Friday, September 27, 2019

Improving discoverability of inclusive and diverse books on the menu at BIC Breakfast

The latest BIC Breakfast, sponsored by Penguin Random House (PRH) and held at the Poetry Café in London yesterday, looked at changing Thema codes to boost discoverability of inclusive and diverse books

Pictrued (l-r): Chris Saynor, Meera Ghanshamdas and Andrew Isabirye

Andrew Isabirye, a Data Scientist at PRH, revealed the work that the company has been doing to address this issue by investigating how the Thema codes could be extended to help booksellers, librarians, schools and readers to identify books covering topics such as sexuality, ethnicity, social mobility, gender and disability.

Working with Chris Saynor of EDItEUR, the 13 new codes PRH has suggested have been submitted to Thema for approval. If adopted, they could significantly help people looking for diverse books to find them. Saynor pointed to the great subtlety of the Thema system which, for instance, already allows for the identification of the original language of translated works and place qualifiers that can be used to show where a book is set or where the author was born. It can also provide different descriptions to different segments of the market via ONIX, so that trade buyers can access relevant information that may not be of interest to consumers, and vice versa.

In particular, Thema offers the opportunity to describe the themes of a book. Saynor provided some examples of how it would be possible to enhance a book’s discoverability using Thema coding to classify topics and characters in detail, well beyond the basic genre classifications. This might mean, for instance, coding a YA fiction book for LGBT; death and bereavement; friends and friendship issues; relating to Latin/Hispanic American people, while a children’s picture storybook might additionally be coded for Judaism; Islam; Ramadam; Rosh Hasanah.

Meera Ghanshamdas, manager of Tales on Moon Lane’s sister shop in Lewisham, Moon Lane Ink CIC, agreed that the extra flexibility offered by Thema was a key tool in the bookseller’s armoury. Over three-quarters of school age children in Lewisham come from a BAME background, and it is one of the most deprived areas in London. Their aim is to stock books that represent the diversity of their customers in 'non-issue-based books', something that enhanced Thema coding can only improve.

See this article on the Bookbrunch website, here or read a PDF copy, here.

Posted by Jo Henry, Managing Director, Bookbrunch

Monday, August 19, 2019

BIC Breakfast: Towards a Greener Book Industry

In the UK we are becoming increasingly concerned about climate change and more and more of us are thinking about how we might take some responsibility for making our world greener. I attended the BIC (Book Industry Communication) Breakfast to hear about what’s happening in the publishing industry.

Carnstone’s Book Chain Project speakers outlined how they’ve been working with 28 publishers to review issues in the supply chain. There are 3 main areas they’ve looked at:


Labour & Environment
Labour standards and work conditions at printers need to be regularly assessed. There is the issue of modern slavery particularly in the Far East and the onus is on publishers to monitor this.

Chemical Safety & Materials
There’s a lot that publishers can do to in terms of materials choices. However, it’s not as simple as stopping using glitter as children’s publishers need to supply the demands of the market (and it turns out biodegradable glitter really isn’t?!)

Forest Sourcing
Publishers can look at using sustainable wood for pulp eg buy from mills that source wood from plantations in place of supporting deforestation.

Neil Springall, Head of Operaions, Penguin Random House Distribution clearly feels we all have a moral duty to start making changes and drove a plan to focus on a reduction of plastic use at PRH. He had some great quotes including: “The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.” Robert Swan

Incredibly over 40% of all global plastic usage is in packaging. Publishers mainly use plastic for shrink wrapping and carton filling to protect books.

After only a few months, PRH have already achieved a 47% reduction and are aiming for 75% soon.

One major change has been a move to ‘multi use pallet lids’ – these are an expensive product but save both on huge amounts of shrink wrap and labour time. They now employ 4 people full-time to shred all their cardboard which is then used as packaging material in place of plastic. Brilliant!

Another issue is reducing mileage for transporting books between printers, distribution centres and bookshops. This lead nicely onto the final speaker…

Dave Thompson of Publiship gave a round-up of shipping and gave some fascinating facts – did you know that:

  • 90% of world trade is moved by sea
  • Shipping containers were only introduced in the 1950s and widespread adoption from the ‘60s is the largest contributor to globalisation (and not the net!)

