Week 14/20 – week ending 3 April

Internet Archive accused of ‘attack’ after making 1.4 million books available

The Internet Archive’s move to lift restrictions on 1.4 million books has been branded an “aggressive, unlawful and opportunistic attack” on the rights of authors and publishers by the Association of American Publishers (AAP).

Based in San Francisco, the archive has caused controversy by lending scanned copies of books via a practice known as Controlled Digital Lending (CDL).

Now the archive has announced unlimited lending of all the 1.4 million books in its collection through the creation of a National Emergency Library which will last until at least 30th June.

In a post on its website, the archive said: “users will be able to borrow books from the National Emergency Library without joining a waitlist, ensuring that students will have access to assigned readings and library materials that the Internet Archive has digitized for the remainder of the US academic calendar, and that people who cannot physically access their local libraries because of closure or self-quarantine can continue to read and thrive during this time of crisis, keeping themselves and others safe.”

The archive said it had public support for the move from 100 individuals, libraries and universities across the world, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

It added: “We recognize that authors and publishers are going to be impacted by this global pandemic as well. We encourage all readers who are in a position to buy books to do so, ideally while also supporting your local bookstore.”

The organisation also said authors could ask for their books to be removed by emailing info@archive.org with “National Emergency Library Removal Request” as the subject line and a URL for each title.

AAP c.e.o. Maria Pallante said: “we are stunned by the Internet Archive’s aggressive, unlawful, and opportunistic attack on the rights of authors and publishers in the midst of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“Publishers are working tirelessly to support the public with numerous, innovative, and socially-aware programs that address every side of the crisis: providing free global access to research and medical journals that pertain to the virus; offering complementary digital education materials to schools and parents; and expanding powerful storytelling platforms for readers of all ages.

“It is the height of hypocrisy that the Internet Archive is choosing this moment—when lives, livelihoods and the economy are all in jeopardy—to make a cynical play to undermine copyright, and all the scientific, creative, and economic opportunity that it supports.”

Authors Guild resident Doug Preston added: “IA’s Open Library is giving away books that are not theirs to give away. It’s as though they looted a bookstore and started handing away books to passersby. They are hurting authors and bookstores at a time when they can least bear it. Anyone in America already has access to free ebooks through local libraries. There are over 100,000 libraries in the country where the public can access free e-books.”

In the UK, the Internet Archive project has previously fallen foul of the Society of Authors which, last year, wrote an open letter signed by hundreds of authors accusing it of breaching copyright.

Jonathan Ball Publishers acquires Icon Books

Jonathan Ball Publishers has bought indie Icon Books, in a move that will see representatives from both companies form the management team.

JBP, a subsidiary of South African media conglomerate Media 24, purchased the company for an undisclosed sum, with plans to phase in an expansion process in the future, and retain all staff.

JBP will assume management on 1st April, with c.e.o. Eugene Ashton becoming chairman of Icon Books. Icon managing director Philip Cotterell will be the c.e.o. under the new ownership arrangements.

Ashton said: “JBP has for many years wanted to expand our publishing and grow into markets beyond southern Africa. Icon Books is a company that we have long admired – they publish superb books with a tremendous independent character and are an ideal fit.

“The business is well managed and has a proud track record. I look forward to working with the team and publishing many more books in the future.”

Founded in 1976, JBP specialises in South African history, politics and current affairs, and also publishes and distributes fiction.

Cotterell commented: “Having worked with JBP as Icon’s South African agent for a number of years, we know each other well and we are delighted that Icon/JBP has the firm foundation to substantially build on the achievements of recent years.”

Icon Books was founded in 1991 by Peter Pugh, who died last year, aged 76. The non-fiction publisher is a member of the Independent Alliance, and features titles across popular science, history, psychology and current affairs.

Last year’s bestseller, 100 Years of Leeds United 1919-2019 by Daniel Chapman sold 12,091 copies.

The company sold a total of 146,000 books for just under £1.3m in 2019, representing a 10% drop in volume and a 2.6% decline in value year on year.

HarperCollins to buy Egmont Books UK

HarperCollins has announced its intention to acquire Egmont Books UK for an undisclosed sum, alongside Egmont’s book businesses in Poland and Schneiderbuch Germany.

The transaction is set to complete on 30th April but will not include Egmont’s magazine publishing. Egmont c.e.o. Torsten Bjerre Rasmussen said it had taken a “strategic decision” to exit the children’s publishing market in the three countries.

On completion, Egmont Books UK will be run as a distinct children’s division led by its current m.d. Cally Poplak. Poplak will join HarperCollins UK executive committee, and will report to c.e.o. Charlie Redmayne. The division “will maintain its publishing autonomy and will remain in its offices for the immediate future”, HarperCollins said.

Children’s agents have reacted to the move with cautious optimism, welcoming the promise that Egmont would be kept as a different division.

