Thursday, December 17, 2009

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

territorial copyright

Territorial copyright is frustrating in an online world for those ebook and audio downloaders who don't live in the states. For international sales for ebook online retailers its going to be a major point of difference. Here's the newly branded Kobo's statement.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Authors depart

I've belatedly ripped the environmentally unsound plastic covering off my latest edition of BRW to discover that 4 authors departed from the Top 50 Entertainers list this year: John Flanagan, Bryce Courtney, Donna Hay and Garth Nix. There's only one author left on the list, Rhonda Byrne of The Secret fame, and her earnings have plummeted from $5.2 million last year to $2.1 million this year. It hardly looks like it was a great year at the top-end of publishing - sadly.

Friday, October 30, 2009

John Le Carre leaves Hodder …

an interesting article in The Guardian here,

which ignores independent publishing. It's a common journalistic error to overlook the most interesting part of the industry

Thursday, October 29, 2009

celebrity bios

It's good to hear that Michael Parkinson believes that "many showbiz memoirs aren’t worth the paper they are written on". quoted in Crikey

Friday, October 23, 2009

Anonymous writes a book

Wayne Carey's dreams of an anonymous life [this morning's Sun-Herald] and has written a book to prove it.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

eReader is slow but nice

My Sony eReader is nice but slow - slow to load and then re-index - and the battery has drained inexplicably on occasion. I can't get it to work smoothly with my Mac, as, say, the Mac does so very sweetly with the iPhone. Signs of a nascent technology with Sony?

The ink is not as nice to read as ink on the page but I can carry so many manuscripts at a time. I am growing to like it

Talking of Macs it's nice seeing Apple doing so well.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Barnes and Noble are launching an eReader

called the Nook. Now taking pre-orders. Is it available internationally or US only?

editing children's books

The challenge I find is reading a manuscript (which I'm doing right now on a manuscript I'm loving) with an adult mind and from the point of view of a reader of the target age. Then I'm challenged by figuring out what the target age for a particular book really is - and accurately filtering that is a key editorial task in children's books. If I read the book with the wrong age in my head or with too much of an adult mind I come up with the wrong editorial decisions, and suspending the adult mind is like suspending my critical faculties on how to make a book better.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

eBooks in Australia

Here's a press release from the APA - well worth reading!

Australia needs to get its ebook walking shoes on - we're behind developments in the UK and the US, especially the US and we need to be able to read our books in the form we want to. Without a development like this we could be shut out of reading many of our own books as ebooks.

Media Release

18 October 2009

eBooks to go on over-the-counter sale in Australia

Australians will be able to buy digital books over the counter at bookstores from next

year using a digital distribution system constructed for Australian book publishers.

The move will bring easy availability of eBooks in Australia a step closer, says the CEO of the

Australian Publishers Association, Maree McCaskill.

“Right now, take-up of eBooks in Australia has been hampered,” she explained. “Sales of

eBook readers have been slow because of cost and availability issues, and there is no simple

system for eBook distribution.

“This new system will allow Australians to download digital books quickly and simply via

participating bookstores. This will make a wider range of eBooks more freely available,” she


All booksellers using the APA’s TitlePage program will be able to access the system.

Customers wanting to buy eBooks can go to a participating retailer, check the title they want

is available in the right format and price using TitlePage, then give the store their email

address and pay for the book.

The new system will email customers a unique web address they can access to download the

book at their convenience.

Ms McCaskill said the system is expected to be operating in the first half of 2010.

“TitlePage was a world industry first, and this addition will be a groundbreaking industry

solution for Australian retailers and consumers,” she added.

“Australian booksellers have been looking for an industry solution to enable them to

participate in this market, and this system will minimise risk for them in a fast-moving


The CEO of the Australian Booksellers Association, Malcolm Neil, welcomed the move,

saying: “This innovative initiative taken by the APA will ensure Australian readers have

access to the choice of retailer which suits them in this exciting new market.”

Ms McCaskill said the APA expected to be working closely with booksellers on the

implementation of this new digital distribution system.

“The decision demonstrates the importance of maintaining territorial copyright for books in

Australia. This is what gives publishers the security to make this major investment in new

technology, ultimately to the benefit of consumers,” she said.

Media contact: José Borghino 0413 998 033

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Social Media comment from the lovely Shop Sui

Down the road in Gertrude St is Sylvia Tai's delightful Shop Sui - all things whimsical, especially, as the name suggests, an Asian take on something Western. And there's this gorgeous child's tee that I noticed yesterday.

This is worth a look …

Results of NMC Two Minute Survey on eBooks

And here are my questions (for Australian readers):

Have you started reading your first ebook this year but not completed it and not attempted to read another?
Have you downloaded an audio book online this year?
Are you planning to buy a Kindle?

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Garret enviromental scorecard

Yes to fourth uranium mine Four MIle in SA.
Yes to Tasmanian pulp mill, subject to the affluent level regulations being met - let's see, if the mill is built, whether the affluent levels are breached.
No to saving single-species. Links here and here.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

ebooks = the reading experience

The success of the ereaders/ebooks will in the end be about the reading experience. An ereader offers a lot - lots of books in a convenient package. Will most book buyers - those that buy a book on holidays or for a plane ride - buy a dedicated device? I don't think so. They'll stick to the occasional paper version purchase.

