As we wrap up this unofficial e-book week on the blog, I continue to remember that I have a blog feature called Can I Get A Ruling, in which we all vote on a basically yes or no question. (Publishing Myths 101 on the other hand: forgotten and neglected)
So here’s what I’d like a ruling on. Will the coming e-book revolution be a Good Thing for authors?
In other words, I don’t know that the music industry would necessarily, on the whole, think that mp3s have been, overall, a Good Thing, given the losses to piracy. Sure, there were some forced errors along the way, some artists may have taken advantage of the Internet and others think things are jolly, but there’s been quite a lot of angst along the way.
So as we enter an era where e-books become more and more popular (and e-book sales are up 35.7% on the year), is the coming era going to be good for authors?
Pros: lots of choice, cheaper prices=more books bought?, portability, opening up of marketplace, ease of access
Cons: piracy, downward pressure on prices, possible consolidation of marketplace, choice confusion.
So Can I Get a Ruling? E-books are coming, whether we like them are not. On the whole… Good thing? Bad Thing?
Julie Weathers says
I can understand people wanting to carry manuscripts in e-format and research books etc. If you’re traveling a lot and need these things for work, it would be much more convenient.
What I don’t understand is the trumpets of, “I can carry 1,000 books around with me!”
While I often have more than one book going at a time, I am not so scattered that I need to carry five books around with me to read while I’m doing laundry. Am I missing something about the normal person’s desire to carry 80-100-200 novels around?
I’m going for a ‘not particularly’ vote, because I don’t think anyone’s thought seriously about how writers will make a – protected – living when the e-book era arrives. Will mainstream publishers and agents disappear along with the bookshops? Or, because the proposition is cheaper, will publishing companies employ more editors, and agencies more agents? (My view is, we writers still need someone out there for quality control purposes; while there’s good stuff in e-books, and the medium is fantastic for the niche writers who wouldn’t be published otherwise, there’s still an awful lot of crap – some of it praised to the skies by friends and
family under the cover of ‘reviews’ – to trap unwary buyers).
Will there be DRM licences attached to e-books – and could they be backed up for changes of computers or crashed computers? (Or e-book readers?) How? By the publishing companies, or by the e-book reader companies?
I’d love to own a Kindle; I love to have a selection of books with me on holiday to fit any given reading mood I might be in. Costs too much in weight or clothing
sacrifices to carry conventional books if a flight is involved. Would I use it at home? Probably never, like my laptop. I can’t see reading an e-book in the bath or over a solitary meal or in bed. Plus a book is tactile and portable, it’s softer than an e-reader.
But would I like the greater choices for downloading? You bet! It’s instant, rather than waiting a few days or weeks for a shipment of a book I can’t buy in
Australia from somewhere else.
I’m an online shopper and I have my favourite sellers. It saves hours of my time travelling and looking for carparks and trawling several shops in the hope of
finding what I want. It saves fuel. I suspect I’d soon find favourite e-book sellers too, instead of spending those ages on the phone ringing round the bookshops to find out if anyone’s got a copy of that book that only had a shelf life of a few weeks, or hoping to find it in an online bookstore and then waiting for the
shipment to arrive. Yes, I know all this is about impulse gratification! But also, hopefully, it will also be about being able to buy quality e-books by quality authors.
And for me as a writer? I’d love to make _some_ money out of writing. But in the long run, I’d rather be read, and that’s why (a) there’s so much crap out there by
people who want to be read but not edited, and (b) why perhaps some writers won’t stand up and fight for their right to be paid. It’ll be interesting to see if agents and editors will do the job for love or money (or both) in the e-book era, whether they’ll fight for the money or take up stockbroking instead. I suspect
there’ll be a lot more competition between agents and publishing houses in an e-book era, and changes will happen: e-books have never had to run the gauntlet of the gatekeepers (often to the disadvantage of readers, so far) so there’ll always be alternatives TO publishing companies and agents; thus publishing companies and agents will probably have to find ways of making what they do more attractive to both buyers and clients. I don’t think e-books will have to be so tightly bound to genres and other pigeon-holing – there’s fascinating cross-genre and ‘impaired genre’ stuff around – and that will hopefully be good for writers.
But on the whole, as with music, I think the e-book era will be a buyers’ market. Okay, it always has been in the sense that readers are largely buyers, despite
libraries and secondhand bookshops. But perhaps, in the e-book era, it really will be the marketplace that determines what books are sold and read, rather than
agencies and mainstream publishers determining the market. The choices will be greater, older books by a favourite author easier to find. And possibly exposure to
a wider market will be a fairer determination of what the market really is when publishers don’t stand to lose as much money over ‘risky’ books or niche books or
cross-genre books or genres that aren’t ‘in’ any more, and yet have a smallish devoted market.
I’m curious how you are able to track the number of times people downloaded the book for free or shared it with someone else. You mentioned you had actually discovered pirated copies; do you mind sharing how you discovered them? Was there penalty or prosecution for the people who had the pirated copies?
Do you (or your publisher) report this as a loss on your tax forms? If you are able to track the number of downloads, are you also able therefore to track where they’re downloaded from?
In one case, someone emailed me that my book was being offered on a file-sharing forum. I went to look and found 142 downloads listed for it.
With the others I did a google search for my name and the titles, and found one of those bit torrent lists where books offered free were listed. Two of my titles were on it. Following the links–and this one I’m not 100% clear on, but the 140 downloads represented a bit over $200 for me–it looked like a further 30something downloads of one title and 14 of the other (which isn’t that bad but it had just gone up.)
The filesharing forum, I emailed them and said one of my books was being given away in violation of federal and international copyright laws, and gave them the link. They deleted it right away–but who knows how long it will stay deleted?
The others I reported to my publisher’s legal department and when I looked for it again my books had disappeared from the list.
Check out a website like esnips, where piracy is rampant. A lot of those titles show hundreds of downloads, and in some cases the same title has been downloaded hundreds of times from different user’s listings. Esnips will take them down if you report them–eventually–but then they just go to private Yahoo loops or closed message boards. They know what they’re doing is wrong, they just don’t care.
Oh, and no, I don’t report it as a loss on my tax forms–but wow, I’m going to look into that. I don’t know if my publisher does.
And no, there’s no way of knowing where they’re downloaded from. At least not that I’m aware.
Thanks for filling us in, anon. That is interesting and useful information.