Last week was the Futurebook Conference 2012, run by The Bookseller – a must-attend for most of the publishing industry that goes well beyond the book to look at how our rapidly-changing industry has evolved over the past year, and what our major concerns are at the moment. With an impressive program covering agents, international retailers, self-publishing, and consumer insight, for me the most telling session of the day was the first I attended – a panel on pricing strategies with Paul Rhodes from Orb Entertainment, Michael Tamblyn from Kobo, Eloy Sasot from HarperCollins, Rachel Willmer founder of Luzme.com, and Orna Ross founder of The Alliance of Independent Authors and self-published author.
There are very few things in life that make my blood boil more than someone tearing down the industry I work in with false accusations of collusion, underhandedness, and evil doing. So when I see a headline like ‘Why Book Publishers Hate Authors‘ in the Huffington Post, it’s all I can do to stop myself from going into a blind rage and throwing my computer into the ocean, finding the nearest rocket, and blasting myself into the face of the sun. Because what the hell, guys.
At some stage last week while I was asleep, buy buttons were removed from Big 6 (5?) publishers Hachette, Penguin, Random House, HarperCollins, Macmillan and Simon & Schuster. What followed was a brief turd storm of concern, blame and speculation about what these publishers had done to bring forth the wrath of Bezos, followed by a ‘statement’ from Amazon a while later saying it was a technical glitch (ie: they sent out an email with ‘technical glitch’ as the subject line and blank body text, probs).
“The two companies have not reached agreement and there is no certainty that the discussions will lead to a transaction.” I think it’s safe to say it is far too early for us to be predicting what colour hair children of a union between Penguin and Random House would lead to, given they themselves haven’t committed to anything more than a date with one another, but when has the lack of a concrete announcement of something stopped media speculation in the past? Still, I feel I’d be remiss to ignore it, given the second most exciting publishing news last week was the appearance of Kindle in bookshops. [Author note: it is not too early. They have finalised the details of the merge this morning, but I'm leaving this paragraph in. News moves fast.]
Last week saw the declaration by Amazon that the dissolution of agency pricing in the US was a “big win for customer“ and that they look forward to lowering prices on more ebooks in the future. It’s slightly surreal for me to read that lower ebook prices is something anyone would ‘look forward’ to, given how much effort publishers are making (not across the board, but certainly in some places) to ensure the price of ebooks stays at a level that encourages a sense of worth for the format. Testament to Amazon’s place in the market, however, the news was not received badly.
In the run up to the launch of BookMachine.me I’ve picked out some of the top publishing partnerships and collaborations around. I hope it gives you some inspiration to get out there and start collaborating! … and also to come to the launch of BookMachine.me at BookMachine Unplugged on 7th November.
‘I don’t get up in the morning and say: Am I inspired? …No, I’m not. I won’t work. ‘cos, God, how often would I ever work, you know?’
These words were spoken last week by one of the world’s most prolific authors, J.K. Rowling, and summed up quite nicely something I think many people want to forget about literature: books are a business; writing is work. Our explosive amnesia surrounding the b-word was highlighted again after reading the incredible reaction to news that Penguin US decided to sue a few authors after the books they were paid to write were not written.
The internet has changed a lot in the last ten years. Well, even in the last two. Maybe even in the last week. Ok, so it’s ever-changing. New languages are being developed and perfected all the time, and the rise of apps plus innovative web design means users expect a different browsing experience. With more people than ever before buying and browsing books online, publishers have a real opportunity to go head to head with other retailers (should they so wish) by investing a massive amount in their web presence. And no, I’m not talking about setting up a Twitter account that auto-Tweets links to Amazon.
I try not to read the comments sections of a lot of websites because generally they are filled with postulating jerks who have glanced at the headline and perhaps the sub-header of an article and become incensed enough to burst their self-righteous gland all over the internet. A marked exception to this is the yearly Booker backlash, which I watch with that sick pleasure usually reserved for early episodes of Masterchef.
Picture the technology available when you were a child… I dont know about you but, I dont consider myself to be that old (30′s ahem) and things were pretty shabby. 2D graphics with the only movement in a game being left to right, phone boxes (and calling the operator for a reverse charge call to your mum) no internet and a computer room at school where you could sit in front of a giant box and grow an electronic sunflower in double science (anyone remember that gem?!).