Archive for the ‘Publishing Business’ Category

Librarians Are Fading Out?

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

The New YorkerIf you want to add to your February blues, read George Packer’s story in the new issue of the New Yorker, “Cheap Words: Amazon is good for customers. But is it good for books?” (happily, subscription is not required to read this one online).

Among the conclusions? For publishing, the “long-term outlook is discouraging. This is partly because Americans don’t read as many books as they used to — they are too busy doing other things with their devices — but also because of the relentless downward pressure on prices that Amazon enforces.”

Packer quotes Russ Grandinetti, the vice-president of Kindle content who asserts that, because of GoodReads, gatekeepers are no longer necessary,  “ ‘Suddenly, we’re not locked into hearing the opinions of a small number of reviewers in newspapers’ ” and adds an unattributed aside, which is presumably Packer’s own, “Professional reviewers are fading out anyway, along with librarians and bookshop owners.”

As an author, Packer has some interest in the fate of gatekeepers. His book, The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America (Macmillan/FSG), was on many 2013 best books lists (including the Amazon editors’ Top 20) and won the National Book Award.

Random House Penguin Merger Completed

Monday, July 1st, 2013

prh_interim_logo_1c_cmyk

In press releases issued early this morning, the parent companies of Random House and Penguin announced that they have finalized contracts for a merger of the two, creating the largest trade publishing house in the world, named Penguin Random House (interim logo at the left).

The Random House parent company, Bertelsmann, owns 53 percent of the new company and Penguin parent, Pearson, 47 percent. Random House chief executive Markus Dohle becomes CEO of the  new group and Penguin’s CEO John Makinson, the chairman of its board of directors. The CEO of Penguin USA, David Shanks, has stepped down to serve as Senior Executive Advisor to Dohle and the U.S. executive team. Madeline McIntosh, formerly Chief Operating Officer, Random House U.S., becomes the President and Chief Operating Officer of the new U.S. company.

While it is too early to speculate on the composition of the new company’s library marketing teams, it would make sense on the adult side if they combined each group’s expertise in academic and library marketing into two new larger departments. In terms of eBooks libraries will be waiting to hear if the new company follows the Random House or Penguin models.

Press Releases:

Bertelsmann Press Release

Pearson_Press Release

PRH Press Release

John Green Accepts ABA’s Indie Prize

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

Below, John Green, accepting the Indie Prize given by the American Booksellers Association to writers who best represent commitment to independent book stores, calls “bullshit” to the concept that authors like him, who speak directly to their readers via social media, don’t “need the value-sucking middlemen of bookstores and publishers and in the future … no one will stand between author and reader except possibly an e-commerce site that takes just a tiny little percentage of each transaction.”

He hates being held up as an example of an author who doesn’t need support from publishers, editors, librarians and booksellers and ends by saying,”We built … the book business, the idea-sharing, consciousness-expanding business together … and we’re going to keep building this together.”

His comment about Ayn Rand is worth an award in itself.

Amazon Gains New Data Source

Friday, March 29th, 2013

Now that Amazon has announced they are buying Goodreads, speculation is growing about what this means. Below are a few signal reactions:

Interview with Goodreads CEO Otis Chandler and Amazon’s VP of Kindle content, Russ Grandinetti, on paidContent raises many of the questions that people are asking, although answers are mostly variations of “we don’t know yet” and assurances that things will remain the same (the headline “First Do No Harm” comes from Grandinetti’s response to the question of whether Amazon reader reviews will migrate to Goodreads, “Our mentality here is to first do no harm, and make sure that if we’re going to do integrations, users genuinely find it to be a big benefit.”)

Tim Spalding, creator of Goodreads competitor, LibraryThing writes on his blog that he’s been “wanting for this forever” and expects publishers and readers will defect from Goodreads to LibraryThing

ShelfAwareness rounds up industry reactions

So far, we haven’t heard whether Goodreads members are concerned that Amazon may soon own their content.

New Approach to Online Book Recommendations

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

After the publisher-supported site Bookish.com delayed its summer, 2011 launch date  and changed management several times, many in the book business wondered if it would ever arrive. Just as rumors had begun to die down, the site launched last night.

Aimed at consumers, it’s a Johnny-come-lately to online book merchandising. As Ron Charles of the Washington Post notes with tongue-in-cheek, “If you’re one of the countless people wondering, ‘Why isn’t there anywhere to buy books online?’ we’ve got good news: Bookish went live last night.” The press release offers details on what is billed as a “one-stop, comprehensive online destination designed to connect readers with books and authors.

The site is sponsored by publishers Simon & Schuster, Hachette Book Group and Penguin Group, with participation from 16 other publishers.

Users can buy books directly from Bookish, with B&T handling fulfillment. There are also links to online retailers, including ABA’s IndieBound.

The site will include author interviews (a conversation between Michael Koryta and Michael Connelly is currently featured), book excerpts and reviews.

It also aims to provide a “state- of-the-art recommendation tool…from a proprietary algorithm that factors in editorial themes, professional and consumer reviews, publishing house editor insights, awards and more.”

