Archive for the ‘Odyssey Editions’ Category

Harvard Magazine profile of Andrew Wylie

July 24, 2010

Harvard Magazine profile of Andrew Wylie

Andrew Wylie is well-known within the literary community…and has recently become better known than he was outside of it.

He’s a literary agent, but one with his own mind and style. 

In a way, he has recently broken the blockade around bookstores.  While he has in the past negotiated with the guards at the gate to let his clients enter to sell their goods, he has just taken them off the well-trodden main road and brought them through a side entrance.

He has taken well-known and prestigious books, and rather than sold the e-book rights to a publisher, placed them directly in the Kindle store.

See this earlier post for a list of titles.

This has ignited a firestorm of response. 

Who is this bold freethinker? 

Harvard Magazine has an excellent


about Wylie that gives you some real insight and information.

It was written before the recent deal, as evidenced by this short excerpt:

“In his personal reading, Wylie has little use for e-book devices like Kindle, although e-book rights are currently a topic of intense discussion among all publishers and agents. “We spend 96 percent of our time talking about 4 percent of the business,” he says (e-books’ current share of publishing revenue). “That 4 percent will climb slowly, and I think it will grow first for frontlist,” he continues. “I suspect that the trashier the book, the more likely it is to be converted to an e-book. You don’t have a desire to save James Patterson in your library. Those who want to keep a book for a long time will buy a physical book.”

Now, I happen to think his opinion will evolve on this.  The books he recently published are backlist, and have leapt into the top half a percent of books in the Kindle store. 

Booklovers love the books…not just the medium in which it appears (although they love paperbooks, too).  I think those that love the words adapt more easily to e-books.  If you think of a book as “that thing on the shelf”, or in some cases, “that thing in the humidity-controlled case”, you may have more trouble getting past that.

I think those who want to keep the book forever may be more likely to want an electronic file.  I feel more secure that my e-books will be able to be read fifty years from now than my paperbooks (especially mass market paperbacks of the past sixty years or so).  I know of people who have lost a library to a fire, and know that it happens with floods and other issues as well.

I think when he sees how well these books sell that he will see that it is the booklovers, the constant readers, the word venerators who are leading the way to e-books.

I found the article quite fascinating, and I suspect many of you will as well.  Of course, virtually all of you will read it in electronic form…

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.


Flash! Odd Odyssey Categories

July 24, 2010

Flash! Odd Odyssey Categories

I’ve written a couple of times recently about the new Odyssey Edition e-book exclusives in the Amazon store.

I thought I’d take a look at their ranks in the Kindle store…see how well they are selling already.

In doing that, I also looked at their categories.  Those categories are normally set by the publisher: they certainly are in the independently-published Digital Text Platform books, but I believe it goes for traditionally-published books as well.

That showed me some odd choices!

Categories are chosen for sales, certainly.  I’ve seen the same books in both fiction and non-fiction categories, for example.  Is that how Andrew Wylie is making the choices?  Maybe…but would you have put Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man under Men’s Adventure in Genre Fiction?  I never would have done that in the bookstore I managed! 

London Fields  by Martin Amis (sales rank: #2359 of paid books in the Kindle store: Category: Contemporary Fiction)

The Adventures of Augie March  by Saul Bellow (#1940/Thrillers-Psychological Suspense, Contemporary Fiction)

Ficciones (in Spanish) by Jorge Luis Borges (3927/Contemporary Fiction)

Junky  by William S. Burroughs (6712/Contemporary Fiction, Classics)

Invisible Man  by Ralph Ellison (1021/Genre Fiction – Men’s Adventure)

Love Medicine by Louse Erdrich (not ranked…pre-order/Contemporary Fiction)

The Enigma of Arrival  by V.S. Naipaul (6746/Contemporary Fiction)

The White Castle  by Orham Pamuk (12874/Contemporary Fiction)

Midnight’s Children  by Salman Rushdie (863/Contemporary Fiction)

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks (2684/Psychology & Counseling, Contemporary Fiction)

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas  by Hunter S. Thompson (818/Biographies & Memoirs – Arts & Literature – Authors, Contemporary Fiction)

Rabbit Redux  by John Updike (5297/Genre Fiction – Family Saga, Mystery & Thrillers – Thrillers – Psychological & Suspense, Contemporary Fiction)

Rabbit at Rest by John Updike (4841/Genre Fiction – Family Saga, Mystery & Thrillers – Thrillers – Psychological & Suspense, Contemporary Fiction)

Rabbit is Rich by John Updike (4645/Genre Fiction – Family Saga, Mystery & Thrillers – Thrillers – Psychological & Suspense, Contemporary Fiction)

Rabbit, Run by John Updike (1053/Contemporary Fiction)

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh (1803/Contemporary Fiction)

So, it’s probably worth noting that I didn’t list every category…for example, I didn’t list Literature & Fiction each time).  Rabbit, Run isn’t a thriller, but the others are?  Junky is a classic…and Brideshead Revisited isn’t? 

