Nathan Bransford, Author

Friday, March 1, 2013

The Last Few Weeks in Books 3/1/13

Lots of good links from the last few weeks, let's get to it!

It's been tough sledding for Barnes & Noble lately. On the heels of announcing earlier in the year that they plan to shutter one third of their stores (link is to CNET, I work there), they had an earnings call this week in which they revealed that their Nook business is struggling, with losses at $190.4 million. Publisher/editor Peter Osnos notes that B&N has not benefitted greatly from the Borders bankruptcy and wonders if the large chain bookstore is endangered (something I blogged about two years ago), though it should be noted that the stores themselves are still profitable.

The last of the publishers sued by the Department of Justice for conspiring to raise e-books has settled. In a letter to authors, Macmillan CEO John Sargent said "Our company is not large enough to risk a worst case judgment."Apple has not yet settled.

Meanwhile, publishing consultant Mike Shatzkin has an interesting look at some possible directions for the future of e-bookselling, which could get more atomized and dispersed across the Internet rather than concentrated solely with the large online vendors.

In book news, happy book birthday to friend o' the blog Shawn Odyssey, Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson have been cast in the film adaptation of The Book Thief, and I gave my shortest interview ever to Ted Fox.

Two of the world's smallest publishers announced a groundbreaking merger (via The Rejectionist).

Some authors are buying their way onto bestseller lists.

Working with publishers can occasionally be quite frustrating, as one author and independent bookstore recently discovered. When the bookstore wanted to order 450 copies the publisher refused to give them more than 200 (Why? Because they don't do things that way), so the bookstore ended up going to Target to get the books instead.

There really is no such thing as a typical writing path. Malcolm Gladwell has a great post on just how diverse paths to literary success really are.

In writing advice news, Donna Thorland has advice on book trailers, Natalie Whipple has a great post on some of the different things to consider when building a setting.

A blogger plans to review every bestselling book of the year for the past hundred years.

Atari's co-founder has launched a new venture that hopes to make the self-publishing process much easier by giving authors the ability to contract out different parts of the process in exchange for flat rates or royalties.

A designer re-imagined classic albums as book covers (via Simon the Boy).

The Forums!! I have been receiving lots and lots of writing and publishing questions lately, and time constraints prevent me from answering them all. To save time and to hopefully benefit more people, I answer publicly in the Forums, where I am happy to answer any publishing question I can right here. You can also review previous questions.

And finally, a photographer put together a truly incredible and dare I say moving Tumblr of Calvin and Hobbes photoshopped into real landscapes (via Martha Mihalick), but after it went viral it was shut down because of copyright claims. Alas alas.

Have a great weekend!

Photo by me


Ben Campbell said...

Thank you for the updates. You posted such a fantastic clandestine shot of New Your. Love it.

Matthew MacNish said...

I was hoping you were going to say Atari was coming out with a device that let you enjoy stories on your television. Er ... wait.

Crystal said...

That was an awesome interview. said...

Yeah, the interview was great :). And so was the article about the different paths to success. I remember reading about Ben Fountain's long road to success in Poets & Writers. Pretty amazing, especially his wife.

Doug said...

Barnes & Noble got a long-needed thumping. Some of the executive arrogance was gone from the financial report and the conference call.

In particular, they seem to have learned that when someone is thinking about buying a tablet, the name B&N doesn't spring to mind. That should've been obvious, but I guess it wasn't.

They still don't seem inclined to listen to their customers, though. The executives clearly know better what their customers want than the customers themselves do.

Their operation continues to lose them money after more than fifteen years, but all they had to say about that was "we're repositioning [it]." I don't know what that means. Are they going to clean up the user reviews? Are they going to start moderating their forums? Are they going to have people updating the site on weekends, so that Amazon doesn't get a 2-day jump on new titles and reduced prices?

B&N execs don't seem to grasp just how infuriating the Philippine customer disservice operation they've used for the past couple of years is. Nothing at all was said in the financial reports or the conference call about this matter.

B&N is a long way from financial collapse, but they've been bankrupt in customer-orientation for a long time. I don't know if the B&N execs don't notice, or if they just don't care.

Bryan Russell said...

Loved the Gladwell article, particularly since I have a Ben Fountain novel sitting on my top To Be Read Shelf.

Anonymous said...

I have never understood B&N's move away from stocking their store with actual, you know, BOOKS. Especially with Borders gone, they had a chance to increase their power as a place to go browse, read, and hang out.

Instead they took up prime retail space selling e-readers. (If I wanted to read online, I'd be home in my pajamas reading online; I wouldn't have come all the way out to the store!) Instead they started carrying fewer books, stocking their stores with random junk you don't go to a bookstore to buy.

If they want to prepare for a movement of the market away from print books, they should work on their cafe space. Make it even more friendly as a place to plug in, read, write, meet friends. The cafes are already there, and they provide an experience that shopping online at home doesn't.

Lisa Shafer said...

I loved the albums-to-books post! Thanks for the link. :)

wendy said...

