Monthly Archives: December 2011

E-Reads Welcomes the New Year


See The Matrix (18th Century Version)

Recent sighting of Garamond

Planning to visit New York in January?  Forget Times Square, the Statue of Liberty and Broadway musicals.  Here’s your chance to see a limited run of The Matrix.

But this one doesn’t star Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne and Carrie-Anne Moss. No, it features Claude Garamond, John Baskerville, Giambattista Bodoni, William Caslon and Eric Gill. You’ve heard those names before, but you can’t look them up on IMDB.

You can find them in a book, though.  Just take an old volume off your shelf and turn to the end papers. There you may well see one of those names.  Don’t have books any more? Okay, go to the Fonts dropdown list on your word processor.  You’ll find many of those names there.  Give up?

They were  type designers. They created metal forms called punches, shaped like the  elegant letters to which the designers gave their names. By pressing the form into a copper slab, the punch – a reverse image of each letter – produced a mold.  Into that mold lead was poured, creating one letter of Garamond or Bodoni or Baskerville type.

That copper slab was known as – a matrix.

Now for that visit to New York.  From today through February 4th you can see an amazing exhibit of punches, matrices (plural of matrix), and related typographical exhibits at the Grolier Club, 47 East 60th Street in Manhattan. Check here for information and read details in this New York Times feature by David W. Dunlap, Types With Plenty of Character.

These exquisite artifacts, writes Dunlap, “offer a reminder, in the ethereal era of bitmapping, that type was once the tangible province of engravers and metal casters who labored in unforgiving but enduring media.”

Richard Curtis


Stop Presses: Publisher Has Something Good to Say about Amazon

Stephen Roxburgh, founder of a small press called namelos llc., has written a guest editorial in Publishers Weekly defending against accusations of predatory behavior and thanking it for its support, without which namelos might not have survived.

Besides the obvious boost in e-book sales, Amazon’s POD program made a huge difference for this embryonic press. “Our new company publishes titles simultaneously in hardcover and paperback using print-on-demand technology, and e-books. Because our books are nonreturnable, most booksellers will not carry them. Amazon does.”

Though Amazon may not strike many as being in need of friends, Roxburgh feels the behemoth has been excessively vilified. “Not since Hester Prynne walked out of prison with an infant in her arms and ‘a rag of scarlet cloth’ in the shape of the letter A has there been such public hue and cry as Amazon has provoked in the past few weeks,” he declares. “From the point of view of this lunatic fringe publisher, Amazon, with all its glitches and stumbles, is crucial to our success. And I, for one, applaud the innovation and transformation Amazon has brought to the publishing world.”

Okay, that’s one. Anybody want to make it two?

We will. Without Amazon’s retail clout and marketing genius, E-Reads would still be in the dark ages of the 20th century (when it was founded).  We are also happy to shout out our other indispensable partners:, Ingram, LightningSource, Apple, Sony, Google, Kobo, Diesel, Content Reserve, Baker & Taylor and Fictionwise. In 2011 E-Reads sales exceed $1 million and we could not have done it without them.

For Roxburgh’s full editorial in PW, click here.

Richard Curtis


2012 Will Be the Year of the SnapTag

Out with the old...

Just when you started to figure out those migraine-inducing squares called QR Codes, they will be obsoleted by a new technology called SnapTags.

Powered by a marketing outfit called SpyderLynk, SnapTags are not only cleaner and easier to read, but they sport your logo. Here’s what their website has to say about it:

“Imagine you had something that worked like a QR Code. Only instead of using an indecipherable Rorschach blot, it used your logo. And instead of just taking people to a link, it opened up whole new lines of interactive communication. Ones that you could track and use to build relationships.

“You’d have a better way to build your mobile marketing. You’d have a SnapTag.

“Consumers with either a standard or smart camera phone get instant access offers, content, promotions and information by snapping and sending a picture of the SnapTag to a designated short code. Or by scanning the SnapTag using a SnapTag Reader App.

...In with the new

It’s more accessible, more sophisticated, and completely branded. Because it’s your logo.”

In a Publishers Weekly report, Gabe Habash describes magazine and book applications that create instant opportunities for readers to participate in contests, sample giveaways and other branding, advertising and social media opportunities. They’re both codes that deliver content to your phone when you access their technology. “We are excited about collaborating with more publishers to see how SnapTags can impact the publishing model to bring more interactivity to books,” said a SpyderLink executive.

