Saturday, 29 September 2012


Writer Beware ® Blogs!: Class Action Lawsuit Against PublishAmerica Dismissed


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Writer Beware ® Blogs!: Class Action Lawsuit Against PublishAmerica Dismissed

I reported earlier this week on TIPM's Facebook page that the class action lawsuit taken against PublishAmerica in June of this year was dismissed earlier this month.You can file the officially filed decision of the case here. WriterBeware has the full details, but in essence, it's the old chestnut once again concerning specific relationship (or definition of it) authors enter into with publishing service providers. In recent years, several class action law suits have been dismissed by the US courts for similar reasons. In short, the courts refuse to see the relationship between author and publisher as a consumer rights issue. It is deemed to be a B2B (Business to Business) contract and cannot be covered by consumer law acts. However, this particular class action law suit indicates the judge considered that plaintiffs (authors) did not provide enough evidence that the case should be considered US consumer laws.

From WriterBeware:

"Judge Garbis, in other words, isn't confirming PA's argument that the author-PA relationship is not a consumer matter--rather, he's saying that the plaintiffs haven't sufficiently demonstrated that it is. He makes a similar determination with regard to the plaintiffs' claim of unjust enrichment, breach of contract, and fraud."

"Though PA will likely dispute this, the dismissal doesn't vindicate their business practices or endorse their counter-claims. Rather, it leaves the door open for the plaintiffs to return with stronger arguments to bolster their case. Obviously I can't reach into the minds of the lawyers to see why they decided not to do so. But I have to be honest--it seems shoddy to me. If they felt they had sufficient grounds to base the original complaint on the MCPA, and to make claims of fraud, why would they not re-file? (Or, perhaps, more adequately state their argument in the first place?) It makes the lawsuit seem like some sort of blue-sky effort, launched without adequate commitment and folding at the first roadblock."


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Friday, 28 September 2012


The Future of Publishing 2020: Translation and Publishing in the 21st Century


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In my last article on TIPM, I talked about how digitalization and The Self-Publishing Honeypot has helped transform publishers from the role of curator and educator to one of facilitator and provider. The transformation is far from complete, and many within the industry—in spite of digitalization heralding the age of disintermediation and the rise of alternative methods of publication for authors—still hold fast to the belief that publishers, as we commonly understand them, will be around for many years to come. It’s not a view I wholeheartedly agree with, though, I do believe there is a place for publishers in the future as long as some are prepared to embrace the streamlining digitalization offers to operate more efficiently, while also managing to reunite their new role as content providers with readers, authors and the broader literary community.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012


Fancy A Coffee and A Book?


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Hillcrest Media, parent company of self-publishing service Mill City Press and several traditional imprints, have formed a partnership with Dunn Bros Coffee to create an online bookstore called CoffeeandBooks. The new venture will also have an in-store presence across the midwest and south regions of the USA and  is now accepting authors eager to challenge the traditional bookselling model.
 
CoffeeandBooks is a new division of Hillcrest Media and Dunn Bros Coffee is the first coffee store partner. Participating stores offer rewards for CoffeeandBooks.com users, including a 12 oz. coffee for joining the free site, a $5 Dunn Bros Coffee gift card for each online book purchase, and specials for reserving a book club meeting space at Dunn Bros Coffee via CoffeeandBooks.com. Beginning on November 1st, participating stores will offer shelf space to eight of the site’s best-selling titles.
 
“With the surge of new books available in the marketplace and the shrinking availability of shelf space at bookstores, many great books go undiscovered by readers. CoffeeandBooks.com exposes readers to fantastic books that deserve to be noticed.”

 
Karina Taylor, Marketing Director for Hillcrest Media
 
 
The CoffeeandBooks.com online store is not intended to be exclusive to Hillcrest Media titles and the new venture already includes titles published by Minneapolis-based Milkweed Editions and the University of Minnesota Press. CoffeeandBooks is looking to expand its partnerships with other independent presses, booksellers, and coffee houses that want to give talented authors a running start.
 
