Friday, 30 October 2009

Chip Kidd: Book Cover Design & The Future of E-books

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Chip Kidd, renowned book cover designer is currently on a trip to Ireland and this evening he did an interview for Culture Shock, an arts program on one of Ireland's national radio broadcasters, Newstalk, hosted by Fionn Davenport.

Chip Kidd  is an associate art director at Knopf, an imprint of Random House. He joined the Knopf book design team in 1986, turning out jacket designs at an average of 75 a year, Kidd has also freelanced for DoubledayFarrar Straus & GirouxGrove PressHarperCollinsPenguin/PutnamScribner and Columbia University Press. He also supervises graphic novels at Pantheon, and in 2003 he collaborated with Art Spiegelman on a biography of cartoonist Jack Cole.  His output includes book covers for Bret Easton Ellis, Haruki Murakami, Dean Koontz, Cormac McCarthy, Frank Miller, Michael Ondaatje, Alex Ross, Charles Schulz, Osamu Tezuka, David Sedaris, Donna Tartt, John Updike and others. His design for Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park novel was carried over into marketing for the film adaptation.

His novel, The Cheese Monkeys (Simon and Schuster, 2001), is an academic satire and coming-of-age tale about state college art students who struggle to meet the demands of sadistic art instructors. The book draws on Kidd's real-life experiences during his art studies. The sequel novel, The Learners, was released in 2008.

Chip shared his experiences of designing covers in the book publishing industry and the advent of e-books to the market. Significantly, Kidd believes that e-books remain a niche market and though the format will steadily grow, he has strong doubts they will ever eclipse the reader's demand for the printed book. What I found most significant in Kidd's interview with Davenport about e-books is his belief that much of the interest and attention on e-books and the arrival of the European Kindle is being greatly driven by the media and simply does not correspond to the interest from the reading and buying public. In an ever-changing world where we seem to discuss the future of publishing on a day to day basis, Kidd is the one of the inside voices of the commercial book industry who expresses a more tempered view on e-books. I wonder if perhaps Kidd is the other side of the more cautionary approach to the digital advancements  in publishing. Certainly, Kidd cannot be accused of being a conventionalist by any means. But in the great salvo of the commercial digital publishing world, perhaps he provides one stance and reason publishers are so circumspect and reluctant to overly change, invest finance, and ultimately, remodel their business plans for the short to medium term publishing future.

You can hear a podcast of the interview here. Kidd will also be appearing at the Offset festival this week in Ireland.


Thursday, 29 October 2009

Self-Publishing Book Expo: New York, Saturday, November 7th

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The much anticipated Self-Publishing Book Expo in New York's Sheraton Hotel is just a week away, taking place on Saturday, November 7th. The organizers of the event have managed to put together a very impressive array of speakers and panelists from the world of self-publishing services, independent presses, distributors, printers and self-published authors.

The highlight of the event looks to be the speaker addresses by Bob Young of Lulu, Brent Sampson of Outskirts Press and Mark Croker of Smashwords. You can see the full event details here and registration is still available.

The time has come to have an exhibition where the spotlight is solely on self-published books and authors. The first annual Self-Publishing Book Expo—or the SPBE as we’ve begun to affectionately call it--will bring national focus and attention to the fastest-growing segment of today’s publishing industry.
Unlike any other book exhibit, the Self-Publishing Book Expo will be the only event of its kind to highlight the books of self-publishing companies and their authors, and give them the prominence and prestige they deserve.

Sales - The SPBE will be open to the public, offering authors a unique opportunity to sell their books to the broadest possible audience.

Meet the Media - Producers of TV and radio programs, and editors of newspapers, magazines, and online media outlets, will attend the event, all looking for great stories that may otherwise be under their radar.

An Opportunity to Learn – Attendees will get to hear about the products and services offered by self-publishing companies from across the country.

Interact – Authors will have the opportunity to discuss their path to self-publishing, and share their unique ideas for marketing, publicizing, and selling their books.

Virtual Conference Today: Digital Content Day at Your Desk!

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Book Business is presenting a free Publishing Business Virtual Conference today online, entitled, Digital Content Day at Your Desk! Here is a brief from their website.

Book Business is proud to present the first Publishing Business Virtual Conference & Expo: Digital Content Day at Your Desk! Please fill out the registration form below to register for this FREE event, and to ensure your access to the latest and most effective digital publishing strategies and solutions. Fields marked with an asterisk*are required.

Date: October 29, 2009
Time: 10:00 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. ET
Location: The comfort of your own office. It's virtual!

Prepare yourself ahead of time to make the most out of the Publishing Business Virtual Conference & Expo virtual environment! Click here to download our Attendee Success Kit.

The session content will include:

Special Keynote Interview – “Born Digital”
Jane Friedman, CEO, OpenRoad Integrated Media
LLC and former CEO, HarperCollins Publishers Worldwide,
will be interviewed by Book Business Editor-in-
Chief Noelle Skodzinski

Live e-chat – Join Noelle Skodzinski, Editor-in-
Chief of Book Business in the Networking Lounge
for an e-chat with Special Guest.
Sriram Peruvemba, Vice President, Marketing,
E Ink Corp.

On-demand webinar – Social Media
Strategies That Sell Books
Jesse McDougall, Web Editor, Chelsea Green;
Erik Qualman, Author, Socialnomics;
Karen Strauss, President, Strauss Consultants

On-demand webinar – The Impact
of Piracy and the Value of DRM:
Developing Effective Strategies
Brian O’Leary, President, Magellan Media; Andrew Savikas,
Vice President of Digital Initiatives, O’Reilly Media;
Sanford Bingham, President, FileOpen Systems Inc.

The Future of Book Manufacturing: The digital
challenge to traditional book manufacturing and
distribution models
PRESENTED BY: Océ North America
Duncan Newton, Manager/Client Development,
Océ North America

Live webinar – A Practical Model for Profiting
From Print-On-Demand
SPONSORED BY: Total Printing Systems
Gigi Brienza, Vice President of Editing, Design, Production
& Manufacturing, and Director, Stock Planning,
Oxford University Press

For a full agenda, you can click here.

