Seems that e-books are the talk of internetville. But doesn’t all this talk sound familiar? Stop me if you’ve heard this one:
Sales are down! Piracy is destroying the industry! Lawsuits! Copyright!! DRM!!!
Oh yes, that’s right. We DID hear all this before. From the music industry. We heard it when the cassette tape format was invented. We heard it again when CD burners became a household item. And we got to hear it again when Napster + broadband internet connections made it possible to download an entire library of audio in minutes. And now that books are on the block, we get to hear it again from the publishing industry.
Until recently, artistic works such as music, video, pictures and stories required a medium to contain the art and transfer it from one person to another. That medium (Tape, DVD, CD, Book, etc…) had a production cost, a fixed physical expense that someone had to pay because that THING had to be manufactured, packaged, shipped, received, warehoused, and stocked.
For decades, we’ve been told how much it costs to make THINGS and to ship THINGS and to stock THINGS. And the cost of the THINGS keeps going up because of [fill in the blank].
But consumers were never buying the THING. People don’t really want a cassette tape. Or a book. Or a computer file for that matter. Consumers want the art that the medium carries. They want the story about Frodo and Sam. They want the song by Jagged Spiral. They want the picture of the pirate flag.
With the internet, the medium is all but removed from the product, leaving an intangible stream of ones and zeros. At long last, the products of art have been un-THING-ified. Virtualized.
One of the reasons consumers never wanted the medium in the first place was that it adds unnecessary cost to the art. Well, now the medium is almost completely gone, but where are the savings? We should be seeing prices dive for the virtual products, but the industries still try to justify the old prices.
This is a problem.
Why are e-books selling for $9 when the hardcover version is $13? Why in the Hells do they both list at $29?
Seriously. Twenty Nine American Dollars is the Publisher’s Suggested Retail Price for an E-Book? Is that supposed to make you think that $9 is a good deal?
I’m not the only one calling the publishing industry out on it’s bullshit. New York Times Bestselling Author Michael Stackpole lists plenty of other reasons publishers can’t justify their e-book pricing.
The industry holds the price up, because they won’t let go of the THING-ness of their product. They see every sale of a virtual product as a direct equivalent of the sale of a physical product. They think that every e-book sold is a physical book not sold.
Reality Check: Virtual products are not Physical products.
Truth is, the publishing industry should be thrilled to death about internet distribution. E-books may have a lower cost, but they have a far higher margin than their physical counterparts. If you don’t know what that means, ask an accountant. If you can’t make your business work with this new math, then hire a fucking accountant, and change your business to become profitable. The last thing you’d want to do is waste money on lawyers to fight the system. Ask the recording industry.
Why is the industry is down? Why aren’t people buying? Its simple. The product is virtualized, but the price is not.
Hey, it’s a free market, and it’s not against the law for businesses or even the entire industry to use business practices leading to their own obsolescence. It also isn’t against the law for them to starve to death because they refuse to adapt to the new technology.
But it looks like instead of taking advantage of the new technology they have available, the publishing industry has decided to try to force a square peg into a round hole. When that doesn’t work, they sulk and stare at the dwindling sales and blame…
Before you break out the flamethrowers, understand that I’m not endorsing piracy. Piracy is unlawful and unethical. Google is evil for doing it, and so is everyone else who does it.
But I am telling you that it is entirely true that (music/movie/ebook) piracy is NOT “killing” the (recording/motion-picture/publishing) industry. It wasn’t back when cassette tapes came out. It wasn’t back when the VCR was released to consumers. Author’s careers are not being destroyed because their books are available for free at the library, or borrowed from friends, or sold in used bookstores. Musicians aren’t going broke because their songs are played on terrestrial radio, spotify, and pandora at no cost to consumers.
The publishing industry is down because of many factors, but piracy is the last one to worry about. Wasting time on it is like rearranging deck chairs on a sinking ship. Keelhauling every pirate in the universe won’t fix what’s wrong with the publishing industry, the music industry, or any other industry, because Pirates are not a problem; they are a symptom.
Let’s look at the problem that causes piracy to become popular:
Free as in “E-Books”
Price a product high enough and two things will happen.