There have been improvements in engineering over recent years helping reduce emissions but container ships still emit enormous levels of Carbon Dioxide, Sulphur Dioxide and Nitrogen Dioxide (international shipping accounts for 2.1% of all CO2 emissions). Publishers need to get books from their printers to countries around the world and there are other options:

Clearly, shipping is the best option and ‘slow steaming’ (takes c. 1 week longer) saves huge amounts of fuel and emissions.

I also learnt about Ballast – ships take on huge amounts of water to stabilise as they use up fuel / when empty of their cargo. They load the ballast water in the source port then discharge at the destination port with issues that they’re potentially discharging polluted water and predatory sea creatures. Fortunately there are laws in place to help avoid this now.

Thanks to Alaina-Marie Bassett of BIC for organizing such an interesting event. If you’d like to learn more about BIC see @BIC1UK and

See this blog and others by the team at Atwood Tate Ltd, here.

Posted by Claire Law, Managing Director, Atwood Tate Ltd

Monday, March 6, 2017

BIC Breakfast: Knowing your Rights

“I have a deep and enduring relationship with all things administrative”

In recent years, the selling of rights has changed dramatically. The growing number of available book formats and delivery options, plus the expansion of global market opportunities, have all facilitated an increase in the value of rights income. The sale of physical books and journals has shifted to the sale of content in multiple formats, with a finer img_3015division of regional rights becoming the de-facto standard.

This BIC Breakfast – which took place on Wednesday 22nd February 2017 – provided an update on the challenges of selling rights in the book industry supply chain as it currently stands. With a stellar line-up of speakers, this event discussed how the selling of rights has changed in recent years, which organization types are experiencing this change (i.e. trade and/or STM), and how technology and appropriate tools can help to leverage the opportunities created by digital publishing.

THE HOST: Alaina-Marie Bassett, Business Manager, BIC

THE SPEAKERS:  Lynette Owen, Copyright & Rights Consultant; Diane Spivey, Group Contracts Director, Hachette UK; and Michael Healy, Executive Director of International Relations, Copyright Clearance Center

“I have a deep and enduring relationship with all things administrative”. This was Diane Spivey’s opening line at the BIC Breakfast, Knowing your Rights: The Challenges of Selling Book Rights in a Changing & Increasingly Digital Landscape Wednesday 22nd February 2017 9am-10:30am and how apt is this quote is for a conversation about Rights?

Five highlights from the talk:

1. Rights management is a deeply administrative process but as Lynette Owen rightly pointed out we have seen an acceleration in the process thanks to technology. In the old days we had to post manuscripts to far off lands, we used snail mail, and rarely used the phone. We now have emails, Skype and increasing digital signature. Nowadays publishers can also use digital rights catalogues to distribute.

2. Rights are changing – no first serial, no book club or digest rights. Small deals that are more fragmented – micro deals. This means more administration.

3. Our sourcing in rights is becoming big – platforms like IPR can help sell backlist and smaller deals, allowing publishers to focus on the bigger deals. Rights platforms like ours can also help support or become the rights department for small publishing companies.

4. Digital Rights are important. By that we mean licensing content to websites to use for their content. This is very prevalent in business books.

5. Copyright is at risk and as a result so is our industry – the recent relaxation of copyright law in Canada has led to teachers being enabled to copy books for free and many publishing companies have closed down. Michael Healy stated this is a very real threat to our industry and we should all keep a close eye on proceedings.

See other blogs by the IPR License team here.

Posted by Jane Tappuni, Head of Business Development, IPR License

Thursday, September 29, 2016

We're Winners of a BIC Award for Excellence!

We are delighted to announce that we have recently been awarded with a BIC Product Data Excellence Award. This is a book publishing industry award that denotes how well we submit information about our books to the book trade. Publishers are scored both on how complete their data is and the timeliness of its delivery to the industry.

While it may not seem like the most exciting of awards, it is actually very important. With good information book buyers find it much easier to discover and order books, which makes their job quicker and results in more book sales and greater reach for our authors’ work. The data required is extensive and ranges from the very obvious, such as title and price, to information such as the exact weight of an individual book.

We have spent many of our spare moments and long afternoons over the past year manually entering the data for very old titles into our database (and even doing things such as weighing books from the archive!), while also ensuring that all new titles meet very tight data deadlines. It has been a long and arduous process, fuelled by lots of tea and biscuits, but we are very happy that 99.93% of our books now have complete records (the missing 0.07% are sadly so old we don’t even have a print copy in our office archive) and we always easily hit the 80% timeliness quota.

