Archives for the month of: September, 2013

As reported in Shelf Awareness today, Jeff Bezos has this to say about e-books and p-books:

“The tail of these things tends to be very long lived; [the transition to e-books] will go on for a very long time. Our heaviest Kindle e-book buyers also buy lots of paper books, so they’re buying both. For many people, it’s not an either-or choice. If you go out into the future far enough, paper books will be luxury items, but that’s quite a distance.” (PC Magazine)

I have always thought that the long term prospects for the printed book are in the luxury direction — the question really is how far into the future do we go till we reach “quite a distance”. I believe that capacity constraints in the book manufacturing industry will be an important factor in the outcome. Once publishers are printing fewer and fewer books, we can’t expect book manufacturers to sit around waiting for the next order. They require volume, and any decline in volume has to have serious repercussions.  Intuitively one thinks that “quite a distance” will be a long time, but my Cassandra side wants to say “Beware of tipping points”.


Colombia-Magical-Realism-2-399x600Colombia is promoting tourism by associating itself with “magic realism” — not a genre which draws me, but I know I’m in the minority. Edward Nawotka’s piece in Publishing Perspectives alludes to England’s use of Shakespeare to attract tourists. I can’t imagine that Scotland hasn’t touted Robert Burns too. Nawotka wonders how other countries might use their literature to promote tourism.

In this age of e-readers, I would applaud the tourism department that put out a sensible, serious booklist of books you might want to read before and during your visit to your destination. Of course it doesn’t have to be e-books only — it’s just that they are (obviously) easier to pack than a pile of printed books. I find I’m always scurrying around trying to find the perfect book to read when I’m going to wherever.

The story that is referenced in the Publishing Perspectives piece, Near-Extinct Birds of the Cordillera is well worth reading — though not as a tourist-draw.

We are often told that sales of e-books have plateaued — the implication being that we can now get back to the good old business we all love, making and selling print books. But not so fast — the numbers we use are almost always not really comparable, being based on different subsets of the world of books. Sam Missingham’s post from May on The Bookseller‘s blog Future Book analyses the numbers and puts an important corrective into the calculations.


BUT . . . see this from Shelf Awareness, 20 September 2013

AAP Sales for First Half of 2013: E-books Slip

In the first half of the year, total net book sales fell 4.5%, to $5.491 billion, compared to the first half of 2012, In the first half of the year, total net books sales fell 4.5%, to $5.491 billion, compared to the first half of 2012, representing sales of 1,196 publishers and distributed clients as reported to the Association of American Publishers.Adult e-book sales have slowed considerably in 2013, growing only 4.8% in the first six months of the year and trending downward: they were in negative territory in May and June, off 4.3% and 8.7%, respectively. At the same time, Children’s/YA e-books sales fell 45.6% in the period. It’s a striking change for a category that had triple-digit growth for several years and was heralded by some as a medium that would take over the book world.

Other than paperbacks, children’s/YA had the biggest drops in sales, and mass market and adult paperbacks were off 7.4% and 11.5%, respectively. Adult hardcovers had a gain of 7.4%.

Category                                   Sales                   % Change

University press e-books           $6.2 million        50.7%

Downloaded audio                    $61.6 million       12.6%

Adult hardcovers                     $580.7 million         7.4%

Religious e-books                       $35.4 million         5.5%

Children’s/YA paperbacks      $244.6 million        5.4%

University paperbacks              $21.6 million         4.8%

Adult e-books                            $647.7 million         4.8%

K-12                                            $1.128 billion         1.5%

Religious paperbacks                $73.8 million        -0.7%

Religious hardcovers              $130.2 million         -2%

Physical audiobooks                $35.2 million         -3.3%

University hardcovers             $19.3 million          -3.7%

Professional publishing        $283.4 million          -3.8%

Children’s board books          $20.9 million          -7.3%

Mass market                            $184.4 million          -7.4%

Adult paperbacks                   $635.1 million        -11.5%

Children’s/YA hardcovers    $267.2 million        -31.5%

Children’s/YA e-books            $83.7 million         -45.6%

In terms of e-books the big loser has been Children’s and Young Adult — but then they lost big in print books too. Maybe there’s an explanation for this dip. But overall, bear in mind Sam Missingham’s main point — these numbers represent part of the total market only.


