Publishing News: Issue 42
HarperCollins Trialling the Use of Trains to Deliver Books
By Louise Taillandier
HarperCollins UK has decided to use trains in order to deliver their books in an attempt to reduce carbon emissions. According to the publisher, this method can save around two tonnes of carbon per container compared to the use of road transport. Each container can carry up to forty-six pallets of books.
This move comes as many companies are switching to production practices designed to reduce their harm to the environment. HarperCollins is, according to its website, the third-largest book publisher in the country, releasing over 2,000 titles every year. The company is a part of News Corp, the multinational mass media corporation owned by the Australian media mogul Rupert Murdoch, which contains the Fox television channels in the United States as well as Sky News in the UK and the newspapers The Sun and The Times. The switch to trains is a part of the corporation's 'News Corp Global Environment Initiative' to reduce emissions. It was HarperCollins' goal to make direct emissions entirely carbon neutral by the end of 2021.
The publisher's website also declares that:
"HarperCollins UK has become signatories to the publishing industry’s first and only declaration on climate action, Publishing Declares. The five-point pledge includes:
Commitments to reach net-zero our own operations and extended supply chain as soon as possible and by 2050 at the latest
Work with supply chain partners and use sustainable production wherever we can
Collaborate with our business partners and suppliers
Use our platform and voice to educate for sustainability
Advocate for climate action, both internally and with our external audiences."
The first book delivered in this manner was fitness coach Joe Wicks' Feel Good Food last month. It has travelled from Italy, where it was printed, to Rotterdam. From there, the initial print run of the cookery book was brought to the UK by ship before finishing its journey in HarperCollins' distribution centre in Bishopsbriggs, after almost 200 miles of road transport.
The next major release to be transported in this manner is TV presenter Davina McCall's taboo-breaking book, Menopausing.
HarperCollins has also stated that it would be sending around one full container of educational material from the printers in Italy every two weeks, starting this past month. After this trial, the company means to use trains for most of the books printed in Italy.
Indie Bookshop Owners Partner Up to Launch Brighton’s First Book Festival
By Charlotte Brook
Two independent bookshop owners, Carolynn Bain from Afrori Books and Ruth Wainwright from The Feminist Bookshop, are teaming up this summer to launch Brighton’s very first book festival. Since opening their doors in 2020 and 2019 respectively, these indies have been committed to uplifting marginalised and dampened voices and driving conversations around social change, and their literary festival is set to continue this ethos.
With Afrori Books as the first black-owned bookshop in Sussex, they champion Black authors across all genres, seeking to encourage people to diversify their bookshelves. The Feminist Bookshop, on the other hand, is a space that promotes self-identifying female and non-binary authors, creatives and entrepreneurs, by stocking a wide range of books by and about women. They also serve coffee and cakes from female-owned businesses in their café. Each bookshop hosts a monthly book club where they handpick a book to discuss every month (Afrori Books even offers wine and cheese…sign me up!), so if you can’t quite wait for the festival taking place from the 24-26 June 2022, this is a great way to take part in the important conversations they’re starting.
Through combining forces, the Brighton Book Festival aims to “inspire and enable writers at every stage in their careers to share their work and to champion the power of the written word to enrich and change lives.” The founders state that they seek to “amplify a wide spectrum of voices, to connect readers and authors in new ways and to promote compelling and challenging writing, with special attention to work that engages with pressing social issues or that might otherwise be excluded or marginalised.”
Over the course of three days, across selected venues within Brighton’s vibrant literary scene, the festival is set to consist of fifteen to twenty different events. These will include panels on intriguing topics such as “Masculinities” and “the Myth of the Mainstream”, as well as workshops for “Pitching your Novel” and “Adapting Book to Film.” There will also be children’s book events and interactive sessions involving graphic novels and creating soundtracks inspired by literature, so there really is something for everyone.
While it may all seem very mysterious at the moment, their official Twitter page (@brightbookfest) promises that “something magical” is in the making, so save the dates and keep an eye out for more information and the announcement of ticket sales.
