Week 23/20 – week ending 5 June

PA backs US suit against Internet Archive

The Publishers Association (PA) has spoken out in support of members of the Association of American Publishers who have filed a lawsuit against the Internet Archive (IA). The plaintiffs are Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Wiley, and Penguin Random House.

According to the suit, IA has been making available, through outlets labelled Open Library and National Emergency Library, “some 1.3 million bootleg scans of print books, including recent works, commercial fiction and non-fiction, thrillers, and children’s books”.

PA chief executive Stephen Lotinga said: “We stand fully in support of this action by the Association of American Publishers which reflects the very significant concerns held by publishers and authors about this site.

“Internet Archive purports to be a library but it is not and behind that guise it is facilitating the distribution of millions of pirated books without paying a penny to the authors and publishers who produce them.

“We are living in unprecedented times, and that is why publishers have gone out of their way to make content accessible to those who need it, but there is no excuse for anyone to use the current crisis to infringe copyright in this way.”

Maria A Pallante, president and CEO of the Association of American Publishers, said: “Today’s complaint illustrates that Internet Archive is conducting and promoting copyright infringement on a massive scale. In scanning and distributing literary works to which it has no legal or contractual rights, IA deliberately misappropriates the intellectual and financial investments of authors and publishers and brazenly ignores the copyright law that Congress enacted.

“IA operates with profound disrespect for the value chain of copyright, in which authors, publishers, bookstores, platforms, educational institutions and libraries work together for the benefit of society, whether during prosperity or a pandemic. One need only look to the generous responses of these partners to the ongoing Covid-19 health and economic crises to appreciate their creative collaborations and shared commitment to connecting readers of all ages to a wonderful diversity of literature, scholarship, and learning solutions.

“Regrettably, it seems clear that Internet Archive intends to bludgeon the legal framework that governs copyright investments and transactions in the modern world. As the complaint outlines, by illegally copying and distributing online a stunning number of literary works each day, IA displays an abandon shared only by the world’s most egregious pirate sites.”

PFD sells literary estates

Peters Fraser & Dunlop (PFD) has announced the sale of its 12 owned literary estates to International Literary Properties (ILP). According to PFD: ‘The eight-figure deal marks the fruition of a highly successful investment and enables the agency to focus on expanding its representation of new literary estates.’ PFD will continue to act as literary agent for all 12 estates.

The 12 are: Georges Simenon, Eric Ambler, Margery Allingham, Edmund Crispin, Dennis Wheatley, Robert Bolt, Richard Hull, George Bellairs, Nicolas Freeling, John Creasey, Michael Innes and Evelyn Waugh.

Caroline Michel, ceo of PFD, said: “Alongside our authors, representing estates is at the beating heart of our business as agents. With the sale of these estates, we will be able to refocus on our agency model for the benefit of our authors and the owners of estates. We are thrilled to continue our representation of the estates now owned by ILP.”

ILP was set up in 2019 to ‘acquire the rights in literary estates from those who have inherited them, or from living authors seeking financial certainty from an experienced and engaged buyer. This deal is the first major slate of acquisitions announced by ILP, which will pro-actively manage the estates it buys or buys into, working with agents to support their exploitation across all media platforms.’

ILP is run in the UK by ceo Hilary Strong, previously chair of the Agatha Christie estate, and Anthology Group founder, Bob Benton, with the New York-headquartered business led by Scott Hoffman as group ceo and executive chairman Ted Green. ‘The executive team brings many decades of experience in literary, TV, Film, theatre and music rights management and exploitation,’ according to a statement from ILP.

Strong, who brokered the deal, said: “The acquisition of PFD’s interests in these estates is a very important step for us in building the business. ILP was formed late last year, bringing together an incredible team with many decades of experience in literary, TV, film, music and theatre management and exploitation. This major acquisition plays to the team’s experience and strengths and I am truly excited by the opportunity to nurture these twelve wonderful estates and to find new and exciting ways of telling the great stories that lie within them.”

Prior to Agatha Christie, Strong helped re-launch Foyle’s War for ITV, whilst md of Acorn Productions, and as group commercial director at Chorion, she worked on several literary estates including Mr Men, Enid Blyton and Beatrix Potter. She also has over a decade’s experience at Hat Trick Productions, working on commercial strategies for shows including Have I Got News for You, Father Ted and Whose Line Is It Anyway?

For its part, PFD is keen to emphasise the work it undertaken to enhance the estates. ‘PFD has increased the value of its previously owned estates manyfold, with sales in multiple new territories and formats across streaming, audio, television and E including:

– Working with John Simenon, CEO of George Simenon Ltd., the English-language editions of the Maigret novels have grown from a handful of titles in print to current sales of over 1 million copies with the acclaimed new Penguin translations. Further fresh licences in the major territories, with significant advances, have resulted in the books now being sold in over 50 territories, across all formats, compared with 21 territories at the time of acquisition. In 2016 GSL co-produced for ITV and sold globally, a major Maigret TV series starring Rowan Atkinson in the title role. Numerous options of George Simenon’s Romans Durs are ongoing.

