Notes: Random Claims E-Rights; 'Web-Monday' Sale
On the front page yesterday, the New York Times delved into the thorny issue of ownership of e-rights on books published decades ago, many by famous writers.
The topic became all the more prominent on Friday, when Random House CEO Markus Dohle "sent a letter to dozens of literary agents, writing that the company's older agreements gave it 'the exclusive right to publish in electronic book publishing formats,' " the Times wrote. Agents who commented on the letter sounded unconvinced.
Contract language before the mid-1990s is vague on the subject of e-rights--often referring to "book form" and "any and all editions"--and Random House itself lost two rounds of a case against Rosetta that began in 2001. Authors and their estates have been exploring e-publishing options both because they want more effective e-efforts in a time when digital books are finally growing and because of dissatisfaction with a royalty rate of 25% of net proceeds. That rate usually results in less money per e-book than a hardcover edition because of lower retail pricing. Many agents believe the rate should be higher on e-books.
Commenting on the tussle between publishers on one side and agents and authors and authors' families on the other, Maja Thomas, Hachette's digital and audio publishing head, told the Times, "This is a wide open frontier right now."
Although it's been playing hardball on e-pricing and in other ways with publishers, Amazon has also been "trying to buy a little love from the New York publishing community," Crain's New York Business reported.
The e-tailer is offering employees of the major houses a holiday 40% discount on the Kindle. Amusingly one publishing executive told Crain's, "They'll need to do a helluva lot more than offer discounted Kindles."
E-interesting: Eagle Harbor Books, Bainbridge Island, Wash., is holding a "web-Monday" sale today from midnight to midnight. All book orders placed online are 20% off with free shipping on books picked up at the store. ("As ever, most orders will be ready within just a few days--if they aren't on the shelf already!" as an e-mail to customers put it.)
The store is also offering a 20% discount on e-books during the sale. Eagle Harbor wrote: "Did you know? We are, along with independent bookstores across the country, exploring ways that we can participate in this growing technology so we can continue to serve ALL of your book needs.
"Consider a Sony eReader or there's a free IndieBound App for your iPhone. With these devices, you can download eBooks from our website & from the library. 'Really . . . I never thought of that,' is the frequent response when we tell someone that you CAN'T shop locally with a Kindle . . . you can ONLY buy from Amazon. It's about freadom."
On her MyBigWalk blog, Laurie Albanese, co-author of The Miracles of Prato, has a timely idea: "Today I thought of ten literary jewels--the titles of some of my favorite stories and books--that can be given alone or supplemented with a personal no-cost coupon, a promise, airline tickets, or a cozy home accessory."
One example: "Three Cups of Tea. Greg Mortenson's book, a teapot, a lovely tea mix, and a beautiful sip-of-nectar mug from Anthropolgie would make a perfect holiday combo. Or maybe you should make that three mugs."
[More on Greg Mortenson, who we believe embodies the holiday spirit, below.]
Guest blogging on She Is Too Fond of Books in its weekly Spotlight on Bookstores series, writer Delia Cabe traces the community efforts to stop the closure in January of Charlesbank Books in Belmont, Mass., which is owned by Barnes & Noble.
Dawn Rennert noted that the blog has run stories about more than 60 bookstores in the U.S. and abroad.
Rangefinder Magazine offers a portrait of Miriam Berkley, the photographer who specializes in portraits of authors.
Her career began writing book reviews and interviewing authors--and as an extra, photographing them. When she interviewed and photographed a husband-and-wife crime-writing couple, her work began to change. "My interview appeared in three major American newspapers, usually with a photograph," she recounted. "I had spent about a week reading their books, preparing for the interview, and then transcribing the interview before even doing the actual writing. Within a few months I had sold a headshot of one of the authors for the jacket of a book and earned about what I had gotten for all three interviews put together. Within a year I had sold more jacket and publicity photos for this author and later sold a shot of the other. I had gotten no feedback on the interviews but many favorable comments on the photos. It seemed smarter and more fun to focus on photos."
Cool idea of the day: besides hosting a major party, Spoonbill & Sugartown, Booksellers, Brooklyn, N.Y., celebrated its 10th anniversary by creating a book of photo essays--pictures taken during one week this fall of nearly 100 customers holding up books they had just purchased. The title is called This Is My Book, This Is Your Book. Spoonbill & Sugartown sells new, used and rare books on contemporary art, architecture design.
Congratulations to Eagle Eye Book Shop, Decatur, Ga., named Best Indie Bookstore in Atlanta in 2009 by Atlanta magazine. The citation reads:
"This little shop, tucked neatly into an aging strip mall, strikes the perfect bookish balance between orderly and overwhelming. It's easy to dash in for something specific, but it's also possible to lose an entire afternoon just browsing. The staff is smart and witty. And if they can't find or special-order what you need, they'll refer you to other independent bookstores in town. Eagle Eye, which boasts 'more than a mile' of new and used books, is an active member of the community it serves, which is the best measure of success."
Book trailer of the day: Show Off by Sarah Stephens, illustrated by Bethany Mann (Candlewick, $18.99, 9780763645991/0763645990).
Today is the last day to vote for a favorite children's book in the "Choose a Book, Change a Life" online contest, sponsored by the Books for Asia program of the Asia Foundation. Copies of the title with the most votes will be given to every child of the Bede river tribe in Bangladesh who is schooled by Subornogram Schools on a boat on the Meghna River. Vote at bookvote.asiafoundation.org.
Books for Asia distributes one million new books and resources annually to students, educators and community leaders in Asia. In October, the group held a similar "Choose a Book, Change a Life" campaign with the Morwakee school in Thailand. Every child in Morwakee Village received a copy of the winning title, Oh, the Places You'll Go! by Dr. Seuss. See a video about it here.
Local booksellers Doug Wilson of Village Books, Kristie Elliott of
Nancy’s Trade A Book II and Timm Siebeneck of Bauernhof Siebeneck Books
and Art Gallery suggested "ways to go read and green this Christmas" in
the Columbia, Mo., Daily Tribune.
The Morning Call showcased Blind Willow Book Shop, Emmaus, Pa., which was recently opened by Kyle Page and Matt Foley, who "had been floating the idea of owning a bookstore. The idea became a reality soon after Foley recently returned from a year of trotting the globe."
John Gribbin, whose book Get a Grip on Physics had the dubious distinction of being photographed on the floor of Tiger Woods's now legendary wrecked SUV (Shelf Awareness, December 4, 2009), wrote in the Daily Mail that "it's every author's dream that one of their books will get linked to a major news story and garner the kind of publicity that money can't buy. But it isn't part of the dream that this should happen to a book that is out of print so that nobody can buy it."
Gribbin also speculates on what Tiger's interest in the book may have been, noting that "there is a lot of physics in golf. Newton's laws of motion apply perfectly to explain where, and how far, a golf ball will fly when hit--or to describe what happens to a car window if you hit it with a golf club. Indeed, there is a section in the book that describes what happens 'when you bring a car to a halt in a straight line', although the words 'fire hydrant' do not appear."