books on the radio


Globe’s Book of the Decade: Zero Comments, Wrong Cover**

US edition of The Deathly Hallows is the Globe and Mail's Book of the Decade.

This is a follow-up to my previous piece on New Rules of Engagement for the book trade in terms of literary journalism and book promotion.

In that piece I took the Globe Books section to task for showing no evidence of being able to connect to or engage an audience online.

What the image above is showing us is the original post for their Book of the Decade piece that first appeared on December 22.  The image above was screen captured on Monday January 4th.

It shows the US cover art for the Harry Potter book and also indicates that there have been zero comments about this post.  (The Globe has since corrected the mistake as a result of Dan Wagstaff’s tweet discussed below and, as of this rewrite, there are now 2 comments attached to the post.)

So, to quickly recap: US cover displayed in Canada’s National Newspaper for the biggest selling book in the history of Canadian publishing and no one notices for 2 weeks.  And a shocking lack of debate attached to the post.

Book. of. the. Decade. Equals. Zero. Debate. Really? Really Really?

Was the choice of Harry Potter so utterly paralyzing to the readership that no one could even be bothered to object, offer an alternative or agree?

Apparently so.

A Breakdown of Some of the Details in this Case:

Book of the Decade inspires zero comments in nearly 2 weeks online.

This is the killer.  Zero comments in nearly 2 weeks on a post featuring what is arguably the pinnacle piece of the past 52 weeks if not longer.

An example of the engagement vacuum happening at Globe Books online.

What is happening here?  Am I missing some crucial metric?

Should a post that distills the greatness of the past 10 years of literature not elicit some kind of debate?  Isn’t an open and passionate exchange of ideas at least part of what literature inspires in people?

Isn’t Globe Books supposed to engage or inspire us in this way?

Take this quote from the Globe Books Facebook page (which hasn’t been updated since August 2009): [Globe Books will] provide readers in Canada with a compelling destination for “one-stop-shop” Books coverage. Also… a new Focus & Books section will be introduced by The Globe as a weekly Saturday section, reaching even more readers with its combined audience base.

Emphasis mine: compelling destination & reaching even more readers.

Online reach is universal – any web page can be read by people all over the world – while content, reputation and community engagement creates a compelling destination.

Here’s a screen capture from my tweetdeck of @GlobeBooks on Monday, January 4th.

@GlobeBooks has 2,346 followers. List 173 times.

The attempt to engage an audience via twitter is there and this is a good sign.  The link included in the above tweet takes the reader to the Book of the Decade piece.

However, when one says that something ‘didn’t get chewed over enough‘ another might be inclined to believe that there was actually some chewing involved.  But there was no chewing of this piece at all.

As noted, GlobeBooks has 2,346 followers and is listed 173 times.  Yet it yields zero feedback.

The 12 ‘thumbs up’ that the Book of the Decade piece received are the equivalent of nods between strangers passing one another on the subway platform at rush hour.

Not really what I’m considering to be engagement.

Here’s a really interesting piece on shifting media landscapes and/or old trusted voices falling on deaf ears: in this case, the once venerable Bono.

and, finally…

Dan Wagstaff of Raincoast Books responds.

**NOW UPDATED WITH THE CANADIAN COVER

The updated page with the Canadian cover of The Deathly Hallows.

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Simon and Schuster Test Waters w/ Stephen King eBook Release

Stephen King

UPDATE: This post has been refreshed from its original state.  That’s what I get for taking Publisher’s Weekly at its word.

Anyway, mid-way through this piece I ask readers to suspend their disbelief – difficult to do when reading a post on book publishing, pricing and digital content, I know – and  follow my argument as I use the information from the Publisher’s Weekly column slightly out of context but not entirely out of the realm of possibility.

Mark Coker from Smashwords.com lends useful insight via this Huffington Post piece. Follow the hashtag #publishersmatter on Twitter.

Please add any comments that you think are helpful.

