Dog-Eared and Dispatched: November 9, 2014
Hello, hello, hello! Happy Sunday! Welcome to week’s rundown of bookish news. Ebooks are the theme of the week, as Open Road and HarperCollins come to terms over Julie of the Wolves. We also take a look at the latest trends in ebook subscription services, as well as taking a peek at what the big publishers are up to. The footnotes range from Amazon to Wittgenstein, and also manage to cover the elections. Ready? Read!
As we mentioned way back in May, Open Road Media has been engaged in a court battle with HarperCollins in a copyright dispute over Jean Craighead George’s 1973 bestselling children’s book, Julie of the Wolves. Open Road claims George granted them ebook rights, while HarperCollins says that their contract with the author, with excruciating prescience, gave them exclusive digital rights to the work. The court found that HarperCollins’s contract could be interpreted in their favor, but that Open Road’s claims were not without merit (and of course their cover for the book was better, but that wasn’t brought up at the hearing). Rather than awarding HarperCollins more than a million dollars in costs (the vast majority of which was their attorneys’ fees), the court ordered Open Road to pay $30,000 in damages + $7,040 in costs – their income from the “unauthorized” ebook being $39,207.76. As Publishers Weekly notes: “While ostensibly a copyright matter, the case was always more about e-book royalties,” and about authors’ rights in face of publishers’ force. Bring in something about limited distribution channels, and this case would be a gathering of all the current publishing bogeymen. [LNL, The Bookseller, Publishers Weekly, The New Yorker]
While we’re still thinking about ebooks, there’s quite a bit going on over on the digital front – a battle no one seems to know how to fight (probably because it’s not really a battle and these military metaphors for business are silly). Simon Dunlop of Russian ebook subscription service Bookmate (coming soon to an English language device near you), has a think piece pondering if ebook subscription services will last; not surprisingly, he concludes that they will – if they have enough social features: “As good as these algorithms may be, we feel they cannot replicate the success of recommendations from friends, family or like minded readers. Intuitive social functionality combined with the convenience of a subscription model is a winning formula and we’ve found the value it creates in the eyes of the consumer makes a subscription model viable.” Oyster appears to agree with Mr. Dunlop, as they have announced a new feature for their subscription platform: lists. Yes, now you too can make lists of books you like or want to read on Oyster, just like you could on Goodreads or Librarything or, back in the day, the late lamented Readmill (which I, for one, still miss). Then of course you can share the lists. If any of your friends are on Oyster, which might be a pretty big if. Not to be outdone, Scribd has also announced a new feature, taking on Amazon/Audible with the addition of, yes: audiobooks. We assume Oyster will add audiobook integration next year, right about the time Bookmate starts to make a real play for the English-speaking ebook subscription market. [ITProPortal, Galleycat, Readmill (alas), The Bookseller]
In corporate publishing news, HarperCollins posted an increase of 24% in their revenues, due mainly to their acquisition of Harlequin and the success of the Divergent series. Their ebook revenues were also up, by a healthy 28%, and now account for 22% of their revenues. Simon & Schuster, meanwhile, posted flat earnings, with an 11% loss in sales for the most recent quarter; perhaps they are hoping their new contract with Amazon will help. Random Penguin is still working on its post-merger restructuring, and it looks like it will involve closing their offices in France and Germany; the work will be done in London instead. We eagerly await further rumblings as the large publishers reposition themselves. [The Bookseller, Publishers Weekly, MobyLives!]
- Atavist Books has been shuttered, raising questions about the future of enhanced ebooks.
- Amazon vs. Hachette: a war for the future of publishing?
- What happens when a book really changes your mind?
- Speaking of changing minds, how did libraries fare in the elections?
- On overcoming writer’s block and cultural criticism.
- On the poetical implications of Wittgenstein.
- Clearly the world needs more short stories about typewriters.
- If you need help procrastinating on your NaNoWriMo project (and also).
- Joshua Ferris has won the Dylan Thomas Award for To Rise Again at a Decent Hour.