Black and White and Read All Over? B&N Rolls Out New Nook for the Holidays

Barnes & Noble today released its new $119 Nook black-and-white e-reader to positive reviews, but also to skepticism about the device’s ability to challenge the Kindle Paperwhite, given Amazon’s dominance of the ebook market and B&N’s own problems developing a solid digital business.

James McQuivey, an analyst at Forrester Research, told the New York Times that the new Nook was “spectacular,” but added:

“If you were just engineering a device that you wanted people to fall in love with, then yes, it’s a great device. But the bigger problem is, will people perceive that Barnes & Noble as a company will be around to fulfill the promises that that device makes? It’s a shadow that hangs over the entire Nook enterprise right now.”

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Posted in E-Books, General

Should it Stay (in New York) or Should it Go (to Boston, maybe)? Voting for the Future of BEA

Do you miss the days when BookExpo America changed cities from year to year? Or are you glad it finally settled in at New York’s Javits Center and dread the thought of it returning to its nomadic ways?

Now you can go to BEA’s website and vote on whether the show, which is set to move to Chicago for 2016, stays permanently in the Big Apple after it returns. Your choices:

Yes, NYC makes BEA more compelling and delivers more value.

NYC is important, but it should be every other or every 3rd year.

NO, NYC is too expensive and difficult.

NO, BEA would perform better by traveling to new cities every year.

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Posted in General

Larry Kirshbaum to Leave Amazon Publishing in Early 2014

[Updated to include Amazon's confirmation of story to Publishers Weekly.]

Two and a half years after recruiting a high-profile industry veteran and launching a general trade book publishing operation, Amazon is dramatically scaling back its publishing ambitions,  Shelf Awareness reports:

“Shelf Awareness has learned that Larry Kirshbaum, editorial head of the company’s New York and Seattle adult imprints and children’s publishing, is leaving the company early next year and returning to agenting. In connection with his departure, the most ambitious part of Amazon’s publishing operations will be scaled back. Already several editorial people have left or been let go, and Amazon has not

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Posted in General

Scott Turow on CBS This Morning: Authors Face a “Many Faceted Battle”

When Scott Turow stopped by CBS This Morning last week to promote his new book, Identical, co-anchor Charlie Rose turned the discussion to Turow’s “beef with Amazon,” while Norah O’Donnell brought up his April New York Times piece on  “The Slow Death of the American Author.”

Turow said Amazon’s below-cost ebook pricing, “destroys physical bookstores and drives the reading public into the ebook, which of course Amazon dominates. They’re a great competitor and I don’t mind fair operation of the market. I don’t like unfair tactics.”

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Posted in Advocacy, Copyright, E-Books, General, Royalties

A Real Southern Alabama Courtroom Drama for “To Kill a Mockingbird”? Museum Blames Harper Lee’s “Greedy Handlers”

An ongoing dispute over the trademark rights to “To Kill a Mockingbird” has a new venue and a sympathetic defendant. Harper Lee’s attorneys filed a trademark infringement suit earlier this month in Mobile, Alabama’s federal district court against the Monroe County Heritage Museum.

According to the complaint, the museum uses as its web address, touts its building as the model for the novel’s courthouse, and uses the novel to sell unlicensed aprons, hand towels and keychains. Despite the museum’s claim that its purpose is historical, Lee’s attorneys say “its primary mission is to trade upon the fictional story, settings and characters that Harper Lee created in To Kill a Mockingbird, and Harper Lee’s own renown as one of the nation’s most celebrated authors.”

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Posted in General

As Indie Bookstores Grow Stronger, So Does the Teamwork Between Authors and Booksellers

You know all that talk recently about the resurgence of independent bookstores? It’s true. What you may not have heard as much about is the role being played by those natural allies of booksellers–authors.

Following the success of the ABA’s first Thanks for Shopping Indie campaign in 2012, more booksellers have signed up to participate this year, bringing the number to over 400. The campaign, in which local retailers promote books chosen from a list of bookseller-selected titles, begins on Nov. 30, Small Business Saturday. No coincidence—that’s also when authors will report to work at bookstores around the country for Indies First, the Sherman Alexie brainchild that’s grown into a full-fledged movement.

Late this summer, Alexie posted an open letter to authors asking them to become booksellers for the day. As of yesterday, 270 authors and 225 stores had gone to the ABA’s website to register their plans to participate in Indies First and the number is growing every day, said ABA senior program officer Joy Dallanegra-Sanger. And those figures don’t include the authors and booksellers who intend to join in but haven’t registered.

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Posted in General

The Battle Over Ebook Discounting Continues With Apple, S&S Separately Filing Notices of Appeal

The DOJ’s  ebook price-fixing case is entering a new phase as Apple and Simon & Schuster have both filed notices of appeal on Judge Denise Cote’s rulings.

