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Posts Tagged ‘Richard Charkin’

Fopp Goes Under; Virgin Reportedly Tried to Save Company

While I was taking a self-imposed hiatus, the Glasgow-based music retailer Fopp did, in the end, go bankrupt after a couple of weeks of cash-only sales and rampant rumors that the company, in its 25th anniversary of existence, had overextended its reach. The Bookseller first reported the news on Friday morning, adding that employees had told the BBC that staff were informed by e-mail on Thursday afternoon about the closure of stores. Later on Friday, they reported that Tom Burton and Colin Dempster from Ernst & Young were appointed joint receivers of Fopp and joint administrators to Music Zone 2007. “The stores have been closed by management yesterday and shop staff sent home,” Burton said in a statement. “We are currently assessing the financial position of the companies; once this has been completed we will have a better idea of the future of the businesses.”

Could Fopp have been saved from bankruptcy? The answer, according to the London Times, was yes, and the would-be-savior in question was Virgin Megastores. Had Sir Richard Branson’s company attempted to merge with Fopp, it would have injected a big rescue loan and taken a 10 per cent stake in a new entity while keeping the Fopp brand. “In the end the numbers just didn’t add up and suppliers to Fopp would not support it,” a source close to the proceedings told the Times. And the BBC reported yesterday that Fopp workers are waiting to hear about their future sometime today, although some employees are already starting to look around for work.

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Giving Google a Taste of its Medicine

The UK publishing world is abuzz with Macmillan CEO Richard Charkin‘s actions at BEA last weekend. Charkin and a colleague went to Google‘s booth, took a couple of its laptops and waited in close proximity until someone at the company noticed – something that took over an hour. Though Charkin felt “rather shabby” for playing this trick on Google he had a point to make:

Our justification for this appalling piece of criminal behaviour? The owner of the computer had not specifically told us not to steal it. If s/he had, we would not have done so. When s/he asked for its return, we did so. It is exactly what Google expects publishers to expect and accept in respect to intellectual property. ‘If you don’t tell us we may not digitise something, we shall do so. But we do no evil. So if you tell us to desist we shall.’

The Guardian’s Richard Lea says Charkin “deserves a pat on the back” while the commenters at the Register debate the merits of Google’s project. But Techdirt slams Charkin and his justification as “one publisher doesn’t seem to understand the difference between helping more people find your books and theft.” (Ron adds: Seriously—if Charkin wanted an accurate metaphor, he should have let anybody who walked up to him use the laptop after he swiped it, for free, instead of hoarding all the information it contained to himself.)

UK Reactions on Turf War Issues

The fallout from last week’s “Turf Wars II” panel has only begun on the other side of the Atlantic. The Bookseller’s Gayle Feldman first reports on comments made by various panelists, including Portuguese distributor Karl Heinz Petzler‘s assertion that UK publishers are guilty of “atavistic protectionism that breaches the free trade laws of the EU.” Also speaking on the panel, Lynn Kaplanian Buller, owner of the American Book Center in Amsterdam, described UK attempts “to close markets” as “a last-gasp tactic driven by fear”. Restricting Europe to the UK edition of English-language books “might cut sales in half,” she added.

But as previously reported, Macmillan CEO Richard Charkin walked out of the panel halfway through and vowed to stay away from BEA next year after such a “one-eyed, anecdotal and insulting” debate. Along with other UK publishers, he believes that without European exclusivity the UK market itself is under threat, as imported US editions can be distributed legally throughout Europe – including the UK. Agent Peter Cox of Redhammer added that US publishers have only recently taken an interest in foreign rights. “Their Damascene conversion – that there really is profitable business to be had in other parts of the world – is a nice acknowledgement on one level, but as an agent, I would frankly be more concerned about selling European rights to a US publisher than to a UK one.”

BEA: Reactions Online

S&S UK to Follow Parent Lead on Contract Changes

The Bookseller reports that Simon & Schuster‘s UK arm will follow its parent’s lead in extending its author contracts, despite the ongoing row in New York between the publisher and the Authors Guild over the reversion of author rights. The move provoked fury from UK authors and agents. Association of Authors’ Agents president Clare Alexander said: “The fact that someone can download a book is not the same as publishing a book. I don’t welcome publishers using it as an excuse to own something in perpetuity without any marketing investment. We insist on the rate of sale being the key element to a reversion clause.”

UK publishers, meanwhile, are calling for the whole concept of rights reversion to be heavily revised or even scrapped. “Why should it be that way? If you buy a house and you don’t go to it, you don’t stop owning the house,” said one publishing CEO. “It seems to be based on a weird notion of punishment, where you’re punished for not trying hard enough.” And based on comments from Bloomsbury CEO Nigel Newton and Macmillan CEO Richard Charkin that POD must be reckoned with in future publishing contracts, this fight is not about to go away anytime soon.

Dateline LBF: Industry and Blogosphere Reactions

  • Simon Trewin: “After the terrible experiences of the 2006 London Book Fair at ExCel in Docklands where nothing seemed to go right at all it was a joy to return to West London for what many attendees agree was the best fair ever.”
  • Macmillan president Richard Charkin‘s two dispatches are colorful and detail-laden but most notable for the following observation: “. My back-of-an-envelope calculations suggest that the elimination of all trade book fairs (LBF, BEA, Bologna, Delhi, Guadalajara, Tokyo, Cape Town etc) might reduce total industry costs by several billion dollars.” Makes more that “just a boy” think…
  • Ali Karim describes the peculiar sensation of meeting Dean Koontz via the LongPen. Karim also provided the video at the top of this post (along with other video captures of John Banville‘s noir panel.)
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Meet the Book Industry Digital Task Force

Publishing News reports that a Book Industry Digital Task Force is to be created and market research undertaken to ascertain consumer views and buying behavior on digital products, following last month’s Conference on Digitisation in Godalming hosted by the Booksellers’ Association. Reaction to the Conference, which was attended by cross-section of the industry, has largely been positive, although some feel that the lack of publishing chief executives in attendance meant that the momentum on this issue has now been seized by booksellers. Bill Samuel of Foyles told PN: “It was encouraging that the bookselling chains sent their top people, but disappointing that so few publishing chief executives were there. This is a time for the whole industry to be united and share its concerns. If not, there is a danger that one of the digital giants will come along and pick us all off.”

Macmillan‘s Richard Charkin, who was the sole publishing CEO present, said: “For me, the central issue is to ensure that we can reach readers through as many channels as possible, provided our authors’ intellectual property is protected. I therefore support wholeheartedly bookshop experimentation and involvement in digital delivery. Of course, we need to sell through the ‘new’ entrants, but we shouldn’t ignore our traditional and trusted retail partners.”