Where ebooks will replace the paper version is on the phone. And reading Persuader and Jack Reacher on the Iphone hasn't convinced me that it's a desirable reading experience, even for a plot driven thriller. A back lit screen and titchy little pages interferes with my willing suspension of disbelief: I not getting lost in the book. It's paper for me for pleaure reading, with a book on the phone as a back up.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

underworld memoirs

What's a not-for-profit university press doing publishing the memoir of an underworld figure? What social merit is there in the book? How credible is the content really? The pendulum has swung too far from "not" towards a (hopeful) "profit". It's a failure of the imagination.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


"If you look at Lonely Planet, the future of our business is really about form factors and the way consumers will engage with those form factors, which is technology driven. It is about communities of interest that emerges around the content, which is empowered by technology. Then it's about the services that we stitch into the fabric of the offerings, which is enabled by technology. We spend a lot of time thinking about that." Matt Goldberg, new CEO of Lonely Planet, quoted in the AFR, 29 September 2009

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Why I love Fitzroy

Found on the footpath outside the Housing Commission Flats in Fitzroy:

Sony eReader reliability

My Sony eReader is decidedly glitchy — and I'm having to use that hi-tec tool, the bent paperclip, to reset more than I think I should, and for awhile it refused, just refused, to charge. I notice that some others are reporting similar problems on the web. Maybe it's because I'm using it in a Mac environment.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Jammie Thomas

The Americans tend to be much more heavy-handed in defending copyright than say the Europeans. I only just caught up with what was happening to Jammie Thomas thanks to T-post.

The publishing industry needs to avoid a heavy handed pursuit of the individuals in an eBook world if it wants to win the hearts and minds of consumers. The British PA president Simon Allen said recently: " We won't be interested in a single consumer - more when we see people going about [piracy] in an organized and concerted way. We have to be careful not to be seen protecting our own turf in a very old-fashioned way - just protecting our interests." (In a marketing sense: who'd choose to make a single mother who is also a native American as the example in a test case?)

PS Allen also said the end of territoriality would shift English-language publishing to the big players in the US. & he identified the problem (presumably no longer a "problem" here if the PIRs are lifted) of "leakage": low-costs editions from emerging markets being sold into higher-cost Western markets.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Multiple platform books

Simultaneously publishing books on multiple platforms is an interesting idea (link), a print book an ebook and an audio book. Then I could read the book in hardcopy, listen to it in the car on the way to work and then read it on my iPhone in the line at the bank. A way of being able to pick up where I left off is the challenge.

PIR commentary by Natalie Hicks in the Age

There's an excellent and thoughtful article in today's Age by Natalie Hickey (an intellectual property partner at Mallesons Stephens Jacques). It's a reply to Guy Rundle's article in the Sunday Age, which, to crudely summarize, said we may as well get rid of the Parallel Import restrictions because the digital future is here. It is interesting how digital is has recently become a much larger part of the PIR debate. And we do need to look at digital territorial copyrights and how the information playing field is tipping towards the US due to the weight of its market size.

Natalie begins with a nice reminder of the physicality as virtue of the book - who will inscribed a digital book as a present that will come as a reminder everytime the book is opened. So books won't disappear even some functions are replaced. So PIR restrictions do matter.

She describes the fear among writers of globalization, meaning writers need to write for a global market - homogenously; and that there will be a loss of editorial staff here. (Of course a significant part of the importance of the the PIRs to the Australian publishing industry is about the right of publishers to create an Australian edition of an overseas book. Australian writers are threatened, the argument runs, by booksellers buying overseas editions (on which authors receive a lower royalty) and by the threat of remainder copies of their own books being sold here, replacing the local edition on which they'd receive a royalty. Natalie sees the PIRs as a plank in Australia's protection against globalization of the publishing industry.

I very much liked her comment: "Maintaining our cultural voice is central to the retention of an Australian identity." And that's something I believe we should address as the rate of digital globalization speeds up. How do we assist Australian publishers and writers "to predict and adapt to digital environments" in a way that maintains (or even enhances) our cultural voice.? What is the governments legal role in this? What policy should the government have? Should it create a digital territorial copyright? Is it acceptable that we can't access Australian works on say a digital audio platform where those with a US IP address can? Is there a role for the government in digitizing out-of-print Australian works, along the lines of Google Books?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Facebook and borders

I am fascinated at how rapidly social networks are evolving to become more and more powerful in the political arena, as they are woven into the fabric of of our lives, not just in terms of promotion in political campaigns but also, recently, in delineating countries and borders. On Facebook you can now mark Israel as your country of origin; in the past it had to be Syria or be left blank. Facebook is now part of a 40 year old dispute. There are now virtual countries on the web that will parallel the actual. The web will become a source of authority that will define much of our lives.

US editions in shops

I see that Borders is offering both the US edition and the local Scribe edition of Norman Doidge's bestselling "The Brain that Changes Itself" and the bestseller page for non-fiction lists shows the (cheaper) US edition, which they have in stock. The US cover is much less appealing, much more American in taste. Henry Rosenbloom of Scribe built the success of the book through his marketing efforts, but he doesn't reap all the benefits of his effort. Without Henry's work many Australian readers wouldn't know of this title. This is an example of what the Productivity Commission would like to see happen for more books.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009



ebook sales up exponentially for June

The IDPF report that trade ebook sales were up 136% on June 2009 on the same month in the previous year. The figures are for the US only, which is the most developed market, and the sales remain only a tiny slice of overall sales. It be interesting to see the figures for the Australian market, or for one of the European markets.

Booker shortlist 2009

No Australians in the Booker shortlist this year but there is a resident (who's going for a hat-trick). We do seem to punch above our weight. A rather narrow field of publishers with three from Random and two from Little, Brown.

AS Byatt - The Children's Book
JM Coetzee - Summertime
Adam Foulds - The Quickening Maze
Hilary Mantel - Wolf Hall
Simon Mawer - The Glass Room
Sarah Waters - The Little Stranger

Monday, September 07, 2009

The spread

Do ebooks mean the end of the spread (two facing pages), a traditional element of book design?

Rejection is hard

I've just rejected a manuscript - an unsolicited manuscript.

