More on the Amazon used-book market

This post was written by guest blogger Andy Fine.

On July 28, the idea that Amazon’s used book market might actually help new book sales was explored right here. The next day, the New York Times ran a story on that very subject. Coincidence?

Actually, the NYT story (here, via CNet) explores the idea in a little more detail. If you want real, live scientific data to back up the theory (something we are not particuarly concerned with here at, there it is, courtesy of the Yale School of Management and Chicago Business School.


This post was written by guest blogger Andy Fine.

IC Wales reports that a new publishing company plans to sell individual short stories in book form in cafes and train stations across the country — presunably only in Wales . . . .

The founders of Leaf – a University of Glamorgan spin-out company – believe they can tap into a ready market of people hungry for ‘something to read’.

Cecilia Morreau and Barrie Llewellyn want to create a platform from which writers can get short stories published and readers can rediscover the form.

The A6 books are designed to be small enough to fit into a pocket and each book will be a short story or short piece of non-fiction written by established and new writers.

As well as publishing new writing, it intends to republish great short stories of the past. The partners are inspired by the short works of Charles Dickens and DH Lawrence which gripped readers throughout Britain.


Maud here. I’m away for a week or two, and Andy is stepping in. I’ve pre-posted some items, including these quick links, to appear while I’m gone. Have a good weekend.

If The Unstrung Harp (or, Mr. Earbrass Writes a Novel) left you desperate for more Edward Gorey, don’t miss The Gashlycrumb Tinies, an alphabet book featuring renderings of twenty-six doomed children: “‘A’ is for Amy, who fell down the stairs. ‘B’ is for Basil, assaulted by bears…” Because I am the world’s worst adult, I gave my beloved 11-year-old stepdaughter a copy last December, thinking she’d get a kick out of it.

She read the first three or four panels; then she closed the book and looked at me sadly. “That’s horrible, Maud,” she said. “Why do you always like depressing things?” Good question. Poor kid.

There are too many other Gorey books to list, but The Curious Sofa: A Pornographic Work by Ogdred Weary was the first books I read. I blundered upon it in the University of Florida’s library stacks and carried it far from a table of frat boys to read it, just in case it really was pornographic. I didn’t want the smell of their aftershave — Drakkar, every last one of ’em — to kill the buzz.

File under “counter-intuitive”

This post was written by guest blogger Andy Fine.

Turns out the used book market on may actually help boost sales of new books…. (via Techdirt).

here are a couple of explanations for this. First, an active used book market means that newer books have a higher resale value (effectively allowing people to estimate how much it costs to “rent” a book). Secondly, it turns out that many people simply don’t view used books as a substitute for new books. That is, many people only buy used books or only buy new books. On top of all of that, giving customers more choice tends to increase the overall size of the market, whether by giving them more reasons to come back or by introducing them to something new that encourages them to buy more.

This guy REALLY lives off the grid

This post was written by guest blogger Andy Fine.

Cadillac Man, a homeless Queens resident, just got a book deal. Given the following I’m just happy the guy lived long enough to actually write something:

“I have lived homeless in Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Queens, all the boroughs of New York City save Staten Island,” Cadillac wrote. “I have been urinated on because some people find that amusing and I’ve been shot at for the same reason, I have been given food mixed with bleach and food with scouring powder as garnish, I have fought dozens of fights using fists, feet, knees, elbows, blackjacks, ice picks, tire irons, chains, pipes, bricks, cans of soda, rocks, M-80 explosives, garbage cans, and even other people as weapons, never guns.”

Good thing he stayed out of Staten Island, eh?

Book TV starts new reality show: Growing Up Bronte

This post was written by guest blogger Andy Fine.

A new reality show on Book TV will feature aspiring writers vying for the Bronte house in a Big Brother-meets-1800’s-House elimination tournament. Each week, two teams — the Published vs. the Unpublished — will compete in various literary challenges while simultaneously living in an authentic 1850’s environment. Some examples of planned challenges include:

  • A Haiku challenge, where writers must produce Haiku based on the ingredients found on cans of Dinty Moore Beef Stew.
  • A timed contest to see who can get their agent on the phone with the least number of annoying phone calls.
  • A contest to see who can actually still type on an old manual Underwood.
  • A Sylvia Plath trivia contest.
  • A contest to see who can come up with the most marketable pen name for a mysterious writer who “lives off the grid.”
  • The winner will get to keep Bronte’s house.

    OK, that was all a total lie. But Charlotte Bronte’s house is actually for sale for only 365,000.00 British Monopoly Dollars (I couldn’t figure out how to type the “pounds sterling” symbol). Click here for the article.

    Review of Forbes review

    This post was written by guest blogger Andy Fine.

    So Forbes posted a review of Pretty cool, actually; however, there are just a couple of minor mistakes I’d like to correct — with Maud being gone and all, someone’s got to do it.