As most people in publishing are aware, Kirkus Reviews is a monthly magazine which reviews a sizable proportion of the books published each year. They work from bound galleys (Advanced Readers Copies) so that the reviews can be available before publication to assist bookstores and librarians in their purchasing decisions. This year it celebrates its eightieth anniversary. (By coincidence it was for a short time owned by The New York Review of Books, which is also celebrating an anniversary this year — its fiftieth.)

Clay Smith, Kirkus’ features editor, has written a useful history of the publication in the latest issue — this is available online.

As reported by Publishing Perspectives today, “In celebration of this year’s anniversary, Kirkus Reviews is holding a contest to give away a literary tour of New York. The winner will receive two round-trip tickets to Manhattan, two nights’ stay at the Library Hotel, two passes to the Greenwich Village Literary Pub Crawl, bookstore gift certificates, breakfast at a round table at the Algonquin and more. The contest is now open and will close on October 22, 2013, with the winner announced the next day. Visit to enter or learn more.”

UnknownThough the camera lucida is not a conventional bit of the book manufacturing process, now that I am no longer working, I am planning to use one to create an illustrated edition (one-off) of Thomas Hardy’s book-length poem, The Dynasts: An Epic-Drama of the War with Napoleon, in Three Parts, Nineteen Acts, and One Hundred and Thirty Scenes. The Time Covered by the Action Being About Ten Years. A somewhat daunting task when one reads the subtitle Hardy gave it: I hope that this hostage to fortune will not come back to reproach me. The piece is so graphically dramatic that I kept thinking it should be a TV mini series — but who’d risk money making such a thing for a potential audience of one (well maybe two or three) viewers. An illustrated edition seemed the perfect solution, and with a big blank book (a dummy rescued from work) I am ready to go.

It was David Hockney who drew attention to the camera lucida about a decade ago, and below in three rather abruptly divided bits is an interview with Charlie Rose, which gives you a lot of the history of its use. I am not however building a contraption which will result in an upside-down image projected onto a wall — technology has saved me from that. I have bought an app for the iPad! At $4.99 it is truly a bit of magic, and I cannot imagine anyone involved in the graphic arts who wouldn’t be totally delighted to have such a thing.

I plan to use the iPad to project the text onto the page (I do have a PDF of the text as a starting point). I will be reproducing every letter with my Rapidograph, and I admit that just writing this does make my right hand feel tired. The app will obviously be invaluable for many illustrations, though I expect as time goes by my fluidity in drawing Napoleonic soldiers will develop beyond this “crutch”. As the Charlie Rose interview shows people find it hard to get beyond seeing the camera lucida as “cheating”, though it is of course foolish for any craftsman/artist to abjure any technique which advances his aim. It’s interesting to see how David Hockney, the artist, almost can’t understand how anyone could have any objection to the use of a camera lucida.

IMG_0049Here’s drawing of Izzy, one of my granddaughters, which I had copied from a photo ten minutes after getting the app.

These You Tube videos are accessible via the Arion Press link in my previous post, but because of their interest I show them here. The first one is more general, while the second focusses on the hot metal process. Both were occasioned by the completion of Arion Press’ Bible in 2001.

Arion Press is not the only fine press still operating, but it may be the best known. My familiarity with their work is restricted to the trade edition of their Moby-Dick, illustrated by Barry Moser and published in 1981 by University of California Press. It is a reduced, one-color version of the Arion 1979 10″ x 15″ folio, which was “printed on dampened handmade paper by a platen letterpress with a craftsmanship that limited the original publication to 265 copies”.

The Boston Globe published a story about the press on 2 September, prompted by an article in Harvard Magazine which describes the Arion Press edition of John Ashbery’s Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror, printed on handmade 18″ round pages contained in a metal canister with a convex mirror on its top. The work is introduced by Helen Vendler. The Harvard Magazine article is headed “A nearly perfect book”.

hoyembibleAndrew Hoyem, who runs Arion, says of his work “I’m not doing it in order to uphold a standard of traditional letterpress books as against trade books, as against hardcover books, as against paperbacks, as against e-books. I’m making what I hope to have regarded as works of art.” I hope we will benefit from Mr Hoyem’s work, and of course the other craftsmen/artists like him, for years to come. Whenever people say that, despite the popularity of e-books, printed books will always survive, I think of this sort of art book, lovingly typeset, printed and bound, and sold at a price which takes us back to the early days of book making, before the product had reaped the benefits of mass production.

The Arion Press website says they run tours of their operation, located in the Presidio in San Francisco. It also features videos and television interviews.

