writing & publishing

Book Industry Linkage

Remember that I keep going on about supermarkets being problematic for the book industry by having enormous buying power and not being afraid to wield it against publishers? Tesco isn’t helping the cause:

Tesco Ireland has threatened to pull publishers’ entire range from its shelves if certain titles “bypass” it and go to rival retailers.

Amazon is taking the state of Texas to court, showing just how powerful the retailer can be:

Four months after Texas officials told Inc. that it owes $269 million in uncollected sales taxes, the online retail giant has filed a lawsuit demanding that the comptroller’s office release the audit information it used in arriving at that amount.

A couple of days ago, Damien G. Walter, writing in the Guardian, asked: What’s the story behind genre fiction’s covers?

Science fiction and fantasy book cover designs are as fashion fickle as an emo kid’s dress sense, and produce the same kind of response. Like some sober-suited middle manager tutting over his son’s electric blue spiky haircut, the literary reader sees the genres’ gaudy covers and wonders how they can go out in public looking like that. Why can’t they be more like a Penguin classic, or that nice Faber poetry collection next door? Boring, says genre as it slouches out of the door to meet its friends. It wouldn’t want to be seen in public with the olds anyway. But behind the lurid illustrations hide some masterpieces of fiction.

I must admit, there’s something fantastic about pulp cover art. I love standing in a second-hand bookstore, browsing the gaudy artwork throughout the ages. To hell with your fancy, tasteful Penguin covers!

The Telegraph reports that Oliver Twist’s workhouse has been discovered:

… it is not surprising that a buzz surrounds the new claim by Ruth Richardson, a historian of medicine and author of an acclaimed history of body snatching, Death, Dissection and the Destitute, that she has identified the model for the workhouse in Oliver Twist – and that the building in central London is now facing demolition. The irony is that, given Dickens’s feelings about workhouses, he may well not have been supportive of the campaign to preserve it.

There’s a joke to be made about the Tories here, but it’s too early so you’ll have to make up your own.

By Mark Newton

Born in 1981, live in the UK. I write about strange things.

17 replies on “Book Industry Linkage”

The only people that give a shit (or at least a detailed, thoughtful shit) about book covers are the people who shouldn’t, anyway. Everyone else just enjoys it.

Wattah on fyre 4 lyfe, bitches.

Sammy Sykes out.

Well, we’re definitely agreed that whitewashing is a particularly retarded and offensive practice that should always be challenged. However, I think that’s a slightly different matter than the battle of tasteful cover versus gaudy cover.

So, Amazon is suing, basically because they have to pay taxes… And because they claim Texas has illegally obtained their audit information. Information that I assume Amazon should have provided in the first place.

Perhaps it is time to seize Amazon’s assets and jail their management. They are obviously being run like a drug ring.

Mark – I think they passed a law in Norway requiring anyone selling e-books to Norwegians to collect a 25% tax (VAT) on them, and forward it to the Norwegian government. Bringing it in line with taxes Norwegian e-book sellers already have. (Paper books have no VAT in Norway, but a Service tax/VAT is in place that they want to extend to all electronic products.)

If Amazon refuses that, they could be barred from doing business in Norway, or at least from selling e-books there.

So if you are a Norwegian, you might want to wait to buy a kindle…

-Just checked, but couldn’t find out if that motion was passed.

I care a great deal about covers. Here in Germany most people are looking down on any kind of Fantasy/SpecLit as being not “real” literature, and the covers used on many (german) editions really help them to make their case. Cliches and random schoolboy fantasies of castles, warriors & dragons, often with no connections to content of the book whatsoever. If you want “your” product to be taken seriously, please treat the cover in the same way. Many US/UK hardcovers acomplish that, but sometimes crap all over it again when it comes to the paperbacks.

Anne – surely there’s a niche on your blog for photoshopping pulpy covers with the names of modern authors instead… MAKE IT SO.

Weirdmage – I think in the UK books are exempt from VAT, though you have to pay the tax on ebooks – something I find quite odd, I must say.

Sebert – yup, and this is the initial controversy finger I waved at Mr Sykes! Even within the genre, a lot of fans would love for just a little more respectability. Things have moved on quite well in the UK/US over the last few years; I must admit I’m not that familiar with German editions, having only browsed one bookstore when I was last over there.

Mark- Yes, I didn’t make that clear. It’s the same her for books as in the UK.

They are saying that everything electronic is a service, not a product. And there is a 25% VAT on services. So the exemption for books will not extend to e-books. They probably have gotten the idea from the EU, or possibly you Brits invented it :-p

I know cover art SHOULDN’T matter, but at the same time, most humans are visual creatures, and like it or not, cover art sells books. At least, it can make people take notice of a book and consider buying it.

My personal gripe is with covers that clearly have nothing to do with the book. One favorite example is the Ender’s Game series by Orson Scott Card – the US mass paperback covers have generic stock art of space stations on them when the 2nd through 4th books in the series take place entirely on-planet.

I assume it’s a cost-cutting measure, but Card’s books are perennially popular; surely they can afford to commission real cover art?

Comments are closed.