    Since 2002, New Yorker Maud Newton has been blogging about books, and her site possesses a well-honed individual style others lack–the classy, unique design is not a slave to the utilitarian trappings of blogspot and typepad, and her commentary is neither self-importantly cranky nor overly earnest. Although Maud doesn’t review books, she is gifted at locating shrewd remarks from external sources (Ben Rutter on Cormac McCarthy’s new book: “How is it possible to be a nihilist and a pessimist at once? Nothingness can’t be getting worse.”) and compiling such literary idiosyncrasies as Jonathan Safran Foer’s new libretto, the BBCs new “soap opera” version of Bleak House and how much it costs to enter William Faulkner’s restored house. Periodically Maud posts an exhaustive list of under-publicized New York literary happenings.

    Umm, I think she reviews books every now and then. The archives are there for a reason, dudes.

    BEST: Maud’s occasional personal anecdotes remind readers that she is an actual person who lives a life, reading and writing, and is not just an information-gathering automaton.

    I’m not Maud, but I will provide this amusing Maud-related anecdote. As loyal readers know, Maud and I took a creative writing class together at the University of Florida. The class was taught by Harry Crews, a wonderful man in spite of the fact that he was a wee bit nuts. The class was a three-hour block so we got a couple of breaks each class, and somehow we ended up hanging around together during the breaks, commiserating about the shitty grades Crews was giving us (OK, that may have just been me), stupid people in the class, etc. I think I may have also spent some time complaining about my girlfriend, my mother, the weather, the color of the moon, and the fact that the vending machines outside our classroom were always stocked with crap. How can you not put M&M’s in a vending machine? Maud, to her credit, never hit me in the head with one of the loose Turlington Plaza bricks to shut me up. Continue reading…

    Thursday funnies

    Maud here. I’m away for a week or two, and Andy is stepping in. I’ve pre-posted some items, including these quick links, to appear while I’m gone. Hope all’s well, chickadees.

    • Had that affirmational “Desiderata” poem forwarded in email one too many times? Then enjoy this different (and slightly more jaded) take courtesy of National Lampoon — with music by Christopher Guest. (Thanks to Voltage.)

    See ya tomorrow

    This post was written by guest blogger Andy Fine.

    I will be continuing my tour of great American cities with a four-day sojurn to New York City to visit my lovely sort-of-interning-for-two-weeks wife and to drink at my all-time-favorite-cheesy-theme-bar, Pravda.

    I will try to fulfill my posting requirements while simultaneously attempting to verify that Maud (and by implication, this whole site) is not a clever publishing-industry fraud created only to sell a forthcoming book.

    Bret Easton Ellis recognizes the marketing savvy of the amazing John Twelve Hawks*

    This post was written by guest blogger Andy Fine.

    This kind of marketing is all the rage these days, apparently.

    An “official” website and a “fan” site devoted to the career of an actress called Jayne Dennis are not what they seem. Jayne Dennis is not a real person: she is a character in Bret Easton Ellis’s novel Lunar Park, due out next month, which the sites are promoting. It’s clever; except, why would browsers look for sites ( and devoted to a fictitious actress they’ve never heard of?

    Courtesy of The Times Online.

    *Full Disclosure: I am obsessed with both of these guys. Ellis wrote one of my favorite short stories of all time, and what’s not to love about a guy with the cojones to give himself the pen name “John TWELVE Hawks”? I guess ten hawks just weren’t enough.

    P.S. I just discovered there is a slick Lunar Park website as well. Wave of the future, dear readers — good thing Maud has an excellent captive webmaster.

    Last but not least: Harry Potter = a new polynesian island for Jeff Bezos

    This post was written by guest blogger Andy Fine.

    Or whatever else Bezos fees like buying . . . . Thanks in part to Potter, Amazon is up 26%. Word. At $43 per share, that means Bezos is worth about — a zillion dollars?

    Makes my January prediction that Amazon was about to go under look pretty fucking stupid, eh? It’s your own fault — how dumb do you have to be to take stock tips from a blog? I’m just saving you from yourself.

    Life behind the veil, in one dimension

    Maud here. I’m away for a week or two, and Andy is stepping in. I’ve pre-posted some items to appear while I’m gone.

    My friend Laila Lalami recently passed along her critical take on The Almond: The Sexual Awakening of a Muslim Woman. Whereas the New York Times reviewer characterizes the book as “a matter-of-fact look at the sex lives of women in Islamic societies,” Lalami critiques its representation of Moroccan culture and ritual, and its facile (if sometimes deftly erotic) representation of Muslim women’s emotional and sensual lives. Her critique is scheduled to appear at roughly the same time as this post. Here’s an excerpt:

    At a time when only 3% of fiction published in the US today originally appeared in another language, and when internationally renowned authors are having trouble finding American publishers, the attention heaped on The Almond is quite rare. But it is not surprising. It’s an excellent time to be writing about the “plight of Muslim women,” about “life behind the veil,” and other assorted topics. But in their rush to hear about the sexual lives of Muslim women, few reviewers have bothered to engage the novel critically. And, of course, none are Muslim or North African, much less Moroccan.

    What’s “Muggle” in Spanish?

    This post was written by guest blogger Andy Fine.

    The Chicago Tribune reports on the difficulties of translating Harry Potter into Spanish, and on the potential of Spanish-language publishing.

