TIME Books

Adult Books Sales Are Down and Young Adult Soars in 2014

The Fault In Our Stars
Dutton Books

Book sales are booming, according to statistics released this week by the Association of American Publishers, which showed that in the first three-quarters of 2014, overall book sales increased by 4.9%.

But the real page-turners that flew off the shelves were for children and young adults–those categories increased by a whopping 22.4% from Jan.-Sept. 2013 to the same period in 2014, Media Bistro reports. To put things into perspective, adult fiction and non-fiction sales were down 3.3%.

But this doesn’t necessarily mean that adults stopped reading. They might just be expanding their palates to healthy servings of John Green and other YA heavy-hitters.

Adults reading YA wouldn’t be a new phenomenon. According to a 2012 survey by Bowker Market Research found that 55% of young adult novels are bought by adults — 28% of which are made up of the 33 to 44 demographic. That statistic drew some criticism aimed at YA-loving adults this summer–balanced by an overwhelming wave of pieces defending adults who love the genre.

While the AAP didn’t track who bought what books, it did note that children and young adult ebooks increased a total of 52.7% in the first nine months this year. And a December study by Nielsen found that even though teenagers are tech savvy, only $20 of them buy ebooks and express a strong preference for print.

Although no need to hide The Fault of Our Stars in that Kindle — it’s no 50 Shades of Grey, after all.

TIME deals

Amazon Buries the Hachette, Signs New Pact With Book Publisher

An employee places packed goods on a conveyor belt for shipment at Amazon's Brieselang logistics center west of Berlin on Nov. 11, 2014.
An employee places packed goods on a conveyor belt for shipment at Amazon's Brieselang logistics center west of Berlin on Nov. 11, 2014. John MacDougall—AFP/Getty Images

The online retailer and book publisher have ended months of contentious negotiations with a new multiyear agreement

Amazon and Hachette Book Group have put hostilities aside, ending their long-running and very public contract dispute over e-book pricing by signing a new multiyear agreement.

The online retail giant and the book publisher, which have been at odds since May, announced Thursday that they have finally reached a compromise after months of contentious negotiations, the New York Times reported. The dispute saw Amazon delay shipments of Hachette titles and remove discounts previously offered on the publisher’s products. The companies did not release terms of the new deal, the newspaper said. The pact covers sales of e-books and print products.

The reported deal, which goes into effect early next year, will allow Hachette to set prices for its e-books. David Naggar, vice president for Amazon’s Kindle division, said in a statement that the agreement “includes specific financial incentives for Hachette to deliver lower prices.”

“This is great news for writers,” Hachette CEO Michael Pietsch said in a statement. “The new agreement will benefit Hachette authors for years to come. It gives Hachette enormous marketing capability with one of our most important bookselling partners.”

Amazon earned itself something of a public relations black eye as a result of the strong-arm negotiating tactics, causing a backlash among authors, many of whom backed a boycott of the online retailer that was led by television host Stephen Colbert. Amazon was looking for a larger share of e-book revenues, but was met with resistance from Hachette.

Authors under contract with Hachette publicly complained about a drop in their book sales, causing them to worry about a loss of royalties. In July, Amazon tried to make peace with Hachette authors by offering them 100% of digital book sales for as long as talks with Hachette dragged out — a proposal that Hachette had already turned down in negotiations.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME Companies

Amazon’s Dispute With Hachette Might Finally Be Hurting Its Sales

The book industry nurtured Amazon's growth. Now the online retailer's war against publishers is a thorn in its side

The book business launched Amazon to success, and now it’s hurting the online retailer’s growth.

Amazon announced its worst quarterly loss in 14 years Thursday, losing $437 million in three months. One of its worst-performing segments? Amazon’s old core business: North American book, movie and music sales. The segment’s sales increased a mere 4.8% from 2013, the slowest growth for the category in more than five years. That compares with a 17.8% growth in that segment a year ago.

Amazon chalked up the slow media segment growth to fewer students buying textbooks, but that doesn’t seem to be the whole story. In fact, the company’s woes may in part be related to its damaging publicity spat with the publisher Hachette.

