Tag Archives: Barnes & Noble

The Glamour’s Worn Thin

(Cross-posted from Mad Genius Club)

I’m a little late posting this morning because I’ve been going round and round about what to write. Dave did such a wonderful job yesterday discussing his thoughts on Mike Shatzkin’s blog about what he thinks will happen if the Department of Justice’s possible antitrust investigation into Apple and five of the big six publishers causes the agency pricing model to disappear. I’ve already covered my thoughts on Scott Turow’s letter about the issue. Then I made the mistake of reading some of the comments from the “enlightened” on it and, well, you guessed it. I’m weighing in again on the issue.

I’ll admit, part of the reason for this post is a thread started by what I can only term a publishing troll on one of the boards I read every morning. This person posted a defense of big publishing comment that included a statement that the people “attacking” legacy publishing are doing so because they don’t have the talent to be published by a “real” publisher.

I beg your pardon? Oh, and that grinding sound you hear is the sound of the teeth of innumerable mid-listers who have suddenly been cut loose by their publishers because, even though their books are still on the shelves more than a year after publication and even though there are continued demands from their fans for more in a series, the publisher claims they just didn’t connect with the public. And that evil laugh you hear is me as I contemplate what will happen when these same mid-listers, free of the fear of upsetting their publishing masters, finally demand full audits and the publishers are caught between a rock and a hard place because of their “creative” bookkeeping methods.

So, yeah, I’m in a pissy mood this morning. I’m tired of legacy publishers thinking they can pull the wool over the eyes of authors who should know better. I’m tired of them also thinking readers, those good folks who buy their products, as so dumb they can’t see what is happening. With that in mind, I’m going to revisit Shatzkin’s blog and some of the sources it cites.

From the opening paragraph:  But if this does mean the end of the agency model, it would seem to be a cause for celebrating at Amazon and a catalyst for some deep contemplation by all the other big players in the book business.

Duh. Of course it will be “a catalyst for some deep contemplation”. The problem is, they should have been doing this “deep contemplation” years ago. Market trends and technology have been changing for the last three plus decades and yet the publishing industry hasn’t really embraced these changes. The publishers should have been concerned when the big box stores came onto the scene and forced the smaller, locally owned bookstores out of the market. But publishers weren’t. Oh no, not at all. They embraced these new stores, loving the fact they could do larger orders and write bigger checks. But now, with the economy and other trends causing these large stores to close down, publishing is running scared and blaming Amazon for the problems faced by these brick and mortar stores. But the truth of the matter is, Amazon is only one small part of the whole equation. Unfortunately, neither the big box stores nor publishers did any “deep contemplation” before things became so bad their entire companies are in danger of failing.

Agency pricing, for those who have not been following the most important development in the growth of the book market, enabled the publishers to enforce a uniform price for each ebook title across all retail outlets

Okay, pardon me while I laugh for a bit. Is he really saying agency pricing is the most important development in the growth of the book market? Sorry, but no. E-books are the most important development in the growth of the book market. If you’ve followed the sales numbers over the last few years, the only segment of the market to consistently grow, usually in triple digit percentage points, has been e-books. The only thing agency pricing has done is artificially inflate the price of certain e-books and that, in turn, has opened the market to small press published and self-published e-books.

This was Apple’s desired way to do business, and it addressed deep concerns the big publishers had about the effect of Amazon’s loss-leader discounting.

Okay, whether he meant to or not, he just admitted that agency pricing is something dreamed up by Steve Jobs and agreed to by five of the big six publishers. And, if you read the link included in the quote above, you will see this wonderful piece of logic from Macmillan: The agency model would allow Amazon to make more money selling our books, not less. We would make less money in our dealings with Amazon under the new model. Our disagreement is not about short term profitability but rather about the long-term viability and stability of the digital book market. Am I the only one to see all sorts of wrong in this statement? How in the world is lower profits for the publisher–which would mean less money for authors under most contracts–be good for the publisher? How is this sort of an agreement going to safeguard the “long-term viability and stability of the digital book”? It makes absolutely no sense. My opinion is that they went along with this because they wanted into iBooks/iTunes and the only way to do so was to accept Steve Jobs’ terms and that meant forcing Amazon, B&N and other e-book retailers to adopt the agency pricing model. Remember, the key to the agreement with Apple was that these publishers would not allow their e-books to be sold for less anywhere else. So Amazon isn’t the only market where these publishers would be making less money. Funny how folks seem to overlook this little item.

Back to Shatzkin: Although the WSJ article and Michael Cader’s follow up in Publishers Lunch make no “agency is dead” declaration and there are quotes from publishers and others indicating that there are a range of possible outcomes, including a version of agency that is modified to allow some discounting, everybody in the industry now has to contemplate what it would mean if the agency model is legally upended.

