10th of August 2012
It’s been far too long since my last entry. Unfortunately, this won’t actually count as one, there are a lot of books I’ve been reading since May, so there’ll be plenty for me to review once I actually get around to it…hopefully tomorrow? Anyway, at the moment, I am debating e-readers…
For a long time I have been a firm advocate of Sony…no more! Although I do still like my e-reader, I’m getting very tired of the constant malfunctions. Last time I used it before I went on holiday at the end of July was back in April. As always when I shut down my e-reader, I just put it in its case and let it get on with turning off, so I didn’t realise until I was packing on the 27th of July, a good 3 1/2 months after it was supposed to shut down, that it had frozen and never actually turned off! Needless to say it was completely out of batteries and I had to rummage around for the cable, turn on my laptop and charge it a little before I could go about turning it off properly! A nightmare! So, in light of this, along with the irritating syncing problems it’s had since day one and the long loading time when it starts up (it stays on the ‘Opening Book’ screen for a good minute…), I have started considering new e-readers and am taking my Sony to get priced tomorrow.
Although I have never been fond of Amazon’s monopoly of the e-book market, it has done a fair job with the Kindle. Quite a few of my friends have one and I haven’t heard a complaint about it from any of them. They’re fast and, with a bit of help from a conversion programme (Calibre) epubs, pdf’s and even word documents can be read on the Kindle. This has made it very tempting…
The other option I’m considering (which has become very appealing) is the Kobo. WHSmith is currently selling it, so I’ll go there tomorrow and play around with it a little. It’s cheaper than the Kindle by a fair amount…the normal Wi-Fi one is less than £60 and the Touch Edition is £79.99, still less than the cheapest Kindle model! It also reads epubs, which gives it an instant step up to the Kindle. From what I’ve read online, it has had a few syncing problems, but none permanent. There is of course the huge selection of e-books from Amazon to consider, but the Kobo store seems to be more than capable of holding its own.
I need to have a further think about this…and bounce ideas off my housemate. She nearly convinced me to buy a Kindle yesterday. She’ll be back tomorrow evening, so I’ll ask her to have a look at the Kobo as well and get her second opinion. Hopefully I’ll have bought my new e-reader by the end of the weekend!
22nd of May 2012
My favourite book store has gone and signed an agreement with amazon and will now be selling kindles…not cool! What about customers who bought Sony readers and have used the Waterstones store to buy their epub books? By selling the kindle and supporting amazon, will Waterstones still sell eBooks in epub format? Amazon already controls so much of the market, this is only going to strengthen their ability to bully smaller stores and independent book sellers!
It IS an interesting concept, that much has to be said. With amazon and Waterstones forming a sort of allegiance, what can consumers expect from Waterstones in the future? I don’t expect amazon to change, they already sell the same physical books as every other book seller, I honestly do not see what kind of benefit Waterstones is looking at here. Their eBook sales may increase, but at the end of the day, kindle users will still be able to get all the books they want through amazon. Unless Waterstones adopts the ‘selling at a loss’ idea that amazon follows with all its products, customers will most likely still run to amazon. There may be eBooks that Waterstones offers and the online store doesn’t, but I doubt there is a huge difference. What would be interesting is if the kindle was expanded to read epub files as well.
That being said, the Sony reader is a lot less attractive as a device than the kindle is. The latter seems to run much better; quite a disappointment when you know what Sony is capable of.
15th of April 2012
In the last three weeks, I’ve finally managed to finish reading Isabel Allende’s Zorro (it only took me about two months…) and four other books…I’m usually a relatively slow reader, so that number shocks even me! Just goes to show how addictive a really good book can be!
Zorro was by no means a bad book, but it took a while for me to really become absorbed in the story. It usually is like that with me though when it comes to a book that focuses, at least partly, on the childhood of the main character. Even the author herself said (writing as the narrator) that a story of just Zorro’s childhood would be rather boring and lose the interest of her readers. Maybe it’s simply because I can’t relate to the child characters as well (my childhood seems like it was so long ago…), but I wasn’t spellbound until Diego de la Vega travels to Spain.
