Today in books and publishing: Emma Thompson hurls Michel Houellebecq across the room; Books-A-Million exec says he was wrongly fired; out-of-print books are an untapped e-goldmine.
J.K. Rowling's house could be yours, as long as you can pony up at least $3.7 million (£2.25 million). The Harry Potter author has decamped from her spacious, eight-bedroom home in Merchiston on the outskirts of Edinburgh for a new house in nearby Barnton. According to the real estate listing, the house is located in "one of Edinburgh's most exclusive conservation areas," and is sealed off by a "discreet landscaped and walled garden." It's been remodelled recently, but with utmost respect for the "Victorian period features." The home does not come with those amazing treehouses, though. Those are reserved for Rowling's three children at the new Barnton abode. [BBC News]
WalMart will no longer sell Kindles. The mega-retailer has announced that it will no longer sell major competitor Amazon's e-readers. At issue is the Kindle Fire HD's built-in Amazon store, which allows readers to purchase all kinds of products while they pause between e-chapters. That feature has made physical chains mad, and Target decided to stop selling Kindles last spring. Sucharita Mulpuru, an analyst for Forrester Research, calls the Kindle, "a little bit of a Trojan horse" and believes stores like WalMart "should have made this decision to not carry the Kindle a long time ago." Apple iPads and other e-readers will remain on sale at WalMart stores. [Reuters]
Emma Thompson loathes Michel Houellebecq. Who doesn't love a good lit-feud? It seems all great writers are required to have at least one enemy, and, as luck or talent would have it, they come up with the juiciest insults. Since British actress Emma Thompson is now dipping into writing, let's egg on a possible spat between her and French provacateur Michel Houellebecq. In Thompson's interview with The New York Times Book Review, she says his novel The Elementary Particles was so unusually cruel, "I hurled the book across the room and would have hurled Michel too, had he been in reach." She also calls out entire genres, saying that she can't be bothered with horror. "I can’t manage it. I become — well — horrified. Self-help books have a similar effect." [The New York Times]
Books-a-Million charged with wrongful termination. Books-a-Million recently fired their executive vice president and chief administrative officer Douglas Markham, but he's hired a lawyer to fight the termination. Markham, who's been a Navy man in parallel with his business career for 25 years, holds the rank of captain; he says the chain retailer fired him over his military service. "For some time, Books-A-Million has made it known to our client that the company did not support his service to the U.S. Navy," says Markham's lawyer Mark White. Markham went on active duty for the first half of 2009. The Anderson family, founders of Books-a-Million, have been trying to buy up all outstanding shares in the company since April. [The Birmingham News]
Turning out-of-print titles into e-books could produce windfall profits. We've written about publishers not fully seizing the potential of their backlists, and now we have some hard numbers that suggest they're sitting on an untapped $400 million goldmine. Millions of old books remain unavailable, either physically or on digital platforms. Re-printing isn't feasible for all titles, but the lowered production costs of putting together an e-book re-release could be a huge boon for the publishing industry. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon studied sales figures for out-of-print titles recently revived as e-books, and they predict digitizing old 2.7 million old books would result in profits of over $400 million within one year. So what's holding publishers back? As we noted in the case of Pure, White and Deadly, sorting out who holds the rights to old books can be massively time-consuming. "Every contract is unique," says publishing consultant Mike Shatzkin. If every out-of-print title were to be listed on Amazon as an e-book tomorrow, the profits would be plentiful. But just getting them there is usually a sluggish process. [The Wall Street Journal]
A note on lists. Curating a list of "Essential Science and Tech Reads" is an awesome idea. Science writing doesn't get enough love, and it's nice to give readers plenty of titles to choose from. But when 150 books appear on that list, how "essential" are they, really? [The Electric Typewriter]