Publishing News - Issue 39
Authors Win Piracy Lawsuit
By Malachi Martin
Following the failure of KISS Library’s (a pirating website) response to the lawsuit filed against them by members of the Authors Guild, Amazon Publishing and Penguin Random House, a default judgement has been issued against the overseas e-book pirates by federal judge, Marsha Pechman, in Washington, D.C. As a result of this, not only were the complainants awarded $7.8 million by the court but there has also been a perpetual decree which prohibits KISS Library from operating.
In the wake of the announcement regarding the final ruling, Authors Guild CEO, Mary Rasenberger, had this to say:
“Authors rarely have the necessary resources to fight commercial-scale piracy and take on protracted litigation, so we are extremely grateful to Amazon Publishing and Penguin Random House for their collaboration on this action." She continued, “We are thrilled that the Court quickly grasped the facts and granted us each of our requests - imposing the maximum financial penalty, shutting down all Kiss-related domains and sending a pointed message to 'pirated-content' websites.”
Created by Ukrainian nationals, Rodion Vynnychenko and Artem Besshapochny, the site was run through a multitude of websites and domains that were designed to look polished and admissible, allowing consumers to be better deceived. Using this, they re-uploaded the literary works they had pirated. KISS Library differed from most pirate sites; as opposed to the usual act of acquiring content for free and re-uploading it for others to consume with no charge, KISS Library pirated e-books and resold them to unassuming readers.
The lawsuit was filed against the illegal Ukrainian site on 8 July 2020 following the discovery that its creators/moderators were illegally pirating their e-books and reselling them. Those involved in the lawsuit who hailed from the Authors Guild, were authors Lee Child, Jim Rasenberger, T.J. Stiles, Sylvia Day, Monique Truong, John Grisham, C.J. Lyons, R.L. Stine, Scott Turow, Stuart Woods, Nicholas Weinstock and Guild President, Douglas Preston.
In September of that same year, Pechman permitted a ten-page sweeping order blocking Vynnychenko and Besshapochny, along with their service providers, from collaborating in the distribution of pirated literary works, essentially shutting down the operation. Moreover, all assets and accounts affiliated with the operation were temporarily frozen by the order of the court at that time.
To perfectly sum up the outcome of these events, head of Amazon Publishing, Mikyla Bruder, stated that the order sends “a clear message that piracy will not be tolerated and bad actors will be held accountable."
RBmedia buys the German audiobook company ABOD
By Louise Taillandier
RBmedia, the largest audiobook company in the world, has announced the acquisition of the German company ABOD. This move, accompanied by the launch of the new brand RBmedia Verlag, would be a first step for the American company in the German-speaking market. The Munich-based company, which is about to celebrate its ten-year anniversary in 2022, is focused on non-fiction titles ranging from fields like economics, to politics and current affairs. RBmedia will add best-selling titles, such as the highly anticipated Cycles of Climate Change: How Climate Feedback Loops Can Destroy or Save the World by Greta Thunberg and the Dalai Lama, Put Warm Clothes On, It's Going to Be Hot: Understand Climate Change and Learn from the Crisis for Tomorrow's World by meteorologist Sven Plöger and physician and comedian Eckhart von Hirschhausen.
Following the rapidly growing trend of audiobook purchases, RBmedia has been voraciously pursuing audiobook companies from all over the world since its creation in 2017. The company has its roots in Maryland, where its now-imprint, Recorded Books, was founded in 1978 by the audiobook pioneer, Henry Trentman. The books, originally recorded on cassette tapes for commuters to listen to in their cars or on their Walkmans, became one of the first independent companies to market audiobooks for everyone. The system functioned primarily through rentals, from the cassette to the CD, before being replaced by the fully digital audiobook we know today. RBmedia now sells audiobooks directly to their customers, through platforms such as libraries, the Amazon subsidiary Audible and audiobooks.com. The latter, which counts for around 17% of audiobook purchases, was RBmedia's own platform until November of last year, when it was sold to the Swedish audiobook streaming subscription service Storytel AB. This move allows the Stockholm-based company an entry into the English-speaking world and gives Amazon another rising competitor.
RBmedia has been expanding into several language-focused fields, with the acquisition of companies such as the Spanish brand BookaVivo in 2021 and ABOD even exploring the possibilities of the audiobook experience by buying GraphicAudio in 2020. This imprint offers "A Movie in Your Mind" experience, incorporates cinematic sound effects and features entire ensemble casts to give the Marvel comics it narrates the gumption characteristic of the films the latter releases.
The Maryland-based company already publishes around 6,500 new releases a year and offers a catalogue of over 40,000 books. With this newest imprint focusing on politics and current affairs, a recent bestselling field in the industry mirroring the growing interest for these subjects, RBmedia is setting up to keep up and perhaps even lead in the publishing industry's zeitgeist.
