Wednesday News: Posner lays down the law for the Conan Doyle estate, Romance writers changing the publishing landscape, hotel charges guests for negative reviews, and taking a look at Medieval marginalia
Judge Posner orders estate to pay up over Sherlock Holmes copyright “extortion” – Although I’m not the biggest fan of Chicago Judge Richard Posner, I fist-pumped at the news, and even some of the rhetoric, of this ruling, which holds the Conan Doyle estate accountable for their ridiculous attempts to make other writers pay to use material that was no longer protected by copyright.
One of the country’s most well-known judges has taken the Arthur Conan Doyle estate to task for shaking down publishers, and for threatening to collude with distributors like Amazon and Barnes & Noble to wring licensing revenue for Sherlock Holmes works that are clearly in the public domain.
In a ruling issued Monday in Chicago, U.S. Circuit Judge Richard Posner ordered the Doyle estate to pay $30,679.93 in legal fees to Leslie Klinger, an author and editor who crushed the estate’s demands for licensing fees on a Sherlock Holmes anthology composed of stories written before 1923. –Gigaom
These romance writers ditched their publishers for ebooks — and made millions – Despite some of the dismissive language (“churning out” books, etc.), this is a pretty good profile of how female Romance writers, in particular, are changing the face of publishing, and making unprecedented profits in the process. The boys may talk talk talk about everything they “know” about self-publishing, but the girls are getting down to business and actually doing it. And self-publishing *is* a business.
Andre isn’t the only one. Despite the fact that ebook sales in the U.S. have begun to level off, romance books are much more likely to be purchased in digital format. Nearly 40% of new romance books in the first quarter of 2014 were purchased as ebooks, compared to 32% bought in paperback form, according to a recent report by Nielsen. In contrast, ebooks accounted for less than one-quarter of total new book sales during the same time period.
Say what you will about romance novels (bodice-rippers, Fabio covers and all), it’s hard to deny that some of the most exciting entrepreneurs in the U.S. today aren’t hoodie-wearing app developers — they’re women writing books for women and making millions in the process. –Yahoo News
Hotel fines $500 for every bad review posted online – This is so crazy I can’t believe no one has sued the hotel yet. Book a wedding at New York’s Union Street Guest House, and should one of your guests leave a negative review of the place on Yelp, the hotel charges you $500. Get the guest to nix the review and get a refund of your $500. That’s $500 PER review, by the way.
For any bad reviews that do make it online, the innkeepers aggressively post “mean spirited nonsense,” and “she made all of this up.”
In response to a review complaining of rude treatment over a bucket of ice, the proprietors shot back: “I know you guys wanted to hang out and get drunk for 2 days and that is fine. I was really really sorry that you showed up in the summer when it was 105 degrees .?.?. I was so so so sorry that our ice maker and fridge were not working and not accessible. –Page Six
Naughty Nuns, Flatulent Monks, and Other Surprises of Sacred Medieval Manuscripts – Despite the prurient, almost adolescent, appeal of some of these images, this is a really interesting article about the Medieval art form of Marginalia, much of which was produced in religious texts. Satirical commentary, counter-text, and subversive imaginings, these images can be, in their own way, commentary on both the text and the process of producing it, and the conversation between the text proper and the marginalia results in another narrative level for reading and interpretation.
The prevailing view for most of the 19th and 20th centuries was that marginalia was nonsensical, unserious, profane, and had nothing to do with the sacred images it surrounded. It was only relatively recently, due to the work of scholars like Michael Camille and Lillian Randall, in particular, that marginalia became viewed as a genre worthy of study in and of itself. Camille has suggested that marginalia emerged from the tradition of the gloss, which is an explanatory note that helps elucidate difficult passages in the text. A gloss wasn’t a footnote; it was actually written into the margin, either in the original language of the book or in the vernacular.
In the context of medieval illuminated manuscripts, the kinds of images that occur in the margins are pretty astonishing. Although there were recurrent themes and symbols, the artists seem to be less constrained by traditional sacred imagery. Think, for example, of how the image of the Crucifixion or the Last Supper became iconic, as the same composition and visual cues were repeated over and over. Imagination is allowed much freer rein in the margins of a book; it’s allowed to run amok. So monsters or human-monster hybrids, animals behaving as humans, and fart jokes were all fair game. –Collectors Weekly
40% ebooks, 32% paperback…So the other 28% is what? Hardcover? That doesn’t seem right for romance…
Or am I reading this wrong?
It boggles the mind why anyone would have a wedding at such an unprofessional venue.
@Laura Jardine: I wondered about that too. It probably includes audiobooks as well, but that’s still a really high number. If you look at RWA’s reader statistics, which also use Nielsen, they show that while romance readers buy ebooks in higher volume, they still read print far more often, at a 2-1 rate. And that’s in a survey of online-only readers, so if you included “offline” readers the numbers would probably be tilted even further in favor of print.
