In this week's Self-Publishing News Special, ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway takes a look at uncertainty over London Book Fair and more price-fixing claims against Amazon.
In last month's Self-publishing News podcast, Howard and I talked about Amazon's battle with libraries. We also, inevitably, discuss whether non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are an opportunity or a minefield, or both. On tonight's #indieauthorchat with Tim Lewis, at 8pm GMT, we'll be talking a self-publishing 3.0 hot topic, selling direct rom an author website, with the one and only Nate Hoffelder.
London Book Fair Plans on Hold
It’s hard being an event organizer right now. Really hard. I get that. I’ve organized literary festivals, and taken part in dozens of them. And organizers across the globe have done a remarkable job of trying to keep the book world afloat. Only this week, organizers of the world’s biggest book event brand, Big Bad Wolf, announced a hybrid programme. And Mark Williams has a very interesting account of a large event in Bangladesh that has paid a heavy price for not adapting.
All of that said, Reed – the company behind many of the highest profile events in the world – seem to have struggled more than most. At the start of the pandemic, London Book Fair’s “will they, won’t they?” approach dominated the news. The failure to make a decision until the last minute on whether or not to go ahead cost a lot of stall holders a lot of money. Not to mention good will. This year, they decided to move London Book Fair to the end of June and hold it in a hybrid format. But as lockdowns in the UK aren't due to come to an end until June 21st at best, that still places it on the cusp. And like last year, there is still no decision expected till later this month about what will actually happen.
I understand why things took so long last year. Insurance deals meant cancellation had to wait until the government forced the organizers' hand. But a year on, insurers are more flexible. The travel industry has rolled out a whole range of “if things have to change it won't cost you” policies to tempt people back. At some point we have to wonder if the problem is just that Reed are ditherers.
Bookstore Adds to Price Fixing Legal Woes for Amazon
And talking of courtroom battles, Amazon is under further fire. Amazon is, as I reported recently, current under investigation in several jurisdictions for price fixing. Official antitrust proceedings don’t exactly set the public pulse racing. But now a small independent bookstore has entered the fray. Nina Barrett of the Evanston store Bookends and Beginnings is pursuing Amazon. And that gives the story a personal “You’ve Got Mail” kind of twist that is much more likely to capture the imagination.
The basic story remains the same as it has been throughout – smaller players allege Amazon and the Big Five publishers have a deal that's not fair. The difference is in nuance. Whereas the current antitrust cases allege that the deal keeps prices high for consumers, this case essentially claims the deal means other retailers can never compete on price. In the former case, the allegation effectively amounts to the claim that this is some kind of a cartel that suits the parties involved rather well and not consumers. In the latter case, it's not about the effects on consumers so much as on other businesses. Amazon is being attacked from both sides.
It will be interesting to see how each pans out but my guess is the antitrust suit is the one that keeps Amazon awake because of what's likely to happen if it's successful – a potential break-up of parts of the business as opposed to a rap on the knuckles that might mean Jeff Bezos gets one fewer space flight.
Blurring Fiction and Non-Fiction Platforms: Novels on Medium?
I’ve reported a fair bit in the past year or so on subscription reading services as a revenue stream for writers. And one of the things I’ve noticed is that there’s a real split. On the one hand there are platforms that are, essentially, ebook and audiobook retailers – they just aren’t retailers, they’re subscription-based. And on the other hand there are platforms like Substack and Medium that are very much for non-fiction writers. That made this very interesting article stick out. It focuses on how it is possible to use Medium not only to publish but to make money from a full length novel. Well worth a read!
Maryland Libraries One Step Closer to Obtaining Compulsory Ebook Licenses
A couple of weeks ago, I reported that Maryland was seeking to introduce legislation to allow libraries the authority to be granted the licence to any ebook. I explained that publishers were worried that this was a dangerous escalation of the trade war they seem to have entered into with libraries. That worry, just like the war they are fighting, comes from the belief, yet to be supported by strong sales-based evidence, that library ebook lends eat into publishers’ sales. The legislation has now passed its first major hurdle.How will London Book Fair happen and other top #selfpub news stories for #indieauthors, in one quick read, by #ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway @agnieszkasshoes #digitaleconomy #publishingopenup Click To Tweet
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