Friday, June 12, 2009

Is Australia the Future?

If you’re older than 20, you probably remember the war of music downloaders vs. the music artists. Writers are now having problems with digital books -- both in getting their books sold in that form and in keeping their books from being copied and given away or sold without any of the money coming back to the author.

Australia seems to be experiencing big problems in this area. The Sydney Morning Herald recently had an article called “Authors Ready to Throw the Book at Online Pirates.”
Feel like reading Australian author Colleen McCullough's Thorn Birds, but don't want to pay for a copy?

Then just hop onto a site like Wattpad.com and the book is available free as an electronic download. While this might be a bonus for readers, it is a disaster for authors, who get no royalties from the downloads.”
The article goes into the recent battle between Google, who wants to digitize every book, and authors, who want to be paid for their work.
Under the settlement Google agreed to establish an independent "Book Rights Registry" which will provide revenue from sales and advertising to authors and publishers who agree to digitise their books. Publishers and authors are now in the process of opting in or out of the Google settlement.

The executive director of the Australian Society of Authors, Jeremy Fisher, said the Google settlement was an important acknowledgement that authors owned the copyright. But there is still seething resentment about the way Google has gone about digitising copyright material without permission.
There’s also talk about Scribd, a start-up that started as a document-sharing website and has morphed into a vanity publisher.
Until now it has been the most popular of document-sharing sites, allowing authors to upload chapters of their books, power points or research reports, in the same way as people can upload video to YouTube.

But it now plans to set up a new store to allow authors to publish their works and set their own price, in an arrangement that will allow authors to keep 80 per cent of the revenue.
My guess is that most authors would welcome the 80% revenue of Scribd and the 60% of Google. But I don’t know of any authors willing to have their work given away for free.
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19 comments:

  1. "But I don’t know of any authors willing to have their work given away for free."

    Count me among that group. I KNEW this would come to this. Ebooks are not controllable. Maybe some sort of self-destruct hidden encryption is needed for pirated copies? Microsoft does it - contraband copies of Office somehow find their way of relleasing demons into a computer and worming it to death.

    The Old Silly From Free Spirit Blog

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  2. Cory Doctorow gives all his books away as downloads, and he's pretty successful.

    He is an anomaly though, and I suspect his attitude will change when ebook readers become cheaper and more mainstream, to the point at which they displace pbooks. But that's a whole other bitter debate.

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  3. You're right, Anton. A few authors give their books away, and, of course, just about all authors (or their publishers) give out free ARCs and have contests for free books, etc.

    Most authors really, really, would like to be paid for their work, though. He may indeed change as more and more people switch to ereaders and ebook sales begin to rival paperback sales.

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  4. Funny how hard writers work to prepare something for publication and then have the stress of marketing that product, yet reap the fewest benefits (meaning dollars). I join in the ranks of wanting to be paid - at least a token something.

    JaneKennedySutton

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  5. This makes me want to completely shy away from ebooks. Not that I wrote my book with any expectations of making much money, but it's only fair that writers get paid for their work.
    Karen Walker

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  6. Well, you bet, I’m with the others, you can not only, “show me the money,” you can actually give me some while you’re at it. But, I gotta admit, my money-making expectations are so low (From bitter experience with my first publisher) that I look at authoring—from the cash flow aspect—as a hobby. I spend, ahem, a few bucks on my fly fishing hobby, writing and promoting is no different. I get enjoyment from both, so, what the heck. Still, what’s that song—redone, I think—by the Beatles (the Who?—HA! Gotta be..”older” to get that.) No, the Beatles, “Money can’t buy everything it’s true, but what it can’t buy, I can’t use, give me money….etc.”

    Best Regards, Galen
    GalenKindley.com

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  7. It seems like we should somehow (and I don't know how) get the percentage of ebook sales up on the author side before ebooks become so popular that changing the ratio is very difficult. (more difficult than now)

    Helen
    Straight From Hel

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  8. Most of earn so little money for our work that it makes me wonder what's more important: having readers enjoy my work or holding it back and waiting patiently for a large publishing house to discover me. I opt for being read.

