Wednesday, October 27, 2010

enewsy morning

Lots of enews this morning. A furore about Meanjin maybe going online - solely! Louise Adler said: " The ratio of what you print and what you publish onlline is a question that is changing for all of us. I don't want to be prescriptive."

Peter Craven in the Age does not see online as a substitute for print, at least for Meanjin; online lacks Meanjin's hallmark permanence. "It's a magazine that people look back on." says Craven. I'm not quite getting this argument - online allows for editions of the magazine to be online permanently and to be searchable, more so than print. There's another argument here that he's not putting forward. Is it that the subscriptions for an online version would dry up, killing the magazine?

Max Barry's novel Machine Man,which he published one page at a time on his website, is to be made into a Hollywood movie. A previous (print) novel of Barry's has been optioned but never filmed.

The ebook sales in this country are still more hype than reality from what I've heard - less than 1% of print sales. But the landscape of publishing is changing fast and ebooks is part of that shift, but ebook sales aren't part of that - at least as yet.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

rebranding and rereleasing a series

There's been a lot of discussion about this at the kennel this morning. It's no uncommon but does it work or is it just hopeful? It seems to be more common over on the other side of the Pacific than here, say or this. In my time in publishing has worked but my suspicion is that, more often than not, it is about travelling hopefully. Has Nielsen and computer inventory systems loaded the dice against success?

Monday, October 04, 2010

more froth than coffee

What I'm getting out of this article from Publishing Perspectives is that outside the US ebook sales are still negligible. There's a lot more froth about ebooks than there is revenue.

The music industry has publishers bothered, but is it going to be the same?

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Kobo ereader

I bought a Kobo ereader on the weekend for the family. A self-purchased father's day gift. It was sold to us by the lovely Jess at Carlton Borders - I do think the Red Group should spring for a few readers to share among the staff.

I was surprised to discover that my Kobo account didn't synch with the ereader and I had to open a new Borders account - irritating. It would have been nice if the time zone on the device had been selected already and that it had come charged. Apart from those things it was a pretty smooth exercise to charge and open an account and load the first book.

Miles (11 years) has taken over the reader for himself to read the fifth book in the Skulduggery Pleasant series, which he has been absolutely hanging out for. (Nothing like a new book to drive a series.) I've seen him reading ereader for most of the weekend: at dinner, standing in the corridor, on the couch and in the car. Quizzed he said he thinks he likes it better than paper. (That's a drink for some else.) And he's even thinking of reading one or two of the classics that came preloaded.

When I looked through what was available from Kobo in children's literature only two out of the five Skulduggeries were available and only two out three of the Hunger Games. It'll give me more confidence in the whole ebook exercise when these sort of availability glitches are ironed out.

I'm looking forward to giving it a try. It's light and the type is easy to read and approximates the feel of paperback in the hand. The iPad (which I lovely) by comparison is bigger and much heavier. Miles would have like the ereader to have also played audio books. That would, in fact, be rather nice.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Kobo ereader availabiltiy

Curiously, the first and the third book of the Hunger Games is available from Kobo as an ebook, but not the second. (i'm reading the third on my iPhone, an it will be the second book I've ever read on my iPhone. But Mockingjay is not showing the strength of plot of the Hunger Games.) That could be frustrating for someone. Who was managing those rights?

Don't throw the book out with the social media

Seth Godin said recently of publishing and of books: “I like the people, but I can’t abide the long wait, the filters, the big push at launch, the nudging to get people to go to a store they don’t usually visit to buy something they don’t usually buy, to get them to pay for an idea in a form that’s hard to spread.”

