Dog-Eared and Dispatched: January 19, 2014
Good morning, literary citizens! In this week’s rundown of the wild world of book culture, Barnes and Noble faces an onslaught of lawsuits transpiring from their latest sales figures and an earnings discrepancy within their 2011 and 2012 reports. Meanwhile, Apple and Chief Justice Cote continue to lock horns in a battle some are beginning to suspect may truly be a never-ending story. On a more progressive note, the Los Angeles Public Library is set to make history this month by becoming the first public library in the nation to offer a high school diploma program. And lastly, we give a quick peek into one facet of the three-day Digital Book World Conference and Expo that took place this week.
In the wake of Barnes and Nobles’ (B&N) dismal sales figures this Christmas season, the company is facing a number of class action suits filed by law firms hoping to represent the company’s shareholders. Among their list of grievances, the firms are claiming that B&N misled investors in their 2011 and 2012 fiscal reports by restating their earnings, a falsehood that led to $9.2 million less in losses than the company had originally stated. This issue is currently be investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission. In addition to this, firms like Ryan & Maniskas are claiming that B&N “misrepresented or failed to disclose: (1) Barnes & Noble’s Nook e-book reader sales had dramatically declined; (2) the Company would shutter its Nook manufacturing operations altogether; (3) the carrying value of the Nook assets were impaired by millions of dollars; (4) the carrying value of the Nook inventory was overstated by $133 million; (5) the Company was expecting fiscal 2014 retail losses in the high single digits; (6) Barnes & Noble had over-accrued certain accounts receivables; (7) Barnes & Noble was unable to provide timely audited financial results for fiscal 2013; and (8) the Company might be forced to restate its previously reported financial results.” The firms are offering representation to any stock buyer who made purchases between February 25 and December 5, and they are currently seeking out lead plaintiffs for their respective lawsuits. Thus far, Barnes and Noble has not commented on the matter. [Shelf Awareness, Publishers Weekly]
In a supremely unsurprising turn of events, Judge Denise Cote has denied Apple’s request for a stay of their external monitor or the disqualification of Michael Bromwich as the keeper of this position. As reported by Publishers Weekly, Cote “ordered Apple attorneys to follow the process for resolving disputes laid out in her final order—Apple is to raise any objections with the monitor to the DoJ within 10 days of the action; meet and confer with the DoJ on resolving the matter; and, if no resolution comes, to write the judge a letter two pages or less, so the matter can be mediated.” Apple is already in the process of filing an appeal against Cote’s decision to retain Bromwich as the company’s monitor. This comes in addition to the appeal Apple is filing against the call for external monitorship in the first place. By now, the pattern between these two forces seems set: appeal, deny, repeat. As Melville House Marketing Manager Dustin Kurtz put it, “What we are left with is a big ugly public squabble in which nobody—not Apple, not Bromwich, not the overly vindictive DoJ, and not even the judge, come out looking good.” [Publishers Weekly, MobyLives]
The Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL) is putting plans into motion this month to become the first public library system in the nation to offer an accredited high school diploma program. According to LAPL Director John Szabo, this is simply the next step of the transformative process libraries worldwide will undergo as they integrate into the digital era, moving away from being just a “repository of books” to a “full educational institution.” The LAPL system currently contains 72 branch libraries and 22 literacy centers. Teaming up with Smart Horizons, a private online learning company, Szabo hopes the program will grant diplomas to 150 adults within its first year, with such an undertaking costing the library an estimated $150,000. “The exciting thing about public libraries is they are places people trust,” Smart Horizons’ Howard A. Liebman said. “So people, who may have felt ashamed about not having a high school diploma will feel safe going there to get one.” Szabo is attempting to make this feeling of safety and community all the more manifest by training librarians to assist adult learners and creating spaces for the program’s students to collaborate. To become a student within the program, individuals must pass an evaluation test to qualify for a library-sponsored scholarship. Following this, students will be asked to choose a specific career path to follow during their time within the program so that their assignments may be geared toward that profession. [Huffington Post, MobyLives]
Digital Book World’s 2014 conference and expo took place January 13-15 at the Sheridan Hotel in New York City. Among the topics discussed at the conference was the leveling off of e-book sales and the increasing number of hybrid readers who want to make purchases within a combination print/digital market. Nielsen Book Director Jo Henry revealed that “more people have been buying e-books than reading e-books—the implication being that people are buying e-books simply because they’ve got the device.” Despite the hope such trends and Amazon’s sluggish publishing performance may inspire, Brad Stone (author of The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon) stressed caution and continued vigilance: “There might be an inclination in the industry or at Digital Book World to take comfort or glee in the declining pace of change in the book business. I can assure you that Bezos and his colleagues do not believe that the pace of change in any business is stagnating. The one constant is that [Amazon] does not give up. It’s fairly ruthless and self-absorbed in how it tries to disrupt existing order.” [Shelf Awareness]