Tuesday, September 16, 2014

PBFA's York Book Fair, 19 & 20 September



This coming weekend you have the chance to be in the same building with the largest number of rare/used/antiquarian book sellers in one place in not just the UK but Europe. They are accompanied by lots and lots of books!

The annual York National Book Fair, the largest in Europe, will open on Friday 19 September 2014 at the Knavesmire Suite, York Racecourse in York. If you have not been to this event before, it is a must for book lovers and buyers seeking books, maps and images, indeed all things to do with paper. Not just for collectors, it is very much for readers too, with items for all budgets, though it is a wonderful opportunity to see and browse some really special items.

2014 is the 40th anniversary of the PBFA and this year's fair features the largest ever number of exhibitors. Over 210 leading dealers will gather to offer rare, antiquarian, unusual and hard to obtain items on all conceivable subjects. This year exhibitors are from as far afield as Germany, Hong Kong and Canada as well as all corners of the British Isles. In advance of the fair, you can take a peep at some of the items exhibitors intend to bring by visiting the website www.yorkbookfair.com where you can also get a complimentary ticket. Admission on the door is otherwise £2.00 per person.

As well as the books for sale, all the trades, such as paper makers, calligraphers and bookbinders will have exhibition stands at the fair. Andy Moore, for instance, makes one off calligraphy pieces, for a combination of exhibitions, events and commissions.

With over 100,000 books for sale, where else can you look at, touch, enjoy, and even purchase so many rarities under one roof? If you are already a collector then it is a great opportunity to meet new dealers in your area, and again if you have a collector's heart on a student's budget it is great way to meet dealers and discuss their specialisms. The sellers bring just a fraction of their stock but you can pick up leaflets and bookmarks with their website details, where you may find at a later date a regular supply of your favorite authors or areas within your budget.

The Racecourse venue is light and airy with ample parking. For those coming by train, or just wanting access to and from the town, there will be a free shuttle-bus. This operates between York Railway Station and the Racecourse, approximately every 20 minutes. For more information: info@yorkfair.com

It is my first year as a full member of the PBFA and I won't be exhibiting this time, but you can browse this list of my Ibooknet bookselling colleagues who will be there. I would particularly recommend you say hello to Stephen Foster at Stand 4 and Heather and Jeff at Peakirk Books at stand 170!

You'd like to see a picture of Ibooknet bookseller Stephen with Taylor Lautner wouldn't you? Here he is! That is proper bookselling wear that is. Stephen's bookshop was used in the Funeral epsiode of Cuckoo recently.

Back to York bookfair: if you attend we'd love to hear what you think of it, or read about what you bought!

Cross-posted on Juxtabook

Monday, September 1, 2014

Royal Mail - shipping by International Economy

Do you ship to Iraq, Iran, Pakistan or India? Ibooknet member G. A. Michael Sims relates some of the absurdities discovered at Royal Mail when trying to ascertain International Economy rates to this block of countries.

Be reassured, the service still exists, it's just that Royal Mail doesn't really want you to know about it! See the full piece at the Abfar Blog.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Publishing an ebook Part 2

