The official Man Booker Prize Long List came out this week. A few names are new to me and certainly many, of the 13 authors, I don’t know. And just like previous years, the 2015 Man Booker podcast has launched and it’s off to a GREAT start.
You can get the Man Booker podcast on iTunes or you can listen on your computer via Soundcloud.
This is one of my favorite podcasts and like good locally grown food – it’s only available one season of the year. So subscribe and check out what’s going on as there are only a few episodes put together each award season.
The first full episode was fun and hops around a lot. They chat about the prize, what it’s like being a judge, as well as a “man on the street” segment where they went to a local bookstore in the U.K. to catch a midnight release party of Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman. It was pretty neat to hear how folks ‘across the pond’ regard Lee’s new book as well as To Kill a Mockingbird. This episode was like popping around a room during a dinner party where every grouping of people is discussing some aspect of books and publishing.
The Prize and the Man Booker podcast as gotten a lot more fun since the prize has gone global and is open to authors of any nationality. For much of the Man Booker Prize history it was only open to authors from the British Commonwealth & interests.
So check it out and get caught up as the BIG announcement of the winner will be made October 13, 2015.
Do you pay attention to the Man Booker Prize?
Barnes & Noble released some details recently showing that revenues are down almost 5% and so on. The overall decline in sales and profits has been the lede of this news so far.
But one point that jumps out at me is worth mentioning (and lamenting). And that is the fact that Barnes & Noble bookstores are carrying fewer and fewer books every year.
Publishing industry thinker-doer-sage Thad McIlory surfaced the following nugget over on his site:
“In its latest report the company states that “each Barnes & Noble store features an authoritative selection of books, ranging from 22,000 to 164,000 titles.” The number ranged from “60,000 to 200,000 titles” in 2004. The long tail at Barnes & Noble is now 18% shorter.”
I feel frustrated every time I walk into a Barnes & Noble these days and have to navigate around the monolithic Nook base up front and then travel around all of the board games, toy figures and bobble-head dolls to get to… the fiction section. It’s that way in both the B&N shops here in town.
Lots of people go to stores with a specific title in mind to buy, but how many bump into books while there? How many folks browse and stumble into a good book and buy it? This happens. I know this happens. It happens to me. But when you keep fewer and fewer books on the shelves it is going to happen less and less.
I can only assume that on some spreadsheet somewhere it shows that the margin on toy figures is better than books. Which I’m sure it is. So the owner of that spreadsheet decrees that in the interest of chasing profits (which they do indeed need to do as B&N is hurting) they swap out books for non-book merchandise. Which probably gooses the bottom line a little.
But over time bookish folks don’t get all that excited about visiting a B&N anymore. Another two seasons like the past two and it’s going to look like the toy and magazine/book racks at Target or Wal-Mart. So folks start directing book buying elsewhere and it starts to feel like a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I know the book industry is crazy right now and margins on books have always been razor-thin, but the more Barnes & Noble goes down this path it really feels like it’s doing more damage than good.
Am I off in my thinking? Anyone else see it differently?
Paul Bacon is a name that is at the top of all book designer lists. He pioneered many of the looks and styles we see on shelves today. His eye and sense of composition in every 6″x9″ space was amazing.
You can read the full obituary on Paul Bacon, who was 91, here at the NY Times. From what I’ve read, though he is well known for his thought-provoking minimalistic covers he seems like the kind of book jacket designer that was always a designer first and an artist second. Book designers seem to fall in two categories: the artist – they’ll fight you on your opinion and get angry when you want to “mess up their art” and the designer – a professional that understands there is a mission to accomplish and will employ all the artistic tools to see it happen.
Paul Bacon was one of the greats. No doubt. Here are a few of his now classic book jackets that I bet you’ve seen in bookstores and in libraries.
I’m thankful the NY Times ran that obituary. I had no idea that Paul Bacon was a jazz musician. I knew he’d done a Thelonious Monk album cover, but I didn’t realize he played.
Yesterday, Tim O’Reilly announced that, after a seven year run, O’Reilly Media would no longer organize their annual “Tools of Change” conference. Of course, like many I was asking a fearful “Why? What’s not working?” Which is why I was thankful to see this quick exchange between LibraryThing founder Tim Spalding and O’Reilly-founder Tim O’Reilly:
The two Tims talked via Twitter briefly where Tim O’Reilly said that there was a definite opportunity cost:
“Expensive in NY, not very profitable, not enough resource to do everything we want”.
So it sounds that, yes, as ebooks settle into their own and trends are maturing and flattening, it was really a numbers decision to pull the plug on the Tools of Change conference.
The TOC conferences have been fun. While many other digital publishing conferences have popped up over the past few years, TOC tended to focus on “high level views” of publishing and technology. While the details were mentioned and listed, there were more chats and sessions on trends and next year’s tools than this year’s strategies and products.
Speaking of which, it sounds like (paragraph 5) O’Reilly plans on rolling out their own publisher-focused tools in the coming months. I’m anxious to see what they can offer that other services and add-ons don’t already. It’d be exciting to see then apply their forward-looking experience to current publishing tools and services. We’ll see.