In this week's Self-Publishing News Special, ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway looks at James Daunt's commitment to Nook and Spotify's move into audiobooks.
ALLi’s new guidebook, 150 Self-Publishing Questions Answered: ALLi’s Writing, Publishing, and Book Marketing Tips for Authors and Poets, written by ALLi’s Outreach Manager M.L. Ronn (Michael La Ronn), is available now. You can read an excerpt in this blog post and you can purchase the book here. As with all our guides, ALLi members can access their complimentary e-book copy in the member zone. Members: just log in and navigate to “Guidebooks”.
Is Nook About to Make a Comeback?
James Daunt is one of those people who makes headlines whenever he speaks. In part that’s because he is a bookselling behemoth who now controls Waterstones and Barnes and Noble. In part it’s because he’s one of those contrarians who figures it’s OK to say outrageous things because 1% of the time they will turn out to be brilliant. And in part it’s because the times they turn out not to be brilliant those things can leave a hot mess behind.
This week, Daunt has been at it again. The last in-person event I attended was Futurebook. I remember there he explained that Barnes and Noble stores needed an overhaul to use space better. And he has confirmed that the pandemic has given them the opportunity (I see where you’re coming from, James, just not sure that wording’s a top look) for that makeover.
But not even I was prepared for “I absolutely love Nook.” It seems Daunt, having neglected ebooks during his tenure at Waterstones, is now their champion. And he will champion them through the Nook. I for one am not holding my breath, but this is undoubtedly a big story. I’m not sure how I feel about Nook. That is Nook’s problem – I’m not sure I feel anything about it one way or the other. But I am all for championing the epub format.
Independent Bookstore Day
Let’s go from the big chains to the independents. This Saturday is Independent Bookstore Day in the US. There is a whole host of events going on across the country. If you are itching to get to a bookstore, and would like to support your local indie rather than a store run by James Daunt, you can go here to find out what’s on.
Spotify Slides into Audiobooks
I talk about Spotify a lot in this column. That’s because it hovers over us like a spectre as the subscription model grows, especially for audiobooks. Customers increasingly love subscription, and we know they love Spotify. For musicians, it is a word to make them all flinch. Payments per stream are notoriously low, running to tiny fractions of a cent. As we consider the slow downgrading of payments per page at Kindle Unlimited, it’s very easy to forget that for musicians those payments are orders of magnitude smaller. And they may be coming our way. Now it seems they really might be coming our way. Mark Williams has noticed that Spotify has advertised for a new position – head of audiobooks in the US. And while the focus for now seems to be podcasts, we should watch this space like a hawk.
Diversity, Censorship, and Free Speech – Publishing’s Square Circle?
We have talked a lot about diversity in publishing this year. And this week has seen a series of stories that sit rather uneasily together. Between them they illustrate why this is a conversation that as an industry we need to keep having. I’m just going to present the stories here. First, the Aspen Institute is commissioning a major study into diversity in publishing. Reports can seem frustrating when what we feel we need is action. But knowing where we are matters. Second, Kuwait has instigated a major shift in its censorship laws. It has moved from a “before you publish” censorship regime to a “publish and then we’ll decide” one. That may not feel like freedom, but it is a step.
A couple of days ago, publishing did that thing it does from time to time. It broke out of its bubble and took over social media. The focus was on an assistant agent, Sasha White. White had recently been employed by the Tobias Agency. This is an agency that is actively looking to take on writers from underrepresented backgrounds, including BAME and trans authors. Then an activist brought it to the agency’s attention that White had a personal Twitter account which she used to tweet things that did not fit alongside that mission. The agency terminated her employment. And Twitter did wat Twitter does – started an #istandwith hashtag.
The reason this story is so prominent is that it doesn’t fit comfortably with either of the first two. And that is why we as an industry need to keep talking. On the one hand, freedom of speech is our lifeblood. On the other hand, too often some groups have not had that freedom and are still denied it by an industry that fails to recognise them. The question the Tobias Agency faced is a microcosm of one we all face. On the one hand, they appear to have taken a step down the path of “cancel culture.” On the other, a member of staff expressed support for an act of violence against the very group the agency wants to increase representation of.
We are going through a time of difficult conversations.James Daunt commits to ebooks and Nook, what's happening with Independent Bookstore Day, and top #selfpub news stories for #indieauthors, in one quick read, by #ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway @agnieszkasshoes #digitaleconomy… Click To Tweet
Upcoming Conferences and Events
Help us fill this with great online events in the coming weeks and months.
Dublin International Writers' Festival, 10-13 Sep
Frankfurter Buchmesse, 14-18 Oct [Frankfurt/online]
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