Industry Names Awarded in New Year’s Honours List
By Megan Whitlock
The publishing industry has kickstarted the year with some deserved recognition in the annual New Year’s Honours List, with contributions to literature acknowledged in MBEs, OBEs and CBEs.
CEO of The Reading Agency, Karen Napier, was among those awarded with an MBE for her contribution to arts, culture, reading and public libraries. The charity plays an instrumental role in encouraging reading for pleasure in the UK and works with libraries, prisons and schools across the country. Napier is quoted on the Agency website, expressing her delight and stressing that “the transformative impact of reading and the work of libraries could not be more needed.”
The founders of the Bradford Literature Festival, Syima Aslam and Irna Qureshi, were both awarded MBEs for their services to literature, particularly in improving literary access to those in the community. Aslam is quoted in The Telegraph and Argus:
“Having our work recognised in a national platform like this is really heartening and a vote of confidence for the festival and the whole city. [...] Our festival is very different, our model is different; ethical ticketing, our education programme being free, all of that has come out of Bradford. If our MBEs can boost the festival, that would be wonderful.”
MBEs were also awarded to authors and illustrators: Adele Parks (author of twenty bestselling novels), Oliver Jeffers (author and illustrator of There’s a Ghost in This House) and Onjali Q Raúf (The Boy at the Back of the Class and founder of NGO Making Herstory). Meanwhile, Ann Cleeves, bestselling crime-writer and library advocate, won an OBE for her services to reading and libraries. The creator of famed detective Vera Stanhope, televised in ITV’s Vera, has set up reading and writing groups for everyone – from prisons to pubs – and she has more recently helped fund projects that involve community workers using reading to develop wellbeing in areas of social deprivation. Her website states: “I’m delighted that this honour highlights the importance of reading and libraries and celebrates the skilled staff who work in the field.”
Finally, CBEs were awarded to authors Anthony Horowitz, author of the Alex Rider series and cookery-writer Claudia Roden, credited with popularising Egyptian food in the West. Publisher Peter Usborne of Usborne Publishing (which he founded in 1973) was also awarded a CBE, telling The Bookseller:
“This second award, like the first MBE several years ago, is really not for me, but for my marvellous staff. If I could cut it into 280 pieces and give it out to all of them, I would. They’ve given me the best life and the best company I could imagine. Thanks to all of them for everything.”
Annual Review: How 2021’s Biggest Headlines Affected the Publishing Industry
By Naomi Churn
2021 brought a fresh year of challenges and changes for the UK publishing industry. The year launched with another January lockdown, forcing book retailers to close their doors and weather the ongoing storm caused by the pandemic. In the week following bookshops’ reopening in April, Waterstones recorded an exceptionally busy period, proving that in-person trade is still of vital importance to the bookselling industry.
While a last-minute EU trade deal, announced in December 2020, alleviated some of the fears associated with Brexit, the supply chain was already feeling the effects in January, as border delays hindered books getting to retailers. Brexit-associated supply chain issues were a constant backdrop to 2021, forcing publishers and booksellers to consistently absorb the mounting costs. Come November, booksellers were dealing with two-month delays on stock that adversely affected Christmas sales.
The industry saw a landmark event in March, as Torrey Peters became the first transgender woman to be longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction. In other good news, Bonnier Books UK announced a trade-first pregnancy loss policy, including paid time off for those affected. Hachette also opened the first of its five regional offices in July, in a move towards making the publishing industry less London-centric and therefore more accessible to those just starting out.
The effects of the pandemic continued to be felt in June, as the London Book Fair produced an entirely online program. Live events did return later in the year, including the Frankfurt Book Fair in October. However, as COVID-19 continued to put restrictions on travel, the German fair felt a keen lack of UK presence, making it another tough year for international rights sales.
In August, author Kate Clanchy encountered criticism for the racist and ableist language in her latest book. Critics Monisha Rajesh, Professor Sunny Singh and Chimene Suleyman subsequently faced unwarranted vitriol online for pointing out the problematic content, prompting literary review Bad Form to publish an open letter signed by more than 950 industry figures in support of the three writers. While Picador released a statement of apology and pledged to fund a rewrite of Clanchy’s book, the affair sparked discussion suggesting that authors and publishers should take more responsibility to ensure such content never enters their books and to make greater use of sensitivity readers.
In November, the U.S. Department of Justice announced they are suing to block the acquisition of Simon & Schuster by Penguin Random House owners, Bertelsmann. The $2.2 billion deal, announced at the end of 2020, had already sparked fears over a detrimental publishing monopoly. Both S&S and Penguin Random House have vowed to fight the lawsuit. How the case will play out remains to be seen.
Finally, bookcareers.com published their annual salary survey in December, revealing that while the average publishing salary has increased by 6% since 2017, the pay gap between entry-level and average salaries has widened to 49%, proving that starting out in the industry still comes with considerable challenges.