Again, why weren’t they already considering this? For one thing, the contracts signed with Amazon, B&N, etc., weren’t for perpetuity. There would soon be a time when they came up for renegotiation. For another, The European Union, not to mention more than a few states’ attorneys general, were already looking into the legalities of agency pricing. The fact that the industry hasn’t been considering “what ifs” simply shows how out of touch it is with the reality of the market these days.

To Amazon, it would mean they would be free to set prices on all books again, including the most high-profile and attractive ones that come from the big trade houses. That is an opportunity they are likely to seize with loss-leader discounting of the biggest marquee titles.

Ah, evil Amazon. Conducting its business as, gasp, a business. The ability to sell a product wanted by the public at a lower price has been an age-old tactic of shop owners and merchants. It gets folks through the doors, be they physical doors or cyber doors. And isn’t this basically what the brick and mortar stores did when they burst onto the market? They were able to price hard covers much less than the mom and pop bookstore could. That’s why the public initially loved these larger stores. It’s also why publishers loved them. These lower prices meant more units being sold. Funny how the publishers have forgotten that.

To Barnes & Noble, it would mean they have to devote cash resources to ebook discounting that they might have preferred to dedicate to further development of the Nook platform, maintaining the most robust possible brick-and-mortar presence, and improving the user experience at BN.com. 

This very well may be true. The problem with this statement is that it omits the part about BN waiting too long to enter the e-book market. It forgets that BN spent too much time selling third-party e-book readers instead of developing and putting on the market its own e-book reader. It also ignores the fact that the BN online presence is not user friendly, especially not when it comes to e-books. It also lacks the vibrant online community Amazon has built.

Unconfirmed stories abound that B&N is about to announce an international expansion. Whether that will produce cash flow immediately or require it for a while is not yet known. For B&N’s sake, it would always better if it were the former, but if they’re about to fight discounting wars, it might be critical.

I seem to be saying, or at least thinking, “too little too late” a lot as I re-read Shatzkin’s post. BN needed this international expansion long ago. The fact that it may, finally, occur probably is too little too late. I’ll note here that this possible expansion is for e-books, not brick and mortar stores. Again, why has it taken this long? I’ll also note that the source Shatzkin cites is from August of last year. So far, to the best of my knowledge, that expansion has yet to occur.

To Kobo, it would mean that they also will need to devote cash resources to subsidizing price cuts to match Amazon. With their new ownership by Rakuten, they should have the capital they need to fight this battle. They must be glad that deal got done before agency was upended.

Nope, sorry. For those of you familiar with Kobo, you know they don’t always match Amazon prices. There are a number of titles Kobo offers for substantially higher prices than the same title is offered for on Amazon. And, before you ask, I’m talking about legacy published e-book titles. So I don’t see them trying to match prices with Amazon except on certain titles.

To Google, it would mean that the bookstore service piece of their ebook business will suddenly be highly challenged. Many independent stores might be pushed out of the ebook game completely; it certainly would be extremely difficult for them to support competition with Amazon’s prices. To Google itself, with their new Google Play configuration, it means they will have to both spend more margin and more management energy to be a serious competitor in the retail marketplace. There’s no clear evidence that they have the interest at the top to do that, although they certainly would have the resources.

Yes, I’m laughing again. Google’s e-book business is already highly challenged. They’ve dropped the number of stores able to take part in their program. Their interface for authors and small presses leaves a lot to be desired. As for Google Play, why is Amazon the only reason they would have problems? Doesn’t Shatzkin remember a little company called Apple and its iTunes store? Or does he not see the parallels between Google Play and iTunes?

To Apple, it would mean that their entire iBookstore model is in question. They apparently didn’t want to take on all the normal responsibilities of a merchant, which would include setting prices. Now they may have to.

Oh, cry me a river. If Steve Jobs hadn’t presented the agency model to publishers and said “accept or else”, we’d not be having this discussion. But then, I’m just a bitter small publisher employee who can’t put our e-books directly onto iTunes/iBooks because we use PCs and not Macs, something required to use their interface. And, btw, they are the only storefront for e-books that we’ve come across that requires a certain computing platform in order to upload a file.

To all the big publishers, including Random House (the one of the Big Six not being sued, because they stayed out of agency for the first year and therefore were not considered part of the “collusion”) it would mean that they will have to painfully reverse the re-pricing and systems adjustments they went through to implement agency in the first place.

“Painfully”? How can it be painful if they can return to a pricing model where they made more money? Remember the quote from the Macmillan post above. It was admitted then that agency model pricing meant less money for publishers.

Smaller publishers and distributors might be beneficiaries if agency is eliminated, but they might not. The agency model is a great advantage for those publishers who are able to fully implement it. But that is only six publishers — the Big Six — because Amazon has simply refused to let anybody else sell to them that way.

I ask again, how is ia great advantage for publishers when these same publishers admit they don’t make as much money from agency pricing as they did before? As for Amazon refusing to let anyone else use agency pricing, good for them. It means Amazon is looking out for the economic well-being of the company and making sure it keeps its shareholders happy. It also means Amazon is looking out for its customers. But that’s a bad thing I guess because, gasp, it isn’t saving legacy publishing from the follies of the boardrooms in NYC.

