London Wall Publishing

Shelf Life – news from around the book business – December

It has been a rather extraordinary month, one in which two doyennes of the book industry – one still with us, one long departed – proved their ability to still cut it with the YouTube generation, and a bookshop served as a place of refuge during an unspeakable atrocity.

Ninety-two-year-old Judith Kerr rose to the top of the charts with Mog’s Christmas Calamity, aided by a brilliant TV commercial and the backing of Sainsbury’s.  She also made her own YouTube debut that, at the time of writing, had notched up more than 12m views.  Stick that in your iPad Zoella!

Meanwhile, another silver-haired lady was re-born thanks to the new digital technology.  A new app based on Agatha Christie’s short story collection The Mysterious Mr Quin was released.  The Mr Quin app, produced by Agatha Christie Productions and a new mobile entertainment platform called Tell Player, is described as a ‘multimedia stream with social functionality that enables viewers to share and comment on their favourite content’.  Hilary Strong, CEO of Agatha Christie Ltd, which looks after her estate, said: “I often wonder what Christie would have thought of the connected nature of our society today and always come back to this conclusion; that she would have embraced it with the same enthusiasm and vigour that she had for innovations and opportunities available to her in her lifetime.”

In Paris, customers took shelter in the famous Shakespeare & Co bookshop during the awful events early in November.  Bookshops’ role as places of community cohesion should not be underestimated in these difficult days – they are open, democratic spaces that can bring people together.

Both the new developments above demonstrate the new world (not so new anymore) in which the industry operates.  It is still about ‘content’, of course, but that content is increasingly being treated in different ways.  For example, a new company called Editions at Play is currently working with Google Creative Lab to develop a ‘different kind of digital literary experience on our mobile devices’.  They imagine stories read on mobiles that would take account of the reader’s physical location and ask: “Would the story change as you travelled around the city?  Would it sense how hot or cold you felt?  Or how calm or stressed you are?  Or would it simply remind you that you have five minutes to go before you reach the end of your story?’ 

Independent publishers are feeling positive amid all this change.  In a survey conducted by research body Nielsen Book, 51% of respondents said their company was growing, 34% said it was stable and only 15% said it was declining.  Nearly 50% said it was the emergence of new routes to market that was giving them most hope, along with an improving economic situation and a stabilising ebook market. 

All publishers seem to be agreed that, while digital has slowed, it is still growing and that the area showing noticeable growth is mobile.  In 2014 a ‘digital census’ undertaken by the Bookseller magazine showed that in that year more people were reading on iPads than Kindles.  Scroll forward to this year and there has been a significant change.  Now, more than two in five respondents (44.6%) say they commonly read on a mobile as opposed to both the other devices.  The reasons given include the increase in screen size and resolution, and the desire to just carry one device.

It is being called ‘new publishing’ now, the catch-all phrase to take in the new developments in the app and digital space.  One such example is Faber’s Arcadia app for Iain Pears’ novel of the same name.  This is a novel written for the iPad and iPhone, featuring ten characters, three worlds and ‘hundreds of paths to explore’.  Such developments are not ruling out physical books, but they are sitting alongside them and increasingly altering the way we think about narrative and structure.

It couldn’t be a more fascinating time to be in the book industry….


Latest entries:

London Wall Publishing’s Project Manager, Fiona Marsh, with US actor, Trey Gerrald, at the 18th annual Independent Publisher Book Awards held during BookExpo America in New York receiving the Gold Award for Romance Fiction for The Echoes of Love by Hannah Fielding. 

Launched in 1996 and conducted each year to honor the year's best independently published books, the "IPPY" Awards recognize merit in a broad range of subjects and reward authors and publishers who "take chances and break new ground." Independent publishers, along with independent booksellers, have long held an important role in the world of books, offering an alternative to "the big five" conglomerated media publishers.