Archive for December, 2009


December 30th, 2009
Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

What a detestable neologism. But I guess there’s no other way to describe the secular gap between the Christian festival of Christmas and the astronomical (or Scottish) festival of the New Year.

I’ve never been sure why New Year doesn’t come at the time of the winter solstice, which this year was 17:47 on December 21st.

In Britain, this is traditionally the time when we skive off. Shopworkers are run off their feet, but the rest of us gaze glumly out of our windows at the steady drizzle, briefly think about taking the dog for a walk then go back and slump in front of the telly instead.

Not fotoLibra! Of course we’re hard at it all the time. At least our Snowdonia office is, judging by the Picture Call I’ve just received from Jacqui Norman. Here in London, however, we’re running a Reactive week, which means we’ll respond to you if it’s urgent (like if you want to buy pictures) but otherwise we’re listlessly sorting through piles of paper, putting them in different places on the floor, and wondering what’s on telly. It’s a form of end-of-year catharsis.

Next week we’ll be back, firing on all 16 cylinders as usual. Stand by for a cracking New Year! We hope you have a happy and prosperous one. We’ll do our best for the latter part.


Orphan Books

December 23rd, 2009

The New York Times has published its annual list of ‘buzzwords of the year’. Two have been derived from book publishing, in which fotoLibra has a vested interest as publishers constitute our largest single market.

The words are ‘Vook’ and ‘Orphan Books’. ‘Vook’ is a neologism and ‘Orphan Books’ is a phrase rather than a word, but we’ll let that pass. Let’s deal with Vook first: its etymology is a combination of Video and bOOK content, in other words the killer ebook I described in this blog post without using the word vook. More recently, I got rather excited by this ad for Sports Illustrated which pretty accurately delivered what I was looking for in an ebook, only as a magazine. So what would this be? A vazine? Videodical? A Vag (Video mAGazine)?

Anyway, the first time I ever heard the term ‘vook’ was when I read the article this morning. So I’m not aware of it as a buzz word.

Orphan Books are defined by the New York Times as “volumes still in copyright but out of print and unavailable for sale, and whose copyright holders cannot be found.” The article says that the term ‘Orphan Book’ first rose to prominence in 2007, but “peaked this year with the fierce discussion over the proposed Google Books settlement.”

Orphan Book has a completely different meaning for me and many other authors and publishers. The real Orphan Book is one that is orphaned at birth, a tragedy shared with genuine orphans.

When an editor commissions a book and leaves the firm before the book is published, that creates an orphan book. Within a publishing house, the editor’s rôle is to deliver the best product he can, and to do that he has to talk up his babies to publicity, sales, marketing and of course the board. His books are better than the books from the other editors in the house; they are more marketable, better written, more intelligent, bigger sellers, indeed seminal. Few can remain unimpressed at the sight of an editor firing on all 16 cylinders to promote a favoured author or title at a sales conference.

But if that editor is no longer there to defend and promote the title, what happens to the book? I can tell you from bitter experience — it’s forgotten. There’s a contract, so the company is obliged to issue the book, but because no one remaining in the company is interested, it is not so much published as released into the community.

Three of my books were orphan books: Follies: A National Trust Guide: commissioned by Robin Wright (died shortly afterwards) and Liz Calder (left to found Bloomsbury). Eventually published by Jonathan Cape, 1986.

Architectural Follies In America: commissioned by Buckley Jeppson of the Preservation Press. Buckley left, the company was acquired by John Wiley & Son and the book was eventually published by them in 1996.

The Encyclopaedia of Fonts: Commissioned by Jane Ellis. Jane left over a year before a new managing director eventually allowed the book to trickle out in mid-December. Eventually published by Cassell Illustrated, 2005.

So where does the New York Times get Orphan Books from, to mean this quasi-legal grey area? From Google, of course. Google is not a book publisher and does not use a book publishing vocabulary, so it created this term to describe what is in fact a minute sector of the market. How many titles are we talking about in Google’s definition of an ‘orphan book’? How many books are there where the copyright holders cannot be found? Who is looking for them? How hard are they looking?

