Category Archives: Publishing

Lying to children about the past

I reviewed A Birthday Cake for George Washington, the controversial children’s picture book about slavery, for the Seattle Review of Books— read it here:

In my review I tell the real story of Hercules, George Washington’s slave-cook, a story far different from the happy fictional one in the book, which was promoted as “based on real events.” SPOILER ALERT: On Washington’s 65th birthday, Hercules didn’t bake a cake– he escaped.

The book was withdrawn by the publisher over the MLK holiday weekend, but the issues it raises are larger than this particular book. We should tell the complicated truths about America’s founders and founding and stop lying to our children about the past.

A comparison of how the new style manuals treat tech words

Though two of the most influential style manuals (Chicago and AP) recently changed from “Web site” to  “website,” they still differ in their treatment of other tech words, which won’t be a surprise to writers and editors who work with different styles.

Below I’ve compared the current recommendations for tech words from new editions of four style and usage guides.

Chicago is the new 16th edition of the Chicago Manual of Style (published August 2010), the authoritative style guide used by most of the publishing world.

AP is the AP Stylebook Online (updated April 2010), the style manual used by most newspapers and journalists. (The New York Times uses its own idiosyncratic style.)

Yahoo! is the Yahoo! Style Guide (published July 2010), a new style guide for digital content.

Garner is the 3rd edition of Garner’s Modern American Usage (published August 2009), an excellent book that tracks recent changes in usage and language.

The results:

  • All four agree on “website,” “World Wide Web,” and “the Internet.”
  • All except Chicago capitalize “the Web.”
  • Chicago, AP, and Garner use the hyphenated “e-mail,” but Yahoo! uses “email.”
  • Yahoo! and Garner use “webpage,” Chicago uses “web page,” and AP uses “Web page.”

It may look like consensus has finally been reached on “website,” but this is not the end of “Web site,” as it is still the standard in older works like the Microsoft Manual of Style for Technical Publications (which hasn’t been updated since the 2004 3rd edition) and both Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th edition, published in 2003) and Merriam-Webster Online. (By the way, the December 2009 Apple Publications Style Guide uses “website,” “webpage,” and “email” without the hyphen.)

What does this mean for you? If you are using an older style manual, you should probably get a more current one. Which style manual you use will depend on the kind of writing, editing, or publishing you do. Chicago will likely be your primary style manual unless you work with specialized fields or content, such as technical writing, journalism, academic writing, scientific writing, etc. If you are working for a publisher or company, use the style manual and/or “house style” they specify. (Some use a hybrid, based primarily on a particular style manual but customized for internal preferences.) If you are writing for yourself, you can do what you want, but try to be both consistent and open to change. (Though Chicago is my default style manual, I’ve been using “website” and “the web” since I began this blog two years ago. Though I’m tempted to eliminate the hyphen from “e-mail,” I’m not quite ready to do so.)

So, in light of all this, are you going to make any changes to your style or try to convince your employer to modify the house style?

For more on style manuals, see my previous posts.

Update, 8/11/10: In the comments, Delf notes that though Microsoft’s published style manual hasn’t been updated since 2004, their style guide for internal use continues to be updated, and the latest version (June 30, 2010) specifies the following:

World Wide Web
the Internet
the web

Note that all of the tech/digital style guides (Microsoft, Apple, and Yahoo!) have dropped the hyphen from “email,” which I don’t think we’ll see adopted quickly by Chicago and AP.

Update 3/18/11: AP has just dropped the hyphen from “e-mail.”

E-books and the future of publishing, with puppets

This video, “Opposing Voices in Digital Publishing,” was created by the digital publishing team at Tyndale House Publishers, and I found it through this TeleRead post.

Amazon threatens publishers again

This morning brings news (from an article in the New York Times and a blog post in MobyLives) that Amazon “has threatened to stop directly selling the books of some publishers online unless they agree to a detailed list of concessions regarding the sale of electronic books” (NYT).