Here’s a quick recap of what happened: earlier this year, Amazon demanded Hachette give up a larger cut of its book sales; Hachette demurred. Amazon then increased shipping times on Hachette books, raised Hachette book prices, and redirected customers to other publishers on its website. Hachette, determined to hold its ground, rallied authors to its side. In August, 900 authors, including Stephen King, Malcolm Gladwell, Barbara Kingsolver, Jane Smiley, John Grisham and James Patterson, signed a letter to Amazon defending Hachette, accusing Amazon of “selective retaliation” against writers.

There isn’t much visibility into what’s going behind closed doors and in sealed accounting documents at Amazon, but by targeting Hachette, Amazon is making it harder to buy the retailer’s own books. A customer deterred by an artificially long shipping time on a Hachette book is a sale lost. For a huge company like Amazon, that may be little more than a self-inflicted scratch, but it’s likely making difference.

And more importantly for the online retailer over the long term, the dispute may be hurting Amazon’s image and turning customers away. For book readers who love particular authors, it’s hard to forget when a bookstore is accused of having “directly targeted” a favorite writer. A literary-inclined crowd, already more likely to side with the letters people than the money people, may see the Hachette dispute as a turning point. “It’s logical that readers identify more with authors than with Amazon,” says Colin Gillis of BGC Financial. “Amazon is a service. You may like the service but you build a relationship with authors.” If book lovers ultimately decide that Amazon is bad for authors, Amazon could lose its hold on the very business that nurtured its growth.

 

 

TIME Media

Gannett To Split Print and Broadcast/Digital Divisions

Gannett announced that it will separate its broadcasting and publishing businesses into two separate companies

Gannett, owner of USA Today and 81 local newspapers, announced Tuesday it will split its broadcasting/digital business and its publishing division into two distinct, publicly-traded companies.

The company is separating the two areas to protect its more profitable digital and broadcasting component from its less profitable publishing line.

Gannett CEO Gracia Martore said in a statement that “the bold actions we are announcing today are significant next steps in our ongoing initiatives to increase shareholder value by building scale, increasing cash flow, sharpening management focus and strengthening all of our businesses to compete effectively in today’s increasingly digital landscape.”

 

TIME Books

Are You There God? It’s Judy Blume’s New Novel for Adults

Author and producer Judy Blume attends "Tiger Eyes" New York Premiere at AMC Empire on June 7, 2013 in New York City.
Author and producer Judy Blume attends "Tiger Eyes" New York Premiere at AMC Empire on June 7, 2013 in New York City. Robin Marchant—Getty Images

It's never too early to start a 2015 summer reading list

Don’t worry, Margaret, God has been listening to your prayers. Iconic children’s book author Judy Blume will be treating her grown up fans to a new novel slated to be released in the summer of 2015 by Knopf.

The untitled publication will be Blume’s first adult novel since 1998. She will be reuniting with Carole Baron, who edited Summer Sisters.

“Carole and Judy have a long history together, and have been discussing this project for the last four years,” Knopf VP Director of Publicity Nicholas Latimer said. “When our head of house announced this acquisition at our editorial meeting last Thursday, everyone in the room broke out into applause. All as a way of saying, many Judy fans here!”

The editorial staff isn’t alone. Blume wrote childhood classics including Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Blubber, Deenie, and Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret.

We must, we must, we must get our hands on an advanced reader copy ASAP.

TIME Companies

Amazon and Warner Bros. May Have Buried the Hatchet

Movie Stills Database/Warner Bros.

The dispute between Amazon and Warner Bros. seems to be coming to a close. The Wall Street Journal reports that the option to pre-order upcoming Warner Bros. DVDs and Blu-Rays like Transcendence and 300: Rise of an Empire has been restored on the online retailer’s website after disappearing last month. Amazon had reportedly been trying to negotiate more favorable pricing terms for Warner Bros. films.

The conflict echoed the much more public spat between Amazon and book publisher Hachette, which has been protracted over several months as the two sides negotiate pricing terms. In addition to removing the option to pre-order certain Hachette titles, Amazon has also slowed shipping of the publisher’s books to customers and recommended people buy books from competing publishers instead.

Amazon says it is using these tactics on behalf of its own customers. “Negotiating for acceptable terms is an essential business practice that is critical to keeping service and value high for customers in the medium and long term,” the company said in its only public statement on the dispute back in May.

