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Wednesday News: Amazon in talks with Simon & Schuster, more on Amazon’s possible ambitions, Harlequin as case study, and beachside libraries

Wednesday News: Amazon in talks with Simon & Schuster, more on...

Amazon in Talks with Simon & Schuster – Acquisition? – Several outlets have reported that Amazon is in negotiations with Simon & Schuster, although the content of the talks is currently unknown. Confirmation of the talks came from Les Moonves himself, president of CBS, which owns Simon & Schuster, and Reuters has a link to the talk in which Moonves made the comment. Nate Hoffelder floats the possibility of Amazon attempting to acquire S&S, rather than merely engaging in early contract talks:

That is a crazy idea, yes, but hear me out. Before you send for the trank guns, just remember that in the past 6 months I accurately called the Dropbox-Readmill deal, the Comixology acquisition, and the Nook Media spin off.
. . .
To put it simply, Simon & Schuster is the smallest of the Big 5, and there’s no real connection between it and its parent company – not like there is for the 4 other major US trade publishers.

With $800 million in revenue in 2013, S&S is the smallest of the major US trade publishers (in terms of revenue). It is a wholly owned sub of CBS, a $15 billion a year company with operations mainly in the US. –The Digital Reader

Amazon, a Friendly Giant as Long as It’s Fed – I’m not sure how many more angles there are to the Amazon-Hachette battle to investigate, but you know the media outlets will keep trying. This piece from the New York Times has a couple interesting features, including a discussion of the extent to which Amazon has been working with academic publishers, as well as their push for POD rights when a book is not immediately available for shipment.

Academic houses traditionally sell their books, which are labor-intensive and printed in small quantities, for smaller discounts than general publishers do. Amazon will have none of that. “I offered them a 30 percent discount, and they demanded 40,” said Karen Christensen of Berkshire Publishing, a small academic house in Great Barrington, Mass.

Amazon, as usual, got what it wanted. Then it asked for 45 percent.

“Where do I find that 5 percent?” Ms. Christensen asked. “Amazon may be able to operate at a loss, but I’m not in a position to do that.”

Ms. Christensen, like other publishers, complains that Amazon is very inventive with fees and charges that rapidly add up.

But at the same time, Amazon has made itself essential to Berkshire, which publishes a three-volume dictionary of Chinese biography that sells for $595. Amazon is responsible for about 15 percent of Berkshire’s business. Ms. Christensen feels that she can’t leave Amazon but fears what else it might ask. “I wake up every single day knowing Amazon might make new, impossible demands,” she said.

Amazon has been reported to be seeking a new concession from publishers: If a customer orders a book and it is not immediately available, it wants the right to print the volume itself. An Amazon spokesman said it does not compel publishers to use the technology but offers it as a service. The customer wants the book immediately, so this makes obvious sense. But it chips away yet again at the publisher’s role. –New York Times

The evolution of the Harlequin case: Assessing e-book opportunities – Although not as detailed as I had hoped, this video on Harlequin as a case study project for graduate students at Western University’s Ivey Business School (Canada) is still interesting, in part because of the way Harlequin executives engaged with the students and their ideas about how Harlequin should manage their digital publishing opportunities. It’s a relatively short video, and I haven’t looked to see if some of the projects are available online, but it would be interesting to see what the students came up with in more detail. –Ivey Business School

Beachfront Libraries Are Pretty Much The Best Idea Ever – I don’t know what the weather is like where you live, but here on the West Coast of the US. it’s freaking hot. Which gives way to thoughts of the beach, and of the soothing sound of the ocean (gee, do you think I might need a vacation?!). I have yet to see a beachside library out here, but what a brilliant idea. Check out some of the locations – outside of getting sand in the books, it seems like a pretty ingenuous use for paper books.

Pop-up libraries are a growing trend at beaches around the world, according to Atlas Obscura. In May, Bulgaria’s Black Sea resort, Albena, reopened its beach library for the second summer in a row. The library houses more than 6,000 books. –Huffington Post

Friday News: Authors Guild backs Hachette, Amazon Breakthrough Novel contest, Harper Collins tries direct-to-consumer sales, and Jenny Trout exposes bias against body fat

Friday News: Authors Guild backs Hachette, Amazon Breakthrough Novel contest, Harper...

