Tag Archives: The Bookseller

The battle of the future begins: FutureBook Hack

I think it’s quite safe to say that I’ve been out of the blogging-sphere for a while. While I’ve finally landed a full-time, salaried job (hurrah!!), admittedly not in publishing, I have definitely drifted away from the publishing world, and have since realised that it’s time to get firmly back into it again…

One of the most intriguing articles I’ve come across is that The Bookseller‘s The FutureBook will be hosting a ‘Hackathon‘ next month in which many of the industry’s major players: Pan Macmillan, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Penguin Random House and Faber & Faber, all of which are founders of the event, shall be attending. The initiative behind it comes from Simon Trewin (William Morris Endeavor). It is thought that such events have occurred in many different sectors in the past in which companies and businesses can come together and brainstorm solutions to issues concerning the industry. It is said that nothing like this has been taken on by the publishing industry in the past.

According to The Bookseller‘s article,  Trewin has stated that introducing new people and ideas to the industry will create a fresh perspective for the sector. He feels that the industry needs to take greater risks in order to continue to develop. If we are to look back to The Bookseller‘s FutureBook conference last November, Jamie Byng, Director at Canongate, stated that fewer books needed to be published each year, but a greater focus needed to be placed on those published.  He affirmed that by doing this it would mean that “greater care” would be put into those published.

If I were to think about it from my personal perspective: a Graduate who studied a Masters in Publishing, a self-confessed lover of books and reading, and as a young twenty-something looking to break into the industry; I feel that publishers may be right to reduce the number of books they publish. Certainly, it may be worth a trial. My only reasoning for this, is that with how fast the industry is currently moving, and how fast industries surrounding it (ie. technology and IT) are moving, surely it may be worth taking a little breather and focusing on change and development, one piece at a time? I know what you’re thinking… Bad idea, you’ll get left behind?

While I totally admit, I am no expert in the field – I mean, I don’t even currently work in the sector – I can only comment as an observer and as someone who intensively studied the industry for twelve months, publishers should take the risk to get it right. What I’ve learnt over the past two years of undertaking internships and completing the MA, is that the industry is continuously playing catch-up. Although, from what I have seen, they’re doing a great job! And if I look at this from a consumer’s point of view, I myself, have trouble keeping up with what’s out there. I mean, it took me a couple of years after Kindles were produced, to actually purchase one! (And giving in to one was tough enough). But I think I certainly realised that I needed to be open-minded, particularly when wanting to pursue a career in the field.

Stephen Page, the CEO of Faber, stated in last November’s FB conference, that the transition to digital was “comfortable”, however “more innovation was needed”. Michael Bhaskar, digital publishing director of Profile Books, reaffirmed this by saying “publishers had to define themselves better […] It is about filtering and amplifying content to add value. If you’re doing that you’re a publisher”. I must agree with this, publishers do need to define themselves better. What’s more is that they need to brand themselves more and become more recognised.

I remember attending the London Book Fair in 2013 and thinking about how exciting and intriguing it would be to tailor the Fair to consumers, the people who, at the end of the day bought the books and products in which they [the publishers] were trying to sell amongst themselves. I felt that if consumers knew more about the industry and publishers branded themselves more, surely this would encourage even more people to buy books and integrate with the sector?

Obviously, I am no expert, but the whole idea of the FutureBook Hack and the focus on taking the industry forward is certainly an interesting and exciting one, and it definitely gives me food for thought. I’ll be keeping tabs on this one!

 

 

William Morris Endeavor (WME) with support from the Centre for Publishing at the Department of Information Studies, University College London, Blackwell’s and Midas PR. The initiative for the hackathon came from WME’s Simon Trewin

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Man Booker: to go Stateside, or to not go Stateside?

That is the question on everyone’s lips as newspapers and bloggers speculated whether or not the Man Booker Prize will be extended to American authors in 2014. Whilst the decision will remain undecided until Wednesday (18th) of this week, it hasn’t stopped the likes of The Guardian and The Bookseller reporting the possibility of the rule change to one of the world’s most prestigious literary prizes.

