“Buy our ice-cream” (c. 1951; no declaration of penguin meat content, however)

This Week's Fish Wrap (№17)

Last week I was of the opinion that things were cooling off a touch and the only thing I was going to be mentioning today was going to be the iPad2, the iPad2, and – possibly – the iPad2. Ho ho! No siree!

“Buy our ice-cream” (c. 1951; no declaration of penguin meat content, however)
“Buy our ice-​​cream” (c. 1951; no declaration of penguin meat content, however)

This week we’ve got HarperCollins deciding that librarians are the next group of fat cats to be bled dry (the teachers in Wisconsin already being torn apart by the State Legislature), Random House USA finally deciding to play nice with the iBookstore just in time for the announcement of the [ahem] iPad2, and the continuing question of “have /​ when will e-​​books finally ‘arrive’?”

BUT FIRST: a little self-​​promotion. Rhys Hughes, author of the Atomic Fez title Twisthorn Bellow, has been interviewed by the publisher of his latest book The Phantom Festival , 40K Books. According to him, “The Indies are therefore indispensable to a healthy publishing world.” We’re presuming that he means independent publishers, not the geographical area (as pleasant as that place is). To read that set of questions and answers, CLICK HERE.


HarperCollins v. the Libraries (AKA: "Face Claims ‘The Nose is No Longer Necessary’ ")

In one of the most astonishingly short-​​sighted decisions ever, HarperCollins decided to rip a new hole in the teat which is their revenue stream from Public Libraries at a time when every single buying budget is being slashed around the world (and a goodly chunk of the libraries in the UK are having to fight damned hard just to keep their doors open at all). As of today – March 7th 2011 – any e-​​book purchased for public circulation from HarperCollins can be ‘lent’ to a user of the copy of the book no more than 26 times. After that number of ‘lendings’, the file’s DRM–system locks itself, preventing anyone opening and reading the file until a new license is purchased for another 26 uses.

ADDED LATER: How incredibly ironic that this policy would be activated as of World Book Day. Way to work the calendar to your disadvantage, Harper Collins!

Yes, I fully understand the need for a new revenue model for the support of authors, editors, and publishers. Yes, I fully agree that the costs for the creation of non-​​fiction titles are especially high when compared to sales figures, and – absolutely – those are the titles more frequently sold to libraries than any other category of purchaser. All true, and all quite beyond debate in my minds.

HOWEVER, when you decide to create a better or larger sack to shove your money into, you aren’t wise to target the single-​​most cash-​​strapped market you have, nor is it smart to go after the single-​​largest customer base you have either! Congratulations, HC, you’ve succeeded in pissing off the largest number of people in the shortest period of time! Not only have you created an arbitrarily determined number of uses that’s too insanely low to be reasonable, you slapped this in place with about only two weeks’ warning! Budgets for libraries are set annually, and you’re not going to get anymore money from your libraries this year than you would have got otherwise. The only possible exception is your paper copies will suddenly be selling more than you expected them to. Obviously, any librarian who’s got an iota of sense is going to take every penny they have for e-​​books and instead sink them into printed copies, as those last far longer than any limited by this asinine “26 uses” nonsense.

I predict that, in about six months time, HarperCollins will declare that their e-​​book sales haven’t been all that encouraging, but that printed binding have continued to be strong, thus pointing to readers not yet being willing to embrace the e-​​book binding. They’ll only have themselves to blame.

NOTICE TO LIBRARIANS: Atomic Fez Publishing’s pricing policy for libraries is to provide books using the same discounts as retailers. As the son of a retired school librarian, frankly, I don’t have any choice but to do this or not be able to sleep at night.

  • Publishers Weekly, “HarperCollins Announces 26 Loan Limit on E-​​book Circulation for Libraries” | CLICK HERE
  • TeleRead, “HarperCollins responds to angered librarians” | CLICK HERE
  • PC World, “HarperCollins Wants Libraries to Pay (and Pay… and Pay…) for e-​​Books” | CLICK HERE
  • HarperCollins’ blog: Library Love Fest, “Open Letter to Librarians” | CLICK HERE

The librarians of the Oklahoma’s Pioneer Library System in the video above approach the topic in a reasonable, fair, and very practical fashion: is the number of “26 lendings” a fair quantity to establish for the ‘life’ of a book in a public library system? A bit long at 7½ minutes, but given it’s done in one take and had no editing, it’s an understandable length. You can get a full approach to their argument by hitting their dedicated “Open Letter”: CLICK HERE


Random House Adopts Agency Model; USA E-Books Only

No substantial number of jaws dropped at the news early last week that Random House – the world’s largest publisher of English language fiction – was set to adopt the “Agency Model” for their e-​​book titles. Let’s face it: it was only a matter of time before they caved-​​in on this one so they could get their passkey into the happy iWorld of Steve Jobs and the iBookstore. The fact that a pathetically disguised iPad2 announcement event was set for Wednesday merely made it easier for people to appear wise in their prognosticating.

What was surprising was that the 7030 split is only being applied to e-​​books sold to USA customers; the location of those buying books through the iBookstore are identified using credit card numbers which have the nationality of the account embedded in them. According to the official mouths of non-​​USA-​​based RH offices, there is nothing planned to carry the policy beyond the borders of “the land of the free and the home of the brave”. Which means that if you’re in Canada, the UK, or anywhere else and want to get some title in e-​​book format from Random House or any of its imprints, you better head to Kobo, Amazon, or any place other than Apple for your ‘fiction fix’.

