Kindle, A New Way To Read

Saturday, June 20, 2009

J.K. Rowling Self-Made Billionaire

J.K. Rowling
Age: 43
Net Worth: $1 billion
Industry: Media/Entertainment
Sometimes sheer talent and persistence is enough. As a single mother on welfare in Scotland, Rowling began writing the first Harry Potter novel in Edinburgh caf├ęs whenever she could get her infant daughter to sleep. After being rejected by 12 publishing houses, Bloomsbury, a small publisher in London, offered an advance of 1,500 pounds (about $2,400) -- even while one its editors, Barry Cunningham, advised Rowling to get a day job. Good thing she didn't listen: The following year, U.S. publishing rights to the first Potter book sold for $105,000. Rowling has since sold nearly 400 million copies worldwide, and is the only author on the Forbes list of the richest people in the world

Librarians Fighting Google's Book Deal

Critics of Google's book-searching agreement with publishers and authors were cheered last week when antitrust regulators in the Justice Department set their sights on the search giant's publishing deal, demanding more information.

"This is a monumental settlement that's at stake, and for the government to show this kind of attention is heartening," says Lee Van Orsdel, dean of university libraries at Grand Valley State University. "The increased scrutiny on the part of the DOJ tells us that our concerns are resonating far beyond the library community," concurs Corey Williams, associate director in the office of government relations at the American Library Association.

Goliath Google facing off against a legion of librarians and, possibly, the U.S. Justice Department — now there's a fight.

Indeed, a deal that once appeared a sure bet for rubber-stamp approval is now the target of angry opposition and intense regulatory interest, which throw its future into question.

At issue is a $125 million settlement agreement reached last October that gives Google the right to make millions of books available for reading — and purchase — on the Internet. Under the pact, a Book Rights Registry will be set up that will allow publishers and authors to register their work and get paid for their titles through institutional subscriptions, ad fees and book sales. Google will retain 37% of the revenue, with the remainder going to the registry to be distributed to authors and publishers. The deal effectively gives authors and publishers control over their work in the digital world and pays them for it. For the public, it means easy click-of-the-mouse access to millions of books that sit on dusty shelves in university libraries across the country.

The agreement, which must still get federal court approval, was aimed at ending two lawsuits filed in 2005 against Google by the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers. Basically, authors and publishers had complained that the Web-searching king had broken copyright laws when it scanned millions of books from university and research libraries and made snippets of their content available online.

In a complex settlement agreement, which took three years to hammer out and spans 135 pages excluding attachments, Google will be allowed to show up to 20% of the books' text online at no charge to Web surfers. But the part of the settlement that deals with so-called orphan books — which refers to out-of-print books whose authors and publishers are unknown — is what's ruffling the most feathers in the literary henhouse. The deal gives Google an exclusive license to publish and profit from these orphans, which means it won't face legal action if an author or owner comes forward later. This, critics contend, gives it a competitive edge over any rival that wants to set up a competing digital library. And without competition, opponents fear Google will start charging exorbitant fees to academic libraries and others who want full access to its digital library.

"It will make Google virtually invulnerable to competition," says Robert Darnton, head of the Harvard University library system.

Although competitors could scan orphans, they would not be protected from copyright suits as Google is under the agreement. "They'd face lawsuits all over the place," making the risk too big, said Darnton.
Without competition, pricing could go wild, critics claim. The registry, which oversees pricing, is comprised of authors and publishers who stand to benefit from high subscription fees. "There will be no incentive to keep prices moderate," Darnton says.

The library community recalls with horror the pricing fiasco that occurred when industry consolidation left academic journals largely in the hands of five publishing companies. The firms hiked subscription prices 227% over a 14-year period, between 1986 and 2002, forcing cash-strapped libraries to drop many subscriptions, according to Van Orsdel. "The chance of the price being driven up in a similar way (in the Google deal) is really very real," she says.

In a sign that Google has been listening to critics' complaints, it recently signed an amended individual agreement with the University of Michigan, adding a mechanism that would give the university the right to dispute a price increase through arbitration. Any price discrepancy in the arbitrated settlement would come from Google's 37% revenue stake, not from the authors' and publishers' share. "That's a step in the right direction, but it only benefits the University of Michigan at this point," says Williams.

