Monday, September 17, 2012

Bookselling News from Summer 2012

Culled from Sheppard's Newsletter, No. 262-280, check out their online awesomeness: Sheppard's World

So, this is in reverse chronological order from oldest to newest news... due to my tardiness in reading and re-posting. Will attempt to be not so lazy in the future...

Gosh, I wish we had a domestic book news service of this caliber State-side.

International: Amazon forced to send customers to publisher's website
When Pottermore launched their e-book store at the end of March, the publishing industry stood still and watched in amazement. Pottermore did something that no one had dared trying before: they forced Amazon to send customers to their site to buy their e-books.
  Some publishers had been thinking about it in the past but concerns about the consequences this could have created to their revenues in case Amazon disapproved and retaliated proved too big to overcome. Controlling the purchasing stage of the user journey is extremely valuable not from a financial but from a strategic point of view: who sells the e-book owns the relationship with the customer.
  Pottermore showed that if you are big enough you can actually do it. This precedent is extremely important as it has shown to publishers that if they were to go down this route they could potentially succeed in shifting the power from the retailers back to them. Read more

[The key is a 'finder's fee'.  Could our trade learn from this?  Ed.]

USA: Another record sale
Batman #1 has been sold for $850,000 (£527,936) in a private transaction, setting a new record for the historic title. Heritage Auctions parted with the only CGC 9.2-graded copy in existence, earning the sixth-highest price ever paid for a comic book.
  "It's amazing that three years ago, no comic book had ever sold for even half that amount," said Ed Jaster, vice president of Heritage Auctions, which brokered the sale. "Heritage is holding a $4+ million comics and comic art auction in Dallas May 10 and 11. Many collectors and dealers will be watching to see how Golden Age comics perform there." Read more

International: Independent Bookshops thrive
In an article that focuses on shops selling new books, Jeannette Winterson claims that small independent bookshops are doing better than expected. The British author believes the big book chains are dinosaurs fated to extinction. "The little shops are coming back. It looks like they were not threatened by the e-trade in the way that we all imagined," she said yesterday. "I just did a 10-city tour of the States and the big shops have been closing, just as they have in Australia, and yet over and over, small booksellers kept saying to me, 'we're doing better'. I'm wondering if the problem has not been in the retail or the independent niche book stores, but in fact the big leviathans in the middle that have just been sucking up everything the way whales suck up plankton . . . they were never interested in books anyway. This may be a renaissance for the independents." Read more
[Can anyone add to this account?  Does this apply to your area?  Do let us know as our trade has also suffered from so many shops closing in town and city centres. Ed.] 

UK: Mein Kampf
Following one reader's strife in getting a copy to a collector in Canada (see Letters SC 261) it is interesting to see that the BBC has recently published an item about this book.
  There is no law against publishing Mein Kampf in Germany, but the copyright holders have until now refused permission. Now they are planning to publish a new edition of Hitler's book themselves and Stephan J Kramer, of Germany's Central Council of Jews, agrees the time is right. Contrary to what some people may think, there is, at present, no general prohibition against the publication of Adolf Hitler's book. Read more

UK: Original artwork for comic fetches $71,700
Heritage Auctions reports that the first-ever full artwork of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird sold for $71,700 on Friday, 11 May, at Heritage Auctions in Dallas as part of a Vintage Comics & Comic Art Auction. It sold to an anonymous buyer. Turtles co-creator Kevin Eastman consigned the artwork, created in Nov. 1983. Read more

International: A Revolution in the Printing World
This month witnessed the launch of a revolution in printing that may turn out to be as significant as the invention of the Gutenberg printing press - if entrepreneurs and analysts are to be believed. Read more about the next generation of digital printing. 

