In Feature Articles for Publishing Perspective on January 7, 2019
In Russia, a government plan to provide lower-cost retail sites to independent booksellers at state cultural facilities may help smaller bookstores survive.
By Eugene Gerden
Retail Sites at Theaters, Museums, Libraries
According to statements from officials of Moscow’s science and culture ministry, independent bookstores in Russia can anticipate new levels of support this year.
A broad list of planned support measures has been discussed, the most important being to provide booksellers with special properties at which they can open new retail locations. According to state plans, these sites will be designated inside the facilities of state theaters, museums, libraries, and other cultural institutions. They’re to be made available to booksellers at deeply discounted rental rates.
Government statements indicate that support of independent booksellers this year is one of the state’s priority targets in the field of book publishing, a recognition that large chain bookstores are creating formidable competition for independents. As Publishing Perspectives has reported, bookstore chains have announced major expansions and many are under the ownership of some of the country’s largest publishing companies.
Alla Manilova, deputy minister of culture, tells Publishing Perspectives that the rental rates offered to independent booksellers for the new retail sites will be based on the costs of janitorial services, housing, and communal expenses.
Several publishing observers are welcoming the new initiative, particularly in recognition of its placement of bookselling outlets near other cultural hubs.
Since 1989, the number of independent bookstores in Russia is reported to have been in steady decline. Despite the expansion of chain operations, the country is said to have one bookstore for every 50,000 people, while comparable European Union estimates are of one store for every 5,000 citizens.
High rental rates are frequently cited as a major problem, the cost of retail space accounting for some 35 percent of a bookstore’s budget, something independent store owners say is a major impediment to opening additional locations. Since 2008, average book prices in the country have already grown by some 40 percent, suggesting that price increases aren’t an option.
Speculative figures attached to the statements of intent for the new year estimate that as many as 10,000 jobs could be created by the anticipated expansion of independent retail sites.
Booksellers Welcome Promises of New Aid
Lyubov Bialiatskaya, co-founder of a Vse Svobodny, a bookstore in St. Petersburg, calls the idea of new retail sites in cultural centers “beautiful” for readers and critical for booksellers operating outside of the large chains. She agrees with assessments that high rent is among shop owners’ most daunting challenges.
Nevertheless, there is criticism, too, of the announced state initiative.
Elena Yampolskaya, chairperson of the committee on culture for the Duma, says she believes that the latest state proposal in its current form, may contribute to a growth of corruption in the industry, and will not provide any help to independent booksellers.
Yampolskaya tells Publishing Perspectives that there are no guarantees that these preferential retail areas at cultural facilities won’t be snapped up by bookstore chains or by companies affiliated with them.
Her concern, however, isn’t shared by Boris Kupriyanov, co-founder of the publisher Phalanster, who says that even the occupation of the specially allocated premises by large bookstore chains will contribute to the overall development of the book industry and its sales sector.
In addition to the announced intention of the government to make new retail sites available, there are to be special grants and tax benefits extended to local publishers, funded by regional budgets and provided to booksellers, as well.
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To re-fashion the experience of a bookstore and discovery of a book, an outlet in Japan curates a collection of high-end cultural titles.
By Porter Anderson for Perspective Publishing Jan 4, 2019
‘Immersion and Relaxation’
Having opened on December 10, a concept bookstore in central Tokyo is getting novelty-press attention primarily for its admission fee.
It costs 1,500 yen (US$13.89) to enter the 460-meter Bunkitsu, which is set in a location known for bookselling, formerly the site of the Aoyama Book Center. The name reportedly translates roughly to an idea of consuming culture, and to that end the store features a firmly curated collection of some 30,000 books and magazines on topics “from humanities and natural sciences to design and art,” according to the company’s promotional messaging.
The entry area in the Roppongi Electric Building features regularly changing exhibitions and a focus on the 90 or so magazines featured as part of the offer. There also are areas designated as a library, a reading room, a “laboratory”—a kind of meeting room for group discussion—and a tea room.