Being sued for 'breathtaking amounts' because a publishing company has supposedly conspired to raise the cost of ebooks sounds a bit insane to me. I mean, surely, companies can charge whatever they want for their own product? Could this whole thing be a kind of money-grab by a Government Dept?

Thanks for the very interesting links, Nathan :)

wendy said...

However, on second thoughts, I suppose the charge refers to the major companies supposedly making an agreement whereby they're not going to undercut each other on a certain price for a certain product - ebooks. Again, I don't see a problem, really, especially as independent publishers and self-publishers could then gain an advantage by charging much smaller amounts for their ebooks. I imagine that indies and self-publishers would have a harder time making sales, so being able to undercut the big boys would help the aforementioned find their own niche in the market.

Folk who would rather pay less for ebooks might have a case for being disgruntled, but then we'd all rather pay less for everything not just ebooks. And with larger companies more people need a slice of the pie, so it makes sense that their products would cost more than those of someone doing it alone or with only a few people involved.

Elizabeth Seckman said...

I don't know how you keep up with all the changes. I rely on you to find the news. Thanks for doing the hard work that only requires me following links!

rebecca said...

Hi Nathan! Thank you so very much for taking the time to do this. It is always very helpful!


Mira said...

Cool picture!

And great links, so many of them, thank you! :)

I thought the story about how the bookseller went and bought books at Target was pretty funny. You can't even chalk that up to Publishing practices - that's more about bureaucracy, and how crazy it gets! :)

On the other hand, it's noticeable that when all the stories about sock puppet reviews were going around, there were letters of protest, and much gnashing of teeth and pointing of fingers. But authors talking about buying their way onto bestsellers lists - with the blessing and guidance of their publishers? Where's the hair pulling and the accusations and the righteousness about that?

Seems like a double standard.

Although, on a - not a double standard note - I wish they would stop giving Barnes and Noble a hard time. Seems like there's an article every few hours about how Barnes and Noble is messing up. I wish they would leave Barnes and Noble alone for awhile, ease up on the pressure and let them think.

The records as book covers were pretty funny.

And I liked your interview, although I'm holding out for the 'elephant in the room' or maybe the 'middle-aged' Mick. :)

Mira said...

Oh, I wanted to respond to Wendy.

@Wendy - I'm not an expert, but from my understanding, no, this wasn't a money grab.

What the Publishers did was white collar crime. It was a felony that could have meant not only heavy fines, but jail time. The reason the penalties are so stiff is to discourage corporations from doing this. They can make ALOT of money through anti-trust actions (which is what this was), so the penalites have to be even higher to make it a very unappealing option if they get caught.

Five Publishers were sued not for raising prices, but for getting together to control the market. They all cut a deal with Apple, and then forced Amazon to take the same deal.

Coporations are not supposed to:

a. Get together and agree on a policy.

b. Force a less preferred retailer (Amazon) to accept it.

This is about competition. Business are supposed to be in competition with one another, they are not supposed to get together to try to control the marketplace, and hurt one retailer over another.

The point of this is to protect the free marketplace. If we didn't have anti-trust laws, we'd probably have one big corporation that controlled everything as it amassed all the wealth. It would be a corporate dictatorship, and no, I'm not exaggerating. This is why a free and competitive marketplace is such a big deal. Competition is supposed to help protect the consumer against corporate greed.

What the Publishers did cost Amazon money, and it cost the consumers money, too. Several States have successfully sued to get the consumers their money back. But the real issue is the llegal collusion.

I hope that all made sense, like I said, I'm not an expert. You could google 'anti-trust' law and get alot more information.

CL Frey said...

You know, I saw those Calvin and Hobbes photos and I'm not sorry for the guy. There was absolutely no credit given to Bill Watterson on the post I saw. I realize that doesn't mitigate copyright issues, but it struck me as incredibly rude.

Amy Mackin said...

Thank you for the updates, Nathan! I just read your old post discussing the idea that bookstores may go the way of the old record stores. I totally agree with you.

We had a lovely little independent bookstore downtown in my New England suburb. Back in October of 2007, Borders opened up a huge store in a newly built shopping plaza about a three-minute drive from downtown. The indie store survived for a little while longer, but eventually most everyone started shopping at Borders instead. It was a sad day when the indie store went out, but I couldn't really blame anyone for choosing the corporate giant, with all the advantages it offered.

Then, almost two years ago, I saw the standard email from the CEO of Borders announcing the closing of the business. I actually wrote an open letter response outlining what I believe to be the formula for success when it comes to brick and mortar bookstores. They have to give the consumer something an online store simply cannot, in the form of face-to-face interaction.

Amazon has many great forums, but it's not the same as getting together with a group of people in person and passionately discussing a book you've all read. The immediate back-and-forth dialogue, the constant interruption of each other because you wholeheartedly agree or passionately disagree.

You must create a place where local authors come and speak, and university professors offer lectures, a place where people get to know their neighbors over a cup of coffee and some lively discussion. You have to build a literary community center...that also sells books.

Sorry for the long comment—I’m really passionate about this subject!

Anonymous said...

Great photo!

Related Posts with Thumbnails