Sunday, August 02, 2009

Media Week 30: Amazon, Reed Elsevier, India, Bloomsbury

Nicholson Baker in The New Yorker takes a look at Amazon and the Kindle taking to account how Amazon ranks as an electronics manufacturer (TNY):
Amazon, with its listmania lists and its sometimes inspired recommendations and its innumerable fascinating reviews, is very good at selling things. It isn’t so good, to date anyway, at making things. But, fortunately, if you want to read electronic books there’s another way to go. Here’s what you do. Buy an iPod Touch (it costs seventy dollars less than the Kindle 2, even after the Kindle’s price was recently cut), or buy an iPhone, and load the free “Kindle for iPod” application onto it. Then, when you wake up at 3 A.M. and you need big, sad, well-placed words to tumble slowly into the basin of your mind, and you don’t want to wake up the person who’s in bed with you, you can reach under the pillow and find Apple’s smooth machine and click it on. It’s completely silent. Hold it a few inches from your face, with the words enlarged and the screen’s brightness slider bar slid to its lowest setting, and read for ten or fifteen minutes. Each time you need to turn the page, just move your thumb over it, as if you were getting ready to deal a card; when you do, the page will slide out of the way, and a new one will appear. After a while, your thoughts will drift off to the unused siding where the old tall weeds are, and the string of curving words will toot a mournful toot and pull ahead. You will roll to a stop. A moment later, you’ll wake and discover that you’re still holding the machine but it has turned itself off. Slide it back under the pillow. Sleep.
Checking in on what's going on in Indian publishing (The Economic Times):
To most people, India is at the cusp of the publishing story and the action waiting to play out will be worth the wait. That belief is not without reason. The country has a large literate population and the reading habit is often inculcated early in life. Besides, the opportunity to write and translate books across languages is an opportunity that any marketer will give his right hand for. The key is to deliver a quality product at any time.

“I’d like to believe that there will always be an audience and a market for truly original works of literature regardless of commercial fluctuations,” says a rather emphatic Altaf Tyrewala, author of the critically acclaimed No God in Sight. India has never had a paucity of quality writers and that is the best piece (of news) for the industry. Now how these creative artists come together with publishers will form the next round of the story.
Publishers Weekly announce the sale of themselves (PW):
Reed Business Information is putting Publishers Weekly and its affiliated publications, Library Journal and School Library Journal, up for sale. The sale of the group is part of RBI’s strategy to divest most of its trade magazines in the U.S. Last year, Reed Elsevier, parent company of RBI, tried to sell all of RBI but dropped the sale when it couldn’t get the price it wanted in a depressed market for media properties. In a related announcement, Tad Smith, CEO of RBI US, has resigned. John Poulin has been named acting CEO and he will head the sales process.
Also Reed Elsevier announced a rights issue to stem the debt. May raise $1Billion against $4bill debt. (The Bookseller)

Having seen the one of the authors on The Daily Show I was intrigued about this book. Subsequently I see there is some controversy between the authors of this book and one on the same subject published a number of years ago. (NYT) Also Stewart interview.

On June 27 Ms. Bynum got a copy of the new book. The next day, in an e-mail message to academic friends and colleagues at universities across the country, she wrote: “I am appalled at the manner in which these authors have written what is touted as a scholarly work. I am also deeply hurt by the manner in which they have appropriated, then denigrated, my work.”

In a three-part review posted on the Renegade South blog, renegadesouth.wordpress.com, Ms. Bynum lit into the Doubleday book. She particularly objected to what she saw as the new book’s tendency to romanticize Mr. Knight and his love life, its insistence on the idea that Jones County actually seceded and its attempt to place Mr. Knight at the Battle of Vicksburg — touches that do not hurt the story’s cinematic potential.
Bloomsbury (UK) get some ink in the Evening Standard for their Bloomsbury Library Online which is 'powered' by Exact Editions (ES):

Bloomsbury currently offers several children's shelves, along with a "book club" shelf of titles designed to be read and discussed by groups.

"The service means you never have to worry about overdue books again," said Daryl Rayner of Exact Editions, the company behind the service.

"You can be on a beach in Greece, and simply log in using your library card to download new books. We have also set the system up on several terminals inside the library."

Although only Bloomsbury has signed up so far, Miss Rayner said her firm was in discussions with all of the major UK publishers. It has also signed up several other libraries across the UK.

Exact is planning to add online access to Wisden, the cricketing bible, to the service in the near future, along with access to the works of Shakespeare and other historical authors.

Bloomsbury executive director Richard Charkin said: "While never forgetting the importance of books themselves, libraries are being pressured to adapt to the demands of the 21st century."

Graphic of Amazon's acquisitions over the years. (Link)

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