It wasn’t exactly what I was expecting either, but that was probably mostly because I was influenced by The Mask of Zorro with Antonio Banderas. I wanted to read more about Zorro himself, not how he came to be the masked hero, although the background story was definitely worth reading. I might try and see if I can’t find out whether there’s another book in the series that focuses on the actual life of Zorro.
The book that followed I unfortunately left in Austria when I went home last week for the Easter holidays, so I don’t have a picture of that to show, but, as always, I was trapped by Philippa Gregory’s words shortly after the first few pages. I’m usually not very keen on stories written in the first person; a lot of the time the language comes across a little stumbling, but as it wasn’t written in perfect present (ie. I am washing the cups in the warm, soapy water), I quickly adjusted to the first person point of view (ie. I wash the cups in warm, soapy water). The Lady of the Rivers is a beautiful love story about Jacquetta Woodville, once the first duchess of England (Duchess of Bedford), who falls from grace by marrying her late Duke’s squire and later becomes the mother to the Queen of England. It ties in perfectly with her previous book The White Queen. As with all her books, Gregory delves into wonderful details that paint a clear picture of the court and characters. You feel as though you have a close friend whispering you secrets of Queen Margaret of Anjou and King Henry VI. She sweeps the reader along through the emotions of the narrator and by the love between her and her late husband’s squire, so rarely found in marriages of the court (even if it was not an approved of marriage to begin with, both Jacquetta and Richard were eventually forgiven by Henry VI). Having read so many of her books, I feel as though this is a key story connecting so much of history. The book opens with the fate of Joan of Arc and ends with the discovery that it is in fact this Jacquetta who is the grandmother of the Princes in the Tower.
The books that followed were the Hunger Games series. I managed to finish the last one last night and it had me in tears. Even before I finished reading the second one, I leant the first one to a colleague, which is why I couldn’t take a picture of the complete set. It’s a series that is charged heavily with emotions and sometimes makes you feel like you’re losing your own delicate grip on sanity. Suzanne Collins works hard to draw the reader in and she succeeds beautifully. It’s so easy to relate to Katniss Everdeen, the protagonist, to follow and understand the way she thinks, and frighteningly easy to relate to her, even when she is on the brink of losing her mind.
It’s a story of love and survival and these opposing forces (do you die to protect the one you love or do you fight for your own life despite all odds) twist the story in an almost grotesque way. You see Katniss develop from a kind, albeit it distant and often cold, girl who is determined to protect her sister at all costs, to one who is riddled by nightmares and isn’t sure she can tell the truth from a lie, or if she can even trust herself. The story takes such unexpected turns that the reader sometimes feels themselves swept away with Katniss, uncertain of where to turn or who they could trust if they were in her place. I spent so much time reading that I was half asleep at work every day last week, it was so hard for me to put it down, I don’t think I ever made it to bed before midnight.
29th of February 2012
28th of February 2012
And now Amazon is boycotting Indie publishers…?
You can tell the topic of Amazon is something I feel quite strongly about…I think I blog a little too much about them, but when this came up on my publishing newsfeed, it wasn’t something I could ignore.
As I’ve said before, one of my big problems with Amazon is that they’re trying to monopolise the publishing industry and bully smaller publishers into working with them…and that is EXACTLY what’s going on now. Indie publishers refuse to meet Amazon demands and, in return, they’re being boycotted.the internet seller already has a foot in every market (imagine an octopus, if you will), they have the power to make demands that corner the smaller fish.
This is the second week now that Amazon has boycotted 400 American, Canadian and British independent presses distributed by the Independent Publishers Group (IPG). While major publishers in New York, who are facing similar cut-throat demands, remain silent, there are signs of growing support for IPG. The support from the American Booksellers Association (ABA) is present, cautious but present, with the head Oren Teicher releasing a statement saying they “supported the principle that the reading public is better served when all titles - in all formats - are available to everyone”. Much louder support can be heard from the Independent Book Publishers Association whose president, Florrie Binford Kichler, announced “We commend IPG for its support of the independent publishing community and for shining the spotlight on this critical issue.”