The deal will create what is likely to be the biggest UK children’s publisher in terms of TCM market share. Last year HCCB and Egmont had sales of £58.6m through BookScan in the UK, while PRH Children’s (not including DK) had sales of £57.1m. HCCB is coming off its third-straight David Walliams-fuelled record year, hitting sales of just over £45m (up 3.4%) while Egmont’s sales were £13.6m (down 5%). PRH Children’s, meanwhile, did have a slight TCM rise in 2019, but it has been under a 15% share of the market for the last two years.

Many of Egmont’s bestellers are Minecraft related, including its Construction Handbook with 621,014 copies sold, but others include Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse, which shifted 569,623 copies.

In Germany, Schneiderbuch will integrate into the children’s books group reporting to Carina Mathern, editorial director of HarperCollins Germany Children’s, who reports to Juergen Welte, m.d. of HarperCollins Germany. Egmont Books Poland will report through Agnieszka Baranska, m.d. of HarperCollins Poland.

Redmayne said: “The acquisition of Egmont will give us a huge opportunity to combine their existing profile and expertise in the UK and in Europe with the licensing experience and capability we already have in Suzanne Murphy’s HarperCollins US children’s business. This will enable us to unlock the potential of licensed publishing across the broadest international reach. We look forward to welcoming Cally and her team, and of course Egmont UK’s exceptional list, which includes iconic names such as Winnie-the-Pooh, Thomas the Tank Engine, Tintin and Mr Men, to HarperCollins UK where alongside Ann-Janine Murtagh’s record-breaking Children’s division we will continue to build an unbeatable children’s publishing proposition.”

Rasmussen added: “We have taken a  strategic decision to exit the children’s book business in UK, Poland and Schneiderbuch  in Germany, and we are pleased to announce that HarperCollins will be the  future owne r of the business in these countries. I want to thank employees in all three countries that have done fantastic work over the years developing books and content at an international standard.”

Reacting to the news, agent Caroline Sheldon said: “Egmont has always been an individual  and distinctive publisher building author’s voices.  Since I understand Egmont  are to be run as a separate division in Harper Collins, this should continue and will be very welcome to authors and agents as the number of potential homes in the children’s field is already small.”

Stephanie Thwaites, of Curtis Brown, added: “Obviously as an agent it’s not ideal to have fewer publishers for our authors to choose from but as we don’t yet know how much independence Egmont will retain we’ll have to wait and see whether this will be an issue or not. There are always pros and cons with any merger and where we’ve seen them work successfully both cultures borrow and learn from one another and with the right leadership there can be a real clarity of vision which everyone can benefit from.”

Bertelsmann formally completes full acquisition of Penguin Random House

Bertelsmann has formally completed the full acquisition of Penguin Random House (PRH), following the sale of Pearson’s remaining 25% stake for $675m (£530m).

As Bertelsmann became PRH’s sole owner, after the transaction was originally announced on 18th December 2019, c.e.o. Thomas Rabe reaffirmed it intends to develop the trade publisher over the long term and with continuity, both through organic and acquisitive growth.

Rabe said: “The completion of this transaction has a historic dimension for Bertelsmann: 185 years after C Bertelsmann Verlag was founded by the printer and bookbinder Carl Bertelsmann, our company will become the sole owner of the undisputed global market leader in book publishing. We are proud of the creative diversity, publishing quality, and commercial and entrepreneurial strength of our book publishing business, to which many of the most popular authors from all over the world entrust their literary work.”

He continued: “We will ensure that our book business can continue to expand through organic growth and acquisitions in future, and remain a home for the world’s best creative talent. Books in all formats have a bright future. Their high degree of relevance is particularly evident at present during the coronavirus crisis, when many people are looking for knowledge and entertainment–and are finding it in books.”

Marking Pearson’s exit from the venture, Pearson’s outgoing c.e.o. John Fallon said: “As our joint venture with Bertelsmann comes to an end, we wish our colleagues and authors in Penguin Random House every future success.”

He added, addressing the threat of the pandemic to Pearson’s business, which has already led Pearson to pause its £350m share buyback: “While we are experiencing unprecedented times as a result of Covid-19, we are taking all precautionary measures to protect our business. Our balance sheet is strong, our net debt is relatively low, and we have good liquidity. Furthermore, the growing interest in online learning puts us in a strong position given our global leadership and investment in this area.”

A spokesperson for Pearson said the firm was “looking at all options to maximise our liquidity and therefore will retain the proceeds from the disposal of our 25% stake in Penguin Random House to further strengthen our short-term financial position”.

Pan Mac announces pay reductions and distribution staff furloughed as sales drop over Covid-19

Higher paid staff at Pan Macmillan have been asked to volunteer for a pay reduction and employees at its distribution arm will be furloughed as the publisher unveiled measures to help “safeguard” its business during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Staff were informed at Pan Macmillan, Priddy and Macmillan Distribution that MPIL needed to take decisive action to cope with what is likely to be a severe loss in sales from the coronavirus crisis, which has seen physical bookshops closed around the UK.

