I know, it sounds like a game show hosted by Regis Philbin. But there are a couple of recent events in the publishing industry that could be seen as either good or bad news on first blush, but may actually be just the opposite. Let's start our game-- I. Random House/Penguin Merger finalized, a.k.a "Go Big or Go Extinct" That's one of the advertising slogans from the recent movie "Pacific Rim." Judging from reviews and tickets sales, it sounds like that movie might have managed to do both.
In a funny way, fan fiction is the purest form of literary art there is, the one most untainted by commerce. It’s hard to make money from it because someone else owns the intellectual property (unless you change the details just enough, in which case you can make quite a lot of money on it. Just ask E.L. James.)
Amazon’s ready to change that. A new program called Kindle Worlds will let would-be writers publish, and profit from, fan-fictional e-books with the blessing of the original characters’ creators…
Amazon is reported to be setting up in Russia, with former ABC-Atticus publishing head Arkady Vitrouk leading its Kindle content.
Techcrunch, citing an article in Russian-language publication Forbes Russia, reports that Amazon is hiring three positions in the country to work in Kindle content.
In what's being heralded as a win for consumers and libraries, and a loss for publishers, the SCOTUS overturned a previous ruling against Kirtsaeng, who had been buying textbooks printed (legally) abroad—where they cost significantly less than they do in, say, the United States—and then reselling them in the U.S. on eBay and turning a handsome profit in the process.
In a statement yesterday, Wiley's President & CEO Stephen M. Smith wrote: "We are disappointed that the U.S. Supreme Court has decided in favor of Supap Kirtsaeng and overturned the Second Circuit’s ruling. It is a loss for the U.S. economy, and students and authors in the U.S. and around the world."
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It appears that Amazon’s warehouses are the global book distribution chain’s equivalent of modern day sweatshops. Earlier this week Amazon fired its German security firm after a documentary film crew from ARD tied it to a far right wing group. The film crew revealed that seasonal workers hired by an Amazon subcontractor in Germany, many of whom were previously unemployed, were driven around Germany in buses, housed in poor conditions and kept under constant surveillance by the aforementioned security guards.
The Financial Times notes in their report on the firing:
As First World Problems go, the awfulness of the author’s book tour is hardly a novel one. Yet a recent column in Salon by “Go The F*** To Sleep” writer Adam Mansbach on the horror that is the under-attended bookstore appearance provoked a notably strong response, both among those who sympathized with his plight, or at least found his description of it worth a chuckle, and among those who were less than amused.
To the latter, many of whom work in the book industry, Mansbach displayed a lack of graciousness…
Leading publishing figures stressed the importance of becoming more outward-looking at the final plenary session. Pan Macmillan m.d. Anthony Forbes Watson said the publisher was trying to break down its old methods of working and focus the whole company on “reader engagement”. He said: “We are probably only 10% of the way there and what we will look like in five years’ time we don’t know.”
The investment community is patting Walmart on the head today for booting Amazon’s line of Kindle devices out of its 10,000 stores. The Kindle, the conventional wisdom has it, is a “Trojan horse” that converts flesh-and-blood Walmart into web surfers who do their shopping via Amazon’s vast online marketplace. As FORBES contributor Tim Worstall puts it, “After all, who really wants to aid their direct competitors?”
Like most technology products, each new version of Amazon’s Kindle eInk reader is lower-priced than the last one. There’s been speculation that the price will eventually go to zero, perhaps taking a page out of the cell phone model where the consumer commits to a long-term plan. There’s no monthly service plan for a Kindle so I always figured Amazon would require consumers to purchase a minimum number of ebooks over a 1- or 2-year period instead.