Tag Archives: libraries

News from the publishing world

Let’s lead off with Borders — again.  If you didn’t see my post yesterday (over on my personal blog) about what Borders has been up to, the short version is it is offering educators a “special” offer to pay for the privilege of self-publishing their own e-books and hard copy books.  If you do the math, it even looks like this is a very special deal in that it will cost educators more than it does the average Joe off the street.  Oh, and remember, you can do exactly what Borders and Bookbrewer are offering at a fee for free from Smashwords, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.   For more, check out my post from yesterday.

There’s an interesting article from NRP about the future of libraries and e-books.  Just as the publishing industry is struggling to adapt to e-books and figure out where they fall in the grand scheme of things, so are libraries.  More and more patrons are demanding the ability to check out e-books in formats that work on their particular e-reader.  That costs the libraries money, money they often don’t have.  Throw in the decision by Harper-Collins to limit the number of times an e-book can be checked out (26 times) before a new license must be purchased and, well, that’s more money and more patron frustration — think about how you’d feel to be on the waiting list for the latest best seller only to be told you can’t read it because you were unlucky number 27.

The last paragraph of the article is the telling one — and one that publishers as a whole must also answer.  What do you think?

Finally, the internet has been guardedly optimistic and excited by news that J. K. Rowling was considering finally bringing the Harry Potter books out in digital format.  My advice?  Don’t hold your breath.  I don’t see it happening any time soon.  Despite an earlier report, Rowling’s representative — as well as her publisher in the UK — say there is no forthcoming announcement about digital versions of the best selling books.  Whether this is a stroke of marketing genius by Rowling and her people or not will wait to be seen.  It does, however, once more raise the hopes of her fans only to dash them.

More to come later…have a great day!

— Amanda

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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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Monday morning thoughts — Borders, HC and more

Yes, more on Borders.  You knew it would happen.  But I’ll get to it in a minute.  There are a couple of other items first.

Kate Sheehan has a wonderful post explaining why so many librarians are calling for a boycott of Harper Collins after the publisher announced it would limit the number of times an e-book could be checked out of a library.  In this thoughtful and insightful post,  Ms. Sheehan reminds us how the library serves its patrons and is not in the profit-making business.  Yet, even as the library serves its patrons, it is actively working to protect the rights of the publishers and authors.  But, in this day and age of financial constraints and shrinking budgets, to put an arbitrary — and unreasonable, in my opinion — limit on how many times an e-book can be checked out before it is “destroyed” is foolishness.  I applaud Ms. Sheehan for her stance and for explaining it so well.

Then there’s this post about changes going on at Waterstone’s.  Dominic Myers, the head of Waterstone’s, is taking the bookseller on a trip back to the past.  And all in order to survive.    From The IndependentWhen he took the helm, Myers rightly cited “stifling homogeneity” as a source of his company’s ills. Its financial woes are forcing Waterstone’s, however tentatively, to return to what made it so popular in the first place: knowledgeable staff, hospitable stores, and a love of literary fiction with popular potential.

All I can say is:  YES!  It has long been my complaint about the big box stores here in the States that the knowledgeable and friendly staff the local independent bookstores employed became a thing of the past as the big chains took over the market.  Over the last five to ten years, something else was lost — neighborhood or even regional specific titles because stocking decisions were suddenly being made on a national level and not local.  So the store in Dallas was the same as the store in Denver that was the same as the store in Boston.  I applaud Myers for his willingness to look back at what made Waterstone’s and other stores great and to try to adapt those methods to today’s market.

And now for Borders.  We’ve finally heard from Borders president Mike Edwards.  As I read this article, I can only shake my head and wonder why the decisions he is so sure will save his company weren’t made months or years ago.  Then I read further on and find my sense of disbelief and, yes, resignation growing.  Here are some specifics from his interview:

Saying he hopes to come out of bankruptcy in August or September, Edwards notes, “You’ve got a window, and you have to act decisively.”  True.  But why did Borders wait so long to take actions that were obviously needed?  If decisive actions were necessary — and I think we can all agree they were — why did it take filing for bankruptcy to bring them about?

He also says Borders may close up to another 75 stores, although the number may be as low as 20 – 25, depending on how lease re-negotiations go.  Again, why wait so long?

In papers filed last Thursday by the unsecured creditors, it is alleged that Borders won’t have the funds to place orders in the late summer/early fall for the the holiday season.  If true, this would be disastrous for the bookseller.

The same filing alleges that the loan Borders secured from G. E. Financial was more than necessary and resulted in $16 million in unnecessary fees.  It is also possible that, under the current terms of the loan, Borders won’t be able to secure the full loan amount of $550 million.  Again, not good.