Then there's the privacy issue. Google has the technology to track every page and book a person reads, how long they spend on a given page and what books they purchase. Yet the agreement makes no mention of how much of this information will be collected or how it will be used. "That really flies in the face of core principal library values of protecting patron privacy," says Williams. "This agreement is completely silent on the issue of privacy."

Opposition to the deal has been escalating, with librarians, academics, consumer advocates and even a few authors urging the federal court to either scuttle the deal or at least amend it. The son and daughter-in-law of author John Steinbeck as well as musician Arlo Guthrie are among the high-profile critics. In May, the federal judge overseeing the matter extended the deadline to Sept. 4 for people to offer comments and for publishers to opt out of the deal.

In April, the Department of Justice launched its own investigation to see if the deal broke antitrust laws. And this week, opponents were elated when the DOJ appeared to step up its scrutiny by issuing civil investigative demands, or CIDs, demanding additional information from Google and other parties.

But Google has its supporters. "I think a lot of [the criticism] has been unfair and really ignores the benefits this provides," says Paul Aiken, executive director of the Authors Guild. "We're talking about bringing books to people on the Internet — making sure that books stay relevant in the online age and that people have sources for facts that go beyond what's available on Wikipedia."

Dan Clancy, engineering director at Google, dismisses suggestions the deal will give Google a monopoly. He says orphans represent only a small percentage of the overall books Google is dealing with, although he was unable to say what percentage of the 10 million books Google has scanned thus far fall into this category.

Clancy contends that the orphan-licensing agreement wasn't extended beyond Google because it was part of a class action settlement pact, and other companies weren't part of the suit. He supports efforts by Congress to pass an orphan-works bill that would give everyone similar legal protection.

On the matter of privacy, Clancy says Google will issue guidelines before the program is rolled out.

Advocates remain upbeat that the deal will get a green light. "We believe that we're on very solid legal ground to get this settlement approved," says Michael Boni, a partner at Boni & Zack LLC, which represents the Authors Guild. "So we're really not considering any doomsday scenarios at this point."

However, attorney John Briggs, who isn't involved in the case, says the DOJ clearly has concerns. "It's not routine for a settlement of a class action like this to be getting scrutiny of any sort from the Department of Justice," says Briggs, managing partner and co-chairman of the antitrust group at Axinn, Veltrop & Harkrider LLP law firm. "I think it signals Google is very much in the sight line of the Department of Justice."

Supporters warn it would be a huge blow to the publishing world if the deal is scuttled.

"I think the publishing industry is under great stress trying to figure out how to operate in a world where it's very easy to make copies of things and to distribute copies of things — which is exactly the problem that the music industry faced," says Paul Courant, dean of libraries at the University of Michigan.

"I think it would be very bad for publishers and authors and the digitization of information going forward if the settlement is not accepted, even if it has to be adjusted in some way, shape or form," says Carolyn Reidy, chief executive of Simon & Schuster, who was a party to the agreement.

The federal court hearing is slated for Oct. 7.

Pearson Answers Schwarzenegger’s Call for E-Textbooks

Last week, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed replacing school textbooks with e-books in order to help plug a state budget gap. Now, textbook giant Pearson has responded with digital content to supplement California’s programs in biology, chemistry, algebra 2, and geometry.

In a statement made recently, Schwarzenegger said, “Kids are feeling as comfortable with their electronic devices as I was with my pencils and crayons. So why are California’s school students still forced to lug around antiquated, heavy, expensive textbooks?” But easing the strain on students’ backs was not the Governor’s main reason for putting out a call to developers to create electronic textbooks. The current budget gap in the state is estimated at $28 billion.

Peter Cohen, Pearson’s CEO of North America school curriculum business, said, “We believe it is important to take these forward steps toward an online delivery system and we are supporting the Governor’s initiative, recognizing there are numerous challenges ahead for the education community to work through,” including “how we ensure that low income and disadvantaged students receive equal access to technology; how we address the needs of English language learners; and how we protect the intellectual property rights of content and technology creators to support future investment and innovation.”
According to the official Web site for California’s Free Digital Textbook Initiative, e-books must “approach or equal a full course of study and must be downloadable.” The site also offers instructions and links for publishers of e-books to submit books for consideration for use in California schools.

