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What ails Sweden’s book world?
July 5, 2015 | 3:06 pm

IMG_20150704_110920After several very in-depth discussions with publishers, booksellers, and writers in Sweden, I can report an industry in crisis - and one which is stumbling towards possible solutions, frequently in the wrong direction. The situation was typified, according to my sources, by recent reports that Hedengrens, Sweden's most widely respected bookshop and something of a cultural institution, was complaining of ever more difficult trading conditions, citing showrooming and general competition from online book ordering services. Some insiders feel that Hedengrens has long enjoyed and exploited its market dominance, and is simply grumbling about loss of its privileged status. But pretty...

Appeals court upholds Cote’s Apple anti-trust verdict and settlement
June 30, 2015 | 11:50 am

Only last month, the 2nd Circuit appeals court said that anti-trust monitor Michael Bromwich could continue to monitor Apple in a ruling on Apple’s appeal of Judge Cote’s refusal to dismiss him. Today, the same appeals court issued a similar ruling on Cote’s original verdict, which found Apple guilty of price-fixing and imposed the anti-trust monitor via injunction in the first place. The ruling was 2:1, with Judge Debra Ann Livingston writing for the majority, finding Cote’s decision was correct and the injunction was “lawful and consistent with preventing future anticompetitive harms.” Dissenting was Judge Dennis Jacobs, who oddly enough last time...

What Indie Authors Can Learn from Big Retail
June 26, 2015 | 10:56 am

competitionAs a relative Twitter newbie, I have been burning up my Kindle Unlimited downloads this month on social media guides for authors. How much to tweet? What to say? How to say it? It all felt so confusing to me. Then I had a retail experience yesterday which opened my eyes a little. When I came home and told the Beloved what happened, he smirked and said 'it's just like Twitter, in a way. Are you going to write about this?' Let me back up and tell you the whole story. I bought a wedding dress yesterday! Yes, yes, I know, very...

A dirty secret of big publishing: More fact-checking needed. Fixes on the way?
June 24, 2015 | 1:10 pm

SiliconJungleWhen I worked on The Silicon Jungle, I didn’t just benefit from a keen-eyed copy editor at Ballantine Books. Sentence by sentence, a computer consultant vetted me. A few years later I published another popular-level technical book at another big house. The amount spent on professional fact-checking? $0, despite the intricacies of the topic. Had I written that Marconi invented integrated circuits, it just might have shown up in the book despite the literary talents of the brilliant development editor. Yes, I’m indulging in hyperbole. But you get the idea. Unfortunately, the second house is far more typical of publishing these days, with book...

Book review: Strange Tales V edited by Rosalie Parker, Tartarus Press
June 23, 2015 | 11:39 am

Strange Tales VThe fifth in an award-winning series of speculative fiction anthologies from Tartarus Press, Strange Tales V contains some outstanding instances of dark, strange, bizarre, and disturbing writing. No surprise when you see that they were chosen by Rosalie Parker, who, as her Wikipedia entry states, is an "author, scriptwriter and editor who runs the Tartarus Press" with Ray Russell, and who "jointly won the World Fantasy Award 'Special Award: Non-Professional' for publishing in 2002, 2004 and 2012." The first volume in the series, Strange Tales, won the 2004 World Fantasy Award in the Anthology category, and this one is a...

Amazon and Penguin Random House agree to contract
June 18, 2015 | 1:08 pm

Amazon has signed a new contract with Penguin Random House, Publishers Weekly reports. Penguin Random House represents the last of the Big Five (nee Big Six) publishers and the last of the “Agency Five” (well, the Penguin half does, anyway) to agree to new terms. This brings an end to any possibility that there could be a repeat of the months-long Hachette unpleasantness. It’s impossible to know whether Amazon or PRH got the better deal since the terms are not being disclosed, but both sides seem to have learned well the lessons of all the fireworks over the...

Author’s Guild Proposing Contract Challenges
June 18, 2015 | 10:26 am

contractNow this is a step in the right direction, assuming they follow through on it. The Author's Guild is proposing an initiative for fair author contracts, and I think they are right on. Authors are among our more vulnerable classes of workers. Book authors receive no benefits, no retirement income or pension, and there are no unions to protect them. They live or die by copyright—their ability to license rights to publishers in exchange for advances and royalties. While copyright is meant to give authors control of how and on what terms others can use their works, publishing agreements tend to be...

Book review: The Unquiet House by Alison Littlewood, Jo Fletcher Books
June 13, 2015 | 5:21 pm

getImageYorkshire-based UK horror and dark fiction writer Alison Littlewood has already produced some very fine horror novels, and this, her third, has been nominated for Best Novel in this year's Shirley Jackson Awards. The Unquiet House could be considered a brave choice for the Shirley Jackson Awards, because much of it is not only written with dialogue in a rich Yorkshire dialect, but also is initimately, palpably woven into its Yorkshire setting, so much so that parts of it are very effective period pieces. As a Brit, I have no idea how much American or other non-British readers are going...

Sad Puppies roundup, and the Irene Gallo controversy
June 10, 2015 | 8:19 am

sad_puppies_3_patchIt’s been some time since our last few posts covering the Sad/Rabid Puppies Hugo Awards controversy, and a few interesting developments and articles have come out since then, so it’s time for a roundup. First of all, Jim C. Hines has put a lot of time and effort into compiling a comprehensive history of the whole Sad Puppies movement, dating back to Sad Puppies’ first appearance several years ago. While there is not exactly any love lost between Hines and the Puppies, Hines has done his best to back up anything he says about them with complete quotes from...