Unlike the Warner Bros. conflict, Amazon said it does not expect its issues with Hachette to be resolved in the near future.

TIME Media

Here’s a Newspaper You Might Actually Want to Read

PaperLater targets an online audience that's nostalgic for newspapers

The days of reading a newspaper with a cup of Joe might be making a comeback. For those nostalgic for the morning paper — but yearning for the customization possibilities of online news — PaperLater might be for you.

It’s a news service that grabs user-selected online content and collates it into a printed newspaper that’s delivered to your doorstep.

Run by The Newspaper Club, a newspaper printing company based in the U.K., the project is currently in its beta phase and only available to Britons for now.

The company is optimistic. The Newspaper Club head of engineering Tom Taylor told PrintWeek that he expected to be producing thousands of papers per week as soon as more users joined.

But don’t expect the personalized newspaper experience to be cheap: each issue costs $8.37 (£4.99).

[PrintWeek]

TIME India

In India, Publishers Are Dumping Books Instead of Defending Them

INDIA-BUSINESS
An Indian book vendor arranges items at his shop in New Delhi's Old Quarter on Jan. 30, 2013. AFP—AFP/Getty Images

Cowed by pressure groups, Indian publishers are withdrawing scholarly titles deemed offensive to hard-line Hindus instead of defending them in court

Bucking the global decline in revenues, the business of books in India is actually expanding — and at an exponential rate — buoyed by a massive English-speaking market and a growing, educated middle-class hungry for, and able to afford, written work of every genre and format.

But instead of becoming more open, publishing in India these days — or at least scholarly publishing — operates in an anxious climate. Beset by vexatious legal notices, mostly from hard-line Hindu organizations offended by the portrayal of Hinduism in academic works, more and more publishers are practicing a form of self-censorship by dumping titles from their catalogs rather than going to the expense of defending them in court. The situation is grave enough that authors and academics voice fears for the future of political debate in the country. Since January, more than half a dozen highly acclaimed books have been withdrawn or placed on hold. Many more withdrawals may be in the pipeline, insiders say.

“What is the point of printing heaps of books when freedom of speech is not respected?” asks British author William Dalrymple, whose 2009 work Nine Lives: in Search of the Sacred in Modern India was a masterful survey of Indians and religious thought.

The latest casualty is a book titled Communalism and Sexual Violence: Ahmedabad Since 1969 by Megha Kumar, a young scholar at Oxford. Worryingly, no suit has been filed against the book itself, which is a rigorous look at the role of rape during sectarian troubles in the largest city of Gujarat, newly elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state. Instead, its publisher, the academic press Orient Blackswan, withdrew it from the market because a legal notice it received, concerning a textbook published a decade ago, caused it to review the rest of its catalog, including Kumar’s book.

That notice, from Dinanath Batra, convener of the Hindu group Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti, claimed that the textbook From Plassey to Partition: A History of Modern India, by Sekhar Bandyopadhyay, had portrayed another Hindu-nationalist organization in a bad light. Fearing that Communalism and Sexual Violence would attract similar legal action if it remained on sale, and concerned that its staff might suffer violent reprisals, Orient Blackswan told Kumar that her book would be set aside.

“What is troubling is that the publisher was not served a notice against Dr. Kumar’s book. The publisher is withdrawing books as a precautionary measure,” Dalrymple says.

Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti is the same group that came to an out-of-court settlement with Penguin India in February to withdraw from sale University of Chicago professor Wendy Doniger’s book The Hindus: An Alternative History. Publisher Penguin pulped all copies of the book in India, sparking global outrage from free-speech activists. (In April, Aleph Book Co. agreed that it would not reprint another of Doniger’s books, On Hinduism, until Batra’s objections to it were entertained by an independent panel of scholars. The book is currently unavailable.)

Batra has been filing cases under Section 153A and Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code, which deal with hate speech. But the publishers have nothing to worry about, says Lawrence Liang of the Alternative Law Forum, who has studied issues around free speech for the past 15 years. “There is nothing that can go against a publisher who decides to take on a legal battle on free speech. Fought correctly, they are bound to win,” says Liang. However, “they are just not willing to fight a legal battle fearing the rising economic costs involved in it. They find it cheaper to withdraw books.”

