Wednesday News: Hachette buys Perseus, marriage in decline, Tidal sued, and Big 5 publishing logic
Hachette Book Group to Acquire the Perseus Books Group – It always amuses me that autocorrect persistently tries to change Hachette to Machete. Heh. Anyway, Hachette and Perseus finally managed to complete a sales deal that they have been working on for several years. The new acquisition for Hachette adds a substantial non-fiction publishing group to the publisher’s extensive fiction catalog. I wonder, too, if this will give Hachette a stronger print book presence (lest we forget their famous dispute with Amazon).
The companies issued separate statements Tuesday, announcing that Hachette had acquired Perseus’ publishing division, an extensive network of imprints that includes Basic Books, PublicAffairs and Running Press. The purchase, which Hachette expects to be completed by the end of the month, joins Hachette’s power in the fiction market with Perseus’ catalog of thousands of nonfiction works. . . .
In 2014, Hachette and Perseus called off a complex, three-way transaction that would have had Hachette buying Perseus’ publishing and distribution divisions, then selling the distribution arm to Ingram Content Group. Perseus is still hoping to sell its distribution arm, which includes Consortium and Publishers Group West and works with many of the country’s independent publishers. – ABC News
Single By Choice: Why Fewer American Women Are Married Than Ever Before – This is a pretty interesting interview with Rebecca Traister on her new book, All the Single Ladies, which focuses on the increasing number of women who are choosing not to marry, which she distinguishes from a rejection of marriage (this seems like a great distinction for Romance fiction to contemplate a bit more). Economic independence for more women means that marriage for economic security is not necessarily a necessity (or, given the financial pressures many couples face, even a possibility). I have’t read the book, so I can’t endorse or rebut her conclusions. But she raises some discussion-worthy issues. In fact, in the course of her research, Traister realized that many of the conclusions she was reaching were not, in fact, novel:
I came across this speech by Susan B. Anthony. It’s called “The Homes of Single Women,” and in it she predicted that on the path to gender equality, there must needs be an era in which women cease to marry. … It was like reading someone from 150 years ago truly predicting the very work that I was in the midst of at this moment. She says, “As young women become educated in the industries of the world, thereby learning the sweetness of independent bread, it will be more and more impossible for them to accept the … marriage limitation that ‘husband and wife are one, and that one the husband.’ ”
And what she goes on to argue is that even if we change the laws, even if we change our social policies, even if we find all of these other official ways to acknowledge women’s equality — which is something that we have now done by many measures — after both the suffrage movement’s success and the second wave’s successes, we will still have to adjust our personal biases and expectations, and that the way to do that will be to live through what she calls an epoch in which women and men cease to marry each other and thereby adjust to each other and begin to view each other as true equal independents. – NPR
Tidal Sued For Unpaid Royalties And Cooking The Streaming Counts – Just a reminder that the relationship between artists and those who distribute their work is not untroubled in any media. Streaming services, which have grown in popularity over the past decade, are now the focus of artists who believe that their work is being streamed without proper license (and, obviously, without appropriate royalties). And in this case, it’s Tidal, owned by Jay Z, so there’s some artist-on-artist tension here, as well (the service has been cast as “artist-friendly”). Streaming has been a boon for consumers, and you have to wonder whether if the music industry had been friendlier to digital distribution early on what the landscape today would look like.
Over the weekend, Yesh Music Publishing and John Emanuele (of the duo American Dollar) filed a lawsuit against Tidal for $5 million. The lawsuit claims that Tidal licensed at least 118 songs by American Dollar without the group’s permission and hasn’t paid the royalties it owes for streaming the songs. The complaint also says Tidal is “deliberately miscalculating” its per-stream royalty rates and failing to send reports to the American Dollar about streams of their songs.
If this all sounds incredibly familiar, it should, because these are the same accusations leveled against the other streaming services. This particular action is similar to David Lowery’s suit against Spotify, in that it appears to revolve around mechanical licenses for compositions used in streaming music. While Tidal will likely argue that it properly licensed the works via its agreement with the Harry Fox Agency and via Section 115, it’s not exactly settled that streaming services are covered by Section 115. Under Section 115, Tidal would serve a “notice of intention”, or NOI, in order to get the license if it is unsure of whom it should be paying royalties to for a given composition. Tidal, like many streaming services, works with a third party to manage their licensing and NOIs for them (more on that in a moment). Indeed, the suit directly claims that no NOIs were filed, but sadly doesn’t include the Exhibits in that PDF so that the reader could determine exactly which compositions are in question in this case. – Techdirt
THE COLLECTIVE INSANITY OF THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY – Revisiting the print v. digital battle (and its counterpart in the music industry) made me susceptible to the charms of this post, in large part because it captures my frustration as a reader over some of the RIDICULOUS e-book pricing that’s going on in the post-settlement Agency Pricing market. Higher prices for fewer rights (publishers would love it if we forgot about the First Sale doctrine). Doucette’s cackling delivery of the irony of Big 5’s announcement that the ebook market is slowing down after they’ve been slamming down so hard on the brakes via elevated digital pricing (for fewer rights!) is pretty funny when you think about the print books that are really selling right now (coloring books for adults!!).
If you’re wondering, driving readers toward print and away from ebooks is actually the idea behind this madness. Given the overhead costs of one versus the other, it makes almost no business sense, except for one detail: the Big 5 can exert a lot more control over print and distribution of paper copies than they can over electronic copies. So if you’re looking for logic in this scheme, that’s probably where you’ll find it. A true resurgence in print could mean a revival of physical bookstores and a resumption of Big 5 control over the publishing industry as a whole. And maybe a pony, a recipe for no-calorie fudge, and a cure for male-pattern baldness.
Here’s how short-sighted this idea is. The Big 5 raised their ebook prices, created an artificial resurgence in print sales of their books, and thought they proved print-is-not-dead. (They actually proved the consumer will buy the cheaper option, but okay.) One might even think they stuck it to Amazon, somehow, by doing this.
The only problem is this: the largest seller of print books right now happens to be Amazon. Guess who saw an uptick in print sales in 2015? – Gene Doucette