For the past 45 years, the Man Booker Prize has recognised the works of authors in the UK, Ireland and other countries of the Commonwealth. Extending the Prize out to authors across the pond has received mixed opinions. Writer/broadcaster Melvin Bragg compared the possible change to “a British company being taken over by some worldwide conglomerate”. The main concern is that allowing American writers to be a part of the prize will drastically diminish the award’s identity and its link with Britain.

On the other hand, allowing the Booker to go Stateside will ensure that the Prize receives more recognition internationally. Scott Pack, Me And My Big Mouth, wrote a good piece outlining 10 points about the move and pointed out that the USA is the only English-speaking country which isn’t currently included in the Man Booker. Pack also suggests that the Man Booker could end up stealing “some of the Baileys Prize or Orange Prize’s thunder” as they already include writers from the USA in addition to other worldwide authors.  Michael Bhaskar has also written a piece on The Bookseller: Keep it special‘ speculating his thoughts on the possible change.

I have mixed feelings about the possible change. I can see how it could be beneficial to the Prize itself in terms of promoting writing from undiscovered authors and small independent publishers. But on the other hand, the Man Booker Prize creates a sense of identity in British literature. The world is so inundated with global products, corporations, organisations etc. that I feel they can sometimes become disenfranchised to the point where people may actually lose interest. I personally believe that people like to find the undiscovered and I feel that the Man Booker Prize could still appeal to new people without the help of American authors.  Moreover, there are already other prizes (such as those mentioned previously) which credits American authors and their writing, so why not keep the Man Booker the way it is?

More on this on Wednesday when the decision will be finalised… In the meantime, here is a list of this year’s Man Booker Prize shortlist and reasons why it’s the best shortlist in a decade…

  • NoViolet Bulawayo We Need New Names (Chatto)

    Photo from The Guardian

    Photo from The Guardian

  • Eleanor Catton The Luminaries (Granta)
  • Jim Crace Harvest (Picador)
  • Jhumpa Lahiri The Lowland (Bloomsbury)
  • Ruth Ozeki A Tale for the Time Being (Canongate)
  • Colm Toibin The Testament of Mary (Viking)

Creating a ‘vibe’ is the new way to ‘discover’ books

In and amongst the depths of the internet, I’ve read blogs and articles which state that browsing for books in a bookshop is the most effective way to ‘discover’ new books. I even popped into the independent bookshop in Aldeburgh, Suffolk (I strongly recommend you go and have a gander if you’re ever around that area) a few weeks ago and got chatting to one of the owners who specified that customers don’t necessarily know what they’re looking for when they come in and come into the store to discover.

Saying this, it appears that all may not be lost in terms of internet book browsing. Lloyd Page wrote a blog entry via The Bookseller speculating about a new way to ‘get your book to the front of the queue’. BookVibe.

BookVibe logo

BookVibe is a book discovery tool which aims to aggregate information by feeding into your Twitter feeds.

Essentially a phone app, users will be able to tap in 24/7 and see what their friends, followers and following are reading there and then. The integration with social media site Twitter (and soon to join the ‘vibe’, Facebook), is a savvy way for publishers to see into the reading habits of millions of people. Could such an app take on recommendation site gaints such as Goodreads? It would certainly boost ‘word-of-mouth’ marketing which undoubtedly has the power to make a book into a bestseller. Lloyd writes that Parakweet, the company who thought of BookVibe, have plans to introduce extra features, such as book alerts for new releases. I think this would be a good idea, particularly so readers can keep up to date with their favourite authors. I think a great feature of the app which Page mentioned was the fact that you could ‘thank the author within the app with a tweet that uses a template text message (promoting BookVibe…)’. This creates interaction with authors on a brand new level. In addition, it also allows publishers to see what authors (and book genres) are currently favourites amongst the general public. Another way which the app could be used to enhance author-reader interaction, is if the app alerted the user of upcoming book talks or events in their local area which the author (or other authors equivalent to the user’s favourite) would be at present at.