***

Interesting piece from Publisher’s Weekly about Simon and Schuster’s decision to delay the release of the eBook version of Stephen King’s massive new novel, Under the Dome.dome

Apparently S&S will be releasing the 1000+ page novel on November 10th and then dropping the ebook on the market on December 24th.  Timing is everything, I guess.

The Publisher’s Weekly piece also notes that the S&S will be charging $35 for the eBook, however some further research conducted at StephenKing.com indicates that the ebook will sell for standard Kindle-pricing.

Mr King asks his readers not to “believe the press reports that the e-book reader price for Under the Dome will be $35. This was the result of confusion from a press release from the publisher… It is true that you cannot order the book as an e-download until December 24th, but the physical book, which is a beautiful thing, you can pre-order for less than $9–so who’s better than us?”

So, pricing right?  It’s all up in the air.  Nobody knows what anything is worth whether it’s a brand spankin’ new hardcover or an infinitely replicable digital file.  Are they both worth $9?  Really?  Are publishers seriously asking the public to swallow that crock?

But they’re trapped between the ruthless capitalism of dominant retailers at war with each other and the ruthless efficiency of the digital age.

***

Let’s say for example that the Great Book Pricing War of 2009 wasn’t happening and skewing this argument beyond proportion and let’s say that S&S thought that $35 for a hard cover was a fair price – which it is – and that $35 for an eBook was also a fair price – which is arguable to say the least.

I float this scenario forward for your consideration because I have heard book publishers say the very same thing – that a digital file should be priced at the same level as the physical product.

To me this notion of equal pricing for physical/digital looks more like a series of test balloons designed to reinforce industry fears than skillful marketing strategies for new books by some of English language’s most beloved authors.

Who gave the final OK on that pricing strategy and where is he/she getting their information?

It’s well documented that the last Harry Potter book – itself a hefty tome – was pirated and disseminated almost immediately upon release (in fact, an in-house perp at Scholastic did the job even before the book hit the shelves) and surely the people at Simon and Schuster are aware that this will happen here, too.  I expect that this book will be seeded widely within 24 hours of officially going on sale.

I have documented the bibliographic zeal that Stephen King’s fans show toward his work online in my presentations on DRM and Free Content.  I expect that a great majority will look at the cost of $35 for the hard cover version as a fair price to pay – and indeed many of the people who use P2P/torrent sites to download and share Stephen King’s books are dedicated enough to purchase the physical copy – and will see the same price for a digital file as incomprehensibly expensive.

This will certainly bear watching.  I have to believe that this is some kind of Big Author Test of Current Market Conditions rather than a strategy that S&S expects to trot out for every new hard cover release.

Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol showed us something about this new digital/print landscape and the new Stephen King promises to yield even more data even if it seems that it will come at the expense of common sense.

But one must keep an open mind.  Hopefully this publishing event will show us something new.



Forget Frankfurt! Bookcamp Vancouver 2009 is Here!

BookCampVancouverXX

BOOKCAMP VANCOUVER 2009: FRIDAY OCTOBER 16: SFU HARBOUR CENTRE Exploring New Ideas in Books, Publishing and the Future of Reading

It’s curious.  Thousands of publishing professionals from all over the world funnel into the Bavarian outpost of Frankfurt at this time every year for the largest book fair and rights festival in the world.

Fortunes rise and fall on decisions made there.  Expectations run high.  Coffee is consumed at an alarming rate, as is Russian vodka.  The very next Harry Potter or Da Vinci Code could be right under one’s proverbial nose.

Conferences are attended, powerpoint presentations proffer poignant percentages and that person over there flitting from table to table scribbling furiously in her notepad just might be Michiko Kakutani.

But… there’s something happening in Canada’s western hinterlands, some sort of modern mutation on an age-old theme.  Fresh ideas are being hatched, new voices are given the opportunity to speak and the wisdom of the crowd is tapped.

Bookcamp Vancouver 2009 Unconference!

It all happens on the rain slicked streets of Vancouver on Friday October 16th at the SFU Harbour Centre.  See you there!