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Planet Agent’s guide to UK agents already in firing line
September 15, 2014 | 10:25 am

agent hunter transparency-index-graphic1The UK "database of all UK literary agents, their agencies and publishers" Agent Hunter has released research, summarized in the form of the infographic included here, on the state of the UK agenting environment that has already attracted complaints and objections. As quoted by The Bookseller, the president of the Association of Authors Agents, Sam Edenborough, has protested that Agent Hunter is making “shrill criticisms.” Agent Hunter's claim is that "We’ve taken the massive amount of data on our site and produced the first ever comprehensive analysis of Planet Agent." The negative comments in the analysis focus on the exclusivity, lack...

Irvine Welsh on Scottish independence
September 7, 2014 | 2:25 pm

At this year's Edinburgh International Book Festival to speak and to promote his latest book, The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins, iconic modern Scottish novelist Irvine Welsh, who has probably done more to push contemporary Scottish society into public awareness than any other writer, diverted from the American theme of his new book to address the whole Scottish independence referendum debate - in terms that cast a spotlight on the entire UK as a whole. Asked simply "Yes or No, and why?" Welsh replied: I can't vote so I'm not telling anybody how they should vote, just  giving what I believe, but...

Edinburgh, the pioneer UNESCO City of Literature
August 25, 2014 | 10:58 am

At the Edinburgh International Book Festival 2014, I spoke to Sarah Morrison, Communications Executive of the Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust, about how Edinburgh pioneered the UNESCO Cities of Literature programme, and what this has done for the city itself....

Did UK arts body discriminate against Scottish Braveheart project?
August 22, 2014 | 12:25 pm

Normally this would go in the Unconfirmed Rumors box, but the BBC has already reported it and journalists here at the Edinburgh International Book Festival are chasing up frantically for confirmation. The report - immediately endorsed by some interested parties - is that the Heritage Lottery Fund (Scotland) has denied funding for a monument to commemorate William Wallace's victory at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297 - one of the highlights of Mel Gibson's Braveheart - on the possible grounds that it is too politically divisive in the runup to the independence referendum next month. The Guardians of Scotland Trust certainly...

Cameron refuses protester meeting, backs prison books delivery ban
August 12, 2014 | 10:25 am

UK Prime Minister David Cameron has thrown his weight behind the widely criticized policy introduced by Justice Secretary Chris Grayling of banning book deliveries to prisoners. After refusing to meet a delegation of writers and intellectuals at No.10 Downing Street, Cameron has replied to the protest letter they delivered, pointing out that "the Government has not banned prisoners' access to books" - something that no one accused the government of doing in the first place. In his note, here courtesy of The Guardian, Cameron points out that "there is statutory library provision for every prison", and that "should a prisoner wish...

Do UK writers have a right to protest Scottish independence?
August 8, 2014 | 6:25 pm

The Bookseller is devoting headline space to the contribution by UK authors - most of them neither Scottish nor resident in Scotland - to an open letter signed by "over 200 great names" on behalf of the Let's Stay Together campaign, which aims to give "a voice to everyone who doesn't have a vote in the decision to break up Britain," in the runup to the historic referendum on Scottish independence in September. British historian and author Tom Holland, who has also written an extensive piece in the New Statesman on the issue, is organizing the letter campaign in partnership...

Campaigners wave, mail Dostoyevsky to Grayling in UK prison books protest
July 31, 2014 | 12:25 pm

GraylingThe current UK government's thuggish vote-catching populist policy of denying prisoners books seems to be backfiring on multiple levels as the Howard League for Penal Reform, and other groups and individuals, make their own bids for media attention. In one recent incident, recorded on live TV, "supporters of the Howard League for Penal Reform’s Books For Prisoners campaign ... held up books and bore silent witness while Justice Secretary Chris Grayling faced questions from the justice select committee. Campaigners displayed copies of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime And Punishment while sitting in the public gallery." Dostoyevsky’s Crime And Punishment seems to have become...

Google uses transfer pricing to avoid paying European taxes
July 27, 2014 | 9:25 am

One of the most commonly-heard complaints about Amazon, at least in Europe, is that it sells e-books from a division based in Luxembourg so that it can charge a much lower VAT (Value-Added Tax, the European equivalent of sales tax) rate on its e-books than UK law allows. The unspoken implication is that everyone else must surely pay all the taxes they owe like good little corporate boys and girls. But Ars Technica reports that Google uses a practice called “transfer pricing” to assign most of its European revenues to an offshore subsidiary in Bermuda and avoid paying taxes...

Is Philip Jones really standing up for the book?
July 7, 2014 | 2:28 pm

In the context of Joanna Cabot's recent post asking "Would Anyone Care About the Amazon/Hachette Dispute If it Wasn’t About Books?", it's worth picking up the editorial "Disinterested? Moi?" by Philip Jones, editor of The Bookseller, about the primacy of the book. "It is the books that should do the talking, not the publisher," he declares. "Publishers may make books, but it is the books that maketh the business." Few actual authors would disagree with that. Jones follows with the creed he came into the job with: "my job was to support the book. We could be rude about publishers, booksellers,...

Books are as essential as bread. Ask the English poor.
June 27, 2014 | 2:28 pm

In these enlightened times that have brought us that wonder of 21st-century social engineering, the foodbank, it's gratifying to report that, without any conspicuous aid from the current British government, UK charities are ministering to poorer citizens' cultural and intellectual as well as culinary needs. British literacy charity Booktrust has teamed up with the Trussell Trust Foodbank network to distribute books through their network - in this case, children's picture title Super Duck by Jez Alborough. "Books and toys are low down on priorities for families," said Project Leader of West Norwood and Brixton Foodbank, Elizabeth Maytom. "Money will be spent on...

Amazon wants co-op payments, and also concessions in the UK
June 24, 2014 | 4:02 am

So, thanks to a leak, we’ve finally found out what the Amazon/Hachette spat is over. The New York Times reported a couple of days ago that an anonymous source within Hachette says that Amazon wants to extract extra fees for a number of services, including the pre-order button, placement in personalized recommendations, and so on. It looks kind of skeevy at first glance, but it’s really the same kind of “co-op” promotional payment Barnes & Noble extracts for prominent placement of books in its stores. You know how you sometimes see displays dedicated to a single book. or...

Redesigning the small bookstore
June 2, 2014 | 3:35 pm

books1What would the bookstore of the future look like? The Economist’s Intelligent Life magazine asked four Commonwealth architecture firms to come up with their futuristic vision for a small High Street bookshop with two floors of 1,000 square feet each, and a limited budget of £100,000 (about $168,000) to make all the improvements. The visions they came up with are certainly interesting. They differ in details, but they all agree that it’s not just a matter of moving furniture around to make it look nice. They need to redefine the bookstore’s business model, and then design a space to...