The Friday book video: ‘a hint of vanilla over an underlying mustiness’

Important news. It appears that scientists at University College London have isolated the unique, and for many people mystical, ‘smell of books’.


What does a story look like?

Let’s ask Chip Kidd.


In the future publishing will not be judged by how it puts books (in print or digitally) on bookshop shelves, but how good it is at telling and propagating, the story of the story. And it will need morepeople with this kind of creative approach to making stories and images that cut through to be successful.

Opening salvoes

Am still busy with this:

And this:

But audits and house moves aside there’s too much going on today not to comment a little. And of course it’s all about Amazon, Apple and agency. Ostensibly this is an anti-trust case focused on the agency sales model implemented by Apple and the 5 main US publishers.  But the stakes are what make the case really important. And what is at stake is the future no less of the book industry eco-system itself.

With bricks and mortar book retail declining rapidly in influence and Amazon’s market share now becoming pivotal, it may be that High Noon is approaching. If the US Department of Justice wins its case then the reputational and commercial damage to publishing could mark a seismic shift in the industry that places Amazon firmly in the driving seat.

So here’s a quick round-up of the issues and the responses. First an excellent precis of the issue from Laura Hazard Owen at Paid Content. John Sargent CEO of Macmillan responds here and John Makinson of Penguin here. A copy of the filing can be found here, and this is a good analysis of it from Philip Jones at The Bookseller.

In the UK, in the light of this Guardian story about Amazon’s tax status, former Ottakars chief James Heneage warns against a dominant Amazon and is joined by Tim Waterstone who piles on here.

As Eoin Purcell notes this is going to be really interesting.

Moving house and other blog impediments

I meant to be on blog way more this week but we’re moving house next weekend (5th time in five years, so weirdly used to it) and I’m busy with the BC annual audit. So very light posting till after that. Have been working on the author post though and I think I have a good idea of the ground I want to cover.

Until then, Happy Easter

Mood music

If its true that we’ve never read so much about writing, then it’s certainly true that we’ve never read so much about publishing. And certainly never so much about alternatives to publishing.
I’ve been thinking about a post on the status of authors, and in doing so I’ve found it hugely interesting to take a look at some of the ways writers (both famous and not) are now perceiving the industry. Now of course this is hardly a comprehensive survey but the volume of criticism of publishers does seem to be rising as the apparent opportunities to publish outside of the conventional channels increase.

So over the past couple of months I’ve collected some instances of these critical voices and I’m posting a couple of the more interesting examples here. My intention is to tease out and examine some of the recurring themes and perhaps to contribute something positive to the debate.Firstly, Andrew Sullivan, on quality control, marketing, timeliness and the potential of the future.

Ask Me Anything: What Do I think of the Book Industry?(VIDEO)Secondly some further views from author-readers of the Dish on the perils of selection, acquisition and, importantly, how we replay publishing decisions to authors.

Thirdly, the very successfully self-published Joe Konrath, nemesis of ‘legacy’ publishers, lets fly.

It’s difficult to know how representative these views are of authors in general, but there is undoubtedly a challenge. The digital revolution has clearly changed the dynamics of the author/publisher relationship.

But does this mean that the union of publishing and authors is coming to an end?

Agent Jonny Geller contributed this piece in a recent edition of the Bookseller and Hachette, as seen in this document has articulated its approach. But is it enough?

Read/view them and see what you think. I have some thoughts I’d like to share on the subject next week.

Harry Potter and the publishing power shift

To the great interest of book industry watchers the Pottermore shop has gone live. This is, like almost anything related to Harry Potter, very big news indeed. Not so much even for the phenomenon of Potter this time but for the effect it may have on the ecosystem. Excellent appraisals from Mike Shatzkin and Eoin Purcell and the Daily Telegraph here. Mike is convincing on the potential for a change in DRM policy to alter again the balance of the marketplace and I think Eoin is absolutely on the money about the increasing importance of community (and by extension therefore branding) in publishing.