Saturday, November 24, 2007

Dutton's News and Events

an excerpt from their weekly newsletter of what's going on at Dutton's Brentwood.

Odds and ends

Bad news for the book world............
A study released November 19 by the National Endowment for the Arts had some troubling news: Americans are doing less pleasure reading, and that decline is mirrored by a decline in reading skills. In studying reading skills at several different levels, the report found that proficiency scores have only risen for elementary school children. Middle school children's scores were flat and high school scores were declining.
The trend seems to continue through college and even into adulthood as the percentage of adults proficient in reading has declined. Concurrent with these declines is a drop in the percentage of Americans who report they regularly read for pleasure.
It is unclear whether the decline in proficiency is a result of a decline in pleasure reading or vice versa; but the trend was clearly troubling the report's authors - and not just because the book business may be headed for trouble. The study also found a significant correlation between pleasure reading and scores in other academic areas - including math. Culprits for the decline in reading were numerous - chief among them television and the growing digital culture; however, society's relative failure to celebrate and promote literary culture was also identified as a cause. For a good summary of the report, check out the New York Times article.

A million little what Random House must have feared when it decided to offer refunds to anyone who purchased the wildly popular memoir A Million Little Pieces by James Frey. Trouble began when it was discovered that some of the book was in fact nothing more than literary invention. While its author was busy making a heartfelt apology to Oprah - who had championed the book on her on-the-air book club - the publisher was busy trying to deal with lawsuits that were popping up from readers who claimed they were duped.
A settlement agreement was finally reached in which Random House would offer refunds to anyone who had purchased the book before it was exposed as primarily a work of fiction.
Additionally, Random House would contribute $180,000 to be divided among three charities. Though the publisher ending up spending an additional $1.2 million in legal fees and costs associated with publicizing the settlement, in the end only 1,729 readers claimed refunds. Ironically, despite the hefty lawyer fees and settlement costs, Random House probably still came out ahead since the controversy only stoked interest in the book - A Million Little Pieces remained on the best-seller list for 26 weeks after it had been revealed as a fraud.

Lawsuits, part II..................Random House isn't the only publisher who has dealt with lawsuits recently - Regnery Publishing has recently found itself in court. However, whereas readers were suing Random House, Regnery is being sued by its own authors.
At issue is, not surprisingly, the structure of royalty payments. Regnery, a publisher of such conversative bestsellers as Unfit for Command and William F. Buckley's Miles Gone By, is being accused by five of its authors of cheating them out of royalties by selling their books through various book clubs and other channels that the publisher's parent company, Eagle Publishing, owns.
Rather than receiving the fifteen percent of the cover price that the authors would receive if the books were sold at a retail store, the authors receive a smaller percentage of a discounted price - a difference, they argue, that can reduce a $4 per book royalty to mere pennies.
Moreover, many of these sales are not tracked as part the official industry counts, meaning that future contract calculations, which are usually based on prior sales, can be affected. In its defense, Regnery argues that these practices are standard in the industry and the the alternative outlets help to promote the books, ultimately benefitting the authors.

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