The Stupidity of Worrying About Piracy
Posted on May 13, 2005 Posted by John Scalzi 113 Comments
The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, to which I belong, recently e-mailed its members a poll about Amazon’s “look within the book” feature, about how they felt about it and whether they’d want to let Amazon browsers check out their books online — and how much of the book they’d want to let people read. It’s a perfectly legitimate question, and I think that it should be up to the writers and publishers to make that decision. But whomever it is that wrote the poll (I assume Andrew Burt, as it’s hosted on his site) is apparently so paranoid about piracy that they’ve felt it was perfectly fine to add editorial comment in the poll itself warning about the dangers of Amazon-borne piracy.
For example, one questions asking how much of a work one would want to have accessible to Amazon browsers is phrased this way: “What percent would you want blocked of your work to prevent piracy?” I’m not a professional pollster, but I know a push poll question when I see it, and I don’t like it any more when it comes from SFWA than when it comes from a political party.
My response to the poll, incidentally, was that I wanted all of the book available for Amazon shoppers to browse. I want this for many reasons, not the least of which is simply parity of shopping experience to bookstores, where one can go up to the bookshelves, crack open a book, and read as much of it as one wants to see if one is interested in making a purchase. As it happens, I don’t buy very many books online because I can’t open the book and see the text, and with new writers especially, I’m not going to buy without checking out the book first.
Now, flip this over: I’m a new writer and I know for a fact that a rather substantial percentage of my sales have been online sales, thanks to the fact that so many purchases of Old Man’s War have been driven by bloggers, and because for various reasons the book has been damned hard to find in actual bookstores (there’s never been a single copy in my local bookstore, for example). Why would I shoot my sales in the foot by not letting readers browse my book, just as much as they’d like to browse, just like they would be able to do in a brick and mortar store?
The quick and obvious answer to this — if one is paranoid about piracy — is that in a brick and mortar store, someone can’t take a screen capture of your book, run it through software and make a readable text file of your book that they then post on Kazaa, arrrrrr, for all their scurvy friends to read for free. And the answer to this is: Well, jeez, people. As if that very same would be pirate couldn’t check out my book from the library and do the same damn thing with a scanner. I’m not terribly convinced that doing a screen capture of every single page of my book on Amazon is any less work than scanning in every single page of a print copy.
Banning people from reading my book on Amazon is unlikely to deter someone who is truly motivated to pirate my book, and to scan every single friggin’ page — however one does it — you have to be pretty goddamn motivated. You’d also have to pretty motivated to read my entire book through Amazon’s less-than-entirely-user-friendly text preview tool. Most people just aren’t going to do that, and the ones that are, I’m not going to sell to anyway. I’m not going to punish the people who are likely to buy my book on the off chance that I might temporarily inconvenience someone who won’t. That’s just stupid. So: I’ll let Amazon show off the entire book. I don’t see how it can hurt me, and I see lots of ways it can help me.
Does this mean I run the risk of being pirated? Well, clearly it does. But let take a nice cold shower and look at this logically, shall we?
Let’s ask: Who are pirates? They are people who won’t pay for things (i.e., dickheads), or they’re people who can’t pay for things (i.e., cash-strapped college students and others). The dickheads have ever been with us; they wouldn’t pay even if they had the money. I don’t worry about them, I just hope they fall down an abandoned well, break their legs and die of gangrene after several excruciatingly painful days of misery and dehydration, and then I hope the rats chew the marrow from their bones and shit back down the hollows. And that’s that for them.
As for the people who can’t pay for things, well, look. I grew up poor and made music tapes off the radio; my entire music collection from ages 11 to 14 consisted of tapes that had songs missing their first ten seconds and whose final ten seconds had DJ chatter on them; from 14 to 18, I taped off my friends; from 18 to 22 I reviewed music so I could get it for free. And then after that, once I had money, I bought my music. Because I could. As for books, I bought secondhand paperbacks through my teen and college years. Now I buy hardbacks. Again, because I can. Now, being a writer, you can argue that I’m more self-interested in paying for creative work than others, but I have to honestly say that I don’t know anyone who can pay for a book or a CD or a DVD or whatever who doesn’t, far more often than not.
I don’t see the people who can’t pay as pirates. I see them as people who will pay, once they can. Until then, I think of it as I’m floating them a loan. Nor is it an entirely selfless act. I’m cultivating a reader — someone who thinks of books as a legitimate form of entertainment — and since I want to be a writer until I croak, that’s a good investment for me. More specifically, I’m cultivating a reader of me, someone who will at some point in the future see a book of mine of the shelf, go “Scalzi! I love that dude!” and then take the book off the shelf and take it to the register.
Yes, there’s an investment risk — the cash-strapped reader might in fact turn out to be a full-bore dickhead, in which case we already know what I think should happen to him — but it’s a chance I’m willing to take.
It’s a chance I’m willing to take because I believe that fundamentally, most people aren’t thieving dickheads; they’re people who if they like your writing will want to support your career, so long as you don’t treat them like you’re a mall security guard, and they’re Winona Ryder. Treat readers like they can’t be trusted and there’s no reason for them not to live down to your expectations. Make it clear to them that they’re integral to your continued success, and they will help you succeed. Treat them like human beings, for God’s sake.
Here’s another reason I don’t worry about piracy. As most of you who read here regularly know, I recently announced that I and Tor would give free electronic copies of Old Man’s War to service people stationed in Afghanistan and Iraq. I took the very minimal precaution of asking that deployed soldiers make their request from the “.mil” e-mail addresses, but other than that, I simply asked people who are not “over there” not to request a book.
It worked: I haven’t gotten people misrepresenting themselves for a free book, and I haven’t found one of those “over there” editions floating around aimlessly on the Web. I treated people like they were honorable adults, and so far it’s worked. Until it becomes clear to me that it’s not working anymore, I’ll keep doing what I’m doing. If SFWA persists in wasting its time fighting an overblown battle with piracy on Amazon, it’ll do it without me. It’s not a battle I see worth fighting.
Coincidentally, I just posted about a guy who read my entire book in the store, then sent me a money order as “royalties.” And yeah, I figure that he couldn’t pay the $17 for the whole book, but he wanted me to have something.
He’s not a pirate. Originally, a “pirate” was a guy in China or wherever, who re-prints your books and sells them for a profit, of which you get nothing. (There’s been some hysteria-induced pirate inflation.) And I’m glad this guy is a fan. I’m pretty much sure that when he gets richer, he’ll be buying me retail, in hardback. In the meantime, he’ll be telling his friends about me.
Pretty much what Scott said. If I don’t get my fifty cents in hand now, I’ll get it in word of mouth. I understand the Baen Free Library is driving backlist and frontlist pretty well.
That’s some nice bluster, John. Strutting up and down your own blog, from which you’ve made several book deals out of posting your books in their entirety, and where you’ve probably garnered many of the readers buying your books. OK, sure, so most of us (including me) agree with every single word you said and are actually extremely appreciative of your stance. That doesn’t make you any less smug.
And don’t think the fact that I’m a petty bastard who is just sore about being a nodding sycophant of yours makes it all OK either. So there.
I’m a newly published specfic writer myself, and I noticed a similar phenomenon with ARCs. I got a box of ten of them, and passed ’em out like candy. Half a dozen people liked it enough to order the actual hardback for themselves.
I’ve got about 3,800 words of excerpt on my website, two tie-in short stories, and an essay (soon to be expanded) about writing the book. Here’s hoping that has the same effect as the ARCs!
I am a poor college student myself, and yet I spend most of the extra money I get on books and music (as opposed to, say, food and utility bills). It’s a philosophical thing: I can’t stand being one of these jerks with a music library of 5,000 songs all downloaded illegaly. When I have no extra money, I simply don’t buy music, and I get my books at the library. So piracy has never been an option with me. But it’s nice to know that considering my financial status, I have your blessing to read your books without compensating you.
On a related note, I think there is a small, but potentially important, difference between reading an entire book on Amazon for free and reading it in a bookstore. The effort required to read it on Amazon–you know, sitting at home in front of your computer in your underwear–is quite a bit smaller than going to a bookstore to read it, considering you have to leave the house to get there, you have to hope you can stay there long enough to finish it without anyone bothering you, and you may be required to wear pants.
Good stance, no argument here, but I will correct one incorrect statement you made: “I’m not terribly convinced that doing a screen capture of every single page of my book on Amazon is any less work than scanning in every single page of a print copy.”
The problem here is that you perceive the process of capping and OCRing screens to be a manual one, it’s not, it’d take me about 5 minutes to write a script that’ll load up, cap, and OCR every page of the title in question sequentially, all I’d have to do after that is leave the computer alone for 30-60 minutes or however long it’s likely to take. Now I’m a mediocre programmer, you can be sure the automation tools designed and/or used by full time pirates are far more efficient than anything I could knock up in my spare time, excepting the occasional amateur you’re not going to find a book pirate hunched up over a scanner with a paperback. In contrast automating a scan on a physical book is either impossible or at least requires some pretty expensive purpose built equipment.
One small correction, the above assumes of course that a book already exists out there in some protected or restricted digital form. If it doesn’t scanning is still the only option :P.
It’s warms my heart to hear someone standing up in public and saying they have faith in others.
John said: “What percent would you want blocked of your work to prevent piracy?” I’m not a professional pollster, but I know a push poll question when I see it, and I don’t like it any more when it comes from SFWA than when it comes from a political party.
I read the question differently. I saw it as a question designed to find out what percentage authors perceive as a “safe” percentage.
Argh. Posted too soon.
John, what you say may be true for fiction (people tell me they read my free online fiction and went on to look for the print stuff, so I look at it as effective advertising), but I think the case changes for nonfiction, especially reference books. I prefer my books in hardcopy, but what motivation, other than something like that, does a person have to buy a reference book when they can simply read whatever part of it they please online, any time they want? Yes, yes, there are all kinds of work-arounds–Xeroxing pages from library books and all that. But it’s much simpler when you can grab it online, and you don’t even have to wear pants, although in hot weather you can stick to your chair if you don’t wear pants and you have that kind of chair.
Coincidentally enough, I was last night looking for a book on a particular topic. Of the five books that turned up as plausible results, three of them had internal excerpts and two didn’t. Since there weren’t many reader reviews on any of the books, the only thing I had to judge by were the excerpts, so the ones without excerpts were summarily dismissed from consideration as being too chancy.
“I prefer my books in hardcopy, but what motivation, other than something like that, does a person have to buy a reference book when they can simply read whatever part of it they please online, any time they want?”
Well, in asmuch as nearly every piece of reference material is available in some form online without resorting to piracy, the additional worry of someone using Amazon as a library-like resource is a small one, I think. Ultimately much of the reference material will simply go online: I’ve been paying $5/month for Encyclopedia Britannica for several years now because it’s a useful resource to me; and if there were another catch-all reference site like it somewhere, I wouldn’t mind paying for that, either.