See also the next post, Hot metal at Arion, which contains a couple of videos.

Bookstores close and bookstores open — niches seem to appear and get filled by new specialty bookstores. Are we seeing more bookstores or fewer? My January post about openings and closings was meant to be mildly optimistic. The biggest threat seems to me to be not so much e-books (though of course that is a threat) but showrooming — treating your bookstore as a place where you go to look at books not to buy them. If this story from Publishing Perspectives early in July is accurate, then we have do a problem. Losing over 60% of your customers to on-line is not sustainable. A year ago I pessimistically suggested the library as showroom. I wonder.

Simba Information brings us this report which appears to undercut the recent opinion of The Economist. Of course one of the things we have to keep reminding ourselves is that there isn’t really any such thing as “the publishing business” — it’s really a bunch of different businesses, and what may be true for STM may not be true for trade, or reference, or academic and professional. Also, different reports will inevitably focus on different things, and while this report seems to imply that e-books are “a bad thing”, it really doesn’t say anything about profitability. The fact that “leading medical publishers are moving aggressively to develop and acquire information-based products that are often accessed via mobile devices and can be integrated into the workflow within the health care system” actually tends to reinforce The Economist‘s point, doesn’t it?

Stamford, CT (PRWEB) September 04, 2013 — Medical and health care e-books titles are hot – unfortunately for publishers, the double-digit growth rate for e-books has not countered print book losses and other challenges to their traditional business model. Global sales in the medical publishing market fell 2.4% to $10.1 billion in 2012, according to the most recent report from media and publishing intelligence firm Simba Information.

The report, “Global Medical Publishing 2013-2014”, found that the worldwide recession had a broad impact on the revenue streams of medical publishers. Academic institutions faced budget pressure, which made subscription renewals difficult. Corporate customers and advertisers also cut back their spending in light of the recession’s impact. Globally, the market has been flat since 2010. Books and pharmaceutical journal advertising are on the decline. Thomson Reuters and McGraw Hill, once market leaders, have sold their medical publishing businesses.

The patterns have been clear for several years, but accelerated in 2012, particularly the decline in book sales. Simba estimates that medical book sales fell 2.5% to $2.96 billion in 2012.

In response to the market’s challenges, other leading medical publishers are moving aggressively to develop and acquire information-based products that are often accessed via mobile devices and can be integrated into the workflow within the health care system. Individual print book sales, a mainstay in medicine and nursing textbooks, are being supplanted by applications on tablets and mobile phones, electronic references and other online services.

As a result, online services continue to be the fastest growing activity in medical publishing – up an estimated 3.8% in 2012. The developed world and English language are particularly important to this sector, but much of the growth comes from emerging markets like the Middle East and South East Asia where investments are being made in upgrading health care systems.

“Global Medical Publishing 2013-2014” provides detailed market information for medical and health care publishing, segmented by delivery medium: journals, books, online services, newsletters/looseleafs/directories and other activities (audio, video and CD-ROM). It analyzes trends impacting the industry and forecasts market growth to 2016. The report includes an in-depth review of 15 leading medical publishers, including Reed Elsevier, Wolters Kluwer, Truven Health Analytics, Springer Science+Business Media, John Wily & Sons, Igaku-Shoin, Thieme, American Medical Association, Epocrates and others.

Additional information on the report can be found at or by calling 888-29-SIMBA.

This Kiosk Prints Magazines and Newspapers As They’re Purchased

Many people are claiming that these new Meganews Magazines autonomous newstands could save the print industry. That’s maybe a bit optimistic, but at the least they’ll help reduce the mountains of wasted paper from unsold magazines since the over-sized vending machine only prints publications when they’re ordered, in just two minutes.

The kiosk has access to a remote server where publishers upload the latest editions of their periodicals, and using a touchscreen interface customers can browse more than 200 different magazines, newspapers, or journals. When they come across an issue they want to buy, a simple credit card transaction results in a high-quality, freshly printed copy courtesy of a high-speed Ricoh printer on the inside. And the first machine has officially been installed in Stockholm, Sweden.

Not only does it reduce the amount of paper used, the Meganews Magazines kiosk takes up less space than a magazine store. So it can be installed and operated in places where retail space doesn’t already exist. It also ensures that not a single magazine sold is folded, crumpled, or mangled by browsers who are just killing time. [Meganews via Notcot]