That creates problems for the smaller publishers but an even more threatening one for distributors. All but the Big Six, if they want to sell to both Amazon and Apple, must operate a “hybrid” model, selling Apple on agency terms and Amazon on wholesale terms. The two are inherently in conflict. What is ultimately a threat to the distributors is that distributees that desire agency terms, and many would. might seek distribution deals from one of the Big Six. (It might be coincidental, but it is worth noting that IPG, the company having a fight with Amazon at the moment over terms, is a distributor.)

Okay, here is where I have to watch myself. It doesn’t create a problem for small publishers. We set our own prices both with Amazon and with Apple. If one lowers the price for promo reasons, the other can and does the same. As for the two being inherently in conflict, thank Apple. As noted before, Jobs required the first five of the big six to accept agency pricing or not sell in iBooks. Blaming Amazon for something it had no control over is ridiculous.

As for the threat to distributors, get real. I’ll admit distributors have a role in publishing, but not when it comes to e-books. Sorry, but there is no reason a small press has to use a distributor to get into Amazon or BN. The process is simple and relatively pain free to upload titles to either of these stores. Given the proper Apple computer, I assume it is for iTunes/iBooks as well. So I have no sympathy for IPG or other distributors moaning the fact Amazon won’t let them go to agency pricing. As an author I have even less sympathy because I know publishers take out the cost of distribution before figuring royalties. Why would I want to lower my already too small royalty payments?

Of course, we don’t know how the Big Publishers will respond if they’re forced off agency. It’s long been my opinion that the 50% discount for ebooks is unworkable. It leads to ridiculous and unrealistic retail prices. (Publishers operating on the hybrid model have to have two retail prices: one on which to base the wholesale discount and another at Apple operating agency-style. It’s crazy.) Would the big publishers, if they couldn’t do agency, keep the 30% discount and their current prices? Would they go back to the 50% discount and jack the suggested retail prices back up? If they did the former and nothing else changed, the smaller publishers could be at a much greater disadvantage than they are now.

Ah, the economic double-speak. First of all, small publishers won’t be at a “much greater disadvantage” because we will still be pricing below major publishers. Why? Because our overhead is much smaller. Also, for those of us with a limited paper-side publishing, we aren’t trying to artificially prop up the hard copy publishing arm with the digital arm. And that is exactly what the legacy publishers are doing. They are trying to use their e-book sales to keep the print side alive.

The other thing Shatzkin keeps overlooking is the fact that publishers aren’t making as much per sale under agency pricing as they did before. So, going back to the previous pricing method would actually give them more money in their pockets. How that is a bad thing, I don’t know.

Over time, the biggest losers here will be the authors. The independent authors will feel the pain first. Agency pricing creates a zone of pricing they can occupy without much competition from branded merchandise. When the known authors are only available at $9.99 and up, the fledgling at $0.99-$2.99 looks very attractive and worth a try. Ending agency will have the “desired” effect of bringing all ebook prices down. As the big book prices are reduced, the ability of the unknowns to use price as a discovery tool will diminish as well. In the short run, it will be the independent authors who will pay the biggest price of all.

This guy really should try his hand as a comedian because he’s killing me here. First of all, do any of us really see legacy publishers pricing their books under $5.99, much less as low as $2.99? And let’s forget about the fact that they already have e-books in the $7.99 range.  The loss of agency pricing will simply allow best sellers and new releases to come down in price to something more readers will be willing to pay. This will be, in my opinion, back in the $9.99 range and there simply aren’t that many self-published or small press published titles that are in that range.

With regard to his comment that the lower prices will make it harder for “unknowns” to price their titles low enough to be discovered by the average reader, wrong again. I would be very surprised if legacy publishers will price any book, much less a new release, at less than $7.99. Remember, they are using e-books to prop up their print divisions. If they price low enough to shut out these so-called “unknowns”, they will have to do some major cost cutting somewhere and that isn’t going to happen. They like their plush offices and they’ve already cut out or outsourced so much of the editorial process that it isn’t funny.

But, in the long run, all authors will just get less. They will join the legion of suppliers beholden to a retailer whose mission is to deliver the lowest possible price to the consumer.

Authors already get less. Most authors are not paid royalties based no cover price, not really. Publishers take out expenses. So, if an e-book has a price of $12.99 and the publisher gets 30% of that under agency pricing, that starts the share of the pie the author gets to look at at $3.90. Believe me, the author is not getting much of that at all. Once more, I remind you of what the Macmillan post said. Agency pricing means less money for publishers than the previous pricing plan paid. Less money for publishers means less money for authors.

Seth Godin has recently made the argument that this is simply inevitable. Perhaps it is. The laws of supply and demand would support that contention. But from my personal perspective, I don’t like seeing the government hasten the process along.