However, I also suspect that people will continue to own refernces books anyway, because it’s often more convenient to simply crack open a book than go through a search engine, looking for viable references. I wrote an astronomy book a couple of years ago, the information in which is all available for free on the Internet (I know because that’s where I reconfirmed most of my information — go NASA.gov!), and yet the book recently earned out royalties and is still a strong seller for Rough Guides.
“The problem here is that you perceive the process of capping and OCRing screens to be a manual one, it’s not, it’d take me about 5 minutes to write a script that’ll load up, cap, and OCR every page of the title in question sequentially, all I’d have to do after that is leave the computer alone for 30-60 minutes or however long it’s likely to take.”
I certainly agree that a motivated pirate could do just that, but again, we’re talking about a very specialized minority of people who can and/or would design such a program — or download it off a warez newsgroup and use it. These people are in the “dickhead” class, who wouldn’t buy my work anyway. The people on Kazaa who download the book they’ve rip may or may not be dickheads.
“And I’m glad this guy is a fan. I’m pretty much sure that when he gets richer, he’ll be buying me retail, in hardback. In the meantime, he’ll be telling his friends about me.”
Yup. Interestingly, I did that sort of thing once: I bought an out of print book by a science fiction writer and wrote him to get his address so I could send him a couple of dollars, since the reason I got his bookused was because I couldn’t buy it new.
“The effort required to read it on Amazon–you know, sitting at home in front of your computer in your underwear–is quite a bit smaller than going to a bookstore to read it.”
You go to the bookstore in pants? Now I know what I was doing wrong all this time.
It’s certainly easier to access Amazon than a local bookstore, but I don’t see why I should penalize potential buyers because if it. On the flip side, a bookstore is far easier to browse than Amazon; My anecdotal experience is that people come to Amazon with a book already in mind rather than dropping by for a pleasurable browsing experience. So despite an near-infinitely larger book stock, I suspect people look at fewer books at Amazon than they do at a local bookstore.
Also, of course, while it’s easier to shop online, people still love to, you know, leave the computer and go shopping. I’ve noted I do most of my book shopping off the computer, and I’m as wired as you get without tipping over completely into computer geekdom.
I love buying books online, and I’d love to be able to see more of the book before buying. I’m a librarian, and what I often do is read a book at my library, love it, and then I go out and buy it to add to my own collection. This is, in fact, how I discovered Old Man’s War. Your book came across my desk to be cataloged, I liked the looks of it, and (after cataloging it) I took it home to read. I loved it so much, I bought my own copy, and have since purchased three other copies for friends. If I like it, I buy it. It’s a weird possession thing. Thanks for being cool and taking this stance of faith in your fans.
I recently passed on buying a book on Amazon that I was seriously considering because there were no sample pages available. I looked for it at my local bookstore and found something else instead. I’m sure I’m not a singular phenomenon in this regard.
Ya just really got to have faith in the goodwill of others in the business you’re in. It’s just too easy to obtain information in other ways. As far as the creator goes, sending out copies of an E-book to your friends is practically the exact same thing as loaning them your copy of the book..just accelerated. I mean, how many books do you read more than once? (I have maybe 5 books total that I’ve read more than once. Strange that the guy who wrote two of them posted in this thread. What a weird world we live in.)
It’s the same thing with any sort of IP really. Movie retailers are competing against Blockbuster. Music retailers are competing against radio. Authors are competing against your local library. All these are much cheaper ways to get the same content, to the amount that most people are going to use it.
But like someone said, most people who can and like something enough buy it. I don’t buy too many books, but I don’t read too many books either.. My mother-in-law reads a bunch more..she buys some, she gets some used, and she goes to the library for others. Some people are getting screwed, but hopefully it all gets evened out in the end.
“I certainly agree that a motivated pirate could do just that, but again, we’re talking about a very specialized minority of people who can and/or would design such a program — or download it off a warez newsgroup and use it.”Yeah, but do you then concede that in the age of the internet, one dickhead’s labors can be accessed by potentially millions of people via www, bittorrent, edonkey, etc?What about a couple years from now when everyone has eInk, OLED, or whatever technology that allows them to have a PDA with a large screen whose resolution is comparable to paper? How are writers supposed to make money then when ebook piracy doesn’t have the same drawbacks as it does today?
Just to add some more data points:
I think Amazon has a wonderful setup, but I still buy the vast majority of my books at the local bookstore, precisely because I do like being able to browse through the book to my hearts content before buying. If more books on Amazon start having a substantial number of pages in the “look within the book” feature, I might start buying more online. As it is, now I mostly go to Amazon for assigned textbooks that I know I have to get anyway.
I only spent the money to buy Old Man’s War because I had previously been impressed by John’s free online writings, and because when I glanced through the book in the store, what I read confirmed my high expectations.
Even if I could download an electronically pirated book, I’d prefer to spend the money on a nice hardcopy book that I can carry around with me. Reading on a screen is just not as good an experience.
On the subject of “… they’re people who if they like your writing will want to support your career…, there was a link in the comments of an earlier post pointing out that Lawrence Watt-Evans is giving his readers a chance to subsidize the writing of his new Ethshar novel, which otherwise would not be getting published any time soon. (Details here.) Many of us who have been impatiently waiting for the series to continue have already kicked in. I don’t know too many other fields where your customers would be that supportive.
Hmmph. The comment preview doesn’t show line breaks, so I inserted them with html. Then upon posting, the line breaks are re-inserted, along with the ones I created manually. Darn buggy blogging software.
“What about a couple years from now when everyone has eInk, OLED, or whatever technology that allows them to have a PDA with a large screen whose resolution is comparable to paper? How are writers supposed to make money then when ebook piracy doesn’t have the same drawbacks as it does today?”
I really dont know, but i think that if there is anything that history can teach us is that they *will* figure out a way of making it by: I can imagine anyone becoming an sf author for the money (or an author in general).
I will now transform into my economist self and tell you how i think this might be solved: distributed patronage:
Perhaps one way is that we will solve the public goods problem (having all ebooks be fully free and online without DRM) by using something along the lines of assurance contracts, the folks at Fundable.org seem to be attempting to lower the transaction costs for this kind of thing. There was a paper a while back by A. Tabarrok ( http://mason.gmu.edu/~atabarro/PrivateProvision.pdf ) where he shows that theoretically we might even be able to beat the sort of multiple equilibria problems that naturally arise in this sort of scheme.
So author X writes his first book and releases it for free, or realeses the first 10 chapters for free. If N amount of money gets donated he releases the rest, else eveyone gets whatever they donated back (or even better what they donated + 1 dollar back).
what do you guys think?
I think we’re on a cusp here. The edge of the generation that just doesn’t “get it” regarding digital media, and the generation that does. The one that doesn’t “get it” still use AOL and IE and freak out over stuff that’s irrelevant and ignore digital issue that matter.
The generation that does “get it” are aware of issues like piracy (arrr!) and treat them with the concern they deserve, concern, not freak-out-ishness.
Meanwhile we have the RIAA, and the MPAA, and now the SFWA, doing everything they can to address issues that are worthy of concern, as issues which are catastrophic. What they end up doing is hampering progress, mostly, and getting a lot of jeering at at places like Slashdot. And because they seem so authoritarian and ridgid, they gain the ire of rebellious young people who basically feel justified in piracy because of their restrictions.
…and then we get articles like this.
Confession time (positive ending):
Short on excess cash and living in the boonies, we used to tape movies from TV/cable. Watched ’em for years. Since, most of our favorites have been released on DVD. We bought ’em, because they were our favorites. Call it time-shifted purchasing. Would we have ever bought the rest? Doubtful.
The same thing happened with music. The more I got to know and respect a composer/musician, the more likely I was to purchase. Had I not had the chance to record and the time to listen, I might not have come to hear and respect these people.
Sounds like “Long Tail” to me. I’d guess that libraries have had much the same function in promoting awareness and sales for creators. I recall an old song lyric, which thanks to a FREE SEARCH ENGINE I can point to:
Boingboing has something on the subject:
“What about a couple years from now when everyone has eInk, OLED, or whatever technology that allows them to have a PDA with a large screen whose resolution is comparable to paper? How are writers supposed to make money then when ebook piracy doesn’t have the same drawbacks as it does today?”
Do writers make much money now? Especially SciFi writers?
Unfortunately, most scifi publishers are making the same mistake as the record and movie industry in treating their customers like theives when it comes to e-books. I buy a lot of electronic books because I refuse to read non-electronic. And a lot of what I buy is sci fi, and 90% of it is DRMed all to shit.
So, say, I want to buy a copy of Hitchhiker’s Guide to re-read it before I see the movie. Well, great, I can get it for about $9 in electronic form, but its DRMed. So what do I do, I buy it in a DRM form that I can crack and convert to HTML so I can then convert it to the format that my ebook reader uses.
And I do this enough and at some point I say “f— it” — they’re making me commit a criminal act just to read the book I paid for, why bother paying for the book at all — I’ll just download it on a P2P network.
How do you make money writing scifi in an all-electronic universe? How do you make money producing news on the web or selling music?
I don’t know the answer, but you start by not treating your customers as if they were criminals.
Excellent commentary. Eric Flint, who is a fellow SF writer, would applaud. As he remarks in his “Prime Palaver” over at the Baen Free Library (www.baen.com), sales of his first novel went up AFTER it was available free on the net.
So much for piracy. Heh heh.
Incidentally, is there any hope that “Old Man’s War” et al might show up on fictionwise where I can get at them? I’m perfectly happy to pay reasonable prices for ebooks, and Tor seems to be rather negative in the clue department.
Dunno. I let Tor have the electronic rights, so it’s up to them. I don’t think Tor is clueless on e-rights (they let Cory do his thing with his books), but I don’t think they’re entirely convinced that they’re a profitable expenditure of their time at the moment.
“How are writers supposed to make money then when ebook piracy doesn’t have the same drawbacks as it does today?”
Eh. I made $4,000 by making “Agent to the Stars” a “shareware” novel, so I suspect that even if there were no way to formally monetize electronic copies of book, people would still be able to make money.
I’ve been buying and reading eBooks for a year or 2 now. I’ve spent several hundred dollars on them and haven’t pirated a single one, yet I have no qualnms about downloading the MP3 of a song that takes my fancy, for a listen. Why? Because until very recently if I wanted to try a new song online I couldn;t, and even now publishing companies put all kinds of hurdles in my way to me being able to just grab and listen to what I want, when I want, in return for a reasonable fee.
Contrast Ebooks. I log in to Fictionwise, browse till I find what I like, click buy, download in 30 seconds and I have the book on my PDA to read where and when I want. Why pirate?