I guess one of BookVibe appthe most important things to consider is how user-friendly the app will be. The BookVibe website currently shows an image of what the user can expect if he/she signs up to receive weekly emails of book recommendations from friends.

The use of the ‘Buzz’ rating also links well with the new ‘vibe’ feel which the app is no doubt hoping to create.

Of course, Page does speculate on possible flaws of the app: ‘The claim is that the tool can surf through 500m tweets a day, drill down into those which mention books and decipher if the vibe is positive or negative’. The BookVibe website also states that it has ‘analysed over 100 billion tweets to detect book discussions’. Page further wonders as to whether the app will have the capacity to distinguish the differences between books, should two books share the same/similar titles for example.

Only time will tell whether BookVibe will be successful or not and whether it will create the desired ‘buzz’-effect around new and upcoming books and authors. Anything which promotes reading can only be a good thing…


Publishing metaphors

The Bookseller alongside its FutureBook blog recently posted about the Digital Minds conference which took place earlier today, starting this year’s London Book Fair.

Philip Jones reported that numerous metaphors were used to describe the current status of the publishing industry during the conference with the digital transformation of the industry being compared to climate change. Pan Macmillan’s digital director, Sara Lloyd, stated that while digital will pose a threat to certain parts of the business, others will survive and thrive.

I think my favourite was Neil Gaiman voicing that people within the book business need to be like dandelions, ‘spreading seeds and accepting that some will fall on stony ground’. He further reiterated that publishers need to try everything and accept that some things will fail and ‘fail better’. Keeping an open mind in this day and age is key and Gaiman stated that for the ‘dinosaurs’ in the industry, digital could end up making them extinct if they don’t adapt to survive. One of the positives that Gaiman highlighted was the fact that whatever was made would most likely be right, as publishers can make or break rules which are yet to be thought of.

Will Atkinson added that the digital age had slowed down in recent months stating ‘we are in the changing rooms at half time’. The recent articles in The Bookseller reporting the vast rise in print sales, shows that indeed the digital age is slowing down. I feel that the hype of Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD release at Christmas has died down somewhat. Whilst digital is still very active, I do not feel that ebooks are mentioned as much as they were a few months ago. I feel that it has reached a stage in its growth where most publishers have acknowledged what is happening in the industry and are adapting accordingly. Sara Lloyd also observed that particularly for self-publishers, they have adapted to the changes, and also voiced three Rs: Recognition of change in the industry, respect for one another and recycling of skills/resources as the world evolved. Certainly I believe that publishers have more respect for one another as they are ‘all in the same boat’. There has been an influx of mergers over the past few months as many publishers/other related companies are joining forces to get through this ‘climate change’ in order to stay afloat.

I also feel that publishing houses across the Trade and Academic sphere have definitely recognised that they need to change. In addition, booksellers have also embraced the change, with obvious examples of Amazon’s Kindle creation and the fact that Waterstones are also selling its competitors’ devices in their stores.

The publishing sector is definitely an interesting place to be at the moment. Who knows what else 2013 could bring…

Mixed Metaphors – FutureBook, digital blog from The Bookseller

Digital Minds: Industry must try more, fail betterThe Bookseller


And the award for the weirdest book title goes to…

One of The Bookseller‘s latest articles about odd book titles has caught my eye. It got me thinking about Jonasson’s latest bestselling novel The Hundred Year Old Man who Jumped Out of the Window and Disappeared and how the reason I even downloaded it to read was its title. I also wrote a book review for Female First.

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Six titles have been picked to be the Diagram Prize’s Oddest Book Title of the Year award. My favourites were: How to Sharpen Pencils by David Rees (Melville House), Goblinproofing One’s Chicken Coop by Reginald Bakeley (Conari) and How Tea Cosies Changed the World by Loani Prior (Murdoch) – as an avid tea drinker I could not leave this one out!

