Author Archives: Richard Curtis

Richard Curtis

About Richard Curtis

Richard Curtis is a leading New York literary agent (www.curtisagency.com) who foresaw the Digital Book Revolution and launched an e-book publishing company early in 2000. E-Reads (www.ereads.com) is one of the foremost independent e-book publishers in the industry, specializing in reprints of genre fiction by leading authors in their fields. Curtis is also a well-known authors advocate, author of numerous works of fiction and nonfiction including several books about the publishing industry, and prolific blogger – see his hundreds of other blog posts here.

More Kids Read E-Books But What Do They Retain?

Good news: kids are reading more digital books. Bad news: they may not be benefiting from what they read. A report released by Scholastic early in 2013 carries an ostensibly encouraging report that children between 6 and 17 are turning in greater numbers to e-books. Forty-six percent of the children polled said they had...

Virtual E-Book Kiosks One Giant Step Closer

For years we’ve been forecasting e-book kiosks, brick and mortar showrooms for e-books. You walk into a store, browse descriptions and sample texts from some two or three million books, point your smart phone at the ones you want, buy and download them. The great thing is that these shops don’t have to be...

Books Coming Back to Bricks?

We’d suspected it all along, but the New York Times confirmed it: retail stores are not just fighting back, they’re coming back. “A Manhattan retail real estate broker reports an increase in inquiries from online-only retailers about opening shops, particularly in smaller spaces.” The piece went on to say that “Customers want to feel...

How Publishers Seized E-Rights High Ground

In 1989 Ben Bova published a science fiction novel entitled Cyberbooks describing an electronic reading device almost identical to the Kindle: “…A gray oblong box about five inches by nine and less than an inch thick. Its front was almost entirely a dark display screen. There was a row of fingertip-sized touchpads beneath the...

70 NYT Bestsellers for $2.00. Too Good to Be True? Ask Paypal

Rowena Cherry, an indefatigable source of information about allegedly unauthorized publication of copyrighted works, reports this latest instance. If you are a bestselling author, or the agent or publisher of a bestselling author, you will find your book here. Scroll down for the entire list of New York Times bestsellers available for $2.00. Purchases...

US Plays TeleTreaty Partners for Suckers

“It is clear that the world community is a crossroads in its view of the Internet and its relationship to society in the coming century,” said Terry Kramer, leader of the American delegation to a global treaty conference on telecommunications held in Dubai. Then, after uttering this lofty declaration, Kramer refused to sign the...

Happy Outcome for Random/Penguin Merger? History Tells A Different Tale

In his press release announcing Random House’s merger with Penguin, Random CEO Markus Dohle promised agents that “You and your clients will benefit from an extraordinary breadth of publishing choices, and editorial talents and experience.” Some leading literary agents are skeptical and one outspoken rep majorly begs to differ, reports Ella Delany in the...

Why Do We Have to Choose Between Print and Digital?

Michael Clarke, an executive at Silverchair Information Systems and a passionate music lover, is torn between vinyl and digital – squarely split down the middle. Vinyl to him means warm sound, beautiful packaging, tactility and the special rituals of opening record jackets, reading the copy, placing the record on a turntable and lowering the...

Who Owns Your Right to Turn Pages?

I’m really confused. On November 16, New York Times blogger Nick Bilton reported that the US Patent Office had approved Apple’s patent on the feature that enables you to virtually turn pages on your e-reader. But over two years ago, in August 2010, we reported that Microsoft had filed a patent application for the...

If Murdoch Can’t Have Penguin, How About S&S?

Wall Street Journal reports that Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, owner of HarperCollins, is exploring acquisition with Simon & Schuster. Reporters Christopher S. Stewart and John Jannarone describe the talks as “preliminary” and issued the usual cautions about shouting Fire when so far there is only smoke. But in the wake of Murdoch’s unrequited bid...

Every Domain But .kitchensink Coming in 2013

Hey, webmasters, how are those loins? Hope they’re properly girded for the explosion of domain names set to fulminate in 2013. If you run a restaurant you can buy .eat; If you own a store you can bid for .shop; if you run a band there’ll be .music or .song; writers can claim .author....

Fictionwise is Over

Fictionwise, the first successful e-book retailer and the dominant one until its eclipse by Amazon, has announced it will “wind down its operation” on December 4th. Spokesman Dan Jorissen, who has been operating the company since the departure of its founders in the wake of its acquisition by Barnes & Noble in 2009, explained...

Last Chance for Publishers to Level the Playing Field

The returnability of books is a cancer that has been consuming the publishing industry for decades. Publisher after publisher has succumbed to its relentless arithmetic. Yet, book people cling to the belief that they are not vulnerable to the forces that destroyed their predecessors. In all the commentary about the merger of Random House...

Fifty Percent, Four Percent, What’s the Difference?

In March 2011 we blogged about a significant legal ruling supporting a claim brought by the producers of rapper recording artist Eminem. The claim was that what Eminem’s record company called “sales” – which paid a low royalty – should actually have been calculated as license revenues, a far higher number. We predicted that...

Harlequin Hires Antipiracy Enforcer

Harlequin has announced new reporting procedures for unauthorized postings of its authors’ content and engaged a dedicated antipiracy enforcer with whom authors who believe their material has been pirated can file claims.  Here’s the complete release: ***************************************************** Effective July 2012, Harlequin has brought the online piracy enforcement process in-house with the appointment of Harlequin’s...

