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March 10, 2013

Bookish Has a Dirty Little Secret

bookish_logo1-250x57By Nate Hoffelder

When Bookish launched a couple weeks back I didn’t think much of the site. The press release claimed that Bookish would be a great community that would help readers find their next book, only there was no community and the discovery engine was less than amazing.

I suspected at the time that Bookish would turn out to be little more than a marketing tool for the 3 publishers who financed the site, and today I learned that my suspicions were correct.

Peter Winkler, writing for The Huffington Post, noticed that all of the books promoted on Bookish were published by either Hachette, Penguin, or Simon & Schuster.

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US indies launch DRM lawsuit

posmanThree US independent bookshops have launched a lawsuit against the big six publishers and Amazon in America claiming that by signing a contract to sell e-books with DRM through Amazon, they are combining to restrict the sale of e-books through indie stores.

Fiction Addiction in South Carolina, Posman Books in New York [pictured] and Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza are taking the action against Hachette, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Penguin, Random House, Macmillan and Amazon claiming that the publishers signed contracts with Amazon to sell e-books with DRM that was “specifically designed to limit the use of digital content” to Kindle devices, according to Publishers Lunch.

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February 12, 2013

Book site Bookish launches

bookish1| By Charlotte Williams

Book retail website Bookish has launched, featuring content including book recommendations, extracts, articles by a dedicated editorial staff, and partnerships with the Onion and USA Today which are aimed at driving readers to the site.

The initiative is backed by Hachette, Penguin and Simon & Schuster in the US. Users can sign up to receive newsletters, book and author news and create personal bookshelves, and share content over social media and email.

The recommendation engine on the site is fed by Bookish editors, authors, book editors and publishers.

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April 18, 2012

Book Publishing’s Real Nemesis

Eric Holder with Sharis Pozen, acting assistant attorney general, discussing the price-fixing case.

By DAVID CARR

The Justice Department finally took aim at the monopolistic monolith that threatened to dominate the book industry. So imagine the shock when the bullet aimed at threats to competition went whizzing by Amazon — which not long ago had a 90 percent stranglehold on e-books — and instead, struck five of the six biggest publishers and Apple, a minor player in the realm of books.

That’s the modern equivalent of taking on Standard Oil but breaking up Ed’s Gas ’N’ Groceries on Route 19 instead.

Last week, the Justice Department sued in United States District Court in New York, charging that Apple, Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin and Simon & Schuster had colluded to fix e-book prices. (Hachette, Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins have already agreed to settle.)

The suit has its roots in 2007, when Amazon released the Kindle and began selling some of the most sought-after books for $9.99 in order to bolster sales of its device. Not surprisingly, booksellers and publishers hated this price with the force of 10,000 suns because it made physical books sold for $25 or more seem outrageously overpriced.

Under the wholesale arrangement with Amazon, the publishers received half of the list price, which yielded better money, but gave them no control over the pricing of their product. With the introduction of the iPad, publishers got a crack at remaking their deal because Apple allowed them to set the price and then took a cut of 30 percent.

That so-called agency model developed with Apple allowed publishers, not just Amazon, to set the price and in a move that caught the interest of the Justice Department, they all came up with pretty much the same price. (Why the crumbling book business is worthy of so much attention from Justice while Wall Street skates is a broader question we’ll leave for another day.)

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November 6, 2011

Inside Books: The bother of embargoes

Terry Pratchett

By Emily Rhodes

Last week there were a few bookish grunts of dissatisfaction when Terry Pratchett beat Martina Cole to the Number One slot.

Pratchett’s Snuff sold 31,904 copies and Cole’s The Faithless only 31,136, yet there were cries of foul play. This was because some bookshops had broken the embargo on Cole’s book and sold it the week before publication. The feeling was that if only those bookshops had played by the rules and held off, then the previous week’s sales of 1,473 would have been added to the 31,000 and Cole would have beaten Pratchett to the top. (The fact that this was, in any case, the second week for Snuff – with staggering first week sales of 54,687 – is apparently beside the point.)

At first glance, one can see why Cole and her publisher Headline were miffed. Publishing a major title, with huge marketing and advance investment, only to be pipped to the post by Pratchett must be irksome to say the least. And knowing that they could have won, if only a few naughty booksellers hadn’t sold copies ahead of publication date, must make it all the more galling.

But, on closer inspection, what is there really to be so sniffy about? It’s not as though those 1,473 copies don’t count. Headline and Martina Cole still get their respective shares of sales revenue. Moreover, as those copies were sold in bricks-and-mortar bookshops, rather than on Amazon, the share for the publishers would have been rather a lot bigger. Thanks very much for the extra cash, I’d say, who cares about Number One?

As a bookseller, I have never, ever, been asked which book is Number One. Some customers, of course, ask for the bestsellers, or for one particular book I’d recommend, but never for the national Number One. It’s not like music’s singles chart – after all, no one tunes in to the radio on Sunday night to listen to the countdown for books. They can read it in The Sunday Times but that’s more-or-less it. (Incidentally, chart positions inside bookshops tend to reflect nothing more than publishers’ marketing budgets.)

