About Me

A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Quick Newsy Notes

A few items from the past week...

HarperCollins is doing a "this tape will self-destruct" thing on its e-book library loan program, allowing 26 circulations per library purchase. Why? I figured this out before I read it officially. They feel this about matches the iifespan of a printed book in the typical library, and they don't wish to have an e-book purchase become an eternally available sort of thing when a print book truly can't be loaned forever before it falls apart. You can find a Library Journal article on the subject here, link courtesy of publishersmarketplace.com. I'm of mixed emotion on this. I don't think it's prima facie a heinous thing to do because businesses do need to adjust to changing business models, and the longevity of the product sold is enough of a concern that it's just kind of sitting there to be noticed and looked at. On the other hand, it pisses off customers. In the real world, libraries rarely would replace copies of a book that was ready to go to pasture unless it was maybe something like Harry Potter that doesn't come along very often. The book would be discarded or sold away at a Friends of the Library sale for 25¢ and that would be it. The main difference might be that if a patron discovers, let's say, Simon Green's Nightside series when the library had the 10th book, maybe they would go out and buy the first ten and now with e-book lending they could still find the first book sitting on the electronic shelf six years later. But even though readers are readers, I'm not sure the dedicated library patron would be the reader who'd go and actually buy a series like this. Hence, I feel as if Harper is addressing a real problem, but also that they've inflated and enlarged this bogey-man beyond the stature it actually deserved, and thus perhaps come up with a remedy that's a little more punitive sounding than it needs to be.

That same issue of the Publishers Lunch Deluxe from publishersmarketplace.com reports that Bloomsbury is reporting e-book sales at 40% now, while Sourcebooks was saying 35%. On the other hand, Penguin still has print as 85% of its business and thinks people need to be reminded that the lion's share of the book business is still in the old-fashioned print variety. Penguin also reported having a very good year even after taking reserves and allowances for the $42M that Borders owes and additional sums from the bankruptcy of RED Group, the major bookseller in Australia and New Zealand.

Tweeted a link to a NY Times article that went live last night about bookstores dealing with non-bookstore channels to sell books. This is the kind of thing that's hardly news news, though the Times tries to hook it as having new urgency in a post-Borders era. Alas, these channels can't replace Borders. Their selections are too small, maybe you can get a couple hundred appropriate books into a big Whole Foods markets, or twenty in some other retail channel. These sales also don't help a lot, because they can be invisible. Publishers do look at Bookscan. We once had a book by John Zakour, Man's Guide to Pregnancy, that was selling a gazillion copies at Motherhood Maternity. But because none of those sales are on Bookscan, selling the sequel was impossible because (1) we had to take a "trust us" approach in telling people that there really were all of these sales because it was 90% of more and the visible sales to other publishes hardly there at all and (2) if you don't think the sequel will sell to the same place then you have to conclude there's no market to be had.

Finally, we've achieve launch on stage 2 of our e-book program with most of the Hot Blood erotic horror anthologies now up for sale at Kindle. We should have those up on Nook soon. Kobo we're very close, they have a slightly more cumbersome process but the account is set up. We had a problem getting the account set up at iBooks which took weeks to fix, and now we're having trouble getting them to accept uploads of the same ePub files that everyone else is perfectly happy with. We need to get in touch with Sony, still. And Mayer Alan Brenner and James Robert Baker programs are progressing, while Rick Shelley is starting to come up after.

1 comment:

Maria said...

There's really very little wrong with the HarperCollins 26 lending program--except that they didn't present it well AT ALL. It's a PR thing and they needed to have set it up as a good thing for everyone involved instead of coming across as high-and-mighty Grinch.

Most ebooks revolve through some kind of licensing program in the overdrive programs. None, so far as I know are a "buy a license and the library gets to use it forever." Harpercollins could easily have marketed this as a generous program (or actually been generous with it.) by explaining the various options and then going above and beyond (or at least giving that appearance at first glance.)

The problem is that the average ebook library patron has no idea how the license fees/structures work. Everyone assumes this is "Worse" than any other license/fee. I'm not saying it is great; the point is there is no comparison.

The publishers and authors and so on need to make some money. A smarter thing might have been to approach Overdrive and suggest a 10 cents or 25 cents (or whatever made sense) check-out fee attached to the license. Something that allows a book that IS being checked out to continue to be profitable and continue to be available. Create a system where there is a continued money-stream without upsetting readers to the point of uproar.

Instead of working with overdrive and libraries to find a way to change the system to benefit everyone, they announced what appeared to be a Grand Plan to make money and limit access. Brilliant.