Week 51/19 – week ending 20 December

TLS launches online bookshop with Monwell

The Times Literary Supplement has opened a new online shop selling books, prints of its covers and illustrations alongside branded merchandise.

Launched through e-commerce firm Monwell, which also provides bookshops for the Guardian and Archant, fulfilment for the new shop is provided by Gardners.

The TLS said its shop will be a “stylish and exciting reflection” of its brand, showcasing books featured in the magazine’s pages.

Editor and publisher Stig Abell said: “It is important to us that we launch new ventures with ambition, beauty and elegance. And we think that, with Monwell, we have the ability to do that here. Hopefully, people will find some lovely books, as well as bit of merchandise, and have a good experience doing so.”

Nick Sidwell, co-founder of Monwell, added: “We are delighted to be launching a new shop with such a leading literary authority. There is a wonderful chance here to bring readers a brilliant online shop, with some beautiful products and a range of books reflecting the intelligence and inquisitiveness of the TLS. We’re really looking forward to making the most of the opportunity with Gardners and all the publishers we work closely with.”

Harrogate’s author exclusion clause branded ‘predatory’ by rivals

Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival has expanded its author exclusion clause, banning special guest authors from appearing at other crime festivals, according to crime fiction event CrimeFest. CrimeFest says Martina Cole was forced to withdraw from its 2020 event in Bristol after agreeing to appear exclusively at Harrogate.

The Bookseller understands that Harrogate’s special guest authors are required to appear exclusively at Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival and not as a special guest at other crime fiction festivals taking place in the same calendar year, marking a change from a previous clause which prevented other appearances for 10 weeks around the festival.

Responding to the criticism, Helen Donkin, literature festivals manager at Harrogate International Festivals, said: “As the longest established crime fiction festival this is an historic clause included at the point of invitation for our Special Guests and for many years we have worked with authors, publishers and our partners to ensure a unique programme for our audiences. As an arts charity and not a convention or commercial venture we rely heavily on ticket sales to deliver our year-round programmes and want our authors to have the best audiences as part of their experience on the Harrogate stage.

“We are always working to improve our commitment to the festival experience for all parties and previously consulted heavily with the industry including with the Society of Authors. As part of our annual review, and following recent conversations our contractual clauses were discussed and revised for further consultation at the most recent programming committee in early December.”

The Bookseller understands that in previous years author contracts have said they must not to undertake any similar performance within a 30-mile radius of Harrogate during the period six weeks before or four weeks after the event.

CrimeFest co-host Adrian Muller told The Bookseller: “CrimeFest is concerned about the vastly expanded exclusion clause that Harrogate Festivals has introduced (from six weeks within a certain radius to a blanket UK wide calendar year). Especially considering Bristol is 222 miles away from Harrogate. We have good relationships with our UK counterparts and would not seek to restrict access regarding author appearances at their events. We certainly wouldn’t impose restrictions on any author on where they can appear. The concern is that many in the publishing industry won’t take issue with Harrogate’s Crime Writing Festival, due to their influential committee. Should Harrogate’s predatory and monopolising clause go unchallenged, it would severely affect authors being able to appear at events in Britain, as well as organisers who would like to invite them, and the readers who wish to see them.”

David Mark, author of the DS McAvoy novels, was a member of the programming committee and reader-in-residence for the Harrogate Festival. He suggested it could be time for an industry-wide standard on author appearances.

He said: “I do feel genuinely sorry for the rival festivals because if they’ve managed to entice a big name to appear then it must be a real kick in the teeth to have to back-track because of a clause in somebody else’s contract. But Harrogate has become the biggest crime festival in the world by guaranteeing that big names want to be a part of it and that element of exclusivity adds to the prestige. Maybe it’s time for an industry-wide standard.

“There have certainly been other writers who’ve fallen foul of the clause and it is a real pain for publicists trying to organise tours when they learn that one appearance in Harrogate can mean their author is basically banned from playing a library or bookshop for weeks afterwards. I’ve had to turn down work because it’s been too near to Harrogate, either geographically or in terms of dates. In truth, Harrogate is so well-established as brand-leader that having their headliners turn out at a rival festival shouldn’t be a cause for concern—and anything that enables more readers to connect with their favourite authors has to be good for everybody.”

The Society of Authors, which declined to comment on the case, has its own Minimum Practice Guidelines for festival organisers which say such clauses should be avoided, and if they are applied then authors should be compensated for lost opportunities.

SoA c.e.o. Nicola Solomon said: “I have not seen the contract in question or any recent Harrogate contracts but it seems that since then they may have extended the exclusion period to a year in some cases. That seems to us extraordinary and may even amount to an unreasonable restraint of trade. In law a contractual undertaking not to trade is void and unenforceable against the promisor as contrary to the public policy of promoting trade, unless the restraint of trade is reasonable to protect the interest of the purchaser of a business and was given for sufficient consideration.

“We have our own Minimum Practice Guidelines for festival organisers which deplore this practice. We say that such clauses should be avoided as they are unnecessary and unfair- they deprive an author of their livelihood and there is no evidence that they cannibalise ticket sales. Authors are generally not paid well for such appearances and should not be penalised in this way. We say that if exclusion zones are applied then the Festival should compensate the author in full for lost opportunities.”

Cole’s agent was unavailable for comment.

PA welcomes EU court ruling on e-book exhaustion rights

The Publishers Association has welcomed the latest ruling from the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) on the exhaustion of e-book rights, which has found the re-sale of second-hand e-books infringes copyright.

The EU’s highest court stepped in after a request from Rechtbank Den Haag (District Court, The Hague, Netherlands) seeking clarification on the resale of e-books on Tom Kabinet after two groups representing Dutch copyright owners filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against the website. Tom Kabinet had argued that exhaustion rights for physical books should also apply to digital copies.

The CJEU today (19th December) ruled that the exhaustion of copyright does not apply to e-books and follows the opinion of Advocate General Maciej Szpunar issued in September.

Stephen Lotinga, c.e.o. of the Publishers Association, said: “We welcome today’s ruling, which confirms the ability of rights holders to control the re-sale of e-books and recognises the fundamental difference between digital and physical formats in this context. Any other judgement would have been disastrous for authors and publishers so it’s a relief that the court has seen sense and it’s an early Christmas present to everyone in the industry.”

The Federation of European Publishers (FEP) also welcomed the judgement. FEP president Rudy Vanschoonbeek said: “As a publisher, I was anxiously awaiting the judgement as a second-hand digital market would seriously endanger the whole book economy since digital copies can be numerous and potentially be sold to an indefinite number of users.”