Even booksellers know the critical position this places Indie publishers in. Let’s face it, all publishers rely heavily on Amazon to make their sales. Canadian online retailer Kobo has stepped up in support of IPG and has decided to pay special attention to at least one of their boycotted publishers. ECW Press has written on their website that Kobo has already put together a list of their best selling e-books. The literary social networking/retail site, Copia, fore-fronted a selection of IPG titles for sale, “Recently, a very big bookseller has stopped selling eBooks from the Independent Publishers Group. Why? Allegedly because the scrappy, innovative IPG refused the bookseller’s ‘laws of the jungle’ pricing demands. Copia salutes IPG for protecting their authors.”
This boycott has rallied support for authors and booksellers all over the world and author Jim Hanas’ essay “Kicking the Amazon Habit” has gone viral over this issue. Although it is highly unlikely that the Department of Justice will get involved this time as with Macmillan two years ago, practically every other publishers is currently negotiating their annual contract with Amazon right now and its behaviour with IPG doesn’t make its demands any more workable for any other publisher. Indie publishers are gaining more and more support for their cause and the longer this goes on, the worse it will make Amazon look. Who knows what the outcome of this clash between bookseller and publisher will be.
Day 8 of Amazon boycott of indie presses: Still no comment from New York, but indies rally in support
25th of February 2012
JK Rowling’s First Adult Novel!!!!
Exciting news! I’m sure all Potterheads and JK Rowling fans are already well aware of this (I’ve known for days and just haven’t gotten around to posting - I’m lazy like that), but our favourite children’s book author is writing her first adult novel and has chosen Little, Brown as her publisher! They will be responsible for selling her book in the US and the UK and Hachette is selling it in Australia and New Zealand.
Rowling said her next book would be very different from her successful Harry Potter series, “The freedom to explore new territory is a gift that Harry’s success has brought me, and with that new territory it seemed a logical progression to have a new publisher.” It seems that the book was not put up for auction but offered directly to Hachette. Well, that probably is a step up from Bloomsbury. Hachette would not divulge any details on the book, but it has been rumoured that Rowling is working on a crime novel set in Edinburgh.
It has to be said that I am relieved to hear she’s chosen to go with a publisher for her new book. With the sheer number of discussions surrounding self-publishing at the moment, there was the slight concern that big name authors would choose that path. Those that have seen Rowling’s level of success would have absolutely no problem self-publishing their books, but I think the critique they would end up facing would be bitter. I was also relieved to read that Little, Brown has full publishing rights for both the physical and the e-book versions of her new novel. Considering that she has chosen to sell the Harry Potter e-books exclusively on Pottermore, a similar move could have been expected.
All in all, I am really looking forward to her new book, be it crime, fantasy, horror, historical or otherwise inclined. I do have a feeling that it won’t be as well-read as Harry Potter and not nearly as loved or successful, curiosity will get the better of me and as one of my favourite authors, reading her newest books is a must. Even if Little, Brown wouldn’t even offer me an interview when I was applying for jobs :P
Little, Brown to Publish JK Rowling’s First Adult Novel
14th of February 2012
Boycotting Elsevier? When did this happen?
Obviously I haven’t been paying attention at all! I was going to write about Bloomsbury (the wonderful people who published Harry Potter) and their decision to open a branch in Delhi, but this seems slightly more relevant!
Elsevier is a very well known scientific/academic publisher (I sent them at least one application while I was looking for work) and, in the academic aspect, is quiet similar to the publisher I work for now. I do know though, from overhearing conversation my line manager’s had with potential authors over the phone, as well as listening to the editors around me discussing royalties and advances, that the academics who write, edit or are simply involved in the creation of our products, are paid for their work. I didn’t realise that there were publishers who don’t pay academics, like Timothy Gowers at Cambridge University. I can’t imagine that there is no money involved at all and I think it needs to be clarified that it seems academics aren’t paid for their editing and proofreading services.