Details in SnapTags Push Scanning Technology Forward

Richard Curtis


Does “Storage and Retrieval” Mean E-Book Rights? Harper Lawsuit against Open Road Says Emphatically Yes

Towards the end of the twentieth century just about every book contract contained language granting the publisher computer storage and retrieval rights. Though the first people to employ the term probably did not envision e-books, the advent of digital technology sent publishing lawyers scurrying to their contracts to make sure they contained some variant of that term. For, in their opinion, the ownership of e-book rights stood firmly upon it. And when at the turn of the 21st century authors examined those same contracts, the existence of “Computer Storage and Retrieval” loomed like a snarling guard dog warning them to step no further across the owner’s line.

Though there have been some probes by authors, agents and startup e-book publishers of this and similarly ambiguous phrases in book contracts, none has ever been fully litigated. That may now change if a just-announced lawsuit is carried out to the max.

Over the Christmas holiday Publishers Lunch‘s Michael Cader broke the news that HarperCollins has sued Open Road, the independent e-book publisher founded by Jane Friedman (former CEO of HarperCollins incidentally), for infringing on Harper’s digital rights to a classic work of children’s literature, Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George. The author was not named in the suit, however.

Key to Harper’s position is the phrase in its contract with the author that “makes clear that the scope of HarperCollins’ publishing rights extends to exploitation of the work ‘through computer, computer-stored, mechanical or other electronic means now known or hereafter invented’ — language that serves only to reinforce HarperCollins’ exclusive rights to publish the Work as an e-book.”

There have been some previous territorial quarrels over e-book rights based on vague contractual terminology such as the phrase “in book form” in some Random House contracts issued long before Kindle was a gleam in Jeff Bezos’s eye. If there was no such thing as an e-book when the original volume was acquired, can a publisher claim that e-book was meant by “in book form?”

The following piece was posted on our blog when Random House, feeling threatened by newly created independent e-book publishers, decided to assert its rights in no uncertain terms.  Anyone interested in the Harper-Open Road dispute will benefit from this backgrounder.

Richard Curtis


Random Serves Notice on Would-Be E-Interlopers
Like a wolf marking its territory against rivals, Random House served unequivocal notice today on what it perceives as potential e-poachers seeking a loophole in Random’s definition of “book”.

The warning was embedded in a letter from Random CEO Markus Dohle mailed or emailed to literary agents describing the company’s plans and initiatives in the digital world. Authors were also put on notice that they are “precluded from granting publishing rights to third parties that would compromise the rights for which Random House has bargained.”

“The vast majority of our backlist contracts,” writes Dohle, “grant us the exclusive right to publish books in electronic formats. At the same time, we are aware there have been some misunderstandings concerning ebook rights in older backlist titles. Our older older agreements often give the exclusive rights to publish ‘in book form’ or ‘in any and all editions’. Many of those contracts also include enhanced language that references other forms of copying or displaying the text that might be developed in the future or other more relevant language that more specifically reflects the already expansive scope of rights. Such grants are usually not limited to any specific format, and indeed the “form” of a book has evolved over the years to include variations of hardcover, paperback and other written word formats, all of which have understood to be included in the grant of book publishing rights. Indeed, ebook retailers market, sell and merchandise ebooks as an alternate book format, alongside the hardcover, trade paperback and mass market versions of a given title. Whether physical or digital, the product is used and experienced in the same manner, serves the same function, and satisfies the same fundamental urge to discovery stories, ideas and information through the process of reading. Accordingly, Random House considers contracts that grant the exclusive right to publish ‘in book form’ or ‘in any and all editions’ to include the exclusive right to publish in electronic book publishing formats. Our agreements also contain broad non-competition provisions, so that the author is precluded from granting publishing rights to third parties that would compromise the rights for which Random House has bargained.”

If Random’s position sounded familiar to some, it’s the same one that the company used in 2001 when it sued Rosetta, an e-book startup that offered digital editions of books by Kurt Vonnegut Jr., William Styron and Robert B. Parker, having secured them directly from the authors. Random had published the books before there was such a thing as the Internet, but nevertheless considered a book to be a book no matter what form it took. Random’s request for an injunction was denied by the court, and Random then filed an appeal. It too was denied.