“Coffee and books go hand in hand, but we wanted to unite them in a way that offers readers something different than the traditional book-buying experience. This partnership helps connect avid readers through book clubs, exclusive author events at Dunn Bros Coffee shops, and access to some of the best titles readers have yet to discover.”

 
Mark Christenson, Vice President of Marketing, Dunn Bros Coffee Franchising, Inc.  
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Tuesday, 18 September 2012


CWA Introduce Manuscript Critique Service


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The UK Crime Writers' Association (CWA) has moved into the writers' services market with the launch of its Manuscript Assessment Service. Writers, including non-members of the CWA, will now be allowed to submit full or partial manuscripts for critical assessment by an experienced member or associate member who is an agent or editor.
 
The CWA stated:
 
"These days the competition to achieve a publishing deal is fierce. In view of this competition, we receive increasing numbers of enquiries asking for expert critique of manuscripts."

 
It is introducing the service for aspiring crime fiction writers to help them polish their writing and prepare manuscripts for submission to agents and publishers. Writers submitting a manuscript will have the opportunity to upload a 1000 word synopsis and 3000 word partial, or a full novel up to 100,000 words, and after a period of three to five weeks will receive a detailed critique assessment report between two and four pages (minimum), dependant on the level of critique chosen and paid for in advance. Fees for the two levels of critique are £100 and £350 respectively.
 
The CWA has operated the Dagger Awards for writers of unpublished crime novels for several years and its success and profile has led to a number of winning writers securing publishing deals for their books.
 
At the moment, membership and associated membership of the CWA is restricted to commercially published authors of crime and thriller books, editors, reviewers and agents. Exemptions are made for provisional membership to writers whose books are under contract but not yet published.
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Monday, 17 September 2012


Guest Post | Book Reviews: Seeking The Elusive Truth


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Amidst the recent book review scandals, which have tarnished the whole industry and made readers question the source and validity of many book reviews, Leslie Ramey, co-founder of Grub Street Reads, asks if now is the time for an impartial review system and  seal of approval. She presents another option for readers and authors.
 
 
It’s not news for anyone in the business of writing and selling books that fake book reviews are a common, almost accepted, dirty secret within the industry. Readers, for the most part, remained blissfully innocent that many of the glowing, 5 star Amazon reviews on the novel they just purchased may have been faked by the author or written by a paid lackey who never even read the book.
Dirty laundry, however, has a way of crawling out into the sunlight. A recent expose in the New York Times on a defunct company that charged authors as much as $999 for positive book reviews, fanned the flames of scandal. This was quickly followed by the discovery that well-known crime novelist R J Ellory was not only writing positive reviews for his books through a series of fake accounts, but also slamming the books of other authors.
TIPM has covered this growing scandal in detail, so instead of delving into the specifics, I’ll just sum up with what I consider to be the most stunning factoid to come out of this whole mess. Cited in the NY Times article, data expert Bing Liu estimated that about one third of all consumer reviews on the Internet are fake.
Ouch!
We all know that readers are swimming (some say drowning) in the massive amount of books coming to the market through traditional and self-published routes. Aside from recommendations from family and friends, book reviews and ratings were one of the few ways readers could judge the quality of a book. In fact, a 2010 report by The Bookseller found that book reviews contributed to roughly 13% percent of book sales. These book review scandals are sure to land a huge blow to reader confidence and take away one of the few tools self-published authors had to prove the quality of their work.
So, if books reviews can no longer be trusted, where do we readers and self-published authors go from here?
Some authors have publicly pledged to never take part in “sock puppeting”. While this is a laudable action, I doubt that it will make much of a ripple in popular reader sentiment. Let’s face it, book reviews are easy to fake and easy (though not necessarily cheap) to pay for. This scandal has raised awareness of the issue, but I doubt it’s done anything but temporarily stemmed the tide of fake reviews.
Now that the scales have fallen off the eyes of readers, they may never trust in book reviews again, which means it’s time to find an alternative and unimpeachable way to establish a book’s quality.
Alright, now it’s confession time.  I wasn’t exactly displeased when this book scandal broke, because my business partner, Jessica Bennett, and I have recently launched a company – Grub Street Reads – with the goal of creating an unimpeachable, third-party quality standard for independently and self-published books.
As a voracious reader, I know how confusing things have gotten over the last couple of years with so many self-published books flooding the market. Many of them are excellent, but a lot of them are…well, I like to say they’re still in “rough draft form”. It’s easy to get burned, which is why so many readers value reviews.
I also happen to be a self-published author myself, and I speak regularly with other self-published authors, so I know how untrustworthy reviews can be. Even the honest ones are usually written by sympathetic friends and family who just click 5 stars to avoid tears and accusations at the dinner table.
There have long been calls from writers and readers for an unbiased, third-party system to establish a quality standard for the indie and self-published book market.
Thus, Grub Street Reads was born. Our premise is simple. We believe that all good stories, no matter their genre or the specifics of the plot, share fundamental traits like well-developed characters, a consistent plot, strong pacing, and few, if any, grammatical errors.
The GSR endorsement is given to those novels that meet these basic quality standards. It’s that simple. Grub Street Reads functions as a third party vetting system, and our endorsement proves that a novel has been tried and tested and earned a passing mark (not given by the author’s mother or spouse).
I know that I’m bragging, but I can’t help but be excited about GSR. Jessica and I believe, and studies show, that consumers value seals of approval. It tells them that the endorsed product has met a standard, which makes it a less risky purchase. 
If this book review scandal has done anything, it’s finally woken readers to the fact that book reviews are not always a trustworthy way to gauge the actual quality of a book. This sucks for honest authors who must now find another method that they’ve got something good between their covers.
Jessica and I are hoping that Grub Street Reads can be the answer. [Full disclosure, GSR charges for an evaluation, but our profits are used to pay our evaluators for their time and to help market our endorsed authors’ books to readers.]
Let us know your thoughts! Do you think the book review scandal has tainted book reviews in the eyes of readers? Is Grub Street Reads a solution, and is the indie book world truly in need for a third party vetting system?
 