Sales of that product will decrease.
Some customers will find other ways to get the product for less.
The music industry already learned this, but let’s look at how it pertains to the publishing industry, by examining these ‘other ways’ to get the product for less than the listed price:
You can get every Dean Koontz book ever written for free… at the public library.
You can get every Stephanie Meyer book for free… by borrowing them from your niece.
You can buy the latest Stephen King novel for One Dollar… on Craigslist. (In hardcover.)
You can buy Scott Sigler’s latest for just a couple bucks… at the used bookstore.
And you can get the latest of pretty much any e-book for free… by pirating it via bittorrent.
Care to wager that library usage is way up? Borrowing/lending? But you won’t hear about the publishing industry claiming that libraries are “Destroying the industry” or trying pass laws banning the sharing of books. That would be just as laughable as saying that pirates are destroying the industry. It’s just one more way customers can get the product if they don’t think it’s worth the list price.
Am I suggesting that publishers are causing an increase in piracy by setting their prices too high? Yes. Just like they are “causing” people to check books out at the library, or borrowing them instead of purchasing them at the bookstore. Just like they are causing consumers to obtain the product through other methods, or pass on the product altogether.
Of course publishers have to fight piracy, or people will think they’re OK with it. But to declare that piracy is destroying the publishing industry is simply not true. Illegal? Yes. On the rise? No doubt. But look at the cause:
Your business plan sucks.
Here’s where you should be focusing. Not on pirates. Solve this problem, and piracy will diminish, along with borrowing/lending and library usage.
But, we doesn’t understand business or teh Interwebs!
I can already hear the publishing industry screaming at me that it can’t make a profit off what people are willing to pay for e-books. What’s more likely is that they’ve been lying to the world for years about the costs attributable to the media (packing, shipping, storage, etc
You can price your product whereever you like, but products are never worth more than people are willing to pay for them. It doesn’t matter how much they cost to make. Like I said, price it too high and people won’t buy it or they will find cheaper alternatives. Yes, including piracy.
This is the spot where I’d make a “buggy whip manufacturer” reference, but q.e.d. right?
The solution starts by acknowledging the real problem.
The solution starts with letting go of the paradigm of treating ones and zeros on the web as a physical product. Virtual products are not Physical products.
The solution starts when people stop crying that change is bad, fighting against the new tech, and trying to cover up bad business models by blaming pirates.
I suspect the solution requires a generation of post-internet people growing up with virtualized products; people who weren’t born into a system of 100% THINGS and then had to suffer the paradigm shift to the virtual. These people will have a more intimate understanding of this “problem”, and perhaps when they grow up to take over for the current regime, they will arrive at a more elegant solution – one that works to Everyone’s advantage.
While researching different authors perspectives on e-book piracy, I tripped over a blog post by a New York Times Bestselling Author. Let’s call her Jenn. (Not her real name) Jenn’s blog post explains how piracy affects people she knows in the music industry, and her own career as an author. She experiences the direct impact of piracy firsthand, and she is clearly against the theft of intellectual property.
Yet the irony is that Jenn, herself, is a pirate.
That’s right. A New York Times Bestselling Author… a person who is directly affected by pirates stealing electronic versions of her work… a person who knows and understands piracy, and fears that it may be destroying the publishing industry…
Free Media (Images, Sounds, Video, etc…)
http://search.creativecommons.org/ – A search engine for media released under Creative Commons licensing. This does a sub-search of several other sites, including Flickr and Google Image Search.
But here is all you really need to know, from the website:
The distinction between fair use and infringement may be unclear and not easily defined.
The safest course is always to get permission from the copyright owner before using copyrighted material.
Besides, you don’t really want to argue over the definition of “Fair Use” in court, right? It isn’t worth it.
One thing you can do to help avoid issues from the start is…
Attribution of Your Sources
Some “free” media require you to attribute the author/source/owner of the media. Attribution is simply mentioning the copyright holder. This could be as simple as putting their name near a quote like this:
Twitter is about as useful as a wet-nap is to a scuba diver.