Could this be because he works with/for publishers? I am not, and never have been, one to want our government interfering in business. However, we do have laws and the Department of Justice is tasked with upholding these laws. If there has been collusion between the publishers and Apple — and I think it is pretty clear there has been — then those laws need to be applied to them.

The truth of the matter is simple. Agency pricing has hurt publishers and hasn’t done what they wanted–it hasn’t saved their print divisions. Those sales continue to fall while e-book sales continue to rise. Amazon is not the only reason for the problems publishers face. Despite what one commenter on the thread that got me started on this this morning said about publishing’s business model not being broken, it is. Until legacy publishers address ALL the issues facing them and not just try to save things by artificially inflating e-book prices, the industry will continue to flounder. Just a few of the issues they need to address are:

1. the failure of agency pricing to do as they wanted

2. low royalty rates to authors

3. cutting of mid-list authors, traditionally the work horses of the industry, as a cost-cutting means to allow them to continue paying higher advances to their so-called best sellers (note here that those advances have fallen just as have the advances to mid-listers)

4. lack of push or promotion for books

5. decline of physical bookstores (yes, Amazon has had a hand here, but so has the economy, over-expansion of the big box stores after pushing the locally owned stores out of the market, mismanagement of the big box stores, etc.)

6. decline in the quality of their product (publishers have cut their editorial staffs, often use interns to do copy edits and proofreading, lower quality bindings and paper, etc)

7. economic downturns that have people unable or unwilling to pay $10 for a paperback or $30 for a hard cover

There are a number of others as well. But agency pricing is not the savior of the industry. Amazon is not the big bad that a few outspoken publishers and authors would have us believe. Publishing is plagued by what could almost be termed a perfect storm, a combination of factors that it failed to see coming and that it has failed to effectively deal with once those factors could no longer be denied.


Filed under Musings

Borders wants more & Royalties Revisited

What would a Friday be without the weekly (I know, sometimes daily and hourly) update on the Borders bankruptcy?

Bloomberg reported yesterday that Borders wants to find $50 million more in financing.  Mind you, this is in addition to the more than $500 million debtor-in-possession loan it has already secured.  The reason?  Because they aren’t selling as much as they’d forecast.  Gee, imagine that.  Have a bad business plan — oh wait, they haven’t filed their new business plan/restructuring plan with the bankruptcy court yet — and close a third of your stores and threaten the close of even more and your sales go down.  Who’d have thunk it?

Bitter?  You bet.  I love bookstores.  The Borders nearest to where I live is one of those closing, despite the fact the store was posting a profit.  Some very good folks have lost their jobs even as Borders was asking for permission to pay its executives millions in bonuses.  Sorry, I don’t believe in rewarding folks who aren’t getting the job done while punishing those who are.

Any way, there’s a lot of subtext in the Bloomberg article.  How much is true, I can’t say.  I expect a lot of it.  Unfortunately, I can’t even say I’m surprised.  This is a company that should have seen the writing on the wall more than two years ago and either didn’t or failed to do anything about it.  Now they want publishers and other suppliers to trust that they’ll pay their bills — after already proving before the bankruptcy filing that they won’t.  As far as I’m concerned, it’s time for them to prove they have a clue by filing their new business plan/reorganization plan instead of holding their hand out for more money while telling their creditors to bend over and trust them not to kick them in the rear again.

On another front, Kristine Kathryn Rusch has a follow-up to her post about royalty statements.  I wrote about the original article earlier this week.  As I said then, I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Rusch yet, but I have been following her blog for quite awhile now and I urge every writer and small press publisher/editor to do the same.

These two articles by Ms. Rusch point out problems I’ve heard about from writer friends for a long time.  No one has really rocked the boat because traditional publishing was the only game in town.  Now, however, with the advent of the Amazon KDP program as well as Barnes and Noble’s PubIt program, authors now have an alternative.  Throw in the growth of small press e-publishers and, well, the landscape is changing.

I won’t try to paraphrase what Ms. Rusch says in her articles.  Instead, I suggest you read them and the comments that follow.  Then, if you are traditionally published, check your royalty statements.  If you have access to your Bookscan numbers, look at them and compare them to what your statements say you sold.  Then, if you feel there is an under-reporting of your sales by your publisher, report it to your professional organizations and urge them to take action.

One last note.  Over at Mad Genius Club, there’s a writing prompt contest going on.  The winner will receive their choice of two titles from NRP, including Chris McMahon’s upcoming novella Flight of the Phoenix.  Go check it out.  You have until 0600 EST Sunday to get your entries in.

(Cross-posted to http://amandasgreen.wordpress.com/ )


Filed under Uncategorized

Monday Morning Thoughts

I hope everyone had a great weekend.  But now it’s time to get back to work — at least for me.  So, to start the week off, here are a few links that might be of interest.  And, of course, there is an update on the Borders situation.

There is an interesting article in the Washington Post about how the publishing industry needs to take a page from the music industry and get rid of DRM.  I have to agree.  We didn’t see the music industry end when they finally did away with DRM and settled on a generally recognized format.  Did it change the industry?  Sure.  But that would have happened anyway simply because of new technology and demand from the buying public.

