Month: November 2007

We didn’t win: John Donne did

Eoin Purcell

Or rather John Stubbs’
Donne: The Reformed Soul did. From what was said of it*, it sounded a worthy winner and I have seen it in the store a few times and nearly bought it so I’m not that bitter:

Donne: The Reformed Soul deserved to win the overall award, said the chairman of the judging panel, David Goodhart, because it was “a revelation”. “I had expected a dry literary biography,” he added, “and found myself transported by a historical thriller set amidst the high politics of late 16th-, early 17th-century England, with struggles over religious and national loyalties which have many contemporary echoes.”

I am very disappointed for Brenda though and for everyone involved with Bibeanna which is a beautiful AND important book and didn’t even win in its category.

Oh well. An ceád úr eile.

* Silly Premium Content

Excuse me while I RAMBLE

Eoin Purcell

I don’t normally post about my job here
But sometimes it is worthwhile. I have just received signed contracts in the post, signed yesterday* and they made me extremely happy.

GRANDAD is writing a book for Mercier Press

I have been a reader of Head Rambles for a while now and love it. I have been thinking for some time that if we didn’t snap him up someone else would, so I e-mailed him and asked him to write a book with us. He has agreed. If you read his post about it (here) you begin to understand why I am so pleased.

If all goes to plan we will publish the book (tentatively titled: Rambles With Grandad) in Spring 2009.

Pleased as pie,

*Which puts paid tot hose nasty rumours that An Post is now taking 4 days to deliver letters from one end of the island to the other.

Reasons to love blog stats: Hol Art Books

Eoin Purcell

Looking over my logs (as I assure you I rarely do)
I came across a link from this blog:

Now under development, Hol Art Books is a startup publisher dedicated to enjoyable, engaging and enlightening writing on visual art. In a wholly unique approach to publishing, we are creating
a user-driven bibliography of art literature and building the tools for readers, booksellers, authors and other publishers to add, categorize, share and even publish new work within that resource.

This website is both a presentation of our emerging company and a prototype for its future. But it’s just the first step. If you would be interested in joining Hol as a partner, investor, advisor, or project participant, please contact me. Your participation is encouraged.

Thank you,

The site is pretty simple but also nicely packed with info and detail. Well worth checking out.

Exciting like kindle isn’t,

Enough of the fire puns already people

Eoin Purcell

When will it stop?
The Kindle comment. What surprises me is the mixed tenor. Some people love it (Guy Kawasaki) others hate it (Jeff Jarvis)

“You’ll find it’s as easy as reading your favourite book!”

I’m quoting the promo video there. Talk about making the case for the printed word. Why would I spend $400 to simulate something that is easy?

I’m pretty sure I hate it but I AM intrigued by this:

Welcome to Digital Text Platform
Digital Text Platform is a fast and easy self-publishing tool that lets you upload and format your books for sale in the Kindle Store.

And if you are interested in a non-biased by emotion review (and who would be) try 37Signals who are planning to review Kindle based on having a real one to hand. Novel.

Still underwhelmed but worried because this might actually be an important step if you believe Michael Hyatt,

Talking to the (Irish) Publisher: Ivan O’Brien

Eoin Purcell


What it is:
An occasional series of posts where I get answers to the same four questions from different publishers*.

Why I am doing it:
Partly because there is so little web based discussion of Irish Publishing. Partly because I think people will like reading the stuff. Mostly because I will find it interesting.

And the Questions:

1) What is the biggest current threat to Irish publishing?
2) What do you believe Irish Publishing’s Unique Selling Point is?
3) Do you think that Irish publishing receives enough state funding (or too much)?
4) Do you think Digitization, e-books and all that goes with that is a threat or an opportunity?

And today’s instalment:

IVAN O’BRIEN (O’Brien Press)

The O’Brien Press was established in 1974, evolving out of a family-run printing and type house, and over the past 32 years has established a reputation for quality and excellence in publishing for adults and children.

The O’Brien Press launched its first publication in November 1974. Me Jewel and Darlin’ Dublin, written by Eamonn Mac Thomais, was brought out while the author was still in jail and was an immediate success. It has been reprinted many times, and has become a minor classic.

The answers:

1) What is the biggest current threat to Irish publishing?
Probably the insane margin crunch brought on by the combination of a range of factors: the biggest single one is probably the all-conquering march of retail price-promotions, both in-store and online.

Even when a book is a success, it’s that much harder to make any real money on it to justify the investment. You also have steady increases in the advances that are being offered to authors, largely driven by the arrival of outposts from most of the conglomerates in Dublin. The level of advance you are expected to deliver presupposes a substantial success, so the cost of failure is that much higher.