– Nicolas Freeling’s Van der Valk detective novels hit prime-time television with a new series on ITV last month. A second series is under way with major new publishing deals in the US and UK and across the world.

– 15 more Eric Ambler titles are now available under new licenses in Germany, and Ambler is back in print in all the major translation territories.

– Allingham and Crispin are now present in all the major English language territories and in many major territories in translation with a significant rise in revenue.

– In a bookshop in Hay -on -Wye, PFD editorial director Tim Binding discovered the wonderful and forgotten detective novels of George Bellairs, known in his time as the ‘English Simenon’. From being completely out of print, there are now over 41 titles in the UK. The novels have been optioned and are in development for a major returnable TV series.’

According to the agency: ‘The sale gives PFD the opportunity to search actively for new estates to drive value and develop the potential across all platforms in all territories. The agency’s commitment to furthering the future of new estates through vigorous representation remains as strong and as focused as ever in the unique way that distinguishes the company.

‘Literary estates — in all their multiplicity of ranges —is and always will be an integral part of the agency’s business. Writers and their books are an Agency’s life blood. 2020 will see a new estates portfolio take shape under the leadership of estates director Giulia Bernabè with Dan Fenton, exploring new opportunities, new goals, new triumphs.’

New classic science fiction series from Penguin

On 6 August, Penguin Classics will publish a new series of science fiction classics ‘featuring a selection of visionary works from around the world’ according to the publisher.

‘We lead with three masters of the genre, James Tiptree, Jr, Andreas Eschbach and Angélica Gorodischer, alongside favourite classics from the likes of H. P. Lovecraft and Yevgeny Zamyatin; New Wave masterworks by Stanislaw Lem and Kurt Vonnegut; and essential works of space opera, dystopia, slipstream and satire from the great science fiction writers of the US, Russia, Argentina, Germany and beyond.

‘Penguin has been publishing science fiction since the company’s inception in 1935. The new series aims to challenge stereotypes about the genre and celebrate science fiction as the essential genre of modern times.’

Editorial director of Penguin Classics, Jessica Harrison, said: “As real life increasingly comes to resemble a science fiction novel, these are the books we need now more than ever. Science fiction helps us make sense of the world as it is – and dream about the worlds that might lie ahead.”

Stoddart said: “The covers feature work from modernist masters such as Picasso, le Corbusier, Herbert Bayer – as well as some less widely known artists – who, like the authors, have developed alternative and often visionary ways of presenting reality. The purple Penguin logo, so closely associated with science fiction for many decades, is back on these spines as a reassuring stamp of quality.”

Ten Thousand Light-Years from Home by James Tiptree Jr., first published in 1973, The Hair Carpet Weavers by Andreas Eschbach, first published in 1995, and Trafalgar by Angélica Gorodischer, first published in 1979, have been picked out by Penguin as highlights of the series.

All titles will also be available in ebook and four of the titles in audio.

Daunt lays out post-lockdown Waterstones world

In a keynote session at this year’s online IPG Conference, under questioning from Boldwood’s Amanda Ridout, Waterstones and Barnes & Noble chief James Daunt (pictured) detailed how his stores would function on a post-lockdown high street.

Reopened Waterstones stores would feature clear markings and signage inside and out to remind customers and staff of the two metre social distancing rule, ‘sneeze guards’ at tills, contact-less payment wherever possible, hand-sanitisers and anti-bacterial wipes, gloves and masks for staff and the ‘quarantining’ of browsed books.

This would see a book that a customer had picked up and browsed subsequently placed in a trolley and then stored away off the shop floor for 72 hours before being released back on to the shelves. Daunt said research showed that the virus could survive on paper or cardboard for a maximum of 24 hours.

Daunt was careful not to be pinned down to a precise reopening date for the bulk of his stores – not wanting “to be a hostage to fortune” – although some 150 B&N stores out of 630 were starting to reopen in the US. Waterstones branches in the Netherlands and Belgium were trading, with Jersey and the Isle of Man coming on stream, and a date has been set for the Republic of Ireland to reopen.

He described it as “a gradual opening, making sure that you do so only when you are sure that you have all the processes and kit in place that allow you to do it safely, and evidently doing it alongside fellow retailers”. He predicted there would be no great rush back to the high street by consumers. as a proportion of them would remain cautious.

“The shopping experience will change – while coronavirus-related restrictions are in place there will be fewer people shopping but the attributes and advantages of physical shopping remain as clear before as they do after.”

He added that online sales at Waterstones.com had “exploded” during lockdown, and a “different sort of a book” was doing well: the undiscovered and the more esoteric book does not perform so well online. In terms of sales trends, books that “speak to our better selves” – wellness and kindness titles – were doing well in lockdown. “There would be no wholesale abandonment of the physical sphere in bookselling.” He was concerned however about “a very crowded space” in the autumn as the current held-back titles are released into the market alongside pre-planned publishing.