I’m still struck by Invisible Man being in the same category as Dirk Pitt and Remo Williams…

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Wylie riles

July 23, 2010

Wylie riles

As I reported in an earlier post, Amazon announced yesterday that the Wylie Agency had exclusively placed e-book edition of some very high profile backlist books (see previous post for list) in the Kindle store.

This is a very big deal.  I can see some concerns that people would express.

One obvious one: do we want the great works of literature controlled by one company?

Well, although the answer is no, I don’t see a big loss for readers in this deal.

First, releasing a book in the Kindle format is about as universal as you can get.  It doesn’t really cut anybody out of being able to get the book as an e-book.  Kindle books can be read on:

  • Kindles
  • PCs
  • Macs
  • iPads
  • iPhones
  • iPod touches
  • Blackberrys
  • Android devices

“But wait,” you say, “I can’t buy that book for my NOOK.”

True…but how many people have a NOOK and don’t have a PC or a Mac?  It’s not convenient, perhaps, and it isn’t your device of choice, but it doesn’t deny you access to the book.

“But there won’t be any competition!  Amazon will control the price!”

Yes…hypothetically, that’s a bad thing, but in practicality, I think this may mean that prices for the books are cheaper than they might be otherwise.  I do have some weasel words in there on purpose.  🙂

Look at my recent post on bestsellers.  On the New York Times bestseller list for hardback fiction, the Agency Model books are all priced higher than the non-Agency Model books. 

“But there is no competition!”

True…but that’s the case for books under the Agency Model as well.  When a book is sold under the Agency Model, all former retailers become “sales agents” and have to sell the book for the same price.

I would prefer that there was competition…but honestly, if there is going to be one price-setter, I’d rather it was Amazon.

That’s just my opinion, though.

There was competition to get these e-book rights, presumably.  I’ve been suggesting to the tradpubs (traditional publishers) that they make sure they buy up those rights before somebody else did.  Whoops, too late!  It isn’t just Wiley, other groups (like Open Road Media) are doing the same thing.

I want to get to one more point before I look at some of the reactions to the deal.

There will be people who think $9.99 is too much for “older books” (see this earlier post).  I think one thing that drives that is thinking of paperbacks as only costing a few dollars.

The missed point here is that these books are often not available as new mass market paperbacks directly from Amazon.

Since many of these books may be from companies that block text-to-speech on their e-books (and I don’t link to books from those companies, even paperbooks), I’m going to do this without titles (as I did for the bestsellers for the same reason):

Here are five I sort of picked capriciously (not truly at random, of course):

Paper List AZ Price
 $   14.95  $   10.17
 $   15.99  $   10.87
 $   16.00  $   10.88
 $   15.00  $   10.20
 $   16.00  $   10.88

 All of these are $9.99 in Kindle editions. 

So, you can’t compare the $9.99 to the $2.95 you paid for a mass market paperback in the 1970s.  You can probably find used copies cheaper, certainly, but if you are buying them new, these e-book prices are cheaper than the cheapest new price available directly from Amazon.

Now, as to what happened:

Andrew Wylie is a literary agent.  Typically, that would mean that he would represent authors or the author’s estates in selling the rights to publishers.  It’s a big agency, with big clients. 

Wylie has been saying he is unhappy with the terms being offered for e-books by the tradpubs. 

So, he short-circuited all that.  He put some of his really significant titles into the Kindle store exclusively…cutting out the publishers entirely.

Presumably, he got a good deal for the authors and the estates. 

Naturally, at least some of the publishers are riled up over it…like they were over text-to-speech.

While perhaps “Touché” or “Well-played” might have been the genteel response, that’, um, not how this sport is played.

Random House started out by saying that Wiley cheated.  RH has been asserting that the contracts they have for paperbooks cover e-books as well.  They’ve sent out letters, been to court…but I think it’s safe to say that many people don’t accept the notion (and they did lose to RosettaBooks).

