Publishing News: Fantasy author is out for blood

An embargoed book leaked, Amazon bought The Book Depository, and why page flipping is a drag

Here are a few highlights from this week’s publishing news. (Note: Some of these stories were previously published on Radar.)

George RR Martin wants a “head on a spike”

RRMartinBookCover.pngAn unfortunate Amazon employee in Germany might want to get a body guard. The fifth book in George RR Martin’s “Song of Fire and Ice” series, “A Dance With Dragons,” was embargoed until July 12, but about 180 copies were accidentally released by Amazon Germany. Martin responded to the situation with an impressive level of rage, writing in his blog:

Yes, I know, Amazon Germany screwed up big time and started shipping A DANCE WITH DRAGONS before they were supposed to. I am told that about 180 copies got out before they were made aware of their mistake and shut down shipping … I am not happy about this. My publishers are furious … If we find out who is responsible, we will mount his head on a spike.

Really? A head on a spike? Perhaps that angry energy could be channeled into something more productive — use the error to launch a guerrilla marketing campaign and make it work for you, for instance. Then you could spare the spike for the poor person who screwed up — and maybe sell more books.

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Amazon moves to expand its increasingly dominant position in publishing

In more Amazon news this week, the retail giant announced its purchase of The Book Depository, an independent online bookseller in the U.K. In the press release, Amazon’s VP of European Retail Greg Greeley said:

Customers in more than 100 countries enjoy The Book Depository’s vast selection, convenient delivery and free shipping. The Book Depository is very focused on serving its customers around the world, and we look forward to welcoming them to the Amazon family.

Not everything is sunshine and rainbows, however. In a post for The Bookseller, Lisa Campbell reported that the Booksellers Association (BA) is formally opposing the sale and that the Publisher’s Association (PA) is expected to follow suit. The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is investigating as well. The BA’s CEO Tim Godfray said in the post:

Amazon’s current position could be perceived by booksellers already as that of a de facto monopoly that doesn’t take into account this new proposed development and its recent positioning as an e-book publisher. It is good news that this matter is being referred to the OFT.

The matter is expected to be decided by the end of August.

Layering text over images would make reading flow less of a drag

This is part of an ongoing series related to Peter Meyers’ project “Breaking the Page, Saving the Reader: A Buyer & Builder’s Guide to Digital Books.” We’ll be featuring additional material in the weeks ahead. (Note: This post originally appeared on A New Kind of Book. It’s republished with permission.)

Don’t you find it annoying when you have to flip back and forth between a page of text and a picture it describes a few pages away? Consider, for example, this passage from an art history book on how Michelangelo combined doodles, text, and drawings:

At the top [of the illustration, a few pages away] … is the horizontal sketch of a leg universally credited to Michelangelo and apparently belonging to a woman or a boy. At the left of the open top of the leg, the artist has written Am and fig, the latter actually appearing inside the outline of the upper part of the limb.

The text is on page 37 (of “Michelangelo: A Life on Paper“); the figure that the author, Leonard Barkan, refers to, meanwhile, is over on page 39, looking like so:

Michelangelo drawing in art history book with brief, uninformative caption
Michelangelo drawing in art history book with brief, uninformative caption. Click to enlarge

So you traipse back and forth between explanation and image, first trying to identify the items in question, and then trying to register why those things are worthy of commentary.

What a pain. What a drag on the reading flow you’ve established, thanks to Professor Barkan’s otherwise incisive writing. What a pain for him, having to describe in text what would be trivially easy to point to were he standing next to you and the illustration. And how ironic, finally, that in a book devoted to the interplay between words and image so much of the author’s commentary is segregated in body copy away from the actual figures. How much more useful and easy-to-follow would his comments be if they were bolted onto the figure, like so:

  • This story continues here.


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