Salaries and rents are also increasing much more rapidly than book prices, which have been pretty much static for a decade now. Throw constant pressure from retailers for more discount into the mix, and there’s not much left for the publisher!

2) What do you believe Irish Publishing’s Unique Selling Point is?
We are small, nimble companies that know our market well. We come up with great ideas that are tailored for our buyers, and produce high quality products rapidly. And we really care. I’m not sure how unique that all is, of course!

3) Do you think that Irish publishing receives enough state funding (or too much)?
No, not even nearly enough. Ireland’s march to Boston and away from Berlin (led by the all-conquering competition authority) means that the cultural value of publishing is largely ignored. We are able to point to our great writers winning awards all over the place, and quietly gloss over the fact that most of these are published in Britain.

To claim that this will have no effect on the cultural integrity of the work is niaive at best. Irish state supports for publishing are well below the levels of just about anywhere else — just go to any bookfair and see the size of and investment in the Czech, Catalan, Welsh, Canadian (I could go on!) areas, and compare them with poor old Ireland. Our cultural presence at these events is minimal, which is indicative of the esteem in which publishing is held.

4) Do you think Digitization, e-books and all that goes with that is a threat or an opportunity?
Yes. It is both a threat and an opportunity.
Threat: the investment required to built a robust digital infrastructure is beyond the scope of most small companies, so we will all have to choose partners/providers to exploit the new markets. This will be expensive and will involve substantial up-front cost, with no guarantee of return and (critically) relatively little control over how things evolve. Margins will be squeezed as never before.

Opportunity: new markets and a (more or less) level playing field in delivery, if not in marketing. If we invest enough in making our books findable, searchable and pertinant, there is no reason for us not to complete with the big boys. If we are nimble enough in terms of exploiting online marketing opportunities, we can shout a lot louder than our normal voices would suggest is possible.

A very fine start I think you will agree.

* I may at my random leisure and fancy choose non-publishers without apology or explanation (though they will all involve book type folk).

High Society – The kind of press you don’t need

Eoin Purcell


Publishing is about risk

The risk of losing money and of a book flopping, the risk of missing the market and in some cases, the risk of believing someone you shouldn’t and taking the brunt of that when your error is uncovered. This has blown up in publishers faces recently. The James Frey episode being a glaring example of it. What seemed a true and exciting memoir was in fact an embellished, only partly true account.

There is no evidence that that is what has happened in the case of Gill & MacMillan’s recent book The High Society. In this case, it seems not to be a case of lying. By the account of RTÉ and G&M there are, at the very least, contemporaneous notes about every interview conducted for the book and accompanying TV series. That satisfies me if not others, we have always trusted journalists notes and I don’t see why we shouldn’t in this instance.

But it still must be unsettling when stories like this one emerge about a very controversial book:

RTÉ and Gill & Macmillan declined requests to see interview transcripts claiming confidentiality agreements, but they both said they remained confident about the authenticity of the material.

And when the follow up is a clip of the author on radio saying something that turns out not to be the case, its damn worrying. After all, we operate on a trusting basis with most authors and we rely on their word.

Feeling a little bad for G&M, RTÉ and Justine Delany-Wilson today, the whole affair strikes me as a concentrated effort to bring doubt onto a book that challenged the “great”, the “good” and the powerful in Ireland to face up to and tackle our Drugs problem (though the whole thing will most like sell more books).

Kindle: Good luck avoiding that story today


UPDATED: From Endgadget’s Live blogging:
Seems very smart to me:

9:55 – “We didn’t like this solution either. So instead we chose EV-DO cellular. … as soon as I tell you we’re using EV-DO that should cause a second set of concerns, a whole new thing to worry about. Everybody knows that using these wireless cell networks there’s a data plan, a contract, a monthly bill. But we didn’t like that, either. So we built Amazon Whispernet. It’s built on top of Sprint’s EV-DO network. There’s no data plan, no contract, no bill. We pay for all of that behind the scenes so you can just read. What are you going to read?”

[hat tip to the bookseller]



Amazon’s Jeff Bezos already built a better bookstore. Now he believes he can improve upon one of humankind’s most divine creations: the book itself.

read/write web

Amazon Sets eBook World Alight with Kindle – Finally, Time For Read/Write Books!


I’m rooting for Jeff and the Kindle. I’m not sure that he’s going to win his bet that people will use a single-purpose device rather than reading on a multi-function device like the iPhone and its successors. But I’m also not sure he needs to. Even if some other device becomes the reader of choice, Amazon will still become one of the leading sources of the books that feed it. All Amazon needs to do here is move the industry forward, and I think that’s already been accomplished.

Howard Owens
Seth Godin
Ryan Sholin
The Book Depository
Lorcan Dempsey’s Weblog
Book Patrol

Yup, you can run, but you sure a hell cannot hide!