I think he's missing the point. He's fallen in love with the glitter of immediacy. Books aren't an elegant way of spreading ideas. They are an elegant way of understanding ideas - in depth. They're a much more solitary and personal experience than social media. Social media is fast fun and flexible, but it's about grasping something now. If we only have social media we'll have a broad and shallow culture. They're curl-up-in-front-of-the-fire-on-a-peaceful-rainy-Sunday-afternoon. They're about creating a space in a busy world. They're about creating something that will last. Social media complements but can't replace the function of books. Did TV replace radio? People seek more ways to express themselves not less.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Henry David Thoreau on the Melbourne Writer's Festival

"Books are the treasured wealth of the world and the fit inheritance of generations and nations. Books, the oldest and the best, stand naturally and rightfully on the shelves of every cottage. They have no cause of their own to plead, but while they enlighten and sustain the reader his common sense will not refuse them. Their authors are a natural and irresistible aristocracy in every society, and, more than kings or emperors, exert an influence on mankind."

From On Walden Pond

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Neilsen figures

I've been looking at Neilsen Bookscan figures and one thing that is impressing me is how the YA writers I'm seeing around today (say at the Melbourne Writers Festival) have a longish publishing history and you can see their sales building from book to book, each release doing better than the other. It's commonsense but it reassuring seeing it writ in the figures.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

pricing ebooks and other formats

I just bought Suzanne Collins Mockingjay (the third book in the Hunger Games series from Scholastic): a print copy for $18.99 from Tim's Bookshop (our local) as a gift for Daniel, and I downloaded an ebook format on the iPhone from Kobo for myself. (We just finished Catching Fire as an audio book last weekend.)

The list price on Amazon is US$ 17.99, which converts to a little over the $20 AUD mark in my calculations, but Amazon has discounted it to US$8.45, which they convert to $9.78 and then they add $11.55 in postage and packaging giving a total of AU$21.33, and I have to wait up to 30 days for my book.

And I could have bought it on audio for $19.58 from Audible for instant download.

The Kobo scenario looks good pricewise and in terms of convenience and I feel quite green about it, Tim's pbook pricing looks good in comparison to Amazon, but who will have the better reading experience, Daniel or me?

Sunday, August 22, 2010


I'm observing the increasing spanification of the US and thus the world. I happened to note two Spanish language titles in the top 10 TV morning shows in American on my Variety feed this morning, and I'm enjoying the growing numbers of Spanish and South American restaurants in Melbourne.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Sunday, August 15, 2010

a dead tree by any other name

Given that most of our electricity (in Victoria, Australia) comes from coal then the p-book is the dead-tree edition and the e-book is the really-dead-tree edition.

Australian Amazon v US Amazon

The table is definitely sloping away from us.


I reckon that kids like to get away from the screen to read a book. Screens are for homework, games and social media. A book is picked up for an escape from that environment. Comment?

who is reading ebooks?

Do let me know if you live in Australia and ARE reading ebooks?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

ABC claims copyright for Greens ad

The ABC says it can't release the ad created for The Pitch on The Gruen Transfer as they can't be seen to be supporting one side or the other. Fair enough. But it does raise the question of why the ABC is demanding exclusive copyright for the ads created for the Gruen Transfer. To quote the ABC:

"@empatt Yep. All pitches in Gruen Nation and Transfer sign over copyright. Otherwise too risky for a organisation like the ABC to do it," it said on its Twitter account.

Risky? I'm not a lawyer but bollocks. Why don't they just ask for a non-exclusive right?

Congratulations to Sue

Congratulations to Sue for After being highly recommended in the 2010 Australian Family Therapists Award for Children's Literature. Of course Sue's Allie McGregor's True Colours won three years ago. Both are great reads - with issues that challenge and provoke the reader.

Welcome to Gitsi

Gitsi joined us as our new publicist on Wednesday. And that's very exciting for us, and for our authors, illustrators and everybody in the black dog community. Thanks to KT for all her hard work in holding the publicity fort over the last months.

Congratulations to Lili

Lili has won the IBBY Ena Noel Award for Scatterheart, which is very EXCITING. And here's the announcement from the IBBY newsletter:

Scatterheart by Lili Wilkinson (black dog books)

Lili Wilkinson reveals on her publisher’s website that her most treasured possession is her collection of 32 different editions of Alice in Wonderland. As such an avid collector of the fantastic it is not surprising that fantasy finds its way into her historical narrative, Scatterheart, and informs its title.

