, mobile interfaces, APIs, alerting services, portlets and widgetization, persistent links to library services and content, etc. Issues here are technical and licensing. Users increasingly value convenience and relevance, and packaging materials in ways that make most sense for them is not always straightforward.

How far off are we from the new library that has no physical holdings, no ILS system, no repositories, no nothing except the building, a patron database, some furniture and some terminals?

Author as Brand

Following on from my post on branding last week, Jeff Jarvis interviews Paul Coelho and finds the perfect example of an author embracing his power as a brand. He's making more money in the process as well.
He is a pirate. Coelho discovered the power of free when a fan posted a Russian translation of one of his novels online and book sales there climbed from 3,000 to 100,000 to 1m in three years. "This happened in English, in Norwegian, in Japanese and Serbian," he said. "Now when the book is released in hard copy, the sales are spectacular." So Coelho started linking to pirated versions of his books from his own website. But when he bragged about this at the Burda Digital Lifestyle Design conference in Munich last January, he got in trouble with his US publisher, HarperCollins, whose then head, Jane Friedman, called him.

Trust in Book Lovers Not Reviewers

The termination of several book review sections across the country in recent weeks has reignited the same discussions that took place last year regarding the future of reading and books generally. The arguments remain sentimental suggesting a Utopian book-centric world where every reader weighs the careful words of the reviewer before making a particular purchase. Yesterday, Lissa Warren in HuffPo lamented the demise of the book review section of the LA Times and calls out those who believe (like I do) that blog reviewers are filling the void left by 'official' reviewers:
But I'll tell you what does make my jaw drop: the seemingly widely-held notion that these book sections are being adequately replaced by blogs. To be sure, there are some excellent book blogs out there: Mark Sarvas's The Elegant Variation. The National Book Critics Circle's Critical Mass. MediaBistro's Galley Cat. Jessa Crispin's Bookslut. The Boston Globe's Off the Shelf. And, of course, the New York Times' Paper Cuts. They're all bookmarked on my computer. I read them often for news on new titles (and older ones I missed) and Q&As with authors. Many of them are also good for stories on publishing trends, which as a book publicist and editor I appreciate a great deal. But, for the most part, these blogs don't actually review books.
In my view there is a macro point that makes her argument largely irrelevant; that is, we are beginning to see the development of trust networks. As consumers of information we are starting to build our own networks of people and entities we rely on to support everything from our political philosophy to our choice in vacation spot. Reading falls squarely into that paradigm and it no longer matters whether a book review is produced to the standard of the LA Times or The NYTimes book section (and many blog reviews do), what matters is the impact the review has on a purchase decision. Those interested in reading are finding bloggers that they 'trust' (even of the blogspot variety, a comment which baffles me), and these reviews do indeed 'adequately' fill the void created by the demise of some of the larger newspaper reviews sections. Interesting, some of the arguments presented by Warren as to why these blogs are not of a standard are precisely the items that lend reality, personality and connection to the readers of these reviews.
I'd also advise that book reviewing bloggers jettison the use of personal pronouns (yes, I've used a slew of them here; you can nail me in the comments). And for goodness sake, I wish they'd stop telling me what their father and their girlfriend -- or their father's girlfriend -- thought of the book. Also, I don't need to know how they came to possess the book -- how they borrowed it from the library, or bought it at B&N, or snagged a galley at The Strand, or got the publisher to send them a copy even though they average four hits a day. The banal back-story is of little interest.
It is my own personal view that the back story is of little interest; however, that might only be because I haven't found a (blog) reviewer that I identify with. The point is, many consumers reading these blog reviews do find the back story interesting and the great thing is they can move on to someone else if it becomes too tedious. Warren also speaks of 'self-indulgence' and surely nothing could be more self-indulgent than reading a Salman Rushdie review of a Martin Amis title in the NYTimes book review section. (If you would).

Trust networks will define how many people (maybe all of us) communicate - that's what myspace, facebook, linkedin, etc. are starting to show us. The blog network is a fundamental part of that and the continued development of trust networks has implications for all consumer interaction including recommending and buying books. The word 'recommend' is better than review. The word 'review' in conventional terms and as used by Warren is used pejoratively when referring to blog reviews. This is wrong, because a book review doesn't have to conform to a standard; this is a convention that has been constructed by old school journalists. What is relevant is what the opinion/review/recommendation means to the consumer. Someone yelling over the back fence to their neighbor that they really liked The Corrections is a 'review'. And that's synonymous with replying to the Facebook 'what are you doing' by typing "I'm reading The Corrections and I really hate it".