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  9. There seems to be a some general resentment towards ebooks bubbling under here. Before the Kindle popularized the format, books were already being pirated into ebook copies, through the scanning scene.

    Harlan Ellison was suing ISPs a decade ago because they were "hosting" pirate ebook copies of his work.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/12/technology/internet/12digital.html?src=sch

    The parallels are with the music industry. So long as the music industry fought against mp3s they were losing money to pirates. Now that most corners of the music biz have embraced DRM free mp3s they're making money off downloads. It would be unfortunate if the book industry had to drag itself over that same learning curve.

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  10. I'm hoping that the solution to this is much the same as the solution was for the music downloads. Make it difficult to steal the content while at the same time make it cheap enough so the majority of people don't bother. Cheap as in a buck a book--but if the author got 50% of that buck...I think it might work. I hope so, because the technology is here and it's happening, no matter what.

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  11. Talk about pushing the Hot Button. This is a passionate subject that is stirring up much debate just as Napstar did a few years ago.

    Yeah, I don't want my two years of sacrifice and blood , sweat, and tears to go down the drain. Hey, I was unemployed during this time too. Thanks for sharing this timely article.

    - Stephen Tremp

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  12. I'm with Jean on this one. I also opt for being read (or listened to). In my case, it might be a function of writing for so many years and knowing what gives the greatest pleasure, money or good feedback. I love receiving a check, of course, but I don't expect to make a bundle writing amateur sleuth mysteries. I just want a great review and a place on the shelves of a whole bunch of libraries.

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  13. We all seem to definitely want ebooks and we all want to be paid for our work. I hope, too, that the publishing world learned from the music industry.

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  14. A security messure will need to be installed for E-Books - perhaps like computer programs where the user has to register before they can use the program?
    Unfortunately, E-Books are the future and we will have to join the ranks. Now is the time for authors to demand a higher royalty for E-Books as well!

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

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  15. And it would be helpful to develop a format that all ebooks would use for downloading, no matter whether it's for use on the Kindle or any other reader.

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  16. I have to wonder what authors Way Back When had to say when the first library opened, and darn people got to read their work for free.

    Any intellectual property can be hijacked--it's the nature of the game. Ebooks are no different. As it is, Ebooks can't be loaned out easily to friends, swapped around like print books. Some think that's good, it'll force people to buy more. It won't. It'll just mean fewer people will read your work, recommend it to others, and encourage THEM to buy. Oh well.

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

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  17. Thanks for the helpful info. One of the things I love most about your blog - there is always something of importance here.

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  18. Lisa Logan has the right idea on this, in my opinion.

    L. Diane Wolfe said "A security measure will need to be installed for E-Books - perhaps like computer programs where the user has to register before they can use the program?"

    This is what's known as DRM - Digital Rights Management. It doesn't work. Music has pretty much thrown off the shackles of DRM and appears to be thriving. However many people are stealing (contentious term, but I'll go with my first instinct) music, they don't represent lost revenue. Some people just won't pay. What you have to do is make it as easy as possible for the people who WANT to pay, to give you money.

    However much it rankles, and justifiably, that some people are taking your work for nothing, the alternative isn't forcing your customers to jump through hoops just to read your work, the real alternative is building relationships with your readers so they want to give you money.

    If you bought a book and it came with a phone number printed on the inside cover that you had to phone and quote your social security number every time you wanted to read it, would you be happy?

    Or would you buy or download the cheap knock-off that allowed you to read without interference?

    That's the digital choice you have. Persecute paying customers and turn them into pirates, or encourage them to form a bond and throw money at you.

    It's past midday here, so I'm a little buzzed. No offence intended by anything above, I know it's a hot button topic, but I offer you a heartfelt plea - people who want to pay you can only be discouraged by draconian measures. And please carefully assess the statements of publishers. The monoliths have most to lose, and ironically, most to gain from ebooks. A publisher has two jobs, on the one side talent spotting and creative control, and on the other managing papermills and printing presses. Which would you rather they focus on?

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