Tuesday, June 02, 2009

He Wanted to Do What?

The Twitter world was agog with BEA, as in BookExpo America. Tweeters in attendance kept the Internet world up on what was going on, who was being seen, and what was being said. The media, both last week and over the weekend, reported on the panels and what the publishers were saying and doing. Apparently one big thread throughout the Expo was e-books. The New York Times reported:
There were the panels: “Giving It Away: When Free eBooks Make Sense and When They Don’t,” “Red Hot Readers: Market Adoption of Mobile eReading Devices” and “Jumping Off a Cliff: How Publishers Can Succeed Online Where Others Failed.”
In a way, it seems the publishing world is unsure how to feel about ebooks. Publishers originally weren’t too happy about them, and, it would seem, some still aren’t.
Tina Brown … kick-started a discussion with the chief executives of four New York publishing houses by asking if they were shocked when Amazon.com began charging $9.99 for e-books — “that paltry, pitiful sum.”
Authors seem to want to be in ebook form, although most seem to still covet being in print also.
So far e-books represent 1 to 3 percent of total book sales. But they make up the fastest growing part of the industry, and publishers, authors and booksellers have no idea just how big they will become and how they might affect profits and reading habits in the future.
It would appear that a few authors are dead set against ebooks and ereaders.
At a panel of authors speaking mainly to independent booksellers, Sherman Alexie, the National Book Award-winning author of “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” said he refused to allow his novels to be made available in digital form. He called the expensive reading devices “elitist” and declared that when he saw a woman sitting on the plane with a Kindle on his flight to New York, “I wanted to hit her.”
He wanted to hit her? Because she was reading a book on her Kindle?

Seriously?
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32 comments:

  1. That's a bit over the top. I'm not a fan of ebooks myself, but I'm not incited to wrath and corporal punishment of a Kindle reader - lol, what is this guy a bit unbalanced?

    Get the royalties up on the sale of ebooks so an author can make a buck on them, and I say, bring 'em on. Each to his own, be it print or electronic. Just let the authors make a living, that's all.

    The Old Silly from Free Spirit Blog

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  2. I've read that awful comment on a few blogs - and it seems to me that Alexie is missing the point.

    That woman WAS READING.

    It also sings of complete literary snobbery - and in this economy (or the entire economy of humanity), who has time for that?

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  3. Good morning, Marvin & Amy. I agree with you both. More money for authors, less snobbery for us all.

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  4. Amen!
    Karen
    http://www.karenfollowingthewhispers.blogspot.com

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  5. Helen, all, I just finished making a "film" in 48 hours for a festival. Since I was a 16mm editor a couple of decades ago when video just came out, we discussed how the older cinematographers, editors, producers, etc. insisted that no electronic format would ever replace film in any media. Not TV, not even the editing of the images. Never.

    The younger people (under 40) didn't know what we were talking about as we "filmed" using a digital camera and edited using a program.

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  6. Thank goodness, Conda, that we are still young enough to change with the times! Although I'm old enough that it's not easy.

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  7. Reading is important. Now let's see how we can keep the writers employed as the change takes over.

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  8. Reading is important. Now let's see how we can keep the writers employed as the change takes over.

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  9. Well, I can't imagine wanting to hit a person who was using a Kindle, but I suspect Alexie was thinking of the ridiculous cost of those things, money that could be better spent buying hundreds of books for school libraries, for instance. It's so easy to take a person's words out of context and use them against him. Do we know if he said it with a smile, angrily? Happens to politicians, Supreme Court nominees, authors...

    Patricia

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  10. You're right, Patricia. The article noted that he said it while on a panel, but doesn't give the context of why it was said or how.

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  11. Violence is a little extreme!
    I'm not a big fan of E-Books (more specifically, the Kindle - Amazon is becoming the evil empire no one can stop) but I'll take on any new opportunity to move books!

    L. Diane Wolfe
    www.circleoffriendsbooks.blogspot.com
    www.spunkonastick.net
    www.thecircleoffriends.net

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  12. When did the freedom of choice go out the window? The same way he refuses to allow his books to be e-reader ready, that woman was free to read whatever format she felt like. It amazes me that people miss the big picture. Airlines now charge for every piece of luggage we checkm if the woman on the plain is a fast reader she has to bring more than one book whick will take up space int the already over crowded suotcase. With the Kindle or any other e-reader she can bring with her several books on one device that she shoves in her purse.t's not serious to want to invade someone's personal space by hitting them because they didn't carry the traditional book. The nerve.

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  13. To each his own, but the author's comment involving physical violence is inexcusable. Way to alienate the fan base! Yet another badly behaved author I will never buy a book from.