Some of the services offered include personal curation: give the store three days’ notice and the staff will choose some books to match your interest and have them ready for your visit. When you arrive, there’s a locker for your things and free wi-fi and power. While the emphasis is on the curated collection in-store, the company accepts orders for books not on the shelves. if your book or magazine costs more than 10,000 yen (US$92.63), shipping is free.
The venture’s heavy emphasis on design is driven by Smiles, the “lifestyle value” retail company that’s also behind Soup Stock Tokyo; second-hand stores called New Recycle; a necktie branded boutique called Giraffe with an inventory divided into four body temperatures; and 100 Spoons, a family-focused restaurant.
The bookish element of the new store is handled by two companies. The bookstore called Morioka Shoten was opened in the summer of 2015 and is known for its “single room with a single book” approach (the featured title changes weekly). And Yours Book Store is behind several bookselling business locations and events. Operation of Bunkitsu is being handled by Nippon Shuppan Hanbai.
The entry fee is meant to correspond to the cost of a cinema ticket or museum entry charge, and the store carries a very limited stock of each book in its collection. (The company’s site says that customers can reserve a book they want to examine.)
‘Deeply Fitting Books’
At Asahi Shimbun, Yusuke Kato writes that browsing is strongly encouraged: “Although the books are arranged according to genre, they are not put in alphabetical order according to publisher or author.” Bunkitsu’s site says that the reception desk on the first floor does offer an inventory search, however.
A book of the day is featured by the staff. Recent selections include:
- Thursday of this week (January 3): Right Hand and Brain by Peter Springer (Mitsubosha)
- December 30: The Emotional Wound Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Psychological Trauma by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglissi (JADD Publishing in English, Film Art Company in Japanese
- December 27: Semi-God by Hagio Osamu (Shogakkan)
- December 18: Telephone, Sleep, Music by Kawakatsu Tokushige (Lydo)
- December 13: Still Life by Irving Penn (Bulfinch)
- December 10, opening day: Moon Palace by Paul Auster (Shinchosha)
A book marked with pink indicates a staff favorite, a “first love” in the store’s lingo.
And lingering is the idea. In the café, visitors can spend as long as they like with books, taking meals from the kitchen or nursing free coffee and tea.
While reporting to date on the new store is uneven, most journalists refer to Japan’s depressed book retail environment as the impetus for the new effort. at The Times of India, Chelsea Ritschel writes that the goal is “to create a bookstore that has lasting potential amid threats from online retailers such as Amazon.”
Other reports mention closed bookstores in Japan, as well, but it’s hard at this early stage to know if whether a store that invites customers to spend all day reading from a niche selection of books—with no requirement to buy—is sustainable. In one way, the business model appears to reverse the idea of a bookstore with a café: Bunkitsu is a café with a bookstore, the restaurant area having the most space, a 90-seat capacity. Coffee and tea are free, meals and desserts are sold.
Suffice it to say that the experience is the pitch here.
“Enjoy culture, a bookstore,” says the store’s promotional copy. “Play with books in your own favorite way. Chance encounters, instances of love at first sight, developing relationships with captivating books.
The term the store is using for the entry fee translates a bit unfortunately to “funeration” in English, which may entice no one beyond funeral directors. But that’s a linguistic hitch that won’t concern a Japanese clientele.
And what makes this experiment as interesting as it is, finally, is–for lack of a better term and without prejudice—how precious it is. Someone looking for a lawn mower repair manual may run screaming out into the Tokyo night from Bunkitsu, but those who embrace the idea of books-as-lifestyle—and whose interests lie in the arts and humanities of the store’s collection—may well love it.
A prominent part of the come-hither copy on the store’s site is a poem the title of which is “A Bookstore for Meeting Books.” The poem stresses serendipity, an elegant dalliance in which “at the end of the day you will find a book on your mind.” Other phrases serve to heighten the sense of fashion in the appeal: “I spend my time carefully with coffee” and “Immersion and relaxation come and go.”
While nothing in the company’s literature says this specifically, of course, this is a decidedly upscale appeal—a high-end culturally themed collection curated for people who seek, as the poem has it, “relationship with deeply fitting books.”