Although Waterstones’ owners Elliott had recently bought Wordery, Daunt described it as “a separate Elliot acquisition – we are quite exceptionally busy and focused on our own operation… so we are not involved in the Wordery business at the moment”.

Assessing the long-term impact of the pandemic, Daunt said: “A massive change is taking place in the whole structure of retail, of which we are a part, [we’re] trying to figure out how that impacts us. We are extremely fortunate in having a product that has proven to have an enduring value and attractiveness in this time, so we are not facing the existential horror that some of our fellow retailers are, and quite clearly not many of them are going to emerge from all of this. We will emerge from it, but we will be within a high street that is depleted.”

Daunt predicted that, in the medium term, “structural fixed costs should come down – we should be paying a lot less in rent but some of our locations are difficult to sell a lot of books in as they have in the past.”

Would bookshops themselves look different in the future? “When you walk into a bookshop in a year, in five years, in 10 years I don’t think it will have significantly changed in its basic structure. It will have a lot of books arranged as attractively as possible in front of you.

“I remain completely confident in the physical product of the book. I don’t think we are going to go digital, I don’t think you are going to go into our shops and find lots of screens and self-service kiosks, and the role of the bookseller diminished and substantially replaced by some automated processes. We are based on the human connection between bookseller and customers.” Daunt also predicted that Waterstones’ in-store cafes would survive.

Clock ticking for Bertrams

BookBrunch has had sight of an official ‘Notice of intention to appoint an administrator by company or directors’ issued by the High Court on 30 May under the 1986 Insolvency Act in respect of Bertram Trading Limited.

Martin Armstrong and Andrew Bailey of Turpin Baker Armstrong, an accountancy and insolvency specialist based in Sutton, Surrey are named as the potential administrators.

Speaking to BookBrunch yesterday afternoon, TBA senior partner Amstrong, who specialises in corporate insolvency, confirmed that he would be taking over as adminstrator at the end of next week, when the “moratorium” of the notice of intention would expire, unless a sale could be agreed beforehand.

In the Notice of Intention, Bertrams director Rajesh Patel ‘does solemnly and sincerely declare that the company is or is likely to become unable to pay its debts’.

The wholesaler was advertised for sale by its parent company, equity group Aurelius, in mid-May, with Middleton Barton Asset Valuation handling the disposal. It was described as ‘a leading B2B Books wholesaler’ with a 185,000 sq ft leasehold warehouse, 200,000 titles in stock and an annual turnover of £250m.

In late May the Bertline online sales system was bought out of the business by the BA. The ordering system, which is used by around 250 indies, will be merged into the BA’s Batch operation. Previously to the Bertline deal The Sunday Times had reported that the company would appoint an administrator, which Bertrams then denied on Twitter. “We are not in administration…there is no change to the operations disclosed at the beginning of April which are in a furloughed state for the foreseeable future.”

At the beginning of May Elliott Advisors, owner of Waterstones and Barnes & Noble, bought Wordery, the online bookselling division of Bertrams, with the intention of running Wordery as a separate business from Waterstones.

In March 2009 Bertram was rescued in a deal with Smiths News, which paid £9m for the business and agreed to settle publishers debts of £16m, after Bertrams was dragged down by the collapse of parent company Woolworths in the autumn of 2008. At that stage Bertram’s turnover was around the £125m mark. In 1999, Kip Bertram sold the company he and his late mother, Elsie, had founded for between £35m and £40m, so the deal represented something of a bargain.

In 2014 Smiths News was renamed Connect Group plc, with Bertram, Dawson Books and Wordery comprising the Connect Books division. In January 2018 the division was sold to Aurelius Equity Opportunities for a reported £6m, and was renamed the Bertram Group.

At the time Aurelius was described as ‘a pan-European asset manager with offices in Munich, London, Stockholm, and Madrid’. Its website stated that over the previous 10 years it had grown from a local turnaround investor “to an international multi-asset manager investing in a wide range of sectors and across the capital structure”.

The sale followed a difficult year for the group, which saw its shares fall from 159p in January 2017 to 90p in October. Connect Books recorded a £2m loss before tax, including £3.2m of exceptional charges, in the year to 31 August 2017.

At the time of the sale the BA’s Tim Godfray welcomed the news: “Aurelius seem to be a good fit. They have very considerable resources at their disposal and from their track record, show themselves to be a good, stable, long term investor.”

Currently Bertrams is believed to owe publishers money, and the trade will be hoping a buyer can be found next week to take the business forward as a going concern, or to rescue it from any subsequent administration. Having to rely on a single large wholesaler (Gardners) is a prospect the trade has long sought to avoid, but attempting to rescue a struggling business in the midst of a pandemic is an exceptionally tall order.

Bertrams was unavailable for comment.