I think authors under-estimate what a difficult task this is for a publisher. I want to believe in every manuscript, every opportunity, that crosses my desk. But I know that there's no market for some, and some (a surprisingly few) just aren't very good, many have the germ of a good idea, and some are good but just not good enough to run the gauntlet of publication. Then I have to believe in the author. Will they put in the hard yards of not only writing but of rewriting and drafting and rewriting again. And then of embracing the critical process of editing. Then of backing the book when it is published and then of doing it again for the next book and the next. Are they hungry enough? Reading between the lines of the covering letter of many of the manuscripts we receive, I sense that the author is in love with the idea of writing. It is a romance not a commitment.

Rejecting manuscripts is my least favourite task. When an unsolicited manuscript lands on my desk there's a reluctance to open it as I'm most likely to have to say no.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Orwellian Amazon

Its interesting that Amazon can reach into your digital lounge room and remove a book from your shelf, as I assume can any of the e-readers selling proprietary ebooks. Publishers have been able to ask booksellers to pull books from the shelves but not consumers, so Amazon's accident has exposed a change in who control text the consumer has purchased.

Orwellian Kindle

Saturday, September 05, 2009

early adopters are not just Romance readers but industry professonals

Hollywood studios are proving to be early adopters of e-readers - for the same reasons editors in publishing houses have been. Lots of scripts can be stored on a lightweight device that is quick to get to the right page.

The film studio Lions Gate is issuing execs with Kindle's so that they don't have lug around a briefcase bulging with scripts. It's early days yet but there CIO claims that he's getting hearth wrenching requests to be supplied with a Kindle daily. And there's an added benefit. The shape of the screen enables the viewer to see a whole page of the script at once in standard movie script formatting which allows the experienced reader to figure out the number of minutes of screen time.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Lord opposes file sharing

Lord Mandelson in the UK is proposing to cut off broadband access to the web of anybody caught illegally downloading music from the web. The record companies are for it and the musicians are against it, including Paul McCartney and Elton John.

Thousand of YouTube videos, that came down in a dispute over royalties with the music industry have gone back up.

We're lucky in the publishing industry, living behind protective walls of printed paper. The music industry has to bear the brunt of change first.

The Guardian article is worth a read. I liked this quote from Patrick Racklow, the chief executive of Basca, in particular:

"The problems the music industry faces will not be dealt with effectively through legislation. We can't support these proposals because we don't think it will work, it will cost too much and is far too blunt a tool. The music industry is quite a scary place to be at the moment and we don't know what it will look like in 10 years' time, but if we find ways of licensing, new ways of doing things will evolve. What we can't do is try to push things forward by looking back."

There's a fundamental and fascinating clash going on between creative rights of the individual and of the community, the rights of the consumer and the rights of companies that exploit copyrights.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

the 10 most pirated books of 2009

pornographic or nerdy, or: pornographic and nerdy:

Step aside Leo for Lee

On Shaun at Nielsen's advice, I've decided to give Tolstoy the flick on my iPhone and try something a little more plot driven to see if I find the experience of reading on my iPhone more attractive. So I've downloaded Lee Child's The Persuader from Random's Free Library on Stanza. I'm on a long bus trip the week after next which will be the perfect opportunity to give Lee a trial. I'll report back.

worth thinking about in terms of Google Settlement

Google Books is buildiing a market— a free one at the moment and to quote from the link: "Why is that important if Google is only giving the books away anyway? Because it doesn’t plan to always be giving books away for free."

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Google settlement - opt out by the 4 September if you dare!

I've spent part of yesterday and the day before coming to some sort of understanding about the Google Settlement, poked along by the 4 September deadline for opting out, if you want to.

A few imperfect facts I've gleaned.

It is part of the huge shift as publishing goes online. It will set precedents for the future.

Most people are confused by it and in the long run nobody knows really what will happen as no market has been established yet, though Google is establishing one.

It is an issue for publishers based here in Australia, rather than ones with their head office in London, New York and Paris. If the headquarters are offshore, then that's where the decision has been made.

Like most things digital in book publishing, there's not much money in it - yet. And there may never be, or …

The settlement is about making books available to US customers - not to the rest of us, but it is about making everybody's books (pretty much) available to US customers. The information playing field is tilting towards the US and this is part of it (as is the lack of e-readers - notable the Kindle - outside the US). Markets outside the US and non-English languages are being disadvantaged by these shifts. But Google has given a poke in ribs to everybody outside the US to wake up and think about it.

The settlement only relates to book published before 5 January 2009, but it applies to most books before that date with a US copyright, which is everybody but a very few countries, so a huge body of work. It applies whether or not Google has already digitized this work or not.

If your book has been digitized Google will pay you 60 bucks. But I couldn't find that any of our books have been digitized. Maybe children's books aren't well represented in the libraries that Google chose to digitize. I've been told that some not necessarily obvious books have been digitized.

If you opt out, you can sue Google, which is not something I'm likely to do. But if you opt out I guess you could be included in another class action. Opting out seems to be a statement of principle, rather than one of commerce.

If you don't like what Google has done you can also opt in and tell Google to exclude your book(s), or restrict how Google uses your books.

Publishers and authors need to co-operate. The most restrictive request is the one that is implemented.

But there may be revenue from Google if you include your book. Non-Display uses are really bibliographic uses, allowing the user to find out about the existence of the book, the Display uses is where the revenue stream comes in. You need to register to get a revenue stream and if you register to direct Google what it can and cannot do with your book(s)

This is all still to be confirmed in court.

And what happens to books published after 5 January 2009 is not covered by the settlement. So that's worth thinking about.

The next key date is 5 January 2010.