Pearson is the first major company to respond to Schwarzenegger’s initiative, which garnered an array of responses from the media, from speculation in the U.S. that other will imiate the project, to others who point out that e-books in school are not more environmentally friendly than print textbooks.
From Craig Morgan Teicher for PW

Did You Know?

Charles Dickens called the sickly character in A Christimas Carol "Small Sam" and "Puny Pete" before settling on "Tiny Tim".

Scott Turow's Sequel To Presumed Innocent

Scott Turow will publish a sequel to the bestseller Presumed Innocent in May 2010. Innocent (Grand Central) will reunite Rusty Sabich and Tomy Molto (if you can reunite dealy adversaries, that is) after Rusty's wife died mysteriously. This will be the frist Turow novel not published in hardcover by Farrar, Straus, & Girous, who discovered the author in the late 1970s.

From The BookPage

Time LaHaye's New End of Days Book

Just when you thought you'd seen thelast of Tim LaHaye, the author of the Left Behind books will return in Fall 2010 with the first in a new trilogy chronicling the end of days, In Endgame (Zondervan), written with Craig Parshall, the rapture is brought about by a nuclear event.

Julia Roberts To Star In Jacobs' Friday Night Knitting Club

Actress Julia Roberts is planning a project with a literary link. The Georgia native has optioned Kate Jacobs' the Friday Night Knitting Club for Universal Pictures, and plans to start in and produce the film. It's a long way from license to screen, but we think this project is a good bet for the former Pretty Woman.

From The BookPage

Stephen King’s New Work

Legions of Stephen King fans are in for a treat November 10th, when Scribner will release Under the Dome—an 1,136 page “tour de force” from the master storyteller.

From the Scribner catalog:“On an entirely normal, beautiful fall day in Chester’s Mill, Maine, the town is inexplicably and suddenly sealed off from the rest of the world by an invisible force field. Planes crash into it and fall from the sky in flaming wreckage, a gardener’s hand is severed as “the dome” comes down on it, people running errands in the neighboring town are divided from their families, and cars explode on impact. No one can fathom what this barrier is, where it came from, and when—or if—it will go away.”

Featuring more than 100 characters facing a menacing supernatural element in their small Maine town, early reads are comparing Under the Dome to King’s classic epic, The Stand.
From BookPage

Quote of the Day for the Writer

"I've got a folder full of rejection slips that I keep. Know why? Because those same editors are now calling my agent hoping I'll write a book or novella for them. Things change. A rejection slip today might mean a frantic call to your agent in six months."

- MaryJanice Davidson

Sunday, June 14, 2009

South Florida Novelist Speaks with Student Writers

It took mystery-fiction author James W. Hall more than 20 years and four unpublished novels before he finally got his big break in the publishing industry with Under Cover of Daylight. Fifteen published novels later, Hall is a humble author living in South Florida, enjoying his career as a writer and professor at Florida International University, where he is a semester away from retirement.

In the fall 2008 semester, Hall spoke to undergraduate English majors and students in the graduate writing program from the Farquar College of Arts and Science (Nova Southeastern University) about his unusual pathway to publication, his inspirations, and his predictions on the future of the industry.

Forum: how did you get your first book published?

My situation is fairly unusual. It’s not a guideline on how you would do it these days because things are very different now than they were back then. I still think the right way to answer the question is “write the best book that you can.” That gives you the best possibility to get published. But in my case, I had published a story in a literary magazine and an agent in New York wrote me a letter.

But in this environment, no one sends book directly to publishers. You have a literary agent. You have to figure out, buy looking at the marketplace, what’s working in the world and what feels compatible to you, and let that be your guide.

Forum: What’s the difference between your first four novels and the fifth one that got published?

I ask myself that a lot. While cleaning out my office at the university in preparation for retirement, I’ve come across fragments of stories I’ve written that didn’t publish and now I can see why they didn’t publish. They were wretched! I didn’t even remember how wretched they were, but they were terrible.

