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Monday News: Social media pre-nups, ebooks in Amazon v. Hachette?, cover...

People Are Getting Social Media Prenups – The title of the article says it all. Psychotherapist Karen Ruskin insists that the desire for such a pre-nup is indicative of deeper relationship problems. She also notes that sometimes people can get frustrated if their partner fails to mention something relationship-oriented on social media.

I can see how this would be an issue for celebrities who negotiate for strict confidentiality clauses when it comes to relationship issues (Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, anyone?), and I know the article deems it sad that people need to feel protected from social media disclosures in relationships. However, after the infamous Auto Admit incident, and the popularity of revenge porn, I’m not so sure it’s needless paranoia that makes people, especially women, feel vulnerable. Not to mention the fact that perfectly good people can do some pretty heinous things in the midst of a bad breakup.

ABC says that 80% of divorce attorneys say discussion of social networking is increasingly common in divorce proceedings for a range of reasons, which means we’ll probably be hearing more about prenups like this. But it’s not a safety measure– it’s a red flag. –Time

Getting Things Straight: eBooks May Indeed be an Influence in the Amazon-Hachette Dispute – So depending on how you read the DOJ settlement terms — and that seems to be a major issues in and of itself — it’s possible that Amazon and Hachette are battling over ebook prices in their current contract dispute (e.g. is the two-year ban on publishers pursuing agency pricing over?). Of course, part of the problem here is that no one really knows what’s going on, but this is kind of interesting speculation. There seems to be some evidence to support the argument and some against. I suggest you read Hoffelder’s entire piece for all the details.

To recap, in January 2010 5 US publishers conspired with Apple to bring about retail price maintenance in the ebook market and to force Amazon to submit to the pricing changes. The DOJ and state’s attorneys general started investigating in mid-2010, and in April 2012 the DOJ brought an antitrust lawsuit against the 5 publishers and Apple.

Three of the publishers (S&S, HarperCollins, and Hachette) settled the day the lawsuit was filed. Penguin and Macmillan settled later (late 2012 and early 2013), and Apple fought the lawsuit in court and lost (repeatedly). –The Digital Reader

And the Winners Are… Cover Contest 2013 – So here are the results for the 2013 Cover Cafe contest, along with a link to make nominations for the 2014 contest. With more and more books being self-published, it’s going to be interesting to see how and if that affects the nominations. –Cover Cafe

Harvard confirms antique book is bound in human skin – I think the title to this article contains its own content alert, so if you’re not comfortable with this concept, stop reading now.

My first thought reading this piece was of the Victorian practice of photographing the dead and making hair jewelry. On one level, the idea of a book bound in human skin freaked me the hell out, but maybe that’s hypocritical, considering I think nothing of wearing (cow) leather shoes and carrying purses made from various animal hides.

Harvard said that “Des destinees de l’ame” was the only book in its collection bound in human flesh.
However, the practice, called anthropodermic bibliopegy, was once somewhat common, the university said.
“There are many accounts of similar occurrences in the 19th century, in which the bodies of executed criminals were donated to science, and the skins given to tanners and bookbinders,” the library’s blog entry said. –Phys.org

isn't sure if she's an average Romance reader, or even an average reader, but a reader she is, enjoying everything from literary fiction to philosophy to history to poetry. Historical Romance was her first love within the genre, but she's fickle and easily seduced by the promise of a good read. She approaches every book with the same hope: that she will be filled from the inside out with something awesome that she didnʼt know, didnʼt think about, or didnʼt feel until that moment. And she's always looking for the next mind-blowing read, so feel free to share any suggestions!

13 Comments

  1. tim coates
    Jun 09, 2014 @ 06:02:34

    Yes, the two year arrangement whereby publishers were allowed to modify their agency agreements to allow a limited amount of price offer by the retailer, are coming to an end. So Hachette have gone back to Amazon and proposed a new agency agreement (which means that the publisher sets the price of the book) and Amazon have rejected their proposal. Amazon want to be able to set the prices themselves.

    This time the other four publishers can’t stand alongside Hachette (which was what got them into so much trouble) – and one presumes that Amazon will not only hold out until Hachette concede, but they will also then reject similar agency agreements if the other publishers offer them.

    What is happening is that Amazon want to be able to give readers the price benefit of ebooks (which are much cheaper to distribute and retail) and the publishers want to keep the prices as high as they can so as not to damage sales of their print books

    Really- this isn’t a battle about publishing – it is a battle about book retailing and about libraries. Amazon have recognised that customers want, above all, low price, wide ranges of content and speedy availability, and that they can afford to give them all those. … even though it will damage their own print book sales. Unless they recognise this and compete, other booksellers are doomed – and unless the library service wakes up and realises that times are changing and they must, too, then their book service will be as damaged as their information service has been damaged by Google.