Random and Rosetta eventually settled, allowing Rosetta to continue publishing the books but leaving unresolved the issue of who controls e-rights to books where the language defining them is ambiguous.

By issuing its letter to agents today, Random House reasserted its position that, ambiguous or not, the publisher considers the language in its contracts to grant it ironclad control over e-rights. Anyone who believes otherwise is advised to take a good sniff before venturing over the perimeter of Random’s territory.

Richard Curtis


Boxing Day 2011

No, not that kind of boxing, you twit!


Christmas 2011

Livraria Lello, Porto, Portugal

Thia bookstore in Porto, Portugal has been described in celestial terms.  Pay a virtual visit and see why.

Sean Dodson, in a survey of bookshops in Europe, writes: “The divine Livraria Lello in Porto has been selling books in the most salubrious of settings since 1881. Featuring a staircase to heaven and beautifully intricate wooden panels and columns (see for yourself with these gorgeous 360-degree views), stained glass ceilings and books – lots of lovely books.”

For a full description of the wonders of this enchanting store, click here.

Courtesy of the Guardian Unlimited

To see a full slide show Download PDF

If you have Power Point, click here: Download Power Point


All of John Norman’s Works Now Under the E-Reads Roof. Except…

If there’s one thing we’ve learned about fans it’s that they are what you might call completists. That is, they’re not completely happy until they possess every single one of their favorite author’s works.

If you’re a John Norman completist you will be thrilled to know that E-reads has finished publication of every book-length work produced by John Norman over the length of his distinguished career. If there’s a gap in your library, you can now fill it by visiting John Norman’s author page and clicking on the missing books.

Having made this declaration we now have to qualify it by reminding you that John Norman has not retired. Not even close. He continues to produce magnificent new fantasies. I happen to be looking at two of them.

One is The Totems of Abydos, decades in the making. We’ll be releasing it in the spring of 2012. The other is Conspirators of Gor, volume 31 of the Gorean Saga. You’ll be hearing more about them as we come up to their publication date. We know you won’t forget. You are, after all, a John Norman Completist.


Spanish Piracy So Widespread, Author Gives Up Writing

Where is Errol Flynn when we need him?

We long for a hero of his stature to deal with the pirates of the Spanish Main.  According to an author so abused by them that she has quit writing altogether, “We [Spain] come after China and Russia in the total number of illegal downloads but, obviously, there are a lot more of them so we win on a per capita measure.”

“Given that I have today discovered that more illegal copies of my book have been downloaded than I have sold,” declared Lucía Etxebarria in The Guardian, “I am announcing officially that I will not publish another book for a long time.”

She accuses her country’s politicians of being afraid to act.  In that regard her nation is far from isolated.  Few politicians in any country know or care about piracy, some benefit from it, and some are fully proactive in state-sponsored copyright theft.

Details in Spanish novelist Lucía Etxebarria quits writing in piracy protest

Richard Curtis

For a complete archive of E-Reads postings about piracy, visit Pirate Central.


Kiss Serendipity Goodbye: Pros Co-opt YouTube

Now playing on YouTube

We knew it was coming. Google realized it was time to stop giving content away and to recognize that it is an entertainment medium that has every right to monetize that content. In short, Google had to go Hollywood, with professionally made videos generating advertising revenue.

And Hollywood Google has gone, with a vengeance.  Writes Mike Hale of the New York Times:

The redesign is a muted but firm declaration that the party is over. It’s YouTube’s strongest step away from what will be seen as its short-lived early heyday as a largely unregulated repository of funny cats, anonymous guitar masters, angry Asian bus riders and countless other weird and wonderful things.In place of that free-for-all will be a new YouTube, more commercial, more predictable and, its owners hope, more televisionlike. (See A New YouTube, Herding the Funny Cats)

Back in June 2010 we gave our opinion of the westcoastification of YouTube: “Hollywood, there are millions of us who don’t want YouTube to mature,” we wrote. “We like it just the way it is — embarrassingly sophomoric, amateurish, LOL hilarious, pathetic, dopey, dirty, funky, and utterly counterculture. It belongs to We the People. Can’t you go co-opt some other industry? We can think of a lot of them that could use your genius, your money and your values.”  (See Do We Want YouTube to Grow Up)

YouTube is now just another slick media site owned and operated by Big Hollywood. Polished, professional and in danger of becoming…boring.

They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.

Richard Curtis