There are over 750 publishers in the UK, so to be one of only 29 with an Excellence Award, and to be in the same category as household names such as Penguin is very satisfying (you can see the full list of publishers with awards here). We may only be a small publisher but we are proud to be ranked for data as highly as many big publishers and even better than many others. Needless to say, our ambitions haven’t stopped with Excellence and we’re already in discussions about what we can do to be promoted to the Excellence Plus top category!

Posted by Laura Longworth, Commissioning Editor & Rights Manager, Channel View Publications Ltd / Multilingual Matters

Thursday, September 29, 2016

BIC's New Trends in Publishing Seminar 2016

The absolutely stunning Stationers’ Hall was the setting for the New Trends in Publishing Seminar 2016, hosted by BIC and sponsored by Nielsen Book and Ricoh. Being entirely new to the publishing industry, I felt slightly nervous as I walked into the opulent old rooms of the hall, which were filled with beautiful furniture, lavish paintings and exquisite antiques. However, I was immediately made to feel welcome as I registered with the lovely Alaina-Marie and met with other soon-to-be UCL Publishing students (and, of course, obtained the essential cup of tea and biscuit!).  

I thought I might feel rather lost during the talks, having no previous publishing experience. However, as the first talk got underway, my concerns very quickly dissolved. It proved to be a hugely enlightening talk by Ruth Jones, Director of Publishing Business Development at Ingram Content Group, about the dynamic publishing supply chain and the changes (and challenges) it now faces due to the ever-growing variety of digital publishing formats. It grew particularly interesting as the discussion turned to how the video game industry and the book industry are increasingly collaborating to create brand new, stimulating reading experiences.

The second talk was highly thought-provoking, not to mention inspiring. It was given by Richard Orme, Chief Executive of the DAISY Consortium, a group of organisations dedicated to ensuring everyone can experience reading and all the benefits associated with it. This talk concerned accessibility in publishing, developing different formats for books to make them accessible to those with ‘print disabilities’, and taking the focus away from reading small, fixed text, to reading with larger fonts, colours, the ears (e.g. with digital ‘talking books’) or the fingers (e.g. with braille). Richard Orme emphasized that gadgets, devices and software prove vital to this; what particularly caught my attention was a braille gadget which can mould to reflect the writing on a screen. This eye-opening talk made me realise how the publishing industry has a valuable opportunity to bring reading, culture and education to everyone, regardless of ability.

The third talk given by Natalie Smith, Associate at Harbottle & Lewis, took a legal turn, as the discussion turned to data protection laws, again a highly interesting area. It focused on the new European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which is due to come into force in 2018 for EU countries, strengthening the rights of data subjects, enforcing accountability for compliance to data protection obligations, and significantly increasing punitive fines, among other things. However, the unexpected Brexit result has made matters confusing for the UK; namely, to what extent will this new legislation affect the UK, whether we are in the EU when it comes into force, or out? Natalie Smith stressed that at present no certain answers can be given, but many questions are now being asked.  

In the fourth talk of the day, André Breedt of Nielsen Book presented numerous statistics and graphs concerning key findings from Nielsen’s refreshed White Paper. It was interesting to see the new consumer trends in such a straightforward format, although - I must admit - slightly perplexing for someone brand new to the world of publishing! I’m sure, however, that as my publishing knowledge grows, these numbers will begin to make perfect sense!

Finally, we had a very informative talk about the importance of managing intellectual property and rights in publishing, given by Florin Craciun, Head of Sales at Ingenta.  He emphasized the huge value of creating a rights portfolio audit, allowing a publisher to clarify assets, assess the rights they have for certain content, and thus exploit new ways of using that content to create revenue, among other benefits. In this way, publishers can adapt content to readers’ ever-evolving tastes, and use old content in new, innovative ways. Crucially, however, publishers must have the necessary rights to do so, or may risk lawsuits against them.

All in all, this was a hugely enjoyable event, and I was able to learn a lot about the publishing industry in just one fascinating morning. A huge thanks must go to BIC for the opportunity to attend this event, and to the speakers for such engaging presentations which have provided me with an exciting and in-depth start to publishing.  I am now more excited than ever to study Publishing at UCL, and eagerly await the start of the course!

Posted by Alice Gale, MA Publishing Student, UCL

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