As a consumer, I’d love to be able to buy any e-book without DRM.  It wouldn’t even matter if the e-books were offered in different formats.  With no DRM applied, it is easy to convert from EPUB to MOBI to LIT or LRF, etc.  It would allow me to move an e-book from my kindle to my iPod touch to whatever.  That way, if I happened to be going somewhere and didn’t want to take my kindle with me, I could at least continue reading my e-book on my iPod touch, which certainly fits into smaller purses — or pockets — than the kindle does.

As an editor, I wholeheartedly agree that DRM needs to go away.  Oh, I can hear the screams of anguish now about how that would lead to an increase in piracy.  Sorry, but I don’t buy it.  If e-titles are easily available, the demand for pirated copies will decrease.   I’ll lay odds on it.

For those of you who might not follow the kindle boards over at amazon.com, there’s an interesting discussion going on about why e-books cost so much.  Now, you do have to wade through the grouchy responses about the agency model and others who won’t pay more then X-amount for an e-book.  But one response in particular caught my eye this morning.  This particular poster simply responded that e-books cost so much because they are still books.

I have to agree with him to an extent.  In particular, I do believe an e-book is no less a book than a hard cover is.  However, there are differences in the cost of production, distribution, etc.  And those cost differences should be passed on to the reader.  Pricing an e-book at the same — or higher — price than a hard cover will come back to bite the publisher on the butt.  (And hurt the author at the same time.  See the comments and posts about Michael Connelly’s The Fifth Witness last week when the digital version cost more than the hard cover versions at both Amazon and B&N.  Since then, the publisher has lowered the price of the e-book by $2, making it less expensive than the hard cover version.)

Finally, our Monday morning update on the Borders bankruptcy proceedings.  According to Publishers Weekly, the figure for unsecured creditor claims is in excess of $500 million.  That thud you heard was my jaw dropping to the ground.

Borders also argued for — and was granted — the ability to continue its contract with an outsourced call center.  The figures for this are in the article.  Go take a look.

In fact, just go read the article.  There’s a lot of information in it, much of it that still has me shaking my head.  The one thing it does include is the fact that the U. S. Trustee filed an objection to Borders’ request to pay its execs bonuses.  To say such plans are premature has to be the understatement of the year so far.

On the NRP front, we will have two new titles out Wednesday.  Check back for more on that later.



Filed under announcement, Uncategorized

More from Borders & E-book Readers Revolt

I know, you thought we’d be able to get through the day without Borders intruding.  Nope.  Not today.  There is news from Borders here in the US as well as the Australian version of Borders as well.

On the home front, Borders has announced it is leaving Ann Arbor and moving its headquarters to “cheaper” digs in the Detroit area.  Ann Arbor is where the first Borders opened.  Now, the move isn’t final.  It is part of the plan being presented to unsecured creditors today.  We’ll see what happens.  My concern is, given the real estate market in Michigan — and assuming Borders owns their current headquarters — they are setting themselves up to leave property they very well may still owe on and incur even more debt with the new headquarters.  But, as I said, we’ll see what happens.

With regard to Borders in Australia, REDGroup has announced they will be closing 16 stores.  These closures will impact more than 500 employees.

In related news, also from Australia, 25 independent booksellers have terminated “their franchising agreement with A&R because parent company RedGroup Retail, now in the hands of corporate insolvency group Ferrier Hodgson, would not allow them to redeem customers’ gift vouchers.”  Here’s a hat tip to these retailers for trying to do what’s right by their customers.  I have to admit, I’ve been expecting Borders here to suddenly decide not to honor their gift cards.  So far, they’ve proven me wrong.  I really hope they continue to do so.

Finally, if you ever doubted certain publishers are clueless when it comes to e-books and price points, check out this article.  Kindle and Nook owners have launched a campaign of sorts to down-rate Michael Connelly’s latest book, The Fifth Witness.  Not because the book is bad.  No, this all comes down to cost.  The TFW hardcover on Amazon costs $14.28 while the e-book costs $14.99.  On B&N, it costs $14.73 for hardcover and $14.99 for the e-book.

This is a perfect example of the idiocy caused by the agency model that came into being because Steve Jobs wouldn’t let the big publishers sell through the iBookstore unless they agreed to not let any other e-tailer sell their books for less.  So, the price for the e-book is set by the publisher.  There can be no variation, no sales and no promotional giveaways of the book unless instigated by the publisher.

But that’s not the case for the hard cover — or for the soft cover when it comes out.  Those prices are set by the retailer.  This is good for the consumer because it lets us shop around for the best deal.  It’s good for the publisher because, gee, it lets more people buy the book.

What the publisher doesn’t seem to understand is that they are only going to tick folks off by selling a digital copy of the book for more than a physical copy.  The response has been fast and furious.  For a book that came out 1 day ago, there are 107 reviews on Amazon.  18 are 5-star reviews.  3 are 4-star.  84 are 1-star reviews.  That gives an average of 2 stars for this best selling author.

