Fixed Prices for Books?

October 18th, 2012 by Eva Graf | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Fixed Prices for Books?
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In Germany, a fixed book price is a legal constraint which forces publishing houses to set a certain price, which is then legally binding for all retailers . As long as the original set price is not reversed, which can happen 18 months after the publication, or it is resold book retailers cannot change the price in any form or way. The main goals of this system are:
→ protecting books as a cultural asset
→ securing a great variety of titles
→ aid nationwide supply with books
A fixed price system was first introduced in 1888 and, despite its long tradition, there are certain new developments that need to be taken into consideration. The most evident modern example being ebooks and how they should be priced. According to the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels (the German equivalent to the Publishers Assocation) they should have fixed prices because they mirror printed books in their attributes.
What made me think about the whole system was going into a bookshop in the UK and comparing the prices in store to those on Amazon. The newest Ken Follet title Winter of the World costs £10 in hardback, with the Kindle Version selling for only £5.99. Compare this to the German Hardcover, priced at 29.90€, and the Kindle Version, selling at 22.99€. this seems to be a very low price. I cannot decide which system is preferable. On the one hand I can buy books here for a great price, but I feel that the German system has its benefits too. Publishing houses give less discounts and therefore may generate a higher revenue, resulting in being able to plan their budget more accurately. From a professional point of view I can see the advantages of this system; however as a consumer I prefer the lower UK prices.
The topic of fixed prices versus free price setting is very interesting and has lots of room for discussions. There will undoubtedly be some friction in the German industry in the future, mainly due to ebook prices. Big players like Amazon and Apple will drive a hard bargain to establish low prices. This may lead to a more competitive market, similar to the UK market. Or the status quo will continue. Only time will tell.

Eva Graf

AHRC Digital Transformations Project: The Book Unbound

February 15th, 2012 by Claire_Squires | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on AHRC Digital Transformations Project: The Book Unbound
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 We’ve just heard that the Stirling Centre for International Publishing and Communication has been awarded a grant from the AHRC in its Digital Transformations Research Development call.

Our project, ‘The Book Unbound: Disruption and Disintermediation in the Digital Age’, will be led by the Centre’s Director, Professor Claire Squires, with Dr Padmini Ray Murray (Lecturer in Publishing Studies) and Dr Paula Morris (Lecturer in Creative Writing) as Co-Investigators. The staff team will be completed by Scott Russell, as an External Consultant. We’ll also be working with the Electric Bookshop in order to present some of our findings, and there will also be opportunities for collaborations between creative writing and publishing students.

The project will examine changing business models in the digital publishing environment and their impact on the communications circuit and notions of authority, authorship, audiences and access. It will do this both via a series of case studies, and an experimental mode (live publishing – watch this space!).

We’ll have a new website up with full details of the project soon, but if you’d like any information about it in the meantime, please get in touch via our Contact page.

Spain’s Digital Times

December 19th, 2011 by Almudena_Santalices | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Spain’s Digital Times
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It seems these days we only think about ebooks. Two Spanish publishing houses, Ediciones B and Planeta, and Spain’s biggest bookseller Casa del Libro, just launched new products, all of them related to the electronic books.

Ediciones B has not only launched last month a new digital imprint, B de Books, but also claims to be “the first e-book publishing venture without DRM encryption”.  In the beginning B de Books will have 300 titles available and will be able to buy online in platforms such as Amazon, Libranda and Apple.  For its part, Planeta has released two new low-priced e-book imprints: Zafiro (for romance) and Scyla (for science fiction, fantasy and horror).

Casa del Libro is currently the e-book market leader in Spain, and launched November 23th its e-reader Tagus, a six-inch screen, Wi-Fi-enabled device, with a copy of the Real Academia Española dictionary.  It also offers cloud storage of an unlimited number of titles for an unlimited time. E-books can be browsed online and read offline on other devices after downloading a free app from Android Market and the Apple App Store. According to Xavi Solà, this release has given access to “the largest Spanish-language book catalogue in the world”.

Since this September Amazon has begun operating in Spain, offering printed titles, before launching the Spanish Kindle. It is also worth mentioning the positioning of Google Books. Luis Collado, director for Spain and Portugal Google Books and Ebooks says “the firm aims to make reading e-books as easy as using email”.

– Almudena Santalices

Sources: ABC / Publishing Perspectives.

Read it. Live it.

December 4th, 2011 by SCIPC | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Read it. Live it.
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‘What is the use of a book,’ thought Alice, ‘without pictures or conversation?’ – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

Black text on white paper has been the format of the book for centuries. The ebook mirrors the same format on a screen with few enhanced versions featuring related multimedia content. Readers must use their imagination to experience the story beyond the text on the page. But what if instead of reading the book, you could live it?