I have 2 complaints though.
1) The range is not good enough yet, and too many Authors just publish using one proprietary software. There are 4 or 5 books I would have boyught by now if they were avauilable in anything other than MSreader
2) Pricing is too high, relatively. Basically I am paying the same for an eBook as I do for teh hardcopy. Now printing and distributing a hardbook book is far from costless I woudl expect to see those savings passed on.
IMO the more and freer access people have to online literature, the more they’ll buy.
John: I’m curious…many of us came to this page after Cory linked to it from Boing! Boing! Do you share his view that scifi is on a downward spiral as far as readership?
Anyway, like Tom I also buy on FictionWise. If I’m going to buy a DRMed book, however, I’ll buy the MSReader version because that is the easiest to crack. Again, not because I want to upload it to P2P, but because I don’t want to pay for a book and then be locked into a single reader format forever.
And I think writers will make money because I’d still rather buy directly from the publisher or author rather than download the book. A lot of scifi books are available on Usenet groups, but most of them are horribly formatted to the point where they’re all but useless…just like downloading some poorly ripped MP3.
If you look at Baen, where I also tend to buy, they post their books in multiple formats. I know where to get those books from people who have no scruples, but the price is low enough and I’d like to encourage scifi writing, so what’s the point? If the price is low enough, the opportunity cost of seeking out a pirated version is actually higher than going to Baen and just buying the darn thing.
I have mixed feelings about e-book pricing. On the one hand, its kind of silly. I can buy the paper version of Hitchhiker’s Guide on Amazon.Com *cheaper* than the DRMed e-book version on Fictionwise. But I can’t easily rip the paper version and add it to my desktop search application.
This is especially the case with nonfiction. A nonfictin e-book I pay $12 has a lot more value than a paper book I pay $10 for.
Have you seen the Baen Free Library [http://www.baen.com.library) or the promotional CDs Baen gave away with certain hardbacks ? Entire novels available in an open format, arranged into easily readable text. Webscriptions (also from Baen) provide an _entire month’s_ publication schedule (4 to 6 books) for less than the price of a hardnack. ($15 for the entire month.)
“Eh. I made $4,000 by making “Agent to the Stars” a “shareware” novel, so I suspect that even if there were no way to formally monetize electronic copies of book, people would still be able to make money.”
I am sure that people would be able to find a way to make money. What interests me is how. And, would it be better than the system we currently have. Someone suggested “distributed patronage.” I have serious doubts about that system. You made $4,000 with donations. That system looks somewhat more promising. Do you think that either system would be as profitable for authors as the current one? Finally, aren’t the needs of those who can’t afford to buy books adequately met by libraries? Piracy is manageable now but it might not be in the future as technology improves.
Speaking for myself, not Tor, I don’t really think much of the current apparatus for selling official, DRM’d, bagged-and-tagged e-books. As a consumer I find them overpriced and unattractive. There was a period in the late 1990s when I must have spent 300 hours in meetings about the coming e-book revolution, which ultimately yielded sales of, er, hundreds of copies. Sometimes dozens. Snore.
On the other hand, initiatives like Cory’s CC-licensed giveaway, or our host’s very reasonably-priced $4.00 e-text files of a few years ago, or the extremely nifty Baen online-sales operation — those things seem to me clueful and worth watching.
Regarding official versions of e-Books, I can tell you there’s a pretty big push towards acquiring them in university libraries. When the library closes at midnight, college students view it as a wonderful thing to be able to log into the system and start doing their research at 1:03 am.
That, however, applies strictly to non-fiction. No student I’ve ever talked to is willing to read a novel cover to cover online, even if it’d save them thirty bucks at the bookstore.
“That, however, applies strictly to non-fiction. No student I’ve ever talked to is willing to read a novel cover to cover online, even if it’d save them thirty bucks at the bookstore.”
Which brings up the other advantage of e-books, when the DRM isn’t crap — I much prefer carrying the three e-book versions of Neal Stephenson’s “Baroque Cycle” in my PDA rather than having to carry even one of those books around with me in my backpack or briefcase.
Even if its just online, you don’t necessarily have to read it on a traditional laptop or desktop computer — I access my university’s web site increasingly through my PDA.
I’m not a member of any SF club. I’m a huge fan of many who are (Vinge is my favorite, but there are others).
I’m currently writing my own novel(spy junkie nuance, near future, coding, crypto, blah, now I’m selling it, again). It has taken me two years so far, and will probably take another one. And then, it will suck, and not get published. And I’ll start over.
But I will release it online. Kudos to you.
First, let me note that this poll is not a SFWA venture per se. Doing a test run like this didn’t require permission from the Board (of which I am the Canadian rep). It’s more from the committee that deals with piracy.
Also, Andrew Burt has stated in public that he thinks the author, not the publisher or Amazon, should have the right to determine how much or how little of their book should be made available. I don’t disagree, and I don’t see how anyone else should, either. If you say 100% and someone else says 0%, well, that’s their problem (and in their eyes, your problem).
Personally, I take a strongly negative view to the idea that modern ingenuity will fix the problem when we come to it. I hear that about the environment and other modern-day issues, and I despair that so many just want to roll over and accept that someone else will take care of things.
Cory’s right, I think, and is trying to do something about it. From his POV. Andrew also sees a problem, and is trying to solve it from his POV. As long as both sides allow the final decisions to rest with the creators, I have no problem (barring remarkably destructive and stupid moves, under which I think that the Code of Conduct that Cory mentions falls, but that’s for another day).
John, we’re having a changeover in administration soon. I don’t know what the new views will be (if there even will be any), but I think hearing your voice (and more of Cory’s) would be a worthwhile thing. You by any chance going to be in Seattle for NASFIC? Do you even do cons?
So does anyone know which SFWA members are the “vocal contingent who are freaked out about ‘ebook piracy'” to quote the BoingBoing article?
I was one of the folks who shot John a buck after reading _Agent…_ online and was happy to do so. It was certainly worth a dollar to me, and honestly I’d be happy to do the same for other authors who post books online.
I’m much more likely to be nice to people who are nice to me. I’m sure most people feel the same, and I think Baen’s success with this speaks to the point.
Just out of curiosity, I fired up Kazaa tonight and did a search for several authors. No hits for “scalzi” but several top-dollar authors seemed to have much of their output available.
Of course, these are the very same authors who are most likely to be in my local library, so if I didn’t want to pay to read them, I’d much rather just borrow and increase my library’s circulation numbers. I also really dislike reading entire novels at the computer if given the choice, so I doubt I’d pay more than a dollar for that privlege in the first place!
Just for the record, I’ve read entire novels in the bookstore. I was a poor student at the time and half the time ended up getting the paperback when it came out. The other half of the time I wound up being extremely glad that I hadn’t forked out the cash.
I think John’s right. Most people are glad to pay for work they enjoy, or will be more willing to pay for the next work which comes along at a more financially sound time.
It’s really late but I really wanted to chime in on this conversation. I’ve been cash-strapped all my life. My parents aren’t rich by any means and now I’ve got to pay my way through university while living on my own.
I will flat out admit all my computer software is either open sourced or pirated with one exception. And the one exception is part of what I want to talk about.
First of all, I’m a software engineering student. And as an emerging software engineer, it feels terrible to have to pirate software, but there’s no way on earth that I would ever be able to afford it. I’ve long maintained that the economic model surrounding software is flawed and who knows, maybe I’ll be the one to make a change. But right now it honestly seems that software is overpriced. How can you ask a poor family of 4 to shell out hundreds of dollars for Microsoft Office. Isn’t that insane?
Last week I purchased my first piece of software, WikidPad. I cannot describe the amazing feeling of legally purchase something I perceive to have value at a reasonable price ($15 US for the curious). I felt the same way when I purchased three ‘impossible to find anywhere’ songs from iTunes.
Although it seems like I’m digressing, this next idea is essential:
It’s not as cut and dry as your post makes it seem. There’s a grey area between the “dickhead” and “cash-strapped” categories. And the trade-off between value and cost is what governs this area. It’s even harder to pinpoint which way a person in this category will sway. This is the kind of category I fall in.
In the case of your book, here’s my opinion. If you treat me with respect and I pirate your book, I will most likely recommend your book to others, like you mentioned. But if your book seems out of my price range (when I actually have money) chances are I’ll keep pirating your books and never buy a single one. If they are reasonably priced, chances are I’ll buy a few of your books but I’ll still pirate the rest of them. I know that may not be exactly what you want to hear, but consider this: is it better to have more people buying fewer books or fewer people buying more books? I say the former, and if you’ve done your long tail research, you’d probably say the former too.
So does this really make me “dickhead” or someone on loan? I’d say somewhere in between. I don’t think I’m the only one with such a stance. Consider the music industry. For the past few years, they’ve posted a profit, yet piracy seems to keep climbing. I’d say that’s the long tail concept at work. More people are being introduced to more music through piracy, and they’re purchasing a few albums here and there. Similarly, the movie industry has also been posting profits for years while movie pirates are getting better at releasing quality versions.
These bigwigs have to realize piracy is here to stay. They can either do their homework on the long tail or foolishly attempt to stop it.
I’m sure they’re more honest, moral people in the world than there are “dickheads”. And just because the “cash-strapped” people won’t pay for all your work, that doesn’t necessarily make them “dickheads.” They just happen to be part of the long tail. Naturally, businesses fear the long tail because its unpredictable. They get greedy and start thinking along the lines of “more people could be purchasing all the work.” For tangible items that cannot be pirated, this is absolutely correct since most people will not steal. But then you don’t have the long tail effect in this case. For pirateable materials, it’s more like “I’ll pirate a little here and buy a little there”. But you’ve got the long tail working for you.
In this Internet age, if treat people with respect and provide them with value and I’m sure they’ll reward you back, most likely at their own pace.
“Just out of curiosity, I fired up Kazaa tonight and did a search for several authors. No hits for “scalzi” but several top-dollar authors seemed to have much of their output available.”
I’m not at all surprised I’m not available on Kazaa, actually, since — notwithstanding the audience here — I’m a first-time author and therefore a bit of a nobody. To be pirated is to be popular, which is why Tim Pratt’s comment to all those writers paranoid about being pirated (“You wish”), is pretty accurate.
Cash-Strapped University Student:
“If they are reasonably priced, chances are I’ll buy a few of your books but I’ll still pirate the rest of them.”
Then you’re partially dickheaded, I suppose; maybe you shouldn’t die in a well, but just get hit by a car. In all seriousness, you know, look: I don’t expect every person who like my stuff to buy every singe one of my books; even I don’t buy the every single book of all my favorite authors. Simply on moral grounds, if you’re going to “pirate,” I’d prefer you do it in the time-honored fashion of checking the book out from the library, since that will encourage institutional purchases of my book and — here’s a nice bonus for society — send the signal that people actually use libraries and they are worth funding these days (an idea which regrettably seems to be in abeyance in these days of “why do we need a public library when Barnes and Noble serves lattes?” thought processes).