Now, I don’t necessarily agree with giving a book a bad review for its price.  However, at some point, the publishers need to start paying attention.  At the same time, some of these reviewers need to pay attention to the product page.  Instead of blaming Amazon — and BN — for the price, they need to realize the price was set by the publisher.

So, once more we are on the merry-go-round of e-book pricing wars.  Who knows where it is going to end.


Filed under Uncategorized

Monday Morning Mash-Up

The weekend is over.  My son is back to university and, thankfully, texted late last night to let me know he thinks most of his stuff is going to be okay (for those who missed it, after he’d come home for Spring Break, his dorm room flooded and we’d been told his computer, printer and a lot of other stuff had been ruined).  So, fingers crossed, things aren’t as bad as we’d been led to believe.

There were several interesting articles posted the last few days I thought I’d link to.  I’m going to start with the list of Borders stores announced as closing the end of last week.  I know I posted the link earlier but it didn’t always work, so, here’s trying again.  Click here to see the list of 28 super-stores (mainly) announced as closing in the latest round of  filings coming out of the bankruptcy court.  One word of warning, this list includes ALL the stores listed for closure.  The newest ones will have notations in red that they are scheduled to close by late May.

In keeping with the bookstore news, there is this article about Barnes & Noble’s sale of trade books last year.  B&N was #1 in trade book sales and the outlet taking the biggest hit was Walmart.

In other news — and I am just passing this along.  This is by no means an endorsement because I haven’t tried the software myself nor am I receiving any remuneration for posting the link — Scrivener has released a beta Windows version of its writing software.  Scrivener has been a favorite of a number of writers for years but has been tied to the Mac format.  Now it has released a beta version of the software for those writers using PC based and, iirc, linux based systems.  Here is a nice write-up about the software as a whole.  If you are interested in looking at the beta version, check out this link.

If you are going to be traveling through the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport any time soon, check this out.  An e-book library has opened in the airport and it currently has 400 titles available.  The one hitch is that the titles have to be read in the airport; they can’t be downloaded and taken away.  Still, it is an interesting development in the ongoing e-book revolution.

More later.  Have a great Monday!



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Filed under Uncategorized

Borders, B&N and more

Let’s just get right to it.  Borders has announced it will make the decision this week on the fate of up to 75 more stores.  As I noted in yesterday’s post, these closures will come from the so-called super-stores.  CEO Edwards doesn’t anticipate closing any of the company’s smaller stores, including those at airports.  Of course, I don’t think he anticipated having to file for bankruptcy either, so don’t color me reassured just yet.

But what is more troubling is that Edwards has admitted that Borders still doesn’t have a business plan and he doesn’t anticipate having one until next month.  WHAT?  He and the rest of the Borders execs are deciding what stores to close — including some that were making a profit while keeping open others that were not — without a business plan in hand?  Sounds to me like he subscribes to the closing the barn door after the horses have gotten out school of thought.  Neither these decisions reassures me that Borders will emerge from bankruptcy and be able to thrive in the current market.

But there are others who apparently believe Edwards’ assertions that Borders will emerge from the cloud of bankruptcy in the near future.  After news broke about Edwards’ statement, stock for Barnes & Noble fell 8.9%, dropping stock prices to $10.70 a share.  Whether this was a knee-jerk reaction to what Edwards said or something else has yet to be seen.

With regard to the issue of libraries and e-books, the NYT has an article detailing not only the public uproar caused by Harper Collins’ decision to limit the number of times an e-book can be checked out to 26, but also how other publishers are looking at the issue.  Go check it out and let me know what you think.

Then there is this article that absolutely blew my mind this morning.  Simply put, the former president of Tribune Broadcasting, Ed Wilson, told participants at the annual meeting for the AAP that publishers need to create their own form of HULU.  That’s right HULU.  Now, part of me can only stare at the post in stunned silence wondering how in the world he can expect publishers who are digging their heels in and doing all they can to slow down — or even destroy — the e-book movement to agree to doing something that would take them into an operating system they have never before seen used in publishing.  This is the industry that hides its head in the sand whenever technology allows for new forms of delivery until they are pulled out by consumers and forced to embrace it.

Then there’s the part of me that’s laughing hysterically at the thought of these different publishers banding together and working together.  Sure, the big six have done it with regard to the agency model of pricing for e-books.  It’s entirely possible they might see this HULU-esque venture in the same terms.  Who knows.

Then there’s the author in me who wants to run screaming from this suggestion because I see it as yet another way publishers can try to hold onto my rights even after a book is no longer in print.  If you surf the web and read the blogs, you can find entry after entry by authors who have tried in vain to get their rights back from publishers after years of receiving no royalties or seeing reports where they have supposedly sold far fewer numbers than their contract says is needed to be considered “in print”, only to have the publishers refuse.

