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
The publishing industry has no control over paper books once they are sold. Increasingly, in Maine, I see very few bookstores that don’t have a significant section of used books. In some areas, books are only sold in the flea markets/”antique” stores.
That said, as long as there are good books and back catalogues available for $1.99 on the Kindle, I don’t see why I’d start paying $8 for a brand new e-book that I can’t hand to a friend or drop at the book swap. In short, if you make a paper copy cheaper than the e-copy, people will buy paper, but that won’t stop all the millions of people with a Kindle or a Kindle-app from buying cheap e-books, too.
The Illusion of Control is strong in the Big 5. I sometimes wonder if their CEO’s are sourced from the same pool as whoever decides the Oscar nominations.
Yep. I live in Maine and my small town (population 8K) has two used bookstores and a library bookstore within four or five blocks of each other.
The publishing industry has no control over paper books once they are sold.
This is what is so frustrating/amusing to me about publishing’s preference for print. Is the focus on digital piracy so strong that the obvious advantages of building digital readership, where books cannot be re-sold or passed around, are being completely ignored? Wouldn’t you want to charge more for the print book that can be re-sold and passed on, cutting off royalties beyond that initial copy? And the way publishers have dealt with libraries on digital lending is just ridiculous.
@Janet: This this this! I know I work in video games and not books, but we’ve been undergoing similar situations at a slightly more advanced timeline, and the biggest difference is that we’re embracing digital distribution for so many reasons (WAY less expensive, we gain 2+ months of development time that’s usually dedicated to disc pressing, size becomes less of an issue as we don’t have to worry about splitting into multiple discs, faster/easier patching because someone who buys digitally is more likely to be connected most of the time… and yes, piracy!), but the absolute biggest one was the amount of money “lost” to (or being made by) used game sales. Most buyers would buy a game when it came out, finish it, and then a week later trade it in to Gamestop etc for far less than they originally paid, so Gamestop could sell a used copy for $5 less than a new copy. Of course people are going to pick the cheaper version of the exact same product!
Digital distribution has completely cut off that entire business model and put the money into the pockets of the publishers.
I don’t understand why there’s this disconnect with book publishing! But then I get the same headache when I see DRM increases — after the game industry gave it up because it was a losing process. Game consoles used to ship with NO hard drives, or ones just big enough to fit the OS and maybe some skins or something for the UI. Now they’re shipping with 500GB and they’ve raised the topic of modular replacement like PCs have to continue to increase specs in smaller bites.
I hope this isn’t too long-winded, it just blows my mind that another, similar industry could be tackling these hurdles and the answer isn’t “Hey let’s see what they spent money on and decided was the best way” but “Let’s completely ignore everything and repeat the same costly mistakes”. Music, television, movies, video games are already deep end of digital content, whyyy are books still paddling around in the kiddy pool?
Where I live bookstores and dvd/game stores are dying quickly. New and used. Amazon has undercut everyone’s prices and the kindle has made a huge dent in customer traffic. Our local Hastings has laid off a huge chunk of people and the stores are run with 3 employees now. Three. They have also cut almost half of their on hand stock and refer people to their site now instead of special ordering. And used bookstores are having a very hard time getting people into the stores and actually spending money because they can get the ebook for $3 or less and the UBS wants $4.50.
If I want a book, 99% of the time it’s not in stock anywhere close to me now. B&N is useless, as is Hastings. Walmart and Target have both dramatically cut book selection to Harlequin and Avon offerings or Nora Roberts and James Patterson books. Most of my authors are midlist and no one will stock them so I have to support Amazon.