According to The New York Times, 34 mathematicians issued a statement last week denouncing “a system in which commercial publishers make a profit based on the free labour of mathematicians and subscription fees from their institutions’ libraries, for a service that has become largely unnecessary.”
The impression I’m getting is that textbooks are sent to academics, professors, lecturers for editing and proofreading, sent back to the publisher who then publishes the material and sells it back to the academic through the university library…no wonder a boycott is taking place! This is a fairly aged model that comes from a time when information was not easily accessible. The internet is an easy source of information to take advantage of, the problem is, of course, that the it tends to be a somewhat unreliable source. Knowing there are these simple alternatives though, should make publishers more aware of the fact that the services from these academics are valuable. If the publishing house cannot afford to pay them, then at least offer some form of discount to the academic when he places an order.
Funny enough, we talked about this in a meeting at work and my publisher mentioned a few things that were not referred to in the article. Over the years Elsevier has set up a system where they will ‘force’ customers to buy a bundle of their digital journals. If a library or institution is interested in one in particular, they won’t sell it as a single product but only offer it as part of a package. This means that many institutions are made to spend 70% of their budget on products they don’t actually want. Of course this is Elsevier’s attempt at controlling the market of STM journal publishing. I have a feeling that it’s backfiring…
Mathematicians Organize Boycott of a Publisher
9th of February 2012
Boycotting Amazon Publishing!
Joining the Amazon boycott is the American Booksellers Association (ABA), following Barnes & Nobles, Books-A-Million and Indigo Books. According to BookTrade, IndieCommerce, ABA’s for-profit subsidiary, has begun removing Amazon titles from their database!
Don’t get me wrong, I do a good deal of my shopping online and probably 50% of that is through Amazon. Their marketing is impeccable (when was the last time you saw an Amazon advert?) and they do have everything under the sun! Their service is fast and efficient, the website easy to use and the company global, it’s very difficult to avoid! They have given small publishers, and now international publishing houses, a very hard time over the years though. Booksellers have been struggling enough in their physical bookshops and with Amazon, they’re not having a lot more success with their online stores. With big names boycotting Amazon, the smaller companies might stand a chance of staying afloat!
The director of IndieCommerce, Matt Supko wrote, “While Amazon is seeking to distribute its print catalog through conventional means, it seems that they are simultaneously pursing a strategy of locking in ebook exclusives which other retailers are not allowed to sell.” Not only are they not listing Amazon titles, but they’ve gone as far as to say that “only publishers’ titles that are made available to retailers for sale in all available formats will be included in the IndieCommerce inventory database”.
Amazon has always had a very clever selling strategy, one which other publishers and booksellers haven’t been able to come to grips with. This is explained very well by a statement from Jaime Carey, chief merchandising officer at Barnes & Nobles, “Our decision is based on Amazon’s continued push for exclusivity with publishers, agents and the authors they represent. These exclusives have prohibited us from offering certain ebooks to our customers. Their actions have undermined the industry as a whole and have prevented millions of customers from having access to content.”
The power the online seller has in the book industry has meant that Amazon feels it can make demands and not give publishers or bookseller’s any other options but to accept their terms (I work for an educational publisher and a good number of our books are sold through Amazon as well!). Amazon has gained a lot of influence over the years, too much influence, and this is being taken away from high street bookstores (Borders UK for example, Woolworths UK has disappeared too!). The market needs diversity and if Amazon rules the market, diversity does not exist and in that kind of environment any and every industry will struggle.
Amazon Publishing bookshop boycott grows
ABA Says ‘No’ to Amazon Publishing
7th of February 2012
Universal eReader Platforms
I know I haven’t updated in donkey’s years and I have no good excuse! I’ve been lazy and have just collapsed in front of the TV after work…although I was busy last week and this coming weekend is fully booked, my last entry was far more than two weeks ago…I promise I’ll put more effort into my posts from now on!