...and here for Nicola Furlong who was a virtual attendee at the conference.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Google Books Settlement: Make Haste At Your Peril - Objectors

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Judge Denny Chin, presiding over the Google Books Settlement case, has again been requested by opponents to ensure they are given ‘sufficient time to study and comment on any amended settlement agreement’ and that there are no limits on any objections. The call came from Yahoo and Microsoft, two of the most significant corporate objectors to Google.

Earlier this month, Judge Denny Chin requested Google and the plaintiffs to deliver a revised Settlement by November 9th. Judge Denny Chin indicated that his intention was to then schedule a hearing for December or January 2010 to bring this case to a conclusion. There is concern on behalf of the objectors to the Settlement that an eagerness by Judge Denny Chin and Google to fast tract this to a conclusion will once again result in a Settlement which will be legally flawed and open to continual challenges in the future.

'We are deeply concerned that a shortened process based on minimum additional notice will seriously impair the ability of objectors, amici, and commentators to provided meaningful analysis of the proposed amended agreement to the court.’

Saturday, 24 October 2009

ABA Make a Stand on Independent Booksellers & Hardback Books

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The Department of Justice in the US—whether it is their wish or not—has become extremely acquainted with the book publishing world in the last year. The Google Book Agreement was recently kicked into touch following their comments and intervention last month, and now, the American Booksellers Association has requested the Department of Justice to investigate the current book pricing practices announced by Wal-Mart, and Target Corporation. The American Booksellers Association considers the latest retail discounts to customers by the three amigos to be evidence of ‘illegal predatory pricing’.

In the past week, the above retailers have been trading price-war punches, dollar for dollar, to the point that hardcover titles are now as low as $8.98 on for books which normally, even with heavy seasonal discounting fall into the $15 - $25 bracket. The American Booksellers Association fear that if this kind of discounting becomes the norm, then the livelihood and future of independent booksellers is bleak—not to mention the share of power and control being reduced to three dominant retailers. The customer may feel king of the castle right now when it comes to purchasing the latest James Patterson and Stephen King books, but further down the line—this means pants...big white, woolly ones and nothing more outside of them!

At the moment, no one is making any official comment, but the fallout could see retailers looking for deeper discounts on hardback editions and the exquisite, humble and dignified format becoming an oddity in libraries alone. Here is the full communication by the American Booksellers Association to the Department of Justice.

October 22, 2009

The Honorable Christine Varney
Assistant Attorney General
Antitrust Division
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Suite 3109
Washington, DC 20530

Molly Boast, Esquire
Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Civil Matters
Antitrust Division
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Room 3210
Washington, DC 20530

Dear Ms. Varney and Ms. Boast,

We are writing on behalf of the American Booksellers Association, a 109-year-old trade organization representing the nation's locally owned, independent booksellers. A core part of our mission is devoted to making books as widely available to American consumers as possible. We ask that the Department of Justice investigate practices by, Wal-Mart, and Target that we believe constitute illegal predatory pricing that is damaging to the book industry and harmful to consumers. We are requesting a meeting with you to discuss this urgent issue at your earliest possible opportunity.

As reported in the consumer and trade press this past week,,, and have engaged in a price war in the pre-sale of new hardcover bestsellers, including books from John Grisham, Stephen King, Barbara Kingsolver, Sarah Palin, and James Patterson. These books typically retail for between $25 and $35. As of writing of this letter, all three competitors are selling these and other titles for between $8.98 and $9.00.

Publishers sell these books to retailers at 45% - 50% off the suggested list price. For example, a $35 book, such as Mr. King's Under the Dome, costs a retailer $17.50 or more. News reports suggest that publishers are not offering special terms to these big box retailers, and that the retailers are, in fact, taking orders for these books at prices far below cost. (In the case of Mr. King's book, these retailers are losing as much as $8.50 on each unit sold.) We believe that, Wal-Mart, and Target are using these predatory pricing practices to attempt to win control of the market for hardcover bestsellers.

It's important to note that the book industry is unlike other retail sectors. Clothing, jewelry, appliances, and other commercial goods are typically sold at a net price, leaving the seller free to determine the retail price and the margin these products will earn. Because publishers print list prices indelibly on jacket covers, and because books are sold at a discount off that retail price, there is a ceiling on the amount of margin a book retailer can earn.

The suggested list price set by the publisher reflects manufacturing costs -- acquisition, editing, marketing, printing, binding, shipping, etc. -- which vary significantly from book to book. By selling each of these titles below the cost these retailers pay to the publishers, and at the same price as each other, and at the same price as all other titles in these pricing schemes,, Wal-Mart, and Target are devaluing the very concept of the book. Authors and publishers, and ultimately consumers, stand to lose a great deal if this practice continues and/or grows.

What's so troubling in the current situation is that none of the companies involved are engaged primarily in the sale of books. They're using our most important products -- mega bestsellers, which, ironically, are the most expensive books for publishers to bring to market -- as a loss leader to attract customers to buy other, more profitable merchandise. The entire book industry is in danger of becoming collateral damage in this war.

It's also important to note that this episode was precipitated by below-cost pricing of digital editions of new hardcover books by, many of those titles retailing for $9.99, and released simultaneously with the much higher-priced print editions. We believe the loss-leader pricing of digital content also bears scrutiny.

While on the surface it may seem that these lower prices will encourage more reading and a greater sharing of ideas in the culture, the reality is quite the opposite. Consider this quote from Mr. Grisham's agent, David Gernert, that appeared in the New York Times:

"If readers come to believe that the value of a new book is $10, publishing as we know it is over. If you can buy Stephen King's new novel or John Grisham's 'Ford County' for $10, why would you buy a brilliant first novel for $25? I think we underestimate the effect to which extremely discounted best sellers take the consumer's attention away from emerging writers."

For our members -- locally owned, independent bookstores -- the effect will be devastating. There is simply no way for ABA members to compete. The net result will be the closing of many independent bookstores, and a concentration of power in the book industry in very few hands. Bill Petrocelli, owner of Book Passage in Corte Madera, California, an ABA member, was also quoted in the New York Times:

"You have a choke point where millions of writers are trying to reach millions of readers. But if it all has to go through a narrow funnel where there are only four or five buyers deciding what's going to get published, the business is in trouble."