Having got Flag Fen: a concise Archæoguide successfully published for Kindle (see Part 1) I wanted to get it published to other platforms as an epub file (and other formats). Not least, I wouldn’t be comfortable with Amazon having a monopoly on it. I spent several evenings using a well-known search engine trying to find out what would be the best route to get the book onto iTunes and other epub sellers. The more I looked at it, the more similar the structure seemed to selling second-hand books.
Selling used books for me started on the Advanced Book Exchange. It was a friendly affair and there was little attempt by ABE to get between the seller and buyer, and ABE let the seller have most of the sale price. There were other websites which accounted for a small percentage of sales, but ABE was the main player. Things have changed somewhat, commission and card-handling fees are now hefty, and my second-hand book sales are now probably c.75% through Amazon, 23% through Abebooks (as it is now called, and owned by Amazon), with the other 2% or so through smaller sites like Biblio, AntiQbook, and my own website; there are and have been a plethora of ‘others’ which I have long since given up on.
From what I could gather by reading around, the majority of ebook sales are through Amazon, with a smaller number of iTunes sales, and a very few through Kobo, Nook, plus a plethora of ‘others’ which return none. I therefore decided to concentrate initially on the three sites Apple, Kobo, and Barnes and Noble, and not worry too much about the others. How to get the book into epub format? I discovered it’s not actually that hard to produce an epub file. Use the right software and load it with a properly formatted Word document and an epub file pops out the other end. I’m not sure why paying one of the many services available to convert your file is so expensive.
From my research it became apparent that I would probably use an aggregator. Apart from anything else, not using an aggregator can make it necessary to have a US bank account, and to be VAT registered. For those who don’t know, an aggregator is like a distributor, a company that, for a percentage or your royalties, will make your book available through a number of sites; they can also turn your document into an epub file for you.
The old boy of aggregators appears to be Smashwords, and they distribute to a long list. A newer company is Draft2Digital, who were then only distributing to iTunes, Kobo and Nook, as well as making the book available to download on their own website in various formats. For a number of reasons I decided to try D2D first.
Registering with them was straightforward, I supplied them with my EIN (see Part 1) and I already had the book as a Word file which I duly uploaded.
Pricing is an odd question. How much is an ebook worth? As a dyed-in-the-wool physical book junkie my gut feeling is ‘not a lot’, it’s too ephemeral. But the author has still put a lot of work into it, and after all, it’s the intellectual property that’s important, regardless of how it’s delivered. But it’s a balancing act – price it too high and sales will be low, price it too low and there’s hardly any royalties. Pricing on some sites is based on a US dollar price, so the UK (GBP) price can annoyingly appear as an odd amount as the exchange rate fluctuates.
Once the formalities are done and the ‘publish’ button clicked on, nothing happens for quite a while. The book is submitted to the relevant platforms and eventually gets accepted, and is therefore ‘published’.
A little while after listing the book with D2D they added Scribd to the list of sites they upload to, and more recently Page Foundry. Neither addition has seen the book flying off the eshelves.
And do the orders come rushing in from anywhere? Not without some publicity, and how to do that? Social media is the most obvious means, and doing some tweeting from Boudicca Books' account brought in the odd order.
Next the book went onto a number of other platforms (including library distribution) through Smashwords, where you can also buy the download in various formats. Getting the book into a suitable format for them is more difficult - they are very prescriptive about what their 'meat grinder' (what they call their conversion software) will and won't accept, and it took about two hours to reformat the document. There is a lengthy 'style guide' which I followed assiduously - even so, the first upload failed; but it was one very minor problem which I corrected and then it was accepted without a problem. It took several weeks for the book to work through the system and become available (it still doesn't seem to be on some sites yet, including W H Smith and Waterstones, which should be supplied by Kobo), and sales are now much the same as on other sites - i.e. very low.
I’ve listed the book in the bibliography on Francis’s ‘Author Central’ page at Amazon, which may produce a few sales - Amazon is the only site where there are regular sales.
The next part of the project, which is still in its early stages, is to work with the team at the Flag Fen visitor attraction to enable their visitors to buy the ebook on-site. Not as straightforward as a real book, but it appears to be theoretically feasible. I've left the ball in their court at the moment, but I can see that there may be a number of obstacles to overcome; if it does get sorted out it I fear it will be by the autumn when they are ready to close for the winter.
So, has it been worth it? It's too early to tell, even though it's been over three months since the Kindle version has been available, much less for the epub - in fact, some of the channels at Smashwords are still awaiting distribution, and some of those that it has distributed to are yet to make the book available. So, perhaps it will be next year before sales speed up. The long timescale so far is why it's taken a while for this second part of the blog post to appear, I've been waiting for things to happen.
One thing I do know: yet another similarity between second-hand bookselling and ebook publishing is that the monetary return on time invested is risibly small.

Booksellers in the Blogosphere

Another quick round-up of recent blog posts by a range of booksellers:

Barbara's from March House Books always beautiful blog has some stunning book covers and she has also been visiting Hay-on-Wye.

