Best Selling author Douglas Preston, along with 907 other authors, signed a letter that ran as a double full-page ad in yesterday’s print edition of the New York Times, asking Amazon to stop blocking or delaying the sale of books on their site as a tactic to lower the e-book prices that Amazon is charged by the publisher Hachette.* The three month dispute between Hachette and Amazon previously prompted a response by Amazon’s self-published authors and readers, but it took an odd turn Saturday night when Amazon posted this letter on a site called ReadersUnited.com, after sending it as an email to all of its Kindle Direct Publishing authors. In that letter they include Hachette’s CEO’s email, and have asked their KDP authors to write to Hachette’s CEO telling him what they think about cheaper ebooks. [more inside]
Earlier this year venerable academic publishers Springer and IEEE were impelled to remove more than 120 physics papers from their published proceedings because the papers were computer-generated nonsense. The SCIgen program (and its math-oriented fork) is available for the non-discriminating would-be author to generate such word salad. It's previously been used to perform hoaxes (previously, previouslier) of the kind that Alan Sokal wrought on a post-modern journal. (After the papers are published, the hoaxers claim incompetence by editors.) But in this case the papers don't appear to be hoaxes -- they're instead perhaps generated to pad academic CVs, with the publishers all too willing to take the publication fees. [more inside]
"Douglas County Model" gives libraries new e-book leverage — The public library system in Douglas County, where bedroom suburbs rub shoulders with century-old ranches, might seem an unlikely game-changer in the world of publishing. But the county's innovative e-book lending platform, which aims to flip the dynamic between publishers and libraries, is giving hope to cash-strapped libraries from Alaska to Australia that they'll be able to offer more electronic material to users, for less money. From The Denver Post, 11/21/2013.
What Is the Business of Literature?
Publishing is a word that, like the book, is almost but not quite a proxy for the “business of literature.” Current accounts of publishing have the industry about as imperiled as the book, and the presumption is that if we lose publishing, we lose good books. Yet what we have right now is a system that produces great literature in spite of itself. We have come to believe that the taste-making, genius-discerning editorial activity attached to the selection, packaging, printing, and distribution of books to retailers is central to the value of literature. We believe it protects us from the shameful indulgence of too many books by insisting on a rigorous, abstemious diet. Critiques of publishing often focus on its corporate or capitalist nature, arguing that the profit motive retards decisions that would otherwise be based on pure literary merit. But capitalism per se and the market forces that both animate and pre-suppose it aren’t the problem. They are, in fact, what brought literature and the author into being.[more inside]
Last week, small press distributor Independent Publishers Group (IPG) announced that Amazon has decided to stop selling Kindle editions for the publishers IPG represents. The decision impacts over 500 small publishers and almost 5,000 Kindle titles. Neither party has offered much in the way of specifics, but other publishers have been reporting that Amazon has been pressuring them to offer higher discounts and/or pay a “co-op” fee of an additional 3%-4% on all sales to cover the cost of offering “automation and personalization” services (i.e. Customers who bought x also bought y). Authors and publishers have been reacting to the development.
Barney Rosset, former owner of the influential Grove Press and Evergreen Review, boundary-shattering publisher of Tropic of Cancer, Waiting for Godot, and Naked Lunch, and U.S. distributor of I Am Curious (Yellow), died yesterday at the age of 90.
He spent a lifetime peddling smut and once had an $11 million fortune, but after losing everything and becoming just another homeless New Yorker, Al Goldstein is now happy pushing bagels instead of porn.
What a cool idea! A poetry publisher that not only puts out an online journal, but also distributes poems via gumball machines. As of now there's only 7 Gumball Poetry machines worldwide, mostly in the Western US, but they're ready to make more. Next time you've got a quarter jinglin' in your jeans skip the gum and get some free verse instead.
Crimethinc is a new publisher that’s getting a bit of mainstream press mostly on the basis of a book called Evasion, which is a nonfiction account of a latter day Huck Finn cum Hayduke. (Any store that uses an Evan Dorkin comic to illustrate a point gets my dollars.)
More consolidation in book publishing. Today Publishers Group West was bought by Advanced Marketing. PGW was the largest distributor of indy publishers in the US. They've distributed everything from pot-growing manuals to Dennis Cooper. If, in months to come, you see even less risk at your local superstore, don't be suprised.
Publishers' Worst Nightmare : Information for Free. There are people working night and day on putting a meter on the information we either want or need. While they're well within their right to do so, it's refreshing to come across an alternative approach.