Or it could be listing the copyright holder in the tag of an mp3 file or movie credits.
Seems like every copyright holder has a different definition of “attribution” which makes it a pain in the ass to seem compliant. I imagine that’s probably why very few websites actually do it. And even proper attribution to the copyright holder is no protection from accusation of unfair use. But providing attribution (even if it isn’t a requirement of use) certainly makes you look better, both online and in a court of law.
Much of the “free” media is only free for non-commercial use. As you can imagine, the definition of “Commercial Use” has become a slippery topic. If you have Google Adwords running on your personal blog, is that “Commercial”? What if you use your blog as a focal point for adding readers to an e-mail list where you send out ‘exclusive offers’? What if you have a Paypal ‘Donate’ button at the bottom of your site?
Again, I recommend erring on the side of caution. If you are making money, then you should use media that allows for commercial use.
Editing, Remixing and Derivative Works
If you plan on editing a graphic, pic, sound file or video, make sure the usage license allows for derivative works, otherwise contact the media’s copyright holder for permission.
Welcome to 2010. Strangely, the things we’ve expected to be available like flying cars and holodecks… aren’t. Instead, we have the ability to communicate out to the entire internet-connected world and tell them what we had for dinner using Twitter.com. Yay.
For those who still don’t know the difference between Twitter and a tweet, read this post.
Believe it or not, Twitter does have uses beyond the obvious time-suck. For anyone wanting to cast their social network a little wider, Twitter is as simple as it gets. If nothing else, it offers more links back to your content. The act of sending tweets isn’t difficult, but who wants to deal with following/unfollowing people and cut-n-pasting blog post links into a tweet? Sounds like more upkeep than it’s worth for just another link back to your blog. If there was only a way to automate the process…
Well you’re in luck, because I have some tips that turn Twitter into your slave, and make it automatically administrate and update itself with content for you! Real content too, not the B.S. jokes and quotes the New Media Spambags are pumping out.
If you don’t do Twitter because you have no idea what to tweet about, take advantage of these simple tips to get some auto-tweeting working for you. If you are already a tweetmaster, these tips are an easy way to add some content and housekeeping to your existing regimen.
If you don’t have one already, set up an account at Twitter.com then follow these simple tips to make Twitter work for you: [Read more…]
The group met last Sunday and I was one of five authors on the critique hot-seat. If I learned one thing, it’s that getting honest criticism of your work is awkward. And sifting out good criticism from bad is difficult.
Wait, that’s two things I learned.
Actually, I learned a lot.
A Kick in the Balls… or not?
Opinions differed about many aspects of my story, but none as interesting as the division of opinions about our hero Nix kicking some jerk in the balls. There seemed to be no middle ground on this one. Half the group felt it was cliche and trite. The other half thought it was completely understandable and in-character.
My reasoning behind writing the kick-in-the-balls scene:
I needed to disable the jerk character, and make sure he didn’t leave the scene, or put up resistance.
It helps define the hero’s attitude.
The hero needed a vehicle to make a hasty getaway. After kicking said jerk in the balls, the hero takes his keys.
Kicking him in the balls accomplishes these goals swimmingly, and has the following added bonus features:
Most people know the effects of kicking someone in the balls (even those who haven’t experienced it firsthand) making it a very efficient narrative. One sentence conveys it all.
It adds a touch of comic relief.
It insinuates some sexual domination of the hero over the jerk.
The major drawback is that enough people (almost 50%) felt it was cliche enough to mention so in the critique. The majority of those who thought kicking a guy in the balls was cliche were women. Then again, the majority of the members of the MNSpec critique group were women. I’ll let you make your own inferences.
I’ve decided that I’ll see if I can write up an action that disables the jerk, defines the hero, and doesn’t take up much real estate in the story… without the cliche kick to the scrotum.
Inject the Venom… or not?
Another discussion that ensued was about our Hero ending an argument with her friend by injecting him with a drug that makes him pass out. Some found this action impossible to justify, and some had no problem with it.
