Late Night Library

Dog-Eared and Dispatched: March 27, 2016

Author protests the intrusion of Death before writing is complete
Engraving by Edward Hull, 1827

As spring break winds to an end (and as writers and small publishers gear up for AWP this coming weekend), we take a look at some of the numbers from 2015 and delve into the state of book sales and digital publishing. We’ve also got some plump footnotes about butterflies, robot authors, unsold furniture, and the kitschification of poetic legacy. Ready? Steady… Read!

An illustration from a famous fableIn case you didn’t notice, 2015 was a fairly good year for books. Trade book sales reached $6.6 billion between January and November, according to the Association of American Publishers’ report. Adult titles showed the greatest increase, up 9.5% in November, which makes a change from the past few years, when YA titles were in the vanguard; indeed, YA sales were down 3.8% for 2015, compared to 2014 – the lack of a a prominent replacement for the Divergent/Hunger Games/Twilight/Harry Potter series no doubt being a factor (should one choose to speculate). Also, in case you were wondering, Penguin Random House cleaned up financially in 2015. Long story short, the merger is going well for both companies, and favorable exchange rates haven’t hurt, either. Publishing the translations of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up probably sparked a bit of joy in the accountants, too. [Galleycat, Publishers Weekly]

Readers on the metro
Newspaper, Kindle or iPad | CC Marco Derksen

The New York City Department of Education is still looking to to provide an online marketplace for students to buy ebook versions of their textbooks and, although spokespeople on both sides are still in the bland commenting phase of negotiations, it appears there has been a bit of a thaw in the conversations with Amazon, which had reached an impasse in August 2015. In other digital book news, Humble Bundle, a distributer of ebook and digital game “bundles” (including works by Neil Gaiman), posted revenues of $6.1 million from ebooks in 2015, with $1.2 million of that revenue being passed on to charity. Meanwhile, in the UK it seems that self-publishing is on the rise, at least in the ebook marketplace. Self-published titles now account for 22% of ebook sales by volume in 2015, up from 16% in 2014 (although, as we note above, overall ebook sales are down (a least in the US), which hints that perhaps publishers are stepping back… or setting prices above consumer comfort levels). [MobyLives!, Publishers Weekly, The Bookseller]


  1. HarperCollins has signed an audiobook distribution deal with hoopla, which serves digital audiobooks, movies, and music to 950 library systems across the United States.
  2. Loci of ambivalence and (99) other ways of looking at Kafka.
  3. Joseph Brodsky and the dangers of kitschifying one’s poets.
  4. “Nabokov’s creatures are a blissful, winged confluence of earth and air, appetite and beauty” – on the novelist’s drawings of butterflies.
  5. Saul Bellow wants to sell his (very charming) desk, but no one wants to buy it, not for ten grand, anyhow.
  6. Short stories written in part by AI made the long list for a Japanese fiction prize; they didn’t win, though.

Posted on: March 27, 2016 · Blog, Dog-Eared & Dispatched, Homepage ·Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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