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Friday Midday Links: To Heaven and Back Again, the Ebook Saga

First up, the good news. Kresley Cole is releasing the first story (PDF link) in her Immortals After Dark series titled “Warlord Wants Forever.” It’s one of my favorite works of hers so if you’ve been wondering what kind of writer she is, you can download this FREE PDF copy of the book that ordinarily you would have to pay through the nose to get (and suffer through some really awful stories).

Flush with the news of the big sales for digital copies of Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol, the ebook community is slapped around with the latest news that etailers like Fictionwise and WH Smith are being forced to remove access to books that people have already bought because of geographical restrictions. I know you can’t see it but I’m shaking my fist right now. (okay, not right now because I am typing but I was before.) I don’t think a simple refund is going to make people happy. This sort of thing results in two actions: 1) piracy and 2) decline in adoption of ebook reading. Way to go!

Speaking of things encouraging piracy, songwriters, musicians, and composers are lobbying to get a law passed that would allow them to get a performance fee for any downloaded digital media. In essence, the law would require a payment for access of digital media, including 30 second previews that we all avail ourselves of on iTunes and Amazon:

“In the US, while we do get paid a mechanical [licensing fee] from ITunes, we are not getting any performance income from Apple yet,” David Renzer, chairman and CEO of Universal Music Publishing Group, said in a recent interview. “[On iTunes] you can stream radio, and you can preview [tracks], things that we should be getting paid performance income for. Also, if you download a film or TV show, there’s no performance [payment] and typically there’s no mechanical [payment] either.”

Library Thing is being forced to remove all other bookseller links from the first page of each book to link to Amazon alone. The reason for this is Library Thing’s database is powered by Amazon data. I’m fairly sure that Amazon provides this data access for free and this is the “payment” that it is now requiring. LibraryThing is not moving away from taking the Amazon data because it is the most complete and error free. Case in point is a competitor’s database MUZE which supplies Borders and eBay. Up until today, MUZE had not updated the covers for several July, August, and September books. Library Thing acknowledges that the covers are very important to its website.

One thing that independent booksellers have been asking publishers to do is to provide a better digital catalog for booksellers. Library Thing wouldn’t have to feed all its primary page traffic to Amazon if it had a good alternative. Who better to provide that than the publishers who control those books?

Speaking of Amazon, it is producing its own line of private label goods. You probably see these in your grocery store. Costco’s brand is Kirkland and Target’s is Archer Farms. Amazon’s private label brand is, well, Amazon. Is there anyone who really doubts that Amazon will be getting into publishing?

Author Andrew Keen is resistant to the ebook shift because he finds ebooks soulless and predicts that ebooks will make authors soulless too. I hadn’t realized that paper and glue imbued the books that authors wrote with soul. I certainly understand that there is some affirmation that authors get with the physical book that perhaps they don’t get with a digital book but if Keen is convinced the only the physical incarnation of the words he wrote is what gives his stories soul, it’s not a very positive comment on his writing. I particularly liked this passage:

Yes, you can call me a reactionary, but, as a book author, I want my work to be fingered by my readers. I want young women like Lillian to wait in line for me to sign copies of my work. Like a character in a Stephanie Meyer fantasy, the e-book drains the blood from the physical text. No, this cultural revolution can’t be recommended.

Nalini Singh, Meljean Brook, Ilona Andrews, Jill Myles and Patrice Michelle have a new blog called the Oddshots wherein they basically make fun of themselves and each other. Meljean redid Jill Myles’ cover to include a cover quote from her mom.

Oh, Jill, honey…it’s very, um, funny and I laughed a lot. But did you have to make it so sexy? I mean, for God’s sake, Jill, what will the family say? *sob* – Jill’s Mom

Paul Graham has a provocative piece about publishing arguing that publishing has never been about the sale of content. He argues essentially what I did a few weeks ago (but only in nicer more cogent terms):

I can see the evolution of book publishing in the books on my shelves. Clearly at some point in the 1960s the big publishing houses started to ask: how cheaply can we make books before people refuse to buy them? The answer turned out to be one step short of phonebooks. As long as it isn’t floppy, consumers still perceive it as a book.

That worked as long as buying printed books was the only way to read them. If printed books are optional, publishers will have to work harder to entice people to buy them. There should be some market, but it’s hard to foresee how big, because its size will depend not on macro trends like the amount people read, but on the ingenuity of individual publishers.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. SarahT
    Sep 18, 2009 @ 13:05:18

    This sort of thing results in two actions: 1) piracy and 2) decline in adoption of ebook reading.

    If you heard a thud, that was my head banging my desk.

    I could describe myself as a reluctant print reader. Sort out all the crap regarding geographical restrictions, overpriced ebooks, incompatible formats, etc., and I’d definitely jump on the digital bandwagon. I’m not clinging to print out out of a particular affection for books or their history, although that also has its place. It just seems that every other week there’s yet another compelling reason for me NOT to go the ebook route.