UK: More e-book hype
Nearly a third of British adults (31%) say they are likely to buy an e-book in the next six months, according to a new study from Bowker.
  According to report Understanding the Digital Consumer, the percentage of adults who have purchased an e-book has seen an almost threefold increase since February 2011. The Kindle has become the e-reader of choice for UK adults, with 40% of those reading e-books using the Kindle most often to do so. Tablet devices have more than doubled market share between February 2011 and March 2012, with 12% reporting that they use them most often. Read more

UK: Guardian's Survey - 'Booksellers: Tell us why your bookshop is special'
On 1 June, the Guardian will be publishing an interactive literary map showing the whereabouts of around 1,500 bookshops in the UK and Ireland. The newspaper has asked the booksellers among their readers to create an entry and description of their shop to the map. Please ensure you get the postcode right - that will help us enormously. Click here for the entry form.[With so many changes taking place in the world of bookselling, an entry can only help trade. Ed.] 

Spain: Amazon cited as the first and foremost among booksellers' enemies
In tough times, enemies appear at every turn. Or could it be that you need a scapegoat to account for all your troubles? The 71st Madrid Book Fair, which will open to the public on 25 May, has gone on the offensive against Amazon, the perceived culprit behind a deep decline in sales, which has dipped a dangerous 30% for fiction titles.
  "Amazon is the first and foremost among booksellers' enemies," stated Fernando Valverde, president of CEGAL, the Spanish Booksellers' Association, and secretary of the fair. Read more

[Does anyone in our trade have the same viewpoint?  Is Amazon a friend or foe? How do you see Amazon's contribution - or any other major website that caters for book dealers. Which is the best site for selling stock and is the same site best for buying? It is a vast subject but do let us know your views. Ed.]

UK: A very different slant on e-book readers!
In a poll of 1,863 people conducted in Britain this week, 34% admitted to having read erotic novels on the devices. Another 57% said that they used their e-reader to hide the fact that they were reading children's books, such as Harry Potter, whilst 26% said they used theirs to disguise their sci-fi books habit. Perhaps the most revealing statistic is that one in five said they would be so ashamed of their collection that if they were to lose their e-book reader they would not claim it back. Read more

International: Dustjackets are dead, or are they?
In a thought provoking article, Craig Mod sheds dry tears over the demise of the traditional dust-jacket and raises some interesting aspects for its future in the world of e-publications.
  'If so much of what book cover design has evolved into is largely a brick-and-mortar marketing tool, then what place does a 'cover' hold in digital books? Especially after you purchase it? But, more tellingly, even before you purchase it?' Read more

Wales: Revolt in Hay-on-Wye
Organisers of the internationally renowned Hay Festival are facing a revolt from traders who want a ban on Kindles, which they describe as 'the enemy of books'. Nobel prize-winning writers, politicians and musicians will descend on the small market town of Hay-on-Wye for the literature and the arts festival which started today. But the event, which attracts around 250,000 people from across the world, threatens to be overshadowed by book shop owners declaring war on Kindles. Read more

UK: Conan Doyle's home saved from redevelopment
Sherlock Holmes fans are celebrating the foiling of an attempt to convert the Victorian house of the great detective's creator into eight separate homes.
  Undershaw is a Grade II listed building at Hindhead Crossing near Haslemere in Surrey. During the decade he lived there from 1897, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote 13 Holmes stories, including The Hound of the Baskervilles. The building was later turned into a hotel, and has lain empty and dilapidated since 2005. Read more

USA: Houghton Mifflin in trouble
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Co., the publisher of authors from Mark Twain to J.R.R. Tolkien, sought bankruptcy protection to eliminate more than $3 billion in debt. The company, based in Boston, listed $2.68 billion in assets and $3.53 billion in debt in Chapter 11 documents filed today in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan. More than 20 affiliates also entered bankruptcy, including Broderbund LLC and Classroom Connect Inc. Read more

USA: Comics make owner a fortune
It may have started as a hobby, but one superhero fanatic is set to become a millionaire when he auctions off his prized collection of Marvel comics. The auction is currently taking place. Doug Schmell is selling all 682 of his comics hoard, which is thought to be the world's most complete collection and are predicted to fetch a staggering $3million. It includes pristine first editions of The X-Men, Fantastic Four, Daredevil and The Avengers - which introduced Wolverine, Iron Man and Captain America to the world. Read more. Also see website.

