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Now the Industry Commentary...

First, if you haven't picked up a copy of Haunted in print yet, it's available for a special discounted price by clicking this link until the end of the year. Get it while it's hot!

Second, friend of the blog John Andrews pointed out this article to me on Ars Technica, and the folks at PW talk about the same thing here. What it amounts to is this: Google has been engaged in a suit for some time about the issue of copyright. They believe they have the right to host scanned books -- often with library assistance -- and make information available for free to users. Copyright holders who make money by selling that information (fiction and nonfiction) feel otherwise, and don't particularly care for the opt-out policy that was offered. Jim Hines wrote about it back in March of this year, and back when I was writing for Literature Community News, a co-writer of mine did a piece about where she thought Google Books was headed (i.e. into controversy), which would have been back in 2005-06. In the past two weeks, Google has tried to convince the courts that the Authors Guild should not be allowed to represent the authors, and that only individuals should be able to press suit. This strikes me as kind of amusing, because my understanding of what the guild is supposed to do is represent individuals as a group rather than making them do all the work themselves. It looks, on the outside, like an attempt at union busting.

I like Google. I have friends who work for the company. They put out good products that I use. So I really wish there were a shiny happy side to this dispute. But there's not, and I find myself irked with Google for what looks to me like pulling an Amazon.

Last link of the day is also a lawsuit issue, as reported by PW: an anti-trust lawsuit against Apple and several major traditional publishers, accusing them of e-book price fixing, is moving forward. It sounds as though several similar cases are being consolidated, and the official complaint is to be lodged by January 20th. I am not a huge fan of the agency model -- it seems to me that retailers ought to be able to decide what they charge, and what they're willing to lose money on, so long as they pay an agreed upon price for a product. But I do think the agency model was a good attempt at trying to keep the value of writing up -- and keep us writers getting paid. So it's an interesting issue, and I'm eagerly awaiting further developments.

Someone (maybe jeff_duntemann?) said not too long ago that the world of e-books is publishing's Wild West. There's a lot going on with the digital world, and there's a lot of legislation trying to figure out how to manage this brave new world we're a part of. How it shakes out is going to affect us for a good long time!


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 30th, 2011 03:16 am (UTC)
Eric Flint has a long set of essays regarding copyright. The TL;DR version is that if you make it easy for folks to buy your work, they will, and cumbersome DRM is counterproductive.

Google is pushing too hard by uploading works by living authors without their permission.

Dec. 30th, 2011 01:17 pm (UTC)
I totally agree on the subject of cumbersome DRM. I do think that DRM works in the case of digital books for libraries, but if I buy something, I want it to be easy to use! Baen (one of Flint's publishers, now that I think about it) has been awesome at pushing the e-book envelope since before anyone else was really even on the e-book wagon.

I'll have to check out what Flint has to say. There are a number of writers--Jim Hines being one of them, too--who have a lot more to say about this than I do, since they're in the thick of it.
Dec. 30th, 2011 02:23 pm (UTC)
It's a long set of essays. One of Mr. Flint's points that I thought most interesting is his note that offering a book of his online, for free, caused greater sales of the paper version.

Also worthy of note, is that if you have adequate patience, you can gain legitimate copies of nearly everything that he wrote for no money.

A recent study indicated that folks who "pirate" music are more likely to buy music. Ditto for movies. I stopped illicit music dowloading when I could get what I want from iTunes, which is mokeying around with their DRM and annoying me. (A big reason why I started using Pandora.)
Dec. 30th, 2011 05:09 pm (UTC)
I've said that more than once, but I'm far from sure I was the first. I don't say it anymore, since my recent research into the culture of the American West shows that it was not wild half so much as boring, uncomfortable, and backbreaking hard work. (Then again, so is reading ebooks on a desktop computer screen.)

Like a lot of people, especially obscure writers, I'm of two minds about Google Books. I need the exposure, and I'm happy to give them my older books (in this case, nonfiction) if it will raise awareness of my personal brand. The "winner take all" tendency in conventional publishing is a terrible thing to counter when you don't write material by the truckload. I also freely grant that better-known writers gain a lot less and lose more. There is a 99%/1% gulf here, and much of our trouble proceeds from that fact.

As for the Author's Guild, there is a quis custodiet ipsos custodes issue: How do authors prevent them from going too far in certain areas, or do the obvious and protect the interests of the better-known authors at the expense of the more obscure? I don't trust Google, but I don't trust collectives such as the Author's Guild either. Both use blunt instruments to further their agendas, when what we may well need are a larger number of smaller organizations wielding scalpels.

A better metaphor for the ebook industry right now is not the "Wild West" (which never existed as we imagine it today) but a state change in a chaotic system. Chaotic systems change abruptly from one stable condition to another stable but different condition. While the state change is taking place, all sorts of interesting and unpredictable things happen. (Think: all over the map.) We're in the thick of such a state change today. Twenty years from now it'll be over, and publishing will have stabilized in some new state. We don't know yet what that state will look like, and some of us won't care for it. (Prediction: Obscure authors like me will still get little money and less respect.) But these really are the crazy years.

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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