Really, the only people who care about whether or not a book is officially Number One are the publishers. When I worked for a big publishing house, if a book from our division reached the top, an excited email was sent around announcing champagne in the breakout area at 5pm. For the abysmally-poorly-paid underlings such as myself, this was one of the most glamorous moments of the job. Champagne! And some – invariably beige – snacks. (Sadly, as the recession hit, the champagne changed to wine and beer, and the snacks to crisps. Eventually the drinks disappeared altogether, and we were left with nothing more than a celebratory email.)

In the battle of Pratchett vs. Cole, the publishers are none other than Doubleday and Headline, divisions of Random House and Hachette respectively. These are the biggest fishes in the publishing pond.

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November 4, 2011

Amazon Launches Lending Library Without the Big Six

By Calvin Reid with additional reporting from Rachel Deahl

As rumored for months, Amazon is getting into the digital book lending business, announcing the launch of Kindle Owners Lending Library for Amazon Prime members. Amazon Prime members—who pay $79 a year for free shipping on products and streaming movies—can now borrow one book a month for free. But there’s a hitch: none of the big six publishers, all of which use the agency model to sell their titles, are participating in the program.

Nonetheless, the model isn’t quite the all-you-can-eat lending subscription service many observers had rumored. Amazon Prime members can only borrow one book at a time, even though the service claims to have “no due dates” for finishing the book. While Amazon touts that the service offers “thousands” of books to borrow and at least “100 New York Times bestsellers,” none of the titles in the program are from the largest trade publishers–Random House, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin and Hachette. The program features titles from a variety of mid-size houses that continue to sell their books using the wholesale model, including W.W. Norton, Scholastic, and titles by well-known self-published authors such as Seth Godin.
Publishers using the agency model have complete control over the pricing of their books and, as some have noted, the model does not allow for the price to be changed or discounted. With the wholesale model, publishers cannot dictate final retail pricing. Amazon’s statement in launching the lending program said it is either paying a flat fee to publishers to feature its titles, or paying the standard wholesale discount for each book that is borrowed.
Nevertheless, PW has learned that some non-agency houses have declined to be a part of the lending program. One mid-size publisher that sells wholesale said the “fee” Amazon mentions is a “lump sum” payment that the publisher must allocate to its authors. The fee is said to be determined by Amazon by looking at the 12-month sales history of the titles in question. And according to our sources, some agents are starting to complain about the payment plan.
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September 28, 2011

Asterix the Gaul co-creator draws an end to France’s comic hero

Filed under: Authors — Tags: , , , , , , — Bookblurb @ 7:42 am

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Albert Uderzo gets pragmatix, hanging up his pen at 84 for younger illustrators to carry on the legacy.

Albert Uderzo, co-creator of Asterix the Gaul, is hanging up his pen at the age of 84.

But it is not the end of one of France’s greatest comic book heroes – Uderzo has found several successors to carry on his legacy.

The Italian-born artist, who dreamed up the indomitable warrior with his scriptwriter friend René Goscinny in 1959, said he was “a bit tired” after 52 years of drawing and that it was time to hand over his creation to younger talent.

The announcement on Tuesday came on the day that publishing house Hachette celebrated the sale of 350m Asterix books around the world, making the diminutive hero one of France’s biggest-selling exports.

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August 11, 2011

Class-action Suit Filed Against Apple and 5 Book Publishers Over E-book Pricing

By Jordan Golson

A class-action lawsuit has been filed against Apple and 5 of the 6 major book publishers, alleging they “colluded to increase prices for popular e-book titles to boost profits and force e-book rival Amazon to abandon its pro-consumer discount pricing.”

The lawsuit, filed this afternoon in the Northern District of California claims Apple and Hachette, HarperCollins, MacMillan, Penguin, and Simon & Shuster illegally worked together to enable an “agency model” as the standard for e-book sales, rather than the “wholesale model” that is used in the physical publishing industry. The complaint argues that the strategy was unfair and anticompetitive because e-book prices rose after the agreements were in place.

From the lawsuit:

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August 3, 2011

Untitled by Anonymous

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , — Bookblurb @ 5:25 am

By Josie Leavitt

When I  got an email with the above subject, I couldn’t help but laugh. The vagueness was not cleared up by reading the email. My Hachette rep, bless his heart, did his best to include more information by including a sell sheet with the email. Sadly, it didn’t help clear up the matter.

The email said, “The inside story of life with one of the most controversial figures of our time.” Maybe I’m feeling a little too cynical, but that “figure” could be any one of at least 20 people I can think of. Some I care enough about to want to sell this behemoth in my store (only 10 books per carton), and others I wouldn’t want gracing the front door of my shop.

I can’t help but wonder how this no-info allowed marketing campaign is going to do anything more than irritate.  It’s a little crazy to ask all the book buyers to hope this controversial figure will sell in their market.

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May 11, 2011

Hachette leads the way in R&J WHS summer picks

11.05.11 | Lisa Campbell

Hachette has the lion’s share of titles featured in the W H Smith Summer Richard and Judy Book Club list. Five out of the eight books featured in the celebrity couple’s high street retailer promotion are from the publishing house—including two from Headline and one each from Sceptre, Hodder and Virago.

Sarah Winman’s When God Was A Rabbit and The Death Instinct by Jed Rubenfeld are the chosen titles under Headline, with The Poison Tree by Erin Kelly representing Hodder, The Novel in The Viola by Natasha Solomons is the title for Sceptre, while The Return of Captain John Emmett by Elizabeth Speller features for Virago.

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