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Archives: April 2007

That e-Book thing Makes a UK Comeback, Sort of

Technology being what it is, an idea deemed unsuccessful a few years ago can suddenly be brand new once more. So it goes with the e-book as Publishing News reports that the Orion Group is to publish its first e-book next year, WEB 2.0 by Paul Carr – most likely as an exclusive with Waterstones.com – and Macmillan has also taken its first digital steps outside the academic world, quietly making around 40 mass-market titles available in e-book form. Carr’s book, published in advance of the paperback, will be available in 2008. Macmillan titles include Meg Cabot‘s PRINCESS DIARIES series.

“We have the digital rights management software in place to block access from territories where we don’t have rights,” said Orion Key Account Manager Mark Stay. “It seemed a good idea to publish it as an e-book first. It seemed the natural way to do it. I don’t think e-books are going to take off until you have an iPod equivalent and you have students using it for all their books. But we want to be ready and I’m sure we’ll learn from the experience.”

The moves come as the industry at large expects an announcement from Amazon concerning its e-book reading device, allegedly called Amazon Kindle, at any moment. Whether the device proves to be a success remains to be seen, but that name isn’t going to help sales, I suspect…

Pearson Meets Own Expectations

Pearson (parent company of Penguin and the world’s largest educational publisher) published a report from its Annual General Meeting and the results are rather rosy. The company, Reuters reports, said it was trading in line with expectations and that it expects its higher education business sales to grow 3-5 percent with stable margins, and added its schools business was expected to achieve underlying sales growth in the 4-6 percent range with margins improving.

The company also said its professional revenues were expected to be broadly level amid improving margins while Penguin’s margins were continuing to improve. In the Financial Times Group, full-year margins were expected to push into double digits.

Marjorie Scardino, chief executive, said: “We’ve achieved strong growth with a consistent strategy: leading content, services and technology to make it more valuable, international expansion and ongoing efficiency measures. Those advantages, and our solid start to the year, make us confident that 2007 will be another good year for Pearson.”

OMD Wins Marketing Contract for HMV/Waterstone’s

Marketing Week reports that OMD UK has won the 22m pound consolidated media planning and buying account for the HMV and Waterstone’s brands. The agency, which was the incumbent on HMV’s account, pitched against MediaCom, Starcom and Waterstone’s incumbent PHD to win the business. The review, which was called in February, was overseen by HMV marketing director Graham Sim. The appointment of OMD comes at a difficult time for HMV, which is struggling in the face of competition from online music download sites and reported a loss of 31.8m pounds at the end of last year. In other words – a marketing refresh was definitely in order…

Socialite Rank Book in 2008?

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Socialite Rank, the website whose chief claim to fame was its status as a regular object of Gawker scorn, announced on its one-year anniversary this morning that the whole thing was research for a book, tentatively titled The Year of the Rank, “that would definitively showcase the inner workings of New York’s 10021 world.” This self-described “honest, glamorous and definitive depiction of the modern Gotham society and the website that turned it upside down” is hyped as coming out in February 2008, but there’s no information given—or found in a quick and dirty Google search—about any publisher actually acquiring such a book. Of course, the first thing any competent publisher would tell the authors is that there’s no way in hell they’re putting out a book called The Year of the Rank, so maybe that’s the problem.

Still, if you’ve seen a proposal floating around, by all means, let us have a peek.

Leslie Bennetts Strikes Back at NYT

Yesterday’s Motoko Rich article alleging a lack of consumer interest in feminist books about the work/family balance sparked quite a bit of criticism—at Gawker, for example, Emily Gould had some choice words about using three whole weeks’ worth of accumulated Bookscan numbers to write a book off as dead.

leslie-bennetts.jpgLater that afternoon, Leslie Bennetts, the author of the book in question, issued a counterattack in the Huffington Post, which begins by claiming that the article is part and parcel of the “wretched” NYT coverage of women’s issues. More specifically, she points out that far from not selling, The Feminine Mistake landed on the Times extended bestseller list—a fact Rich’s article didn’t mention because, according to a secondhand quote from a Times editor, “she knew that as of the April 29 list it had dropped off the list.”

Happy World Intellectual Property Day!

I’d never heard of it before, either, but today is in fact the seventh annual World Intellectual Property Day, and the Association of American Publishers wanted to let us know that they’ll be going to Capitol Hill later today to join the Creative and Innovative Economy Center, the Congressional Entertainment Industries Caucus, and a bunch of other groups to listen to Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez give a speech about “the importance of encouraging creativity to global economic development, health and artistic achievement.” Said speech will likely also “raise awareness of the cultural and economic benefits provided by the copyright industries,” and warn how “piracy stifles creative growth.”