“First, let me note that this poll is not a SFWA venture per se. Doing a test run like this didn’t require permission from the Board (of which I am the Canadian rep). It’s more from the committee that deals with piracy.”
If a committee from SFWA is using an SFWA mailing list to send along a poll purporting to be about an issue concerning SFWAns, and among other things, the poll says “SFWA needs your input,” how is it not a “SFWA venture”?
If it’s not an official SFWA poll, then it should be thrown out (mind you, it should be thrown out anyway because if its leading and badly-written nature), and the people who put it together should be disciplined for using SFWA’s resources for a personal pet project. If SFWA is not willing to do at least the first of these, then protestations to the contrary, it’s an official SFWA venture (because it refuses to disown it), and it’s still bad.
Leaving aside the utter crapitudiness of this poll, I also believe it’s up to the author and/or publisher to determine how much of the book is available online; I say so right there in the first paragraph of the entry. It seems like everyone seems to agree with this; if that’s the case, we’re presented with the question of why SFWA is trying to interject itself into a question that everyone agrees should be determined on a case-by-case basis. It’s pointless fiddling, and I would suggest SFWA has better things to do with its time and my dues.
To be clear about this, I certainly don’t doubt Mr. Burt is sincere in his concerns; I don’t even doubt that he’s a nice guy. My issue isn’t with Burt as a person. This isn’t an issue of the Cory-led Young Turks vs. the Burt-led Old Farts in my mind; it’s simply me expressing my opinion about a really bad poll, and then, on “piracy” in general.
Cons and NASFiC: I’ll be at Worldcon this year, so I’m unlikely to get to Seattle. I do go to a few cons.
“John: I’m curious…many of us came to this page after Cory linked to it from Boing! Boing! Do you share his view that scifi is on a downward spiral as far as readership?”
I honestly don’t know; I don’t have the sales numbers in front of me, historical and current, to say anything about it one way or another. I do note anecdotally that it’s harder to find science fiction in some places — the Kroger stores near us, which have a fairly large book section, have no science fiction of any sort, but have large sections for contemporary thrillers, romance, and westerns. When westerns are kicking your ass in the supermarkets, there’s an issue. I’ll probably write about this to greater length at some point in the near future.
John: Well, in asmuch as nearly every piece of reference material is available in some form online without resorting to piracy, the additional worry of someone using Amazon as a library-like resource is a small one, I think.
I wasn’t talking about reference materials like encyclopedias; I was talking about the kinds of nonfiction books that people use as references on particular topics.
doggo: Meanwhile we have the RIAA, and the MPAA, and now the SFWA, doing everything they can to address issues that are worthy of concern, as issues which are catastrophic. What they end up doing is hampering progress, mostly, and getting a lot of jeering at at places like Slashdot.
SFWA came up with the Shades of Gray model, which got *praise* from “pirates.” It was designed to be non-antagonistic and still protect the authors’ work. It might be a good idea to find out what Aburt actually thinks before anyone starts assuming they know.
Brian Carnell: I don’t know the answer, but you start by not treating your customers as if they were criminals.
I hear what you’re saying. As a consumer, I’d like that, too. But do you think the author gets to pick which format the e-book gets released in? We could only wish.
Ditto to CSUS. Authors don’t have control over how the books get priced. Talk to publishers about that, not to authors. Publishers are the ones who need to hear it.
John: It seems like everyone seems to agree with this; if that’s the case, we’re presented with the question of why SFWA is trying to interject itself into a question that everyone agrees should be determined on a case-by-case basis.
Maybe because individual authors don’t have a lot of influence, while organizations have more. Getting an organization behind the idea that authors should be able to choose means more influence with the people who decide whether authors get to choose, and therefore a greater chance that there will be policies in place that let authors choose.
Which would be nice, Aconite, if SFWA apparently wasn’t trying to manuever its members, though the wording of this poll, to respond negatively to having the text displayed through Amazon. If we all agree that it should be up to the author/publisher, then the push-polling serves no purpose.
I wonder where this is going. I suspect we’ll soon see a call to close libraries, you know, those places where you can read books for free, or begin to charge the public rental fees like its a Blockbust chain?
I am not an artist myself. I went to college as a History major. And yes, I’ve read many, many books for free (thank you Herr Librarian), I’ve recorded tapes off the radio, tapes off of friends CD’s, burned CD’s of friends CD’s. Now that I’m 25 years old, however, and can actually afford the things I desire, I buy them. I buy albums or songs off of iTunes. I buy Tom Clancy and George R.R. Martin’s books in hardcover the day they come out.
Perhaps authors and other artists need to learn that you aren’t necessarily going to get rich at your craft. You should, in fact, consider yourself lucky if you can provide a fulfilling life for yourself and your family purely out of your imagination (instead of back breaking labor, for example). If you became an artist of any kind in order to get rich, then your art likely isn’t very good to begin with.
I first read LOTR when I was ten years old. It was my dad’s set of books. Should I have sent the publisher or author some money for that? I don’t think so. And, in the 15 years since then, I have gone to see all 3 LOTR movis on their opening days. I have all 3 Special Extended Edition box sets sitting on my shelf. I bought a LOTR encyclopedia. I bought The Silmarillion. I’ve purchased 3 sets of the trilogy in 15 years. One to replace my father’s copies that I wore out, one for myself, and another for myself after I wore those out.
I found a copy of Robert Jordan’s first 8 books of the Wheel of Time on Kazaa a couple of years ago. I downloaded it, read the first half of the first book, and have since purchased the first 4 books in Hardcover.
So, I submit myself as evidence that giving your art away sometimes CAN help you more (financially) than being an overtly greedy bastard from day one.
Let me start with a confession: I am an ebook pirate. If you have downloaded a book from IRC, there is a fair chance it is from my server. I’ve scanned books. I proofread them. I program tools to make the life of ebook pirates easier.
Now, do I feel bad about it? The answer is both yes and no. Unlike musicians who can (and should) get their money from public performances, there is no way a writer can make money like that. Therefore what I do hurts authors.
But, on the other hand, I know great many other “ebook pirates”. By far, most of them are either students or from 3rd world countries – or both. They all like reading and love books. But they simply cannot afford buying thems. Even if they could, compare the list where Amazon ships to the list of world countries – not to mention that you’ll have to own a credit card.
Now, you say, why don’t they go to the libraries? But they do. It is just that unlike in “rich countries”, their libraries are focused to the books in their own language, and even if libraries buy books in english, they tend to prefer classics and non-fiction.
So what choice do they have? Pirate the book or stop reading. Can you really blame them for choosing the first option? Besides, how exacly does that kind of piracy differ from loaning the book from library?
I myself am a fairly typical example. I can read several books in a day easily (I’ve read 3000pp/day, but that was definitely not a normal day). I got into “ebook piracy” during my student days. I had barely enough money to pay rent and eat.
A friend loaded the first book of Robert Jordan’s WoT series to me. I liked it immensely, but alas! no friend or library near me had any other books from that series. So I was desperate an scoured the net – until a nice person pointed me to a IRC channel. And lo! they had those books! I was able to get and read them! And I started mass downloading the books. Pretty soon I felt I should give back something to this wonderful community who equipped me with the reading material I needed so badly. So I asked how I can help – and started proofreading books. One thing led to another and soon I was fullblown ebook pirate. Arrrgh!
Now I am PhD student on my final year (fingers crossed). I have a decent income. About quarter of it I spend on books. How many of you can say that they spend 25% of their pay on books? I can – and for your knowledge, I do own now the WoT books as treeware. In two languages.
i download whatever i please, for the simple reason that the people who will stop making books/music/films because there’s no money in it are the people i don’t give a shit about.
the ones that do it for free are the ones that do the quality stuff. you wrote for free. you liked it. you’re still doing it. see?
getting paid to do fun stuff like make music or write stories, that situation is not long for this world. and this is a good thing. (less least-common-denom pablum, more awesome cool good stuff)
You’re a dickhead. Please find an abandoned well and drop yourself into it.
Also, of course, you’re wrong. I don’t write just for free, and if I did you’d see a lot less of my writing because I wouldn’t have the time for it because I’d have to do other things with my time. If dickheads like you were the majority, you’d strangle off your own entertainment supply. Fortunately, most people aren’t dickheads.
Uhm… John, I do hope that “dickhead” comment was to :) (who is dickhead indeed) and not to my epistle.
BTW, sorry about the double breaks – apparently preview does not match the final. Also, typos – I didn’t read before posting…
No, DLX, it’s not directed at you.
Also I put in a note that preview does not show paragraph breaks. Hopefully this will stop people from hand-coding them in.
I also believe it’s up to the author and/or publisher to determine how much of the book is available online; I say so right there in the first paragraph of the entry. It seems like everyone seems to agree with this; if that’s the case, we’re presented with the question of why SFWA is trying to interject itself into a question that everyone agrees should be determined on a case-by-case basis.
John, all– yes, I’m glad we agree. The problem is that Amazon doesn’t. Amazon does not give copyright owners control over how much of their work is visible. They don’t notify authors; most authors don’t even know their book is in Search Inside. Nor is Amazon speedy about taking them down on request. (And that’s the option: take it down. There’s no option for “I’d like the first 1/2 of my novel readable, as a teaser, but you have to pay if you want to read the ending.)
For those interested, here’s the guts of the poll, so you can judge for yourself:
Amazon / Google survey
Amazon’s Search Inside and Google Print are two technologies that display the actual images of book pages. Authors currently have books put on display without their knowledge, including their works in anthologies (works for which exclusive electronic rights have sometimes been sold elsewhere). Some authors are enthusiastic about these technologies, some are vehemently opposed and want control of their copyrights. Some authors want all of a book visible to customers (meaning pirates can steal copies fairly easily), some want none of a book visible, some want part of a book visible to entice buyers to buy but not be able to read the whole thing for free.
I’ve been working with Amazon and Google on this issue. The goal is to provide copyright owners with control over how much of a book can been read for free, and to get Amazon, Google, and others planning similar systems to be all on the same page in what they display. (For example, it’s currently a simple matter to write a program that gets 85% of a book from Google and the remaining 15% from Amazon.)
Advances in digital ink and digital paper technologies mean it may not be long before a majority of people find it pleasant to read books in digital form (5-15 years), at which time pirated books may pose a significant threat to incomes of authors.
To guide negotiations with Amazon, Google, etc., SFWA needs your input on how much of your work you’d like visible on Amazon for free. Please fill out the short survey below — thanks!
