Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Booksellers in the Blogosphere



Another round-up of the many and varied things that booksellers muse on.

Mike from ABFAR has been visiting the Dutch House, the home and studio of the artist Edward Seago at Ludham in Norfolk and exploring his WWII connections. Mike's blog post is beautifully illustrated and makes me wish I was near enough to visit.

Jane Badger at Books, Mud and Compost continues her pony book of the day series and her look at Stranger at Follyfoot by Monica Dickens particularly caught my eye. Not a book I've read but anything that brings back memories of Steve and Dora is a Good Thing.

Barbara of March House Books has a lovely post (all Barbara's posts are lovely) on Judy annuals (my paper of choice as a 9 year old!) and Lucie Attwell and other good things. She also has a moving post on visiting the ceramic poppy display, Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red at the Tower of London.

Marijana has an erudite post on Charles De Gaulle and Hans Ornstein and the Deutsche BP connection over at Marijana Dworski Books.

Catherine of CL Hawley Books has an offer of free UK postage until Christmas and has been reviewing the hilarious Straight Man by Richard Russo.

I've only just added Plurabelle Books to our blog roll on the right but I recommend you take a look. Recent posts include a very readable piece on Bicycles and Gramophones (I do like a business that multi-tasks!), from which the image at the top of this post is drawn, and another of a beautiful Rabbinic Bible.

Lastly can I draw your attention to the post All the Fun of the Book Fair on Martin Edwards' Crime Writing Blog 'Do You Write Under Your Own Name?'. He's written a lovely review of the PBFA Book Fair in Harrogate last weekend including a great piece about a teacher taking some year 8 children (age 12-13) around which an really inspirational bit of teaching.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Buying for Christmas?

Today, 20th October 2014, I sent a book to USA by Royal Mail's 'International Economy' (surface mail) and I wondered at the time if it would arrive before Christmas. I checked Royal Mail's recommended last posting dates and found that sadly the last day was 14th October. Be warned, if you are buying Christmas presents from any UK bookseller and you are based outside the UK do ask the seller about delivery times and/or check the Royal Mail's last recommended posting dates.

Royal Mail's page about the last posting dates is not the most obvious name nor was it too easy to find on their website. I had to look up international mail and then enter 'Christmas' in their help centre search but I found it eventually. I have an idea they might move that page before the final Christmas rush so I have also included a link to their downloadable .pdf guide as well.

The last thing any seller wants is for you to be disappointed by parcels not arriving in time. On most of the sites we use, where we have that facility, we will warn you about the time it can take for International Economy (surface mail) to reach you. In many cases you may find that International Standard (airmail) is only a little more expensive and that by using it early you can be assured of delivery in good time.

The last posting dates from UK by International Economy (surface mail) to everywhere except Eastern and Western Europe are now in the past and I wouldn't suggest using that service at all when International Standard (airmail) to that region is only fractionally more.

The last recommended posting dates from UK by International Standard (airmail) are:

 3 December - Asia, Far East (including Japan), New Zealand
 4 December - Australia
 5 December - Africa, Caribbean, Central & Sth America, Middle East
 8 December - Cyprus, Eastern Europe, Greece
 9 December - Canada, Poland
12 December - USA
13 December - Western Europe (excluding Greece, Poland)

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

New Bookselling Website and a delve into Family History

Catherine at CL Hawley Books has launched a new bookselling website this week with a bit of a fanfare. Read more about book competitions, including one for children, and get a 30% off code over at Juxtabook.

Barbara at March House Books also has a new venture: a family history blog following the Flitney family. Anyone enjoying the current series of Who Do You Think You Are? will find it fascinating. She isn't neglecting her original blog either, which is still the place to go for beautiful vintage children's books.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

PBFA's York Book Fair, 19 & 20 September



This coming weekend you have the chance to be in the same building with the largest number of rare/used/antiquarian book sellers in one place in not just the UK but Europe. They are accompanied by lots and lots of books!

The annual York National Book Fair, the largest in Europe, will open on Friday 19 September 2014 at the Knavesmire Suite, York Racecourse in York. If you have not been to this event before, it is a must for book lovers and buyers seeking books, maps and images, indeed all things to do with paper. Not just for collectors, it is very much for readers too, with items for all budgets, though it is a wonderful opportunity to see and browse some really special items.