I’m not disputing that romance readers are more likely to read ebooks than other readers, but I don’t think it’s as skewed toward ebooks in terms of individual readers as the story suggests. But since all the data are proprietary we can’t know for sure, we can only guess based on the numbers that they share with us.
Well, when I purchase romance books for the library, I always get hardback if I can but I usually end up buying in trade paperback. Large print romance (even categories) is usually purchased as hardback as well.
Of course, libraries don’t make up a huge share of the purchasing market (it varies across genres), but that might be skewing the numbers a bit.
@Sunita: There are lots of readers now who read romance and don’t self-identify as romance readers. They are the ones helping to drive romance ebook sales up to that 40%. They might buy print versions of their favorite authors, but ebooks allow them to indulge without the “romance reader” label (which is still stigmatized–look at the media coverage of Outlander).
@Evangeline Holland: True, but both RWA and the Yahoo article are using the same dataset, which is the Nielsen numbers from spring 2014. RWA and I are both inferring behavior of individual readers, but the book buying numbers should be more or less the same. I’m clearly missing some transformation that’s being performed.
It looks like the reporter took the numbers from here: http://www.rwa.org/p/cm/ld/fid=580
So when the reporter refers to “paperback,” she means mass market only. Another 18% comes from trade paperback sales, and hardcover accounts for 9%. Audio and “other” each represent 1% each.
Which means that print formats account for 59% of the romance market, compared to 39% for ebooks.
@AlexaB: Ah, thank you! I was stuck on the reader statistics page and didn’t click on the industry statistics page. 60/40 seems a lot more in line with what we’d expect than ebooks outpacing print, even among internet-visiting readers.
My guess is that ebook-preferring romance readers buy and read more ebook releases. Probably because they are buying novellas and shorts, whereas print readers are buying novels and anthologies.
And I see that RWA has completely stopped giving the average age of romance readers. Probably because that number is going up and they don’t want to highlight it. The last round of statistics broke down print v. ebook reader ages, with print being 49 and ebook being 42. Both are still higher than the median age of the US female population.
ETA: I *think* it was 49/42; I didn’t clip the page and the data have been updated.
@AlexaB: Ah, that makes sense now. Thanks.
Do you think the hotel could successfully be sued for those fines? They’re insane.
@Sunita: You may very well be right about RWA’s refusal to provide an average age of Romance readers, although I have to tell you that I distrust RWA’s representation of readers in general, because I think they are not including a lot of younger, newer readers who may not identify as Romance readers, but who are, in fact, reading in the genre, likely in New Adult, YA/Rom, and Erotic categories. These may not be traditional genre readers, which are the readers RWA has tended to acknowledge and embrace, but I think they’re indicative of the way self-publishing and digital publishing/ebooks are reshaping the market, along with the immense popularity of books like 50 Shades.
@Robin/Janet: I’m just going by the way readership age has been reported by RWA over the last decade or so. They used to give an average age, then they broke it down into ebook v. print readers’ ages, and now they’re only reporting a fairly wide age range.
As for newer readers, they should be captured in the data because this is a romance-specific re-survey of Nielsen’s overall book consumer survey. RWA commissioned the re-survey but Nielsen carries it out.They start with people who read romances, then they go back and ask a sub-sample of that group about romance reading/buying habits that weren’t asked in the first round.
Their results seem to confirm your beliefs about younger readers: When broken down by age, a majority of older readers buy mysteries, and younger readers buy YA and erotic fiction. And New Adult is well represented among readers, with considerably more reading it than read Christian romance, for example, and about the same number as read PNR.
Their findings are consistent with (previous) studies of mystery readers, who tend to be an older readership than romance readers. Whatever RWA is doing in its own policies (and I think the narrowing of romance genre in terms of awards, chapters, contest rules, etc. is not a good idea), the survey operates on a different metric.
ETA: Thinking more about your comment, the re-survey will not include people who say they have not bought *any* romances but who have bought YA and erotic fiction. But my guess is that there are fewer of those readers than readers who read/buy romances *and* YA, erotic, and other not-strictly-romance books.
@Sunita: I understand what you’re saying, Sunita; I think my wariness has more to do with how RWA or Nielsen is defining Romance reader, and whether that definition is still in line with how people read the genre. For example, when you think of 50, and a lot of the books that have capitalized off of it, they are basically repackaged HPs, but are not necessarily marketed that way. There is also, I think, more hybridity in the way some readers are engaging with the genre, and so perhaps the whole idea of the ‘traditional Romance reader’ isn’t even valid anymore. I’m not sure how much thought has even gone into the idea that the way readers engage with different genres may be evolving, and that we need to start re-thinking some of our previous assumptions and conceptual frameworks.
Then there’s the question of how digital and indie books are shaping the idea of a dedicated Romance readership, not to mention all of the questions around how any of these numbers are being measured (not in terms of statistical methodology so much as all the numbers you see being quoted and re-quoted and used as the basis for various arguments about the success of indie publishing and ebook adoption, etc.).