Publishing Round-Up: 22nd February 2016.

Harper Lee dies aged 89

‘Nelle Harper Lee, the author of To Kill a Mockingbird, has died aged 89.

The author is said to have died peacefully on 19th February in her home town of Monroeville, Alabama.

Her agent Andrew Nurnberg said: “Knowing Nelle these past few years has been not just for us a delight but an extraordinary privilege. When I saw her just six weeks ago, she was full of life, her mind and mischievous wit as sharp as ever. She was quoting Thomas More and setting me straight on Tudor history. We have lost a great writer, a great friend and a beacon of integrity.”‘

Read more about Lee’s life here.

 

Umberto Eco dies aged 84

‘The celebrated Italian intellectual Umberto Eco, who shot to fame with his 1980 novel The Name of the Rose, has been remembered as a master of Italian culture after his death at the age of 84.

Eco died on Friday night after suffering from cancer, prompting tributes to pour in for the esteemed writer.

He was “an extraordinary example of a European intellectual, combining unique intelligence of the past with a limitless capacity to anticipate the future”, said Italy’s prime minister, Matteo Renzi. “It’s an enormous loss for culture, which will miss his writing and voice, his sharp and lively thought, and his humanity,” Renzi told the Ansa news agency.’

Read more about Eco’s life here.


 

‘Slow global e-book growth’ hits Kobo targets

‘Rakuten recorded a 7.8bn yen (£47m) impairment charge for its Kobo division, according to its financial results for the three months to end December 2015.

The company said Kobo “has been impacted by a slower start to the rise of the global e-book industry than we originally expected, and hence its business plan fell behind original targets.”

However the company said the financial results of e-book platform OverDrive Holdings, which Rakuten acquired in 2015, had been “rapidly improving” and it expected EBITDA of its e-book business “to return to the black in the fiscal year ending December 31st 2016”.

Rakuten told Publishers Lunch “Slower than expected growth in English language e-book markets has resulted in an adjustment to Kobo’s long-term value. Rakuten’s commitment to the e-book market and its confidence in the mid-term outlook is evident in the purchase of OverDrive and continuing investments in Kobo’s global growth”.’

Read more about Rakuten’s targets here.


Bones found at prison may belong to real-life Tess of the d’Urbervilles

‘Archaeologists may have unearthed the remains of a woman whose execution had a lasting impact on the writer Thomas Hardy, inspiring the fate of one of his most beloved creations – Tess of the d’Urbervilles.

Excavators found the bones at Dorchester prison in Dorset, where a 16-year-old Hardy watched the public hanging of Martha Brown after she was convicted of murdering her violent husband.

Remains including a skull were uncovered at the prison – which closed in 2013 – ahead of the building of a housing development. The discovery has caused huge excitement among Hardy enthusiasts, who believe the bones may be those of Brown, whose hanging inspired Tess’s unpleasant end.’

Read more about the findings here.


 

PRH launches new classics range, Pocket Penguins

‘Penguin is bringing out a new series of classic titles in a “compact, jewel-like format” called Pocket Penguins.

The series – dubbed “the future of Penguin Classics” – will launch in May 2016, featuring titles such as Mrs Dallowayby Virginia Woolf and The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad, priced between £5.99 and £8.99 each.

The “stripped down” but “beautifully designed” A-format series steers Penguin away from “winning formulas” of the past – notably its use of oil paintings on black jackets – in favour of “timeless tri-band simplicity and bold colours”.

Penguin’s art director, Jim Stoddart, who was tasked to produce the “approachable and contemporary” new design, said: “The new range blossoms from black into the technicolour of Penguin’s heyday. While this is a comforting nod to past Penguin, this is very much a series of books for the modern age.”‘

Read more about the Pocket Pengiuns here.


Scribd drops unlimited subscription

‘US e-book subscription service Scribd is dropping its unlimited e-book subscription offer, and moving to a hybrid model as of next month.

Announcing the changes, Scribd said it had “worked hard to strike the right balance between providing our members with high-quality books and achieving long-term sustainability”.

In its support section it said it was “switching from an all you can eat buffet, to an ‘excess in moderation’ kind of system”.

From mid-March, the monthly Scribd subscription will offer “three premium reads books and one audiobook” from Scribd’s library. “Unlimited reading” will meanwhile be limited to “Scribd Selects” – a rotating collection of books and audiobooks handpicked by editors (the number in the collection confirmed with c.e.o. Trip Adler by Teleread.com to be in the thousands in contrast to one million available overall) – as well as to sheet music and documents.’

Read more about the changes here.


The i newspaper to increase books coverage

‘The i newspaper is set to increase books coverage under its new ownership, its editor has told The Bookseller.

ESI Media sold the newspaper to Johnston Press on Friday (12th February) subject to Johnston Press shareholder approval, for £25m.

At the same time, ESI Media owner Evgeny Lebedev announced the closure of The Independent and The Independent on Sunday newspapers.

The i’s editor Oly Duff told The Bookseller that the newspaper would be upping its coverage of books under its new ownership.

He said: “The i‘s books coverage will not only continue but increase. Our readers have been asking for more.”’

Read more about the increase here.


 

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