A novel for young adults, Scatterheart is the story of Hannah Cheshire, an indulged, motherless, only child who enjoys a privileged lifestyle in early 19th century London before her father’s fortunes fade spectacularly and she is left destitute and alone. Before long, she is wrongly accused of a petty crime and after languishing in a filthy prison cell, finds herself transported to Australia.

Each chapter of Hannah’s story begins with the tale of Scatterheart, a fairy tale version of her own search for happily ever after. In a novel that is an interesting mix of historical fiction, fantasy, adventure and melodrama, Wilkinson has created in Hannah a strong character undergoing a metamorphosis from the spoilt and self centred society miss to a resilient, resourceful and loyal young woman. Her descriptions of well researched settings are equally memorable, from the dank and dangerous prison cells to the harsh realities and privations of life aboard a prison ship and in the penal colony of New South Wales. The amalgam of styles and stories revealed in Scatterheart engages, informs and entertains and is indicative of Wilkinson’s versatility.

Such skill is worthy of encouragement in an emerging young writer. The judging panel congratulates Lili Wilkinson, recipient of the IBBY Australia Ena Noel encouragement award for literature for young people.

EN judges: Jane Connolly (Qld), Judy Moss (Tas), Robin Morrow (NSW).

Henry tells it like it is

Henry's blog

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

the old and the new of reading the newspaper at breakfast

unavailable in Australia

Only one of the Barry Lopez titles that has is available for download in Australia.


… to Nic Brasch on his win in the Australian Educational Publishing Awards for The Science Behind.

No we didn't publish it. Macmillan Ed did. (Congratulations to Stuart and Col among others.)

But we did publish So You Want To Be Prime Minister (famously read to a class of primary students on TV by Julia Gillard shortly after publication last year) and Gallipoli: Reckless Valour, both very excellent books by Nick Brasch.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Not fair!

It's frustrating - ebooks and audiobooks I want to read, and listen to, are just not available to an Australian purchaser.

Here's a list of what I couldn't buy this week:

Plainsong (Kent Haruf) audiobook
A Wrinkle in Time audio book

We're in effect being intellectually impoverished by the way ebook market is evolving. An American reader has more access to much more reading (listening) than an Australian reader. The Australian government should look to an e-equivalent of the 30/90 day rule to force books to be available here in this territory.

And the same goes for music.

The publishers benefited from the introduction of the 30/90 day rule here so it would be a shot in the arm to the local branches of the multinational publishers based here. A win/win situation!

Final Twilight film due …

for release on November 16 2012. The end of the franchise is nigh? The of vampires as a genre? The end of paranormal (aka bit lit) as a genre?

Monday, August 02, 2010

"Blokes, Books and Brekky"

I've been off talking to Scotch College boys and their fathers about recommended reading for boys - with James Roy, Leesa Lambert, Eva Mills and Kristin Gill. After much reduction (using intense heat) I got the list down to ten series and authors, which was still too many for the 5 minutes of allotted time.

Here's a long (but still incomplete) list of picks:

For lower secondary (and upper primary):

Dragonkeeper series by Carole Wilkinson. - Carole helps everybody to realise that they have a special talent. A beautifully told magically realist tale.

The Cherub series by Robert Muchamore - AND the Henderson Boys. The poms do spies and thrillers really well.)

Boy Soldier series by Andy McNab - another good pommy spy writer.)

Town by James Roy - for those who love dipping into linked short stories)

Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials - the movie was The Golden Compass, which was not a patch on the books.

Skulduggery Pleasant series by Derek Landy

The Spooks Books by Joseph Delaney

Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games. Two books out and one to come. Enough political depth to provoke thought. The provinces versus the centre

Black Dog's the Drum series.