Many blame Penguin India for having set a precedent by conceding to the demands of Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti a few months ago. “It was an extremely shortsighted decision by Penguin — they saved a few dollars for the company at the cost of a free society for all,” says Dalrymple.

After Penguin withdrew Doniger’s book, two other Penguin authors, Siddharth Varadarajan and Jyotirmaya Sharma, announced their decision to withdraw their books in protest. Varadarajan will instead self-publish his book on the 2002 Gujarat riots.

“Such a scenario raises questions of academic living and working in India,” says Kumar. “What does this mean for the future of fearless debates and critical thinking in the country?”

TIME Technologizer

iBooks Author Is the Most Interesting Apple Software You Aren’t Using

BASIC book
A spread from the book I created with iBooks Author Harry McCracken / TIME

What is Apple’s iBooks platform?

The most obvious way to answer that question is to say that it’s the company’s equivalent of Amazon’s Kindle. And it is–they both offer online stores for buying digital tomes, and apps for reading them.

But merely likening iBooks to Kindle isn’t a very satisfactory way of explaining it. For all the similarities between them, their differences are at least as striking.

Kindle is about e-books anywhere and everywhere: On Amazon tablets, iPhones, iPads, Android phones and tablets, Windows Phones, Windows PCs and, most likely, any future devices with even the slightest bit of market traction. iBooks, by contrast, can only be read on Apple hardware: iPads, iPhones and Macs.

But Apple being Apple, iBooks is visually sumptuous–especially in the case of “Made for iBooks” books, which work only on the iPad and Mac versions of iBooks, not on the iPhone one. Such titles are created with a Mac program called iBooks Author, which lets you design stylish books that incorporate images, video, embedded web widgets and other trimmings. You can design something that feels a little like a coffee-table book and a little like an app, and then use Apple’s iBookstore to sell it or give it away.

And one of the neatest things about iBooks Author is that it’s a free download from the Mac App Store, designed to be as approachable as a word processor–giving anyone with a yen to publish an interactive book the same tool used by major publishers of textbooks and other titles.

(It’s possible, incidentally, to put together an attractive Kindle e-book–even one that embeds video and audio elements. But many Kindle books, even ones that should be highly visual, are less than gorgeous. For instance, I recently spent $26 for a Kindle book of photographs by Sammy Davis Jr.; the pictures are great, but the thing looks like it was laid out by a fourth grader in a version of Microsoft Word from 1992.)

Perfect Coffee
A page from Perfect Coffee at Home Apple

Apple unveiled iBooks Author in January 2012, at an event in New York that emphasized using it to create textbooks. It’s equally well-suited to other sorts of books that meld multiple types of media, especially ones with an instructional bent. The fact that it’s free, simple and connected to the iBookstore has let real people with something to say reach a meaningful readership, such as the two Afghanistan veterans who produced an engaging book titled Perfect Coffee at Home. (It became the iBookstore’s top cookbook.)

For an Apple product, though, iBooks Author has a low profile. It’s a bit of an outlier among Apple’s productivity apps, neither part of the iLife creativity suite (which includes programs such as iPhoto and iMovie), nor the iWork office suite (which includes the Pages word processor, Numbers spreadsheet and Keynote presentation package). But it’s as Apple-esque as any piece of software the company offers; if you can figure out any of those aforementioned apps, you’ll feel at home in this one.

To try out iBooks Author myself, I wrote and designed a short book. More specifically, I took the longest, most lavishly-illustrated article I’ve written recently for TIME.com–an 8,000-word opus on the 50th anniversary of the BASIC programming language–and turned it into a 29-page iBook. You can download it here.

iBooks template
iBooks Author’s template chooser Apple

For the most part, creating my book was a really easy process–one I accomplished over a couple of nights as I watched TV at home. I chose a template that automatically formatted the book for reading in both portrait and landscape orientations on an iPad, poured in the text, and decided where to position the photographs and animated GIFs from the web version. (The program automatically converted the GIFs into short videos.)

