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.
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.
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.
Following up on an earlier story, Publishers Weekly informs us that PMA, (Publishers Marketing Association) has added its voice to those against Amazon’s move to make publishers print their print-on-demand titles through its BookSurge subsidiary in order to sell directly through the Web site.
In a statement released yesterday, PMA executive director Terry Nathan said the policy “imposes a significant financial burden on tens of thousands of small and independent publishers who can least afford it. Without the opportunity to benefit from competitive pricing, small publishers risk at best an expensive and needless overhaul of their manufacturing process, and at worst, the loss of their livelihood.”
Amazon has sent an open letter to “interested parties,” explaining “what we’re changing with print on demand and why we are doing so.” Amazon has caused a major stir in the pod field with its decision to have publishers who want to sell pod titles directly through its Web site use its BookSurge pod subsidiary. And late Monday afternoon, Ingram, parent company of BookSurge rival Lightning Source, issued a statement from John Ingram noting the concerns it has fielded from publishers about Amazon’s actions.
Complete article at Publisher's Weekly.
BookSurge, Amazon’s print-on-demand subsidiary, is making an offer that most publishers would like to refuse, but don’t feel they can. According to talks with several pod houses, BookSurge has told them that unless their titles are printed by BookSurge, the buy buttons on Amazon for their titles will be disabled. A detailed explanation of her how the new program was explained to her is provided by BookLocker.com co-owner Angela Hoy on her writersweekly.com blog.
Over the last year, BookSurge has been trying to cut into the market share of pod leader Lightning Source and is using the selling clout of Amazon to generate more business. “I feel like the flea between two giant elephants,” said the head of one pod publisher about the upcoming battle between Lightning Source and BookSurge/Amazon. He said although the deal with BookSurge will be more expensive, he has no choice but to make the move since most of his authors expect their titles to be for sale on Amazon. He added that his company will also continue to use Lightning Source for printing as well. Amazon's BookSurge mandate extends to traditional publishers as well as to online pod houses.
Though zines have been published since at least the 1920s when sci-fi fans began producing their self issued writings devoted to the genre, there has been few attempts to document the history and culture of zine making in a narrative form. This is perhaps the first documentary to provide a comprehensive overview of zines and zine makers and is a welcome document on this facet of underground art and media. Some of the most interesting points in the documentary occur when there is a divergence of opinions on a topic, such as the discussion on pricing and profit, selling out, and making a living from zines. The makers cover a significant amount of ground and they largely succeed in creating a work that informs and entertains both those with only a minimal knowledge of zines as well as those immersed in the culture. Anyone involved with zines is likely to enjoy hearing the thoughts and perspectives from other zine makers (and might also appreciate seeing some of their favorite zinesters being interviewed). Also, the documentary provides an excellent introduction, and perhaps source of inspiration, to someone new to zines. $100 & A T-Shirt is a valuable and much needed documentary on zines and zine culture. Anyone interested with an interest in alternative media and publishing is likely to enjoy this excellent documentary.
A journal publisher is having authors contribute information directly to the database.
Curators at one of the world’s most widely used biological databases, The Arabidopsis Information Resource, or TAIR, have joined forces with the journal Plant Physiology, to solve the “flood of information” dilemma. It is a first-of-its-kind partnership, which cuts out the middle person for entering important genetics and other biological data about plants into the database. The new system will unclog the information highway and significantly increase the data contained in TAIR.
No mention of libraries or librarians.
Scott Douglas has released full details of a book give away contest here:
Do you have a picture that perfectly illustrates the insanity that takes place at a library? Maybe it's the book drop that was destroyed by a firecracker, the librarian who never matches his socks, or the library that is completely falling apart and has structural damage to prove it! If so, send them to me and you will automatically be entered in a drawing for a free signed copy of Quiet, Please: Dispatches from a Public Librarian.
In a characteristically provocative talk last week, Richard Smith, who is on the Board of Directors of PLoS, accused traditional subscription-based publishers of acting like slave owners. And he compared open access advocates to abolitionists.
Richard was speaking at the BioMed Central Open Access Colloquium, alongside other "abolitionists," including my colleague Ginny Barbour, Senior Editor at PLoS Medicine. The talks have all been archived on the colloquium website.