On the one hand, I think it’s nice that they want to argue that e-books and paperbooks are the same thing…kind of evens the field.  However, when you buy rights, you buy them for specific formats.  Buying the paperbook rights doesn’t give you the audiobook rights or the movie adaptation rights.  You pay for those separately. 

Is an e-book as different from a paperbook as an audiobook?  I’d say no.  Is it different enough to justify another contract?  So far, the answer has generally been yes.  It needs to be “adapted” to that medium, it’s consumed somewhat differently, and it is arguably sold to somewhat different market (but that’s just my guess). 

Here’s an AP article that talks about Random House’s statement:

AP article

Random House isn’t playing: here’s a short excerpt:

“…Random House on a worldwide basis will not be entering into any new English-language business agreements with the Wylie Agency until this situation is resolved.”

For background, take a look at this earlier article about Random House versus RosettaBooks:

AP article

John Sargent, Macmillan CEO, took the Amazon/Macmillan kerfuffle (which resulted in Amazon pulling books Macmillan books from the store for a while) public earlier this year, which I thought was a bit…unprofessional.

He’s also posted an opinion about the Wiley deal:

Macmillan blog post

It has some extraordinary statements in it…I do recommend that you read it.

Here’s one of the things I found oddest:

“I’ll be knocking on his door shortly, asking him for dues to the AAP.”

The AAP is the Association of American Publishers.

Really?  Membership isn’t voluntary?  Or is the suggestion that Wiley owes the AAP something for making this deal possible?  Sargent is the Treasurer, I believe, so if dues were due 😉 , he might be the one to collect.

It just sounds a bit like assimilating them into the collective, if you know what I mean.  😉   I’m sure there are thousands of micropublishers using Amazon’s Digital Text Platform to sell books through the Kindle store: is John Sargent knocking on their doors, too?

Macmillan is doing some good things, and I am a customer of theirs.  They are one of only two of the Big Six US trade publishers that doesn’t block text-to-speech access, and my hat is off to them for that. 

I just don’t buy that making books available through a single retailer on a wide variety of devices is more “damaging to the whole book community” than the Agency Model that Macmillan (and four others of the Big Six) use, and that eliminates competition in prices.  Changing retailers into “sales agents” seem to me to be a much more radical change than “disintermediating” publishers (although I do give Sargent props for using that word).  Disclosure: I’m a former bookstore manager, so I may be biased in favor of the need for retailers.  Of course, I’m a micropublisher, too.

You are going to hear a lot more about this in the news.  This deal is done, though…this is yelling at the barn door after the horse is loose.  😉

The Bookseller on the deal

FUTUReBOOK on the reaction (from Catherine Neilan)

What do you think?  Is this deal terrible for readers?  Did Wiley doom itself in future deals with the publishers?  Are the publishers just complaining about sour grapes?  Feel free to let me know.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Flash! Incredible newly Kindleized backlist titles

July 22, 2010

Flash! Incredible newly Kindleized backlist titles

This is what we’ve been wanting!  Well, it’s some of it.  🙂

These are coming from the Wylie Agency, which is a literary agency, in a special unified look series called Odyssey Editions.

These titles are EXCLUSIVE to the Kindle store…take that, iBooks, Borders, and B&N!  😉

I was really pleased to see that they haven’t blocked the text-to-speech!

Are these important books?


Especially the Rabbit books from John Updike, but that’s certainly not all.  Lolita, Brideshead Revisited, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Portnoy’s Complaint, Love Medicine…these are exclusive in e-book to the Kindle store!

Here, I’ve got to give you the whole list:

London Fields  by Martin Amis

The Adventures of Augie March  by Saul Bellow

Ficciones (in Spanish) by Jorge Luis Borges

Junky  by William S. Burroughs

Invisible Man  by Ralph Ellison

Love Medicine by Louse Erdrich

The Enigma of Arrival  by V.S. Naipaul

The White Castle  by Orham Pamuk

Midnight’s Children  by Salman Rushdie

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas  by Hunter S. Thompson

Rabbit Redux  by John Updike

Rabbit at Rest by John Updike

Rabbit is Rich by John Updike

Rabbit, Run by John Updike

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

How about them e-books, hm?  😉

These are all $9.99 right now, but some others from this publisher (not part of this special series) can be more expensive…I wouldn’t be surprised if these go up in price later, but that’s just speculation.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

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