2014 is the 40th anniversary of the PBFA and this year's fair features the largest ever number of exhibitors. Over 210 leading dealers will gather to offer rare, antiquarian, unusual and hard to obtain items on all conceivable subjects. This year exhibitors are from as far afield as Germany, Hong Kong and Canada as well as all corners of the British Isles. In advance of the fair, you can take a peep at some of the items exhibitors intend to bring by visiting the website www.yorkbookfair.com where you can also get a complimentary ticket. Admission on the door is otherwise £2.00 per person.

As well as the books for sale, all the trades, such as paper makers, calligraphers and bookbinders will have exhibition stands at the fair. Andy Moore, for instance, makes one off calligraphy pieces, for a combination of exhibitions, events and commissions.

With over 100,000 books for sale, where else can you look at, touch, enjoy, and even purchase so many rarities under one roof? If you are already a collector then it is a great opportunity to meet new dealers in your area, and again if you have a collector's heart on a student's budget it is great way to meet dealers and discuss their specialisms. The sellers bring just a fraction of their stock but you can pick up leaflets and bookmarks with their website details, where you may find at a later date a regular supply of your favorite authors or areas within your budget.

The Racecourse venue is light and airy with ample parking. For those coming by train, or just wanting access to and from the town, there will be a free shuttle-bus. This operates between York Railway Station and the Racecourse, approximately every 20 minutes. For more information: info@yorkfair.com

It is my first year as a full member of the PBFA and I won't be exhibiting this time, but you can browse this list of my Ibooknet bookselling colleagues who will be there. I would particularly recommend you say hello to Stephen Foster at Stand 4 and Heather and Jeff at Peakirk Books at stand 170!

You'd like to see a picture of Ibooknet bookseller Stephen with Taylor Lautner wouldn't you? Here he is! That is proper bookselling wear that is. Stephen's bookshop was used in the Funeral epsiode of Cuckoo recently.

Back to York bookfair: if you attend we'd love to hear what you think of it, or read about what you bought!

Cross-posted on Juxtabook

Monday, September 1, 2014

Royal Mail - shipping by International Economy

Do you ship to Iraq, Iran, Pakistan or India? Ibooknet member G. A. Michael Sims relates some of the absurdities discovered at Royal Mail when trying to ascertain International Economy rates to this block of countries.

Be reassured, the service still exists, it's just that Royal Mail doesn't really want you to know about it! See the full piece at the Abfar Blog.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Publishing an ebook Part 2