(VP, and chair of the Electronic Piracy Committee)
Your email address:
If you had a NOVEL for sale on Amazon, how much of it would you like customers (and pirates) to be able to read without paying?
() None of the book – 0%
() All of the book – 100%
() The first [5/10/15/…95]% of the book
(Note that Amazon’s theory is that the more that’s visible the more likely a customer will make a purchase.)
() Any pages but not more than [5/10/15/…95]% of the book
(Note that a problem with “Any __%” is that it means the whole book would have to be available, and pirates could assemble the whole thing as a group. We’ve already shown this can happen. To prevent this, some percent could be blocked from all viewers; what percent would you want blocked of your work to prevent piracy?– [0/5/10/15/…95/100]%)
If you had a SHORT STORY in an anthology for sale on Amazon, how much of it would you like customers (and pirates) to be able to read without paying?
() None of the story – 0%
() All of the story – 100%
() The first [5/10/15/…95]% of the story
() Any pages but not more than [5/10/15/…95]% of the story
(Note that a problem with “Any __%” is that it means the whole book would have to be available, and pirates could assemble the whole thing as a group. We’ve already shown this can happen. To prevent this, some percent could be blocked from all viewers; what percent would you want blocked of your work to prevent piracy?– [0/5/10/15/…95/100]%)
If you didn’t like the amount of your novels/stories that Amazon let readers read for free (either too much or too little), would you like to have the ability to specify how much of the work they showed for free? (Either by telling your publisher or via a simple web page.)
() Yes, I’d like to have the control
() No, not interested
Comments… [ ]
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you include a “First N pages” option?
That would be useful in practice, agreed. However, for the survey, what I really need are percentages so I can do statistics on them (avg., std.dev. etc.) to show Amazon the sense of what authors are thinking — small percent vs. large percent visible.
How about a “First N words” option?
Um. (1) that’s hard to automate unless you know font size, leading, page size, margins…, and (2) my goal for the *survey* is to get numbers on the same scale so I can do math on them (average, std.dev, etc.) to make the case to Amazon/etc. that we need a default system different than we have.
Is piracy such a big deal?
Whether you view piracy as a problem today or not, it may be in the near future, with the advent of digital paper and digital ink (such as Philips, the inventor of the CD, is already making).
Ultimately, though, this issue is not about piracy but about authors’ rights: Do authors control their copyrights, or can a big company just come in and usurp control? (Even if it’s “good for you.” If you need a heart bypass, should Kaiser have the right to break into your house some night and give you one? :-) Our goal is to restore control to the copyright owner’s hands how much is visible on Amazon/Google/etc. Then those who want more can have more, and those who want less can choose less.
Ok — so, it only seems fair to get reader reactions too. How much of a book do you need to read digitally to decide to buy it in print? How much is fair for an author to give away free on the expectation of making money from sales? And of not having the book out there for free when, as seems likely some day soon, most people read digitally?
So here’s a reader survey, based on the author survey mentioned before:
Go to http://www.aburt.com/readersurvey.html and let me know what you think. (There’s also a link on the survey to a discussion group about the survey.)
John: Which would be nice, Aconite, if SFWA apparently wasn’t trying to manuever its members, though the wording of this poll, to respond negatively to having the text displayed through Amazon.
I didn’t read it as a push, and I didn’t get the same sense from it that you did. The question as a whole read: Note that a problem with “Any __%” is that it means the whole book would have to be available, and pirates could assemble the whole thing as a group. We’ve already shown this can happen. To prevent this, some percent could be blocked from all viewers; what percent would you want blocked of your work to prevent piracy? I read that as, “Given that if all of the book is available it can be pirated, what percentage would you want blocked to prevent that?” Your answer could be “Zero.”
Is it a push? Maybe. If so, I don’t think it was deliberate, and I’m curious to find out why you think it was.
Would it be correct to assume that the “vocal minority” at SFWA is Harlan Ellison, who thinks ebooks are worse than AIDS, and who has been ranting about them for years?
I have been reading hundreds of ebooks a year since starting of project Gutenberg. In Finland foreign language library sections are very limited and translations of literary classics are quite shitty, because the finnish language is evolving very rapidly. Thus I have read every noteworthy book in Project Gutenberg in Ebook format. Believe me. I have programmed an ebook reader to my cell-phone:
and I truly prefer this device to a smelly germ-filled library pulp.
Of course I have read thousands of modern books from P2P-network, because there is absolutely no alternative. I do not have money or space to store all these books that I am supposed to buy.
My suggestion is that you simply establish a world -wide fund, where one can pay whatever one wants. When donating one can go to the associated website and vote for authors. This system should be credit-based, so that a frequent donator should have easier access to newer books. A reader approvation system should be established. One who obviously reads a lot and pays a lot should be noted when offering his views and critique..
“Is it a push? Maybe. If so, I don’t think it was deliberate, and I’m curious to find out why you think it was.”
You’re joking, right?
The question is framed in the context of piracy from the very start, warning that there’s a “problem,” that they’ve “shown piracy can happen,” and then asks how much of the work should be block to prevent piracy. Explictly the question states piracy can happen (which is axiomatic, since piracy doesn’t need Amazon to happen); implicitly it suggests that piracy on Amazon is happening, and more specifically, that the author filling out the poll is at risk. I quite honestly can’t see how you can not see an agenda there. The suggestion of the poll by its structure is that it’s about Amazon customer access (with piracy, placed in parenthesis, as a secondary consideration), but it’s about piracy front and center, and it’s specifically about creating the suggestion that piracy is endemic on Amazon. It’s a dishonest poll, and it’s crap, and I find it insulting in its design. It’s possible those who designed the poll has no idea it was promoting an agenda, but if that’s the case, they shouldn’t be writing polls.
An honest presentation of the question noted above would have been something along the line of: “If you had the ability to block a certain percentage of the text from viewers, what percent would you prefer to be blocked?” It’s simple, it’s clean, and it doesn’t unduly introduce an agenda one way or another.
“John, all– yes, I’m glad we agree. The problem is that Amazon doesn’t. Amazon does not give copyright owners control over how much of their work is visible. They don’t notify authors; most authors don’t even know their book is in Search Inside. Nor is Amazon speedy about taking them down on request. (And that’s the option: take it down. There’s no option for ‘I’d like the first 1/2 of my novel readable, as a teaser, but you have to pay if you want to read the ending.’)”
That’s swell, Andrew, and a legitimate issue — it’s a shame you (or whomever wrote the poll) felt you had to panic SFWA members with the spectre of rampant piracy on Amazon, arrrrrr. I would welcome an honest poll that dealt squarely with the issue of authors’ rights on Amazon, instead of the one I was presented with here.
I’ve found that out of every 100 people who will accept something for free, about 10 are willing to pay for it and about 90 would do without. Of those who do copy illegially, most do it because they cannot afford to.
Income is also important. If one’s weekly income is $1 000, then $20 is only 2% of it. But if one’s weekly income is $100, then $20 is 20% of it (which is similar to $200 to a person making $1000/wk). The second person is more like just to do without, so there would be no sale anyways.
(This is not poll accurate, it’s just what I’ve observed.)
Andrew Burt’s comment “(Note that Amazon’s theory is that the more that’s visible the more likely a customer will make a purchase.)”
is a key point to me, and one that makes this controversy mystifying. Amazon and authors have a shared goal – sales. Is it the principle of the thing that is bugging some writers? Do they just want to be asked first? I don’t have any books out but I’m in a couple anthologies and I’d love to have the full text of my work shown where it’s available for sale. I need the publicity. Here’s another thing: I think I own copies of most everything Stanislaw Lem’s had published in English, but there’s one book (_His Master’s Voice_, I think) I don’t have. Every so often I pick it up at B&N and handle it. The edition I’ve seen is from a university press and come in it’s own cellophane airtight wrapper. Uh-uh. Something about that never set right with me, and I invariably put it back on the shelf. It’s crazy I know, but I just get a nasty feeling about the university presses that do that. It annoys me, cellephaning books, and I don’t buy stuff that annoys me.
As a very new SFWA member (and in the era of the code of conduct, an increasingly dismayed one) I have to say that nothing about this poll led me to believe it was anything other than an “official” (whatever that means — now I’m not at all sure) guild mailing.
Just FYI, I bought _Old Man’s War_ after reading the excerpt that was on Amazon and the chapters on your website. Having part of the book available online is what helped me make the decision.
I download ebooks.
For example, I have downloaded most of Doctorow, Stephenson, Pratchett.
I also have bought every book that Doctorow, and Stephenson have written. I haven’t bought all of Practhett.
I like to be able to read them on the go as well as at home. Am I a pirate? I don’t think so but technically I have broken the law. I have bought many of those afore mentioned books as hardcover.
I will continue to not buy e-books as they are DRM pieces of sh*t. Lessig’s own books are DRMed so you cannot use them. I cannot lend an ebook to a friend.
Adding more DRM insults your customers, it doesn’t bring you more money.
Science fiction writers (of all of people) should wake up and smell the future. Instead of bitching and panicing about internet piracy they should be littering the web with their best short stories to build their readership.
I am truly sick of people who think their fans and audience are a bunch of thieves.
Example: I just recently downloaded all of Douglas Adam’s Hithchiker trilogy – all 5 books – as HTML files, it was surely against the law. Well guess what – the law is broken. To Douglas Adam’s publisher (likely stuck in the 19th century) screw! Get a vision, or hire a 20 year old with one.
I own all of these books in mass market paperback, purchased new at retail. I also have all of these in a single leather bound edition with gorgeous end papers and gilt edges which I had autographed by Doulas Adams in person. Somewhere I even have the BBC Radio plays on vinyl. Maybe, just maybe, I have already paid an adequate amount to Adams, his estate, and his publishers over the years for a license to read these works. To have a searchable, machine readable copy of those works on my Mac or my Palm hurts no one.
If the publisher had a clue I’d be able to get these for $0.99 each as non DRMed downloads.
If they want more they should add some value instead of demanding payment for the same old same old.
If I’m ever going to buy an eBook for anything near the price of a cellulose book it better have some great, new, multi-media content. I’d really like to see these novels included as PDF’s, HTML or Text files when I pop $20- for the DVD of the feature film but I’m sure the lawyers wouldn’t have it.
“If the publisher had a clue I’d be able to get these for $0.99 each as non DRMed downloads.”
Possibly for older stuff, but I’d probably want to price newer stuff slightly more aggressively; I mentioned a $5 price point earlier, and I think that would be good for the newer book, with the price dropping as works go into the catalogue (mimicking the hardback/paperback relationship as it exists now).
Got a link to this rant^H^H^H^H err… Editorial…. via BoingBoing.net. Thank you, I just killed a Sunday going blind reading my iBooks’s screen perched on my stomach. (if only I could get a good eBook reader with 150dpi screen that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg or have stupid DRM restrictions… sigh) I devoured Agent To The Stars. Fun, Funny and a blast.
