Book publishing. And everything else.

Archive for the month “April, 2012”

At Some Point

the price of ebooks in promotions will drop to less than zero, and we’ll get paid for reading them:

Mr. Bryant, who formerly edited a sports magazine for The New York Times, said that Amazon’s “price bot” had picked up the fact that the book was being given away as part of a weeklong promotion and responded by dropping its price to zero.

B&N and Microsoft

As usual when this sort of thing happens, it’s useful to play “Once Upon A Time”.

Once upon a time, Barnes & Noble was up against Amazon. It was 1998 and they needed capital. So they partnered with Bertelsmann, who took a 50% stake in BarnesandNoble.com (for $200 million). After the IPO, Barnes & Noble bought Bertelsmann out – it was a limited partnership for a specific purpose. B&N.com needed cash to get it past the IPO phase.

As with so much these days, everything old is new again. Now it’s the Nook business that needs a strategic partnership prior to being spun off (and yes, I do believe the Nook arm will be spun off separately from the B&N mothership). This time Microsoft is ponying up $300 million (for which it is only getting 17.6% of the stake – which tells you a lot about the market capitalization and is the biggest red flag regarding a possible spinoff). According to the Wall Street Journal:

For the bookseller, the investment will mean access to more international markets, since Windows 8 is used across the globe. Currently, besides the Nook device, the Nook book-buying application is available only on the iPad and Android devices.

This tells me two things: (1) B&N is looking to expand its digital business internationally (which dovetails with the work Patricia Arancibia’s group is doing at B&N.com) and (2) B&N will continue to be available for Android devices because they announced nothing to the contrary today.

I’m reluctant to speculate more at this point.

Also…Newco? SERIOUSLY? Did the press release not get out of boilerplate before it went live?

What Inspires Me: Worldreader

Via Laura Hazard Owen.

It Wasn’t This Blurry In Real Life

Meanwhile, traffic cops were behind us trying to write tickets for our illegally parked cars.

After it flew by, people applauded and one guy said, “That was when the US could do something right.”

He meant well. People’s reactions to things like this are half the fun.

Il Mio Nonno

My grandfather was an airplane mechanic. The best period of his life was when he was in London during World War II, repairing planes for the Army. He was with the Army’s Eighth Air Force, which became the USAF later on.

He loved planes. And rockets.

On our mantel is the flag that draped his coffin when he died many years later – folded up and in a frame. Bernardo calls him “Nonno”, which is Italian for “Grandpa”. We talk to him, and sometimes move him around.

My dad was studying to be an aeronautical engineer when the call came to go into ministry. But he never lost his infatuation with planes.

And rockets.

My brother is now a chip designer for Oracle – but when he was little, he could identify planes as they flew overhead. As his older sister, it appalled me that this little kid had mysterious knowledge about planes that seemed to spring forth fully-articulated.

Don’t even get him started on rockets.

I never (consciously) went on a plane until my honeymoon in 1989, but since then of course I have been on them as much as any business traveler. Which is to say, I have come to regard planes as flying buses. Still, there’s something compelling and mythological about air travel that seems to be in my veins. When I commuted to Huntsville for my job at Sirsi, I stayed in the Marriott next to Space Camp, which had a shuttle out front.

Today I’m going up to the big hill nearby to catch a glimpse of the Enterprise piggy-backing on the jerry-rigged 747 as it flies by New York City. My debate: should I take Nonno?

Probably not. I’ll just tell him about it later.

Once Again

Brian O’Leary is far more eloquent than I will ever be.

But let’s not let that stop us, shall we?

Bernardo and I finished our re-watch of The Wire last night. Season 5, the journalism season, was the worst of the bunch. All that sentimentality over what makes a real journalist (and I imagine cops feel the same way about Simon’s constant invocation of “real police work”) just made me want to collar Clark Johnson and ask him, “Do you cringe when those words come out of your mouth?”

I came to this city with the intention of being a writer. Well, actually a Writer – one of the denizens of Elaine’s (which I was, for about a year); I was going to write for The New Yorker and Esquire, and publish incisive novels. I had nostalgia for that milieu before I was even a part of it, and I wanted desperately to be “a real writer”. And we are walloped by that sense in David Simon’s work – that anything that doesn’t conform to his notions of authenticity is less than “real,” and authenticity was more authentic In The Past. The Wire really is the best show that television has ever created. But it’s shot through with an unfortunate Holden Caulfield-ism, the fifth season more than any of the others – and I suspect that this indulgence on Simon’s part is because it’s the season about his industry.

I got the shit kicked out of my faux nostalgia – by the need to earn a living, by the Internet, by my own passions which evolved over the years. I saw, as the book business morphed (and is still morphing) that there is no one single authenticity. The way we do things now is just as “real”, just as authentic, as the way we did them 30 or a hundred or five hundred years ago.

Yes, writers should be compensated for their talents. So should musicians, filmmakers, and painters. So should designers and creators of any sort. But that compensation can come from anywhere. It does not have to be transactional art – “I create, you pay”. There are many models – public art, patronized/sponsored art, subscription art (such as HBO). Simon’s argument is simplistic, and borne of the privilege of someone who has not needed to extend himself beyond that era where he felt most at home.


A Thursday Afternoon ONIX Twitter Convo

with the extremely savvy Brett Sandusky.

Of Deprecated Tags

Someone at metadata subcommittee meeting years back, asking about ONIX: “Why was this tag deprecated?”

Response: “Because it was simple and easy to use.”

ONIX for Publishers

Message from an ONIX recipient:

Dear Publishers,

ONIX is not your internal database.  No, really, it’s not.  Just because you have a field in your database for your own private use doesn’t mean anyone outside your company gives a shit about it.  No, really.  Seriously.  We. Don’t. Care.

Or to paraphrase [redacted in the Metadata Committee meeting]: “I’m not going to object to the addition of this tag in ONIX, but I have no idea why publishers think it needs to be added.  We have no intention of ever using this information and we don’t know of anyone who does, but if you want it in there to make you happy, then fine.  Just don’t expect to see the information displayed anywhere, ever.”

This was met with resounding silence, which I assume means all the publishers were like, “Great, then we’ll get it added, thanks!”

Yes, let’s talk about audiences for metadata, shall we?

ONIX for…Wait, What Is A Book Anyway?

On Apr 26, 2012, at 11:42 AM, [redacted] wrote: 




Oh wait, it’s called “ONIX for Books”.  Gosh, I would never have guessed that from reading the product record documentation.


From: Laura Dawson

Sent: Thursday, April 26, 2012 11:44 AM

To: [redacted]

Subject: Re: onix for universities…

Well, there is that whole thing about what is a book anyway….


From: [redacted]

Subject: RE: onix for universities…

Date: April 26, 2012 11:44:27 AM EDT

To: LAURA DAWSON <ljndawson@gmail.com>

*stares at you with slowly narrowing eyes*



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