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  2. Liviania
    Jun 09, 2014 @ 11:53:05

    Publishers still need to make similar money on ebooks as print books. They might not have to pay for physical production and distribution, but retailers will still take a cut and designers, cover artists, programmers, copyeditors, proofreaders, editors, and more need to be paid. Producing ebooks vs. print books doesn’t cut as many costs as people think.

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  3. hapax
    Jun 09, 2014 @ 12:21:45

    unless the library service wakes up and realises that times are changing and they must, too

    I don’t believe that there’s a librarian out there who hasn’t been begging for YEARS to be allowed to purchase and circulate digital materials with the same ease, variety, and price that apply to all other formats.

    Unfortunately, we have a choice between kowtowing to the publisher’s (and their proxies, the various software providers) ridiculous terms and price extortion, or offering our patrons nothing at all.

    Alas, publishers don’t seem to care what readers think, either. Most librarians think it’s going to come down to a lawsuit over “who REALLY owns that ebook, anyhow?” before things will change; but given the current court makeup, nobody’s particularly eager to bring that case right now.

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  4. Carolyne
    Jun 09, 2014 @ 12:33:44

    @Liviania: You beat me to it. The physical costs (paper, printing, binding) and the costs for warehousing and freight can range from high (two dollars US, maybe five for a large and fancy book, based on my experience, ymmv, etc.), to vanishingly small compared to the overall costs of putting out a title. That’s an aspect where smaller publishing houses can either be more nimble (lower overall business costs = ability to keep the eBook price low) or at a disadvantage (small print runs = high unit costs for printed books; fewer resources for marketing and publicity, etc.)

    Ideally eBooks should be a little less costly than their printed counterparts, but the more of a cut a big retailer demands, the harder it is for the publishers to handle sales at a low price. It would be lovely if a low eBook price consistently means selling twice as many copies so that everyone–well, the readers, authors, publishers, and big online retailers–could be happy.

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  5. tim coates
    Jun 09, 2014 @ 13:22:00

    If I may explain two separate parts to my earlier comment ..

    Firstly, with respect to how much people get paid from the sale of a book: If a printed book is sold through a ‘bricks and mortar’ retailer, for say $10,, the split is approximately as follows

    40% ($4) for the publisher to pay the author, the publishing costs and to keep a small profit
    10% ($1) for printing, storage and distribution and for those companies to keep a small profit.
    50% ($5) for the retailer to pay for the building, the staff and to keep a small profit

    When an ebook is sold through an internet book store there is no need for printing, storage, distribution, a book store, or book store staff. So, if, say, the same book is sold for $5 there is plenty for the publisher and author to be paid as much as they ever were and for the internet bookseller to make a sensible return. So, when Amazon are trying to remove ‘agency’ contracts that is the arithmetic they are aiming for.

    Secondly, with respect to libraries, libraries have got to realise that publishers simply dare not allow a situation with ebooks that replicates the lending arrangement they had for print books. It is so likely to destroy their income that they cannot and, evidently will not, risk it. They need to make something every time the book is read.

    Libraries are (in my view) making two fundamental mistakes . The first is that, with respect to public libraries and popular readership, there is NO need for libraries to ‘acquire’ titles in order to make them available to the public. Every small library can offer every ebook in the world. It is a complete waste of money for several libraries to ‘acquire’ licenses for identical books so that they each offers a limited range of ebooks. It is the wrong approach.

    Amazon has not ‘acquired’ the catalog it shows on Kindle – money only changes hands when a book is purchased, in their case. The same is true for all the other ebook websites – nobody ‘acquires’ things in order to be able to offer them- but libraries think they must.

    The second is that countries all over the world subsidise reading – quite rightly – but that doesn’t mean that authors and publishers should pay for it. If we subsidise medications, we don’t expect the drug companies to bear the cost.

    Libraries have got to think in terms of using the vast subsidies that they receive to offer an ebook service that is as good as or even better (because it can be as fast as and even cheaper) than the current ebook internet retailers . That is what I mean by a different approach to performing their function

    I have been a book seller and worked in libraries all my life – they need to change dramatically or they will be finished in their current form within a decade.

