2009: The Year That Was (May – August)

MAY
Amazon announced the launch of its Kindle DX in May featuring a larger 9.7 inch screen, more memory and wireless facilities. It will be available later this summer.
We got the chance to interview Eileen Gittens, CEO of Blurb, on POD, Self Publishing & Independent Publishing, and you can read that interview here.
Amazon continued to act the teapot with publishers with changes to the Amazon Advantage Program, and many small publishers decided to say ‘thanks, but no thanks’.
June Austin provided a great article on what real distribution is for self-published authors on her site, Podding Along Nicely. Sadly, June doesn’t post as much as she used to and her insight and experience on self-publishing is sorely missed.
I concluded my ‘Adventures With Blurb’ in May with the publication of Thais.
If Author Solutions was much in the news for the first part of our year review, then, Amazon were holding the torch during the Summer of 2009. They fully launched Amazon Encore with teenage author,Cayla Kluver, from Wisconsin, USA, selling the rights of her debut self-published book ‘Legacy’. The book became the first for Amazon Encore, a new publishing program set to focus on self published books as well as traditional out of print books.
It was OSCARS for Independent publishing with the winners of the IPPY’s announced.
Eason the Irish book retailer ended its commercial interest in the UK with rocky times lying ahead later in the year.
Bowker’s announced for the first time ever that print-on-demand books had outstripped offset printed books. Many self-publishing purist and author solutions services jumped on this news and wrongly skewed the true realities and challenges of this method of publishing. Are you listening Author Solutions Inc?
Lulu decided to join forces with Amazon and also act the fucking teapot by placing every book that wasn’t nailed down in the Lulu database vault into Amazon’s Marketplace. This was a major faux pas which the DIY self-publishing provider would sorely rue.
JUNE
Hachette Livre kissed and made up with Amazon after a long running dispute which had seen Amazon remove buy buttons on lead bestselling titles. Sounds like a shade of the print-on-demand/Booksurge dispute from 2008. Strange how Amazon uses the threat of ‘buy buttons will be removed’ in so many disputes they walk themselves into. It reminds me of the sulky boy I played football with as a child who always insisted we play with the ball he owned and then threatened to take it home if we didn’t play the game by his rules!
Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos spoke about plans to expand the Kindle reader across other ebook formats. Bezos spoke to Wired magazine’s ‘Disruptive technology’ conference held in New York and also to the New York Times newspaper.
Lulu launched Lulu Lens in an effort to improve their service and address adverse some growing disproval and negativity about where the strategy of the company was headed.
The debate on ‘indie’ publishing continued and exactly what it meant. It certainly struck a chord with many of you, and indeed the debate raged on over on Writers Beware blog, becoming quite heated at times, particularly regarding the benefit of Publitariat Vault and IndieReader. It should be borne in mind that these sites are new and only time and the testimony of self publishing authors will tell the true story of their use and success.
I tackled the issue here in this posting.
In another wonder observation on where publishing is and the comparisons about what is happening in the publishing world and the music industry over the past 15 years continued to be made. Here is an insightful perspective on the issue from Susan Piver following her attendance at an O’Reilly’s Tools of Change in Publishing conference in June.
JULY
One of the biggest criticisms of self-publishing services is the lack of real brick and mortar distribution. One of the UK’s leading self-publishing services, Matador, launched a direct sales representation to sell their self-published titles to retail bookshops in the UK. Star Book Sales represents 150 of Matador’s leading titles with a team of eight professional book representatives up and down the UK each year. Based in Exeter, Star Book Sales already represent a number of other independent publishers including Cadmos Books, Redcliffe Press, Evans Mitchell Books, Parker House Publishing and Leonardo Publishing. Troubador Publishing’s Managing Director, Jeremy Thompson, contacted POD, Self-Publishing & Independent Publishing in June to tell us about this new development.

“This really is excellent news for us and our authors, and is an important step in our commitment to provide quality self-publishing services under our Matador imprint. The retail industry has always had sales reps, whatever sort of product is being sold, and for good reason. A sales rep knows the product, can sell one-to-one to a retailer, and has the logistical back-up to ensure orders arrive promptly. I don’t think the influence that a sales rep has on what a retailer buys for stock should be underestimated.”

Borders UK signalled the start of what was to be a sad and predicted end to the independent bookseller with the closure of five flagship stores amid rumours of a complete sale, and the takeover by management before the end of June.
If you had an Amazon Kindle in June and bought an ebook version of Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’ or ‘1984’, then it is likely you your ebook went missing. You see, during a balmy summer night, when you were tucked up safe and sound in bed, the Amazon Thought Police crept into your electronic world and snatched these books back. The Amazon Thought Police are decent sorts though, and you were eventually paid back via your credit card. Yes, Amazon’s Big Brother faux pas delivered home to us all just how publishing of the future could work. The full story is here.
Cold Tree Publishing, one of the pioneers, innovators in self-publishing services finally pulled down the shutters and turned out the lights after a brief foray into traditional publishing in July. We reflected and profiled them here.
AUGUST
We also looked at self-publishing success Sally Bee and her cookbook. It really does help if Michelle Obama is on your side.
Another publishing innovator, Bruce Batchelor, rightly called for an end to the ludicrous retail book returns policy operating in the publishing industry with this wonderful and insightful article.
In a blaze of much media hype and anticipation ebook publisher Quartet Press arrived. So began much analysis of ebook publishing and Quartet’s own business strategy. Bold, confident, even brassy, but Quartet never published a single book, and it all ended in tears, disappointment and philosophical discussion.
Trevor Dolby, in an article on Bookbrunch, once again this year revisited the thorny issue of advances for authors and how the whole contract between publisher and author needs to be revised and the share of responsibility and involvement needs to change.
And boy, if you thought Trevor’s article was testy, well, Tom Matlack wrote in the Huffington Post and really bared his teeth to the publishing industry.
Lulu really shook things up in August when they announced further changes to their publishing process and distribution service. The core change was the announcement of the removal of the popular ‘Publish By You’ service. Here is part of the news release below their from Social Networking Team Leader, Nick Popio. But as with many Lulu announcements, they have to make a further one to clarify the first one. Bad year lulu guys – bad year.
Not to be outdone in the acting the teapot stakes, yes, Amazon were back again. This time, a fine to publishers for rejected deliveries. Here is what we thought.

“While the threat of fines collected through publishers’ inventory payments may be directed more to smaller independent publishers – the crack of flexing muscles will still echo through the industry as a whole. This is a constant reminder of the extent publishers have lost control of their industry, in particular, to the retail sector. Amazon argue in the email that this is all about improving customer service quality and making the vendor processes as efficient as possible.”

Chief U.S. District Judge John Woodcock Jr. tells Amazon to get on their bicycle and start pedalling. He refuses Amazon.com’s motion to dismiss Booklocker.com’s Antitrust Lawsuit against them. The lawsuit stems from actions and communications by Amazon early last year to instruct some publishers using print-on-demand digital printing to use Amazon’s own printer, Booksurge.
Smashwords announce an expansion in their ebook distribution network with online retailer Barnes & Noble. Ebooks included in Smashwords ‘Premium Catalog’ will be made available for listing and sale from the giant online retailer. This will come as a huge bonus to self-published authors who have signed up to Smashwords. authors should be aware that there are specific formatting criteria for listing as part of Smashwords ‘Premier Catalog’ and details can be found here.

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