Simon Meek and Tern Digital, a subsidiary of Tern TV, attempted to do just that when they developed a digital extension of their popular children’s show on Channel 4, KNTV, in 2008. The site offered what Simon calls ‘a window into the world behind the show’. Slabovia.tv featured character profiles, games, videos, and The Potato – ‘State-Approved News and Gossip’ from KNTV’s fictional land of Slabovia. Later, the idea to capitalize on the social networking scene came with the creation of Slabspace, a digital world in which members could enter the world of Slabovia. Slabspace offered Slabovian identities, jobs and a theatrical community to further involve the fans of the television series and website. While the project only lasted 18 months, Slabovia.tv and Slapspace showed the potential of a television station’s digital department and encouraged Meek’s interest in interactive storytelling through multimedia.

In 2009, the gaming company Quantic Dream released the video game ‘Heavy Rain’, creating an interactive storytelling platform. ‘Heavy Rain’ has four main characters embroiled in a mystery with the central theme ‘How far would you go for the one you love?”. The game’s plot is dictated by the manipulation of the characters by the player. Players can explore their environment, steer dialogue and control the characters during dramatic action scenes. If a character dies as a consequence of the player’s decisions, gameplay will switch to another character’s perspective and the story continues. ‘Heavy Rain’ turned the reader into the writer, taking control of the narrative to shape its conclusion. While the game did better than expected and led to an emphasis in plot and story, Meek admits the constant evolution of the video game development process is often not conducive to good storytelling. So how do you tell a good story and inspire audience interaction?

This is where Digital Adaptations comes in. Digital Adaptions, a new company with Meek as Executive Producer, seeks to transform the storytelling process by creating the entire narrative as a multimedia project. The concept is simple: generate a physical representation of the plot, setting, and characters of a novel and let the audience immerse themselves in the story. Their first project, John Buchan’s ‘The Thirty Nine Steps’, set for release in 2012, uses details from the novel to build the environment of London in 1914. The reader is given the opportunity to witness the events and follow the plot of the novel through the eyes of Richard Hannay, the main character of the espionage thriller. The player can take time to explore the environment, including Hannay’s personal quarters, constructed through details found in the novel. The dialogue of the novel is recreated using voice actors from the Citizen’s Theatre, recorded as they acted out the book in play form. Digital Adaptations maintains player interaction through the illusion of control; however, unlike ‘Heavy Rain’, the player only controls the character within the bounds of the original plot and completes key events to reach the conclusion.

‘The Thirty Nine Steps’ is built on the idea that a reader desires something beyond the traditional feeling of reading a novel from a page, with Digital Adaptations spear-heading the movement to expand the storytelling experience. Whether they are successful in their venture or not remains to be seen, but the enthusiasm of the class during Meek’s visiting talk bodes well for the project.

Many thanks to both Simon Meek and all of the visiting speakers this semester.

Alicia Rice

Liber 2011, International Spanish Book Fair

October 11th, 2011 by Almudena_Santalices | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Liber 2011, International Spanish Book Fair
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Last week, Liber, the 29th International Spanish Book Fair took place in Madrid. Three days of exhibition, 443 businesses stands from 21 countries and 12,000 visitors from all over the world validated its status as “the main book business industry platform dedicated to the Spanish language and one of the most important international book gathering”.

An improvement of this year was the introduction of a new section: Liber Digital. Twenty-five specialized firms have participated. Arantxa Mellado, space coordinator, says, “It has been extremely well received by professionals. It has not only met the expectations of the participants, there are, also those who even have confirmed that only on the first day have achieved a return.” Also, David Sanchez, the creator of 24symbols, affirms, “in addition to meeting the expectations, we found that the sector is launching and customers are willing to change”.

A study by the Federation of Spanish Publishers’ Guilds, suggests 75% of Spanish publishers are either selling digital works already, digitising existing content or creating exclusively digital material. It found that by 2012, a quarter of Spain’s 900-plus publishers expect to sell digital versions of more than half their backlist and a third will distribute a higher number of new titles as e-books, principally for tablets and mobile telephones rather than e-readers.

Amazon Spain, launched last month, is one of the first attempts of the shift that is taking place in the publishing industry. The webpage offers books in Spanish, Catalan, Galician and Basque languages. Moreover, we should not forget about Libranda, “a company whose mission is to provide logistic, technical, commercial and, administrative services to publishers, bookshops, enabling them to efficiently manage the digital environment in which they are immersed”.

Even though the digital revolution is starting, it is really slow in the high street. Robert Strokes considers that “sales of e-readers are concentrated mainly in larger stores. In general, the smaller the store the less likely it was to sell either”.

Andres Has thinks that “no matter how many startups there have been and how much potential there is in the market, there is much to be done: not only are there a limited e-books available, those that wish to read them still have very few options for devices on which they can be read”. What Has believes is true,but the Spanish publishing industry is aware of the importance of the change and is on track to become a massive phenomenon.

By Almu Santalices

Image: actualidadeditorial.com

References: Ifema, Publishing Perspectives, The Independent, The Bookseller (2).