Working in iBooks Author feels a little like using Pages and a little like using Keynote. Other than pulling together the text and images and plopping them where I wanted, most of the effort on my end involved cleaning up the text here and there, such as making sure that all the imported quotation marks were curly quotes rather than plain straight ones. Every so often, I previewed my work in process by looking at it on my iPad–which, once you’ve connected the tablet to your Mac via USB, is a snap.

iBooks Author
Editing my book in iBooks Author Harry McCracken / TIME

The only part of the process that felt balky was getting columns of text to line up neatly: Sometimes they were uneven and I couldn’t nudge them into alignment. (I’ve noticed this to be an issue with some of the Made for iBooks titles I’ve downloaded from the iBookstore, too.)

Because my BASIC book was an experiment rather than a commercial product, I didn’t submit it to the iBookstore; if I had done so, it would have gone through an approval process akin to the one in place at Apple’s App Store. But you don’t need to use the iBookstore to get your works in front of readers, since you can also send iBooks files by e-mail or put them on websites.

iBooks cover
The cover of my iBooks Author book Harry McCracken / TIME

Which brings up another point that needs mentioning. Shortly after Apple announced iBooks Author, a kerfuffle broke out over the software’s license agreement. Just as with apps in the App Store, iBooks in the iBookstore can be free or come with a price attached. In the case of for-pay books, Apple collects a fee of 30 percent for distributing your work. None of that was surprising or controversial.

But the the catch is that the iBooks Author license agreement stipulates you can only charge for a book in iBooks format when you distribute it through Apple’s store, not if it’s available elsewhere. Basically, if anyone is making money off an iBook created with iBooks Author, Apple wants a cut.

That part, some people were very unhappy about. They tended to look at it as being equivalent to Microsoft demanding a fee whenever someone used Word to write something profitable.

I’ve wrestled with my feelings about the rule myself, and have concluded that I don’t find it all that bothersome. For one thing, you can output an iBooks Author file in PDF format; it will lose its video and interactive features, but you can do whatever you want with it, including selling it for money wherever you like. Even more than that, though, the fact that iBooks Author’s books only work on iPads and Macs means that if I invested a lot of effort in creating an e-book, I’d probably want to make it available in a non-iBooks version anyhow–which would give me options for monetizing it beyond the iBookstore.

It’s also hard to imagine that anyone’s going to come up with a better way to sell iBooks than the iBookstore, which has the advantage of being deeply integrated with the iBooks apps on millions of Apple devices.

Ultimately, the proposition Apple is offering–powerful and elegant free authoring software, plus a way to get the things you create with it in front of vast numbers of people–seems like a reasonable deal to me. The next time I have an idea that feels like it might be a book, I may well decide to turn it into an iBook.

TIME

Amazon’s War on Hachette Is Vintage Jeff Bezos—Controlling, Ruthless, Vicious… and Probably Good for Consumers

I would never want to work at Amazon—or be one of its suppliers. But I have to admit I like buying from the company.

Jeff Bezos is once again using ruthlessly self-serving tactics to pressure book publishers into lowering prices. In an attempt to force Hachette to lower its wholesale price of e-books, Bezos has started delaying delivery of some hard- and soft-cover Hachette books and raising prices on others.

Good for him. This is vintage Jeff Bezos: controlling, ruthless, vicious — and probably right.

Will his move further weaken book publishers, which are already operating under whisper-slim margins and are looking to e-books to save them? As the author of three books myself, all published by mainstream publishers, I worry about that myself.

But I very much doubt that will be the outcome. The ultimate winner of this battle will be buyers and readers of books. If Bezos wins this battle, I would bet that publishers and book authors may just come out ahead as well. And, yes, Amazon most certainly will, too.

The battle boils down to this: What is the optimal price for e-books? If it’s too high, fewer will be sold. Too low, profit margins will narrow even further. Bezos, head of the world’s biggest book retailer, thinks he has a better view than book publishers of what e-books should cost. He’s probably right.

Wall Street analysts have speculated that Bezos is trying to get publishers to lower the wholesale price of e-books because he wants to raise Amazon’s profit margins. Those margins are very tight right now. Earnings per share are currently $0.23, compared to $0.51 on Dec. 31, 2013.

I’m betting this speculation is wrong. Bezos’s tactic is more likely a ploy to reduce retail prices of e-books, not to increase Amazon’s profit margins.

