Publishing

Publishers consider dropping old standby: the paper catalog

A publishing institution, faithfully mailed at least twice a year to thousands of stores and libraries for about as long as the industry has existed, may be on its way out: The paper catalog.

HarperCollins announced Monday that it was planning to make their listings of upcoming releases available only online, calling the current system both economically and environmentally indefensible.

"I think we are overdue. We produce thousands and thousands of catalogs, many of which go right into the wastebaskets," HarperCollins President Jane Friedman, who said the switch would likely begin by summer 2009, told The Associated Press. "It's such a waste of paper and so inefficient."

Lexicographical Longing

A commentary in the New York Times about the OED no longer being distributed in paper.

Random House CEO Stepping Down

Peter W. Olson, the chief executive of Random House and one of the most powerful figures in American book publishing, will step down in the next few weeks, according to two executives at Bertelsmann, the German media conglomerate that owns the division. NYT has the story.

Mr. Olson, who has run Random House, the world’s largest consumer publisher, since 1998, has come under mounting pressure in recent months as Bertelsmann’s financial results have been damaged by lower profits at Random House and steep losses in its American book clubs, which he also oversees.

Doctorow's Little Brother

Cory Doctorow (or his publisher) has made parts of his new novel Little brother available as audio -- DRM-free mind you. From BoingBoing:

"The audiobook comes with my own sampling license: once you own it, you're free to take up to 30 minutes' worth of material from it and remix and then redistribute it as much as you like, provided that you do so on a noncommercial basis, make sure that it's clear that this is a remix and not the original, and make sure that you tell people where to find the original. This is in addition to all the fair use remixing that you're allowed to do without my permission (of course!)."

There is also an embeddable widget which lets you port the audio sample into your own blog.

Science 2.0 -- Is Open Access Science the Future?

An article in Scientific American states, "A small but growing number of researchers (and not just the younger ones) have begun to carry out their work via the wide-open tools of Web 2.0." Many scientists are posting raw results online, with tools such as blogs and wikis.

More on the Amazon/Booksurge Issue

As previously reported here on LISNews last month , Amazon is continuing to insist that all Print On Demand books to be sold on their site, Amazon.com, be printed by their own subsidiary, BookSurge.

Sound monopolistic? Is it. Here's a statement from aother POD company, Author Solutions; here's more on Amazon's decision in Publishers Weekly.

To get an idea of the number of POD publishers Amazon's decision will be cutting out, check out John Kremer's Bookmarket list of POD publishers. These people are trying to make a living too.

Turn Those Bytes Into Books

THE first time Jeannet Leendertse, a freelance book designer, saw the software on the Blurb.com Web site that could automatically produce a book, she was more than a little sad. “I thought I needed to have a stiff drink for the end of my career,” she said.

The software could help anyone turn some text and photos into a bound book in a few minutes.

Soon after, though, she saw an opportunity. “I realized there would always be people who appreciate time and effort going into design. I decided to put myself onto their Web site.”

Today, Ms. Leendertse still turns a pile of pictures and paragraphs into bound books, but instead of working just for a roster of major publishers like MIT Press, she helps individuals create books. She is participating in an offshoot of the scrapbooking phenomena, the hobby of collecting and preserving photos and mementos.

Full story in the New York Times.

He Wrote 200,000 Books (but Computers Did Some of the Work)

Story in the New York Times: It’s not easy to write a book. First you have to pick a title. And then there is the table of contents. If you want the book to be categorized, either by a bookseller or a library, it has to be assigned a unique numerical code, like an ISBN, for International Standard Book Number. There have to be proper margins. Finally, there’s the back cover.

Oh, and there is all that stuff in the middle, too. The writing.

Philip M. Parker seems to have licked that problem. Mr. Parker has generated more than 200,000 books, as an advanced search on Amazon.com under his publishing company shows, making him, in his own words, “the most published author in the history of the planet.” And he makes money doing it.

Among the books published under his name are “The Official Patient’s Sourcebook on Acne Rosacea” ($24.95 and 168 pages long); “Stickler Syndrome: A Bibliography and Dictionary for Physicians, Patients and Genome Researchers” ($28.95 for 126 pages); and “The 2007-2012 Outlook for Tufted Washable Scatter Rugs, Bathmats and Sets That Measure 6-Feet by 9-Feet or Smaller in India” ($495 for 144 pages).

But these are not conventional books, and it is perhaps more accurate to call Mr. Parker a compiler than an author.

Full story here

The George Soros e-book: New publishing paradigm in action

On March 24, George Soros delivered a finished manuscript by e-mail to PublicAffairs, his publisher, where I am founder and editor-at-large. Soros had concluded that the current turmoil is “the worst financial crisis since the 1930s.” He wanted his analysis, titled The New Paradigm for Financial Markets, available immediately.

Ten days later, on April 3, having been through the full range of publishing procedures-copy-editing, design, proofreading, and so on-the book was offered for sale, exclusively as an e-book. It was available through every major Web retailer, including Amazon’s Kindle, Sony’s Reader, booksense.com (which serves independent booksellers), and Overdrive (which supports hundreds of library systems). By its first evening, the book was #12 among Kindle’s “bestsellers.” The printed book (and a downloadable audio and large-print on-demand version) will be for sale on May 19, but based on pre-orders, it was #110 among Amazon’s overall listing.

Full story here.

Life After Harry

What will be the fate of the UK publisher of that phenominal series of books? Bloomsbury Books thinks there will be a life after Harry Potter, consisting of a strong line up of books and more internet sales. In 2007 the publisher said it not only benefited from big sales for the final boy-wizard instalment, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, but also from the success of Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns.

The Potter books have catapulted Bloomsbury from small independent publisher to multimillion-pound business. Founder and chief executive Nigel Newton struck gold by signing JK Rowling when no other house would. Bloomsbury ships her books into 83 markets.

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