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13 January 2011

Unfortunately, the author confuses easy downloads with people who would have actually bought the book. Every download does not equal a "lost sale."

I wish an author liker her would push the piracy numbers and tell her publishers: "LOOK! There is DEMAND for my books! Increase digital distribution, it costs a fraction of increasing physical distribution!" The publisher probably wouldn't buy it, but hopefully it'll put a seed of a thought in someone's mind.

Illegal digital distribution is displaying the shortcoming in the market. iTunes boomed when it first opened, as an easy-to-use way to instantly get the music you want, and often less than the price of an album (definitely less than the price of a single). But booksellers don't do this. As of a year ago, Amazon wasn't helping things, by trying to maximize their profits (interesting article from MeFite/author cstross).

By applying enough pressure on the piracy sites so that it's a bit harder (not impossible) to illegally download digital copies, and making it easier (and cheaper) to buy digital copies (that can be used easily on enough devices), and there'll be a shift. There has already been a shift from physical to digital, with Amazon selling more Kindle editions than physical copies on Christmas Day, 2009 as the first sign, with Kindle editions consistently outselling hardcovers as of summer 2010.
posted by filthy light thief 13 January | 18:54
I almost posted this to Mefi today!

I agree with everything filthy light thief said.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 13 January | 19:47
This isn't the first "please pay for the [x] you steal online, you're taking from the ones you love" post, and it's unfortunately one of the less nuanced posts, and slightly contradictory.

She doesn't like that people will download illegal copies and tell their friends how much they liked her book, but she's OK with you getting a free physical copy, mailed from the publisher, that you then tell other people how much you liked it. Do review copies mean anything? Will publishers ignore heart-felt letters of adoration or well-written reviews if they come from someone who hasn't received a free copy of the book from the publisher?

I don't know enough about the real world of publishing, and trying to live off of the words you write in book-form, so maybe my thoughts on her complaints are lacking sufficient background to understand where she's coming from, or the actual implications of my ideas.

Crazy idea: slyly promote ways to work around digital distribution by country. Write a blog post about "some great way to use [not digital bookstores] in other regions" to bypass the artificial distribution limitations. Let your smart readers realize "hey, I can use this to access some other online book store, and pay for the book I was about to steal!" Maybe she'll make a sale or two, but it's better than ranting against people who want to read her work, but don't have easy access to it.
posted by filthy light thief 13 January | 20:14
When I was 14, I borrowed from my public library a box set of LPs of The Well-Tempered Clavier - Glenn Gould playing, I think. I recorded them on to audio cassettes so I'd have them available to listen to after I returned the LPs. It never even occurred to me that anyone might object. Had you explained to me that I was thereby cheating Mr. Gould out of his Columbia royalties, I would not have been sympathetic.

This writer makes as persuasive an argument for her side as I've ever come across. But at heart I remain 14.

Maybe I'm just a cheap bastard.

[The link woukd make a good FPP.]
posted by Joe Beese 13 January | 21:58
I can't post it because it's too close to self linking- I'm the author's stepfather. I thought she argued the point well enough to change my mind a bit. If someone else thinks it stands on its own, just remember that she's a Mefite :)
posted by pjern 13 January | 22:23
I think it's an interesting post, but MAN it's going to be a huge ugly fight in MetaFilter so I'd really think two or three times about whether that's the sort of publicity/eyeballs she's looking for.
posted by jessamyn 13 January | 22:45
Joe Beese - Mr. Gould already got his royalties when the library bought its copy of his record, which if I recall right, costs more than a normal copy of a record or book. The author is all for libraries, and goes as far as to have you ask your library to procure a copy (or two) of her book if you want to read it without paying. She still gets money for a library copy.

It's also likely you've never photocopied an entire book you got from the library.
posted by gc 13 January | 23:22
If someone doesn't want me reading books for free, no problem. I'm sure there's something to watch on TV instead. No great loss.

Actually, as far as digital book piracy is concerned I'd be mighty irritated to have to read an entire book on a screen. It's bad enough trying to read an entire blog post. Real books work better, plus you get to read old out-of-print stuff instead of this week's book of the month, and nobody tries to wedge their fingers in your ear over it. If it's worth reading, it'll still be worth reading when the pages are yellow. Then again, I buy new books I really think are worth owning.

I'm more concerned that people will start thinking "everything" should be scanned and saved so we can ditch all the real books and bring on the Digital Dark Ages. When the lights go out we'll be back at Square Zero.
posted by Hugh Janus 14 January | 09:06
Itís going out of print in hardcover. Yep. Not many books stay in print in hardcover; that's just the way it is. So it's pretty much kindle or paperback, and there's not much reason for the kindle edition to go out of print. Many authors don't earn out their advances, publishing is arcane in its business practices.

It's clear that digital content can't be restricted very well. The fight to restrict content, i.e. DRM, is huge, expensive, and probably doomed. I don't know how book publishing will survive. Maybe readers will pay per chapter, and be willing to pay for the ease of acquisition, just as many people are willing to pay a small amount for a piece of music, while they probably won't pay 15USD for the cd. Her kindle prices seem quite reasonable, and that should help, though not everybody has/wants a kindle. (Insert rant about proprietary standards.)

I still love the feel of a paper book in my hands, and the permanence of books on my shelf. So, for a while, there will be a market for physical books.

Your stepdaughter is more successful than most writers, and likely to become more so; I wish her luck.
posted by theora55 14 January | 10:48
The old Once and Future E-Book Ars Technica post that Joe Beese posted on the blue recently addressed the issue of reading on the screen with interesting facts: we already read a LOT on screen, but it's usually in small doses (which isn't addressed in that article, to my recollection). Heck, enough people wrote novels on cell phones that it became a thing, starting in Japan and spreading to China, Germany, and South Africa (according to Wikipedia).

Books won't die, just like radio hasn't died, vinyl hasn't died, CDs haven't died, and DVDs haven't died. Their market share changes, but these aren't 8-tracks we're talking about, some sub-standard format that filled a temporary gap. But physical books becoming less common as ebooks expand in market? That shift has started, and it won't be stopping for a while.
posted by filthy light thief 14 January | 14:22
... and with that shift, if the distributors and publishers don't follow, the illegal options will blossom out of demand.

People hosted MP3s on their websites from the mid 1990s on. There were complete discographies you could find, from dedicated fans who would spend a lot of time, ripping CDs and encoding MP3s very slowly, then uploading them for others to discover. That changed, but it took a long time for the digital music store to become a given. What would have happened if the iTunes store came before Napster?

The MPMan came out in 1998, before Napster was released in 1999. The iPod was first released in October 2001, but the iTunes Store opened in 2003. iTunes Store wasn't the first online music store - that credit goes to Ritmoteca, opened in 1998! I hadn't heard of them until now.
posted by filthy light thief 14 January | 14:31
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