I tried four times and it didn’t work out. So I said, “I’m going to give it one more shot, but this time. I’d going to do something because I like it—not because I think it’s good or other will admire me.”

Forum: Did you feel more pressure working on your follow-up books since someone else set the timeframe?

It’s actually just the reverse of that. I think one of the reasons I wrote at first – and why I believe a lot of people write – is to have people love me and have people say, ”Oh I love your characters, I love your book, and therefore, I love you, whoever you are who created this thing.” After Under Cover of Daylight was published, they already “loved” me, so I was not trying to win then over at that point.

Forum: What inspires you to write and continue writing your stories?

So many thing go into that question. At any given moment, for one, the psychological issues that drives the story is biographically relevant to me at that point in my life. My mother died last year. So the topic of dealing with grief and losing a parent is a subject that’s big enough to wrestle with while writing. I always say that I’ve got to have something that is psychologically and emotionally at stake.

I also have to have a nonfiction subject, something that I have to do research on to learn about. The way I know what the subject is, is when I start to get really excited and engaged about it.

Forum: How do you write about South Florida in a way that’s more interesting than maybe it actually is?

Well, that’s pretty hard to do (laughs). I frequently watch the evening news, and I turn it off and say, “Oh man, I didn’t work hard enough today,” because there’s stuff that’s more extreme, more weird and bizarre and wonderful and wrenching than what I managed to come up with. So, in a way, South Florida sets a very high bar for any writer.

I think the right answer for each of you – and this is part of your job as writers to figure out – is that you have some unique knowledge set. You know stuff about South Florida and about your community, forums your own viewpoint, which others don’t know. Park of what learning to be a write is about is learning what that unique perspective is. Some people cal it your “voice”. It’s also the way you see things around world.

Forum: You said, you’ve tried to ignore the business side of writing, but you’ve probably seen a lot of changes in publishing during the last 20 years.

There have been a lot, but the big one that probably affects you all more than anything else is the Internet. The “digital age” is hitting publishing. What is the way people are going to be reading their books in the next 20 years? I think its [electronic devices like] the Kindle. I have a Kindle, and I love it. It’s a great device. Being romantically connected to the book as a piece of paper and ink is irrelevant because the world is going to leave you behind.

Forum: What is your dream book to write?

I’m happy doing what I’m doing. I’m very happy. I’ve reached my dream, really—and beyond that dream, I’m about to write.

By Brandon Bielich from the Farquar College of Arts and Sciences booklet.
Here is the link to the school: The Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences at Nova Southeastern University

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Quote of the Day for the Writer

"You must keep sending work out; you must never let a manuscript do nothing but eat its head off in a drawer. You send that work out again and again, while you're working on another one. If you have talent, you will receive some measure of success - but only if you persist."

- Isaac Asimov

Monday, June 8, 2009

Meg Whitman Writes Book On Values & Her Time at Ebay

NEW YORK – Former eBay chief executive Meg Whitman, a presumed candidate for governor of California, is working on a book about the "core values" that helped her build the online commerce giant.

The book, currently untitled, is scheduled to be published by Crown Business in February, just as California starts voting for its next governor. Financial terms were not disclosed, but Whitman will donate all of her earnings to charity.

"Whitman will interweave personal stories and leadership lessons culled from her tenure at eBay and other companies," according to a statement issued Monday by Crown, an imprint of Random House, Inc. "She will offer a blueprint for success in both business and life, identifying core values that make it possible to achieve success without ethical compromise."

Whitman, 52, joined eBay in 1998, when the company had just 30 employees. By the time she stepped down last year, eBay was a multibillion dollar company with more than 15,000 workers.

She formed an exploratory committee earlier this year to seek the Republican nomination for governor. Incumbent Arnold Schwarzenegger cannot run again because of term limits.

"She is eager to share her successes, her setbacks, and her values, which will provide a detailed portrait of this extraordinary woman and a best-practice template for others in business today," Crown's vice president and publisher, Tina Constable, said in a statement.

Did You Know?

What famous children's book author created an imaginative ad campaign for an insect spray called Flit?

Answer: Dr. Seuss, whose real name was Theodore Seuss Geisel. He worked on the ad campaign--which featured his trademark bugs.--for 17 years.