Tuesday morning thoughts

I’m running a bit late this morning and — gasp — without coffee. Yes, that horrible day finally came to pass. I have to start a day without that magical elixir that jump-starts my brain and body. I won’t go into details, but let’s just say I am NOT amused. The only thing worse would be to know someone had stolen all the world’s chocolate and single malt. That would drive most writers, myself especially, insane.

Oh, wait, maybe we are already insane. We are writers, after all. We hear voices when no one’s there. We often find ourselves fighting invisible enemies, usually in public. Admit it. You know what I’m talking about. You’ve found yourself being stared at while sitting at a red light and acting out a fight scene. You’ve gotten the odd look or three when taking a walk and muttering to yourself about the best ways to kill someone and then dispose of the body.

You haven’t? Okay, maybe it’s just me. Maybe it’s time for those nice men in their crisp white coats to come fit me with that totally nifty jacket with the really long arms 😉

Seriously, there are some things going on in the publishing world that have nothing to do with Amazon. At least not directly, although at least one of them may impact the mega-retailer on down the road.

The first story that caught my eye this morning deals with our public libraries. In case you missed it, the majority of the Big 6 publishers have either completely refused to supply e-books to libraries or have put severe limitations on how many times an e-book can be “checked out” before a new license is purchased (as in less than 25 times) or have increased the price of the most popular e-books so they cost much more than their hard copy versions. Needless to say, that’s put libraries in a quandary. They are facing increased patron demand for e-books at a time when their budgets are either remaining the same or decreasing. As the next step in the on-going dispute between libraries and five of the Big 6 publishers, the ALA executive boards has pledged to “intensify and expand” its advocacy efforts for libraries to be able to secure e-books for their catalogs.

I’m not sure how effective this will be. After all, these publishers have already shown they really don’t care about library needs or the reality of their budgets. It is probably going to take either public pressure in the vein of a group of educators, politicians or big name celebs taking to the media to get them to back down even a bit. I’m not sure even that will do it. These publishers are so afraid of e-books and so sure readers of them are crooks, I just don’t see them changing their stance soon — and, no, I’m not holding my breath that the TOR announcement to do away with DRM is a trend.

Keeping in the library vein of things, there was a meeting earlier this month in San Francisco where more discussions were held concerning the founding of a digital public library. While I love the concept, I don’t see it happening any time soon. In fact, I think Publishers Weekly has the right of it with this comment: The best thing about the meeting, the second major public gathering of the DPLA, was that it was full of hope and aspirations. Of course, that was also the worst thing about the DPLA meeting, too.

You can read more about it here.

On the brick and mortar storefront, there’s been a non-binding offer by the Anderson family to buy out Books-a-Million and take it private. I haven’t read much about it yet, so I’m not sure how I feel about it. You can read more about it here.

And now there’s the one story that doesn’t directly impact Amazon, at least not yet, but has the potential to. More than that, it has the potential to cause conflict with Apple and that, my friends, brings joy to my heart. Yes, I’ll admit it. Where there are many in the industry who are so scared of Amazon, they are willing to back just about anything, even if it violates anti-trust laws, if it might hurt Amazon, I am all for anything legal that might take a bite out of Apple. You see, I don’t believe in coincidence and, let’s face it, the sudden adoption by the Publishing 5 (as opposed to the Big 6) of the agency pricing model at the exact same time Apple was opening its iBookstore is just too much of a coincidence to be ignored. Any way  . . . .

Barnes & Noble has announced an agreement with Microsoft that sent B&N’s stock soaring yesterday. You can read more about it here. I’m still trying to figure out all the possible ways this agreement can impact not only publishing, but the retail end as well — remember, no coffee so the brain is only limping along slowly — but my first reaction was cautious optimism. First, it does give B&N an influx of cash it desperately needs. Second, having a son in college and knowing that the university bookstore is now being run by B&N, anything that will help bring down the cost of his books and offer a variety of formats is good. But only time will tell if this partnership will actually benefit the bookseller, much less Microsoft.

What do you guys think? Have you seen anything else in the publishing world you want to discuss?