Grub Street Reads, created by Jessica Bennett and Leslie Ramey, seeks to shine the spotlight on quality indie books by endorsing those books that meet GSR’s strict quality standards. Learn more about Grub Street Reads by visiting www.GrubStreetReads.com. Enjoy our kooky video, read about our endorsement criteria and visit our growing library of endorsed indie books. You can also find us on Facebook and Twitter.

 
 
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Thursday, 13 September 2012


There’s A Hole In My Sock Puppet | Radio Litopia's Naked Book


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There’s A Hole In My Sock Puppet

Sock puppets of the world look on.
 
This week The Naked Book interviewed puppet hunter extraordinaire the thriller writer Jeremy Duns. Duns exposed crime-writer R J Ellory last week, and he has been seeking the truth about Stephen Leather’s anonymous accounts and activities since Harrogate. But who is he? And why does he do it? Most importantly, how does he find the time?
 
Also in the studio was Cathy Rentzenbrink, fresh from ten years of bookselling at Waterstones, and now Project Director at Quick Reads. Cathy has called for an amnesty for all sock puppets. “We could all agree that it is wrong, promise not to do it again and draw a line under it.”
 
Assisted by the regulars Sam Missingham and in the chat-room Catherine Neilan, The Naked Book is happy to confirm that no sock puppets came to any harm during the recording.
 
Presented by Philip Jones, Editor of The Bookseller.

Yon can listen directly below or click the link at the top of this piece. 


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On Demand Secure Kodak Deal For Espresso Book Machine


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The logo from 1987 to 2006. "Evolution of...
The logo from 1987 to 2006. "Evolution of our brand logo". Eastman Kodak . . Retrieved 2007-09-26 . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The company behind the Espresso Book Machine (EBM), On Demand Books, has agreed a partnership deal with Eastman Kodak and it may prove to be the most significant move the company has ever made since the introduction of the point-of-sale print-on-demand machine in 2007.
 
