Friday, March 04, 2011

Sleepless nights

Inbali Iserles writes in The Independent: Vampires and their demonic counterparts accounted for a quarter of the top-20 fiction sales for children, and 18 out of 20 for young adults in January 2011, according to The Bookseller.

She quotes Mary Hoffman, the author of the bestselling Stravaganza series: "[The new horror is] the worst kind of Mills & Boon stuff. Especially when it takes the form of disguised propaganda against pre-marital sex." (Stephenie Meyer, the author of Twilight, is a famously abstemious Mormon.) "Males as dangerous, females as victims or prey: what kind of message is that for young women?"

When I was fourteen, I remember being sleepless for weeks after reading Bram Stoker's Dracula and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. (I simply couldn't get into Edgar Alan Poe at that age). Though both were not exactly YA fiction, I was way past the 'furry animals' stage. We had children's fiction then, and adult's fiction. Very few books came into the YA category. So, those of us who read graduated to adult fiction relatively early.

Iserles continues: 'The worldwide popularity of the Twilight series undoubtedly inspired ghoulish copycats to climb out of their coffins and on to the shelves. But is there more to it than that? If books offer a mirror to our world, what does the current popularity of horror and dystopia tell us?'
She quotes Hoffman again: "We are living in a particularly depressing world at present – recession, wars, terrorism, climate change – and teenagers have always been sensitive to the mess the previous generation has made."

Huh? When did ghost stories ever die? Have Iserles and Hoffman never been camping? Teenagers have always liked to scare themselves silly.

The Independent

Boutique bookselling

I have some customers who refuse discounts Silverfish offers on the basis that 'big bookstores don't give any discount, why should you?' These are generally old friends (although some 'old friends' expect special privileges and discounts on account of being our cronies), or the 'self-avowed friends of independents' whom we love. Otherwise, most Silverfish customers -- regardless of income level -- do enjoy our discounts (with some even demanding it). The entire book industry is plagued by discounting, and is one of the main reasons for its imminent collapse.

So, I was more than a little intrigued by the story on Publisher's Weekly, Bookmarc: Bookstore as luxury brand. Are customer's willing to pay more for a book from a luxury outlet? Write Judith Rosen & Wendy Werris for Publisher's Weekly: " Books as lifestyle is evident in the juxtaposition of books and other merchandise at Bookmarc. Nonbook items include hand-embroidered canvas book clutches made by Olympia Le-Tan in Paris, which feature covers of classic American novels like John Steinbeck’s The Pearl and Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls, and MJ-branded journals and notepads titled Huckleberry Finn Is My Homeboy or As I Lay Tanning. There are also paperbacks and hardcovers aplenty, especially by and about rock-and-roll stars, the 1960s cultural revolution, erotica, fashion, art, photography, and history, as well as memoirs, rare books, and even self-published titles from Blurb. Prices also tend to be eclectic, from $1,500 for a book-clutch to $1.50 for an MJ condom."

Ah, so that explains it. So, books become loss leaders once more. Or, in other words, the only way forward for a bookshop is to sell non-book items. Interesting.

Publisher's Weekly

Book piracy in India

Ritwik Mukherjee writes in the Financial Chronicle that, " ... one-fourth of India’s total book market (which is estimated to be between Rs 5000 and Rs 7000 crore, except educational and text books) is dominated by pirated books. That’s what publishers and digital book sellers estimate." (That would be one quarter of between 1.0 and 1.5 billion USD, if my maths is right.)

That is about right, isn't it? India is, probably, the only country in the world where one can find books sold along pavements and bazaars. Though many of them are 'best sellers', I have been surprised at the number of 'serious' titles I have seen by the roadside. Many are books one will not find even on Amazon! One wonders what their production cost is: next to nothing? (A local writer once said that he would be flattered if anyone pirated his book.)

But with the digital age upon us, piracy in India must be even simpler. Online booksellers in the India sell over 10,000 books daily, worth an estimated Rs 100 crores (USD25 million). But even more exciting is the e-book sales, which has been described as phenomenal, growing at a rate of 50 to 70% annually.

Rahul Sethi, president, of e-commerce, ibibo Web, which owns, India’s fastest growing online shopping portal with special focus on books, says: "With piracy swelling up, publishers will be increasingly turning towards the online digital medium for the sale of their books."

That is strange. Wouldn't it be much easier to rip off digital books?

Financial Chronicle