concept to publication

Category: distribution

Amazon’s appalling policy

Many authors, among them C. Dale Young, report that Amazon is censoring books with sexual, and especially GLBT, content by removing them from their rankings, apparently in an effort to make the titles less visible to the general public.

Edward Campion, saying the Amazon policy “represents the greatest insult to consumers and the most severe commercial threat to free expression that we’re likely to see in some time,” is among those calling for a boycott of the company.

Here’s more from Campion:

To add insult to injury, such anti-Semitic texts as Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion remain within the ranking system while the less offensive books named above [D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Dorothy Allison’s Bastard Out of Carolina, Annie Proulx’s Brokeback Mountain, and John Cleland’s Fanny Hill] are considered too “adult.” In other words, if you’re a writer who has written openly about sex, Amazon considers you worse than an anti-Semitic writer who helped initiate pogroms and concentration camps.

Amazon’s side of the story? Publisher Mark Probst received this communication from Amazon:

In consideration of our entire customer base, we exclude “adult” material from appearing in some searches and best seller lists. Since these lists are generated using sales ranks, adult materials must also be excluded from that feature.

Hence, if you have further questions, kindly write back to us.

Best regards,

Ashlyn D
Member Services Advantage

For more on this issue, including links and contact information, see Campion’s post.

I have removed the Amazon link from my right sidebar. The Powell’s link remains, and I encourage readers to buy from their local independent bookstore, or else to order from Powell’s.


Tuttle Publishing to distribute Asian Art Museum books

tuttle logo

The Asian Art Museum has made an agreement with Tuttle Publishing for the exclusive distribution of all Asian Art Museum books. Not only will Tuttle distribute new books going forward, but existing distribution agreements are being terminated, and Tuttle will handle the museum’s backlist as well.

The arrangement with Tuttle should give the museum more effective distribution than it had in the past, not only in the U.S. but in Asia and throughout the world.

Tuttle Publishing, which includes Tuttle, Periplus Editions, and Journey Editions, is the leading English-language book publishing and distribution company in Asia. The company was founded by Charles E. Tuttle (1915-1993) in Tokyo in 1948. His mission was to publish “books to span the East and West.” The core of the Asian Art Museum’s collection was donated by Avery Brundage (1887-1975), who, similarly, sought to create a “bridge to undertstanding” between East and West.

This summer the museum will publish an important new book on the court arts of China’s Ming dynasty.


Amazon-France tussle continues

As noted before, the Europeans are less sanguine about large internet companies than is the U.S. In France, Amazon wanted to offer free shipping to its customers. But France has a law intended to protect booksellers from predatory competition. The International Herald Tribune summarizes:

The 1981 Lang law was passed at a time when booksellers were losing sales to supermarkets and other new competitors. It was meant to assure that the French public had equal access to a wide variety of books, both high-brow and low-brow, not just heavily marked-down publications. The law has twice come before the European Court of Justice and both times it has been affirmed. The law is not considered anti competitive because all book retailers are held to the same standard…. In the Amazon case, a union of French bookstores won its lawsuit against the company last month over the free-shipping offer, which applies only to deliveries within France on book orders of more than €20.

The result of this is a $1500/day fine currently being levied against, and paid by, amazon. Who will win this game of chicken?


via Persona Non Grata


Flexible pricing or independent booksellers who pay for readings?

The chains’ dominance of the bookstore segment of the U.S. book publishing industry is a result of the value the country places on open competition. Would you be willing to give up bargain pricing if it meant a thriving culture of independent bookstores and a system that rewards authors with a comfortable yearly income? According to Critical Mass, that’s the choice that Germany made.

POSTING WILL BE A LITTLE LIGHT while I’m on the road.


10 Questions: Jeffrey Lependorf, Executive Director, Small Press Distribution / CLMP

jeffrey lependorf Ten Questions is an occasional feature in which folks involved in some aspect of publishing kindly oblige my interrogative impulses. Today I’m talking with Jeffrey Lependorf, who serves as executive director of two three different nonprofits, Small Press Distribution, based in Berkeley, the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses, based in New York City, and the Literary Ventures Fund, a new foundation, also based in NYC, supporting literary works through philanthropic investment. The questions focus on Small Press Distribution, so just to mix things up a bit, let’s have a look at a brief bio of Jeffrey from the press release announcing his hire at CLMP:

Lependorf has a long history working in the field of literary arts. From 1996-1998, he served as the Development Director of the Poetry Society of America. There he played an instrumental role in the national expansion of the Poetry in Motion program, which brings poems to subways and buses. More recently, Lependorf worked as Development Director for Creative Capital, an innovative foundation providing direct grants to experimental artists working in a variety of disciplines. He has also served as a consultant to a number of CLMP member publishers, including The Hudson Review, African Voices, and Open City, helping them secure foundation grants and develop individual donor campaigns.

For a longer and more current bio, including information on his work as a composer, check out

Okay, on to the questions and answers.

1. I was a member of the board of SPD about 15 years ago. My impression is that the organization has grown considerably since that time. If that is true, to what do you attribute the growth? Do you foresee continued growth, and if so would this become problematic at some point?

SPD has indeed experienced tremendous growth in recent years. In terms of how many books we represent and how many we sell that is; our staff has stayed the same size. Not only do we add approximately 1,000 new titles a year, but we also continue to reach larger and larger audiences of readers. Some of this growth reflects the growth of the community of independent literary press publishers that we serve. Some of this may be attributed to new technologies that allow anyone with a laptop and some good design and editorial savvy to put out a beautiful book. Similarly, many publishers are learning that though they may lack the marketing dollars of their larger commercial counterparts, viral marketing through the internet and often closer relationships with their writers allows them the possibility of reaching readers sometimes even more effectively. I think the explosion of MFA programs has certainly had something to do with more manuscripts finding their way to publishers as well. On the SPD side, much of our effectiveness comes from our ability to provide better data to our largest customers: booksellers. As we have been providing better and better data, our sales to some of the largest booksellers has increased dramatically, including our sales to libraries. At the same time, we always work to deepen our relationships with independent booksellers—particularly those that specialize in the types of books our catalogue best represents—and by doing so we’re able to sell more books with fewer returns.

I’m delighted to report that SPD has recently received major funding from The Irvine Foundation for a significant upgrade of our data systems. This will allow, for example, a potential bookbuyer to seek out books by California authors, or to see reviews of books. This should lead to an even greater growth in sales as well. That said, we do have physical limitations for the number books that can fit in our warehouse. At present, natural attrition (either from publishers who cease to publish or who move to larger commercial distribution) has allowed us the ability to represent the presses who should be with SPD. I suspect that in a longer view of the future, as more presses take advantage of constantly improving print-on-demand technology, that the nature of what the SPD Catalogue covers may change. I think that we’ll always have beautifully books printed in small runs, but perhaps in the future SPD will also offer books to be printed on demand as well, or deliver them in formats not yet imaginable. Regardless, we will continue to change with the times and we look forward to what the future has to offer.

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