USA: George Washington's copy of the US Constitution for sale
George Washington once, in correspondence to a man in Boston, called the U.S. Constitution "the guide I will never abandon." And for the first time in nearly half a century, the first president's own copy of the Constitution and Bill of Rights -- complete with his notes and signature -- is up for sale.
  Christie's in New York City brought the artifact to Washington on Tuesday and will have the book on display in New York before putting it up for auction June 22. The item, which includes notes on the duties of the president, is expected to sell for $2 million to $3 million. Read more

USA: Book Thief Caught
On Memorial Day, two Mormon missionaries stopped by Rare and Out of Print Books and Art in Mesa, Arizona, to have their picture taken with a first edition of the Book of Mormon that was kept there. But when store owner Helen Schlie looked in the fireproof box where she had stored it three days earlier, the $100,000 text was gone!
Reports of the theft went viral. There are only 500 extant copies of the original Book of Mormon, so when one goes missing, it's big news. Read more

Michael Cole of UKBookWorld has launched, a website issuing free e-books for all iPads, tablet and laptop computers. Each e-book, concentrating on a specific subject-area, contains hundreds of clickable links direct to old, rare and out-of-print books currently available from the hundreds of UK-based booksellers listing their stock on UKBookWorld. 
  As Michael points out, e-books - like it or not - are here to stay and suggests that, rather than decrying their use and regarding them as the work of the devil, traditional booksellers should explore the possibilities they offer to promote their own wares. 
  These free e-books with their built-in clickable links straight to the point of sale of, and payment for, selected "real" books on-line is merely one way in which e-books can be used to promote the conventional booktrade. 
  See this new website's current range of subject-areas at  and download some of them to see how they work. 
  Contact Michael Cole direct through the website if you'd like to see more subject-areas added to his range or would like to explore the possibilities of doing something similar yourself and need some advice on any technical aspect.

International: Amazon holds the key
Dealers benefit by employing Amazon to help sell their stock - some more than others.  As every pan-national company grows so does the amount of information it can gather. This is true about the Kindle - and it appears, about the information garnered from selling books. Penelope Trunk highlights this significant aspect of power.
 She writes in her blog that she was blown away by how inept her traditional publisher was when it came to marketing it. (She does not name the publisher, but says it's a major household name.) This publisher had already paid her an advance, and as the time approached when the book itself would be published, she was stunned when her publisher originally suggested marketing through "newsgroups", and then through a LinkedIn fan page.
  When she took a meeting with them to discuss the issue, she realized that there were several fundamental problems with the publishers' ability to publicize her book. One is that publishers simply don't have any way of knowing who is actually buying their books anymore. Read more

USA: Macmillan knows that publishing is doomed
This headline is eye catching. Erin Griffith has published an article in which she covers the news story and all dealers handling academic and educational textbooks should read. Put simply: Macmillan has invested a huge sum in a project that should destroy the company.
  The publishing giant has given Troy Williams, former CEO of early e-book company Questia Media Williams, a sum greater than $100 million (he won't say exactly how much) to acquire ed-tech startups that will eventually be the future of Macmillan. The plan is to let them exist autonomously like startups within the organization, as Macmillan transitions out of the content business and into educational software and services. Through the entity, called Macmillan New Ventures, Williams plans to do five deals this year and 10 to 15 over the course of the next five years.
  With this cash, he's buying companies that will help Macmillan survive as a business once textbooks disappear. Read more