E-Tail Wags P-Dog

At the dawn of the e-book revolution I made a prediction that publishers found so horrifying that one editor told me it made him sick to his stomach. The prediction was that one day an important author would make a print-only deal with a publisher, and retain the e-book rights. “But that relegates our...

Uncle Sam Pushes E-Textbooks, But Students Push Back

In 2009 California’s then-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger launched an initiative to replace printed textbooks with digital versions. He solicited feedback, and the man known as The Terminator got it in spades. Students flunked the format and wanted their paper books back.(See Students Give E-Textbooks a Failing Grade) Since then, similar thumbs-down reactions have come in...

The Slippery Slope of E-Originals, Part 2

In the first part of this article I described a fundamental shift under way in the book industry from original paperbacks to original e-books – “e-originals” in Publisher Speak – and its depressing effect on author compensation. These deals point to sharp reductions in advances and royalties and acceleration of the flight of authors...

The Slippery Slope of E-Originals, Part 1

In the last year a number of major publishers have begun offering authors contracts for “e-originals” – books released originally – and exclusively – in e-book format. Though this is a logical step in the evolution of traditional publishing houses from tangible to virtual formats, the deflationary nature of its business model poses a...

Are Publishers Making a Killing on E-Books? Part 2

This is the second and concluding installment of an article about how publishers arrive at the prices of ebooks. It’s written in response to consumer criticisms that “Publishers are making a killing on e-books because they cost nothing to produce, distribute and sell and are almost 100% pure profit,” as one reporter phrased it....

Are Publishers Making a Killing on E-Books? Part 1

In a post last spring DBW’s Jeremy Greenfield wrote,”Publishers are making a killing on e-books because they cost nothing to produce, distribute and sell and are almost 100% pure profit. At least, that’s what many consumers think.” I’ve been brooding about it since then and thought it might be helpful to give those consumers...

Can You Go To Jail for Writing a Fake Review?

Is it a crime to post a rave review of your own book or a hostile one of someone else’s? If it isn’t, many people think it should be. Though you may not agree, we suggest you think twice before posting that encomium to your just-published book and hiding behind a pseudonym.It may actually...

One Showroom Too Far: Why Wal-Mart Shut Its Doors to Kindle.

Last May, Target, one of America’s biggest retail chains, announced it would no longer carry Kindles. Today it’s the turn of an even larger chain – indeed, the country’s largest. Wal-Mart will no longer carry Kindles either, report Stephanie Clifford and Julie Bosman of the New York Times. Speculation focuses on the practice known...

Amazon Friending Rivals?

Of the many companies that have reinvented themselves in the violent upheavals of 21st century publishing, Ingram Content Group (as it is now called) stands out as one of the most resourceful. It has transformed itself from what Publishers Weekly described as “the book industry’s quintessential middleman” to what former CEO Skip Prichard called...

Autocorrect Shows Us Who’s Boss

I can remember the exact moment I became aware that AutoCorrect was shoving my vintage automobile into a ditch. I was reporting on the introduction of electronic “catalogues”. With a nasty squiggly red underline, spellcheck rejected my spelling of the word and insisted I change it to “catalogs”. I could easily have asked Word...

Surefire Weight-Loss Cure for Fat Manuscripts. It’s Called Paper

One of our agency’s specialties is fantasy and science fiction, and though these genres lend themselves to epic lengths, sometime in the 1990s I began to notice something odd: manuscripts – both by unpublished writers and professional authors – were getting longer and longer. Books that once averaged 75-100,000 words were swelling to 150-200,000...

Digital Textbooks Still Not Catching On With College Students

If print books are going to make a comeback, it may start with textbooks. Efforts to motivate students to adopt e-textbooks have collided with some hard realities, causing publishers and retailers to rethink their digital strategies if not retrench altogether. The latest example is Amazon, which has plunged bigtime into the textbook rental market....

Grafton Apologizes to Indies. Will They Accept?

Bestselling novelist Sue Grafton recently triggered a near-nuclear conflagration when she described self-published authors as “too lazy to do the hard work” She subsequently apologized to the community of independent authors who swamped her with righteous indignation, and admitted she had acted hastily and out of failure to appreciate how greatly the world had...

DOJ Settlement Will Rescue US Postal Service

Publishers Lunch‘s Michael Cader reports that the three Big Six publishers settling the Department of Justice price-fixing lawsuit will be refunding to customers some $69 million in overcharges resulting from the “agency” business model. Just how the proper recipients will be ascertained, their refunds calculated, customers notified, and payments issued are questions that seem...

Has Anybody Seen an Honest Reviewer?

Five years ago we asked Do Amazon Reviews Count? Our answer was yes, they absolutely do, and we were surprised that few publishers quoted them to support the books they published. Since then a surge of self-serving reviews, many of them covering self-published books, has cast a dark shadow on the honesty and credibility...

What Should Apple Do with All That Cash?

It’s fun to fantasize about what you would do with a million dollars. Fantasizing about what you’d do with $117 billion is likely to induce paralysis. Luckily it’s not your problem. That honor belongs to Tim Cook, the man who became CEO of Apple after Steve Jobs’ death. What’s even more amazing, if he...