We would find these practices questionable were they taking place in the market for widgets. That they are taking place in the market for books is catastrophic. If left unchecked, these predatory pricing policies will devastate not only the book industry, but our collective ability to maintain a society where the widest range of ideas are always made available to the public, and will allow the few remaining mega booksellers to raise prices to consumers unchecked.

We urge that the DOJ investigate and request an opportunity to come to Washington to discuss this at your earliest convenience.


ABA Board of Directors:

Michael Tucker, President (Books Inc.--San Francisco, CA)
Becky Anderson, Vice President (Anderson's Bookshops--Naperville, IL)
Steve Bercu (BookPeople--Austin, TX)
Betsy Burton (The King's English Bookshop--Salt Lake City, UT)
Tom Campbell (The Regulator Bookshop--Durham, NC)
Dan Chartrand (Water Street Bookstore--Exeter, NH)
Cathy Langer (Tattered Cover Book Store--Denver, CO)
Beth Puffer (Bank Street Bookstore--New York, NY)
Ken White (SFSU Bookstore--San Francisco, CA)

CC: Oren Teicher, CEO, American Booksellers Association
Len Vlahos, COO, American Booksellers Association
Owen M. Kendler, Esquire, Antitrust Division, U.S. Department of Justice

Friday, 23 October 2009

Smashwords For Non-US Authors - Nicola Furlong

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Nicola Furlong has an excellent guide to the process of uploading your book to Smashwords on her blog today. Interestingly, she highlights the particular problems authors outside of the US have with using Amazon's Kindle. Unfortunately, you must be able to provide a US address and bank to use Amazon to upload a book for the Kindle format. Smashwords looks like a great alternative.

POD TV - Program 17: Frankfurt Book Fair, 2009 - Andrew Savikas, VP for Digital Initiatives at O'Reilly Media

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Vice President at O'Reilly Media, Andrew Savikas, gave an interview ahead of Tuesday's Tools of Change Conference at the Frankfurt Book Fair, 2009. He discusses how digital media is changing modern publishing as well as everyday life and the arrival of e-books and e-readers.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

AU Optronics Goes All Floppy With E-paper Future

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It must be the day for e-reader and e-paper announcements. AU Optronics Corporation today announced a series of innovative e-paper technology devices. One is a 20-inch e-paper LCD-shaped monitor which has a myriad of possibilities, from public information units to advertising monitors. This is just one of a number of innovative products AU Optronics will be showcasing this month at FPD International 2009 in Yokohama, Japan. The product that will really capture people’s imagination for its use, power efficiency and potential of the future for e-paper technology is the 6-inch flexible e-paper. AUO plans to offer flexible e-paper samples in 2010 with a view to commencing full production of the product later in the year.

Here is some more detail on the flexible e-paper device from their press release.

“After marking the worldwide debut of its 6-inch touch function e-book in Display Taiwan 2009 in June, AUO launched its first 6-inch flexible e-paper technology in October, drawing widespread attention from the e-paper industry. Adopting Sipix's exclusive Microcup® technology, this flexible e-paper incorporates a plastic substrate, so that the display can be repeatedly bended, allowing it to match even more closely the functionality of real paper. The flexible e-paper is portable and unbreakable, significantly increasing the product's durability. While the curved radius of this e-paper reaches 100mm, it remains flexible and features 16 gray levels, a 9:1 high contrast ratio, and a reflectance of 33%. In terms of power consumption, there is no electricity required during reading and it consumes power only when the image is updated. Using the roll-to-roll manufacturing process, the technology allows for the commencement of volume production with higher yield rates, making it more cost-competitive. The size of the flexible e-paper is able to be tailor-made based on customers' needs. AUO expects to distribute samples to customers in 2010 and to start volume production then.”

Barnes & Noble Look To 'Nook' The E-Reader Competition

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Barnes & Noble will announce the launch of their own e-reader later today at a press conference in Manhattan. The e-reader will be called the Nook. Don’t ask; perhaps Barnes & Noble executives will reveal the reasons why they chose such an odd name for the device.

The e-reader will feature colour touch-screen controls, which can be used as a keypad and browser, and have a price of $259, keeping it competitive with Amazons’s latest Kindle incarnation. The e-reader will provide wireless download and the ability for ebook buyers to lend their digital files to friends. Physically, it looks like an enlarged iPhone. The nook will be available for pre-order from next Tuesday from Barnes & Noble stores as well as a dedicated site,

The Nook looks like it will have a lot going for it, with not only accessibility to Barnes & Noble own online store, but also some degree of access to Google’s own bookstore as well. More details on this should be revealed in the coming weeks. One of the key marketing features will be its ability to allow the user ‘lend’ books and this will be heavily advertised in the forthcoming ad campaign under the slogan, ‘Lend ebooks to friends’. This maybe the smartest weapon Barnes & Noble could have come up with in a highly competitive market of e-reader devices, which includes devices like Amazon’s Kindle, the Sony E-reader, and devices from iRex and the QUE from Plastic Logic.

What will be intriguing is exactly how deeply Barnes & Noble will be able to discount the e-books it makes available, below print editions and against Amazon’s Kindle ebooks. The consensus seems to be that this looks very, very promising for Barnes & Noble, but for God’s sake guys, think about changing the damn name!

The Nook is being promoted by Barnes & Noble as the most compatible e-reader on the market with open Epub and Adobe's PDF formats supported. Pre-orders will be taken straight away from the Nook website and Barnes & Noble stores for the devices. They will be available at the end of November. You can find the official Barnes & Noble press release here.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

McCrum On Originality In Publishing Today

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"How can good new writers be published when the industry is ruled by people who aren't interested in originality?"

This is the question posed by Robert McCrum in an article entitled, Stop the bean-counters ruling the fiction roost on the this morning. He recounts a personal tale of a new author's attempts to place a novel with several large publishers. McCrum's conclusions are that the all-powerful pen of the editor at large publishing houses is no more, and the real literary gatekeepers are now the sales and marketing departments, guided by the mighty pound and dollar.