Authors Guild Weighs In on Amazon-Hachette Dispute – I know you’ve been waiting for this; the Authors Guild’s Richard Russo wrote a letter to its members, essentially backing Hachette in the current game of publishing chicken. I don’t think this is at all surprising, given the Guild’s history of and perspective on author advocacy, but I have to admit that I find the logic even more mind-boggling than usual:

In closing, Russo notes that the Guild is not anti-Amazon and acknowledges that traditional publishers have not treated writers fairly when it comes to e-book revenues. But, he continues in closing, “To our knowledge, Amazon has never clearly and unequivocally stated (as traditional publishers have) that books are different and special, that they can’t be treated like the other commodities they sell.” –Publishers Weekly

Amazon Announces Five Finalists in the 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest – Customer voting is currently underway in the 7th annual Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA) and will continue through the next week. The winner will receive a $50,000 Amazon publishing contract, while the four other finalists will get an Amazon publishing contract and a $15K advance. 10,000 titles were submitted in the categories of General Fiction, Mystery/Thriller, Romance, Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror, and Young Adult Fiction, so there’s a finalist for each category. There is a voting link on the page, which allows you to read 3-5K word samples of each book. I haven’t yet checked any of them out, but holy heck could the Romance novel have a less promising and original title?????!

The 2014 ABNA Finalists are:

General Fiction: A Pledge of Silence by Flora Solomon, Southport, NC

Mystery/Thriller: The Dead Key by D.M. Pulley, Shaker Heights, OH

Romance: The Bluestocking and the Rake by Norma Darcy, Canterbury, Kent GB

Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror: The Mengele Effect by Chuck Grossart, Bellevue, NE

Young Adult Fiction: Seashell, Stork and Apple Tree by Carrie Anne Noble, Montoursville, PA

The ABNA contest takes new fiction from pitch to publication in a much more accelerated path than traditional publishing. –Amazon Press Releases

HarperCollins launches direct-to-consumer sales site – I’m not sure whether to cheer or give this new publisher website the skeptical side-eye. Although only the US site is available now, the UK site is expected to be up and running in August, followed by sites in Canada and Australia. I would LOVE to see traditional publishers actually paying attention to readers as their customers, but given the current Amazon-Hachette situation, and, you know, the whole collusion thing, I’m not particularly confident or trusting at this point. Hopefully I’m wrong.

In a statement, the publisher said: “The capability to sell directly will enable the company to better understand consumer preferences and, most importantly, further extend the global reach of its authors.” It added that authors would be able to use the technology to sell directly through their own sites.

Chantal Restivo-Alessi, chief digital officer said: “We are excited to be able to offer an e-commerce solution to our authors, ensuring their books are always available to their fans. As a publisher, we want to offer as many paths to the consumer as possible.” –The Bookseller

Fat Woman Wears Bikini, World Doesn’t End – You may have seen Trout’s original article on her so-called “fatkini” picture, which has gained tremendous attention and initiated a much-needed discussion about narrow Western standards of beauty and all the ways society consciously and unconsciously colludes to validate them. We’ve had this discussion in Romance many times, as well, and clearly we need to keep having it, since so often “plump” heroines are portrayed either as getting a makeover to win the attentions of a love interest or as beautiful despite their weight.

Trout wraps up her piece this way: “The reason these people do not want to see a fat body in a bikini is because traditionally, that garment is something a woman earns by proving herself attractive enough to exist. If fat women begin wearing them without shame or fear, what’s next? Will they have self-esteem? Will they demand respect? Then what will keep them in their proper place? How would conventionally attractive people judge them?

“As a society, we need to be more honest in our discussions of others’ bodies. If we can’t avoid those totally unnecessary conversations, then we should at least admit the truth to ourselves: That this has nothing to do with health, and everything to do with the control we believe is our right to exert over others.” Amen to that, sister. –Yahoo Shine