Apple, as expected, filed documents late last week stating that it is appealing the judgment and a court-ordered injunction that puts restrictions on how the tech company operates its ebook store. That includes preventing Apple from entering into contracts with the five largest publishers that limit discounting for two to four years. In other words, no agency pricing.

Separately, S&S filed notice that it intends to appeal the injunction, according to media reports. S&S was one of five publisher defendants in the case, all of which settled with the DOJ before it went to court. The injunction sets a staggered schedule on which Apple may renegotiate its contracts with the five publishers, one every six months after a two-year period.

S&S falls into the middle of the schedule, meaning it won’t be able to renegotiate its contract for three years. Two other publishers will have to wait even longer: Penguin, 42 months; Macmillan four years. So S&S isn’t likely to be the only publisher fighting the injunction.

This summer, the five publisher defendants jointly filed objections to the DOJ’s proposed injunction, claiming it punished them under the guise of putting limits on Apple. Though the measures Cote ultimately handed down were considerably less restrictive, they were still a blow to publishers, which had previously worked out settlement deals that would have allowed them to return sooner to agency pricing.

Posted in General

Survey Says: Slightly More Than Half of Adults Read a Book Last Year

In a bit of news we’ll interpret as the glass being just over half full, the National Endowment for the Arts says 54.5 % of adult Americans voluntarily (meaning it wasn’t for work or school) read a book in 2012, the same as when the group did its last survey in 2008.

The percentage of people who read at least one “work of literature”–defined as novels, short stories, poetry or plays–ticked down to to 46.9% from 50.2% four years earlier. No surprise, women continue to be the bigger readers of both fiction and nonfiction. While 63.6% of females responding to the survey last year said they’d read at least one book, only 44.7% of males did. Breaking it out to a “work of literature,” 36.9% of men reported reading in 2012, compared with 56.1% of women.

The survey also looks at reading by race, education level and age. Nearly 61% of whites said they’d read a book in 2012, unchanged from 2008, while the percentages of African Americans and Hispanics who read a book ticked up. Among people with advanced degrees, 81.7% had read a book, almost twice the rate of those with just a high school education.

The reading figures are part of a broader report titled Survey of Public Participation in the Arts. That report also found 59% of Americans went to a movie last year and 37% attended a live performance.

Posted in General

Independent Booksellers Value Kobo Ebook Partnership but See Room for Improvement

Ten months after the ABA and Kobo formed a partnership to help indie bookstores compete with Amazon and other national retailers for ebook sales, booksellers are giving the program mixed reviews, according to Shelf Awareness, which talked to more than 50 merchants.

“Among the positives: booksellers like being able to give customers a digital choice and offer e-reading devices; many aspects of the program are an improvement over the old Google partnership; and Kobo has been more responsive than Google to booksellers’ concerns. Among the negatives: the low margins on Kobo devices and e-books; difficulties for some customers in designating indies through which to buy e-books; and erratic customer service.”

Booksellers say the Kobo name is not widely known and that customers who frequent independents tend to prefer paper books. Sales vary widely between stores, with independents in areas with commuters, students and younger customers doing a brisker business in the Kobo devices and ebooks.

Some booksellers also complain about the low margins, including one who is quoted anonymously saying,  ”I need to sell about 15 to 20 e-books to make the same profit from one hardcover. I’d make more money by putting out a tip jar.”

But ABA CEO Oren Teicher says the program isn’t about profit margins, but about keeping customers at a time when readers want both print and digital books.

Posted in General

Guild Lawyers Urge Judge to Reject Google’s Fair Use Claim, Uphold Authors’ Rights

In court before Judge Denny Chin Monday, attorneys for the Authors Guild argued that Google’s mass digitization of copyrighted material serves primarily to enhance the company’s search capabilities, giving it an advantage over competitors, and should not be considered fair use.

The question of fair use is pivotal in the long-running legal battle over Google’s Library Project, and almost certain to determine whether Judge Chin grants summary judgment to the Guild or Google, or allow the case to proceed to trial.

On Monday, Chin did not rule on the issue, but did pose a number of questions related to Google’s defense that its scanning of more than 20 million books is transformative, and that the project benefits society and may drive consumers to buy books.

Guild attorneys agreed that the project may have some benefits, but said they are outweighed by the need to protect authors from the wholesale copyright infringement of Google’s unauthorized book scanning. They pointed out that Google could have licensed the material, but did not.

They also reiterated the argument that it is the role of Congress, not a judge, to decide whether US copyright law should be revised to allow for such unauthorized digitization of books. Chin expressed skepticism that Congress could act fast enough to resolve the issue in a reasonable amount of time.

Posted in General