Hatchet and its sequels, by Gary Paulsen

Shirley Marr's Fury - smart and sassy, a bit girly for guys just maybe, but a guy needs to know how girls think.

The Mortal Engines series by Phillip Reeve (and his Here Lies Arthur)

Leviathan by Scott Westerfield

anything by Morris Gleitzman. My brother picked up Two Weeks with Queen at 36 and commented on how good it was without thinking of it as a book for kids.

Eragon and Brisingr

Con Iggulden is hot at the moment and keen on Mongols

Louis Sachar's Holes (and the rest)

William Nicholson's Wind on Fire series

Patrick Ness's

Tomorrow When the War Began - after you've seen the movie, which is due out in September

The Joshua Files

Garth Nix of course. Any of his series.

Alex Rider

Charlie Hickson's Young Bond

Mark Walden's Hive series

The Invention of Hugo Cabret

The Joshua Files

And for the older reader

Q&A by Vikas Swarup - the book on which Slum Dog Millionaire was based.

Hostage by Karen Tayleur - a road book.

Ellen Hopkin's Burned, Crank, Tricks and Glass - that's three books - just out from Simon and Schuster.

Scott Westerfield's Pretties etc

The usual thriller culprits: Dan Brown, James Patterson et al

John Green, maybe try Looking for Alaska

Annie Rose's Sex and Other Stuff - essential reading

Mama's Song by Ben Beaton, for how blokes think girls think.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Qantas and Virgin Blue carbon offsets are not tax-deductible

Carbon offsets that are done direct with Qantas or Virgin Blue for business flights are not tax deductible!

A business is much better off making an offsetting donation through Greenfleet. This renders the Qantas and Virgin Blue programs very unattractive. The airlines should be lobbying the government to change that — if they're smart.

Of course any offsetting personal donation with Greenfleet is just as deductible.

That's a message worth getting out and about.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Gorgeous new Fitzroy graffiti appears overnigh

I drive down Marion Lane every day on my way to work and this morning as I swung around the corner into Marion Lane these visual treats appeared - as if by magic. It's a graffiti style I've not seen before - lovely brushstrokes, and a lovely freehand used in constructing the images.

From Melbourne, the Australia's graffiti capital!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

black dogs

When we chose the name black dog it was in tribute to a couple of black dogs we'd know. Zac was a dog I'd had a university. He was a bitzer with a good chunk of cattle dog. Black with brown eyebrows. Smart. Fast. And his own master. Frank, Maryann's father, always had dogs on the farm, including, of course, Blackie. We thought there was something quintessentially Australian about the name black dog. There is and there is something quite international. From gelato in Chicago to restaurants on Martha's Vineyard, everybody loves a black dog. And there's lots of folklore about black dogs. Here's but one link.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

IPod = change agent

There's British Bookseller report online that says a minority know about the Kindle, fewer know about the Sony ereader, but lots know about the iPad (even before its British release). The spin from the Bookseller was that the ebook threat is overstated but I'm hearing that its the iPad that's going to make the change.

I'm hearing lots of talk about the iPad being considered or trialled in schools - that will change the reading habits of a generation.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

you have to love the thrillers that come through the email.

I am Captain Jim Hatchett of the US Marine Force on Monitoring and Peace -keeping mission in Baghdad-Iraq. On the 7th day of June 2009, we were alerted on the sudden presence of some Terrorists camping in a suburb not too far from Karbala here in Iraq. After Immediate intervention, we captured three (3) of the Terrorists, twenty-six (26) were killed leaving seven (7) injured.In the process of torture they confessed being rebels for late Ayman al-Zawahiri and took us to acave in Karbala which served as their camp. Here we recovered several guns, bombs and other Ammunitions including some boxes among which two contains nuclear weapons, one filled with hard drugs(cocaine) and the other four to my amazement contain some US Dollars amounting to $30.2M after I and two of my junior intelligent officers counted them. I however instructed them to keep this in high secrecy.I am in keen need of a “Reliable and Trustworthy” person like you who would receive, secure and protect these boxes containing the US Dollars for me up on till my assignment elapses in here in Iraq. I assure and promise to give you 30%
of this fund, however feel free to negotiate what you wish to have as your percentage in this business. Please assure me of your keeping this topmost secret to protect my job with the US Monitoring and Peace-Keeping mission.