I had read a couple of reviews of Old Man’s War previously but never found it at any local book store. On the strength of “Agent” I just bought it at Amazon.
reat work! Looking forward to Old Man’s War.
Yeah, finding it in bookstores has been an issue, although sales don’t seem to be too dented because of it. Thank God for Amazon and other online bookstores.
I hope you enjoy the book!
I could not agree more. I need to flip through a book before I buy it, personally. I am a college student and aspiring writer with hundreds of books on my shelves. I am strapped for cash and yet I still manage to buy the books I like, often over and over again when I purchase books I have enjoyed for friends. I have actively sought out authors and music I found on the web, just as I have sought them out after hearing them on public radio.I just crunched the numbers on my MP3 collection and have found that 93.33 percent of the music I have downloaded, I have purchased the CD after downloading the music. The unpaid tracks are downloads of CDs I purchased previously and damaged, or artists recommended to me that I do not like.
john, you’re writing for free now. EVERYONE here is.
And your point is?
I am one of the aforementioned poor students and I have a HUGE library of “treeware” (great term!) books. In fact, having just moved house, I now appreciate just how many books I have and the damage they did to my spine will serve as a lasting reminder. (:
I have downloaded a few free books from Baen (and all of Cory Doctorow’s CC texts) and I ended up signing up for a Webscriptions account because I wanted to compensate the authors.
My question is: Has giving a book away for free *EVER* resulted in a decrease in sales volume? I can’t think of any off-hand, but my memory is flaky at best and sadly stuffed full of Simpsons quotes instead of other, more useful information.
One important thing to note about Amazon and SFWA. SFWA has been bemoaning the deaths of the backlist and midlist for decades now, wringing its hands and demanding that Something Be Done.
Amazon is, near as I can tell, the only entity that has actually managed to increase sales of the midlist and backlist, solving SFWA’s biggest problem.
SFWA’s response has been to accuse Amazon of abetting piracy.
This discussion makes me wish we would be willing to learn something from another culture. At one time, and maybe still today, when someone presented an artistic ability in some areas of Africa, they were set up with a place to live and food, and being an artist was their function within the community. Seems the community felt that they ALL benefitted from the work of the artist, therefore it was only fair that the entire community supported that artist. Radical theory, eh? Here, everything is based on the buck. “If it’s good, it will support itself.” You’d think it was a sound idea, until you stop to think that some artists never really develope until they’ve been doing their “art” for years. Then, when they hit their stride, they produce stuff that’s well worth waiting for. Just a thought….
John wrote: That’s swell, Andrew, and a legitimate issue — it’s a shame you (or whomever wrote the poll) felt you had to panic SFWA members with the spectre of rampant piracy on Amazon, arrrrrr. I would welcome an honest poll that dealt squarely with the issue of authors’ rights on Amazon, instead of the one I was presented with here.
John, sorry I didn’t preface it with a reminder that this has been an open topic within SFWA for about 18 months now; it’s been in a bunch of issues of the FORUM, the Online Update, and seemingly continuously in the SFWA newsgroups on sff.net. I can’t elaborate the whole chronology here as it’s just too long, but I’ve been the appointed Speaker to Amazon for some time now, and I’ve been dealing with Jeff Bezos and one of his VPs on this. The stated goal, from day one, has been for copyright owners to have control over which pages of books are available in Search Inside — which accommodates any view one may have, whether that be 0% or 100% visibility.
As I’ve said before, from my conversations with people across the spectrum, I believe this will increase the buy in to the Search Inside program, and there will be a large increase in participation.
I designed the poll; I wanted to be sure those who hadn’t followed the matter had a quick refresher what was at stake. I tried to present both sides of the argument. The wording is up above for anyone to read and judge.
It’s fine to paint me as a boogie-man, I knew I signed up for that when I ran for VP and again when I ran for President, and God knows here I am still at it. However, it’s a simple issue, as I’ve repeatedly said: (1) Book piracy isn’t an economic hit today, but it could very well be when most people read digitally, which has a high probability of being “soon”; and (2) this is fundamentally about authors’ rights, and the right of the copyright owner to choose.
While I’m at it, I want to reiterate I’m conducting a poll of readers’ opinions on the matter now too.
The link is:
I’d appreciate everyone’s feedback…
Well shoot, I went to the reader survey, and found my way to the SFWA e-piracy faq, where I found this gem of an answer:
“Haven’t I heard writers say they agree with pirates?
Sure, some percent of any group agrees with anything — usually no less than 15% and no more than 85%. (“Murder is good” — you can probably find 15%…!) But do check what they’ve published. If they aren’t earning a living at it, but just do it as a hobby, and maybe haven’t any books published from major publishers, their view is going to be different than what most people think of as Authors, i.e., people who write lots of books for a career.”
Let me state for the record: Murder? I’m against that. Murder – bad. Very bad.
You think that’s funny, Michael, you should have seen the earlier edition that had a howler to the effect that publishing in post-Revolutionary France died on the vine because there was no copyright (for the record, post-Revolutionary France is rightly counted as one of publishing’s great historical flowerings).
It certainly matches the passage you quote for overblown hyperbole and intellectual dishonesty, though not quite for low rhetorical sleze: equating your opponents’ position with advocating murder and then smearing them with the lying assertion that writers who support ebook downloading are probably mere hobbyists… well, it is quite a piece of work, that FAQ, isn’t it?
I recently purchased Old Man’s war from Amazon, and enjoyed reading it. I’ve recommended it far and wide as likely to be enjoyed by people who enjoyed Starship Troopers or The Forever War.
I rarely buy books from bricks and mortar stores anymore. Not for any particular reason (I’m not crippled or agoraphobic). I just seem to have got into the habit of occassionally binging on big orders from Amazon.
Which means to get my dollars you have to get in my field of view online. And whatever I do see had better not be something that annoys me (such as insulting or incomplete copy, crippled or untrustworthy DRM involvement) because I’ll like as not take no more than a dozen seconds to decide to buy. It’s in the sellers interest for me to be happy and enthused in those seconds.
Furthermore, on the subject of the fools trying to criminalise their customers, every person I know who has terrabytes of copied digital media is also one of the people I know who spends the most on going to the movies, DVD’s, CD’s and books.
Andrew Burt writes:
“It’s fine to paint me as a boogie-man…”
This is a rhetorical trick to suggest that the problem here is some vendetta against you rather than the fact the poll is biased and poorly written. It’s not going to work. I’m sure you are a perfectly nice guy; the poll is biased and poorly written.
“I designed the poll; I wanted to be sure those who hadn’t followed the matter had a quick refresher what was at stake.”
Leaving aside the fact that your “quick refresher” was almost entirely comprised of hand-waving about the dangers of Amazonian piracy (arrrr!), what on earth made you think that the place to do it was inside the poll? Adding editorial comments within the poll — of any sort — would serve to bias the results intolerably, rendering them statistically useless. Your questions in their structure are not terribly different than the one I got last election cycle from the push poller who asked me over the phone “John Kerry supported raising your taxes 55 times. Do you support him for president?”
The place to remind people about the issues raised in the poll would have been in a link that lead to some of the voluminous discussion of the issue of which you speak, not inside the poll itself. By introducing editorial inside the poll, you’ve negated the stated purpose of the poll, and left behind the strong implication the poll was designed to generate a specific result.
To put it bluntly, if this poll was meant to be an unbiased examination of SFWA members’ opinions regarding Amazon’s “Search Inside the Book” feature, it’s incompetent. If it was designed to provoke a specific response from SFWA members, it is merely odious.
Either way, it’s a bad poll, and it should not be used as a tool for SFWA to base policy upon.
“The wording is up above for anyone to read and judge.”
Done and done. Would we had had a poll on the subject that we didn’t have to argue about.
John & Cory, feel free to write a poll you’d like SFWA members to fill out; if you agree to share raw data (I’ll share mine) then I’ll point them to it. Make yours a push poll if you’d like; SFWAns are already aware of your point of view too, though I’d encourage a backgrounder in the poll. That might create an interesting balance.
(The higher percent the better who share [what I presume is] your view that they’d like 100% of their work visible on Amazon with no barriers, as that leads to the same end result from my perspective of talking with Amazon: That copyright owners should have control over how much is visible, so that those like you could have more visible than they currently allow.)
I notice none of you guys (John, Cory, those likeminded) every address what I keep saying are the two fundamental points in all this. (1- what happens to the freebie etexts and piracy when most people read digitally; and 2- the copyright owner’s right to control, today, how much is visible for free, from 0% to 100%.) Care to address those?
“I notice none of you guys (John, Cory, those likeminded) every address what I keep saying are the two fundamental points in all this.”
I addressed the second point in the first paragraph of the essay and also in the comment thread, and you actually responded to it, so I’m confused as to why you say it’s not been addressed. As to the first, whatever may happen, pushing a stacked poll on SWFA members about it now isn’t going to help.
Neither the first nor second point, however, is relevant to the point that you wrote a biased poll and pushed it under the aegis of SFWA, so directing the conversation away to those points isn’t useful. Suggesting that Cory and/or I create our own poll of equal bias is either deeply cynical or shows a misunderstanding of how polls work, since our push poll would be just as statistially irrelevant as yours will be. That wouldn’t create “balance,” it would just create two separate flavors of statistically useless crap. As for writing an unbiased poll, last I checked, neither Cory nor I are SWFA’s VP and “Speaker to Amazon”– which is to say that it’s not our responsibility to clean up your polling messes. You took on the job, sir; it’s up to you to perform it responsibly.
My suggestion to you is the one that I’ve already suggested: That the current poll is thrown out as statistically biased. Additionally, SFWA should commission another poll on the matter of Amazon’s “Search Inside the Book” features, preferably written by someone with experience writing polls (i.e., who will not unduly introduce bias of any sort into the questions). That poll might be useful; this poll will not be.
I think what startles me the most about this thread, and similar discussions in the past, is the number of people who can successfully read books in an onscreen (be it computer or PDA) format. I can’t do it. It makes me insane. I realize that this may instantly drop me in the Geritol bracket (at the ripe old age of 37), but verily it do baffle me, and it has biased me.
So: While y’all are brainstorming how to improve digital publication, can you spare a few brain cells for the problem of hard copy? Many of us are not equipped to print a full-length manuscript every time we want to download a book. If we postulate that the bookstore and its paper stock will gradually, then someone needs to set up something like a download station at a Kinko’s or equivalent, hooked up to a high-speed printer. Do we think this will happen inevitably? Or is the assumption that people will just learn to read on screens and so the print-on-demand portion will be stillborn?
“Postulate that the bookstore and its paper stock will gradually _vanish_” – sorry about that.