I read and interesting article in my publishing news updates today: Universal platforms for eReaders…never going to happen, right? The eReader market’s already established itself as dependent on the platforms that they’re read on. The Kindle only reads books from the Kindle store, the Kobo and the Nook both have their own stores and file types that don’t allow mixing. Although this concept doesn’t really sound strange as such, if you think about it, it’s a ridiculous idea. The example the article used was cars…if you bought a BMW, imagine only being able to buy gas from a BMW gas station…ludicrous! So why is it so easy to accept in the eBook market?
One of the main reasons for this is that eBooks are a fairly new concept and the idea is still being experimented with. Publishers are worried that eBooks will go the same way as the music market where everyone downloads books illegally and the industry starts in a downwards spiral (let’s face it, we’ve all downloaded music without paying a penny). To try and counter this, they introduced DRM (Digital Rights Management), which the music industry once used for their songs as well. The funny thing about DRM is, not only is it possible to hack it, but some of the most highly pirated books aren’t digital, but physical, books. All that’s needed is access to a high speed scanner and creating copies of books is easy as pie! Even the music market dropped DRM, so why in the world would the book industry think it’s a good idea…?
One of the biggest issues DRM presents is the message it gives to customers: we don’t trust you. As long as you have a music player, you can listen to your mp3’s anywhere. Epub is probably the closest equivalent to an mp3 in popularity and distribution (everyone uses Epub’s except for Amazon), but even having a universal format does not lift the platform lock. A Nook cannot read eBooks from a Kobo store.
There are ways to get around this of course. There are apps for the iPad that allow users to read ePub and Kindle files, but they’re separate apps, meaning users have to flip through two different libraries if they’re looking for a specific book. Even on the more flexible platform, the two formats cannot be unified.
As the digital reading industry is still developing, I think a sensible solution will be found eventually, the question is just when? If the industry becomes too accustomed to this arrangement, will they agree to change at all or will they assume that, because it’s worked so far, and sales are still rising, that customers are satisfied with the platform lock-in, with the separation?
The ToC Perspective: A Call for a Unified E-Book Market
16th of January 2012
The Bicentenary of Charles Dickens’ Birth
Right, another loooooooooong overdue post! There’s a lot of big anniversaries coming up this year. It’s been 100 years since the Titanic sunk, 50 years since Marilyn Monroe died and 200 years since Charles Dicken’s birth! I did some work on those the other week, putting together articles from the Times Digital Archive so the marketing team can create a digital booklet as marketing material. The Times published a few interesting articles about him! But that’s beside the point…
What’s more to the point is the BBC’s three episode mini-series of Great Expectations. It was beautifully done and, like many other viewers, made me want to buy the book and read it for myself! Unfortunately I was not among the shoppers who bought Great Expectations and sent sales soaring, doubling in the week the drama was aired. 6100 copies were sold, the highest weekly figure since 1998.
BBC’s mini-series was a huge success and they’re riding on that achievement by dramatising the last of Dickens’ work, which he died writing. The Mystery of Edwin Drood was never finished and no one knows what his intentions were with the novel, but producers are taking a chance and finishing the story. The first episode was shown last week when an estimated three million people watched it. Somehow I didn’t realise that it was being aired at all and missed it entirely! I guess this is what BBC iPlayer’s good for. One thing that’s really caught my attention with the snippets I saw from previews, is that the female lead, Rosa Bud, is played by the actress you portrayed Catherine Howard (Tamzin Merchant) in The Tudors with Jonathen Rhys Meyers (speaking of which, Natalie Dormer, who was Anne Boleyn, will be Magaery Tyrell from Game of Thrones!! Old news for any die hard GoT fan, but it has to be said!).
The e-reader on my HTC also came with A Tale of Two Cities. I think this is a sign that I need to read more Dickens!