A role for George Clooney?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Ink48 and Comic Sans

I'm staying at Ink48 Hotel in New York. It's new but it was once a printing factory. The meeting rooms are named after fonts: Helvetica, Garamond, and Courier. But no Comic Sans?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Rejection is hard II

Sometimes we want to publish a script and the author rejects us. The rejection boot is then on the other foot to what it usually is.

That's what happened today. We were interested in a script that had been submitted to us but after a few conversations the author said no this morning. Nobody likes rejection but it was the right decision.

We do want a close relationship with the author and with the script. We want to be involved. We can even be quite directive as editors. That's us, and it works for authors who like and benefit from that sort of support, from that sort of editorial conversation, from that sort of a conversation about where his or her writing is going. That's the concept of the publisher as a "house".

But it doesn't work for everybody. And its a prick of a place to be in when it isn't working - for everybody; when there is a mismatch between expectations. And I think many authors so want to be published that they say yes that's what I want, without exploring what the editorial relationship will mean for them and their book(s). Some, usually experienced, authors are clear sighted but there's lots of myths hanging around about what publishers should or should not do.

So the author in this case made the right call about what she wanted. And though it hurts, it's a decision that I respect her making. For us it was a process worth going through to establish that it was the right call.

I'm looking forward to seeing that manuscript as a book in a bookshop one day (soooner rather than later).

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

iiNet not guilty in Oz but Limewire guilty in US

iiNet was not held responsible in Australian courts for customers downloading content illegally but Limewire is being held responsible in the US courts.

In the iiNet judgement Australian Federal Court judge Justice Dennis Cowdroy said: "It is impossible to conclude that iiNet has authorised copyright infringement... (it) did not have relevant power to prevent infringements occurring,"

US District Court Judge Kimba Wood said, "The evidence establishes that LimeWire users directly infringed plaintiffs' copyrights, and that LimeWire engaged in purposeful conduct intended to foster that infringement"

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Apple bigger than Microsoft

It's extraordinary! Apple's market capitalization is more than Microsoft's, at least according to some reports, though others disagree. Whatever the status now Apple is predicted to surpass Microsoft this year.

Ten years ago such a thing would have been unthinkable, which makes Apple's triumph is all the more interesting as a business story.

Apple's growth has been on the strength of the iPhone and other pieces of cleverness. As a longer term user & fan of Macs, I am so pleased to see a smart and stylish company being rewarded with success. For Mac fans it feels like the world has come along to join us.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

more on agency pricing

This is worth a read (and the comments):

My understanding is that publishers are in the box seat with agency pricing as they can control and enforce the price in a way they couldn't with pbooks. The eworld actually gives (large) publishers more control.

That's one of the scary things about ebooks and downloaded music. The owner or licensor of the copyright can reach right into the guts of your computer via the channel of supply and manage the rights embedded in 'your' books and music.

Melissa (downstairs) only buys CDs - she wants to have something physical for her money, something she can fall back on when the online world gets a bit screwy.

Agency pricing is putting publishers in the box seat

BooksOnBoard sent out the following note. I found it interesting how quickly things can change in the online environment: with the tap of a few keys a big chunk of the catalogue comes down and on the other hand how complex the software systems are to manage the change.

There's no change to the audio catalogue. No agency pricing change, or already sold on the agency pricing system? And I'm not sure why: "choose the MP3 versions where available to avoid Digital Rights Management issues"?

Dear BooksOnBoard Customer:

You may have noticed a change in our store the last few days. While ALL of our UK store titlesMailScanner has detected a possible fraud attempt from "" claiming to be ( are still available and most of our US eBooks are still available, some are temporarily unavailable in the US store MailScanner has detected a possible fraud attempt from "" claiming to be ( We still have more than 70% of our US eBook catalog available for you. We also still have all of the audio books we carried previously from ALL of the publishers available in both stores.