Now, do I see a publishing oriented HULU type of platform happening any time soon?  Not really.  But still, they ought to know better than to put stories like this where I can read them first thing in the morning.  It’s going to take me hours to get all the coffee out of my keyboard.

Now, must go find more coffee and get started on the rest of the work day.


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Some links, some comments and a giveaway

Crawling out from under the rock, the weary editor looks around and then smacks her forehead, realizing she missed the beginning of Read an E-Books Week.  More on that later.

First, however, I want to point you to a good article from Time about why Barnes & Noble has, so far, managed to avoid the pitfalls that seem destined to materially alter — if not doom — Borders.  The author points out the prominent display of the Nook and its accessories in his local B&N, showing how the company recognizes the need to embrace the new technology and demands of the buying public.  But more importantly, at least in my opinion, is the fact that the B&N management team has managed to maintain their financial health — having $900 million more in assets than they do in debt.  Remember, at the time of the Borders’ bankruptcy filing, Borders owed approximately $40 million more than it had in assets.

Does this mean B&N is out of the woods?  No.  But it means they are working hard to stay a vibrant company.  Here’s hoping they manage to do so.  We need bookstores and the loss of even one is not something I want to see.

Then there’s this article from USA Today about how librarians are responding to Harper Collins limiting the number of times an e-book can be checked out to 26.  (For some background, read here.)  Some librarians are calling for a boycott of HC and using various social media sites to rally support for their cause.

This quote says so much:  “It’s never pretty when a publisher decides they have to destroy books in order to save their business model,” Kelly Clever, a librarian at Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pa., wrote on Twitter.  It also points out something many of us have been saying for so long — that the traditional publishing houses simply aren’t willing to adapt their business models to the changing times.  Instead, they try strangling the new technology in an attempt to either force it into the existing model or to make it so unattractive for their customers that it dies a premature death.  “It would almost seem as if (publishers) are trying to force us back to print only,” Sarah Houghton-Jan, deputy director of the San Rafael (Calif.) Public Library, wrote on her blog (librarianinblack.net). “Oh what a sad day for publishers. You are killing your own business.”

Librarians aren’t the only ones up in arms by HC’s decision.  Cory Doctorow has a very good post about it.  One of the points he makes is what I mentioned in my earlier post — that, despite HC’s assertion, most library books are not pulled from the shelves as unusable after 26 check-outs.  Go take a look at what he has to say.

Now for the giveaway.  Leave a comment.  At least one person will be chosen tomorrow to receive any one of our titles they want for free.  Check back tomorrow for the winner or winners and to find out what e-book or short story we will be offering for free tomorrow.



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Tuesday Morning

This is an exceptionally busy week here at NRP, so blogging will be sporadic at best.  This is what happens when everyone gets sick the end of the month.  It makes the first week of the next month even more hectic than usual.  But enough of that.  There are a couple of stories that caught my interest browsing the internet that I want to share.

Let’s start with what is probably the biggest news of the week so far.  The last of the major publishing houses to hold out against the agency model has finally given in.  Random House has announced it will be adopting the agency model of pricing starting this month.   In other words, RH will set the price for e-books instead of the retailer.  What this means is that we very well may see an increase in price for their e-titles because Amazon, B&N, etc., will not be able to discount the titles as they have in the past.  Will this mean a slow down in the number of e-books purchased?  Probably not.  It will mean an increase in gnashing of teeth and cursing of publishers on the different discussion boards. While it will — supposedly — even the playing field between the major sites like Amazon and BN and the independent retailers, that remains to be seen. It also remains to be seen if this change will mean a higher margin of profits for the retailers as RH claims.  Note, they don’t say a word about how this will impact the authors — surprised, anyone?

What is truly interesting is that RH is not going to the agency model in the United Kingdom.  It is clear from this link that RH is more worried about how the UK courts will rule on the agency model than it is on how the various investigations into the agency model will turn out here in the US.

Barnes & Noble is looking at its third-quarter postings and trying to figure out how to balance the print and digital side of its business.  They have also announced that they don’t plan, at this time, to close any additional stores beyond the few it has already announced.  In fact, it may actually move into some of the locations being shut down by Borders.  Hopefully, this means they are taking a hard look at their operations and trying to adapt to the changing marketplace.

Finally, here’s a link for “The eBook User’s Bill of Rights” sent to me by one of our authors, Taylor Lunsford.  I have to say, Librarian in Black pretty much hit the nail on the head.  Most publishers need to figure out that readers want to be able to read their e-books on any device and not be hampered by DRM.  They want to be able to loan an e-book like they do a real one and to be able to give it away.  I’m not sure about the resale but, but that’s only because I haven’t taken enough time to really think that one through.  But an e-book is a book as much as a printed book it.  A book is the product that is produced by the author.  The rest is just window dressing.


