Blackwell's University Bookshop, Leeds (c) ehlingmedia 2013

Blackwell's University Bookshop, Leeds (c) ehlingmedia 2013

I am currently travelling in Northern England on a reading tour. So I have not been following this week’s publishing shenanigans as intensively as usual. But there are a couple of things I found interesting. I hope you’ll find them interesting, as well.

Here in the UK, ebooks have been pulled onto the stage yet again, this time by means of an article in the Guardian newspaper, which looks at the number of publishers which had to close down in the past months. According to the paper’s sources, 98 publishers went out of business, with Evans Brothers probably the best known among them. This is 42 per cent more than in the prvious year. The reasons for this remarkable number of business failures, in a nutshell, are deep discounting by online booksellers and supermarkets and pricing pressure emenating from ebooks.

I quite liked that in oh-so-neoliberal Britain, the end of the Net Book Agreement in 1997 is more and more seen as a huge mistake which has only helped the big boys growing ever bigger and squeezed out smaller and niche players. Just to remind you: the UK has lost almost half of its bookshops since 2005. And even the surviving bigger players cannot but play along in the discounting game, as you can see in the picture on the left, which I took in Blackwell’s at Leeds University. Let’s just hope that we can keep fixed prices for books in Germany, France and other countries.

Bertelsmann is shedding the memories of its collaboration with Mr Berlusconi by renaming its publishing operations in Spain and Latin America. What used to be “Random House Mondadori” will in future be known by the moniker “Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial”. The “Monandori” imprint will become “Literatura Penguin Random House”. Quite obviously, the good people in Gütersloh, New York and Barcelona had other things on their mind than looking for snappy names.

Ebook subscripions may hold some promise f0r the publishing industry, but publishers remain reluctant to embrace this type of business. Despite this reluctance, quite a number of companies are jockeying for position, hoping to become either the Spotify or the Netflix for ebooks. Techcrunch looks sceptically at the new efforts and reminds us that, once again, a 600-pound gorilla from Seattle is already in the room.

It is not much of a secret that relations between traditional booksellers and Amazon are not exactly the happiest. Therefore, I was astonished to hear that the gentle giant from Seattle now wants to flog its Kindles with the help of booksellers. The program, called Amazon Source, means that booksellers can sell the devices and will receive a 10 per cent cut for every ebook purchased in the first two years of ownership. Will the bookshops go for this idea?  Ingrid Lunden begs to be sceptical on Techcrunch: “I can’t help but think that this is a little like punching a guy after you’ve already knocked him down, and the guy (if bookstores say yes) more or less saying, please, punch me more!” Not a bad point to make, isn’t it?

Bookstores are the perfect mix of highbrow and entertaining, elegant and geeky, thrilling and comforting. I defy you to find a better retail experience.

What are bookshops for? Why do we, despite the smooth functionalities of online shopping, just love to lose the odd half hour or two browsing bookshops when we travel? Well, I do that. The good people at St. Martin’s Press have posted “10 Lovable Things about Brick-and-Mortar Book Stores” on Buzzfeed, ranging from the sense of community, staff picks and author events to the simple fact that “they are the best places to spend time”. Yup, I couldn’t agree more. And there are lovely bookshop pictures there, too.

(c) ehlingmedia

(c) ehlingmedia

Finally, here is what’s recently come out of my personal sweatshop [in German].

Keep the comments coming,

cheers

Holger