Yesterday, On Demand Books, Eastman Kodak and ReaderLink announced a partnership that will see the Espresso Book Machine integrated with all 105,000 Kodak Picture Kiosks. Some of these kiosks are also stationed in Kodak's Express store outlets. The inclusion of ReaderLink, a book distributor and category management service provider, is also a significant move to further establish the machine in bookstores and universities, but primarily this deal will be about putting machines into non-book trade outlets throughout North America. On Demand Books had planned to have more than 50 machines installed in outlets by the end of this year, but that figure was actually exceded earlier than expected with 60 machines by July. Nevertheless, progress has been slow since the first was installed in the New York Public Library in 2007 due to purchase and leasing costs of the machines, prohibiting many medium to small-sized retailers who might have seen the EBM's as an answer to large inventory holding costs and as a additional consumer service at point-of-sale.

Espresso Book Machine
Espresso Book Machine (Photo credit: John Kannenberg)
The American Book Center has EBM's installed in both of its Dutch stores located in Amsterdam and The Hague, and their popularity and use requires regular supervision by staff and demonstrations. The ABC has invested a great deal in developing and promoting writing workshops and a full self-publishing program with no less than eight one-hour demonstrations conducted last week alone! While this kind of outlay has reaped real rewards for ABC and integrated the bookstores into the writing community, it may not appeal to some booksellers. This is not an investment the bookseller can afford to shove in a corner at the back of the store and just watch the sales roll in.


Just a couple of weeks ago I asked if the photobook was the new self-publishing phenomenon. This deal might just prove that it is. I'm also somewhat surprised more media outlets have not picked up on this press release since yesterday, with the significant exception of Digital Book World. But then, some media editors and publishing analysts are already asleep at the desk by 11am like one of my cats!
 
The Kodak company and its name became synonymous with photographic film for decades, and despite developing the first digital camera in 1975, ultimately Kodak shelved the new digital product fearing it would damage the sales of photographic film with its 90% share in the market. It proved to be a gross act of corporate complacency and Kodak did not reinstate a digital development program until the 1990's. Even then, its marketing of early digital products like cameras and digital photo frames was lacklustre and non-committal, believing photographic film would never be usurped by its new digital cousin. Alas, by 2002, companies like Sony, Canon and Panasonic had stolen a real lead on Kodak. Add in the explosion of the smart phone market and its transition from chemical manufacturing to imaging services; the corporate picture - so to speak - was becoming pretty complicated and in January 2012 Kodak filed for Chapter 11 protective bankruptcy. By February, the company withdrew from manufacturing digital products and its focus now is almost entirely on digital imaging. Sound like a familiar story? It should be. Many record companies and large publishers displayed a similar arrogance and complacency in their digital market sectors.
 
One final caveat before we look at the full press release below. There is no mention in the press release of Kodak's announcement last month to sell off its Film and Photo Kiosk divisions. That strikes me as a little curious considering this entire deal is based on a roll-out of EBM's to these already installed Kodak units in retail outlets. This deal states a joint partnership venture, not a wholesale sell-off as indicated in the August press release. Maybe the devil is in the detail of the agreement.

Late today, Publishers Weekly's Judith Rosen added the following piece after talking to On Demand Books' Karina Mikhli. Why Rosen chose to cite Mikhli as some random 'spokesperson' for On Demand Books, I've no idea. Karina at least deserved PW to bother with the lady's full professional title of Vice President of Content at the company:





There are still a number of kinks to be worked out, including integrating software between the book machine and the KODAK Picture Kiosks, as well as using the kiosks’ touch screen to search for available titles. In the short term the kiosks may use laptops for searches. One advantage that the kiosks offer is the ability to print four-color interiors and photo books for the first time. This is a feature that On Demand would like to be able to add for its other book machine clients over time, said Mikhli. On Demand will train a dedicated staffer to operate the book machines at the kiosks and other retail locations.

What this does at least provide is a sign that On Demand Books will take very direct control locally of the new retail installations rather than play a secondary role to Kodak's involvement. To me, this suggests On Demand Books will now have a greater operational role in Kodak's physical retail outlets. This is something On Demand need to take hold of if they are really to drive the success of the Espresso Book Machine.


UPDATE:

According to Matthew Daneman of the Daily Record, On Demand CEO, Dane Neller maintains the deal was struck before the decision by Eastman Kodak to sell off the Kiosk divison in August, and hopes any new owner will continue the arrangement. Of course, one wonders why On Demand didn't secure any such arrangement prior to signing the deal with troubled Eastman Kodak.
 