It's complex, so you can't rely on what I've said here - these are just my thoughts and interpretains. If you're a member of the Australian Publishers Association they will have sent some really (no really) handy flowcharts as well as other useful advice.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

what they're reading

We're behind in ebook development as we lack a ereader with wide appeal — neither the Kindle not the Sony Reader is available here.

We're the slowest of the major English language markets to adopt digital books. People can read on their phones or on a laptop or desktop (none of which is that flash as a reading experience) but not yet on dedicated reader.

So its interesting to see what they're reading on the other side of the Pacific where the market is more developed.

Allen and Unwin

Just in case anybody missed out: it's nice to see Allen & Unwin, the only Australian company among the big publishers (though it had it's origins in a British company) back in BRW's top 500 private companies at number 458 with a revenue of $96.8m, which is up 33% on last year, for 119 employees (which was an increase of 7.2%).

A great financial result — and a terrific list.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Sony Ebooks and Macs

Sony has recently released software that is said to the eReader compatible with Macs. Maybe I can use my Sony eReader for more than reading manuscripts (though it gets heavy use for that) via Calibre but the news on the web isn't good. Adobe Digital Editions doesn't recognize the eReader which means you can't buy any books from any store but Sony's.

And since it is only available for products identified and sold in United States, or Canada I'm not sure how useful it will be to me. But I've downloaded it and I'll see what happens.

Local (Gertrude St) boy does good

Congratulations to Andrew McConnell on being named Chef of the Year and for Cutler & Co being named Best New Restaurant.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Graphic novels

I'm intrigued by librarians fascination with graphic novels. There's something happen in libraries that isn't happening in book shops. Booksellers I'm talking to say their graphic novels sections are growing - slowly - and I suspect many of the customers buying graphic novels from booksellers are school and public librarians. Clearly kids are borrowing graphic novels from the library or reading them there, but they're not buying them in bookshops. The books kids are buying are old-fashioned long form narratives. A conundrum.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Age Book of the Year

It's really nice to Sleepers Publishing up there, shortlisted and then winning. And of course: congratulations to Steven Amsterdam

Monday, August 24, 2009

Sunday, August 23, 2009

booming paper street directory sales

It was interesting to read in this mornings paper that the sales of the bound-printed-0n-paper street directories are booming, as are the sales of GPSs. People are using the different forms for different things. The screens are too small on a GPS to give a meaningful context, so drivers use a directory for planning a trip. The paper edition is still an essential inhabitant of every car.

If I'm typical then: I use my iPhone for directions but when I want a context I go the directory. I use the directory a lot less but my car wouldn't be complete without one.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

books for girls

It was interesting talking to a student at an all girls school (year 10) who commented that all but one of the books they had read for class in the three years of senior school had had a boy protagonist.

Monday, August 10, 2009

independent vs big business models

Jess, our production co-ordinator, is doing the RMIT course and we've been talking about the differences, in terms of business models, of the large and the not-so large. There seems to be a general assumption that there is one publishing model - a one size fits all. But the more we explore the less true that's seen to be. It's a fascinating exploration.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

The Publishing Landscape

I was thinking about where we place the black dog list, what are some of things that drive the list, and where publishing in this country is going in general. As a publisher we want our books not only to entertain but inform. We want the reader to finish a book thinking something new, to be surprised, to have their world view shifted - at least a little.

The Twilight and Harry Potter series entertain, and they've led thousands of children to reading, which is a great thing. But I don't think they inform. They reinforce preconceptions rather than alter them. They entertain by not challenging the reader. We want to do something different at black dog. Carole Wilkinson's Dragonkeeper informs the reader of what it is to be like to be nameless and illiterate, without an obvious talent, yet find the strength within herself; Sue Lawson's After (August) will alter a reader's view of being cool. Karen Tayleur's Hostage (October) will illuminate the reader's view on deceit.

The landscape of publishing is changing - the licks are getting bigger. The mid-list is disappearing. The demand on marketing budgets is increasing. The short-term is strengthening over the long term. The independent booksellers are under pressure. Does that leave us with a less diverse, less interesting publishing and literary landscape?

Are we less willing (as retailers and consumers) to support ambitious writing?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

new vogue

A word that is coming into vogue: optic.
as in: "The optic to view much in north Australian indigenous affairs is …" Nicholas Rothwell The Australian July 18-19 2009

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Who's bigger Harry or Stephanie?

The Harry Potter series have sold over 400 million copies and the Twilight series has sold over 50 million. Harry, with seven books in the series, was first published in 1997 (11 years ago) and Twilight, with four book in the series - the last was published in 2005 just three years ago. The last Harry Potter was published in 2005 and the last Stephanie Meyer was published last year, and not in the first half. Twilight as a franchise is looking like it is even bigger than Harry.

Will the next mega-YA/crossover/fantasy series be even bigger?

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Monday, July 06, 2009

not back lit

One of the pleasures of the Sony ereader for me is that it ain't backlit. With the constant use of phone and computer my eyes get tired of backlit screens. I'm wondering whether other people are finding the same an advantage?

Sunday, July 05, 2009

in praise of the ereader

I'm really enjoying my Sony E-reader. I'm worried. Have I fallen out of love with paper? Or is this just an infatuation with the new. I've been reading manuscripts - it saves paper as I don't have to lug around a huge hefty wad of paper. (Are we going to be driven to ebooks for environmental reasons?) And more - I have access to a whole lot of manuscripts. I can pick and choose -wow! I can browse manuscripts. And I can read in odd moments like I do with a book. And I never lose my place. (And I never discovered I've printed out the whole script without page numbers.) But that's really manuscripts not books. I have one book on there. A book from an overseas publisher (a pdf), so it doesn't feel like a book being read for pleasure (though I'm absorbed). I do get lost though and went back to the computer once and its larger screen to get a sense of where I was in the pdf.