At this point, it’s not working that well. Entering The Power Trip by Jackie Collins brings up the following results. Hemingway might be pleased with the comparison.

Power Trip Recs

Headed for the Big Four?

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

The Wall Street Journal reports, based on anonymous sources, that Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., which owns HarperCollins, has expressed interest in buying Simon and Schuster.

This follows closely the announcement of a merger between Random House and Penguin, to be completed sometime next year. News Corp tried to make a bid, but was rebuffed.

As a graph in the WSJ story shows, the 2011 estimated market share for each publisher is:

Random House — 19%

Penguin — 9%

Combined RH/Penguin– 28%

HarperCollins — 12%

S&S — 9%

Combined Harper/Simon — 21%

Hachette (which includes Little, Brown and Grand Central), has an estimated 11% share. The market share for Macmillan, the other company in the so-called “Big Six,” is lumped in with the 41% “Others” category.

The new landscape may not be the Big Four, but the Big Two, Plus Four (Hachette, Macmillan, Wiley’s trade division and Harlequin).

Random House/Penguin Deal Expected To Close Next Year

Monday, October 29th, 2012

Following up on last week’s acknowledgement by Pearson that the company is in talks with Bertelsmann to merge their two consumer book publishing divisions, Penguin and Random House, the companies issued a statement today that the deal is ”expected to complete in the second half of 2013,” assuming it clears regulatory approvals.

Random House will own a controlling 53% share of the company that will be known as Penguin Random House. The CEO of the new group will be Markus Dohle, currently CEO of Random House. John Makinson, Chairman and CEO of the Penguin Group will be the chairman of Penguin Random House. The new venture is expected to be based in New York, where Dohle now resides and Makinson is expected to spend more time.

This makes for a very nervous time for the staffs of both companies as they worry about which jobs will become redundant. Makinson told The Guardian that “the strategy behind the deal was not to take an axe to the editorial side of the business, but that there could be savings to be had in the back office.”

Over the weekend, news broke that NewsCorp, owner of HarperCollins, had made a counterbid for Penguin. Some reports indicated that this could undermine the proposed merger. Responding in The Guardian, Mackinson dismissed that idea, saying, “There isn’t any sort of break clause [with Bertelsmann]. It is a signed transaction.”

A Penguin Wanders Into a Random House

Friday, October 26th, 2012

   

The above two titles may eventually have more in common than their genre and cover designs.

In a tersely-worded “Statement on media coverage regarding Penguin” yesterday, Pearson set off a round of speculation and gossip in the publishing world:

Pearson notes recent media coverage regarding Penguin, its consumer publishing division, and Random House (part of Bertelsmann). Pearson confirms that it is discussing with Bertelsmann a possible combination of Penguin and Random House. The two companies have not reached agreement and there is no certainty that the discussions will lead to a transaction. A further announcement will be made if and when appropriate.

Reports in European news sources, beginning with a story in Germany’s Manager Magazin on Monday, forced Pearson’s response.  When Bertelsmann, which owns Random House, was asked to comment, they simply pointed to the Penguin statement.

Speculation is now rife as to the reasons for proposed merger, with some saying it’s necessary because ebooks have changed the business and others that publishers need to gain enough clout to stand up to Amazon. Those are side issues, however; the major reason is that Pearson is focusing on their education business, and Bertelsmann’s new CEO Thomas Rabe has promised major acquisitions and strategic partnerships.

The New York Times story quotes literary agents saying that the deal will not be good for authors. Says agent David Kuhn, “a shrinking book industry could be compared to the situation in Hollywood, where studios under financial pressure now focus on churning out a handful of blockbusters a year, rather than taking risks on smaller films.”

If the merger were in effect today, seven of the fifteen NYT Fiction best sellers would be published by the new company.

Whatever the speculation, this is far from a done deal. There are still hurdles to jump, like gaining approval from U.S. and U.K. regulatory agencies (although, as many news stories point out, those agencies have allowed the music business to shrink to three major companies). The most meaningful part of Pearson’s statement may be the “if” in the final line.

Publishers May Expand eBook Programs to Libraries

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

It’s estimated that 75% of the public libraries in the US lend ebooks, a fact many people are surprised to hear.

NPR’s Diane Rehm Show gave exposure to the practice yesterday with a full program devoted to the subject. Responding to a question about why some publishers don’t make ebooks available to libraries, Jeremy Greenfield, editorial director of Digital Book World, said they are worried that lending will result in reduced sales. Carrie Russell, from ALA’s Office of Information Technology, countered that libraries are “confused by that argument since the evidence shows that library borrowers are the same people who buy,” referring to Library Journal‘s “Patron Profiles” and a Pew study.

Later in the show Greenfield said, based on his meetings with publishers, there is good news for libraries; publishers who make their ebooks available to libraries believe it helps, rather than hurts, their business and are planning to continue as well as expand their programs. In the coming year or two, he expects to see other publishers make their ebooks available to libraries.

However, he said, some publishers look at the studies skeptically, believing that library borrowers buy ebooks only when they are unavailable through the library and that a change in policy would result in fewer sales.

Also featured on the show were Vailey Oehlke, Director Multnomah County Library and Allan Adler of the AAP.

