Wednesday, October 31, 2012

DCL Report 10/31/2012

Just in time for Halloween, this harrowing DCL Report again compares consumer prices for print and ebooks to what libraries have to pay -- when we can buy them at all. This time, the bestseller list is from USA Today -- the top 25.


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Zinio and online magazines

My library is one of many that now subscribes to Zinio: the World's Largest Digital Newstand. Available as an app for Android and iOS, it's also available as an online subscription. What that means is that because I pay taxes to my Douglas County Libraries, I have access via my computer, tablet and phone to an impressive collection of the full editions of many popular magazines.

One of the ones I'm sampling is Newsweek - the very edition (Oct. 29, 2012) in which it left paper for the digital world. Why? Editor Tina Brown writers, "the supportive print ad dollars fell off a cliff scross the entire industry in the spring of 2011." Meanwhile, she notes, "it costs $24 million a year to manufacture, print, distribute and manage the circulation of Newsweek."

I find that I'm about ready to leave my newspaper behind, too. I understand that I'll have to pay some subscriptions to support the writing I want. But I'm grateful to have the library to allow me to preview the options first.

P.S. Interesting. The Newsweek had some fine writing and reporting in it. But it was just 56 pages long.

National Writers Union weighs in

This piece from the National Writers Union is chock-full of interesting facts. For instance,

"Until recently, typical author-publisher contracts entitled authors to 5-15 percent of revenues for 'sales' of print books and 50 percent of revenues for 'licensing' of other subsidiary rights, including electronic uses or e-books.

"As revenues from e-book licensing have begun to surpass print book sales, publishers have been pressuring authors to agree to contract amendments reducing e-book royalties from 50 percent to a new norm, unilaterally imposed by publishers, of 25 percent of net proceeds. Most publishers' current contracts limit e-book royalties to 25 percent of net."

Most interesting: publishers are telling libraries that they're licensing ebooks to libraries, not selling them. But they're telling writers that they're selling them, not licensing.

I'll repeat what I've written before: libraries and authors are natural allies. And we'd be willing to give them 90% of a sale. If the authors are on our side, just what will the publishers be selling?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Satire: publishers raise print prices to reflect library value

New York - Today RandomHouse announced that it will be raising the price on individual purchases of print books by an average of 430%. "Let's face it," said company spokesman Sam Snively, "if you just buy a book, and only one person reads it, our authors just aren't getting the same kind of exposure that they'd get at, say, a library. Libraries display the book, write reviews for the local paper, host authors, and even do book clubs. Consumers don't do any of that."

Industry observer Josh Golden agreed. "Absolutely. This price more accurately reflects the true value of the work, as established by American libraries' enthusiastic promotion of both literacy and publisher's offerings. Frankly, I'm surprised the industry didn't address this problem years ago."

In a related news item, Simon & Schuster revealed their price hikes for bookstores. "Sure, bookstores buy books from us, but surprisingly often, don't even sell them!" said S&S's Commercial Distribution manager, Myrna Blackthorn. "You wouldn't believe how common it is to have them ship back the books and demand a refund. Libraries don't do that!" When asked how much the price would increase, Blackthorn said, "Like, twice the price? That sounds about right."

These announcements seem to indicate a growing Big Six publisher consensus that other distribution channels should behave more like the lucrative and business-friendly library market. At this writing, no representatives of the American Booksellers Association could be reached for comment.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Book trailer for "A Monster Calls"

At a session yesterday put on by AuthorU, video expert Mike Hance (of Denver Writers Meetup) showed a video trailer for A monster calls, by Patrick Ness. I really haven't been following this art form/commercial. But this one was so compelling I immediately put the book on hold. Evocative.

.... Later. I just read the book this morning, and I cannot remember a more powerful literary experience. The writing, the illustrations, and the story itself are beautiful. The basic plot: 13 year old Conor's mother is very ill. His father lives in America now with his new wife and child. At school, Conor is bullied daily. He has a recurrent nightmare, and a secret he cannot bear. So he sends out a call -- answered by a monster, an ancient yew tree that comes walking to his window after midnight with three tales to tell, and a demand for a fourth.

This is a story that will tear out your heart -- then hand it back to you, whole. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Publishers ask for business models and don't know what a library is

My favorite blog commentary on ALA President Maureen Sullivan's talk to the American Association of Publishers so far: this post from Agnostic Maybe. Brilliant.

First, the cartoon is funny. Most blogs don't have illustrations. Second, the points in the posting do make the humble librarian scratch his or her head. So....publishers (the big six, anyhow) want us to look forward, let go of the past! (Oh, except they also want us to preserve all their existing revenue streams.) They, the producers and distributors, want us, the consumers, to tell them how to price and deliver their products.

The request is itself unusual. Equally unusual is that they apparently don't know that we have. ALA has offered several business models.

Which ones will prevail? Here are two that won't:

* don't sell ebooks to libraries at all.

* charge three to five times the cost of print, which has higher production and distribution costs than electronic files.

And here's just a wild idea that it appears no one in publishing has considered:

* ask the authors what seems right and fair to them.

I recently conducted a focus group with local authors, and put this proposition to them:

* Would you consider DONATING a single copy of your ebook file to the library if we agree to...

* Preserve, review, recommend, and digitally display it;

* Buy an extra copy for every four people who are waiting for it;

* Put a "click here to buy" button in our catalog, with the understanding that you'll share in the revenue of the sale (say, we take 10% AND YOU GET 90%).

Guess what?

They said, "Yes."

Are we talking to the right people? - Welcome

In November of 2018, I left my position at ALA in Chicago to return to my Colorado-based writing, speaking, and consulting career. So I'...