USA: Paper Passion - the scent of new books
Inspired by German publisher Gerhard Steidl's comments that his favorite scent was 'a freshly printed book,' Wallpaper magazine has launched Paper Passion, a perfume capturing the unique odour.
  The idea for the perfume was conceived at last year's Wallpaper Handmade exhibition in Milan, when the international design and style bible took inspiration from Steidl's comments in the film How to Make a Book with Steidl. The magazine subsequently asked Steidl to work with avant-garde perfumer Geza Schoen to try and bottle that scent -- while Chanel creative director Karl Lagerfeld came on board to design the packaging and come up with the name Paper Passion. The final result, which is featured in the annual Handmade issue of Wallpaper (out July 12), is going on sale online and in select concept stores, bookshops and perfumeries across the world retailing at $98. Read more

[I wonder which printing process has been imitated?  Books printed by offset litho, gravure, heat set litho, or even letterpress all have different odours.  What next?  E-readers being sold with a paper note pad and a bottle of perfume! Ed.]

UK: BBC's reports on bestselling titles
Sales of the printed edition of Fifty Shades of Grey now stand at 2,833,988, putting it in 11th place in a list of the bestselling books since records began in 1998. It is currently behind Dan Brown's Angels and Demons, but has now overtaken huge bestsellers such as Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Stephenie Meyer's Twilight and Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Read more.
  'Bared to You' by Sylvia Day (Penguin) is tipped to be the next Fifty Shades of Grey, and has already topped the New York Times Best-sellers list.
[Most of these will end up in charity shops but today's bestselling title is tomorrow's worst used book to stock. The hype for 'Fifty Shades' has been very very successful  and whether you approve of the book or not, this title and its imitators are helping to revive interest in the 'printed book' and that must have some benefits for dealers. Ed.]

Spain: VAT change on books
The gap between print books and e-books has widened recently, since Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy announced an increase in the VAT that affects e-books on July 11, among other unpopular austerity measures. Print books, on the other hand, continue to enjoy preferential status as 'cultural goods,' maintaining a VAT of 4%. In what seems more like a privilege to a segment of the industry than to culture itself, theater, music and movies, together with e-books, will all be taxed at a rate of 21%, which will either cut profits or raise prices in an already depressed consumer market. Read more 

USA: New study has parallel with used book trade
SIMBA's (the Society for Inventory Management Benchmarking Analysis) Information's new 'Trends in Trade Book Retailing' report suggests that the decrease in the number of bookstores that we saw in 2011 did not lead to a corresponding growth in e-book sales. This also suggests that the showroom effect - where customers discover books at a bricks-and-mortar store and then buy them online - is real, and 'etailers' have a vested interest in the success of physical bookstores. Read more

UK: Changes in the world of publishing (1) 
The UK Government is facing anger from authors shocked to discover that they are not entitled to royalties for books borrowed from libraries run by 'big society' - inspired volunteers. Such libraries are mushrooming as community groups are forced to step in to save their local libraries from closing as a result of spending cuts. The Society of Authors (SoA) warns that authors may take legal action against the government over copyright infringement on loaned books. Read more 

UK: Changes in the world of publishing (2) 
Following the success of Fifty Shades of Grey, which started out as an ebook series posted on a fan site by author EL James and has become the world's fastest-selling book, publishers are starting to move in on the profits generated by the thriving online platforms that serve unpublished writers. Read more

International: Crowds cheer as printed books win gold
Millions of viewers watched the opening ceremony for the Olympic Games in London. It was heartening to record that three printed books were depicted in the various scenes but books on screens! So printed books win 3 - 0!
  For those who did not catch the images: J K Rowling read extracts from J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan; Kenneth Branagh recited a passage from William Shakespeare's The Tempest, and a little girl was shown reading Peter Pan under the bed clothes with the aid of a torch. Here is a link to a the images and video clips.