Book review: After the People Lights Have Gone Off, by Stephen Graham Jones, Dark House Press
June 6, 2015 | 2:03 pm

After People Lights Have GoneThis collection by Stephen Graham Jones has been cropping up on slate after slate for this year's awards, with Best Collection nominations in the Bram Stoker Awards and Shirley Jackson Awards, and a win as Best Collection from This Is Horror. After the People Lights Have Gone Off comprises 15 very diverse stories, quite a few of which will already be familiar from other highly regarded anthologies. Dark House Press have done their usual sterling job with excellent production values, including some superb chapter heading illustrations by Luke Spooner. Which is quite something for a collection where you'd hesitate to describe some stories...

Does anyone even want cross-platform e-book interoperability?
June 6, 2015 | 6:06 am

padlockProprietary e-book formats have been around for quite some time. Most major commercial vendors use proprietary formats to one extent or another, be they Amazon’s Kindle format or the proprietary DRM that Barnes & Noble and others put on top of EPUB. Given that they help to chill competition and keep Amazon firmly on the top of the e-book hill, they are generally not accounted to be a good thing by publishing industry activists. But I ran across a provocative post at Digital Book World suggesting that they might actually be a good thing after all. Joshua Tallent says...

Morning Links: Orphan works. Fighting the bad guys. WiFi-powered cameras and Big Brother.
June 5, 2015 | 9:36 am

U.S. Copyright Office Releases Report on Orphan Works and Mass Digitization (InfoDocket) The Report documents the legal and business challenges faced by good faith users who seek to use orphan works and/or engage in mass digitization projects. The TeleRead Take: Slow progress on this issue, but still, progress. I think this is an important, and often overlooked topic. -- Five Authors Who Will Inspire You to Fight the System (Book Riot) Activism is exhausting. It’s all very well to say that you’re going to be proactive and fight the power but actually doing it?...

Latinos, e-books and the rest of the publishing industry: A Hispanic writer speaks out
June 4, 2015 | 1:59 pm

dcubiasEarlier today I noted the U.S. publishing industry’s disgraceful lack of diversity---this among a slew of other idiocies. Now, check out a trilogy of smart posts from Daniel Cubias, a Hispanic writer of fiction and nonfiction, blogging in HuffPo. - Are e-Books a good idea for Latino authors? - Why aren’t more Latino authors being published? - Are small presses the best choice for Latino writers? From the e-book-focused post, which mentions Amazon’s Hispanic-oriented marketing: But will Americans be buying? Well, as we all know, the Hispanic population in America is increasing. And bilingualism,...

E-book gouges and other risks TO profit-crazed publishers
June 4, 2015 | 10:59 am

U.S. currency. Follow link for CC info, etc., via WikipediaNate and Good E-Reader are on the money in blasting Big Five houses for bloated publocracies and the inevitable result. Overpriced books---to pay for the waste. We know, too, that the B5 are trying to protect their investment in pulped-wood publishing, by way of e-book gouges. Sigh. They never learn. Years ago I was grousing about the same issues. I’m pleased to see others carrying on the fight. Joanna may soon have her own thoughts to add. Now here are  other angle to consider, in the shoot-yourself-in-the-foot department: 1. E-books aren’t just competing with each other or within paper edition. They’re also competing...

Book review: Things that go Bump in the Night, selected by Douglas Draa and David A. Riley, Parallel Universe Publications
May 31, 2015 | 4:35 am

Bump coverIn these ebook days, compilations of public domain material can be a waste of money if they carry a price tag, or a great value add. Certainly, Things That go Bump in the Night: A Treasury of Classic Weird is one of those volumes of classic reprints whose contents you (mostly) could put together for free by looking at the contents list, and searching Project Gutenberg and other copyright-free sites for the stories inside. But it also brings some extra editorial value by unearthing some genuinely weird gems which will be new to many, including me. (Before we begin, note that David A....

Apple anti-trust monitor can stay on, appeals court rules
May 28, 2015 | 1:37 pm

My, the squabbles between Apple and the e-book anti-trust monitor Michael Bromwich have been going on for a long time, haven’t they? I can’t even keep track of how many shots and volleys have been fired back and forth. The latest news out of the case involves the appeal of Judge Cote’s decision not to disqualify Bromwich. The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals declined to reverse Cote’s decision, so Bromwich stays on. Circuit Judge Dennis Jacobs found that some of Bromwich’s behavior (such as submitting an affidavit in conjunction with the plaintiffs’ legal brief) might be a little sketchy,...

Is Digital Publishing Broken?
May 27, 2015 | 12:25 pm

digital publishingThe short answer is: no. But our friends at GoodeReader beg to differ. And I think I want to add this trope to the list of 'article topics which should be banned from the internet.' Here is why. Mercy Pilkington's core assertion seems to be that every 'solution' which has come about so far favours someone other than the author. Therefore, she concludes that discoverability is the biggest issue facing publishing, and since no technology has come about to solve it, digital publishing is 'broken.' No, no, a thousand times no. First of all, readers---aka the customer, the only one paying actual...

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