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Tuesday News: People want bigger phones, independent booksellers capitalize on Hachette v. Amazon, Open Road responds to Harper Collins, and literary miscellany

Tuesday News: People want bigger phones, independent booksellers capitalize on Hachette...

Survey Says: People Want Bigger Phones – Dear Apple, what is that they say — change or die? Remember the olden days when you were the underdogs, the upstarts, the revolutionaries? What happened, Apple? Please don’t make me buy a Galaxy Note. Please. XOXO, Me

Of the 23,000 people polled in almost two dozen countries, 57 percent plan to buy a new smartphone in the next year. And almost half, 48 percent, of intended buyers want a model with a 5- to 7-inch screen, Accenture said.
. . .
In India, 67 percent of consumers are leaning toward a larger screen model, in addition to 66 percent in China, 61 percent in Indonesia, and 64 percent in Turkey. By contrast, In the United States, only 40 percent were seeking a larger screen and just 30 percent in Germany and 19 percent in Japan. –Yahoo Tech

Booksellers Score Some Points in Amazon’s Spat With Hachette – My brain keeps wanting to read this as “bestsellers score some points,” because for all the talk of independent booksellers taking advantage of a potential vacuum in the retail market, what’s happening with mid-level authors and books? From what I can tell (and this article seems to add anecdotal evidence to the case), it’s still the big books that seem poised to benefit. And that doesn’t seem like so much good change to me.

What bothered Mr. Sindelar wasn’t that Amazon’s tactics were so hard-boiled. Rather, “our goal as retailers is to connect people to books,” he said. “The notion that a retailer would obstruct readers from getting to certain books they want completely violates our ethics as retailers. I wondered how we could get that message across to customers.”

So Mr. Sindelar went to Hachette’s publishing list, looking for the next potential blockbuster. At the Hachette subsidiary Little, Brown and Company, he found “The Silkworm” by Robert Galbraith — a.k.a. J. K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series — the follow-up to her best-seller “The Cuckoo’s Calling.” “That seemed obvious,” he said. “Ordinarily, we wouldn’t get any pre-orders for a book like that. Zero. But Amazon had deleted its pre-order button, so I thought we could capitalize on that.” –New York Times

Open Road Fires Back at HarperCollins in Copyright Case – Boy, this is getting interesting. Open Road is, among other things, claiming they’ve only made $19K in sales on the digital edition of Julie of the Wolves (about 10.45K books). Harper Collins wants something in the neighborhood of $1.1M, inclusive of attorneys’ fees and damages for alleged “willfulness” on Open Road’s part. Although the origins of this case were contractual (was there a granting of digital rights to Harper Collins in the 1971 contract), it may have more to do with royalties, which Jean Craighead George found to be insufficient with Harper Collins (only 25% to Open Road’s 50%). Considering the Hachette-Amazon battle, that makes the situation even more relevant and interesting.

Claiming that the Harper proposal is based on “a misleading portrayal” of the facts, Open Road attorneys argued that not only has Harper not suffered the kind of irreparable harm necessary to justify its proposed remedy, in fact it has not suffered any harm at all. “Harper cannot prove any present harm, let alone irreparable harm,” Open Road attorneys argued, noting that despite its win in court, Harper does not have the right to sell Julie of the Wolves e-books without the author’s consent, “which it has never obtained” owing to “a fundamental disagreement as to a fair e-book royalty.” –Publishers Weekly

The Secret Lives of Authors: The stories behind the stories. – Speaking of Open Road, they’ve got a pretty rich Pinterest board — a sort of ‘behind the scenes’ author board. Normally I’d shy away from posting something like this, because I think the focus on authors over their books has gotten a wee bit out of control. However, there’s some pretty cool stuff here, and some of the authors are no longer around. For example, there’s a list of ’16 things you didn’t know about Octavia Butler’ and some great old photos of the likes of a young Dorothy Sayers and Erica Jong, as well as a listing of ‘literary drinks — 10 famous fiction writers and their cocktails.’ –Pinterest

Monday News: Brashear reclaims helm at Samhain, a tale of digital publishing, a South African street book reviewer, and Amanda Palmer on voluntary exchange

Monday News: Brashear reclaims helm at Samhain, a tale of digital...