International: Amazon's up and down in 2nd quarter's trading
Total sales at Amazon rose 29% in the second quarter ended 30 June at $12.83 billion. But operating income fell to $107 million from $201 million in last year's second quarter. Both figures were affected by foreign exchange rates. Read more
  After four months of increasingly astronomical sales, E L James's Fifty Shades trilogy has today officially outsold JK Rowling's seven-book Harry Potter series on Amazon's UK site. Read more

USA: Internet madness 
The Bookseller reported this week that the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy has been knocked from the top of the Amazon Kindle store by an e-book priced at 20p. Read more

USA: A novel way of funding bookshops
Increasingly, bookstores around the globe have turned to 'crowdfunding' sites like Kickstarter and Lucky Ant to raise cash in order to keep the doors open. The sites offer bookstores a respectable means of asking for what might otherwise be perceived as mere charity. The 'crowdfunding' sites give the bookstores an easy mechanism for giving those committing money to get something in return - be it a gift certificate, a bookmark, or an ongoing discount at the store. What's more it offers booksellers the opportunity to reach well beyond their local geographic area. Read more[An unusual way of attracting cash - and so far - confined to the new book trade. But is this technique of any help to book dealers? Ed.]

USA: 100 most sought after titles - ReportThe books the public see for sale at a local chain bookstore or purchase new online are a small fraction of the entirety of human print culture. In fact, 98 to 99% of all books ever published are now out of print. has published another top 100 list - the 10th annual list which dealers might find useful. Read more - to see the complete Top 100 titles of most sought after titles in the USA.[Interestingly, J R Hartley's Fly Fishing is still there - at number 24. Ed]

UK: Trends in book sales
The BBC, in reporting on The Bookseller statistics, highlighted the recent boom in sales of erotic fiction and that this is having an adverse effect on other subjects. The Bookseller claims that 'print sales of other fiction genres were down year-on-year, including crime novels, which have fallen 20 per cent'. And other genres to suffer include science fiction and fantasy which is down 25 per cent, and horror which is down 30 per cent. Eight of the top 10 bestselling novels last week were works of erotica. Read more

International: Dealer Survey to create a Top 10 best selling subjectsCan you help? With the current craze for erotica in the new book trade we would like to find out just in what subjects dealers find they sell most titles. Of course, this will change as time passes and we will pose the same survey quarterly. Our survey lists 27 subjects (as defined by dealers) but if you feel your top sales are in subjects not listed, please add the subjects where indicated. Please base you assessment on the numbers of titles sold and not by value. This survey will close 7 September after which the results will be published.
  To contribute to the Survey, download the document, complete and then return attached to an e-mail. Many thanks. 

International: Reading a printed book at bedtime
While we advocate, and encourage dealers to have their catalogues available for the alternative file formats to suit electronic reading devices (tablets, e-readers and smart phones) we are always looking for reasons to encourage 'book-buyers' to buy the printed book. Today, a survey has been published that suggests reading an e-reader at bedtime prevents the reader from falling asleep.
  That's according to a new study -- a teeny, tiny study -- at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's Lighting Research Center. RPI found that looking at a backlit screen, like those on iPads and other tablets, can lead to sleeplessness. Read more

UK: There's a future for books
The veteran founder and CEO of the Quarto Publishing Group, Laurence Orbach, is due to retire next year. Announcing the company's most recent financial results this week, Orbach has said, "the book- publishing ecosystem has been sundered" by the digital revolution. And yet Quarto's own sales in the first half of 2012 were better than expected. Orbach's firm is famous for large-format, illustrated titles: coffee table books, which could, in fact, be physical publishing's last, best hope.Read more

USA: Have sales of the e-reader peaked?
One report published this week, suggests that consumers are turning to the 'tablet' computer to read and watch films.
  According to the report, about 11 million e-readers will be shipped globally in 2012, down from 15 million in 2011. The number of shipped e-readers is expected to decline each year by a rate of 6.1%. Tablets, by comparison, will be much more popular in 2012 and beyond. In 2012, 102 million tablets will be shipped and that number balloons to 250 million. "There still remains an audience for a dedicated device that replicates the print reading experience," said Jeff Orr, senior practice director for global devices at Oyster Bay, NY-based ABI Research, the mobile device research firm that produced the report. Read more
[We include this news item as dealers' core business is adversely affected by these devices. Although they impact on used book sales, the sheer numbers of users suggests that dealers need to promote their stock on them as a percentage of tablet users will buy the printed versions of the books they like. Ed] 