The argument was very similar to the argument about the hero kicking someone in the balls. Those against the action said that it was unnecessary – the hero could simply leave of her own accord. She’s an adult and doesn’t need to knock out this other character and run away. It was labeled ‘aggressively passive-aggressive’ behavior. Although like I said, some people thought it worked just fine.
In this case, I’d have to agree with voting it off the island. It was quick and easy to write. Simpler and faster to dodge the issue than talk about it at length. I’ll change it, but I’m not exactly thrilled. Why? Because I’m writing an action/adventure story, not a fucking Throap like…
…Buffy The Vampire Slayer
It’s bound to happen. Write a story about a kick-ass heroine, and the comparisons spew out like beer at a Nascar rally:
Alright, no one really compared my story to V.I. Warshawski. But I learned that I dislike my work being compared to hack TV shows that I’ve never seen. I guess if the genre is popular enough to be lumped into, then there must be a hell of a market.
I suspect that no matter what genre you write in (or what art you create for that matter) there will always be those who have to lump it in with all similar works. Guess I just need to get used to it.
There were some things that everyone agreed on. They liked the pacing. They liked the fight scenes, even people who admitted they didn’t ordinarily like fight scenes, which I took as high praise. They all liked the description of the abandoned medical facility. Everyone liked the main character, Nix.
There were unanimous #EpicFails. Not searching characters for weapons once they are captured is a faux pas. Having weapons easily accessible; ditto. Handily-placed-syringes-labeled-in-the-Queen’s-English is frowned upon.
I don’t agree with all the critiques. Someone said that in a short story I should only have one thing blowing up in a fiery ball of fire and probably not at the start of the story. Obviously, this person has never seen a Michael Bay film.
Someone mockingly pointed out my instances of “Purple Prose” meaning phrases that are, “sensually evocative beyond the requirements of its context”. Point taken, and I appreciate the observation, if not the tone, which was a bit purple itself. I’m trying to take all criticism with a pound of salt, but my editor Sue might be right – she tells me that writers are cursed with terribly thin skin.
One suggestion was for me to ditch the fight scene at the beginning and start several pages into the existing story, with our main character in motion. I might do just that because it makes good sense for the work by itself. I have to remember that it’s detached from the full work. Once the short story becomes integrated into the full work (possibly in a later edition) I’ll likely add the fight scene back in. It means I have to rework the motivation for our hero to leave home.
The biggest praise came from the group organizer Hillary, who said I should try to sell the story before releasing it on the internet for free. I was surprised that anyone thought it worthy of publication. Another person said it had a “pulp sensibility” which I’ll take as a complement.
All in all, there’s plenty of resource in the massive stack of sequoia-killing redlined manuscripts I brought home from the group critique. I’ll rewrite “Yellow King” and pass it along to an editor, then release it for FREE either later this year or early in 2010. Those who are interested in reading it should sign up for the newsletter, or keep checking back here on the blog – you’ll be the first to know.
As a Christmas present to you all, I’ve compiled this list of 10 Free Softwares and Services for your computing needs. As an IT guy, I’ve tested and trusted these programs over the last year, so I can vouch for their non-evilness. (Just make sure you’re downloading them from the right site!)
Ditch Microsoft Office! Gmail is a must-have. The mail program alone is awesome, allowing you 7GB of mail, built-in antivirus, excellent spam filtering, tagging and searching ability, auto responder, etc., but they keep adding features that make it an all-in-one replacement for Microsoft Office on your home computer. Google Docs gives you the ability to create, edit and save Word Documents, PowerPoint Presentations, and Excel Spreadsheets. Google Chat allows text, audio and now even video chats between people (much like Skype). The Calendar function can send you SMS or e-mail notices of events. It does Contacts and Tasks too. No software to install on your computer, all the data is kept online, so there’s no need to back-up, and it’s available from any internet-connected computer.
Ditch OneNote! Evernote is a place to create your own database of information – store text, drawings, task lists, webpage clips, recipes, meeting notes, pictures and screenshots, random thoughts and have them all tagged, labeled, and easy to search. Those who already use Microsoft’s fabulous OneNote program will want to switch to Evernote. Why? Because instead of a file on your computer, your data lives on Evernote’s online servers, available through their website from any computer connected to the internet. Better yet, they have a local program that you can install on any computer, mobile phone or pocket pc, and use offline, and it can SYNCRONIZE with the online data.