Amazon Shuts Down Westland Books in Blow to Indian Publishing
By Julia Fitzpatrick
On 1 February, news broke that the publishing house Westland Books will be closed down. The company, a subsidiary of Amazon Eurasia Holdings SARL, will cease operation after the end of March. The news was confirmed by a spokesperson for Amazon, who said that:
“After a thorough review, we have made the difficult decision to no longer operate Westland. We are working closely with the employees, authors, agents, and distribution partners on this transition, and we remain committed to innovating for customers in India.”
Westland Books is one of the largest non-academic publishers in India’s small book market, sitting alongside publishing giants such as Penguin Random House and HarperCollins. Westland publishes over 200 titles a year, with an impressive list of high-profile authors, such as Chetan Bhagat, Devdutt Pattanaik, and Rujuta Diwekar. Founded by the Padmanabhan family in 1962, it was originally named East West Books. Westland was sold to the multinational conglomerate Tata Group in 2008 and again to Amazon in 2017. At the time of acquisition, Amit Agarwal, Vice President of Amazon India, said that the move would enable “Amazon to bring Westland’s highly talented authors and their books to even more customers in India and around the world.” Westland’s CEO, Gautam Padmanabhan, mirrored this enthusiasm, calling it a “great day for our authors and their readers across the globe.” He pointed out that Amazon’s “roots are in books.”
Five years later, this optimism has been resolutely shattered. Amazon has not, as of yet, given an explanation for the closure. Most in the industry are attributing the move to the heavy losses, which Westland has been carrying, as high as 40 crore in the 2020 Financial Year. Nevertheless, the shutdown has come as a surprise. Westland’s loyal readership, eminent writers, and recent high-profile publications, such as award-winning journalist Nalin Mehta’s The New BJP, do not suggest a company on its last legs.
Writers and readers alike have expressed confusion and dismay over the move. Preeti Shenoy, one of the most popular female authors in India, called it a “huge blow for publishing in India” and tweeted that it is “hard to imagine a different home” for her books. Social media has been flooded with sympathy for staff and writers left without financial security. Alarm bells are also ringing about the implications for the book trade in India. If a company as distinguished as Westland can fall, who will be next?
Government Shelves Controversial Copyright Changes
By Megan Whitlock
After proposed changes were announced last summer, the UK government has now announced that it will pause its plans to change “copyright exhaustion” rules. The rules, which determine when a rights holder loses control over their property’s distribution, currently protect UK authors when selling their works abroad and from international undercutting of the domestic market.
The Intellectual Property Office ran a consultation last summer exploring potential changes as a result of Brexit, the results of which can be found here. However, the Publisher’s Association quickly responded with the Save Our Books campaign, which warned of significant harm to author incomes, relocation of publishing away from the UK and further damage to British highstreets in favour of online retail giants if the government introduced new IP (intellectual property) frameworks.
The campaign saw the public support of authors such Kate Mosse and Philip Pullman, the latter had previously written in support of copyright laws in Index On Censorship: “The principle is simple, and unaltered by technology, science, or magic: if we want to enjoy the work that someone does, we should pay for it.” Similarly, at the time of the consultation, Mosse was quoted in The Guardian explaining: “Copyright is the bedrock of authors’ earnings and ensures that everyone – whatever their background, their genre of writing – is properly remunerated for their talent.”
Save Our Books warned of how weakening IP laws would enable unauthorised copies of an author’s book from around the world to be imported and sold in the UK, making it difficult for the author to be properly compensated and cutting into the UK market. Yet after months of campaigning, the government has announced this January that, for the time being, the laws will not be changed, citing a “lack of available data” needed to determine the economic impact such changes would have.
However, there is a certain open-ended ambiguity as to what this means for the future. Responding to January’s news, Nicola Solomon, Chief Executive of the Society of Authors, made the following statement on the campaign website:
“A strong copyright framework works to everyone’s benefit – for the creators and the industries that take their work to market, and for the public who consume it. In publishing, this is critical, not least because of how precarious the business of being an author can be. The IPO says there is ‘not enough data available to understand the economic impact of any of the alternatives’, but as Monday’s Nielsen stats show, we have an industry packed full of data that demonstrates the economic benefits of the UK’s current copyright regime. We hope that if and when the Government revisits this issue in future, they will look even more closely at the evidence available.”
For more information on the campaign, you can find the Save Our Books website here.