I think they'll take a while to takeoff though especially with teens and even kids. Except as an act of desperation, the phone screen is too small for comfortable reading. The ereaders are expensive (and they're no here yet!) Maybe electronic paper will be the iTunes moment for books. The genres will be conquered first.

What about non-linear books like our non-fiction picture books? Will they ever make and ebook?

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Why children's books are underpriced

It's interesting that we expect to pay less for things for children. On Wednesday mornings I go to exercise class with Miles, my ten year old, and we only pay for one. I realised this morning I just expect that. Cinema tickets for children are cheaper, and there's of course student discounts on public transport. And so it is with children's books - we expect to pay less for them than for adult books, even though they cost no less for the publisher to produce. Given the importancy of literacy and a readiness to read to a healthy prosperous society, you might think we'd be willing to pay more, which means there's a lot of unpriced social benefits in children's books.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Short history - only two and a half years

twitter history

Twitter excitement

A catalytic moment that news of Michael Jackson's death circulated first by twitter.

Then people went to the newspapers for more information. (There's only so much you can say in 140 characters.)

Radio didn't disappear when television came along. Reports of the death of paper media have been much exaggerated. But the business models are changing. Newspapers can no longer expect to be subsidized by advertising, or at least classified advertising.

It's an exciting time to be in the media.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


‘Why do children love them [my characters] ? Because I believe in them. Mine aren’t made up. They are real...I don’t sit down to write a story, they come.’

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Joshua Gans wrong-headed in the Age

Joshua Gans wrote in the Opinion pages of the Age yesterday: "Here is a curious fact, as an Australian, I cannot buy my own book." In fact, he can buy his own book and he's lucky to be able to buy it in two editions, the Australian edition published by New South or the US edition published by MIT Press. What he's concerned about is that he is unable to buy the Kindle edition for $12.59.

He believes that somehow the removal of the parallel import restrictions, or territorial copyright provisions, would make his book more available to the Austraian reader, and available on Kindle here in Australia What Mr Gans is not appreciating is that this removal would increase the likelihood of his book not being available at all or maybe just in an Australian edition, if he was lucky. The removal of the PIRs would mean there was less incentive for his Australian publisher to sell his rights overseas. It would also mean that his Australian publisher would have greater difficulty publishing his book at all. He could of course go direct to a US publisher but without the incentive of a successful Australian edition his chances would be much reduced of finding a US publisher.

Would his US publisher make the book available here? There's a good chance they would not. And if they did, it wouldn't receive the support an Australian based publisher would give it. There's a good chance as an Australian author Mr Gans would not find his book in his own land.

Amazon has chosen not to make the Kindle available here as yet. That's why he can't buy the Kindle version of his book not because 'publishers [intellectual monopoly holders] have not done the deals to make it possible'.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

ban the ebook

The Book Fair in Madrid has banned ebooks - "solo papel". If I'm understanding "Soybits" correctly (with my almost non-existent  Spanish), ebook companies are not allowed to have stands.

Odd. but the Spanish can be such fierce traditionalists.

Monday, June 01, 2009


In the new world of ebooks, the booksellers are called aggregators. Not an elegant and inspiring term. Functional.

The differences

The differences between Australian and US publishing sneak up on me, and startle me. I have a hard time getting my head around the Spring/Fall system of seasonal publishing. US publishers are surprised that we don't publish in season but by month - continuously. The seasonal system does iron out some monthly ups and downs, and makes catalogue production a whole lot easier. 

There's also a love of imprints over here. They proliferate. Some branded with an editor's name. I guess its a response to having a much bigger market. 

And there's the distinction between hardback and paperback imprints. And comes across as quite a gap. Upstairs, downstairs.

And there's no half-way house of the trade paperback.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

BEA 2009

We've had a good BEA - maybe that first-time honeymoon experience. But the mood has been glum. Attendances down. Sales in bookshops shrinking. Fear of that "iTunes moment" devastating the printed book industry. Newspapers and magazines - the other print media - closing down.  I can see the "Streamline Moderne" magnificence of  McGraw Hill building as I walk to and from the fair. A testament to the past?

McGraw Hill now makes the bulk of its profits from the rating agency Standard & Poor. Maybe book publishing is about to become a rust belt industry. But I think reports of its death are overstated. Everybody enjoys a moment of mourning (NY Times yesterday article: "Declining sales cast gloom at an expo") but e-books are still a tiny percentage of book sales - $100 million out $25 billion. 

The e-books side of things is exciting and seductive, but I'm thinking it will happen more slowly than the fears of the last few days.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Carnegie and Kate Greenaway award shortlist links

The unifying theme of this year's list is "The complicated business of growing up, particularly as experienced by teenage boys".
And most of the writers are men, maybe unsurprisingly if that's the theme. Is that narrow for such an award?

Macmillan (Age range: 8+)
ISBN: 9781405054645

Puffin (Age range: 14+)
ISBN: 9780141381459

Puffin (Age range: 9+)
ISBN: 9780141383354

David Fickling Books (Age range: 12+)
ISBN: 9780385614269

Definitions (Age range: 12+)
ISBN: 9780099456575

Walker (Age range: 14+)
ISBN: 9781406310252

Bodley Head (Age range: 14+)
ISBN: 9780370329291

"The shortlist for the 2009 CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal, announced today, demonstrates that picture books are not just for the youngest children but can entertain and enchant all age-groups."
It's interesting to see Bob Graham listed in both the CBCA and the Greenaway.

The CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal Shortlist 2009

Hutchinson (Age range: 10+)

CRASTE, MARC (text by Helen Ward) VARMINTS
Templar (Age range: 7+)

Templar (Age range: 3+)

Walker (Age range: 3+)

Harper Collins (Age range: 3+)

MCKEAN, DAVE (text by David Almond) THE SAVAGE
Walker (Age range: 10+)

Little Tiger Press (Age range: 3+)

Jonathan Cape (Age range: 3+)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

a typographic moment at the Wall Street Journal


"local books endangered"

Mem Fox has put it neatly in a letter to The Australian that the government earns more from her writing than she does (10% GST v 5% picture book royalty for the author) and with the repeal of PIRs "quintessentially Australian children's books will disappear from our culture and our children will grow up American. End of story."

Sunday, April 12, 2009

also worth a look

I'm ploughing my way through the PC submissions. It's educational but masochistic for an Easter Monday - the revised submissions are due in on Friday though. I'd recommend reading Kate Grenville's submission.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Monday, April 06, 2009

more independent Australian children's publishers

I forgot Ford Street and I'll go back and correct the post.


I'm just back from the Productivity Commission roundtable. I was impressed by what a passionate lot we are in the book industry - authors, publishers (small and big) and printers. And how little we are understood outside our industry, and what a bad job we do of communicating what we do, how we do it, and what we are doing for the greater good — until we are pushed.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Australia's contribution to works in the English language

According to Peter Donoughue, Australia contributes 2% of the number of works in the English language; and according to my rough calculations we make up 0.5% of English first language speakers. So we're punching well above our weight. 

"authorship will be everywhere and nowhere"


This triggered thoughts about what's going to happen to long-form narrative (aka the book) and to the unique author's voice that comes out of effort and time invested in writing.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

A useful list of independent Australian children's pubishers

With the help of the Productivity Commission I've come up with this list of independent Australian publishers as I wanted a picture of this particular slice of our industry.

Black dog (of course) and now in no particular order:

Working Title Press (Jane Covnerton) - gorgeous picture books
Little Hare - broad list but stronger at the picture book end - 50 books a year and six staff.
Wilkins Farago (Andrew Wilkins) - focused on translated picture books as a foundation but Andrew's added a rich diversity on top of that. (1 1/2 staff)
New Frontier - strong focus on picture books and best known for Zen tales series  (two short-listings in the Crichton Award this year)
Brolly Books (Emma Borghesi and Andrew Adam) - strong focus creating books for international markets.
Koala Books  - the core of the list is rights purchasing from overseas.
Era (Rod Martin) - strongly education but also some superb picture books.
Ford Street (Paul Collins) - newer than most with an interesting focus on YA.

And then  a few that are harder to categorize:
Omnibus (Dyan Blacklock) - part of a larger group, but independent in spirit.
Walker Books - a magnificently global independent. 26 staff, and $11 million in turnover, and published 28 Australian created books in 2008. (Sebastian Walker's bio is definitely worth a read.)
Allen & Unwin - too big to be classified as an independent?
Hardie Grant Egmont - part of a larger group, and with a relationship to Egmont UK. Quite focussed publishing, with Go Girls and Zac Power.
Fremantle Arts Centre Press - ngo but independent in spirit.
Magabala Press - ngo and unique.
UQP - ngo, and I'm not sure where they're placing their emphasis in terms of the their children's publishing
Woolshed (Leonie Tyle) - owned by a multinational, but with an independent spirit.
Text - YA focus, part-owned offshore, and with a strong emphasis on rights buying.

I'm less familiar with New Zealand but Longacre and Gecko spring to mind.

I'm sure I've forgotten someone - so apologies, but let me know and I can expand the list.  It struck me what a short but rich list it is. 

Friday, April 03, 2009

book industry figures

Here's a quick snapshot of the book industry courtesy of the Productivity Commisssion Discussion Paper:

The industry is worth $2.5 billion in consumer dollars. or $1.8 billion in what the publishers earn. Foreign rights(and stock) account for $220 million of the that. Direct sales by publishers are estimated to be 15% of the market (I'm assuming of publishers' revenue) or $270 million. 

Education is 40% of the pie, and trade is 60%, which surprised me given that education is everything-but-trade. Trade books are the sort of books you buy in a bookshop, and education includes, primary, secondary, tertiary, scholarly and reference. 

9% of the market is trade children's, which is an understatement as children's books are sold to a lot of schools, so maybe 12%. Adult trade fiction is 15% of the market and adult trade non-fiction is 36% of the market. Adult trade non-fiction includes narrative non-fiction as well as self-help and say cookery (a form of self-help?)

Dividing up the bookselling market by type of bookseller: the chains have 55% and independents 20% and the DDSs (Target, Kmart, Woolworths) 25%. The DDS share has grown sharply in the last 10 years. 

Online sales are estimated to be $100m or 5% of the market. 

What's interesting is how much the figures bounced around when I tried to nail them down.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Worth a look

The story is that this video was submitted for a contest entitled "u @ 50" — by a 20 year old.

Bit lit: aka paranormal romance, or vampire books

A delightful term. We were introduced to it yesterday by Audrey (our French intern) in her presentation on French publishing. 


Books were once books, then, as business theory took over publishers, books became "products", and now books are SKUs!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

buying versus borrowing

It is interesting that the books that sell are not the ones that are voted the most popular in the library. 

On reflection: a vote is an expression of what people think they should read rather than what they're actually reading. I wonder what the bestsellers list would be for books set in Victoria or written by Victorians.

I was really pleased to see Vulgar Press's Radical Melbourne on the list.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Territorial copyright - a little more commentary

The key for me in the territorial copyright debate that is before the Productivity Commission at the moment is not that we defend the right of publishers to publish foreign editions here, though that's a natural corollary of a defence of territorial copyright. The key is a defence of the copyrights of Australian authors (and publishers). 