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Book 1 in the Nocturnal Lives Series

Now for the promotional spiel. Nocturnal Origins (Book 1 of the Nocturnal Lives Series) can be purchased through Amazon. Nocturnal Serenade (Book 2) and Nocturnal Haunts (a novella set in the Nocturnal Lives world) can be purchased through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and the Naked Reader Press webstore. And, because I was rightly chastised by someone for not pointing this out, authors get a larger slice of the pie if you buy your copies from the NRP store. Finally, as always, there is no DRM added to any of the Naked Reader Press titles.

10 comments

  1. Re: libraries. I’ll be curious to see two things. One, if patron requests for different formats (Kindle, iThing, Nook, home computer in desperate need of an upgrade) cause problems with the publishers vs. the librarians. Two, if libraries will accelerate their weeding of older non-fiction books because “oh, they are available online!” Yes, you have it online, except that I can’t access the footnotes online or the illustrations or page numbers (oops).

    1. The different formats is part of the problem the publishers have. They don’t want Overdrive giving access to MOBI files (Amazon Kindle) unless they have to be side-loaded. They seem to have a problem with being able to instantly have the title available on your kindle. Gee, I wonder why? They also seem to think this instant availability takes money out of their pockets. I wonder how long before they start applying this “logic” to hard copy books.

      As for your concern about non-fic titles, I wouldn’t worry. That’s not going to happen for a long time because of the cost and the fact that most patrons still want the hard copy version.

  2. Steering *well* clear of the libraries-issue … I don’t think I can approach that topic apolitically.

    First blush on the B&N/MicroSoft link: Is it unreasonable to expect someone who has staked out a moniker like “Publisher’s Weekly” to have a competent copy-editor or three? I’m having to read everything two and three times to grok this thing, and that’s *with* coffee …

    1. Steve, why do you think I said so little on the library topic? As for grokking it with coffee, think about me trying to do it without.

  3. Ok, I’ve made it through the B&N piece twice. Let’s see …

    The explicit reference to looking for synergy with their existing brick-and-mortar footprint has some real possibilities. I can see something like a “pick it up in your local store without paying for shipping” option, for example, which could grab the “free shipping” element while also enticing people to browse the stacks.

    A lot of this will depend on implementation, and a lot of THAT will depend on whether they’re bright enough to take a page from the Baen playbook and get the fen involved in the process. I see a potential danger in all the talk about developmental products/capabilities tied to Windows 8, though. They risk making things too platform-centric, if they don’t guard against it, particularly if they don’t actively consider how many people do virtually everything via smart-phones in today’s market.

    No mention od POD in the article, but it seems like it would be a reasonable fit with the rest of the package.

    I’ll ponder some more …

    1. I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting to see if they follow Baen, Steve. All you have to do is try to find their online communities now to see what I mean. They are there. But finding them is difficult at the best of times. Or at least it was the last time I looked.

  4. Oh, and by the way …. no coffee??????????????
    They’d have to just go ahead and shoot me …..

  5. eLibraries . . . are, in a way, two different problems.

    One is access to fiction that readers want. Best sellers, books by “known” authors and so forth. Since the vast majority of these are currently coming out of the big publishers, that’s going to be an on-going problem. Now, writers could volunteer their books, but there would have to be an outside gate keeper. “Someone” to reject the poorly written, and pigeonhole books by age appropriateness and genre. And get them in multiple formats in an easily searched packet for distribution to public libraries. But that wouldn’t get the latest hit on the eShelves.

    But the second issue is archival material. Making “old stuff” easily available to researchers and everyone else as well. The sheer volume of this is amazing. As anyone who’s looked up stuff in a microfiche file of back issues of newspapers can testify. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Finding the funds for converting this sort of stuff–and even older and very valuable stuff, historically important documents, and trivial documents of obscure things that only a scholar would care about–in private and public libraries is going to be tough. Getting everyone to use the same starting format, finding someplace for a central repository . . . with multiple offsite backups in case of disaster . . .

    Holy Cats! The whole idea gets scary. Especially the thought of things being kept _only_ electronically, and lost forever. The potential for both good and bad is enormous.

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