"In the past month, I have had conversations with the CEOs of two conglomerates in which both have complained bitterly about the difficulty of launching new talent. Yet everyone knows that fiction is what the reading public wants, that fiction can become really commercial. You can lose your shirt on it, but you can also laugh all the way to the bank."

There may be great weight in McCrum's opinions about large publishing houses slamming their doors in the faces of new and original voices in fiction, but there are greater reasons beyond commercial profit and realism which has taken us to where publishing is today. Agents shopping typescripts around the houses in an effort to deliver the highest bid have contributed to advances being paid to authors far beyond the true sales and market potential of the published book. This has led to the greater proportion of books never earning out their advances in royalties. Perhaps if the sales and marketing departments of large publishers had shown the caution they so positively exude now - the cheque book would long have been snapped from the hands of acquisition editors and we would not be in this sorry mess.

This is one of the reasons at the start of this year I suggested the publishing industry needs to seriously consider a publishing model which does not pay advances - certainly not on works of fiction. There is a case for an advance on the costs of research and resources for an author writing a book of non-fiction. Independent publishers have long worked out that they cannot compete on every level with large publishers and consequently examined their models of business and development strategy far closer. What this means is independent publishers are quicker to embrace digital print and ebook advances, revise contract agreements and offer authors better royalty percentages and more involvement in the promotion and marketing of a book.

As some commentators to McCrum's article have also pointed out, there is also an onus on reviewers, newspaper arts editors and the wider media to place more focus on books from independent and self-published authors. Worthy original voices are consistently published from these areas of the publishing industry, while the voices from genre fiction published by the large publishing houses seems to become less common and distinctive by the day as editors and marketing departments slavishly look to follow the template and trend which results in bookshops filled with shelves and shelves of formulaic fictional offerings.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Google Launch Google Editions E-store For 2010

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Google have chosen the week of the Frankfurt Book Fair to announce the launch of their ebook selling store which will rival Amazon and Barnes & Nobel. The online ebook platform store will simultaneously open in the USA, UK and Europe in the first half of 2010. Their slogan will be "buy anywhere, read anywhere" highlighting the fact that Google Editions will be browser-based and customers can view books on any device, be it from their PC's, iPhones and other compatabile e-reader formats.

Shadowmancer Author Calls Time on Writing Career

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We have spoken about English author Graham Taylor (GP Taylor) several times on these pages regarding his self-publishing success during the 1990's with his first novel, Shadowmancer, as well as his involvement with British author solutions service, Grosvenor House Publishing.

The Telegraph reported yesterday that Taylor has decided to give up writing so he can care for his 11-year-old daughter, Lydia, who suffers from Crohn's disease.

"As well as the writing, I do work in schools and promotional work and it's very time consuming. I need to evaluate what really matters in my life and I'll just have to stop and care for my daughter."

GP Taylor has led a colourful life, working in the music industry with the Sex Pistols, becoming a priest, as well as pursuing a full-time writing career following the self-publication of his first novel, Shadowmancer. Shadowmancer became a bestseller and Taylor quickly got picked up by Faber UK.

We wish Graham, his wife Kathy and daughter Lydia, strength and health in their lives ahead.

Thomas Nelson - Publishing Intrigue & Afterthoughts

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The decision this week by American trade publisher Thomas Nelson to launch their own imprint offering authors self-publishing packages has certainly captured the blogosphere, if not the whole of the publishing industry. Add to this the intriguing caveat that Author Solutions will run the design, print and distribution end of WestBow Press for Thomas Nelson. It has raised a number of questions beyond just the business strategy of a reputable trade publisher working with one of the world's largest self-publishing services, Author Solutions Inc.

It was an odd move by Thomas Nelson to choose to use an already existing imprint of theirs. WestBow Press, let us not forget, had been operating happily and successfully as a fiction imprint of Thomas Nelson for a few years until 2006. Then, for some reason, WestBow Press was parked up in a lay-by for more than three and a half years until its latest reincarnation. However, CEO of Thomas Nelson, Michael Hyatt, has pointed out on Rachelle Gardner's blog this week that the last WestBow Press title published by a traditionally contracted author was back in early 2006, and since then, most of the authors still contracted have been moved across to Thomas Nelson Publishing itself. Subsequently, some of those authors still contracted have had reprinted editions published by TN.

"Just one correction to Rachelle's post: we haven't used the WestBow name since April, 2006—three-and-a-half years. Those books that were originally published under that imprint and are still selling have long been converted to the Thomas Nelson imprint."

I still believe WestBow was chosen as the vehicle for all this primarily because it was once a traditional press and imprint of a large reputable trade publisher. I think Michael Hyatt described a need for starting out with something that already had a sense of 'history'. For me, this goes to the very heart of the perceptions and stigmas of self-publishing, or vanity presses if you stand on the other side of the wall with an ardent opinion on any paid for author services for publication. Isn't it strange that any publishing house engaged in the business model of mainstream publishing and decides to offer self-publishing services or even associates themselves with the business of self-publishing (through affiliate programs) feels the immediate need to undergo some form of identity cleansing in the industry's confessional box.

This reminds me a little of the now defunct Cold Tree Press. We took a close look at Cold Tree Publishing about two months ago in an article entitled, Cold Tree Publishing R.I.P. (Reflection & Celebration). In 2008, Cold Tree Press changed their name to Cold Tree Publishing to group their three distinct imprints. Under Cold Tree Press, they had trade paperbacks, Hooded Friar for literary fiction, and Moorsgate became their new home for the author solutions service. Here was a company who started out offering self-publishing services - made the decision to adopt a traditional model of publishing - yet, chose to move the self-publishing end of the business out to a new identity imprint called Moorsgate. In some ways it was the opposite of what Thomas Nelson have done. WestBow Press had a history of traditional publishing as an imprint of TN - now it's become a self-publishing service.

