Bits and pieces of news and information that I found interesting this week:
Via Tuesday's Publisher's Lunch: Small press distributor Biblio is being sold by its parent company, National Book Network, to AtlasBooks, the distribution arm of Bookmasters Inc. There's an announcement on the Biblio website.
NBN, a distributor for independent publishers, started Biblio in 2001 to address the distribution needs of small presses with annual revenues of less than $50,000. Biblio rapidly signed up a large number of publishers--more than 900 at its height, according to PW--but then began to downsize, most recently in August 2007, when it announced that it would "substantially" cut its remaining client list.
Again according to PW, AtlasBooks (which took on 70 clients last fall when small press distributor BookWorld went belly up) has hired Biblio's sales team, and Biblio's inventory is already being shipped to Atlas's warehouses. Atlas doesn't plan to continue using the Biblio name.
What will the impact be on the more than 500 publishers in Biblio's catalog? According to some independent publishers I've spoken with, Biblio wasn't very highly regarded, and had a reputation for being willing to take just about anything. However, it had the benefit of the NBN connection, which enabled it to share NBN's back-office systems. Obviously it has lost that advantage, and AtlasBooks' reputation seems to be similar to Biblio's. My guess is that this is a step down for Biblio clients, rather than a lateral move.
(For anyone unclear on the difference between a distributor such as NBN and a wholesaler such as Ingram, this article by Dan Poynter provides a helpful explanation.)
Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest Semifinalists
With breathless excitement, Amazon.com announced Tuesday that the semifinalists in its Breathrough Novel Contest have been chosen--836 of them, to be precise. Excerpts are now up at Amazon, and can be downloaded or read on the site for free. Readers will have until March 2 to post comments. A panel of judges for Penguin will use reader comments as well as short reviews provided by PW to choose 10 finalists.
Readers have already begun to leave commments. PW reviews are not yet in evidence, but according to Amazon, they "will be available soon," along with reviews by Amazon top reviewers (proving, perhaps, that you don't have to be published to be Klausnered).
I indulged in a bit of spot checking in the science fiction and fantasy category, and while most of what I sampled caused my inner editor to hit the "back" button after only a few paragraphs (grammar lapses, stiff dialog, bad descriptions [note to authors: please, oh please, never give your heroine emerald green eyes], implausible settings), I did find a couple of excerpts that made me want to read more.
I don't envy the task Penguin faces in winnowing 10 finalists out of this mass of material, based just on short excerpts, PW reviews, and reader comments--which are not only dubiously reliable, but are likely, given the enormous number of entries, to be serendipitous.
(I blogged about the ABNA last October, and again a couple of weeks later.)
According to the UK's Daily Mail, figures recently compiled by the Office of National Statistics reveal that 25% of Britons didn't read a single book last year. That's right--not one.
Last August, an AP/Ipsos poll showed that Americans did no better.
Amusingly, the Daily Mail article reports that "a third of Britons read 'challenging literature' in order to seem well-read even though they could not follow what the book was about," and that "40 per cent had lied about having read certain books 'just so they could join in with the conversation.'"
So how many books do you read in a year? I read anywhere between one and three a week, depending on length and how busy I am.
When is a Book Like a Pack of Cigarettes?
When it's a Tank.
Tank is "a think tank as well as a creative agency and publishing company" whose TankBooks division took advantage of the UK's recent public smoking ban in an unusual and clever way: it issued a series of classic books designed to look like cigarette packs. Series title: Tales to Take Your Breath Away.
Now, according to the Guardian UK, TankBooks is being challenged by British American Tobacco, which thinks one of the books too closely resembles the packaging for its Lucky Strike brand. Arguing trademark dilution, BAT wants the offending books to be pulped.
TankBooks, in response, points out that "members of the public are unlikely to mistake a Hemingway novel for a packet of cigarettes."
If they read a book last year, that is.