We should be worried about the rights and the income of the Carole Wilkinsons, the Morris Gleitzmans, the Terry Dentons and the Tim Wintons, worried about the significant risk of foreign editions of their works being brought back into this country and sold off cheaply, circumstances where they receive a reduced or no royalty. 

Authors, even famous and successful ones, earn little enough as it is, without their incomes being eroded to possibly and only possibly exert a vague "downward pressure" on prices. An open market or near open market will be a disincentive for Australian authors to write - fewer books will be written, fewer people will succeed as Australian authors, and fewer Australian books will be published by Australian publishers. 

The better author's incomes are the better the quality of work they produce - because of the time they will be able to devote to it. 

Heny Rosenboom on territorial copyright (aka parallel importation)

This is worth a read. Henry is as lucid and as expressive as he always is.

And for those us like me who were no chop as mathematicians as school here's an explanation of the phrase "to square the circle":

"(Math.) to determine the exact contents of a circle in square measure. The solution is now generally admitted  to be impossible." Sir W. Scott. 
And here's a link for further elucidation.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The PC ignores children's authors and publishers

The Productivity Commissions draft report is much on very much on the mind of every publisher. Mine too. 

One of my annoyances when I read the discussion draft is that the Commissioners have chosen to ignore children's books. As far as I know they spoke to no children's publisher and where the publisher had a children's division they didn't explicitly speak to them about children's books. 

I'm including literacy materials in the context of children's books here.

Certainly I've not heard of any of the independent specialist children's publishers being spoken to. Neither Rod Martin, Rod Hare, Jill Morris, Jane Covernton or Dyan Blacklock have been approached. I haven't been approached either. So a thriving and  innovative sector of the industry has been completely ignored. And it's an area where the independent publishers bring an enormous amount of creative added value.

And I don't know of any children's authors who were spoken to by the Commissioners. The primary literacy area supports an enormous number of authors. Some of who have continued to write fantastic readers and others who have gone on to write trade and even adult trade books. It's an incubator for authors. It's a vibrant, active, enthusiastic and often overlooked community of authors. And many of them made submissions - which the Commission chose to ignore.

It is an area that under an open market or under the 12 month rule will be squeezed, maybe hobbled, maybe destroyed. Being an independent children's publisher, whether in the education sector or the trade sector (and in children's books they overlap), is tough. Margins are tighter than in adult books because the prices are lower. Reading programs require a high investment up front, which means the publisher needs a global market and a long life for the books to get a return on the investment (to invest in new books). 

Much of the innovation in this sector, of course, comes from the independents. The success of independent primary readers was pioneered by independents like Wendy Pye and Sue Donovan. The PM Readers were originally published by Price Milburn, and Cengage then took them to an international success. So while the mulitnationals have been successful in this area they've depended on the pioneering work of the independents.

The success of selling our independent readers and literacy material leaves children's publishers vulnerable if we then open our own market (which is, even with the 12 month rule, what the PC is proposing). Literacy materials reach markets that trade publishers don't and it has the ability to manipulate and clear stock of books very quickly, to see a profit in sending books back into Australia and capitalize on it. 

Saturday, March 21, 2009

growth but not in NSW

It is interesting to see that according to NSW government figures (Figure 8) the number of publishing businesses in NSW has declined but the number has increased in Australia as a whole

writers (and publishers) as sharecroppers

I like Andrew Brown's image of writers (and publishers) becoming sharecroppers for Google. It's an interesting analogy to play with.

The same could be said about iTunes/Apple - and musicians and music labels as well for audio books and ebooks Whether the owners of the channels become the new kings. There are plenty of choices out there of channel, but do the consumers want that much choice. Or like Google's dominance of search engines do they want an easy aggregated choice the works well in most circumstances. 

Are writers really sharecroppers for publishers anyhow? Are they exchanging one master for another. (I'd argue vehemently that the key role of the publisher is not distribution or marketing but adding or creating value through the working with authors in the editorial and book-design process and then building a brand through what they publish so readers come to the publisher confident of what they are going to buy - and come back to buy again. Old-fashioned maybe.) 

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Productivity Commission interim report on territorial copyright

The Productivity Commission has release a discussion draft, which makes the ridiculous suggestion of territorial copyright protection for only 12 months from the date of first publication of a book in Australia.  It's a messy suggestion that implies that it is change for the sake of change. 

The 12-month idea doesn't recognize that it takes time to build an author or a book. It allows protection from importation when there is no risk of a book being imported. In most cases it is most unlikely for a book to have already been sold overseas by the time of first publication in Australia. For children's books (not something the Commission focussed on), overseas publishers want to see a track record here first before they purchase the rights. But when the book is a success the publisher and author have by then already lost the protection of territorial copyright, and aren't rewarded for the success.

This will make the mid-list, which is already under a lot of pressure, vanish. And the book market will come to be dominated by fewer and fewer "big-name" authors who will sell more, as they grow older. We will see fewer new Australian authors in bookshops, and fewer in turn will succeed. The next generation of truly successful authors (who earn as much as, say, an average football player) would have been coming from that now extinct mid-list.

One reason for the demise of the mid-list is that many of the large publishers/distributors don't hold stock in their warehouses for any period of time. A book either works immediately - or it doesn't. Setting a 12-month window will exacerbate this effect.

I don't think we can under-estimate the importance of books in reflecting, creating and securing an Australian culture. 