Nigel has been reviewing Kevin Eldon’s My Prefect Cousin: a short biography of Paul Hamilton. I've not come across comedian Kevin Eldon before but since reading Nigel's excellent review I've been enjoying what Youtube has to offer.

Marijana and Heather haven't been blogging recently (booksellers are busy folk!) but both have excellent Facebook pages. There is a fascinating range of snippets on Peakirk Books page, and Marijana has some great little posts on bookcovers to tie in with her other job co-running Books4Looks.

Stella Books have a Rupert Book as book of the week no doubt inspired by their visit to the Followers of Rupert 31st Annual meeting in Warwick.

Mike from A Book for All Reasons has been following the adventures of Old Front Line as they fund raise for ex-servicemen.

Karen Millward has been cataloguing some lovely Irish postcards, and Stephen Foster has been tweeting about lizards and Victorian strangeness.

As for me on Juxtabook I've been reviewing Josephine Tey and believe it or not Goodbye, Mr Chips as well as chatting about film adaptations of books.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Primary source edition

A phrase that seems to have crept in to bookselling jargon recently is 'primary source edition'. I first noticed it when it was used to describe a book I bought on Ebay this week. I had assumed that it was just the seller's way of saying that it was the first edition or a very early reprint because I recognised the edition from his online image but when he later apologised for mis-describing the book I decided I must try and establish what the expression means.

In brief, it seems to have been adopted by the publishers of 'print-on-demand' books to indicate that they had scanned the original edition of the title. Thus a 'primary source edition' sounds rather better than it really is (and was fortunately not what I had bought on Ebay!). For full details of the brief research and some of the faults likely to be encountered with 'primary source editions' see the account on ABfaR's blog.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Booksellers in the Blogosphere

A quick round-up of recent blog posts by a range of booksellers:

Jane has been reviewing a selection of books by the Pullein-Thompson sisters amongst others. I Rode a Winner by Christine Pullein-Thompson  is a recent one. Jane describes is as, "probably my favourite Christine Pullein-Thompson". I'm always delighted by Jane's reviews as they evoke many childhood memories. As a child I wrote what was probably a very boring letter to Christine Pullein-Thompson and to my delight she very kindly wrote back telling me about her life in Suffolk and her dogs and horses. I treasured that letter and must have read it hundreds of times. It is sadly now lost in the land where things of one's childhood disappear to...

Marijana has been Finding Flegon, writing on the difficulties of dating a copy of Solzhenitsyn’s ‘A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich’ by the controversial publisher Alec Flegon. These little byways mean booksellers should never work out what they earn by hour as we can spend so long nailing down some aspect of bibliography for just one book, as Mike noted on his recent blog post.

Nigel has been hosting his daughter Alice (who more usually blogs on theatre here) as she reviews Flag Fen: a Concise Archæoguide. You can read Nigel's thoughts on getting this book, by the archaeologist Francis Pryor, out in e-book form here.

Barbara has been taking a break in the most charming way that only a specialist children's bookseller could manage.

And finally, I've written on the often missed delights of the village of Wycoller and its Brontë connection. When you're on your way to the honeypot attractions of the north of England slow down and give Wycoller a few hours of your attention.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Amazon shooting themselves in the foot?

Against a background today's news lead in Sheppards Newsletter and other press reports of the negotiations between the internet selling giant Amazon and the book publishers Hachette, a point has come to my mind of special interest to our end of the bookselling world.

My understanding is that Amazon proposes that they should be authorised to 'print on demand' any new title that they do not have on hand and which is not immediately available from the publisher.

Is the bookselling side of Amazon Marketplace worth so little to them? As a seller of secondhand books I have found no market for second-hand 'print-on-demand' books, it fact it seems that most of them only exist to cater for the instant need of the buyer and have no residual value. At a time when nearly everyone else is seeking to preserve scarce resources Amazon seems to be profligate in their aim of making a sale.

I don't sell on Amazon Marketplace but it strikes me that by fulfilling orders with a print-on-demand alternative when stocks of new books are low Amazon are removing the books that will become the stock-in-trade of their Marketplace sellers of the future.

Sources: Sheppards Newsletter, Bookseller, Guardian, Telegraph
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