Archive for October, 2012

Movember

October 30th, 2012
Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

Not a typo.

It’s an Australian charity which encourages men to grow a moustache during November, to raise money for prostate and testicular cancer charities.

I have never grown any kind of facial hair in my life — I’m not even sure I can — but I’m going to give it a go. It’s a worthwhile cause, and how hard can it be to grow a moustache in 30 days?

We will see. Here is the starting point:

Gwyn's Virgin Upper Lip

and in 30 days or thereabouts a full fungal facial feature may appear.

I will stop shaving my upper lip on Thursday November 1st.

There will be updates posted regularly on the fotoLibrarian blog and on http://mobro.co/gwynheadley, where you will find a seamless interface for donating money and claiming Gift Aid.

Please help!

You may be relieved to hear that there won’t be any further updates on this fotoLibra Pro Blog, which in future will be devoted exclusively to things like lenses, picture sales and apertures (fat chance) but you may come across more mentions on the fotoLibra Groups on Facebook and Linkedin.

And if you follow me on Twitter, you’ll be hearing from me there as well. Otherwise — I won’t trouble you again. Thank you for your time in reading this.

Printed books are zero-rated for VAT in the UK. Ebooks are taxed at 20%.

Publishers have taken a softly-softly approach to VAT on ebooks, fearful that if they kick up too much of a fuss the Government will awaken to the fact that printed books are presently zero-rated and slap 20% on them overnight.

Such a move would decimate the British publishing industry — and by extension picture libraries, photographers and all the industry’s ancillary suppliers would take a huge hit. It’s therefore unlikely to happen, but who can predict what a politician may take into his head to do.

City law firm Berwin Leighton Paisner has announced on its website:

VAT treatment of ebooks – The firm is taking a groundbreaking case challenging HMRC’s view that ebooks are standard-rated for VAT purposes, in contrast with physical books which are zero-rated.”

Hard-nosed commercial firms like BLP do not take cases on pro bono, or challenge national or international law simply for the greater good. Therefore they’re doing this for one of their clients, and that client will have deep, deep pockets.

Who can it be? Who will benefit?

Well, the consumer will benefit if prices fall by 20% (they won’t). Publishers will benefit from a boost in sales.

But by far the biggest beneficiaries will be the retailers. Apple sells ebooks. Tesco sells ebooks. They will both see a hike in profits. BLP numbers Apple and Tesco among its gilt-edged list of clients.

Our digital publishing company Heritage Ebooks sells 50 illustrated ebooks from its site for every one ebook sold by the rest of the UK’s ebook sales outlets — Waterstones, Foyles, Tescos and so on — put together.

And for every one of our ebooks that we sell from our site, Amazon will sell twelve from theirs.

It is disproportionately huge. OK, so we’re tiddlers, microbes even, but I expect the proportions are similar whatever you publish.

Amazon has been subject to much opprobrium and contumely for selling ebooks to UK customers and charging the full 20% VAT while taking advantage of the 3% VAT they pay as a company based in Luxembourg. Like Starbucks, Macdonalds and KFC, large American companies have an aversion to paying their fair share of tax in Europe, and as their lawyers and accountants are sharper than ours, they can get away with it.

And now some organisation, through BLP, is challenging HMRC’s ruling on the grounds that charging different rates of VAT on print books and ebooks breaches EU law on fiscal neutrality.

Come on, this has to be Amazon. Who else could afford such a suit? And who else would profit more?

Amazon charge us, the publisher, for the bandwidth used when a customer buys and downloads a Heritage Ebook from them. Because our ebooks are highly illustrated, they have large filesizes and therefore incur high bandwidth usage fees. And because one or two books are downloaded via 3G rather than broadband, Amazon charges us across the board at mobile phone companies’ bandwidth fees.

The result is that for two of our titles, we are losing 10p on every sale made through Amazon because of their charges. Amazon are thereby forcing us to raise our prices.

And I thought their intention was to drive prices down.

 

 

 

Dreams, Trains, Ideas

October 18th, 2012

What can be more conducive to reverie than a good meal, a comfortable seat and a long smooth train journey?

Last Saturday I travelled from Frankfurt am Main to London, changing at Brussels, on the way back from the Frankfurt Book Fair — my 36th. It was a good fair, with plenty of top-level discussions about image licensing and clearances, price agreements and long-term contracts.