Our sense of ourselves is already being eroded by the rising waters of globalization. Soon we won't have a voice to take to the world unless there is a sense in our community that we have a voice we're prepared to defend. In time (under the 12 month rule) we will have less of a sense of ourselves and of our culture, and of our uniqueness. We're becoming pale versions of Americans (and the Americans do such an admirable job of celebrating themselves and their culture), and if the 12-month proposal gets up we've made another step along that path.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

designer to film

Paramount are doing a film (with Brad Pitt and Natalie Portman attached) of the  "Important Artifacts … ( and long fashionable title follows)" by Leanne Shapton. The book is a faux catalogue of the auction that follows a couple's breakup. Leanne is a book designer. What a concept for a book!

and a intriguing interview with Leanne Shapton on YouTube

Friday, March 13, 2009

Thompson and Shakespeare

We had an entertaining publicity meeting with Tony Thompson (Shakespeare: The Most Famous Man in London, May release . Tony's blog is to start soon, and Tony is never short of an opinion so it will make entertaining reading on Shakespeare and topics literary. 

And here are some interesting Shakespeare links we've come up with:

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Scattheart reviews

There are some lovely reviews of Lili Wilkinson's Scatterheart on Amazon UK (following on from the gorgeous quotes from Waterstone's booksellers, which I'll put here in a little while. This a story that resonates with the British.

the reality v the idea of being published

It's frustrating sometimes that there is the reality of  publishing and then there's the idea of what publishing should be about that many authors, especially first time authors, hold. And there can be quite a gap. The myth of publishing is often much stronger than anything we can say about what the process is really going to be like.

In my publishing world: some good books fail and some bad books succeed, and there is never a guarantee of success. Critical successes are sometimes best-sellers and sometime not. Hard work helps, but success strikes at surprising times. Publishing is illogical and strange, and like any business, it involves risk, and risk management, which is one of the thing that makes an exciting business to be in. It's certainly not "fair".


I see Fishpond claiming to be Australia's biggest online bookstore. Some other bookstores might argue with the "biggest"; and they are based in Auckland but that's maybe suitable payback for Australian publishers always wanting ANZ rights for books they buy. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Shakespeare quote

I'm really thrilled that John Bell (of Bell Shakespeare Company fame) has given us a quote for the cover of Tony Thompson's  "Shakespeare: the Most Famous Man in London". Editor Melissa wouldn't let John get away and landed a beautify handwritten letter with the quote: "This is an exciting read that takes us straight to the heart of Shakespeare's life and times. It gives his plays and illuminating context."

Many thanks, John.

"Shakespeare: The Most Famous Man in London" (ISBN 978-1-74203-070-8) is a May release, $18.99 RRP and it is part of the Drum series.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

online is big

Everything online is the biggest or the best or the largest or at least the top:

"the top independent eBook seller in the world"
"Australia's largest book store"
"Australia's Biggest Online Bookstore" - note the use of capitals
"The world's leading source of ebooks"

and so it goes on …

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Dinosaur designs

… have a good strong green statement with plenty of detail and they make lovely jewellery (Maryann is a fan). One Planet have an interesting statement with less detail but plenty of authenticity. 

(PS We offset the personal and business use of our cars.)

paper impact

As publishers our major impact on the environment is the paper we use in books. We're a comparatively small user of paper though - much more is used in photocopiers and and much much more in disposable catalogues (which are "recyclable" as is noted cheekily on the covers of most). Still that's not an excuse and we reckon at black dog we need to use paper responsibly so we're working to coming to an understanding of how the paper we use impacts on the environment. 

It would be easy to make a bromide green statement on our website but we've held off doing that till we can say something that has some content. At the moment we're exploring our paper options among other things. (We do do all the usual things around the office: green electricity, turning lights off when not needed, recycling paper, printing double sided where appropriate etc.)

 All the paper we use with Australian printers is from sustainable sources and where possible is PEFC and FSC certified and we endeavour to print on FSC papers when we print overseas.

The main impact that paper has is though the trees cut down for conversion into paper, the water consumed in making paper and the chemicals released in the production of the paper (which can be quite nasty).

Here are some useful links:

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Wind from a bestseller

It's interesting to see Alex Duval's books in the Nielsen children's top 10 - two titles!. They're being pick up in Stephanie Meyer's tailwind.

Monday, March 02, 2009

territorial copyright

If you want to argue that territorial copyright is protectionist (as some commentators are) then you're arguing that copyright is protectionist ( which I guess it is - like any property law).

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Kindle - text to audio at the same spot

It's interesting that one of the features of the new Kindle is that you can switch from reading the book to listening to it at the point where you left off. I'd like that feature on my iPhone. 

My consumption of ebooks and audiobooks has shot up since I got an iPhone, more the audio than the e. But sometimes when I'm listening to a book I want to transfer to reading it, and then back to listening to it. Revolutionary for me.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


I'm trying to figure out how it works. And Twitter is going to link to this blog - I hope.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Shorts and Numbers for Shortlist

Congratulations to Reggie Abios for being short-listed in the APA design awards in TWO categories with a black dog in each:

"Short" in the Best Designed Children's Fiction Book category


"A Story of Natural Numbers" in the Best Designed Children's Non-fiction Book category.



I was reminded of Dr Mark Norman terrific The Antarctica Book this morning when reading about a recently completed wildlife survey of Antarctica. The Antarctica has a diversity rivalling that of the Great Barrier Reef: 7500 animals in the region. Interestingly 235 of the species are found both here and in the North Pole region some 11,000 km away (polar circle to polar circle?). And the species are on the move as the seas warm. The WWF called for an expansion of protected areas.

Productivity Commission

The submissions to the Productivity Comission project "Copyright Restrictions on the Parallel Importation of Books" give a snapshot of the state of play of Australian book publishing industry. A browse through rewards the effort. They could be recommended course reading for editing and publishing courses. The Hardie Grant submission makes particularly good reading.

Friday, February 06, 2009

News Corp profits from book publishing

It's interesting that News Corp's operating profit from publishing reduced from US$67m in the December quarter 07 to  US$23m in December quarter 08. It's not looking very recession proof. Can we (in publishing) take heart from television, which declined from US$245 down to US$18m?