    At this point, I think I need to not read up on ebooks and ereaders for a bit. It frustrates me too much.

  2. ShellBell
    Sep 18, 2009 @ 13:32:30

    This ‘geographical restriction’ crap is driving me insane. More and more of the books I want to buy are restricted. Still, my local library is seeing me a lot more as I don’t bother to buy the eBooks when/if they do become available at a later date. It might have started off as only a small number of eBooks that were restricted but it seems that everytime I try to purchase any eBooks I get slapped with the geographical restriction message. I think it has been at least a month since I bought anything and that is very unusual for me – I would normally spend a minimum of US$75 a month. The authors and publishers are definitely missing out on my hard-earned cash but at least I should be able to reduce my TBR pile in between my library books!

  3. Chicklet
    Sep 18, 2009 @ 13:54:44

    etailers like Fictionwise and WH Smith are being forced to remove access to books that people have already bought because of geographical restrictions.

    Repeating what one of the commenters said in the linked blog post: Thanks to the internet, the audience is worldwide, but the publishing rights still are limited by country. Could everybody somehow propel themselves into the 21st century, please? It’s only 2009 — you can totally catch up on what’s what’s happened so far!

  4. Trish
    Sep 18, 2009 @ 14:31:25

    Did anyone else have trouble downloading the Kresley Cole PDF? I get a message that the “file is damaged and cannot be fixed”.

  5. Sara, Ms. Adventures in Italy
    Sep 18, 2009 @ 15:40:39

    Let’s hope the performance fee does not move forward, or any variations of it! In Italy, it’s insane – you have to pay “the artists” association anytime you publicly stream/play music. So, yes, at my wedding reception in a restaurant, with an iTunes playlist playing on my own laptop, we had to fork over $250 (200 euro).

  6. Maili
    Sep 18, 2009 @ 16:36:27

    Author Andrew Keen is resistant to the ebook shift because he finds ebooks soulless and predicts that ebooks will make authors soulless too.

    Well, then. He’d better give up his computer and start using a manual typewriter because, you know, the sounds of keys clacking are what makes writing soooo soulful. And printers will have to dump the offset printing for the return of the movable type.

    Nay! Not the movable type, it should be woodblock printing. OK, it might take roughly three or four years to produce each copy of a 400-page novel through the woodblock printing process, but hey, it’s what makes it soulful, mon.

    Actually, perhaps the author should dump his manual typewriter, forget the longhand crap, and opt for a hardcore method: finger-painting his stories on a wall in a den of lions or something bitey at a zoo.

    This would make him be so like the Great Ones who finger-painted their stories on some rock walls while somewhere in the background behind them, a few mammoths and dinosaurs* flapped their paws at each other. That surely would put capital S in soulful.

    Please, give me a bloody break. What matters is whether he could convey the “soul” of his writing to his readers, regardless of its medium. Radio, TV, ebook, graffiti on a wall, hardback, paperback, toilet roll (hey, Koji Suzuki did it), butcher paper (hey, Jack Kerouac did it!), fax paper (hey, Hunter S. Thompson did it!), needlework (hey, Lady Jane Grey did it!), a 40-pence notebook, a rock wall, or whatever it takes. That’s what writing is about, not the bloody “Ooh, sexyyyy!” fingering of a (possibly traumatised) print book.

    Sorry that it’s such a long silly rant, but stupidity tends to drag the irrationally cranky cow out of me.

    *Hollywood version of history

  7. Helen Burgess
    Sep 19, 2009 @ 11:11:30

    At a slight tangent but along similar lines to the music fee, I own a little cottage that I let out for holidays. I have now been told that if I leave a DVD in the cottage for my guests to watch I have to pay a fee. Never mind that royalties will already have been paid when I bought the DVD. I put the whole thing down to greed. I have taken all the DVD’s away but left the player as guests can bring their own and play them for free but not mine! It’s all madness.

  8. Annette Gisby
    Sep 21, 2009 @ 08:27:22

    Like a character in a Stephanie Meyer fantasy, the e-book drains the blood from the physical text. No, this cultural revolution can't be recommended.

    What planet is he on? If his books aren’t available as ebooks then I won’t be buying any, LOL!

    I love reading, I want a good story, whether it be on paper or on my screen. I have been buying and reading more ebooks lately with a few trips to the library in between for my paper versions. Paper books take up too much room at the moment; we have overflowing bookcases and we just don’t have the physical room to keep adding to them.

    I’ll support a new writer more who has an ebook than a new one who has a booksigning in WH Smith’s or wherever.

    take care,

  9. RStewie
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 07:13:50

    1. I can’t take anyone seriously that seriously uses a Stephanie Meyer character analogy.

    2. How excited am I about Kresley Cole’s release of the first novella in the IAD series?? Excited enough that I have now purchased (and read 1/2 of) the first book for my laptop!

    I have homework to do, and here I am reading this fabulous book, instead!

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