Dog-Eared and Dispatched: July 6, 2014
Welcome to another run-down of the book world’s brouhaha – we’ve got this week’s flops and flaps, including the case of the disappearing German book club, the visual representation of the dangers of digital piracy, and unheeded prophets (or, why we wish there really was a spokesperson for all the publishers). What more could you want? Anxiety about novels? Prizes? World Book Night? The latest update on the Colbert Bump? Check out the footnotes for more. On your mark. Get set. No wait. Just kidding. Okay: Read.
Bertelsmann (the media monstrosity behind Penguin Random House) is getting out of book selling: the last of their German bookstores and clubs will shut down by the end of 2015. As noted in the WSJ: “The company had been unwinding its way out of the bookselling game over the last several years, selling off its international book clubs in fits and starts and folding what remained of the German-language business into a separate DirectGroup unit, which was given few resources and little attention by senior management. Beyond 2015, the Bertelsmann book club will be available only in Russia, Ukraine and Spain, but no one is expecting these small niche markets to thrive.” Perhaps only readers in Russia, Ukraine and Spain will care about those niche markets, but Bertelsmann has bigger fish to fry: “In 2013, Bertelsmann and Pearson PLC created the Penguin Random House joint venture, making the combined entity the world’s biggest consumer publishing company. It publishes 150,000 titles a year across 250 different imprints. With Bertelsmann having moved firmly into the content business, the company is seeking to challenge online booksellers like Amazon on price, not by maintaining a rival distribution network that cannot compete against the Seattle-based company’s reach” (emphasis added). Oh, and Penguin Random House would like to announce the acquisition of Santillana Ediciones Generales from Santillana, in case you were worried about the breadth of the Bertelsmann media empire. [Galleycat, Berliner Morgenpost, The Wall Street Journal, MobyLives!, Penguin Random House Press Release]
Ebook piracy and DRM are vexed topics, but nothing that can’t be summed up in a clever infographic. This should probably have been in the footnotes section, but the issue is an important one, so we’re bumping it up to a feature this week. There are two main reasons: 1) the infographic has a list of sources (some of which are even reputable); 2) it gets at an important point: viz., DRM-free books and digital piracy do not necessarily hurt sales (indeed, quite the opposite). Perhaps someday you’ll be able to resell your ebooks. Someday. When publishers get their head around the idea. [Galleycat, MobyLives!]
We’re getting a little bored of the Amazon/Hachette imbroglio. So are many authors. But as Amazon’s share prices are down almost 20%, it’s nice to see that they have decided to make a statement somewhere slightly more dignified than their own Kindle forums. Of course we’re not going to quote the Amazon executive who drew the short straw of talking to the media (you can find that at The WSJ), but we did like this statement of the obvious: “the retailer was willing to suffer some damage to its reputation […] One industry executive said the high stakes for both sides are making it difficult to resolve the dispute. ‘Hachette would have come to terms if they felt that what Amazon was seeking was manageable,’ said this person. As for Amazon, ‘If they walk away without a victory of some kind, they’ll get punished on Wall Street’.” As our favorite publishing industry Cassandra, Dennis Johnson, points out: “it’s a historic moment. Amazon is not going to back down. Quite the opposite. Seemingly driven by signals from Wall Street that it’s tired of being a piggy bank for a company that hasn’t made money since its inception, Amazon has expanded its money grab: In addition to Hachette, it’s also recently pulled buy buttons from giant Swedish publisher Bonnier and Time Warner Video. And, as the rest of big publishing comes up for contract renewal, Amazon is going to demand from them the same onerous terms it’s demanding from Hachette, perhaps even worse — Amazon could grow harsher, as despots often do, in the attempt to stem a growing revolt. And those publishers will have little choice but to make the same decision Hachette made, despite fears that the DOJ will accuse them of colluding.” We hope that the big five publishers will take the brave step of standing up for “an open and fair marketplace, unconstrained by the chilling effects of monopoly,” but is that what these publishers stand for? Perhaps an oligopoly will do. [Publishers Weekly, MobyLives!, The Wall Street Journal, MobyLives!]
- Edan Lepucki spent three days signing 10,000 copies of her debut novel California; considering the original print run was only supposed to be 12,000… (click through to see the stop-motion film; it’s pretty cute). Cf. PW‘s coverage.
- Wringing of hands over the nature of the novel again, I see.
- A bookman of the people (although not gender-neutral, it’s a shame “bookman” is going out of style – bookperson? Doesn’t have the same ring, does it?).
- We were perhaps premature in doubting sales of The Fault in Our Stars, if the year-to-date 2014 sales numbers are any indication. We’re sorry.
- Donna Tartt and Doris Kearns Goodwin win Carnegie Medals.
- The US iteration of World Book Night is closing down, citing lack of funds.
- London is getting fifty bibliophilic benches.
- In case you were feeling too upbeat: publishing is sexist and racist.