John, sorry, I was thinking about the fact that you’d sidestepped the point when addressing it, where you said, “It seems like everyone seems to agree with this” — when I thought I’d made it clear that Amazon and Google definitely do not agree. I can’t recall Cory addressing those two issues.
And even if you have addressed one of the two issues, what about the other? :-)
(Also wanted to note that the poll serves one important purpose: To anyone who regards it as a push-poll, it establishes a lower bound. The lower bound will not be 0%, I can already tell you that. And I consider that a good thing and a useful piece of data.)
I actually find it a lot easier to read books electronically rather than on paper. I’ve read a large number of series this way.
I’ve bought a couple of DRMed ebooks. I will not do so again. The sequence goes like this: I jump through hoops to activate the DRM, I upgrade my computer, I have to jump through the hoops again (assuming the DRM company is still around). It doesn’t take many iterations of this before I give up on reading the book I purchased.
“What happens to the freebie etexts and piracy when most people read digitally?”
I don’t understand the question. Baen’s freebies have not stopped me from buying ebooks from them. I read books from libraries and free etexts, neither of which stop me from buying books(in electronic and paper formats) that I want to read again or books by an author whose past work I’ve enjoyed. Where’s the problem?
I suspect print-on-demand will be an option, but not one that’s all too frequently used.
The idea is that technology will solve the “it’s hard to read on a screen” issue by providing high resolution (300 dpi or so) screens that are flexible and are readable in natural light like book pages, and of course there are already early versions of this (Sony’s got one, although from what I understand it’s available in Japan only). So screens will become more like books.
Personally, I don’t think paper books will disappear anytime soon, although I do suspect electronic versions of books will become more rather more popular. I also suspect that this will allow for rather more flexibility for writers; writers these days have difficuly selling anything that’s not novel-length, for example, because among other things it’s not profitable for publishers to produce. But as electronic publishing should bring down costs, it becomes more feasible for writers to publish shorter works. The 21st century: The golden age of the novelette!
Cory (on Boing Boing) linked to this article by John Scalzi about ebooks and publishing free sections (and various other related things), and in the comments (which are very interesting) I found this comment: I’ve found that out of every…
“And even if you have addressed one of the two issues, what about the other?”
Well, since I managed to gross $4,000 or so off of Agent to the Stars when I had it up as “shareware,” and have subsequently sold it to a publisher who thinks having a free version available online is a plus, and I sold Old Man’s War to Tor after publishing it here for free (thus effectively making it available online in perpetutity for anyone who wants to make the effort to find it), and that book is now in its fourth printing, I have to say that I’m okay with it. Having free versions of the work available has not stopped people from wanting to own their own personal copies or from making the connection that the food on my table comes from people paying me for my work.
Moreover, in my experience giving away the book for free has generated sales in unexpected ways. When I offered the electronic version of Old Man’s War to servicepeople in Iraq and Afghanistan, my sales shot through the roof (as indictated by Amazon rankings) and I was flooded with e-mails from people letting me know they’d bought the book because I was supporting the troops. I had no intention of boosting sales in this way, but in retrospect it’s not entirely surprising.
Moreover, on a longer timeframe, if the economic model eventually becomes such that selling individual books is untenable due to freely available electronic copies — which I doubt, by the way — there’s more than one way to make money from one’s creative work. Economic models come and go, but the ability to make money is always there.
“To anyone who regards it as a push-poll, it establishes a lower bound.”
This is rather akin to saying a stopped clock is correct twice a day, though, isn’t it? Also, inasmuch as it’s a bound predicated on corrupted information, it’s doubtful, on simple “GIGO” reasoning, that this lower bound is any more accurate or useful than any other information to be gleaned from the poll. Finally, of course, I strongly suspect you didn’t design the poll to be useful only to find a lower bound. Toss it.
Excellent article, John. Our co-owner, Richard, has been shaking his head over ebook piracy paranoia for years now. We’ll be posting a link to this in Wednesday’s issue of WritersWeekly.com.
“What happens to the freebie etexts and piracy when most people read digitally?”
I don’t understand the question.
I know. I feel like it’s 1995 and I’m describing a thing that’s in development
called a DVD (the first DVD players went on sale Nov.1996), and folks
are scoffing at my suggestion this DVD thang will replace VHS for movies
in a few short years. “We have laserdiscs, and they haven’t done it;
VHS will be around forever!” is the equivalent to what I’m hearing today–
“I don’t think paper books will disappear anytime soon”.
(DVD sales were surpassing VHS sales about four years later, in 2000.)
Here’s what I mean by “when most people read digitally”: When, because
of some product, most people read books from a digital source
rather than from ink/toner on tree-paper. What device that will be, I
don’t know, but I can put an upper bound on it: That is, at the
latest, it will be when we can bind 300 sheets of digital paper
into a format that is indistinguishable from a paperback book.
We already have the day-old baby of this, in the form of Philip’s/E-Ink’s
digital paper. That’s a real product. It’s still slighly immature, but
jeez, it was just born last year. You could build a paperback book made
of e-paper today (though a one-off would be costly). So I figure
within 5-15 years, tops, we’ll have what to all sensory inspection is a
paperback book, but made of digital paper, so that each page can
display… anything. Page 42 of my latest novel with page 43 on the
next page, for example. (Or any other book, or any other use you can
I said that’s the latest, the upper bound. It’s likely we’ll hit on some
product before that. Remember, we did have laserdiscs for years that
didn’t sell much before the DVD came out and the market lit up like a wildfire.
Some digital reading device *might* come out sooner that lights up the
digital reading market like the DVD did and killed off VHS; but that’s “sooner”
than, say, a mere 15 years. (Remember, the web didn’t exist 15 years ago.)
We’re science fiction readers and writers here. If we can’t grasp
(and embrace) the concept that treeware will evolve into digital paperbacks,
or whatever gets us to where most people read their words digitally vs. static
ink/toner… I dunno. We’re the ones who ought to grok that idea.
Grok it or not today, it’s almost certainly coming, and coming soon. I call
it 5-15 years before most people read digitally, and 25 years, tops, before
digital has replaced fixed ink/toner the way DVDs have replaced VHS and how
CDs have replaced LPs.
Given that this is a possibility (hypothesize with me here, folks),
when that happens, there’s no concept of free etexts driving print sales,
because the digital version will be the print version. So why on
earth would you then want to give your primary product away free? (And all
your old ones that you gave away free in the past are now totally free.)
In that scenario, if you want to say that your titles have already been
wrung out of their value, and you’re satisfied that you won’t earn any
more royalties from a given title anyway, then, sure, there’s no reason
not to have a digital edition for free. (I don’t personally think
anyone can predict that, as you could write a mindbogglingly bestselling
book and all your past titles spike in sales; but that’s your call to
make. My job is to make sure authors have the ability to make the call, not
have pirates or Amazon make the decision alone.)
It’s a bit disheartening, I have to admit, that so many otherwise forward
thinking SF writers can’t wrap their minds around this, which seems highly
likely. Oh, well. :-)
“Given that this is a possibility (hypothesize with me here, folks), when that happens, there’s no concept of free etexts driving print sales,
because the digital version will be the print version.”
Some of us will have blogs to drive e-text sales.
Some of us will make a tidy penny selling limited signed editions to collectors and fans; i.e., giving the true fans something the masses can’t get in an e-text.
(This why print won’t entirely go away; digital copies are difficult to autograph.)
Some of us will find ways to monetize writing in ways not currently imagined.
It’s entirely possible — although deeply unlikely — that the text in itself will become a loss leader to other revenue streams, but this dos not necessarily imply that a future writer’s overall income will be less than a current writer’s (although, given the average income of a writer, that’s a low bar to clear).
I am 36 years old and have made a career of the Navy. I am a prolific reader and buyer of books. I have an 11 year old daughter who is as big a reader as I am. When I deploy I have minimal storage space. Therefore I cannot bring along a lot of books. I solved this problem in ’98 by buying a REB1100 ebook. I can carry numerous books and read anywhere (e.g. in the dark).
At that time buying ebooks was a daunting task. At the time the ebooks offered by Gemstar and Powells were priced at hardback level. I don’t know about you but if I am going to pay 17-25 dollars for a book I want something I can shelve. When Microsoft came out with the lit format, which Amazon and Barnes and Nobel embraced, I was stymied by the DRM protection as it was not compatible to my hardware (which uses a proprietary DRM format).
My only answer was to buy a book in lit format and decrypt/convert it to html (which was never seamless as convert lit doesn’t handle page breaks well) which I would then convert to .rb format using Rocketwriter. First, let me say I do not consider myself a pirate even though my actions are illegal in accordance with the DMCA. I paid for the book and I consider this conversion fair use. Also let me add that I already owned the treeware versions. So the author got paid twice which is fair enough in my opinion. I don’t expect the paperback for free when I buy the hardback.
In the case of those books (already owned by me) which didn’t have an ebook version. I would download the OCR’d text from Usenet. I have never made available files obtained in this way but possession of them is still considered illegal even though I may own multiple printings.
In either case I was forced to do something illegal to procure a product that I would gladly pay for if available. An open format, electronic version of the book. Heck, I’d pay paperback prices for that no problem. Cory Doctorow, John Scalzi, and authors like them are moving in the right direction. I bought all 3 of Cory’s books after I downloaded them. I bought Old Man’s War in hardback even though I can get the ebook for free. Fictionwise and similar sites are helpful but until we shake this paradigm of DRM I will be considered a pirate.
I purchase books and legally download ebooks whenever possible. I don’t share the IP of others without permission. Not everyone is going compensate the author and for that I am disappointed. All I can do is set an example for my kids. That’s my 2 cents for what its worth.
But I already do most of my reading in an electronic format. I don’t disagree that a lot of people will be reading books in an electronic format soon (to get large print editions if nothing else).
I just don’t see where the problem lies in the question “What happens to the freebie etexts and piracy when most people read digitally?”
Use freebie etexts for advertising a series or promoting later works by an author. If you don’t want to give away freebies of your work, don’t. I’ve bought physical and electronic copies of books due to reading a freebie and deciding that this author is worth reading, so the author gets paid.
What does copyright violation (piracy) have to do with digital reading? If your work is popular enough (in any format) it will likely get copied and distributed by one of the two categories of people John described. In either case, the author wasn’t going to get paid anyway. See the post that started this discussion.
Where’s the problem?
“An honest presentation of the question noted above would have been something along the line of: “If you had the ability to block a certain percentage of the text from viewers, what percent would you prefer to be blocked?” It’s simple, it’s clean, and it doesn’t unduly introduce an agenda one way or another.”