    --Lisa
    http://authorlisalogan.blogspot.com

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  14. I own the Sony version of the Kindle (the Sony Reader), and love it. But more than that, as a (currently, at least) self-published author, I hate to say that I love the Kindle. It's part of my marketing strategy, so to speak, and though I don't make as much per copy as I do with a traditional book, it has really opened me up to a new audience. And, maybe this is one of the good things about being self-published - I don't have to worry about someone else taking a cut of it. So, I get the full amount. Readers get a book for less than six bucks on the Kindle, and I get the lion's share. Win/win. No greed, no fuss.

    Methinks the publishing industry will go through a growth period (or shrinking period, depending on how they handle it), much like the music industry has with .mp3's. Remember that a lot of the vitriol aimed at eBooks has already been expressed back in the nineties with record industries claiming that everything from recordable cassette tapes to .mp3s would destroy the industry.

    It wasn't mp3's that hurt the industry, it was the sharing. But nevertheless, far from being elitest, pdf's and eBooks have rather democratized the medium. Whether or not that's a good or a bad thing is to be seen.

    But I appreciate people getting their hands on my works however possible.

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  15. I'm not an ebook fan but I think publishers should acknowledge that many people are and offer books in all formats. Wanting to hit someone because they are using one is way over the top.

    Jane Kennedy Sutton
    http://janekennedysutton.blogspot.com/

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  16. I think Sherman Alexie got just what he wanted out of that statement - buzz.

    He may in fact have a strong dislike for ebooks and the people who read them. Many people do. His stock probably went up amongst that reading demographic. But I think he is on the losing end of the equation in the long run.
    ~jon

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  17. Some people like reading ebooks. Some only read print books. Some do both. It's good to have books in multiple mediums so everyone can be happy.

    We'll see if the guy's fan base goes up or down. Probably neither since not that many people care what an author said on a BEA panel.

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  18. Although I am not personally interested in a kindle I am not so anti ebooks that I would want to hit someone for reading! I have crossed Sherman Alexie off my list of authors I want to read.

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  19. I've never read anything by Sherman Alexie. My hope is that he was cracking a joke. But jokes don't always transfer well to print.

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  20. When Sherman Alexie came to College Station, he did a great stand-up comedy act around his life and his book. It was one of the best attended and most talked about literary events we had. There's a message from him on his website about all the comments he's received from his remark, how it has moved him to take a meeting with Amazon and the Kindle folks. He closes by promising not to beat up anybody at Amazon or Kindle.

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  21. Thanks to Mark for the heads-up on Alexie's website. Going there now to check it out.

    Patricia

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  22. That's funny, Mark. I didn't know he was a comedian.

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  23. Ha! I had noticed that comment on Twitter but now that you've put it into context, it makes far more sense. Thanks.

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  24. I'm always happy to see people reading - in any form. As long a there are readers, writers will have a market.

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  25. I'm always happy to see people reading - in any form. As long a there are readers, writers will have a market.

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  26. I'm always happy to see people reading - in any form. As long a there are readers, writers will have a market.

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  27. I'm always happy to see people reading - in any form. As long a there are readers, writers will have a market.

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  28. It's just technology. Nothing to be afraid of. :) How's that for over-simplifying the situation?

    I do love the smell of books, and the look of books sitting on a shelf, and the texture of pages, but I can understand how Kindle can be incredibly convenient. And if it gets people to read, who cares?

    And since when is $9.99 a paltry sum? I guess I'm just a poor woman talking.

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  29. I love ebooks because I'm addicted to electronic gadgets. It's good to know that my ebook sale is quite healthy.

    In Quest of Theta Magic

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  30. Mark clarified by saying this author is a comedian. But my first reaction when I read the comment was similar to the reaction I had when an editor looked at me sitting in a wheelchair and said, "No one wants to read about a cripple." I would like to read e-books for the convenience anyway, but one main reason I read e-books is because poor vision makes reading print difficult. With my Kindle, I can adjust the text size large enough that it's comfortable for me to read. So when I heard someone wanted to hit a woman for reading on the Kindle, it was like being told someone wanted to hit me for not seeing well enough to read print. Of course that reaction demonstrates that we all look at everything from our own perspective—most people probably never think of an e-book reader as an assistive device for the disabled. :-)

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  31. Alps, I don't think he was thinking of $9.99 as a paltry sum (I could be wrong thoug). I think he meant that if an ebook sells for that, the author's share is miniscule.

    Enid, I'm fighting hard not to become addicted.

    Lillie, I do think of ereaders as being good for those with sight problems. It's probably because my sister's mother-in-law has great difficulty reading.

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  32. So long as creators will be properly compensated for their work, I see no reason to shun e-books.

    Maybe the flight stressed him out just enough so that even the Kindle lady pushed him over the edge. Flying tends to do that to me!

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