Category Archives: booksellers

Mainframe Bookselling and Internet Commerce

Peter Brantley -- January 27th, 2014

dec pdp-11At the American Library Association meeting in Philadelphia this week, I was asked to give a talk with Ginger Clark of Curtis, Brown on the author-library relationship for ALA’s Digital Content Working Group. I enjoyed our panel; after Ginger covered the basics of what agents do for authors, we both wound up discussing the boom in self-publishing, particularly in genres with avid readers such as romance and science-fiction. Continue reading

Been Down So Long

Peter Brantley -- January 25th, 2014

Barnes & Noble store closing
A couple of weeks ago, the science fiction writer Hugh Howey wrote a pair of pugnacious “Here’s what I would do” posts on how to reform “Big 5″ trade publishing. Most of his suggestions are fist-pumping common sense to industry observers: e.g., release formats as soon as they are ready, don’t window e-books or paperbacks; eliminate the returns system for bookstores; ditch “do not compete” clauses in contracts which hinder adjustment of digital royalty rates; and generally speaking, “GIVE READERS WHAT THEY WANT.”

These blog pieces are terrific reads and highly recommended, though there are impediments to adopting some of these changes. And there’s one presumption that seems like a real doozy: Knowing that a large portion of book sales are still in paper, Howey assumes the continued existence of bookstores. Continue reading

Ultimate Discovery Engine

Peter Brantley -- January 9th, 2012

Both academic and public libraries have struggled to cope with declining budgets while facing continuing demands to meet the needs of their patrons. With the amount of literature being published continuing to grow, it gets harder with every passing month for libraries refine their purchasing strategy. One of the most interesting ways of dealing with the Scylla and Charybdis issue of too many books, and too little money, is called Patron Driven Acquisition (PDA), or sometimes Patron Driven Access, depending on where emphasis is placed.

Basically, PDA is a way of crowd-sourcing acquisition. In most scenarios, a set of potentially available titles is loaded into a library catalog, and then once a specified number of library patrons request the title, it is automatically ordered for the collection. There are a wide number of permutations; for example, initial requests arriving prior to the purchase threshold may still be able to obtain the book if the library consents to rent the title from a distributor or aggregator. PDA models have become increasingly sophisticated; one of the most astute analysts for the academic market is Joe Esposito, who has blogged on PDA several times at SSRC’s Scholarly Kitchen.

PDA is particularly suited for titles where a library’s acquisition strategy is unclear; this makes it very attractive in the academic market where the challenge of matching faculty research interests with narrowly focused literature is often informed guesswork. Since major frontlist releases are de rigueur purchases for public libraries, it is difficult to see simple PDA schemes working for the next Franzen novel. Other strategies may be better suited to control the roller coaster demand for literary bestsellers, such as combinations of upfront purchase with flexible rental. Continue reading

Living in the Jungle: Amazon and Penguin

Peter Brantley -- December 2nd, 2011

I’ve been thinking about Amazon’s entry into the ebook lending market, initially via Overdrive and now through the Prime subscription program, and considering its ramifications. I am hardly alone; publishers are obviously evaluating this move as well. Penguin’s abdication from the library market has been widely perceived to be a response to Amazon’s entry into ebook lending. As Eric Hellman notes on his blog, “The Penguin move should be seen not as corporate verdict on libraries, but as a reaction to Amazon’s entry into the library market. … The recently announced Kindle Owner’s Lending Library demonstrates that Amazon, blessed with its trove of marketing data, understands the power of libraries to promote sales. But it also demonstrates that Amazon is not content to leave libraries to libraries.”

The unique characteristic of Amazon’s lending programs is that the books are sourced directly from Amazon regardless of whether the reader finds the work through Overdrive or directly on Amazon, for Prime subscribers. This makes absolute sense for Amazon, and it is an opportunity enabled by their use of a proprietary ebook format. Amazon gains user intentionality data, and visits to their site are likely to drive up sales of books and other media, as well as shavers, GPS units, cell phones, and kids’ toys (and Kindle readers). From the perspective of a cloud-based platform player, a library-style lending program is an attractive offering, and will be the nexus of investment in additional content and services; among its other affordances, it is a “Look Inside” on steroids. Continue reading

Digitizing Community

Peter Brantley -- October 4th, 2011

In Library Journal, I read an excellent series of interviews with publishing executives about their perspectives on library-publisher relations. There have been many thoughtful comments, but I was concerned with how frequently the publishers associated the public library with the physical, printed book. Random House’s Madeline McIntosh, for example, made the association explicit: “…the heart of what makes a library important is defined by physical books, in a physical space, connected to its community by face-to-face relationships and coming together in person over books. The value of a library to us—and our authors—is inextricably linked to a library having a physical space, where people can come and discover books.”