It’s been a rough old time in the picture library business but we’re hanging on in there and I am convinced I can see a silver lining here or there amongst the heavy cloud cover. A week at the Buchmesse always boosts my confidence.

There was a lot to think about on the way home. My mind ranged through meetings, proposals, promises, developments, the way forward, new ideas and so on until I fell into a light doze.

Earlier there had been a slight altercation between a Canadian and a German Muslim over seat allocation, and I fell to pondering on national stereotypes. Meanwhile my reading matter for the journey was the account books of C. F. Martin, luthier, based in Nazareth, Pennsylvania in the nineteenth century, not a page-turning thriller by most standards.*

So when I awoke there were three fresh ideas to make me smile.

Firstly, how about a series of picture books on national stereotypes? And before we all rush around tut-tutting and waving our hands in the air at such racism, it’s undeniable that a shared educational experience will produce a population that generally moves in the same direction and accepts the same discomforts. For example, most Americans are keener on owning guns than most Brits. Germans are generally more efficient than Greeks. Italians design prettier cars than the Welsh. And many of these attitudes could be illustrated by photographs — fotoLibra photographs, of course.

I suddenly remembered the pre-war Punch cartoonist Pont, and his series on The British Character. Wonderful, one-frame situation comedies, with captions such as

  • Fondness for cricket
  • Importance of being athletic
  • Absence of enthusiasm for answering letters
  • Preference for driving on the crown of the road
  • Love of travelling alone
  • A tendency to be hearty
  • A fondness of anything French
  • A tendency to learn the piano when young

You can imagine his drawings. So in my spare time I thought I’d rattle off a few observations on the national characteristics of the English, the Americans, the Spanish, the French, the Germans, the Italians and any other nation where I’ve had some experience of the inhabitants, each illustrated by a suitable fotoLibra image. If you have any suggestions for captions — and for images — please let me know. I’m looking for an affectionate and gently ironic tone. But I’m happy to offend, if it’s funny enough.

Then I contemplated Herr Martin, German immigrant to New York in 1834 and his subsequent move to Nazareth, PA, where the company he founded still makes fabulous and sought-after guitars. I discovered that Nazareth was a suburb of Bethlehem, PA and I thought that would have made Mary and Joseph’s life a little easier, having to travel 10 miles instead of 110. But there’s a Nasareth and a Bethlehem in Wales, as well — and they’re the same distance apart as the original Nazareth in Judea and Bethlehem.

There we are! How about a pilgrimage across three continents? A description of three journeys from Nazareth to Bethlehem — one in Israel / Palestine, one in Wales, one in the USA. It would be a road trip, maybe even one short and two long walks, discovering the sights to be seen and the wonders to be shared in three such different environments, all with a common heritage. TV series? Book? Magazine article? I have yet to decide. But an agreeable concept.

And then Mr Martin and his lovely guitars. I am fortunate enough to own one, a 1972 D-35 Dreadnought acoustic, named for the British battleships of the early twentieth century. When I’m away from it, my fingertips get soft and itchy, and it’s not really practical to lug it around. Why couldn’t I rent one while I was in Frankfurt so I could have a quick strum before bedtime?

Eleven years ago I spent three weeks in George, South Africa, rocking on my heels. On the second day, fearing I might go stir crazy, I found a music shop and asked the owner if he would consider renting me a guitar for three weeks. He looked at me as if I was black. Then someone renting my house in Wales asked if there was a local shop which could rent him a guitar for two weeks. There isn’t.

Why not? Don’t be silly, I told myself, there will be a giant corporation which has this sewn up. I just haven’t heard of it yet. RENT-AN-AX dot com probably has depots scattered across the world where tired businesspeople can have a Strat delivered to their hotel room when they check in. Blindingly obvious. Ah well.

I got back home, and looked up rentanax.com. No such website. So I registered it. I am now the proud owner of rentanax.com.

Now what do I do? Anyone want to start a guitar rental company?

Me, I’ve got a picture library to run.

*Fascinating nonetheless: C F Martin & His Guitars: 1796—1873, by Philip F Gura, Centerstream Publishing, Anaheim Hills 2012.