Part of Random House’s decision may be due to the recent announcements in the EU that both price-​​setting and ‘territorial restrictions’ could be deemed counter to anti-​​combine regulations established to protect market freedom for the benefit of consumers. Microsoft® learned about those the hard way when they forcibly bundled Internet Explorer™ in with Windows® for the EU market with nary a word about any other web-​​browser being an option, the result being they paid out a whopping fine for their wrong-​​doing. Random House may very well be doing the smart thing in the situation. Apple might be wise to keeping an eye on how this one plays out.

  • The Bookseller, “Random House US to bring 17K books to iBookstore” | CLICK HERE
  • Quill & Quire’s “Quillblog”, “Random House Titles Now Available at U.S. iBookstore, Not in Canada” | CLICK HERE
  • Publishers Weekly, “Random House [USA] Switches to Agency Model for E-​​book Sales” | CLICK HERE
  • eBook Newser, “Random House UK Will Not Be Adopting Agency Pricing Model” | CLICK HERE
  • PC World’s “MACalope Weekly”; “This iPad Thing May Really Take Off” | CLICK HERE, then scroll down a bit to “What they’re really mad about”
  • PC World, “Jobs Updates iBookstore, iPhone, iPad Figures“| CLICK HERE
  • PC World’s ‘Business Center’, “EU Raids Digital Book Sellers in Cartel Investigation” | CLICK HERE
  • PC World, “Blocking Online Product Sales May Breach EU Competition Law” | CLICK HERE


E-Books: Did They 'Arrive' Last Week? Have They Now? No? What About Now? ...Soon?

Sweet Mother McCree, when will this flaming question get out out of its misery? It’s like watching that couple of decently-​​dressed couple on the dance floor while the band plays “O! Pretty Woman” and the dancing male leans over to tell the woman something that you know – YOU KNOW! – is something nearly word-​​for-​​word “they’re singing about you, you know” to which she considerately replies “thank you” ll the time thinking oh my gawd, when is this song going to end so I can get clear of this total loser!!

People wonder when the e-​​Book will ‘arrive’, there’s real people with real jobs about to really come to an end, and real people wanting very much to buy paper books with real money who can’t do so due to the real stores being really closed. Meanwhile, other people (myself included, admittedly) endlessly debate the merits of the three-​​dollar e-​​book vs. the one-​​dollar e-​​book. Maybe people prefer “Book Apps”? Maybe, like the buyers of the Mari Adkins edited Harlan County Horrors, they prefer stand-​​alone e-​​books instead dedicated apps? Maybe? Anyone know?

Here’s an idea: maybe you should try ALL OF THE ABOVE AND SEE WHAT HAPPENS? It’s probably what you’re going to end up doing anyway, so you may as well just do it all now and get it over with, you know?

FULL DISCLOSURE: Atomic Fez is partnered with Kobo Books, which is partly owned by the REDgroup company.

  • Cult of Mac, “Apple May Want You to Buy E-​​Books, But Consumers Prefer Apps By Big Margin” | CLICK HERE
  • Apex Book Company, Harlan County Horrors | CLICK HERE
  • Sourcebooks Next., “The ebook tipping point. How close are we?” | CLICK HERE
  • CNET News, “Rise of the 99¢ Kindle e-​​book” | CLICK HERE
  • “Digital Book Buyers ‘More Realistic’ Over E-​​Book Prices” | CLICK HERE
  • Bookseller+Publisher (Bowker, Australia), “REDgroup Administration: Employee Entitlements ‘Priority’ Ranked” | CLICK HERE
  • The Daily Mail, “Crisis deepens at struggling music retail chain HMV” | CLICK HERE
    (please don’t judge me; I didn’t realize it was them until shortly before posting this)


The Weekly Bit of "Gag" Content; NOW with VIDEO!

Herewith, something that looks way cool, but after some thought, makes you admire the inventiveness of the person responsible for it, but not the item itself. The beast uses an “arduino controller” to translate the action of the typewriter to digital input. Okay, seriously: even with the ability to put the words into a computer and do now-​​typical things with them, could you make the adjustment to manual typing? I know that I certainly couldn’t.

You can download the plans free from the website and build one completely yourself, purchase DIY kit which includes all of the hardware you need to complete the project, or even buy a pre-​​assembled typewriter (both of the last two options still require you to provide a tablet for displaying the text you’re typing).


“This Week’s Fish Wrap” is an on-​​going series of posts summing up the news of the previous seven days in the publishing industry, and appears here each Monday. It’s also quite possible that the posts merely serve as a dumping ground of links so that Atomic Fez Proprietor Ian Alexander Martin can find articles later to include in his occasional rants about how ‘EVERYONE ELSE IS ENTIRELY WRONG’ about various things.

2 thoughts on “This Week's Fish Wrap (№17)

  1. I really can’t believe the HC thing. It’s one thing to have limited checkouts of library eBooks; it’s another entirely to limit it to such a paltry number. 26? REALLY?! That’s…a year of lending, perhaps. Completely shortsighted and greedy and…well, just proof that HC is Doin It Rong.

    …I sort of want an arduino typewriter now, though.

    1. The theory is that 26 is the number of two-​​week lendings that e-​​books get to users. Yes, thus, 26×2=52=1 year of borrowings. That said, what library in this Universe is able to re-​​purchase their catalogue every single blessèd year?

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