If we look at Author Solutions, the company Thomas Nelson have afforded the strategic partnership to run the nuts and bolts of WestBow Press, we have, in effect, a self-publishing service using the identity of a reputable publisher. Nice if you can get the gig, and kudos to Author Solutions, they just did! I'm not sure which of the two here is going to be the happiest. Thomas Nelson, knowing they will have an additional resource of cash income from whatever financial arrangement they have agreed with Author Solutions, together with fee referrals from third parties sending perspective authors in their direction (Victoria Strauss deals with this in far more detail today on WritersBeware.) Author Solutions have the equal benefit of looking forward to increased profits with another publishing imprint to add as a colourful feather to their hat - a hat already carrying the feathers of Xlibris, Trafford, Wordclay, AuthorHouse and iUniverse.

It has been a fascinating week following the many nuances and threads of this news story and it has quintessentially for me summed up so many of the challenges and changes we are on the cusp of in publishing. Publishing, and all its peripheral models of business are all showing signs of merging in the center. If you like, we might describe this as the first signs that two distinct models of publishing, who once cast steely eyes, aspersions, cries of elitism, cries of scam merchants, and a general attitude of disdain for each other, may be about to concede that they both have their own inherent weaknesses, but combined, they can provide a greater more creative and dynamic service to all authors.

Here is another excellent follow-up on this news story from Chip MacGregor's blog where he tackles the ethical issues arrising when mainstream publishers offer self-publishing services.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Frankfurt Book Fair 2009 or China Book Fair 2009?

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Is it my own perception or the reality that the Frankfurt Book Fair 2009 is in danger of being entirely consumed by the dissident voices of China? (not to mention the dissident voices of digitization and disinterest) There has been an undercurrent of criticism against the organisers of the Frankfurt Book Fair that they have somehow censored these dissident voices and produced a less than inspiring agenda. As an article in today’s Publishing Perspectives points out, there were four whole sessions for these dissident voices to express their opinions on the publishing industry in China and the plight of Chinese authors. It should also be noted that China was invited as the guest of honour at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair.

From the Publishing Perspective article by Wen Huang and Edward Nawotka.

“When asked to comment on China being the Guest of Honor at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair, Zhou said he doesn’t think the fair will be able to provide a forum of dialogues between the Chinese government and people with dissenting views. “The Chinese government uses the opportunity to show off its new wealth and has sent a group of writers that have been specially selected by the Party. These writers are here on a free trip paid by taxpayer’s money. They don’t want to communicate and they can’t,” he added.”

News from the Frankfurt Book Fair is somewhat subdued and matter-of-fact this year and I find myself scratching at the surface when it comes to posting on the event. For what it is worth, I would ask the more pertinent question that should be asked; is the Frankfurt Book Fair the right forum or place to address and change what is happening in China?

So far, O'Reilly TOC has proved to be the opening highlight and there seems the same air of uninspiring lethargy and perplexity from some of the publishing industry who have attended on the trade days. Something that was also very prevalent at the London Book Fair in July. Roll on the weekend when Frankfurt throws its doors open to the general public. That'll shake 'em up!

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Frankfurt Book Fair 2009 Digitisation Survey

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Organisers of the Frankfurt Book Fair 2009 have been conducting a survey about digitisation in the book publishing industry. The results of the survey will be correlated and put together in the Bookfair's newsletter following the event. I thought it would be interesting to present the questions being asked in the survey here. You can go to the Frankfurt Book Fair's site and take the survey online at this link.

So here are the questions. Feel free to post a comment if you have any feedback on the survey.

Q1. How do you perceive digitisation and the associated changes in the media industry?

* Mostly as an opportunity

* Mostly as a crisis for the industry

Q2. In your opinion, what are the three biggest challenges for the media industry? (Please check three answers)

* Digitisation: technical implementation

* Digitisation: development of new business models, new multimedia products, new marketing strategies

* Piracy

* Price competition from free digital offers (e.g. user generated content)

* Strengthened position of authors (increasing possibility for direct marketing without a publisher / bookseller)

* Concentration of distribution channels

* Oversupply of contents / books (too many titles)

* Changing media use / reading habits

* Current economic crisis

* Other

Q3. How well is your company prepared for the challenges of "Digital Publishing"? Which area requires the most urgent attention to equip your company for these challenges? Please check only one answer:

* Knowledge / Strategy: market research, IT competence, development of new business models

* Personnel: suitable staff, education of employees, competent management

* Technical infrastructure, automated work processes

* Networking: new cooperations with other creative sectors (Film, Games, Music, Audio etc.), new business partners

* Investments

Q4. What per cent of your turnover is made with digital products? [up to three digits may be entered, you can skip the question]

% (2009) (estimate)

Q5. What percentage of your turnover will derive from digital products in two years time (estimate)? [max. three digits, you can skip the question]

% in 2 years (estimate)

Q6. In your opinion, when will digital content generate more turnover than business with traditional books? Please select one answer:

* 2012

* 2018

* 2028

* 2038

* never

Q7. Which price models for digital content do you think have the most long-term potential? More than one answer is allowed.

* Micropayments (paying for individual "information bites")

* Flat rate (a subscription covers all of a provider`s online content)

* Freemium (almost everything is free online - only selected digital products are subject to a fee)

* Premium (extra subscription for selected online content)

* Free (everything is free online yet advertises physical products for sale)

* Advertising (online content is free - profit is earned by selling advertising space)

* None at all

* Other (please comment)

Q8. Do you believe that in five year`s time DRM (Digital Rights Management) will still be relevant for digital contents / e-books? Please choose one answer.

* Yes

* No

* In certain cases (please comment)

Q9. What is a suitable sales price for e-books? Please choose one answer.