Borders is now receiving stock from publishers, mostly on a cash basis.  Needless to say, Edwards wants to go back to how it was before.  All I can say is if the publishers agree to this before Borders proves there is a viable plan in place and that they can stick with it, then they deserve anything that happens.

But what really surprised me in the article was how, after noting that their online presence isn’t working, Edwards said he sees the biggest challenge as being the reconfiguring of their super stores.  Specifically, he said they “no longer need to hold huge inventories of slow moving books when they are available online.”  What?  Let’s remember, he just said their online presence isn’t working.  Second, I’ve never known Borders to keep books on the shelves for long.  Not unless they happened to be a NYT best seller or part of a paid end-cap or stand-alone display.

It sounds to me like there is still too much of the same ideology the got Borders in trouble to begin with.  If I’m right, I don’t see the company coming out of bankruptcy any time time.

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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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More on the agency model and H-C blowing up library e-books

As you’re probably aware, the last of the major publishers to hold out against the agency model of pricing for e-books has finally given in.  Or maybe I should say sold out.  Random House announced earlier that it would join the other publisher not so affectionately nicknamed the Big Five in adopting the agency model for e-books.  What this means is that the publisher and not the retailer will set the price for e-books.  So, no more shopping for competitive prices.  E-titles will cost the same across the board, no matter which online retailer you use.

Now, it’s been interesting to watch some of the reactions across the web over the last few days to the news.  On the kindle boards, readers were gnashing their teeth at the sudden increase in price for a number of books.  And, folks, we aren’t talking small price jumps.  No, we’re talking increases of multiple dollars.  And we are talking about some very restless and angry customers.   Customers who may decrease the number of their purchases simply because they can’t afford — or won’t pay — as much for an e-book as they will for a mmpb.  More than that, when they see the price of an e-book for a title that has just hit the market and the projected for price for the mmpb that will be out in just a few months AND the mmpb is less than the digital title, well, the natives start doing the war dance.

But what is really telling have been the justifications for the change to the agency model. Random House talks about how this will make more money for them and for their retailers and will even the playing field for the independent booksellers who now sell e-book titles through google books, etc.  But no where have I seen anything about the authors — the creators of the e-book — getting more money.   While I appreciate anything that helps save the indie booksellers, let’s face it — this is simply one last grab at trying to maintain the status quo and not adapt to the changes pounding the industry right now.

There’s one other point I want to address about the above link.  One of the reasons the author of the article cites as being “good” about RH’s adoption of the agency model is “blockbusters everywhere!”  Gee, this wasn’t a problem before Apple opened the iBookstore.  Remember, everyone, we didn’t have the agency model until Apple and Steve Jobs got into the mix.  As for blockbusters everywhere, the only ones left out were those who purchased solely from Apple and, gee, they didn’t have to.  Kindle, Nook and the other major e-readers all have applications for the iPad, iPod touch, etc.  So Apple users weren’t tied to iBookstore.  Also, has anyone noticed how Apple hasn’t offered apps for non-Apple platforms, thereby losing sales?

’nuff said.

As for Harper-Collins and its decision that e-books sold to libraries will basically self-destruct after 26 check-outs, they’re really started a firestorm of protest.  Librarians are up in arms, calling for boycotts of H-C and, in some cases, even the jail-breaking of DRM on H-C e-books.  Why?  Because this decision will wind up costing libraries across the nation who offer e-books to the patrons in one way or another.

The most obvious way is that the libraries will have to contract with OverDrive for more “copies” of each e-book.  Let’s face it, that presents a problem in this day and age when libraries are facing huge budget problems.  Libraries across the nation are being forced to reduce hours, reduce their acquisitions, reduce staff numbers and are having to reduce hours — when they aren’t closing altogether.  Having to find more money in their budgets to buy additional copies of e-books because H-C has applied some magical formula and come up with the number 26 because, supposedly, that’s how many times a print book is checked out before it’s taken out of circulation.  C’mon, guys.  Apples and oranges here.

I don’t know about your libraries, but mine checks out books a lot more than 26 times before it is taken out of circulation.  The exceptions are when the binding breaks down — then it is temporarily removed and the binding is repaired — water damage, etc.  But normal wear and tear doesn’t kill a book that quickly.

But let’s look at it from another side.  Libraries are facing an increasing demand for e-books.  If, suddenly, they can no longer offer books — or if someone has been on a waiting list for months and months for an e-book only to suddenly be told they won’t be getting it because it reached that magical number of 26 checkouts, can you imagine the bad feelings?  Patrons make or break a library.  Angry patrons complaining to city councils can definitely break it.  And all over something libraries have no control over.