Penguin Making EBooks Available to Some Libraries

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

Cautiously returning

Penguin announced yesterday that they are working with 3M on a pilot program to again make their e-books available to the New York and  Brooklyn Public Library systems.

The catch? Titles will not be released until six months after they go on sale through retailers and they will expire after a year, with an option to renew. The prices will be “in the same range as prices that retail consumers pay.” (the Wall Street Journal).

Chris Platt of NYPL tells the Wall Street Journal that he hopes Penguin will eventually “agree to make some titles available immediately, while retaining the six-month delay for hot-selling titles. Exposure of first-time authors in libraries, for example, could boost sales.”

The deal was announced just three months after Tony Marx, NYPL President and CEO told publishers that he would be willing to  consider introducing more “friction” into the lending of ebooks to address their fears that library lending would affect the nascent consumer market for ebooks.

It’s a sign of the times that the story of this cautious change was broken by the Wall Sreet Journal (Libraries Cut E-Book Deal With Penguin). The NYT also ran a story in their Media Decoder blog.

Inside A Book Auction

Monday, February 13th, 2012

The NYT takes a look at the auction for a book by Amanda Knox, who spent four years in an Italian jail for a sexually violent murder. The conviction was overturned on appeal and she was released in October.

Is it worth spending a potential seven figures for the book? It all depends on factors that nobody can safely predict at this point; whether she is appealing to the American public and what she is willing to reveal in the book.

The Times notes that several books have already been published about the case and all have ”sold only modestly.”  None of those books, however, are by an author that news shows like 60 Minutes is “drooling over.” UPDATE: HarperCollins won the auction, for a reported $4 million. They plan to release it in early in 2013.

NBC Launches EBook Division

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

NBC News announced yesterday that it has created a new publishing division, NBC Publishing, to produce ebooks based on information from NBC’s news shows (including The Today Show and Nightline), archives and other divisions (NBC  Sports, Universal Pictures and Telemundo).

The head of the new division, NBC v-p Michael Fabiano, told Publishers Weekly that their first original e-book is coming next month, followed by about 30 titles over the  year. He also noted that NBC has the capability of distributing titles on their own.

He did not address whether titles will be available to libraries via OverDrive, but indications are hopeful. NBC has hired two people from publishing houses, both of which sell titles via OverDrive to libraries; Peter Costanzo from Perseus Book Group has been named as creative director and Brian Perrin, most recently with Rodale, is director of digital development. Also, an earlier enhanced ebook that NBC published with Running Press, From Yesterday to Today: Six Decades of America’s Favorite Morning Show (Dec., 2011), is available to libraries on OverDrive.

Reporting the story, the online movie news site, Deadline points out that ebooks are likely to evolve into a format separate from print books, with this quote from Cheryl Gould, NBC News SVP who is heading up the New York-based part of the new division,

As the tablet and e-reader markets continue to expand exponentially, and as the definition of “what is a ‘book?’” evolves, we see opportunities to bring readers a unique and immersive content experience. This business enables NBC to use video, audio, and current programming in creative new ways.

Amy Einhorn Profiled

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

Penguin editor Amy Einhorn’s “unique ability to pinpoint the kinds of books that thousands of people want to read” is celebrated in a New York Observer profile.

Proof that her ability is unique — she was the only editor to spot the potential of Kathryn Stockett’s The Help, after it had already been rejected by 60 others. She’s had a few near-misses; she initially rejected The Postmistress, but later decided that it could work with some serious editing.

Einhorn’s big spring title is the debut, A Good American by Alex George (2/7/11; also Penguin Audio and Thorndike large print), which has been a hit among GalleyChat regulars.

If you are going to ALA Midwinter, there are several opportunities to meet the author and nab a copy of an ARC (click here for more information). UPDATE: It’s also available as an eARC on Edelweiss.

Here Comes the Opposition

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

Slate‘s technology columnist, Farhad Manjoo, tries to pour cold water all over Richard Russo’s NYT opinion piece, “Amazon’s Jungle Logic,” which argues that shopping at Amazon endangers local businesses.

Manjoo’s column, “Don’t Support Your Local Bookseller“ asserts that killing off indie bookstores might not be such a bad thing because they are, “some of the least efficient, least user-friendly, and most mistakenly mythologized local establishments you can find,” calling them “cultish, moldering institutions.”

What does “efficiency” mean to Majoo? Lower prices. Indies are not “efficient” because “Rent, utilities, and a brigade of book-reading workers aren’t cheap, so the only way for bookstores to stay afloat is to sell items at a huge markup.”

Paging George Orwell.

“Scorched Earth Capitalism”

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

Amazon’s price-check app promotion is the subject of an opinion piece by author Richard Russo in today’s New York Times. Outraged by the program, he checked in with several fellow writers on how they feel about it. Even though all of them make a considerable amount of money through Amazon sales, they were all against Amazon’s tactics. Dennis Lehane calls it “scorched-earth capitalism.”

Russo makes an eloquent argument for supporting local bookstores and not shopping at Amazon. Unfortunately, many of the comments support cheaper prices over buying locally.