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Some Random Thoughts and Links

Well, it’s Sunday morning and I’m find myself in a quandary.  I didn’t write the blog early yesterday because, well, I was hoping to find something that wasn’t related to Borders or publishers-doing-stupid-things.  So, here I am on Sunday morning trying to get enough coffee into me to function and figure out what to blog about at the same time.

Let’s start with the obligatory Borders report.  Mark Evans has an interesting list of six reasons why Borders went bankrupt.  While I don’t necessarily agree with what he has to say, he makes some interesting points.  Author Melanie Benjamin talks about where she was and how it affected her when she first learned about the Borders filing.  The bankruptcy trustee has named the unsecured creditors committee.  Included on the committee are publishers and landlords.  This article points out that one of the issues Borders will have to deal with is making sure it is closing the right number of stores AND the right stores under the circumstances.  Also, this committee will have something to say about it.  Add that to this article that seems to confirm my suspicions that there will be more closures in the very near future.

In other news around the publishing world, Random House announced it is offering early retirement to employees over 50 who have been with the company at least 5 years.  This offer expires April 15th.  Of course, they are also quick to say that this is NOT an indication that RH is going to downsize.  I really wished I believed them.  But, in my experience, when companies start offering this sort of a deal, particularly with employees who have not been there for long, it is a sure sign of downsizing in the future.

Barnes & Noble released its third quarter figures for 2010.  It doesn’t surprise me to see that their sales were pushed by digital downloads and tech.  Barnes & Noble has done a lot of things wrong, in my opinion — most importantly having played a large role in driving out the independent booksellers.  But they did two things very right, things Borders should have done.  They embraced the internet and have had a strong online presence for years and they have a branded e-reader that is associated with their name.

On the ongoing front of will we ever get an industry standard in e-book formats,  Japan has made a step in that direction.  It was announced last week that their publishers and electronics companies had adopted EPUB 3.0 as their standard.  Unless I am completely wrong — very possible, of course — it isn’t going to be long before we see two main formats:  EPUB and MOBI.  The other formats will drop by the wayside.  Whether we will see EPUB become the industry standard or if it remains split between the two will be something to be seen over the next 5 years or so.

In other EPUB news, and this does fall under the heading of publishers-doing-stupid-things, comes this.  Harper Collins once again proves, at least to me, that it doesn’t support e-books nor does it support public libraries.  To start, there aren’t that many e-titles available for download from libraries.  Now there will be even fewer.  Why, because of this idiotic decision by HC.  A decision that flies in the face of mainstream publishers’ very frequent cry that e-books aren’t real books.  It is this argument that publishers use to justify DRM, saying that when we pay for an e-book we are only buying a license for it.  But, with the decision to limit the number of times an e-book can be checked out, they are saying it should be treated as if it has the same lifespan as a “real” book.  Can you say, have your cake and eat it too?

Finally there’s this article about the increase in piracy of e-books, specific to this article Kindle e-books.  I think what frustrates me the most about articles like this is the fact that it completely ignores the fact that piracy happens to ALL books, not just those released in digital format.  How quickly they forget about how the last Harry Potter book hit the internet in PDF before it was released in stores.  When’s the last time they brought up the brouhaha that surrounded Stephenie Myer when one of her manuscripts was leaked on the internet AND SHE THREW IT AWAY.  But what really bothers me is how so many of the publishers who rant about e-piracy use the argument about how it is stealing from their authors and yet these same publishers do not give accurate accountings of e-book sales, nor do they give authors a reasonable royalty on e-book sales.

Finally, on a personal note, I want to thank everyone who has supported Naked Reader Press and our authors.  It dawned on me today that we put our first books up for sale just about 6 months ago.  It’s been 6 months of hard work but it has been worth it.  So thanks to everyone who made it possible.

(Cross-posted to Mad Genius Club)

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Wednesday Morning

This is going to be a quick post.  I have a meeting in less than and hour I have to finish getting ready for.  But I promise to be back this afternoon with another post and an announcement or two.

First, for those of you who love DC Comics and haven’t seen this yet, they have dropped the price of the standard 32-page comic book from $3.99 to $2.99.  This is for the ongoing titles.  Jim Lee, the co-publisher, explained it this way:  “For the long term health of the industry, we are willing to take a financial risk so that readers who love our medium do not abandon the art form.”  I applaud Lee and the others at DC because they’ve done what so many mainstream publishers haven’t done — they’ve listened to their fans who said $3.99 was too high of a price point for what DC was offering.  Good on you, DC.  Let’s hope others in the industry follow your example.

Barnes & Noble has released its third-quarter numbers and it makes for interesting reading.  Digital sales led the way during the quarter, outselling print books.  Even so, no dividend will be issued.  Check out the full details here.

Finally, there are two more links about Borders that might be of interest.  The first is Borders’s Fall from Grace. This is a nice summation of what happened to force Borders into bankruptcy.

This second link is interesting, but I’ll admit I have issues with some of what that author has to say.  However, instead of discussing my take on the article just yet, I’ll leave it to you to read.  Leave any comments you have and we’ll discuss them.

Until later!

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