In a note to staff at Pan Macmillan, Anthony Forbes Watson warned sales would be “particularly hard hit” and it was time to act “speedily and decisively”. Forbes Watson said the action taken so far – cutting capital expenditure, travel and non-essential spending, plus freezing all vacancies and suspending this year’s pay review – would “not alone be adequate to the size of the challenge we face around the world over the coming months”.

Forbes Watson, who will take a 50% pay cut, said colleagues were being asked to volunteer for a three-month pay reduction, structured to hit those who are paid the most. Similar policies were being announced at the firm’s sister companies around the world, he said.

The proposed voluntary reductions do not affect any employees on lower salaries and are modelled on a salary band basis, for all on salaries over £32,000. A spokesman for the firm said if people did not volunteer their decisions would be respected.

Forbes Watson said: “This is a group challenge, and around the world our sister companies will take broadly the same approach, tailored to the particular conditions prevailing in each country. For us, the savings that will be generated over the next three months from this and our other cost saving initiatives, will be critically important to safeguarding our business, and to protecting Pan Mac jobs.”

At the same time and over the same period, Pan Macmillan will offer reduced hours to everyone. All those working full time will not be required to work Friday afternoons and anyone working part time can agree a different half day of leave during the week.

Similar communications were sent out at Priddy Books and also by Guy Browning at MDL, where a number of staff are being placed on furlough. The publisher is using the government’s furlough scheme, which pays employees 80% of their wages, with MDL making up the rest.

Forbes Watson told staff: “At Pan Mac we have built an enviable record of setting and hitting ambitious targets over the last decade, of which we are justly proud, but we are now confronting an entirely new problem, and we must find a new way to come through it. I put this recommendation to you in the knowledge that the present situation demands it. I know you understand this is a hard message to give, and that these decisions have been hard to make; I thank you as ever for your support and your enduring commitment to our business.”

The publisher has been putting out regular updates on how its business has been going, with the latest earlier this week saying supermarket sales were strong and there appeared to be greenshoots in China and other parts of Asia. However, a spokesperson for the firm said the impact on its sales globally was likely to be “severe” over the next three months.

Staff have also now reviewed all their April and May releases, moving some to later in the year but keeping others as they are. Authors and agents are currently being informed of the changes.

Anthony Forbes Watson’s statement in full:

We have a policy of openness at Pan Mac and through this crisis we will continue to practise it: this note is to tell you about the steps we’re taking to protect our business, both here in the UK and around the group.

We expect sales to be particularly hard hit and we must respond speedily and decisively: we have already cut all capital expenditure, travel and entertainment spending and any non-essential spending of any kind beyond the acquiring, making and packaging, communication and distribution of our books. We have decided too, to freeze all vacancies, and to suspend our 2020 pay review indefinitely. While these are wide-ranging steps, we have reluctantly concluded that they won’t alone be adequate to the size of the challenge we face around the world over the coming months.

We will therefore ask our colleagues everywhere to accept a three-month reduction in pay to meet this challenge. Here we will launch a voluntary pay reduction programme, progressively structured to fall in the main on those who are paid the most and who can best weather such a reduction. I will personally accept a straight 50% reduction on my salary. This is a group challenge, and around the world our sister companies will take broadly the same approach, tailored to the particular conditions prevailing in each country. For us, the savings that will be generated over the next three months from this and our other cost saving initiatives, will be critically important to safeguarding our business, and to protecting Pan Mac jobs.

At Pan Mac we have built an enviable record of setting and hitting ambitious targets over the last decade, of which we are justly proud, but we are now confronting an entirely new problem, and we must find a new way to come through it. I put this recommendation to you in the knowledge that the present situation demands it. I know you understand this is a hard message to give, and that these decisions have been hard to make; I thank you as ever for your support and your enduring commitment to our business.

Gardners to reinstate home delivery service

Gardners has announced it has reinstated its home delivery service, after temporarily closing last week due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The move will allow bookshops to service remote customer orders from their websites or via telephone.

The wholesaler confirmed it had “managed to set a safe working environment for a team of staff, adhering to guidelines previously set out, and working comfortably within current government guidelines.”

Customers will be restricted to ordering one book per order, to preserve the safety guidelines surrounding minimal handling of items.

Orders will be restricted to books currently in stock, but Gardners said it had 400,000 lines in in its warehouse, alongside its 2.8 million e-book and audio titles.

Nigel Wyman, head of business development at Gardners, said he was also hoping to re-open its indie-oriented consumer website The Hive “very soon” too.

Booksellers responded positively on Twitter to the news. Booka Bookshop tweeted: “Really appreciate the lengths you’ve gone to to deliver a safe and workable solution to support the indie bookselling sector”.

In response to a question about delivering to bookshops, Gardners added: “That will follow in due course, we are reviewing each area as we go, first an foremost our staff need a safe working environment”.