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Our heroes and villains of 2008

In writing this week's Leader column for The Bookseller, I asked colleagues to nominate the heroes and villains of 2008. This is a longer version of the column that appears in print: feel free to add to the list using the comments facility below, or vote in our poll on the home page.

Leading the heroes are two figures from different parts of the business but who have so far combined to prevent a crisis turning into a disaster. Michael Neil, m.d. of Betrams/THE, has not been found wanting amid the collapse of Woolworths. Neil was quick to get the message out that Bertrams itself was not in administration and has remained a visible beacon for the business. On the other side of the fence Ian Hudson, Publishers Association president, has worked tirelessly to prevent the fallout at Woolies’ other book supplier Entertainment UK spreading. His messages of support for Bertrams have also been crucial.

He may wear the nickname "Lord Byng of Hype" like a badge of pride, but in 2008 Canongate’s Jamie Byng lived up to it, taking a punt on that unknown US Democrat Barack Obama and scoring two bestsellers. His response to one of his titles missing out on the Man Booker longlist earlier in the year may have seemed grumpy, but this is precisely the kind of up-front support authors need.

Waterstone’s m.d. Gerry Johnson has led the retailer back to its bookselling roots, and the chain rightly won the top prize at our Retail Awards. The latter half of the year may not have matched the first, but the opening of its biggest store for 10 years in Liverpool was a bold gesture of defiance in the face of the harsh retail climate.

Other heroes nominated were Dedalus' Eric Lane for fighting the Arts Council's cuts, and ultimately securing backing from an improbable source, the STM group Informa; library campaigners Tim Coates and Desmond Clarke for caring that books get back to their rightful place at the heart of libraries; Clive Keeble, bookseller and sometime commentator on theBookseller.com, again for caring passionately about selling books and the people who print them; Martin Rynja, publisher of Gibson Square, whose offices were firebombed earlier this year; author J K Rowling for pulling out another Harry Potter (and one for 2009, too please?); and finally, Stephenie Meyer for doing a good impression of Rowling with her Twilight series.

Even in a year such as this the villains were harder to pin down. Number one has to be the credit crunch: pay is frozen, book sales have shuddered to a halt, jobs are already being lost, companies have collapsed. It has long been held that books were recession-proof: crunch-resistant they are not.

Misery memoirs—that lucrative if slightly uncomfortable genre—is now in long-term decline: a few more tears may be spilled before it is forgotten but mostly these will be shed by publishers that piled in too late.

Book promoters Richard and Judy have lost much of their shine as their new digital slot failed to deliver viewers. It may not be terminal but the duo and Cactus m.d. Amanda Ross have much work to do in 2009.

Whoever is in charge of libraries merits a mention again this year: libraries face yet another government review and book borrowers dwindling stock. Much continues to be done in the trenches, and campaigns such as the National Year of Reading, help: but really it is leadership the service lacks--big time.

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What about Philip Pullman for kick-starting www.notoagebanding.org? But does that make him hero or villain?

PS How come you left out Katie Price --she's officially a Reading Hero!

Very disappointed not to appear in the villains list...will have to send the press cuttings from the post office robbery we did in the seventies while we were art students...hope to be in the frame next year...

Villain. How about J K Rowling. Rolling in cash, pal of PMs wife. Chooses to hand over one million to the mendacious coward Gordon Brown and his party of goons. He wrote the cheques for the Iraq war and sat ildly by for eleven years as Chancellor with his 'light touch regulation' attitude to the banks. Oh and her latest offering is shockingly bad.

What about Alan Sutton for.....whatever ?

I am Mr Jesse Bridge. I live in Langport near Clive Keeble's Book shop. Thank heaven he is there! Firstly, he knows the book business in all it;s devious and complicated details. Secondly, he is a fighter for fair dealing in , not only the printing companies, but the distribution organizations. Thirdly, Local council, yes and County councils, Beware! Any unfairness of Town or County decisions will hear the roar from "Mr Grumpy". He is one of the few around here that not only cares,but will fight > Long live Clive!

Worth commending Alan Gibbon and his team for launching 'Campaign for the Book' More info at http://alangibbons.net/

I nominate Tim HH and Hachette as an industry hero for taking a position with Amazon that does not consisently support price cutting and undermine further the UK book retail market. Other publishers must follow suit otherwise all that will be left is a large internet retailer selling books for peanuts and publishers paying through the nose.