Having got Flag Fen: a concise Archæoguide successfully published for Kindle (see Part 1) I wanted to get it published to other platforms as an epub file (and other formats). Not least, I wouldn’t be comfortable with Amazon having a monopoly on it. I spent several evenings using a well-known search engine trying to find out what would be the best route to get the book onto iTunes and other epub sellers. The more I looked at it, the more similar the structure seemed to selling second-hand books.
Selling used books for me started on the Advanced Book Exchange. It was a friendly affair and there was little attempt by ABE to get between the seller and buyer, and ABE let the seller have most of the sale price. There were other websites which accounted for a small percentage of sales, but ABE was the main player. Things have changed somewhat, commission and card-handling fees are now hefty, and my second-hand book sales are now probably c.75% through Amazon, 23% through Abebooks (as it is now called, and owned by Amazon), with the other 2% or so through smaller sites like Biblio, AntiQbook, and my own website; there are and have been a plethora of ‘others’ which I have long since given up on.
From what I could gather by reading around, the majority of ebook sales are through Amazon, with a smaller number of iTunes sales, and a very few through Kobo, Nook, plus a plethora of ‘others’ which return none. I therefore decided to concentrate initially on the three sites Apple, Kobo, and Barnes and Noble, and not worry too much about the others. How to get the book into epub format? I discovered it’s not actually that hard to produce an epub file. Use the right software and load it with a properly formatted Word document and an epub file pops out the other end. I’m not sure why paying one of the many services available to convert your file is so expensive.
From my research it became apparent that I would probably use an aggregator. Apart from anything else, not using an aggregator can make it necessary to have a US bank account, and to be VAT registered. For those who don’t know, an aggregator is like a distributor, a company that, for a percentage or your royalties, will make your book available through a number of sites; they can also turn your document into an epub file for you.
The old boy of aggregators appears to be Smashwords, and they distribute to a long list. A newer company is Draft2Digital, who were then only distributing to iTunes, Kobo and Nook, as well as making the book available to download on their own website in various formats. For a number of reasons I decided to try D2D first.
Registering with them was straightforward, I supplied them with my EIN (see Part 1) and I already had the book as a Word file which I duly uploaded.
Pricing is an odd question. How much is an ebook worth? As a dyed-in-the-wool physical book junkie my gut feeling is ‘not a lot’, it’s too ephemeral. But the author has still put a lot of work into it, and after all, it’s the intellectual property that’s important, regardless of how it’s delivered. But it’s a balancing act – price it too high and sales will be low, price it too low and there’s hardly any royalties. Pricing on some sites is based on a US dollar price, so the UK (GBP) price can annoyingly appear as an odd amount as the exchange rate fluctuates.
Once the formalities are done and the ‘publish’ button clicked on, nothing happens for quite a while. The book is submitted to the relevant platforms and eventually gets accepted, and is therefore ‘published’.
A little while after listing the book with D2D they added Scribd to the list of sites they upload to, and more recently Page Foundry. Neither addition has seen the book flying off the eshelves.
And do the orders come rushing in from anywhere? Not without some publicity, and how to do that? Social media is the most obvious means, and doing some tweeting from Boudicca Books' account brought in the odd order.
Next the book went onto a number of other platforms (including library distribution) through Smashwords, where you can also buy the download in various formats. Getting the book into a suitable format for them is more difficult - they are very prescriptive about what their 'meat grinder' (what they call their conversion software) will and won't accept, and it took about two hours to reformat the document. There is a lengthy 'style guide' which I followed assiduously - even so, the first upload failed; but it was one very minor problem which I corrected and then it was accepted without a problem. It took several weeks for the book to work through the system and become available (it still doesn't seem to be on some sites yet, including W H Smith and Waterstones, which should be supplied by Kobo), and sales are now much the same as on other sites - i.e. very low.
I’ve listed the book in the bibliography on Francis’s ‘Author Central’ page at Amazon, which may produce a few sales - Amazon is the only site where there are regular sales.
The next part of the project, which is still in its early stages, is to work with the team at the Flag Fen visitor attraction to enable their visitors to buy the ebook on-site. Not as straightforward as a real book, but it appears to be theoretically feasible. I've left the ball in their court at the moment, but I can see that there may be a number of obstacles to overcome; if it does get sorted out it I fear it will be by the autumn when they are ready to close for the winter.
So, has it been worth it? It's too early to tell, even though it's been over three months since the Kindle version has been available, much less for the epub - in fact, some of the channels at Smashwords are still awaiting distribution, and some of those that it has distributed to are yet to make the book available. So, perhaps it will be next year before sales speed up. The long timescale so far is why it's taken a while for this second part of the blog post to appear, I've been waiting for things to happen.
One thing I do know: yet another similarity between second-hand bookselling and ebook publishing is that the monetary return on time invested is risibly small.

Booksellers in the Blogosphere

Another quick round-up of recent blog posts by a range of booksellers:

Barbara's from March House Books always beautiful blog has some stunning book covers and she has also been visiting Hay-on-Wye.

Nigel has been reviewing Kevin Eldon’s My Prefect Cousin: a short biography of Paul Hamilton. I've not come across comedian Kevin Eldon before but since reading Nigel's excellent review I've been enjoying what Youtube has to offer.

Marijana and Heather haven't been blogging recently (booksellers are busy folk!) but both have excellent Facebook pages. There is a fascinating range of snippets on Peakirk Books page, and Marijana has some great little posts on bookcovers to tie in with her other job co-running Books4Looks.

Stella Books have a Rupert Book as book of the week no doubt inspired by their visit to the Followers of Rupert 31st Annual meeting in Warwick.

Mike from A Book for All Reasons has been following the adventures of Old Front Line as they fund raise for ex-servicemen.

Karen Millward has been cataloguing some lovely Irish postcards, and Stephen Foster has been tweeting about lizards and Victorian strangeness.

As for me on Juxtabook I've been reviewing Josephine Tey and believe it or not Goodbye, Mr Chips as well as chatting about film adaptations of books.
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