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Industry News: A new anti-trust suit (just what we needed), the skinny on audio book sales, and a new writers museum

February 23, 2013

Independent bookstores sue Amazon, Big Six over ebooks

Three independent bookstores, Albany, NY’s Book House, New York City’s Posman books, and South Carolina’s Fiction Addiction have filed a class-action lawsuit against Amazon and Hachette, HarperCollins, MacMillan, Penguin, Random House, and Simon & Schuster, claiming their use of digital rights management (DRM) software is causing a monopoly in book sales. The suit targets the DRM controls that prevent a book purchased for the Kindle to be used on a Nook or other computing platform. The complaint names the Big Six because they have not entered into an agreement with any independent stores to sell their books, giving Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Apple a monopoly. Together, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Apple account for nearly 97% of all ebook sales. The suit also says that Apple’s elimination of DRM for music in 2009 should be a precedent upheld for ebooks.

What this means to you: For one thing, it’s got to mean you see the discontinuity in Amazon suing five of the Big Six, and then being named in the same suit as them. Come on, you almost got a chuckle. Although you can read Kindle books on your laptop, iPad, and Android apps, the book sellers are saying that it’s the ereader software that causes the monopoly. If you have a Kindle, or you use the ereader software, you must buy that book from Amazon. You can’t buy it from other sources. The small bookstores certainly don’t have the deep pockets of Amazon or any of the publishers, but one must imagine that other parties that rhyme with scrapple and yarns & coble might indirectly support this suit.

Listening to audio books? You’re probably a bit older and listening in the car

According to the Audio Publishers Association, audio book sales climbed 13% between 2010 and 2011, and it’s the well-educated who listen. The survey also said that the average listener is 51 years old and most likely listen in their cars. Almost two-thirds listen on a CD player. About a quarter still use cassette players. The survey said that revenue from the CD format represents 54% of the market, but downloads represent 58% of the market. In other words, CDs bring in more revenue than downloads. Mystery/suspense, general fiction, and best sellers were the top genres.  Overall, the audiobook industry is worth about $1.2 billion.

What this means to you: There’s a trend toward digital download for audio books, away from CDs. But either way, commuting seems to fit the audio book model, and the model is growing. But as many employers investigate flexible work arrangements, such as working at home, commuting may have a ceiling. The trend toward digital download will probably squeeze revenue for audio books the same as it has for ebooks. What this means to you is that if you sell a book, be sure to ask your agent about the audio rights terms.

Writers’ Museum to open in Chicago

If you go to Chicago, there are plenty of things to see–Wrigley Field, the Museum of Science and Industry, the Navy Pier, places that sell decent pizza, and, starting in 2015, the American Writers Museum. According to the American Writer’s Museum Foundation website its mission, beyond opening the museum, is to celebrate American writers and explore their influence on our history, identity, culture, and lives. Plans seem a little unformed for the overall museum, but the core exhibit will be chronological overview of the history of American literature. There will also be a hall of honor, featuring various award winners; a writing center, and a cafe.

What this means to you: Chicago is beautiful in the summer and fall, and if you time it right you can go to Taste of Chicago. And bring me back some Gino’s East. Seriously, though, the museum sounds intriguing and worth stopping if you’re in Chicagoland.

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