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  6. hapax
    Jun 09, 2014 @ 14:10:28

    Libraries have got to think in terms of using the vast subsidies that they receive

    VAST SUBSIDIES? a-hah-haha-ha-aa /giggle/ /snort/ ahahaha…

    Obviously the libraries you have been working in “all your life” are in a fantasy country where the public LIKES paying taxes that support education, information, and other public social services, not in the US where many citizens begrudge the funds necessary to put out fires and pick up the trash.

    to offer an ebook service that is as good as or even better (because it can be as fast as and even cheaper) than the current ebook internet retailers .

    Programmed and maintained, no doubt, by the same brilliant tech wizards who work for free, those who in your description also keep the Amazon website running at no cost, along with their off-the-clock hobbies as savvy marketers and top-flight attorneys who will defend (and win!) libraries’ right to circulate those ebooks when the publishers inevitably haul them to court for piracy.

    Or is it your argument that public libraries start CHARGING patrons for ebooks, turning ourselves into state-supported retailers? Well, *that* will do wonders for maintaining the popularity of our “vast subsidies.”

    Y’know, it is just barely possibly that some librarians have wandered off the EFF webpage long enough to understand how libraries actually work.

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  7. hapax
    Jun 09, 2014 @ 14:36:00

    Oh, and “Tim Coates”, I just did what I should have done in the first place, and clicked on the link in your name.

    Surprise, surprise, it takes me to a placeholder site for a (startup, maybe?) ebook rental service.

    No wonder you don’t like the current library model of lending books. It’s an obstacle to your business plan.

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  8. tim coates
    Jun 09, 2014 @ 14:38:40

    The US public library service receives over $11bn annual funding. That is comparable with the entire cost of the US trade publishing industry and is certainly a lot more than any other country in the world. Depending on exchange rates, it is the largest per capita expenditure of any country.

    The American people and their governors are very generous to library users. Nobody would want otherwise.

    Out of that $11bn less than 10% is spent on books – and of that 10%, half is spent on intermediaries between the libraries themselves and publishers. It is not quite wasted, but it is not very efficiently spent. The allocation of how money is spent is entirely in the hands of those who manage the service. All that could be changed.

    I have campaigned for libraries for many many years – but I think their approach to the technology of ebooks is wrong.

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  9. Mzcue
    Jun 09, 2014 @ 14:50:00

    My beloved library reports that it would dearly love to offer more digital versions of requested books, but that the publishers refuse to make them available.

    What smarts the most in the whole digital book paradigm is how the concept of book ownership has been blithely redefined. It galls me that at the same time the costs for producing and distributing books have fallen, I’m prevented from sharing or reselling them.

    And while we’re at it, how about the extortionately highly priced text books that are available only as rentals? Not only do today’s college students have to pay through the nose for minimally revised texts each year, they actually lose the ability to access them after the class is completed? (And Mr. Coates, don’t tell me I don’t know what I’m talking about. I edit college text books, so I’m in the loop.)

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  10. hapax
    Jun 09, 2014 @ 15:22:27

    Out of that $11bn less than 10% is spent on books – and of that 10%, half is spent on intermediaries between the libraries themselves and publishers.

    That 11 bn is divided between some 9000 public libraries, at an average of a little more than 1.2 million. Of that, about 67 % goes to staff, 11.4 % was spent on materials (I don’t know where you get “half spent on intermediaries”, but if you mean book jobbers like Baker & Taylor, there’s a huge difference between spending money THROUGH intermediaries and ON intermediaries), and 21.6 % to support and maintain access to that collection — ” binding, supplies, repair or replacement of existing furnishings and equipment, and costs of computer hardware and software used to support library operations or to link to external networks, including the Internet. Includes expenditures for contracts for services, such as costs of operating and maintaining physical facilities, and fees paid to a consultant, auditor, architect, attorney, etc.”

    Source.

    Your nifty ebook rental service isn’t going to do the public a lot of good without top-notch programmers to create and maintain it, servers and networks to deliver it and people to explain how to use it and to navigate through the vast sludge of STUFF.

    Please note that 85 % of those funds, that you call “subsidies” (nice loaded language) come from local taxes; and local citizens have very definite ideas about what they want for that money. Overwhelmingly, survey after survey show that their priorities are a pleasant space, a knowledgeable staff, and the kind of “added value” (like children’s programs, adult classes, job searching assistance, tech support, etc. etc. etc.) that demand intensive investment in time, training, and space.