Ditch bookmarks! Delicious allows you to save website bookmarks in an online account. Never lose your bookmarks again, and make them available from any computer. Share your bookmarks with others, and see how many people have bookmarked the same links. Check out their simple-to-install buttons for Internet Explorer and Firefox which makes saving bookmarks easy. Tip: Use igoogle.com as your homepage, and add the delicious bookmark gadget, and your bookmarks are available as soon as you open your browser.
Ditch Spyware! A horribly named program, but it works really well. Gets rid of all the things AntiVirus does not. It always finds things, even on brand new computers, clears out junky programs and cookies. Takes forever to run, but can improve your computer’s performance. Install it Before you have problems. Windows only.
Ditch Metallica! Jagged Spiral is way better. Download their debut album Days From Evil for free; just follow this link and scroll down to “Days From Evil Downloadable Tracks” [Update Aug 2015 – Both Jagged Spiral albums are available for free here: Jagged Spiral on Bandcamp and Jagged Spiral On Souncloud.]
Ditch I-tunes! Songbird works with all operating systems, your I-pod, other audio devices, and your existing music library. It’s a strange musicplayer/webbrowser hybrid, so it has a few tricks up its sleeve. It can display song lyrics, artist news, flickr pictures, and even concert info auto-magically as it changes songs! It even links to where you can purchase concert tickets. Songbird is open source software (by the same nice people who brought you Firefox) so there’s plenty of user-generated plugins and color themes for it. All operating systems.
Ditch Google Maps! Google Earth is an amazing program that lets you scroll around the world with a camera’s eye view that you can mark up, add pictures, notes, reviews, and share them with the world. Download sightseeing tours, create and zoom through 3D models of cities, and make sure to Track Santa’s Progress on Christmas Eve! Note: Your computer will need some horsepower to run this application.
It’s really simple. The Windows clock sits on the taskbar and when you put the cursor over it, you’re supposed to get the date. Amazingly this does not always happen. Windows 95/98/ME/2000/XP ALL have this problem. The problem was solved with Windows Vista, but thankfully, a Smart person created LClock so we don’t have to upgrade to a new operating system just to get a clock that works. Run LClock and you will actually get the date when you hover your cursor over the time, click the time and a calendar of the current month pops up. Scroll back and forth through the months. Configure the color, font and position of your clock, switch to military time, etc. Basically all the things Windows clock should have done 13 years ago.
So there you go, a virtual boatload of Christmas Free-Softwareness, tested and approved by yours truly. Check back next year for more. If I missed anything make sure to leave a comment below.
The full article on billboard.biz requires subscription, but you can read enough excerpts here and from the Motley Crue fan club site to get the point:
Gene Simmons is an Idiot with a Capitalist I.
“Free Music Nonsense”
In a recent interview with Billboard magazine, Gene Simmons admits that all of this “Free Music Nonsense” could have been prevented if the Recording Industry had taken action from the beginning:
Simmons: The record industry doesn’t have a f*cking clue how to make money. It’s only their fault for letting foxes get into the henhouse and then wondering why there’s no eggs or chickens. Every little college kid, every freshly-scrubbed little kid’s face should have been sued off the face of the earth. They should have taken their houses and cars and nipped it right there in the beginning. Those kids are putting 100,000 to a million people out of work. How can you pick on them? They’ve got freckles. That’s a crook. He may as well be wearing a bandit’s mask.
Gene Simmons must be the RIAA’s wet dream. He’s so entrenched in “the way we’ve always done it” that it is simply outside of his understanding that the world has changed.
Pirates are way cool.
And blaming the industry’s poor earnings on pirates instead of the RIAA’s own short-sightedness? Classic. Good luck with that, or haven’t you heard? Johnny Depp and Keith Richards have made pirates cool again.
You can also go to the Louvre and pay to see the real thing for a short time.
For slightly more money you can own a poster copy.
