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An author of no particular popularity

Jay Lake
Date: 2010-01-30 07:17
Subject: [publishing] Three more comments on Amazon and Google Books
Security: Public
Tags:amazonfail, publishing, writing
I am about to spend most of the day offline moving furniture. (Or more to the point, having it moved for me.) Y'all have fun in comments on the Amazon post [ jlake.com | LiveJournal ]. Lots going on in my Facebook page on this topic as well.

There are three thoughts I want to leave with before I drop off a while. First, as several people have pointed out, it's possible Macmillan pulled the print titles rather than Amazon. I find this unlikely for a number of reasons, but I'm prepared to be wrong. All the available information to date indicates Amazon did this. Such a move would be consistent with several prior Amazon incidents (including the Friday night timing). And simple logic suggests that Amazon is far more likely to stop selling a disputed product than Macmillan is to stop selling their own product. If I'm wrong, I'll speak to it as fully as I spoke to the issue this morning already.

Second, a problem I've noted several times in discussing the Google Books Settlement is that for most people, including virtually all readers who are not themselves authors, GBS is an overwhelming benefit. Indexed searches of virtually all print material, access to orphan copyrights, one-off sales of out of print titles. It's pretty hard to argue with the basic goals. To someone who doesn't understand (or need to understand) copyright law and the economics of making one's living from publishing, it's very easy to perceive copyright holders as being short-sighted and greedy. Basically, from a generic reader's point of view, we're arguing over sixty dollar licensing fees and holding up the progress of one of the most important print literature projects since Gutenberg.

Third, this same problem is already occurring in the Amazon fail. To a reader who is not themselves an author (and specifically a trade press author, where this dispute is occurring), what Amazon is doing is defending low priced e-books, and availability. The business nuances of control of the e-book channel, licensing rights, platform and so forth are invisible. There's already a lot of reader resentment over existing e-book pricing. For Macmillan to be holding out for higher prices on Apple's iBooks platform is patently ridiculous in their eyes. Again, an author like me protesting their print books being pulled in this dispute (and please read my original post carefully if you think I'm nattering about wanting higher e-book prices) looks short-sighted and greedy.

These are fights that we as authors didn't pick, can't control, and have PR implications that we lost before we ever open our mouths. That saddens me.

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User: bemused_leftist
Date: 2010-01-30 15:44 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Wise comments, thanks.
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When life gives you lemmings...
User: danjite
Date: 2010-01-30 16:37 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
As a reader who is not an author, it looks like Amazon is doing what it can to create a legally sanctioned monopoly which will guarantee their control over the public domain for all of history and force the end of copyright for those authors who aren't lawyers.

This is appropriately in keeping with their responsibility to maximise shareholder value which - in my understanding of current US corporate law enforcement - is the first law and comes before the other laws of the land.
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Twilight: Did I Stutter?
User: twilight2000
Date: 2010-01-30 17:13 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Did I Stutter?
ok - so reframe the discussion - most "just readers" think all writers are Michael Criton and make millions on their books - shows like Murder She Wrote and Castle only enforce that - we need to get out there and make people understand that even a moderately successful writer only earns X - and most of that comes from residuals/copyrights/royalties. LIke actors, we can't all be Brad Pitt, and that has to be made clear.

Point 2: make it clear that "searching" and "taking copyrights over" are Two Different Things.

Point 3: make them understand that Amazon is no more Their Friend then Microsoft - that Amazon didn't make ebooks cheap For Them but to suck them into a Kindle. If that means we have to explain the idea of a loss leader, than so be it. Also, "joe reader" needs to understand that they don't actually OWN the book - they can only upload it x times, they can't lend it (most of the time) and the DRM *really* limits what they *can* do with it.

Let's not fall prey to the same problem that haunts so many political movements - bad ability at getting our own word out.

We're writers, we should able to write convincingly, dammit!

Edited at 2010-01-30 05:15 pm (UTC)
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