Many will keep an eye on Bunkitsu, not yet a month old, to see if this confluence of ambiance and a club-like atmosphere can woo a profitable turnout to wear the entrance badge that admission fee provides.
Here’s one line in which the store cinches its pitch, by putting the experience of discovering a read on a par with the read itself. Bunkitsu, its messaging says, offers “the encounter with an unprecedented book.”
We would love to hear what you think about a concept like the one above working in Texas or somewhere in the USA. Please click here to give quick response. Thank you!
Porter Anderson on December 14, 2018
The Second Circuit Court of Appeals rules that resale of digital content as conceived by the startup ReDigi is a copyright infringement.
‘This Cockroach of a Legal Case’
Probably the most ringing phrase in this week’s news about the Capitol Records v. ReDigi case is Michael Cader’s “once again.”
In his report at Publishers Lunch, Cader is getting at the revolving-door feel of a long-running and failed effort.
He writes, “Just as a district court unequivocally and thoroughly called the (now bankrupt) startup ReDigi’s efforts to establish a scheme and marketplace for reselling ‘used’ copies of copyrighted digital files of music (and thus potentially ebooks, as well as video, games and software) copyright infringement in 2013, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals has ratified that decision in this cockroach of a legal case.”
And he’ll get no argument from the Association of American Publishers. In a statement from the AAP’s president and CEO, Maria A, Pallante, we read:
“Publishers welcome the Second Circuit’s sound ruling in Capitol Records v. ReDigi on on the three major issues addressed in the opinion.
“First, in applying the plain meaning of the Copyright Act, the court confirmed that when a defendant makes unauthorized reproductions of copyrighted works and distributes them, it is not merely reselling or retransferring used works in the manner of a used bookstore. Rather, it is engaged in copyright infringement, and therefore disqualified from asserting the limitations on the distribution right afforded by the first sale doctrine.
“Second, the court unequivocally rejected fair use, in which it highlighted that the defendant’s conduct creates nearly identical copies of protected works and is therefore aimed squarely at the copyright owners’ primary markets.
“Third, the court rejected the invitation from law professors to overtake Congress on matters of policy, noting that on the question of whether first sale should be extended to the digital realm, it is not the court but Congress they must seek to persuade.
“This case is critical in that it reinforces the underlying equities of the copyright law, in which the rights and investments of copyright owners are a valuable part of the marketplace of innovation, not to be minimized or appropriated in the name of expediency.”
In essence, per the AAP, the court’s opinion is—once again, as Cader has it—a rejection of the “first sale doctrine” as a defense of the idea of making unauthorized copies of digital files.
Plainly put: No, you cannot sell your ebooks to a second-hand vendor as you might sell your used physical textbooks to the campus bookstore.
Some of us remember numbing presentations in New York years ago of the ReDigi concept of a “used digital resale platform,” and as far back as March 2013, a Tools of Change article from Jenn Webb looked at the issue and many viewpoints on it–mentioning even then “ReDigi’s ongoing court case.”
At Publishers Weekly, Andrew Albanese this week looks back at how, “When it first launched in 2011, ReDigi touted the legality of its service. Users could upload their old iTunes tracks to ReDigi, which removed the tracks from the user’s computer, and offered them for resale. The company stressed that it never copied the files, but rather ‘migrated’ them, bit by bit, from one device to another, the end result mimicking an analog resale.”
Albanese also refers to the amicus brief filed last year by the AAP in the case, in which the association warned of “grave and immediate consequences for the publishers of literary works in print and digital formats,” something that would be “out of step with the careful calibrations employed by Congress and the courts when considering infringements” to copyright protection.
As Albanese now writes, “If digital first sale is going to become a reality, it may take an act of Congress to do it.
“In a highly anticipated decision, a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals this week shot down the prospect of a resale market for digital files emerging any time soon, unanimously affirming a 2013 ruling that effectively shut down ReDigi, the upstart service created in 2011 to offer consumers a way to resell their legally purchased iTunes files.”