With all of the money Gene Simmons has made, you could own the real thing.
Now, why would people pay to see the Mona Lisa, or pay for a poster-sized copy of the Mona Lisa, or pay to own the Mona Lisa, when they can see it online for Free? OH MY FUCKING GOD! HOW CAN THE ARTIST MAKE ANY MONEY WHEN YOU CAN ACCESS THE ART ONLINE FOR FREEEEEEeeee….. [insert sound of Gene Simmons screaming as he falls into the abyss of his own stupidity here]
As a musician, I would rather give my music away online for free (as a matter of fact, I do give it away for free) than to see a dime go into the pockets of the Recording Industry. Until they wise up and change their business practices to work with the technology available they are irrelevant – by their own choice, or lack thereof.
Hey, it’s a free country and it isn’t against the law for them to maintain business practices leading them into obscurity and uselessness. It also isn’t against the law for them to all die of starvation because they refused to change.
You think the system still has some value because it helped make you rich? Perhaps we should all go back to using cassette tapes, so the cassette tape manufacturers can stay in business?
Meet the RIAA’s new way of doing business… Oh wait, it hasn’t changed
Billboard: But some artist [SIC] like RADIOHEAD and Trent Reznor are trying to find a new business model.
Simmons: That doesn’t count. You can’t pick on one person as an exception. And that’s not a business model that works. I open a store and say “Come on in and pay whatever you want.” Are you on f*cking crack? Do you really believe that’s a business model that works?
Someone points the way out of Gene Simmons stupidity, and he asks them if they are on drugs.
You know Gene, as a matter of fact, opening a store with almost negligible overhead and upkeep, ZERO manufacturing and distribution costs, GLOBAL DISTRIBUTION and open 24x7x365, and then asking for donations is a fucking phenomenal business model.
I’m not saying the industry should adopt Radiohead’s buisness practices, but at least Radiohead are willing to try something, because it seems like the recording industry would sooner destroy the internet than to learn how to profit from it.
I wonder if the RIAA got this upset about the invention of electricity. “OMG! Electricity is going to ruin our industry! People will stop going to concerts! They are going to stay at home and listen to music broadcast over radio waves for FREE! How will we ever survive? PI-RATES!”
A Lesson In Value
Billboard: So what if music just becomes free and artists make their living off of touring and merchandise?
Simmons: Well, therein lies the most stupid mistake anybody can make. The most important part is the music. Without that, why would you care? Even the idea that you’re considering giving the music away for free makes it easier to give it away for free. The only reason why gold is expensive is because we all agree that it is. There’s no real use for it, except we all agree and abide by the idea that gold costs a certain amount per ounce. As soon as you give people the choice to deviate from it, you have chaos and anarchy. And that’s what going on.
Don’t we already give the music away for free on terrestrial radio? And I’ll bet I can check out Hotter Than Hell as the local library. For free. The difference is that I don’t “own” them in either case.
When we buy music, we aren’t actually buying the music. We’re buying the medium, the “thing” that the music lives on. These things have always been worth what people are willing to pay for them. Now, change “Physical CDs” into “Bits on the internet”…
When the value of the thing decreases, the sticker price should also decrease. But that isn’t happening. The cost of a physical CD with 15 songs is around $15.00. The price of 15 songs on I-tunes is around… $15.00
And you want to know why people aren’t buying?
And you want to know why people are turning to piracy?
Change is Good… just not yet
Gene, calling this change “chaos and anarchy” may be your perception, but in reality it’s just Change. Change from one system to another system, one that you don’t like, because you don’t know how it will make you money. Your diatribe is just another dying gasp from an industry that is choking itself to death, because it isn’t smart enough to move to where the air is.
And blaming pirates. Honestly.
Gene, I know you worked hard using the system you had available at the time, and it worked out well for you. Congratulations. But the rules have changed. Clinging to the old way won’t help. And if people like you and the RIAA won’t figure out how to use the new way, others will. And it will seem like “chaos and anarchy” to you.
We don’t need people like you complaining that “change is bad.” We need people adapting to the change and figuring out how to make things better for both artists and consumers.