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.