USA: Bruce Willis wants to bequeath his library of iTunes
At first glance this news item does not affect our trade but the outcome could most certainly have a major bearing on the book trade's future for there are many parallels in the way each has changed and developed.
  We have frequently pointed out the advantages of the printed book over the alternative electronic formats - and one event may bring this home to the wider public that any publicity that dealers can muster. The possibility of a challenge by the well-known film star, Bruce Willis.
  The Hollywood action hero is, according to The Sunday Times, considering legal action against technology giant Apple over his desire to leave his digital music collection to his daughters. If he succeeds, he could benefit not just himself and his family but the millions who have purchased songs from Apple's iTunes Store. Willis has discovered that, like anyone who has bought music online, he does not actually own the tracks but is instead 'borrowing' them under a licence.
  The purchase of e-books et al include similar terms. Read more

[See Comment. Ed]


The possibility of Bruce Willis issuing a challenge to Apple over the right to bequeath his collection of iTunes to his daughters could be important to book dealers.  He wants the right to leave his unique collection to his daughters - but at present the terms of his purchase preclude this, as most publishers of music incorporate a non transferable license in their conditions of purchase - just as publishers of e-books do.
  It is worth contemplating the outcome.  Should he win his claim, then (inevitably as some fear) this will mean that e-books will also become transferable - and therefore attract a financial value and lead dealers to buy and sell them.  This would have an adverse impact on our markets.  But if he loses, then printed books could retain their importance and therefore a brighter future.  Either way, the publicity will help our cause and make people realise that printed books are much better value.

But dealers ought to take advantage of the ever changing types of technology that the public are adopting.  Tablet computers are fast becoming more popular than e-readers - as are 'smart phones' which look likely to replace the conventional land line in the home.
  The number of catalogues that we have converted to file formats that users of tablets, smart phones and e-readers can download is growing daily.  Have you thought about taking advantage of our service?  There are over 100 million devices that people on the move are using every day and a good percentage will also be looking for printed books.

UK: Disturbing statistics
Children are reading fewer novels, comics, magazines and websites, according to a National Literacy Trust study of 21,000 children and teenagers. While many enjoyed reading, some 17% said they would be embarrassed if a friend saw them with a book. A government spokesman said the findings showed the need to help young people develop a love of reading... More than a fifth (22%) said they rarely or never read in their own time and more than half (54%) said they preferred watching television to reading. In 2005 more than three quarters (77%) of children read magazines, but now only 57% do. Read more

UK: Dealers with shops beware
David Eckhoff, a self-published author, left cards advertising his novel The Royal Factor, which he self-published with Amazon, in Waterstones' Bluewater branch. The cards directed readers to buy the novel, in which the prime minister decides to replace the royal family with one chosen through a televised talent show, from Amazon, and Eckhoff was quick to receive a response from Waterstones telling him the cards had been thrown away.
  He then started to notice new reviews of his novel appearing on Amazon. "One majored on The Royal Factor being 'complete inane rubbish' and 'xenophobic' and the other accusing me of plagiarising John Steinbeck! I was expecting some people not to like it, it's a first novel - but two 'troll' reviews, on the same day when all previous reviews had been positive?" said Eckhoff. "Both reviews were long, rambling and vitriolic but neither contained any examples from the book, as if they had been written without having read it . I put one of the reviewers' Amazon names into Google. It turned out also to be a Twitter 'handle' . The person's name was easy to track down from there, and it became clear that she was a bookseller at Waterstones, Bluewater." Read more 

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