    Note also that the vast majority of those funds are allocated to a relatively few, well-funded libraries in affluent areas. In many many rural areas, the public library’s one dial-up connection is the ONLY internet access within driving distance, and the “materials budget” consists entirely of donations. It is precisely these populations who need library service the most who would be completely left out of your New! Spiffy! Model!

    Finally, you haven’t clarified whether or not you mean this revised “approach to the technology of e-books” is to be free lending without purchasing — which, as near as I can tell, is to put public libraries in the piracy business — or some kind of “rental” service, which would make ebooks inaccessible to many low income patrons, make a government agency a direct competitor of private businesses, totally subvert the library’s mission, and is flat-out OUTLAWED in most states.

    Once again, it isn’t that librarians aren’t frantically working on this problem. There are several library consortiums and public – private partnerships that are trying to develop many different models to replace a system that everyone agrees is currently broken.

    But you seem to blithely underestimate the very real technological, legal, educational, commercial, and social hurdles that have to be taken into account.

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  11. Lynn Pauley
    Jun 09, 2014 @ 19:25:57

    @hapax — Thank you. I was going to reply to tim coates, but you have done it so well that I don’t have to!

    For anyone who has not been keeping up with libraries and the e-book situation, we would LOVE to provide our patrons with a vast array of e-books. We however are at the mercy of publishers and our budget constraints.

    Previous to 2013, Macmillan and Simon and Schuster would not allow libraries to loan their books. The situation has “improved” somewhat in that now libraries can purchase titles from Macmillan’s back list but not current titles. Simon and Schuster is experimenting with allowing libraries to loan their titles — but only in about a dozen libraries in their pilot project.

    Hachette and Macmillan do not allow consortial purchasing — thus, many libraries cannot offer Macmillan or Hachette e-books. Due to the high cost of e-books, many, many libraries must band together in a consortia in order to afford to offer e-books in the first place. Individual libraries can set up accounts and offer Hachette and Macmillan titles but with no price breaks whatsoever.

    A HarperCollins title can only be checked out 26 times, then the library must repurchase it. For those libraries that can offer Simon and Schuster titles those titles must be repurchased after 12 months — this is the same for the Penguin side of Penguin/Random House. Macmillan titles can only be checked out 52 times or for 24 months (whichever comes first) and then must be repurchased.

    And don’t get me started on the price we have to pay for e-books — the e-book of Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett costs you $11.99, it costs the library $80.85, the e-book of Killer by Jonathan Kellerman costs you $10.99, it costs the library $84.00, the e-book of Cockroaches by Jo Nesbo costs you $7.99, it costs the library $44.85. Many publishers have increased the price for a copy of an e-book sold to libraries as much as 300-700%.

    Libraries have to set down and figure out how to allocate what money they have vs what costs they have. We sometimes have to make the hard decision on whether to purchase 1 copy of an e-book (at $84.00 that will expire after 26 checkouts) or purchase 3 different print books (at maybe $25.00 per book that will circulate for years). Then we have to decide whether to repurchase an e-book after the circulation period has ended — do we say
    “well, first 26 patrons, good for you — you had a chance to read this e-book. Sorry, rest of the patrons on the wait list, we can’t afford to repurchase this title — sucks to be you!”

    At a previous library I worked at, we still had hardcover copies of Stephen King titles that were still in good shape after circulating for over 12 years.

    We are not asking for extra special treatment from the publishers — all we are asking is to be able to provide our patrons with the e-books they want to read at a reasonable price, and without having to keep repurchasing those titles after a set period.

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  12. Kaetrin
    Jun 09, 2014 @ 23:45:13

    @Lynn Pauley: Wow – how on earth can the publishers justify these prices to libraries? It’s mind-boggling.

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  13. De
    Jun 11, 2014 @ 12:49:10

    When the limits on number of check outs were implemented, I did some digging in our circulation system. Publishers claim that they had to do that because ebooks don’t wear out like paper books do. Libraries can choose to rebuy a paper book or not when it’s old and worn.

    That’s true. And I checked titles by some of the publishers making that argument. We have a copy of Stephen King’s The Tommyknockers that’s been checked out 131 times. We’ve got copy of VC Andrews’ Fallen Hearts with 85 circ’s, and There Be Thorns with 100. James Patterson’s Along Came a Spider – 177, Cat and Mouse had 101 before it was checked out and not returned, Hide and Seek – 125, Jack and Jill 122 times.

    As a librarian, I’m willing to buy there argument about replacing worn copies. But not at 20 something check outs or even 50 something. Start at 100 check outs, with no time limit and they’d be getting closer to reality.

    But the 300% and up price mark up is just inexcusable greed.

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