Amazon is trying to prevent publishers from making deals with Apple to sell their ebooks on the iPad using the agency model. Amazon is apparently refusing to negotiate an agency model with any publishers other than the five majors who’ve already made deals with Apple. According to the MobyLives post, independent publishers are being told that “if they switched to an agency model for ebooks, Amazon would stop selling their entire list, in print and digital form.”

Amazon and Apple are each requiring publishers to agree to restrictive terms, which may in effect force publishers to choose between Amazon and Apple. From the Times article:

Five of the country’s six largest publishers — Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, Hachette, HarperCollins and Penguin — have already reached deals with Apple to sell their books through its iBookstore, which will be featured on the iPad. (The holdout is Random House.)

Under those agreements, the publishers will set consumer prices for each book, and Apple will serve as an agent and take a 30 percent commission. E-book editions of most newly released adult general fiction and nonfiction will cost $12.99 to $14.99.

Amazon has agreed in principle that the major publishers would be able to set prices in its Kindle store as well. But it is also demanding that they lock into three-year contracts and guarantee that no other competitor will get lower prices or better terms.

Apple, for its part, is requiring that publishers not permit other retailers to sell any e-books for less than what is listed in the iBookstore. So the publishers have sought to renegotiate agreements they have with Amazon under which they sold books to it at wholesale, allowing Amazon to set the consumer price….

According to three people briefed on the discussions, publishers are reluctant to sign three-year contracts because the digital book world is changing so rapidly and they want room to adjust as it takes shape.

Amazon has also begun talking with smaller publishers that have not yet signed contracts with Apple. In those conversations, according to one person briefed on the discussions, Amazon has said it prefers to retain its wholesale pricing model, as opposed to Apple’s so-called agency model.

But some of these smaller publishers have begun talking with Apple, which has effectively said that any publisher that wishes to sell its books on the iPad must offer the same terms to all booksellers. In other words, to do business with Apple, publishers must export Apple’s business model to all retailers. Amazon, by contrast, has not promised to adopt the agency approach for any but the largest publishers.

Amazon appears to be responding to the Apple threat by waging a publisher-by-publisher battle, trying to keep as many books as possible out of Apple’s hands, while preserving as much flexibility as it can to set its own prices.

But if Amazon tries to enforce its demands by removing “buy” buttons from some pages again, some believe it could harm its reputation in the eyes of customers and the publishing industry….

Amazon may have more leverage with smaller publishers, which typically sell their books in fewer outlets and thus tend to rely more on Amazon for sales. Amazon may believe that if it can keep those publishers from moving to an agency model, Apple will choose not to sell their e-books, and Amazon will be seen as having a broader selection.

For those of you who want a reminder of the Amazon/Macmillan boycott battle and the ebook agency vs. wholesale sales model controversy, here are links to a two of my blog posts about it from late January and early February:

More breaking news: Amazon is selling Macmillan print books again

It looks like Amazon has begun to restore Macmillan print books–but not Kindle ebooks– to their website. All week I’ve been spot-checking various titles throughout the day, and when I last checked at 3:45pm PST, these print books were finally available for sale again:

Update:  The New York Times Bits blog has confirmed it in their post, “Macmillan Books Return to Amazon After Dispute“:

Electronic and paper books from the publisher Macmillan were returning to Friday evening, ending a week-long public conflict as the parties negotiated over the future price of e-books.

Details of the resolution have not been made public, but the restoration of Macmillan books to Amazon’s site indicates a peaceful settlement was reached. “I am delighted to be back in business with Amazon,” John Sargent, chief executive of Macmillan, said in an e-mail message…

So what did Amazon hold out for? The company would not comment, but it is likely that Amazon demanded that no other e-book vendors, such as Apple, get preferential access to new titles, or any kind of pricing advantages. Amazon may also have negotiated terms into its agreement with the publisher that would allow users of Kindles or Kindle software to lend e-books to each other.

