Apr 8 2010
RWA President Michelle Monkou is fielding questions today on blog talk radio. The start time is at noon CST. I wish someone would call in and ask what RWA’s stance is on the change in pricing and Google Book Settlement. Link here.. I would call but I don’t think they would allow me through.
John Scalzi sides with the ethicist as to whether it is okay to download a digital copy of a book you already own.
But the point to make here is that these days, people are deciding that when they buy a book or a movie or a piece of music, they're buying the content, not the format. As a writer I don't have a philosophical problem with this, since I write content, not format, even if publishers want that content to fit a particular format. And as a consumer, I think there's a certain point at which you get to say "you know what, I've paid for this already, and I'm done paying any more for it." Both of these are why I say that if you've paid me once for a book I've written and what you've enjoyed, we're good. Pay me again if you like; I won't complain. But once is enough.
Nathan Bransford does not.
It may seem like it’s a trivial distinction to make when the resulting file from scanning yourself vs. pirating a book is potentially almost the same, but that’s where the line between ethical/legal and unethical/illegal is drawn for a reason. In the first version, you’re adding the value yourself through your own effort (just as taking notes in your own margins adds a form of value). By downloading a file illegally you’re misappropriating that added value from the only people (the publisher and author and e-booksellers) who are legally and ethically entitled to profit from it. That’s why we have copyright law. That’s where we’ve chosen to draw the line.
I see a couple of flaws in both arguments. First, if content is what readers are buying, why are audiobooks separate? Does the aural component add something new? Further, what about used book purchases and subsequent downloads? There is no remission to the author there, yet you still legally own a copy of the book. Bransford argues that the opportunity cost of converting print into digital (v CD into MP3) makes it unethical because creating your own digital file somehow adds value.
Association of American Publishers’ stats are released for 2009 and sales fell by 1.8%. Adult hardcovers had a growth of 6.9% ($2.6 billion) but children and YA fell 5% ($1.7 billion). I see dozens of sales for YA books right now, many for big amounts. I wonder if these will prove to be a mistake. Adult trade paperbacks fell 5.2% ($2.2 billion)
Mass market decreased 4% ($1 billion) and book clubs/mail order fell 2% ($588 million). Ebooks reached $313 million which represents nearly 4% of adult trade sales. Audiobooks struggled with a drop of 12.9% ($192).
An intrepid reader at Mobile Read noted that HarperCollins is selling its books for 20% off. Further, the retail price of the books is a dollar less. But this morning, a notice went up that the site is under maintenance and you can’t buy. I love the idea of the publishers selling direct at a discount but I can’t help but wonder if this violates some kind of pricing deal with the retailers. Note to HarperCollins: those prices were right for me. I would buy at those prices.
A reader sent me i09′s assessment of the how the Google Books Settlement will affect readers. io9 believes that there will be both a retraction of content (authors refusing to allow Google to display their work) and an expansion (as orphaned works get displayed because the rights’ owner can’t be found).
More importantly, I think we could see a renaissance in contemporary pulp fiction. We can once again have access to weird, unusual stories that are both awesome and not sustainable under publishing’s current blockbuster model. Writers of small and midlist SF books could start making money on their writing again. This is a good thing for authors and readers who love imaginative fiction.
Publishers’ Marketplace brings up two key issues for this Apple pricing model five of the top six major publishers are trying to cram down our throats. First is the tax issue (tax link). Wherever the publisher or retailer has a significant business presence, they have to collect tax. The publishers and retailers are confused about who has the responsibility to collect and report taxes. Sounds like it will be a huge headache and one that no one has figured out how to handle. I confess to not understanding the entirety of the issue. Maybe reader DS will help us out?
Second (paid link), iBookstore is allowing all kinds of content into the store via aggregators like Ingram, Smashwords, LibreDigital. Each one charges a different commission. Smashwords takes about half of the 30% commission and LibreDigital about 20%. Ingram won’t say. The publishers who aren’t doing Agency pricing are having a difficult time enforcing the hybrid scheme. For example, Sourcebooks has priced some books at the iBooks store at $6.99 and because it doesn’t have an agency agreement with other retailers like BN or Amazon, those two are discounting. For authors who want to skip the aggregators, you can go directly with Tunecore who will submit your epub to iBooks for a flat fee, no subsequent royalty share.
Right now, though, the iBook store sucks so hard that unless a reader knows exactly what to look for, its fairly useless. One person (Liza Daly of Threepress and Ibis Reader) called it an airport bookstore and it is such an apt description.
Yesterday I looked and there were no April releases in the romance section which only displays two subcategories: Contemporary and Historical and only about 27 titles in each category.
Penguin has signed a co branding deal with a major Indian publisher, Shobhaa De. Unfortunately, the books will “comprise of celebrity memoirs, guides and biographies -’ with a focus on lifestyle, business, cinema and commercial fiction.”
Karen Scott highlighted an interview with two Mills & Boon Authors. Penny Jordan has sold 85 million copies her books worldwide and has never spotted a reader with one of them.