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.