Breaking news: Hachette joins Macmillan, Justice Dept. still doesn’t like the Google Book Settlement

Two pieces of breaking news tonight:

Hachette joins Macmillan

David Young, the CEO of Hachette Book Group, announced that Hachette is adopting the agency model for ebook pricing. Here’s the GalleyCat article, which includes the text of Young’s letter.

For those keeping score, there are six major U.S. publishers: Macmillan, Hachette, HarperCollins, Penguin, Simon & Schuster, and Random House. Five of the six (all except Random House) made a deal with Apple to sell their ebooks on the iPad using the agency model. So now that Macmillan and Hachette have publicly committed to adopting the agency model for all of their ebooks (and with HarperCollins likely to as well, based on statements Rupert Murdoch made yesterday), it’s probably only a matter of time before the rest join in. But when will Amazon stop boycotting Macmillan books?

The Justice Department doesn’t like the amended Google Book Settlement, says “class certification, copyright and antitrust issues remain”

The Department of Justice submitted its views to the court on the amended Google Book Settlement. (The fairness hearing is on February 18th.)

James Grimmelmann summarizes:

The United States has filed a new Statement of Interest. The tone is balanced, but the conclusion is clear: the Department of Justice thinks the settlement is beyond the court’s authority and still problematic on antitrust grounds. It’s a careful, detailed brief, that raises fundamental objections to the settlement. These issues will not be resolved with quick patches, even if the parties were in the mood to revise and resubmit a second time.

The battle has been truly joined.

Here’s an excerpt from the press release issued by the Department of Justice:

The Department of Justice today advised the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York that despite the substantial progress reflected in the proposed amended settlement agreement in The Authors Guild Inc. et al. v. Google Inc., class certification, copyright and antitrust issues remain. The department also said that the United States remains committed to working with the parties on issues concerning the scope and content of the settlement…

In its statement of interest filed with the court today, the department stated, “Although the United States believes the parties have approached this effort in good faith and the amended settlement agreement is more circumscribed in its sweep than the original proposed settlement, the amended settlement agreement suffers from the same core problem as the original agreement: it is an attempt to use the class action mechanism to implement forward-looking business arrangements that go far beyond the dispute before the court in this litigation.”

Here’s the link to the Justice Department’s full “Statement of Interest of the United States of America.”

Here’s the New York Times article about it, noting: “While the Justice Department did not explicitly urge the court to reject the deal, as it had the previous version, its opposition on copyright, class action and antitrust grounds represented a further setback for Google and the other parties to the deal.”

For more on the Google Book Settlement, see my earlier posts.

Will Amazon boycott HarperCollins’ books next?

According to this Galleycat report, Rupert Murdoch today “hinted that HarperCollins will join Macmillan in negotiating higher eBook prices.  All Things Digital reporter Peter Kafka has been liveblogging an interview with Rupert Murdoch about News Corp.’s fourth quarter earnings this afternoon. The company owns HarperCollins, so talk turned to eBook pricing.”

Here’s Kafka’s “on-the-fly transcription and paraphrasing of Murdoch’s comments re: Amazon, Apple and e-book pricing”:

We don’t like the Amazon model of $9.99….we think it really devalues books and hurts all the retailers of hardcover books. We’re not against electronic books, on the contrary, we like them very much,” because they cost us less to distribute, “but we want some room to maneuver.” The Apple deal…”does allow some flexibility and higher prices” though they will still be lower than print. And now Amazon is willing to sit down with us again and renegotiate.

Well, that didn’t take long. Anyone want to place bets on how long it will take the other big publishers to join them?

I wonder whether Amazon will also “temporarily” boycott HarperCollins’ print and ebooks for leverage in the negotiation process. HarperCollins‘ imprints include  HarperPerennial, William Morrow, Eos, and Ecco, to name a few.

Disclosure: HarperCollins is the publisher of Matt’s two most recent novels (Bad Monkeys and Set This House in Order) and his current novel-in-progress (The Mirage).