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The World Intellectual Property Organization has some suggestions for your World IP Day party, most of which would’ve required a little more advance warning than this. Like “[organizing] concerts or other public performances centered around the around this year’s World IP Day theme and [arranging] for performers to deliver messages encouraging respect for creators and creativity.” I’m sure Metallica would’ve been up for that had they known…

Gersh Agency Forms Literary Unit

Variety’s Michael Fleming reports that the Gersh Agency, which until now had been almost exclusively focused on film and television rights, is now expanding into the book business. Phyllis Wender, previously one-half of Wender/Rosenstone until her partner, Jack Rosenstone, died recently, will run the division from Gersh’s New York HQ and will bring agents Sonia Pabley and Susan Cohen with her. In fact, Pabley told me last night at the Mystery Writers of America Agents & Editors party that she began working at Gersh as of April 1, where half her clients will be book-based (like Naomi Hirahara, nominee for the Best Paperback Original Edgar Award) and the other half theater-based.

“Most book agents know Phyllis, and her reputation and stature will dictate how the division will do business,” company president David Gersh told Variety. “We’ve wanted a good book division for years but never found the right person to run it. We think she will be a great combination with Amy Schiffman in Los Angeles and Sarah Self in New York, who make film and TV deals for authors.”

This Summer, It’s All About Diana

The Wall Street Journal‘s Jeff Trachtenberg looks at the plethora of books that have something, anything to do with Princess Diana – just as the 10th anniversary of her death approaches. The article focuses primary attention on Tina Brown, as the end result of a seven-figure advance for her take on the princess – THE DIANA CHRONICLES – hits stores on June 12. Doubleday is printing 200,000 copies of the book, Trachtenberg says, deemed a comprehensive biography that promises new insights regarding Diana’s pursuit of Prince Charles, her sad early years and how she used the media to her own ends. Beyond juicy details, Brown says she set out to write a book that examined the princess in a media and social context while discussing the impact of celebrity culture: “Why Diana was important, why she continues to fascinate, and what we should make of her 10 years after her death.”

But some are skeptical that Brown will find success, considering a number of books – let’s not forget Paul Burrell‘s “embargoed” account – didn’t live up to sales expectations. “It’s a gamble for us,” said Vivien Jennings, owner of Rainy Day Books in Fairway, Kan. “Will there be new information and pictures people haven’t seen before? And will there be so much news coverage that people won’t have to read the book?” Jennings says she has ordered 20 copies of THE DIANA CHRONICLES because those who are interested will want to buy the book immediately. “We can’t miss a sale,” she said. the Book Stall at Chestnut Court in Winnetka, Ill., has ordered only two copies, based on weak sales of recent Diana-related titles. “Publicity could save [it] but there isn’t a lot of enthusiasm in the heartland,” said owner Roberta Rubin. One potential bright sign: a customer has already reserved a copy. “Somebody has gotten word, so I’ll buy a few more,” said Rubin.

BookTV Live from LA This Weekend

When I saw that C-SPAN’s BookTV programming this weekend was going to include live broadcasts from the LA Times Festival of Books, and that Sunday’s festival coverage was going to kick off at 1:30 p.m., I admit—my immediate reaction was “Hey, my panel is at 1:30 Sunday!” Sadly, I had forgotten to account for the three-hour difference in time zones; they’ll actually be airing the religion and culture panel, because Christopher Hitchens taunting Zachary Karabell and Jonathan Kirsch mercilessly is bound to make for good television. I wish I could say you’d get to see me later in the afternoon, teaming up with Carolyn Kellogg to debate the rightness and goodness of the literary criticism wing of the blogosphere with Andrew Keen, whose new book The Cult of the Amateur argues that blogs as a class undermine western civilization’s standard of excellence (OK, I’m simplifying), but no… the D.C. policy wonks have ruled in favor of William Langewiesche, T. Christian Miller, and Robert Scheer talking about Iraq. Actually, having interviewed Langewiesche for a not-yet-online Publishers Weekly piece about his new book, The Atomic Bazaar, I should say that’ll probably be worth watching.

LA Times Book Festival Preview

The LA Times’ Josh Getlin previews the goings-on at this weekend’s LA Times Book Festival (which Ron is lucky to attend while I recover from Edgar-related festivities.) With nearly 400 authors in 100 booths plus a multitude of panels, no wonder more than 200,000 people show up at UCLA campus for the weekend. “The lineup is overwhelming,” said Debby Applegate, a Connecticut-based historian who won a Pulitzer Prize last week for THE MOST FAMOUS MAN IN AMERICA, a biography of abolitionist Henry Ward Beecher. “But it’s not surprising. Los Angeles is a city of storytellers, and this weekend they’re all in one place.”

Later on the piece breaks down the Festival by numbers with “4 reasons not to avoid panel overload” and “2 chances to celebrate” – the LA Times Fest awards and a pre-awards dinner with the finalists.

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