But what does H-C have to say about the uproar?  Here is an open letter to libraries about their decision.  H-C recognizes the importance of libraries but — and this is a big but — “Our goal is to continue to sell e-books to libraries, while balancing the challenges and opportunities that the growth of e-books presents to all who are actively engaged in buying, selling, lending, promoting, writing and publishing books.”  In other words, they are more worried about making sure libraries are as humstrung by DRM as is the purchasing public.

But let’s see what else they have to say.  “. . .our goal to make sure that all of our sales channels, in both print and digital formats, remain viable. . . ”  More of the same.  Limit digital in anyway possible to keep the print end alive.  But don’t ask us to change our business model because we won’t.  At least not one moment before we absolutely have to.

“We have serious concerns that our previous e-book policy, selling e-books to libraries in perpetuity, if left unchanged, would undermine the emerging e-book eco-system, hurt the growing e-book channel, place additional pressure on physical bookstores, and in the end lead to a decrease in book sales and royalties paid to authors.”  So, are they going to start putting limits on the number of times a print book can be checked out?  Or, conversely, start paying authors royalties based on the number of times an e-book is checked out?

“Twenty-six circulations can provide a year of availability for titles with the highest demand, and much longer for other titles and core backlist. If a library decides to repurchase an e-book later in the book’s life, the price will be significantly lower as it will be pegged to a paperback price point.” Wow, a whole year.  Possibly only 26 readers and then the title goes POOF.  As for tying the price of repurchasing the title to the paperback price point, well, I sure hope that’s written into the contract now because I seem to remember the publishers that adopted the agency model saying e-book prices would come down when the mmpb came out.  How closely have they stayed to that promise?  Well, let’s just say, I stopped holding my breath a long time ago because the price drops aren’t occurring as quickly or as deeply as represented.

I’ll admit now that I am a big supporter of libraries and I think this is a lousy decision by H-C.  A decision that hurts libraries and their patrons.  More, it hurts the author and even H-C because the decrease in the number of e-titles the libraries offer will lead to a decrease in sales.  People often use the library now to check out authors they haven’t read before.  Or to check the latest book from an author they used to like a great deal but who had disappointed in a book or two.  If they like what they read, they will then go buy books by that author.  The same goes with e-books.  This is a no-win decision for all involved and very short-sighted, imo, on H-C’s part.

For more information on this, check out this article from the Des Moines Register.

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More News From the Front

One of the things I do each morning as I try to get enough caffeine in me to function is read certain blogs and scan the headlines.  This morning’s trip through the interwebs proved interesting.

Nora Roberts has become the third author to sell a million e-books for the kindle.  She joins James Patterson and Stieg Larsson in that exclusive club.  Bufo Calvin poses an interesting question in his I Love My Kindle Blog post.  Noting that Roberts and Patterson reached this milestone with 74 titles each on the kindle, he wondered if Larsson — with only three titles — benefited by being a new author?

Another story that caught my attention — and hit a topic very close to my heart — is this one about the cut in funding for California public libraries.  Several years ago, the city I live in closed our library due to budget issues.  What happened is the citizenry quickly realized just how important the library is to our community.  A grass roots effort arose to find the additional funds needed to reopen the library.  Once that was done, well, let’s just say most of those who voted to close the library were not on the city council when re-elections rolled around.

I understand the issue with needing to find money to run the state.  But libraries around the country are being hit, and hit hard, financially.  We hear about businesses that fail and banks that are being bailed out by the government after they’ve made investments and loans they never should have.  Yet — and this is as close to politics as I’ll get — we tend to turn a blind eye when our libraries have to cut their hours or close altogether.  When this happens, not only does a community lose a place to borrow books, they lose an integral part of their community.  Libraries are so much more than just book depositories.  Many offer tutoring to students.  There are adult education opportunities.  Children’s programs that promote reading and study habits.  I guess the point of all this is to ask each of you to become educated about what your library does for your community and do all you can to make sure it is not the first thing to be cut when your hometown starts looking at where the budget can be trimmed.

Then there’s this bit of news about Borders.  The Wall Street Journal reports that there is a split among publishers over whether to support Borders’ decision to delay paying for books it has received.  It isn’t hard to imagine that Borders will have no alternative but to file for bankruptcy protection if they can’t get the publishers on board with their plan simply because I don’t see Borders’ lenders agreeing to restructure their debt without an agreement in place with the publishers.  The flip side of that is, if they do get an agreement with the publishers, can you imagine how B&N and the other retailers will react?  This is simply one more confirmation of the downward spiral much of publishing finds itself in these days.

But to show that all is not doom and gloom in the industry, go check out Sarah A. Hoyt’s blog on the situation.  She brings a new spin to the discussion, one I happen to agree with.  Even though traditional publishing is in trouble, electronic publishing brings with it new opportunities AND jobs for all sorts of folks.

Any way, check back later for Darwin Garrison’s latest installment of  Animanga Viewpoint.

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