    While millions have already finished the sixth book in J.K. Rowling’s fantasy series, fans hoping to read it in other languages will have to wait. Translating a 672-page book is a long process, made longer by the strict security imposed on “Half-Blood Prince” by Rowling and her publishers: Translators didn’t get to see the book until it officially came out, July 16.

    . . . .

    With the Hispanic population topping 35 million in the United States, the book industry is well aware of the Spanish-language market, by far the biggest non-English market in the country. Random House, Inc., Harper Collins and Simon & Schuster are among the publishers with Spanish-language imprints; the superstore chains Barnes & Noble, Inc., and Borders Group have expanded their Spanish offerings.

    “We’ve consistently seen double-digit growth for the last number of years,” says Randi Sonenshein, Border’s category manager for books in Spanish. She said demand was high both for books originally published in Spanish, such as the novels of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and for books in translation, such as “Da Vinci Code” author Dan Brown’s works.

    But getting translations into stores is often frustrating — sometimes hurried, sometimes slow. A number of factors can interfere: delays in getting the manuscript to translators; the intricacies of translation, especially for literary fiction; and a reluctance even to commit to a Spanish edition until the English work has proved successful.

    Even the Communists know book chains are killing the publishing industry

    This post was written by guest blogger Andy Fine.

    Even Chinese Marxists see impending death in the global publishing industry:

    From The People’s Daily Online via Political Affairs Online.

    The latest book of Harry Potter series, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” is bound to shatter all publishing records. Every installment of the saga enjoyed ready markets and three of them have been made into movies, and money has been flooding in for the author, J. K. Rowling. For the global publishing industry that is troubled by limited profit growth, the “magic” of Harry Potter is real and dazzling, said a report of China Business News.

    . . . .

    Viewed from every angle, the miraculous sales of Potter books do create a phenomenon across the world publishing industry. By now 270 million copies from this series have been sold globally, which is quite rare on the sluggish book publishing markets.

    Potter cannot reverse the downward trend

    J. K. Rowling deserves the glory and wealth, for she dragged children back to reading from e-games and TV with her books. Movie copyrights and books have earned her 500 million pounds, put her among the only two writers on this year’s Fortune list, the other being Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code. However, such a victory alone cannot cover up the downturn of the publishing industry as a whole.

    According to PwC statistics, in 2004 the global book sales were 107 billion US dollars, only 1.5 percent higher than the previous year. The growth this year may reach 3 percent considering Harry Potter and the US President Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act.

    But all publishers must be clear about one thing: their leadership has drifted away. During the past few years, controlling power of this sector shifted from publishers to booksellers. Booksellers expanded through mergers have grown rapidly, with large chain stores, such as Britain’s Waterstones and American Barnes & Noble, leading book selling and eyeing the publishing. More and more booksellers ask publishers for more discounts, which cut the profit margin of the latter. Publishers suffer another heavy blow as custom requires publishers to take back unsold books. Statistics show that in 2003 34 percent of hardcover books on American markets were eventually returned to publishers.

    Publishing vs. movie and TV

    The publishing industry has long put economic returns above artistic achievements. But Bloomsbury stands out by clinging to its traditional regime despite dramatic changes in this sector, untouched by the hot wave of cooperation between publishers and multi-media groups. Heidelberg predicts that by 2010 printed media will only take up a 48 percent market share with the other 52 percent held by e-media.

    Profit driven, many publishers choose to bind themselves with competitive multi-media groups and cut staff and costs at the same time. Cooperation between Viacom and Simon & Schuster and that between News Corporation and HarperCollins are of this kind. Despite that, many publishers remain in the red, for everybody knows a sales miracle like Potter is rare. The United States saw 195,000 kinds of books published in 2004, but only a limited number of them turned out profitable.

    The success of Harry Potter on the other hand reveals the disadvantageous position of publishers: they are not given economic returns other than the copyright once a book turns out a blockbuster, such as those brought by book-turned movies and TV series. Bloomsbury depends on the 16 million pounds brought by Potter last year for its other commercial plans. But in contrast, Time Warner, who brought Potter’s movie copyrights and the right to put it into other commercial operations, reaped 984 million US dollars in the box office of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone alone.

    By the way, if you click on that link, your name is going to end up on a Dept. of Homeland Security list. I’m not personally worried — the fact that I spent two days listening to other lawyers debate the vagaries of commercial drug store development in return for obscene hourly compensation establishes pretty conclusively that I am not a communist. Fuck, I may even be a Republican at this point. If only I could reconcile my weed habit with the war on drugs, I’d be the next junior congressman from North Carolina.

    I’ll let you in on a secret . . . .

    This post was written by guest blogger Andy Fine.

    If you go to any marina in South Florida and hang out at the bar, you will see at least 10 boozy old fisherman an hour who resemble Ernest Hemingway.

    It’s like the lottery, though — someone’s got to win. This year Key West crowned Bob Doughty of Deerfield Beach the winner of the annual Hemingway look-alike contest.

    In my opinion, they should give the award to the first “snowy-haired” guy who shows up and doesn’t say his favorite Hemingway book is The Old Man and the Sea.