* more expensive than the (current) printed edition (list price)

* same price as the (current) printed edition (list price)

* about 10% cheaper

* about 20% cheaper

* about 30% cheaper

* more than 30% cheaper

* a standard price for e-books (e.g. like Amazon's $9.99)

* Other (please comment)

Q10. In the short-term, which of the following factors could hinder e-books / digital contents from gaining a foothold in the market? Please number the obstacles in order of importance (1 = greatest hindrance):

* Lack of media-ready / multimedia contents

* Complicated clearance of rights / copyright issues

* DRM (Digital Rights Management)

* Confusing diversity of e-book formats

* Not enough e-books offered in bookstores

* Underdeveloped price models

* Underdeveloped technology in the end devices / lack of multimedia-compatible end devices

Q11. Which of the following measures will play an increasingly important role in eMarketing? Please select the three most important measures: (Please choose three answers)

* Digital samples (mini-applications which allow a limited view of the book)

* Digital review copies & previews

* Use of multimedia contents (e.g. video & audio previews)

* Performance marketing (measurable direct marketing in interactive media, e.g. search engine marketing, e-mail marketing, banner advertising)

* Viral marketing (use of social media like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn)

* Other (please comment)

Q12. Compared to last year, how would you assess your business turnover in 2009?

* considerably worse (more than -10%)

* worse (up to -10%)

* unchanged

* better (up to +10%)

* considerably better (more than +10%)

Q13. How do expect your business to develop in 2010 (compared to 2009)?

* worse

* unchanged

* better

Q14. How is the current economic and financial situation affecting the development of new digital business models?

* slowing the process down

* no influence

* accelerating the process

Some questions about yourself:
(Please check only one answer for each question)


Q15. Are you :

* Male

* Female

Q16. Age:

* - 30

* 30-50

* 50+

Q17. Where are you based?

* China

* Europe (without UK)

* India

* Japan

* Korea

* Latin America

* North America

* Southeast Asia

* UK

* Australia / New Zealand

* Africa

* United Arab Emirates

Q18. In which sector do you primarily work?

* Specialist Information / Science

* Education

* How-to / Knowledge

* Fiction

* Non-Fiction

* Children`s Books

* Other

Q19. What kind of company do you work for?

* Publisher

* Printing & manufacturing

* Wholesale / Distribution

* Literary agency

* Bookseller

* Library / Information Services / University

* Institution (cultural / scientific)

* Consultancy

* Media

* Other

Q20. What is your role?

* Editor

* Sales

* Marketing / Public Relations

* Rights Management

* Agent

* Author

* Librarian

* Scientist

* Translator

* Bookseller

* Software Developer

* Media Producer

* Other

Q21. What is your current position?

* CEO / Director

* Senior Management

* Management

* Executive

* Assistant

* Freelancer

Q22. Do you personally read e-books?

* Yes

* No

Q23. Do you personally use e-readers?

* Yes

* No

Q24. Which device do you like best?

* Dedicated devices (E Ink e-reader, Kindle, Sony, iRex, etc.)

* Non-dedicated devices (iPhone, Blackberry, Android, handheld gaming devices, etc.)

* Online (PC, laptop)

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Thomas Nelson Form Self-Publishing Partnership With Author Solutions

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Thomas Nelson was originally founded as a Scottish bookseller in Edinburgh in 1798. The company began selling second-hand religious books but quickly developed the Thomas Nelson publishing imprint. Throughout the nineteenth century it continued to publish both religious and non-religious books until close to the turn of the century when non-religious books accounted for 94% of published material. The American division of Thomas Nelson began in 1854 in New York and by the 1870s was one of the city's most important firms.

In 2000, the UK wing of Thomas Nelson was acquired by Wolters Kluwer and became part of the educational imprint Nelson Thornes. The American wing remains a large independent publisher based in Nashville, Tennessee and it is currently the sixth largest American trade publisher and the world's largest Christian publisher. Thomas Nelson is the publisher for many leading Christian authors, including Billy Graham, Max Lucado, John Eldredge, John Maxwell, Charles Stanley, and Ted Dekker. In 2003, Thomas Nelson USA launched the fiction imprint WestBow Press. It is with this imprint that our story continues today.

Thomas Nelson has decided to step into the author solutions arena and is offering publishing packages for authors wishing to self-publish their books. Some month’s back—at the start of the year—I predicted that before the end of the year there would be very significant moves from two behemoths in the publishing and book retail industry arenas—Author Solutions Inc and also Amazon. I’m still waiting for the Amazon story of this year, but let’s take it one story at a time.

Thomas Nelson’s announcement to enter into self-publishing services is not so much the story, but rather the fact that Author Solutions is the company who Thomas Nelson have decided to enter into what is described as a strategic partnership. Author Solutions Inc will manage the running of WestBow Press which will include the responsibility for the design, print, and distribution of the imprint. Like a commercial vacuum cleaner, Author Solutions has busied itself over the past few years acquiring AuthorHouse, iUniverse, Xlibris, WordClay, and most recently, Trafford Publishing. A nice collection of author solution companies for the trophy cabinet, even if I do say so myself.

Kevin Weiss, President and CEO of Author Solutions Inc, believes the WestBow Press partnership will serve as a blueprint for other publishing alliances.

‘We are very excited to join forces with Thomas Nelson in this partnership, We believe the tradition and extensive segment leadership that Thomas Nelson brings, along with ASI’s cutting-edge sales, marketing, and production capabilities will help to revolutionize the publishing industry.’

Michael Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson, said;

‘At Thomas Nelson, our purpose is to inspire the world. With the creation of WestBow Press, we will be able to help more authors realize their dream of being a published author while discovering more diamonds in the rough to add to our roster.’

Here is how Thomas Nelson describes the service WestBow Press will provide authors looking to use an author solution service for their self-published book project.

‘At WestBow Press, A Division of Thomas Nelson, we help authors self-publish books of all genres, specializing in books with Christian morals, inspirational themes and family values. Whether you have goals of commercial success or simply desire to publish a book for friends and family, WestBow Press can help you create your book in your vision. WestBow Press titles will be regularly reviewed by the parent company. For authors who hope to one day be signed by a traditional publisher, this is an opportunity to get your foot in the door. While there is no guarantee of the number of titles to be signed each year, Thomas Nelson will monitor the WestBow Press catalog for talented authors that rise to the top.’