Christina Brashear Returns as Samhain Publisher – This is pretty interesting. Brashear, who went from Publisher to President of Samhain in 2012, is back as Publisher, with a promise to “return” Samhain “to its roots.” Lindsey Faber is not only stepping down as Publisher, but leaving Samhain entirely (there’s something about her serving as a consultant to the company. Hmm.). If you remember, there were recently some apparent issues with contract terms for Samhain authors. Brashear claims the following deals are in process:

17-audiobook deal with feminist icon Susie Bright at Audible
4-audiobook deal with Insatiable
Front-list Samhain titles will now be available on the industry review site NetGalley
A newly revamped and designed website will launch this summer
Samhain will sponsor the Horror Writers of America/Bram Stoker Awards in 2015
The company will embark on aggressive mainstream commercial advertising, starting with the August issue of Cosmopolitan magazine

Says Brashear, “As part of this reorganization, Samhain will be returning to its roots of finding and publishing best-selling romance writers. The careers of New York Times best-selling authors like Maya Banks and Lorelei James started at Samhain nearly a decade ago. Now that I’m back at the helm, I’ll continue to nurture and support our current authors while looking to find that next generation of best-selling writers to take their work to the next level and continue to do what Samhain does best.” –PR Web

I Was a Digital Best Seller! – Tony Horwitz chronicles his foray into digital publishing. These stories tend to trigger all sorts of defensive rebuttals from self and digital publishing gurus and other advocates, but I think they serve as a very real, and very true reminder that a) the market is heavily impacted with self-published and digitally published authors, b) authors are doing more and more marketing of their own books, and if they serve as publisher as well as author, they’re likely doing most to all of it, and c) the term “bestseller” doesn’t necessarily translate to tens or hundreds of thousands of copies. Also, note the unsavory reference to “gaming the system” via friends and family reviews. *sigh*

Eager to know how many copies this represented, I asked Byliner for sales figures. It took them a while to respond — because, I imagined, they needed the time to tally the dizzying numbers pouring in from Amazon, iTunes and other retailers. In fact, the total was such that Byliner could offer only a “guesstimate.” In its first month “Boom” had sold “somewhere between 700 and 800 copies,” the email read, adding, “these things can take time to build, and this is the kind of story with a potentially very long tail.”

It was also the kind of story that could bankrupt a writer. I’d now devoted five months to writing and peddling “Boom” and wasn’t even halfway to earning out my $2,000 advance (less than the overrun on my travel). The cruelest joke, though, was that 700 to 800 copies made “Boom” a top-rated seller. What did that mean for all the titles lower down the list? Were they selling at all? –New York Times

The Unlikely Story of The Pavement Bookworm – Tebogo Malope, a South Africa cinematographer, recently filmed an interview with Philani, a 24-year old homeless man from Johannesburg who raises money through his love of books and his own literary literacy. The poignancy of this story hits on multiple levels, from its own social justice foundations to the personal inspiration Philani represents in a country (and within a continent) where basic literacy is still such a concern.

Philani is a bookworm who has chosen to review and sell books rather than resort to begging. He shows up on different streets of Johannesburg with a pile of books, and on request he will review the books, the authors, the publishers.

“He has read all the books in his collection and is always seeking for more to read,” says Tebogo. “He then sells some of his books as a way to raise money for himself and some of his homeless friends. I’m appealing to anyone that can contribute somehow into his life.

“He’s a great role model on the power of reading and can be an amazing ambassador for our young people.” –South Africa People

Amanda Palmer on the Art of Asking and the Shared Dignity of Giving and Receiving – In the wake of Tesla’s announcement that it was basically dumping its patents and throwing in with open source technology, I was thinking about the unremitting cries of piracy in the reading communities, and the equally persistent claims that readers somehow have a responsibility to make sure authors have food to put on the table, take care of their children, dogs, etc., etc. Which got me thinking about this interesting TED talk from musician Amanda Palmer, who, among other things, left her own music label and crowd sourced her next album. While her technique is pretty extreme, I think her philosophy is both sound and inspiring.

Palmer talks extensively about the concept of fair exchange between artists and their fans, and she does it in a way that emphasizes the difference between entitlement (on either side) and voluntary exchange. By focusing on the second, she reinforces what many have asserted about all the anti-piracy measures and talk, namely that it often gets in the way of what is a more “natural” circumstance — specifically that people *want* to pay for creative products, and when given the opportunity outside an environment of suspicion, demand, and control, that they will do so generously and voluntarily.

“I don’t see these things as risks — I see them as trust. … But the perfect tools can’t help us if we can’t face each other, and give and receive fearlessly — but, more importantly, to ask without shame. … When we really see each other, we want to help each other. I think people have been obsessed with the wrong question, which is, ‘How do we make people pay for music?’ What if we started asking, ‘How do we let people pay for music?’ –Brain Pickings