Press Release:
 
ROCHESTER, N.Y., Sept. 12, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Eastman Kodak Company, the worldwide leader in retail imaging solutions, with a global footprint of 105,000 KODAK Picture Kiosks, On Demand Books, and ReaderLink today announced they have partnered to revolutionize the way all types of printed books will be marketed, sold and produced at point of sale. The venture brings together On Demand Books' innovative, in-store Espresso Book Machine® to national retailers integrated with KODAK Picture Kiosks, giving consumers a full-service digital-to-print media center for all their custom print needs: from photo books, custom/local self-published titles, to educational supplements, and more.
 
On Demand Books is also working with ReaderLink to bring in-copyright titles to non-trade bookseller channels, allowing customers to have immediate access to a vast array of non-stocked and backlist titles at point of sale. ReaderLink is the largest full-service distributor of books in North America, distributing thousands of books to over 24,000 retail outlets across virtually all substantial mass market, club, drug and grocery chains in the United States.
 
The Espresso Book Machine, the only digital-to-print at retail solution on the market today, has begun to dramatically change the book industry by giving consumers the ability to produce a self-published book, or print on demand a book from more than seven million in-copyright or public domain titles, in less than four minutes. By integrating this solution with the KODAK Picture Kiosk, this capability will be expanded to produce perfect bound, high-quality Kodak Photo Books in minutes for in-store pick up.
 
"Our partnership with On Demand Books delivers exciting new capabilities to consumers and retailers, and is a great example of Kodak's focus on bringing innovation to market," said Laura Quatela, President of Kodak. "Consumers will enjoy getting from our valued retail partners immediate delivery of a whole new offering of high-quality photo books as well as a broad library of book titles. In addition, our retail partners will have new avenues for increased revenue as they expand their photo book sales in-store and deliver a massive list of book titles to their customers instantly."
 
Dane Neller, CEO of On Demand Books adds, "We are thrilled to be able to work with ReaderLink and our publisher partners to bring a broad list of book titles to Kodak's vast, worldwide retail footprint and expand the capabilities of the Espresso Book Machine to produce photo books. We envision an integrated solution that can substantially redefine the publishing industry and bring exciting new solutions to customers."
 
The partnership will involve North American retailers during 2012 and then expand internationally in 2013. The integrated KODAK Picture Kiosk and On Demand Books solution will include the following features and functionality:
  • Integration of the Espresso Book Machine and EspressNet® with the KODAK Picture Kiosk
  • Ability to print and bind paperback photo books using KODAK Printers in just minutes
  • Access to more than 7 million in-copyright or public domain books via On Demand's digital database
  • Assistance with creation and ability to print self-published books of all types
  • Reporting of transactions and customer analytics to both retailers and publishers
 
Kodak has a market leadership position in the photo category with worldwide installations of kiosks with national retailers such as CVS/pharmacy in the US, DM in Germany and Officeworks in Australia, among many others.
 
 
About Kodak
As the world's foremost imaging innovator, Kodak helps consumers, businesses, and creative professionals unleash the power of pictures and printing to enrich their lives.
(Kodak is a trademark of Eastman Kodak Company).
 
About On Demand Books
On Demand Books was cofounded in 2003 by Jason Epstein, former Editorial Director of Random House; Dane Neller, former CEO of Dean & DeLuca; and Thor Sigvaldason, former technology consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers. Espresso Book Machines have been placed in bookstores, libraries, universities, and other locations in the USA, Canada, the UK, the Middle East, Asia, Australia, and the Caribbean. Made in the USA, Espresso Book Machines are environmentally efficient, reducing production, shipping, and waste. For more information, go to www.ondemandbooks.com.
 
About ReaderLink
ReaderLink Distribution Services, LLC is the largest full-service book distributor in the North America and is a recognized leader in distribution logistics, value-added category management services, field services and business analytics. ReaderLink is located in Oak Brook, IL. For more information, go to www.readerlink.com.
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