If I owe somebody money, they always manage to find me. But if money is owed to me, the difficulty of tracking me down becomes exponentially greater. Creating a snappy phrase — even by appropriating one that’s already in use within the trade for a common occurrence — gives visibility to an otherwise overlooked and unimportant sector of the market.

And interestingly it might help to divert attention from much larger, yet less transparent, activities being carried on elsewhere.

Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

Avid readers of this blog (me) will remember that last March I posted a wish for an ebook that actually did what I thought an ebook should do. The piece was titled “The Killer Book For eBooks” and in it I described what I expected to get from an ebook. And what the Kindle was dismally failing to do.

Well, I’ve just seen it. And it’s come from a most unlikely source: the American periodical Sports Illustrated. So it’s an emagazine rather than an ebook, but it’s almost exactly what I described. It’s not yet available, so I have no idea of timescale or cost, and American sport is incomprehensible to me and the rest of the world, but watch this video and you’ll get the picture.

The timescale and costs are irrelevancies to anyone but the earliest of adopters. What I know is that it will be here soon, and it will get cheaper soon. And in ten years’ time we’ll come across the device mouldering in the back of the garage and smile to remember how impressed we were with it at the time.


That’s the big headline on the front page of The Independent today, above a picture of St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Right. This stems from a general misunderstanding by the police of Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000, which is reproduced in full at the end of this blog. Armed with this sloppily drafted legislation, the police can effectively stop anyone anywhere and question them about their activities, as long as it’s within an area specified by a police officer of or above the rank of assistant chief constable. After July 7, 2005, that effectively meant Great Britain. It certainly includes every railway station in the country, and over a hundred areas in London. This does NOT mean that photography is forbidden in these places.

What it does mean is that ordinary pro and amateur photographers have frequently been stopped and searched by police simply for taking photographs within these “specified areas”. If the perp is hidden in robes, has a long beard and has a hook for a hand they might have a point, but in the interests of equality they seem to be stopping everyone with a camera and tripod (hand-held is for wimps, we always say).

The Independent cites instances of photographers being told to delete images they have taken of trains in Wales (they are NOT permitted to demand that), being arrested for photographing two police officers after photographing a fish and chip shop in Chatham, being stopped and searched after photographing St. Paul’s Cathedral; there are many more tales.

The British Journal of Photography has been running a campaign to raise awareness of this situation among the public and law enforcement officers. I doubt that many police officers read The Independent but they might glance curiously at the front page headline if in the newsagents. But this is front-page news, tremendous publicity for the cause. We at fotoLibra fully support the BJP’s campaign, even their slightly weak slogan “I’m not a terrorist. I’m a photographer.”

The more people know about the absurd over-zealous — and illegal — applications of this well-intentioned but muddled law, the better. Support the BJP’s campaign!

Here is the full text of Section 44. Why not print it out and keep it with you? Note there is no mention of police having powers to demand the deletion of images, nor does the legislation appear to apply to horse riders (be careful with the tripod on your horse’s back).

Power to stop and search



(1) An authorisation under this subsection authorises any constable in uniform to stop a vehicle in an area or at a place specified in the authorisation and to search—

(a) the vehicle;

(b) the driver of the vehicle;

(c) a passenger in the vehicle;

(d) anything in or on the vehicle or carried by the driver or a passenger.

(2) An authorisation under this subsection authorises any constable in uniform to stop a pedestrian in an area or at a place specified in the authorisation and to search—

(a) the pedestrian;

(b) anything carried by him.

(3) An authorisation under subsection (1) or (2) may be given only if the person giving it considers it expedient for the prevention of acts of terrorism.

(4) An authorisation may be given—

(a) where the specified area or place is the whole or part of a police area outside Northern Ireland other than one mentioned in paragraph (b) or (c), by a police officer for the area who is of at least the rank of assistant chief constable;

(b) where the specified area or place is the whole or part of the metropolitan police district, by a police officer for the district who is of at least the rank of commander of the metropolitan police;

(c) where the specified area or place is the whole or part of the City of London, by a police officer for the City who is of at least the rank of commander in the City of London police force;

(d) where the specified area or place is the whole or part of Northern Ireland, by a member of the Royal Ulster Constabulary who is of at least the rank of assistant chief constable.

(5) If an authorisation is given orally, the person giving it shall confirm it in writing as soon as is reasonably practicable.