According to a news article in today’s Wall Street Journal, ‘Thomas Nelson editors won't edit the self-published manuscripts, but they will monitor sales to identify potential big sellers.’ One assumes they mean their editors will cast a watchful eye upon any potential commercial money-spinners with a view to offering those authors full contracts. Any editing will reside with the author and their decision to employ the services of a freelance editor or pay for a publishing package from WestBow Press which includes an editing service.

I am actually not adverse to this kind of partnership but it does always put me in a quandary about commercial publishers who decide to plough the furrows of self-publishing services, and whether it is because they truly see it as the shape of future publishing or simply see it as an answer to the latest economic global downturn. My own opinion if a publisher acts on the latter reason is that they see self-publishing in a very short-sighted way—in effect—they see it simply as a means to an end, rather than where self-publishing actually is. While self-publishing is not at the core of the publishing industry, it certainly has progressed enough to be considered a part—though small it may be—of the greater publishing industry.

This is a shrewd and significant move by Author Solutions—perhaps one of the most significant moves ever in the relatively short modern history of author solution services globally. In some ways this is Author Solutions first attempt at check on the self-publishing industry, and though the king may find its path of escape this time, one feels that Author Solutions or some other such entity in the not too distant future will declare checkmate. There will be no escape and author solutions services will finally subsume themselves within the publishing monolith for good and the determinable lines in the sand between what publishing is and what publishing services are will become indistinguishable .

A quick look at the publishing packages on offer from WestBow Press suggests that little will come cheap for the discerning author and there are a myriad of packages and services to choose, ranging from $1000 to $20,000.

Publishing packages:
Essential Access - $999
Pro format - $1799
Bookstore Advantage - $2799
Online platform - $3999
Video Plus - $6499
Video Premier - $9999
Pro Launch - $ 13999
Premier Publicist - $19999

I won’t for the purposes of this article drive in to the finer details of the publishing packages, but suffice to say, no prisoners were taken during the making of these packages. Even at the bottom end two packages, an author is getting pretty basic stuff for a hefty fee, but then, this has not stopped Author Solutions from producing the largest turnovers in author solution services through charging such fees with their own imprints like Xlibris, AuthorHouse and Trafford. So what do I know? Time then to watch this space and see where the quality lies in this partnership, and more to the point, that it will rise to the surface and prove a successful business model others in the industry will quickly look to adopt.

Other websites and threads of interest to this story are Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent, who blogged here and has had some great reader feedback, including comments from Michael Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson. You can also read Michael Hyatt's own recent blog entries on this story here.

Thursday, October 15th.
Victoria Strauss, on WritersBeware, continues her comment and analysis of the Thomas Nelson/Author Solutions news story today focusing on Nelson's system of fee referrals to agents and other parties.

UPDATE, May 2010
WestBow Press now have 58 published titles and are proving to be a more sustainable option than similar competitors like Harlequin's DellArte Press and the recent launch of Balboa Press (Hay House Publishing). Early cover art on those 58 books from this service is also surprisingly strong on some of its titles.

If you really are set on using this publishing service - stick to the lower priced packages 


Time For Publishers To Engage & Embrace Changes: Sara Lloyd, Frankfurt TOC, 2009

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The O'Reilly Tools of Change kicked off their first ever conference on European soil at the Frankfurt Book Fair this morning. The O'Reilly TOC conferences are well known on the digital technology and publishing circuit in the USA. Their aim is to identify the challenges and decipher the tools of change needed in the digital publishing industry while also helping to cut through the hype to provide the direction forward for a more profitable future in publishing. The O'Reilly TOC conferences ask the strategic questions needed to adopt new models of business.

Sara Lloyd, Digital Director with Pan Macmillan, spoke at the conference about the need for publishers to embrace the changes and challenges ahead in regard to business relationships with companies like Google and Apple. She stressed that these new relationships had ‘no established terms’ in the new digital publishing environment.

‘There is almost a whole new distribution chain sprouting overnight. You need to start working out how you deal with them.’

There has been much talk of how modern authors are approaching the new world of publishing and how they too are embracing the digital platforms and easier access to reaching their readers and publishing their work. Despite the explosion in self-published authors and the continued growth in print on demand and author solution options for authors, Lloyd still believes in the critical importance and role publishers have to play in the future of digital publishing. She disagreed that the role of publishers was becoming redundant as authors choose publishing solutions and online access platforms that provide them with more direct paths to their readers.

Loyd believes the expertise of publishers to navigate the complex waters of supply chains, promotion and advertising in bookshops and various media is paramount for the support and success of authors in the publishing industry.

‘Publishers have always provided a great service for the hard things, and that just has to be applied to the digital world as it has been applied to print.’

Lloyd concluded her TOC conference address to delegates by suggesting publishers must not shirk or ignore the challenges ahead, but instead, engage and embrace the new digital publishing landscape.

‘The new thing is never as good as the old thing, at least right now. Soon, the new thing will be better than the old will be. But if you wait until then it’s going to be too late.’

Monday, 12 October 2009

Frankfurt Book Fair Gears Up For 2009 Show

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The Frankfurt Book Fair starts this Wednesday, October 14th and runs until the 18th. The Fair will only be open to the trade for the first three days and the general public for the final two days. The annual Frankfurt Book Fair has now established itself as the premier global book fair and this year will attract 7000 exhibitors and will see over 300,000 visitors.

This is a link to an article written for the Frankfurt Book Fair on print on demand businesses and technology in Germany as well as a little about the rise and demand in self-publishing services.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

New York Times: Sergey Brin Offers His Opinions On Google Book Settlement

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Sergey Brin, co-founder and technology president of Google has expressed his opinions and support for what Google is trying to achieve with the Google Book Settlement in an article for yesterday's New York Times entitled, A Library to Last Forever. It is a frank and reasoned opinion few--bar the most partisan--could find fault with. Brin's core argument is for the preservation of artistic, literary, historical and academic material--a laudable sentiment in itself. Only yesterday, we looked at the work being carried out by the Cambridge University Press to scan and digitize texts which might one day be lost forever without the modern embrace of technology.