Bezos, for all his many flaws, is one of the best business executives in the world — possibly the best. There is one outstanding attribute that makes him so: Bezos has always put his customers at the top of his priority list.

Unlike almost every other CEO of a publicly-traded company, Bezos does not consider his most important constituency to be shareholders, followed by the board of directors. Bezos knows that if customers are happy, everything else tends to fall into line in the long run.

Amazon’s margins have been tight or nonexistent before. It lost $0.60 per share in September 2012, and Bezos did not panic. In the last five days, since news of Bezos’s hardball tactics emerged, the stock price has increased about five percent (although that’s probably because shareholders mistakenly think this is a ploy to increase profit margins).

The brilliance of Bezos’s slim-margin strategy is that it’s better for everyone. He invests money back into the company, giving it a stronger future and expanding markets. Even shareholders have become used to it. When most companies report a loss or tiny profits, shareholders rebel and sell the stock. That can make it difficult for the company to raise money when needed by selling more stock. Indeed, Amazon’s stock price has dropped nearly 22 percent since the beginning of the year.

But the smart investors in Amazon are patient, possibly the most patient in the world. It’s too bad other CEOs don’t follow that strategy. Google has a similar strategy. Both companies can get away with low profit margins only because the founders hold a high percentage of voting stock and can’t be fired for taking risks. They cannot be fired for being too smart (although it’s hard to fire them for being too stupid as well).

The one time Bezos worked frantically to increase profitability was when the stock market crashed in 2000. Amazon had never made a profit up until then, and many other unprofitable dot-com companies were going broke and out of business. Bezos had to show that he could run a profitable company, so he fired people, cut out unprofitable businesses, and made Amazon profitable. He proved his point.

Bezos doesn’t ignore profit margins, he just takes them out of the hides of everyone except customers. He pays terrible wages, especially to low-end employees, strong-arms suppliers and business partners to lower prices, and invests in technologies and tactics that will reduce costs, often by firing more people. These are the tactics of a ruthless strategist.

I would never want to work at Amazon. But I have to admit I like buying from the company.

I don’t know if this tactic will get Amazon in trouble with antitrust regulators around the world. Estimates have said that Amazon controls about one-third of the paper book market and nearly twice that share of the e-book market. That certainly gives him enough clout to pressure suppliers when other retailers cannot.

Usually, however, monopolies are are attacked because they use their power to increase prices, not cut them. If Bezos simply uses a lower wholesale e-book price to increase profit margins, that could cause trouble with regulators. If he instead reduces e-book prices even more, there is little chance of government retaliation.

There may, in fact, be plenty of room to reduce e-book prices. E-books provide publishers with the highest profit margins of any type of book. A June 2013 report by Harper Collins showed that, although e-books were priced at slightly more than half that of hardcover books, the company itself collected 70 percent of the e-book price and just 49 percent of the hardcover price. E-books accounted for 75 percent of the publisher’s profits, compared to 41.4 percent for hardcover books. Further, e-books keep increasing their market share of all books published.

Lower prices are more likely to increase sales of e-books. Since there are no paper, printing or shipping costs for e-books, that would translate into almost pure profit increases, for Amazon, publishers, and authors.

If his tactics hurt the e-book market, Jeff Bezos will certainly back off. He’s too smart to destroy an industry that he relies upon so heavily. My biggest fear is that he will simply take over more and more of the e-book publishing businesses himself and bypass traditional publishers. That would certainly hurt everyone (including me).

His tactics are extraordinarily tough, perhaps mean-spirited. By putting the new paperback version Brad Stone’s critical book about Amazon on the list of titles targeted for delay, he just looks petty and vindictive. That’s an extraordinarily bad public relations move, Bezos’s biggest weakness.

What Bezos is doing, however, is trying to give increased momentum to e-books, where he clearly sees his future as a book retailer and publisher. If traditional publishers are smart enough to capitalize on that trend as well, everyone will come out ahead.

Richard L. Brandt is the author of several books including The Google Guys: Inside the Brilliant Minds of Larry Page and Sergey Brin and Capital Instincts: Life as an Entrepreneur, Financier and Athlete. His most recent book is One Click: Jeff Bezos and the Rise of Amazon.com.

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