Book Biz: Indie Stores Increasing, New Tolkein Title, Students Opt for Traditional Magazines

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While I’m not sure the fiftieth issue of this newsletter signifies very much (not even five years!), every time I begin to put together the next newsletter I reflect on who the recipients are and where their interests and talents lie.

For instance, many of my friends from the printing industry, both book and commercial, receive this newsletter each month. Many are still working on the shop floor, some still work in the industry but as free-lancers now, and some have left the industry all together and found new careers in other disciplines. Ironically, it is the latter group that contacts me most often.

And out East there’s a former Harper Rowe editor who I believe could be persuaded to pick up a blue pencil again to tame an unruly manuscript.

One recipient is not only a publisher but an importer/manufacturer who fills his wholesale and retail orders from over 80,000 square feet of warehouse space. His company began many years ago when he would get home from his day job and and roll a Radio Shack TRS80 out of his closet, using a forerunner of the PC years before most believed the primitive computers of the day had any business applications.

Another distributes his books from a series of pole barns he’s added to his property, often traveling to quiet corners of the Midwest with books for his Amish audience.

There are many, many astrologers who read the newsletter. It was a curious course of events that put me in touch with this group, but they are generous people who freely passed my name among themselves whenever an upcoming book was mentioned, and astrologers write (and buy) a lot of books.

There is a gentleman who for years supplied me with information about all things paper, now happily retired. While some paper reps came and went, he became the one who always had the answer, could offer advice when described the application, and endeared himself to our shop by bringing pizza for all. All this after years with a web press book manufacturer.

And I’ve stayed in touch with a wonderful group in California that collects donated technical books to ship and distribute in Asia.

My newsletter archive even has two people who follow each posting although I have no idea why it interests them.

But the majority of you are publishers and authors, often both. When sorting through thirty days of articles to report on and link to, my selection criteria is first and foremost, “Is this interesting to a book publisher? Will this influence the future of book publishing?”

Still, there are stories like the re-imagined library in Australia, or the mother who uses her Kindle as a bookmark that I include…well, just because.

Just received this article from Salon concerning the book industry seen through lens of the BEA.

Book Expo More Optimistic

Book Expo is opening in NYC as I write this. This preview describes a more hopeful attitude in the air compared to the past few years. And yes, NYC allows the publishers to throw some swell parties, but I still would like to see it in some other site in the future. The Big 6 can’t dictate to the industry as they used to.

As If You Didn’t Know

Over the past twenty-five years, beer prices have matched cost of living increases while book pricing has slightly decreased. Obviously textbooks weren’t considered.

Magazines Popular on Campuses

Everyone’s assumption that the first generationkindle magazines to grow up in a digital environment would shun ink and paper content for pixels. Everyone was wrong.

Kindle Fire Tablets Target Apple, Samsung

Amazon will make it’s new Kindle Fire Tablet and HD 8.9” tablet available in over 170 new countries and will offer Android apps in 200 new regions in a challenge to counter Apple and Samsung’s international market penetration. The Fire was previously offered in seven countries.

The Rebirth of Indies

As predicted after the demise of Borders, independent bookstores are beginning to re-appear, and regional chains are expanding. A co-owner of Ann Arbor’s newest, Literati, remembers that Borders store #1 “was always a part of what made Ann Arbor”.

New Perspectives On Backlists

How many publishers employ half of their staff as marketers? How many “backlist only” publishers offer 3,000 titles, all as digital editions, plus a few in print? Open Road is that backlist publisher, and when a lost Pearl S. Buck manuscript was recently discovered in a storage locker, guess which publisher was first offered the opportunity to release it?

Crowdfunding Book Fairs and Books

Kickstarter is the most famous of the crowdfunding websites having raised over $600 million to fund 42,000 projects since 2009.The Sonoma County Book Fest is hoping for sufficient Kickstarter support to hold its 13th Festival in September. Pubslush is a web site that focuses on funding for authors and publishers.

New” J.R.R. Tolkein Book Fall_of_Arthur_coverReleased

J.R.R. Tolkein’s unfinished and unpublished poem, The Fall of Arthur, has been released as a book. Tolkein’s son Christopher has been working on the manuscript which was written in Old English alliterative meter and also in modern English.

Stephen King Releases Paper and Ink Novel

Although Stephen King released an “ebook only” novel in 2000 (“Riding the Bullet”), and his 2009 novel “Ur” focused on interacting with a Kindle, he has announced that his next novel , “Joyland” will be available as a printed book only without an ebook edition, ostensibly to buoy up sales at bookstores.


A few days before “Joyland” is released, King will release a digital work through Apple’s iBooks. While it is a digital book, “Ghost Brothers of Darkland County” includes music by John Mellencamp and T. Bone Burnett who teamed up with King to produce this “supernatural digital book musical”.

Paper Mill Fined

For all the strides the paper industry has made to become environmentally friendly, a Texas Temple Inland mill owned by International Paper has been fined $3.3 million for releasing “black liquor” into the Pearl River and causing an extensive fish kill. The liquid is generally recovered from processing pulp and reused inside the plant.

Rubber Stamp a Book?Superior Printing Press - sized

While GalleyCat is all breathless about a “printing a book” with your children educational toy introduced at BEA, actually The Creative Company has issued a set of rubber stamps, which, I suppose, if you have the time and inclination you could produce a book with. I got my first Superior press when I was 10 (you set the rubber type with tweezers)…and I actually could have printed a book; if I started then it would have been finished about now.

Final Thought

Books are no more threatened by Kindle than stairs by elevators.” ― Stephen Fry

About Wayne Johnson 69 Articles
I've worked in book manufacturing for over 30 years, closing my company Baker Johnson, Inc. in 2005. Currently I work freelance with a large group of publishers, advising them on the printing options available to them as the book industry endures major restructuring. My wife Cathy is a retired psychologist and spent most of her career working with the youth at Maxey Boys Training School. She is a small mammal rehabilitator with Friends of Wildlife. Our daughter Whitney is a PharmD working in the Denver area evaluating the pharmaceutical requirements of nursing homes. Our son Eliot lives in Waterloo and is an editor at Mathematical Reviews in Ann Arbor.