A rather insipid article, but not surprising from a journal that has become the Pravda of the book trade.

I'm told JKR's latest offering is complete rubbish...both by children and adults. She burned out long ago. Fair play to the woman for saving the book trade from a worst fate though...but, if I was her, I'd look to do something else.

Why didn't The History Press appear in this list I wonder? It's one thing for the Bookseller to report favourably on them - but to keep the patent LIES the History Press have been telling their authors and the public on their website is ridiculous and beyond belief. The History Press has never and will never return to profitability. The company is technically bust and survives solely on cash injections from Octopus Private Equity. Could somebody answer this, please. Back in October 2008 The History Press announced they have sold their Pathfinder imprint for a six-figure (undisclosed) sum. On Octopus Investments website one reads that in November 2008 Octopus Eclipse VCT (one of he 4) had to put an extra

villains are the fiction publishers/agents doing the same old polite English dinner party novels with a couple of titles from somewhere else (China, India wherever) that never ever deal with how it is in the here and now .... historical blah blah and a sense of place that is a anywhere rather than this contemporary England - same old same old - I think they still think Amis, Barnes, Rushdie are new voices and they all on their free bus passes -

a complete and utter lack of bottle amongst the publishers - but hey ho they probably thought their houses really had doubled in value and bankers were serious individuals rather than greedy morons -

heros - David Knowles is an interesting poet -

Ray Leigh -

www.thefupress.wordpress

What about Philip Pullman for kick-starting www.notoagebanding.org? But does that make him hero or villain?

PS How come you left out Katie Price --she's officially a Reading Hero!

Very disappointed not to appear in the villains list...will have to send the press cuttings from the post office robbery we did in the seventies while we were art students...hope to be in the frame next year...

A rather insipid article, but not surprising from a journal that has become the Pravda of the book trade.

I nominate Tim HH and Hachette as an industry hero for taking a position with Amazon that does not consisently support price cutting and undermine further the UK book retail market. Other publishers must follow suit otherwise all that will be left is a large internet retailer selling books for peanuts and publishers paying through the nose.

Worth commending Alan Gibbon and his team for launching 'Campaign for the Book' More info at http://alangibbons.net/

I am Mr Jesse Bridge. I live in Langport near Clive Keeble's Book shop. Thank heaven he is there! Firstly, he knows the book business in all it;s devious and complicated details. Secondly, he is a fighter for fair dealing in , not only the printing companies, but the distribution organizations. Thirdly, Local council, yes and County councils, Beware! Any unfairness of Town or County decisions will hear the roar from "Mr Grumpy". He is one of the few around here that not only cares,but will fight > Long live Clive!

What about Alan Sutton for.....whatever ?

Villain. How about J K Rowling. Rolling in cash, pal of PMs wife. Chooses to hand over one million to the mendacious coward Gordon Brown and his party of goons. He wrote the cheques for the Iraq war and sat ildly by for eleven years as Chancellor with his 'light touch regulation' attitude to the banks. Oh and her latest offering is shockingly bad.

I'm told JKR's latest offering is complete rubbish...both by children and adults. She burned out long ago. Fair play to the woman for saving the book trade from a worst fate though...but, if I was her, I'd look to do something else.

Why didn't The History Press appear in this list I wonder? It's one thing for the Bookseller to report favourably on them - but to keep the patent LIES the History Press have been telling their authors and the public on their website is ridiculous and beyond belief. The History Press has never and will never return to profitability. The company is technically bust and survives solely on cash injections from Octopus Private Equity. Could somebody answer this, please. Back in October 2008 The History Press announced they have sold their Pathfinder imprint for a six-figure (undisclosed) sum. On Octopus Investments website one reads that in November 2008 Octopus Eclipse VCT (one of he 4) had to put an extra

villains are the fiction publishers/agents doing the same old polite English dinner party novels with a couple of titles from somewhere else (China, India wherever) that never ever deal with how it is in the here and now .... historical blah blah and a sense of place that is a anywhere rather than this contemporary England - same old same old - I think they still think Amis, Barnes, Rushdie are new voices and they all on their free bus passes -

a complete and utter lack of bottle amongst the publishers - but hey ho they probably thought their houses really had doubled in value and bankers were serious individuals rather than greedy morons -

heros - David Knowles is an interesting poet -

Ray Leigh -

www.thefupress.wordpress