It is true what Philip Stone, the co-ordinator for Diagram Prize, said that ‘publishers and booksellers know only too well that a title can make all the difference to the sales of a book’ and calling book titles ‘undervalued art’. An odd book title will make people stop and go back and that is what a good book needs to do. It is not just Fiction books which have the odd titles though, this children’s book title did make me do a double take:

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I have not got children but this is definitely a book I would read to them for fun. (The authors are also from one of my favourite bands too!)

The Bookseller‘s article by Katie Allen


The cost of browsing

I just listened to a really interesting podcast from 7 February 2013 on BBC Radio 4’s ‘The Bottom Line page about the digital revolution’s impact on the book trade. It featured Jonny Geller (Curtis Brown), Victoria Barnsley (HarperCollins) and Michael Tamblyn (Kobo).

One of the main discussions from this podcast was discussed in an article on The Bookseller‘s website: ‘Barnsley: bookshops could charge for browsing

An intriguing concept to consider – paying to browse around a book shop? Barnsley stated in the podcast that Barnes and Noble gave a recent statistic that 40% of their customers merely use the store as a place to browse before going home and ordering what they wanted online. So, in theory charging people to browse would be a great way for a bricks-and-mortar business to benefit in the current revolution where e-retailers rule. I can see how it would be great for bookshops, particularly if in the current economic climate it would be the line between a bookshop staying open or closing down. Certainly, I think the high street needs bookshops, whether they are small independents or national companies such as Waterstones.

I agree with Barnsley in the podcast where she states that we still need physical bookshops to discover. As well as this, I have to admit that I am one of those people who actually enjoys looking around a book shops: the smell of books, the look of crisp and new books and lined up along the shelves, the feeling of being surrounded by some of the greatest written works of all time and the prospect of being surrounded by academic works published by some of the most influential and respected publishers from around the world. The thought of paying to even look around a bookshop is a sad concept.

The Bookseller‘s article points out the fact that only 35% of fiction books in the UK are bought from a physical bookshop. With this pressure on booksellers, Barnsley says that the concept of charging to browse is not such a crazy idea in the current economic climate. Personally I feel that if booksellers have to resort to this in order to survive then they will have to, but I will not deny that it would be a sad day should the day come.

Listen to the podcast in full.


The rise of children’s books

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The Bookseller has reported that sales of physical children’s books for 2012 were ‘marginally up’ from 2011 figures, according to Neilsen BookScan.

The children’s book sector was up 0.02% to a value of £318.5 million and up 0.9% in volume sales to 61.3 million. Figures like these show how successful children’s books have been over the past year. Young Adult books such as Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy inevitably boosted sales, with the article stating that had Collins’ books not been included in figures the market overall would have been down by 3.3%.

HarperCollins’ David Walliams books were up 97.6% on 2011 and were worth £6.1 million, a figure which could continue to rise especially after the broadcast of the television version of his book Mr. Stink (pictured above) aired over Christmas.

The table comparing children’s publishers sales are included below:

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It shows that Scholastic saw the greatest growth of +85.90% against 2011 sales, possibly down to the success of the Hunger Games. With the release of the second film from the franchise later this year and a third one undoubtedly on the way, the franchise is not over yet which is great news for Scholastic.

It can be said that the figures reflecting a minus growth on 2011, shows that those publishers experienced sales which were ‘nearly half e-book driven’, as said by Pan Macmillan Children’s Belinda Rasmussen.

One of the key messages which the article highlights is that ‘2012 has reinforced the importance of brands’, which Penguin Children’s Francesca Dow saying ‘all top brands have another way of connecting with consumers, beyond the book, taking the property to a wider audience’. This is reflected through the surge of children’s ebook sales throughout Christmas week.

Certainly, the article portrays the importance of children’s books and the fact that sales saw an increase last year is fantastic. Perhaps the Happy Meal McDonald’s book promotion will be one of the factors which will help with the sales of children’s books this year. Or perhaps there will be another book which will take the world by storm.

In addition, with the growth of the digital world, it shall be interesting to see how children’s ebooks will evolve over the year, again increasing sales. I personally am excited to see what 2013 holds for the children’s book industry and whether it can live up to the success of 2012.

The Bookseller‘s article.