Frankly, I find that perspective offensive for a number of reasons, the most immediate of which is the presumption that the value of libraries is tied to a format (print) that  has been technologically deprecated. My more fundamental concern with any expressed print-library bias, however, is the implicit definition of community. What we envision our communities to be, and how they are bounded, is fundamental to how we see the future of our libraries.

Continue reading

How Do You Piss Off Indie Booksellers? Send Them Promo Materials Featuring a Kindle.

Marc Schultz -- July 19th, 2011

Yesterday, Jill Hendrix, owner of Fiction Addiction in Greenville, SC, opened a box of promotional material from Running Press to discover this poster, for forthcoming gift book Bent Object of My Affection by Terry Border. A quarter of the poster was taken up by an anthropomorphized (and apparently amorous) Kindle. “This is not something I’m going to hang up in my store,” Hendrix told PW.

Bent Object of My Affection is the second photo collection from Border, who adds limbs to inanimate objects using bent wire. “It feels a little bit like a kick in the face,” said Hendrix, that “one of the [images] they chose to use, on a poster that they’re paying to send out to independent bookstores, has a Kindle on it.”

Hendrix reported her displeasure on the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance listerv, where it first caught our attention. PW is still waiting to hear back from the Perseus imprint on the promotional faux pas.

The Book Inscription Project Lets You See Others’ Great Personal Inscriptions

Gabe Habash -- June 29th, 2011

People love buying used books because you feel like a part of something, a past that’s put its mark in the book’s pages and binding.

Most of the time, you don’t know exactly who else has read the book, unless you find some sort of inscription, which is where The Book Inscription Project comes in.

The blog collects the best personal inscriptions out there, letting us glimpse the lives of others in sometimes heartfelt, sometimes funny ways.

Take, for example, the inscription in Elliott Smith by Autumn de Wilde: For Tara, Because no one ever gave you a book with an inscription before, because you love photographs, because we are obsessed with Elliott, and because I’m in love with the world through the eyes of a girl. -Seth


Kind of makes us want to write in everything we have now. What shall we write in our copy of Smokin’ Seventeen?

The PW Morning Report: Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Craig Morgan Teicher -- June 21st, 2011

Today’s links!

Ellsworth Remembered: The NYT obit for the first publisher of the New York Review of Books.

B&N Profit: ZDNet wonders whether the Nook will alter the profit equation when Barnes & Noble reports its earnings today.

Make Borders Stores like Apple Stores: That’s one idea a private equity firm has for the bookseller. From

Whitcoulls Absorbs Borders New Zealand: All Borders in New Zealand will become Whitcoulls stores. From the National Business Review.

European E-Growth: The Bookseller reports good digital growth in Europe despite the threat of encroaching US E-book companies.

Haiku for Keanu: Salon rounds up some hilarious haiku supposedly written by, but also sort of written against, Keanu Reeves (who, it turns out, is a budding author in several genres).

The PW Morning Report: Monday, June 20, 2011

Craig Morgan Teicher -- June 20th, 2011

Today’s links!

Borders Bidder: Borders says it will name a bidder by July 1 and commence the sale of all its assets. From Reuters.

Book Scanning UK: PaidContent reports that Google is about to scan 250,000 out-of-copyright books for the British Library.

Will the Home Library Survive?: The Independent wonders whether the home library will survive the rise of the e-book.

Jimmy Connors Memoir: HarperCollins has signed up a memoir by the tennis star, due in June 2012. From AP.

Radcliffe on Pottermore: He says he knows nothing… From the LA Times.

Goodnight Keith Moon: That’s the title of the latest in a growing string of bedtime book parodies. From the Guardian.

Galley Grab: Salon reports on Abebooks recent sale of rare galleys.