Is continuing to group together Commonwealth book rights good business, hopeless inertia, or merely a self-serving tradition?
By Edward Nawotka
The very concept of territoriality when it comes to rights is being challenged by the digital revolution. It wasn’t long ago that several UK literary agents wondered aloud at the Frankfurt Book Fair if US publishers were using e-books as a way to undermine territorial rights.At the time, agent Andrew Nurnberg noted:
“The big thing that’s in the air all the time,” Nurnberg said, “is that territoriality is not so much about physical books. Now the question is moving toward territoriality for e-rights. “Some publishers say, ‘No way, we can’t keep these held to any particular territory. It’s no longer physical. If it’s out there then it can’t be controlled.’ They want to use it as a back door to break territoriality and to acquire world English language rights.”
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New York City
By Edward Nawotka
The outsized influence New York, and Brooklyn in particular, has on the current literary scene is undeniable. It is the center of publishing in the United States.
But is it good for the other 99% of the country?
New York publishers have been accused of publishing books for each other – and the writers, for writing for each other. Has a kind of group-think has set in where people — consciously or not — are perhaps working to impress each other rather than a wider audience?
You often hear publishing personalities and literary journalists on the coasts moan that “the rest of America” doesn’t read books. To this I say, the rest of America does read, they just don’t necessarily want to read the books New York sometimes publishes. How many novels can someone in, say, Chicago or Atlanta, read about a twenty-something Manhattan editorial assistant, junior Wall Street trader, or cupcake shop owner in Cobble Hill looking for love?
There’s a lot to be said for being a market-leader.
By Edward Nawotka
Time was that a new e-reader announcement sent everyone into a tizzy — these day’s it’s just a “ho-hum” moment in a day otherwise filled with announcements of agents-turned publishers, self-pubbed phenom gone traditional, and the latest and greatest app-game-story-movie hybrid.
Yes, the e-reader bubble has popped, but the stream of new e-readers coming to market hasn’t subsided, nor will it. In the next two months you can expect to see the launch of a new color, Android-driven Kindle, an updated NookColor, and numerous other new devices — some from name brands, like Acer and Samsung — and others from mystery producers. By Christmas, you’ll be able to pick up a new e-reader with your morning coffee at the corner store.
With just 30,000 e-book titles, Japan’s publishers have been reluctant to support e-books out of fear losing revenue and challenging their own distribution monopoly.
By Hiroki Kamata
The Japanese e-book industry is estimated to be valued at “$600 million” with “growth in excess of 20% per year,” according to research firm Impres R&D. While these numbers may seem impressive at first glance, as Robin Birtle (CEO at Sakkam Press in Tokyo) noted recently on TeleRead they “belie the fact that comics make up 75% of the revenue, and apart from comics and magazines, there seems little significant advance in broadening the e-book customer base within Japan.” Mobile phone companies providing distribution and payback service platforms for publishers also make up a significant portion of Japan’s total e-book market value.
The number of Japanese language e-book titles has not grown significantly over the last year. According to an article in the SankeiBiz newspaper, there are still just 30,000 e-book titles available in Japan. Why such a small number — especially when Japan is so often at the vanguard of technological innovation? Simply put, publishers continue to remain reluctant to convert their books into digital formats due to cost, as well as their own ongoing fears about digitization.
Why are publishers so suspicious when it comes to e-books? First, they believe e-books will eventually cannibalize their print book business. Second, they suspect the book market will continue to decline and, ultimately, become less lucrative. Third, they think international e-book businesses, especially Amazon’s Kindle e-bookstore, will destroy the Japanese distribution system dominated by two companies, Tohan and Nippan, whose shareholders include a dozen of Japan’s major publishers.
Japan’s book distribution system is unique, and perhaps the most influential factor in publishers’ reluctance to embrace e-books.
Thousands of out-of-work booksellers, indebted publishers, smaller mid-list print-runs, fewer book reviews . . . the long-term repercussions of Borders’ bankruptcy are unpleasant to contemplate.
by Edward Nawotka
In today’s story, Philip Downer, former CEO of Borders UK examines why Borders went bankrupt.
As someone who grew up outside Ann Arbor, Michigan, I was always a little proud to point out that Borders was a Michigan company, if only to say to New Yorkers — “Hey, look, people in the flyover are smart, are intellectual, and do read! Of course, that is a little silly considering just how many New Yorkers end up going to the University of Michigan and other schools in the Midwest . . . but I digress.
Borders, to me at least, often offered a more appealing shopping experience than B&N. (This may have something with my personal history with B&N.) As someone who spent so much of my twenties overseas, I was also surprised and delighted to find Borders stores in some far-and-away locales; the Borders store on Orchard Road in Singapore served as a kind of oasis for me while working in Asia.
When in 2008 I was invited to tour the new Borders “concept” store in Ann Arbor, I thought the company was positioning itself adequately for the future. There were lots of digital work stations to help you find your ancestors, download music, work with Lulu.com (if you wanted to self-publish) and even book a vacation. There was a dedicated area for the store to host virtual book signings — in fact, I still have a copy of a Margaret Atwood novel she signed for me that day using her virtual Long Pen. Yes, there were plans afoot to put a Long Pen into every new Borders store post-2008.
But in the wake of the plummeting economy . . . nothing happened. And now this.
So, aside from my wounded Midwestern pride, who else is going to get hurt in this bankruptcy? …read more
By Edward Nawotka
Nothing sells better overseas than US mystery novels. The Edgar Allen Poe Awards acknowledges the “best in mystery fiction, non-fiction and television” published or produced each year and their shortlist has just been announced. While the rights to many of the “big name” authors have likely already been scooped up, the shortlist might be the place to go looking for those undiscovered gems…read more
Editorial by Edward Nawotka
For a long time Barnes & Noble, the United States’ largest bookstore chain, was the bully of bookselling.
B&N was the bookseller whose massive expansion into superstores in the ’80s and ’90s was seen as the catalyst for the closure of numerous independent booksellers across the country. They were the booksellers who absorbed much beloved small chains -– Doubleday Book Shops and Bookstop, among them -– and systematically closed them down. They were the bookseller who moved aggressively into college stores and gutted them of their serious academic titles in favor of higher margin sidelines and sweatshirts. They were the booksellers who wanted to WIN!
It’s time to say it: Barnes & Noble may be the last, best hope for American bookselling….read more
By Edward Nawotka
In today’s lead story about RAND Corporation’s publishing program, RAND marketing director John Warren says, in reference to enhanced e-books: The author has the vision; the publisher has the marketing perspective. He goes on to say that the motivation for producing an enhanced e-book really starts with the author…read more