Sergey Brin, in his article, discusses the advent of the electric car and that the first true advocate (the Electric World journal) of this environmentally friendly form of transport came at a time of great mechanical advances and when words like ozone did not exist and the teeth of the handsaw had yet to make its first real cut in the great forests of the world. The sentiment and honesty is lavish in Brin's article. I do not actually genuinely believe Brin or Google's original motivation began as an outward will to consume and possess copyrighted material already nailed to the mast or signed by its author in their own blood. Where Google have really erred in all this, is to have assumed a role in the new world of digital publishing and record no one afforded them the right or throne. As Brin rightly points out in his article in the New York Times:

"Today, if you want to access a typical out-of-print book, you have only one choice — fly to one of a handful of leading libraries in the country and hope to find it in the stacks."

Therein lies the key to all this. It is not the job nor the responsibility of Google to chronicle, scan and protect the family jewels. It is the job of our governments, libraries and universities to do this, and certainly, even if it means with the help of Google's technology and database. Then, so be it. But for those who lauded and admired the ingenuity and power of the Google beast in our midst five years ago, to be among the activists to call today for the beast to be shot between the eyes is--frankly--a little galling. It is time for us all to reflect.

There has been an attitude in the publishing industry for some years that they can park their bicycle at the lamppost and expect it still to be there when they return. That attitude is borne out of a belief that publishing is old world and requires an innate skill unwilling to compromise with anything new or that suggests paper books are merely a format of a greater content and opportunity. I am less inclined to think publishers, by their objection to the Google agreement, are as hole-heartedly worried by the challenge to publishing rights as they are to being reminded by Google that they have left the steering wheel unmanned for quite some time. Whatever opinion you hold or whatever you believe about all this--someone left the bull in the china shop and something was bound to get broken.

Friday, 9 October 2009

EA Teams Up With Publishers For Launch of Flips ebooks

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Electronic Arts, the game studio, is following in the footsteps of Nintendo and utilising the DS console platform to launch a serious of children’s ebook titles. Nintendo themselves also ready have experimented with ebook titles on the DS with 100 Great Classic Books, which sold 115,000 units in the UK. Electronic Arts are calling the new series of ebooks ‘The Flips’ range and they will feature key children's authors. This attempt at projecting the DS console as an alternative ebook reader has the backing of book publishers Egmont and Penguin.

There will be four releases in the Flips range in December for the Christmas gift market and featured authors will include Enid Blyton, Cathy Cassidy and Eoin Colfer. Here are the scheduled titles for Christmas:

Enid Blyton - The Enchanted Wood®, The Magic Faraway Tree, The Folk of the Faraway Tree, Enchanted World® – Petal and the Eternal Bloom, Enchanted World – Melody and the Enchanted Harp, Enchanted World – Silky and the Rainbow Feather

Cathy Cassidy – Scarlett, Angel Cake, Sundae Girl, Shine on Daizy Star, GingerSnaps, Driftwood

Eoin Colfer - Artemis Fowl, Artemis Fowl and the Arctic Incident, Artemis Fowl and the Eternity Code, Artemis Fowl and the Opal Deception, Artemis Fowl and the Lost Colony, Artemis Fowl and the Time Paradox

Too Ghoul For School - Silent but Deadly, The In-Spectres Call, Ghoul Dinners, The Bubonic Builders, Attack of the Zombie Nits, School Spooks Day, French Fright, Terror In Cubical Four.

It was Electronic Arts own Vice President, Harvey Elliot, who first contemplated the idea a year ago following the experiences with his own young children. He brought the idea to the development teams and the Flips range is the result. As yet, no decision has been made on future titles in the range for next year. Each Flip will feature between 6 – 8 book titles.

EA's UK, Ireland and Nordic regions General Manager, Keith Ramsdale, said at the London launch of the Flips range:

‘Harvey and I have been chatting for about a year on this, figuring out what the opportunity could be, and it's a fascinating one for me. If you look at the 9.5 million installed base of Nintendo DS in the UK, if we follow the US, then about half of those are being used by under-14 year olds. Clearly, kids of the right age have got access to a DS. It just makes every sense to bring these two together, for the first time properly aimed at kids - and kids are technology-savvy, so the idea of using a current entertainment device to read books is compelling for them, and also compelling for the parent because we're encouraging kids to read.’

The Flips range will be released in December and retail at £24.99 in shops.

See the Electronic Arts announcement here.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

PODTV - Program 16: Cambridge University Press Digitization Project

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Cambridge University Press is a distinguished British academic publisher and this year they are celebrating 425 years of continuous publishing of academic and educational texts as well as 2009 being their 800th anniversary. As a department of the University of Cambridge, its purpose is to further the University's objective of advancing knowledge, education, learning, and research. Cambridge is the oldest printer and publisher in the world and one of the largest academic publishers globally. Do not be fooled by images of dusty libraries and yellow parchment paper. Cambridge is at the forefront of book digitization. Their mission is their commitment to innovation and enterprise which places them at the cutting-edge of electronic delivery of books in a world that looks increasingly to digital content and online access not only to books and journals but to a range of other educational services.

Cambridge University Press has offices and agents all over the world and they work with a staggering 36,000 authors from 120 different countries in their efforts to market and distribute print and electronic material to readers. Now, there’s a handful for any publisher! Cambridge need 1,880 staff members to carry out their work which has resulted in an inventory of 34,000 in-print titles, a stockholding of 20m units housed in nine warehouses across the globe. Getting dizzy yet?

Cambridge University Press has a dedicated Digital Business Department operating at the forefront of digitization and finding fresh ways to increase the circulation of their catalogue of books through electronic outlets of various kinds. Sales of our books are now made as downloads to PCs and hand-held devices; through online library-style services; through subscription, short-term rental and other developing business models, and as sales of access to fragments (for example by chapter, or pay-per-view). They continue to work tirelessly to re-introduce rare books long out of print by scanning them to a massive database. They also have a list of 15,000 titles available through print on demand. I came across the following Youtube video on Teleread today. The video focuses on the specific work carried out by staff at the Cambridge University Library in their efforts to restore and digitize important historical works which have until recently only been available in their library. The video was made in July of this year and makes a perfect addition to our programs on PODTV.

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