As you can see by this newsletter, there are some very good books and some really great deals available, including New York Times bestsellers from Danielle Steel, Stephenie Meyer, and Elizabeth Berg - all with great discounts AND significant Rewards Dollars. Additionally, we have great prices for the audio book versions of most of these eBook titles. (We recommend you choose the MP3 versions where available to avoid Digital Rights Management issues.).

iphone mailer
We expect to have almost all of the missing titles back by the middle of the month (we do recommend backing up your files to avoid rare issues like this). This issue is due to the sudden switch to a fixed price system (aka agency pricing) by 5 of the 7 largest publishers last Thursday. Over one thousand other publishing imprints are NOT going to this system, including our 3 most popular publishers. Their titles are all still available on our site at good discounts and with Rewards Dollars.

In this agency pricing system, retailers act as agents for the 5 agency publishers . The publishers assign a Required Ebook Price (REP) that every retailer must charge to customers. BooksOnBoard’s systems were ready for this change on April 1, but the publishers and our wholesalers – dealing with a more complex set of circumstances - have not yet been able to change their systems to accommodate the tricky changes required to get ebooks from these publishers to you under the new system. These changes involve unique sales tax requirements by each publisher depending on where the publishers have offices, changes in territories for titles that have yet to be fully disclosed to us, and a tracking system so that the 5 publishers can be certain we are not discounting their titles. The publishers, unfortunately, underestimated the task and gave the wholesalers only two weeks notice of the change.

In the meanwhile, we still offer 250,000 titles for sale, including everything from Random House, Harlequin, McGraw Hill, Kensington, Samhain, and over a thousand more publishing imprints. These represent your most popular publishers and most of the eBooks our customers want are still on the site. These titles also continue to enjoy discounts and Rewards dollars when you buy.

Thank you for all support of our shop in the past. We look forward to serving you in the future.

Sincere regards,

Bob LiVolsi
CEO & Founder

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Short and Scary

It's lovely to see the news about Short and Scary getting out there. Here's a link to Sheryl Gwyther comment. And Sheryl's story is well worth reading.

Monday, March 22, 2010

no twitter or blogs in China

It was frustrating not to be able to twitter or blog from China, where I was for a week from last Wednesday. When I went to do either the message came up that I couldn't access the server. I could access Chinese language blogs (which I couldn't read) but I couldn't access English language blogs.

I assume freedom of speech, so it was a small but stark and frustrating personal reminder of what happens when it just isn't there.

ereader market research

Twice in the the last three days, while I've been reading my Sony e-reader (a manuscript), while waiting for a coffee people have come up and asked me what it is and what do I know about e-readers. Both were keen readers, both loved the printed book AND both wanted something they could take travelling. They both said they did a lot of travelling. The attraction for both readers was something light with lots of books on it. They wanted a choice of reading while they were away. The young woman this morning also wanted not only leisure reading but textbooks for the course she was studying. Maybe this is where the e-readers will establish a foothold in our market (from a giant sample of two) - people doing a lot of travel who are willing to invest in a device small enough to hold in your lap while reading and with the advantage that it gives them a huge choice in reading.

Obviously its the best way for me to do market research on e-readers is to stand around (or sit) in public, reading my e-reader, and wait for people to come and ask me.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

interactive ebooks

I haven't blogged in ages but I was inspired by this article in the Huffington Post. I like the idea of adding bells and whistles to a book - as a maker of books - but I'm not a believer. A book is not about choice; it's about an author taking the reader by the hand and leading you where they want to take you. That gives the reader a sense of security that is the pleasure of reading. Too much choice destroys the willing suspension of disbelief (in the case of fiction) Once a teen reader leaves a book for a game, they won't be coming back. I'm not convinced that more, more choice, is better.