Lastly, who was reading the reviews in all these newspaper reviews sections anyway? Most people in the US who read (and that's not many) only read one book a year. That book is likely to be something like the Da Vinci Code, a diet book, Dr Phil or an Ophra pick so what's the return? It is (was) a mystery. Not so on the web. These evolving trust networks concentrated around people who love books, talk about books and opine about books provide publishers with a window on the community they never had. Stop with the whining and recognise that as a publisher you have a tremendous opportunity to understand your consumer in ways you never could before. Rather than lamenting the demise of the newspaper, publishers should be rejoicing in front of the window to a vibrant community of book lovers and opinion makers.

To answer Lissa Warren's question: Blogs may not save Books but they may be all we have so pay attention.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Media Week31

The Telegraph reports on another media deal in the works concerning Wilmington a publisher of Press Gazette and legal and charity databases.

ReadWriteWeb note the publication of study suggesting females rather than males rule the web:
Online reputation company Rapleaf has released a new study of 49.3 million people, revealing gender and age data about social network users. On most of the main social networks - including MySpace, Facebook, Bebo, Hi5 - women outnumber men by a considerable amount. On Facebook, the 18-24 age group is largest, with 1,685,029 women in that age group compared to 977,753 men. In MySpace, the same age group dominates, with 7,091,214 women and 5,226,788 men.
Informa announced late last week that they had received an indication of interest from a new group. The Guardian finds out it's Dubai. But Blackstone is seen as a favorite by The Times.

The Times Online reports on the self-publishing market for authors with a provocative lead-in.

One Kindle, Two Kindle, Three Kindle... TechCrunch tries to get to the bottom of the sales numbers.

Torstar reports better quarterly results for Harlequin:
Book Publishing revenue was $118.9 million in the second quarter, up $2.9 million from $116.0 million in the same period last year. Underlying revenues were up $6.3 million in the quarter with strong growth in the North America Retail division partially offset by a decrease of $3.4 million from the unfavourable impact of foreign exchange rates. Operating profit was $18.5 million in the second quarter of 2008, up $6.0 million from $12.5 million in 2007. Corporate costs were $4.2 million in the second quarter of 2008, down $0.6 million from the second quarter of 2007.
Guards say they locked him up in a cupboard. Not true, says Rushdie and threatens to sue. He may have a chance. Guardian (no relation)

Some spectacular declines in magazine readership in the UK. BrandRepublic
Maxim will be the hardest hit of the men's monthlies, but Bauer Media-owned titles Arena and FHM, with news-stand circulation expected to be down 20% and 17% respectively, IPC-owned Loaded (expected to be down around 20%) and NatMags-owned Esquire (expected to be down 19%) are all understood to have suffered in the latest ABCs, released on 14 August.
Things continue as expected at Voyager Learning. Still no filings, revenues are in decline and cash is tight. SEC
The Company anticipates it will file its 2006 10-K by July 31, 2008. It further expects that the 2007 10-K will be filed four to eight weeks after the filing of the 2006 10-K. The Company provided preliminary and unaudited 2007 financial results for the Voyager Learning Company operating business by means of a conference call on April 15, 2008. As the Company has continued its efforts to file 2006 and 2007 financials, certain estimates made April 15, 2008 have been updated resulting in a change to the projected 2007 earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA). EBITDA is now expected to be in the range of $28 - $29 million versus the previously reported $30 million.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Amazon Buys ABE Books

In a deal likely to further infuriate publishers, Amazon.com The Bookseller is reporting that Amazon has agreed to by ABE books a second hand and rare book seller.

Russell Grandinetti, vice president of books for Amazon.com, said that the acquisition would add "breadth and expanded selection" to the company's customers. "AbeBooks provides a wide range of services to both sellers and
customers, and we look forward to working with them to further grow their business. We're excited to present all of our customers with the widest selection of books available any place on Earth."

Hannes Blum, AbeBooks' chief executive, said he was "very excited" about the acquisition. "This deal brings together book sellers and book lovers from around the world, and offers both types of customers a great experience," he said.

Many of the retailers that participate in the ABE network may already participate in the Amazon network nevertheless this will solidify the persistent mingling of new and second hand titles that publishers have grown to loath. Amazon purchased another second hand and antiquarian book network (may have been more of a search tool) name biblio(something - can't recall) which established their early position in this segment but the acquisition of ABE will radically broaden their reach. Where this leaves Alibris is also of interest. Will they see a need to merge with a larger retailer. We all know Steve Riggio likes old books....

Librarything notes the deal as well and points out Amazon will have a stake in their company.

Hat tip: Brantley (again)