I’m not sure. It doesn’t introduce an agenda, but then again it also doesn’t really explain why a percentage of the book should be blocked. I’m not sure every author immedatly grasps that saying “anyone should be able to read half my book, any pages they want, but just half” is really saying “and anyone that is really determined to read the whole thing can just pretend to be someone else”.
I personally think authors will sell more if people can see any pages they want before they buy. I think blocking off part of a book will probbably reduce the number of people that would buy.
I also think the authors have the right make that choice on their own (after all I might be wrong…or I might be right in general, but wrong in specific cases). Even if they are dumbasses when they disagree with me :-)
Maybe the best thing to do would to put a “Piracy and ebboks will force authors to stand in soup lines” side bar on one edge of the survay, and a “Long tail will rocket you to riches” sidebar down the other side. Screw avoiding bias, let both sides tell their tail and let the author decide which one is a bunch of crackpots.
Until it becomes clear to me that it’s not working anymore, I’ll keep doing what I’m doing.
Of course, eventually it will happen, but that won’t mean pirates won. I remember how King was running one of the first well-publicised online experiments with his “Plant” story. He set some ridiculous target for payments (like 90% of downloads or something), which, surprisingly was met with the first two installments. When the target was not met the third time, he just said “Oh, well, I’ve had enough of it, I learned what I wanted, now piss off everyone”.
Piracy does happen and will happen in the future. We should not be scared off by it, but instead to look at the big picture. Are the legitimate sales happening? Is it enough?
“…I sold Old Man’s War to Tor after publishing it here for free (thus effectively making it available online in perpetutity for anyone who wants to make the effort to find it), and that book is now in its fourth printing, I have to say that I’m okay with it.”While you are talking about facts and figures, how big was each printing?
To Joel Tone, re ugly DRM:
I use PalmBook formatted etext, and the DRM’ed stuff was not egregiously heinous to activate. I had to re-enter the purchasing credit card number (which I assumed to have been reasonably securely encoded into the DRM bits), and this unlocked all of the books from that purchase and all subsequent purchases on that account. What was the ebook platform that gave you so much problem?
Confessions of an illegal etext downloader:
I spent most of 2004 in Austria, where I got married and we had a baby. For both space and financial reasons, I was not buying much English treeware. However, I was damned if I was going to let an ocean and a continent keep me from getting volumes II & III of Neal Stephenson’s “Baroque Cycle” (I hear you, Brian Carnell), so I got them as Palm ebooks. Of course, I had to re-read vol. I, so I bought my second copy of that as well (having already purchased the hardback twice, once as a gift). And since I was already there, I ended up buying the rest of his work. Again. As ebooks.
Except: Zodiac, The Big U, In the Beginning was the Command Line. These were not available. I sort of understand about The Big U, but the other two are in print (and Zodiac had been re-released in a new paperback edition)!! A check of other authors whose work I regularly re-read turned up even odder “drop-outs”. E.g. the final book of Gibson’s “Sprawl” trilogy (Mona Lisa Overdrive) and the first book of his “Bridge” trilogy” (Virtual Light) were not available as legal etexts. Likewise the first book of Orson Scott Card’s Shadow series (Ender’s Shadow) and, for that matter, the entire “Ender” series were also not available as etext.
So, I became an illegal downloader. I downloaded the books of which I owned physical copies. Did I break the law? Absolutely. Did I do something wrong? No, if by “wrong” you mean that my actions deprived the authors (and their publishers) in question of fair compensation (until someone can direct me to a place where I would be able to purchase electronic versions of the works in question). I am prepared to make full restitution, but only in the form of the abovementioned purchase. As John and others in this forum have said, most of us want to be legal. Just give us the opportunity to do so.
To Andrew Burt, who wrote:
Excuse me, but this is a terrible example if your aim was to induce a sense of caution towards digital distribution, of books in general and SF books in particular. Having been the fastest adopted piece of technology to date, DVDs continued a trend began by home video, that of personal ownership of films. To follow your analogy, writers and publishers should be all over digital distribution, looking for new business models and revenue streams. Your cautionary stance pretty much echoes the positions taken by media industries against every form of audio and visual technological innovations from the beginning of the 20th century to now. Can you explain how your stance is any more “right” or relevant than the opposition to the player piano, phonograph, radio, cable television, betamax, compact disc, dvd, and dvr?
Andrew, I’m afraid that you suffer from a lack of imagination here. The digital reading device of the future would not look like a 300 page paperback any more than it might resemble a folio manuscript, a hundred feet by one foot scroll, or an inscribed clay tablet.
For one thing, why 300 pages? That’s akin to saying that every time I page down on my computer I should add another monitor to my system. (Nice idea, but how many monitors can you pay full attention to simultaneously?) Everybody I know reads (for pleasure) only one page at a time. The only common exceptions are fold-out illustrations or double page spreads in graphic novels. Taking that into account, your digital paperback has 298 pages too many. Are you expecting us to physically flip digital pages? And this is better than treeware how?
As for the whole “the digital version is the print version” argument, if we should ever reach that point, then it’s perfectly reasonable to ask Amazon, Google, et al. to not make the entire text available. By then, we can expect that the author/publisher should be able to better specify how much of a work to expose, by percentage, word-, or chapter count. Or they can follow eReader’s example of having a specific excerpt available.
Perhaps this was your goal in setting up the survey, in which case it was a badly designed survey. In particular, the FAQ section pretty much conceded any technological solution to Amazon/Google, instead of asking your membership if they’d prefer to be able to specify a word or chapter count in place of percentages. You could have used the results from these unasked (perhaps unwanted?) questions as a bargaining tool with Amazon/Google. E.g. “80% of our membership support the ability to browse the book itself, but more than half would prefer being able to specify a particular word- or chapter count. What can you do for us?”
Andrew, I hope that you make real headway against piracy. I also hope that you do so at the expense of the pirates (dickheads), and not of the (potential) customers-for-life.
The IP Wars
I recommend a read of John Scalzi’s essay (and its extensive third party glossing) about the piratical…
I use PalmBook formatted etext, and the DRM’ed stuff was not egregiously heinous to activate. I had to re-enter the purchasing credit card number (which I assumed to have been reasonably securely encoded into the DRM bits), and this unlocked all of the books from that purchase and all subsequent purchases on that account. What was the ebook platform that gave you so much problem?I’m not Joel, but I’ve had a few hiccups in the ebook experience. I’ve bought many, many books from Fictionwise in the last 2ish years (since I bought a Sony Clie with 320×480 resolution on a nice, bright readable screen and hit the magic point where reading on my PDA was comfortable). I prefer to buy non-DRMed books, but if they’re not available, that doesn’t stop me. What really annoys me is that some books that use a DRM scheme use eReader format, some use Mobipocket format, and some use some other proprietary format that I’m unwilling/unable to use on a Palm device (Adobe, MSReader, etc.) I prefer eReader over Mobipocket, simply because I like the eReader client more than the Mobipocket one. Unfortunately, the company that used to supply Fictionwise with encryption for eReader (at the time PalmReader) formatted-books went out of business, so it’s impossible to encrypt a new copy to download again. Now Fictionwise claims that among all e-booksellers, they are the only one who actually archived encrypted versions of each book that a customer had downloaded, so you can still download those books from them. According to Fictionwise, other e-booksellers simply said “After such-and-such a date (when the encryption company was to close its doors) you can no longer download any PalmReader books you’ve bought in the past.Now, fast forward to about a month ago, when I got a new PDA (a Treo 650) and therefore needed to reactivate all my ebooks. Unfortunately about a dozen of the books I’d bought from Fictionwise were bought with a credit card that I haven’t had for well over a year. I didn’t write down the number, Fictionwise claims that they don’t store the number, so I just can’t access those books anymore. This sucks.Anyway, as result of this discussion, I think I’m going to have to investigate ebook cracking programs so I can future-proof myself from similar problems (and hopefully, also allow me to read all the e-books I buy in my client of choice).
John — sure. I can’t argue that some folks will do well that way. But that’s not the root of the question. Should those be the only ways authors can make money?
It won’t fly if so. How much money is made from traditional pay-before-use in software vs. models like shareware, freeware, etc.? Yes, some money is made by shareware authors, but in total vastly less than made by the traditional model.
(And in software, shareware is often chosen because there’s no easy way to sell it up front and have enough people buy it — translating to novels, etc., very very few books will earn more as shareware than they will as traditional sales to major publishers. Sad, but true: Humans pay more when they pay up front.)
Cory gave an interview in which he said:
So, we chatted about this in the SFWA lounge online. Er (cough), the authors who made middle-class-incomes or above pretty well debunked this. Cory or you, John, can go read the thread since you’re SFWA members, but I don’t think I’m mischaracterizing it to say that those who fit that description said they earned the vast majority of their income from ordinary book sales (advance-against-royalties and royalties). The consensus was a sort of “what planet is Cory living on?” and a feeling that he was generalizing his own experience of one to a universal. It doesn’t work that way, alas.
I’ll add that I’d love it if these experiments showed new ways that would work for all authors and earn them more $/hour. The more experiments and the more successful experiments, the better. But, Idealist though I am, I’m also a Realist, and in the end, what works is the traditional approach of pay-before-use, because of human nature. Except in limited cases, freebies don’t change the basic nature of the beast.
So, John, thanks for addressing my question. I don’t think it holds water where it meets reality, so I can’t advocate it for others, but the more success that gets shown widely, the better.
Aconite; others: There is certainly a need to keep an eye on piracy of non-fiction materials, and allow the people who compile, present and research these to earn a living from publication. BUT, there’s a new world out there that could make research SO much easier if it were utilized.
I’m a person that would much rather have something in paper form (treeware) to read, but after having read it and gotten the point, the e-copy becomes *much* more useful for my purposes. Especially in non-fiction.
For example, say you’re working on a paper or article for publication and have about 50 different journal articles in front of you and a dozen books on the topic. You remember a paragraph stated something quite clearly, and you remember the author. What you don’t remember is which of 4 articles or her book it came from. Under a system where all non-fiction has to remain “treeware” the process of finding that passage could take hours.
If, instead, you have all of these resources in e-form, you can use the magic “search” button and turn the hours of re-reading and re-skimming pages into a task of a few minutes. This means that instead of spending time pouring back through old material, there would be more time to think about, read, or write new material.
What really surprises me is that academic and very subject-specific publishers haven’t caught on to this idea yet. Why aren’t all non-fiction books—especially those who’s intent is the advancement of scholarship or academics—sold with a CD or other e-form of the book available? Something that is searchable. This way, people who buy the book legally can read it in whatever form desired, and then when push comes to shove, have quick-access to all the information in the work.
Paul, hey, *I* agree. I’m eagerly looking forward to the day when I prefer
reading digitally to reading dried ink and fused toner. But ebook reading
today sucks. I do it on my blackberry, but only when I don’t have the paperback with me. For readability, bleah! My point is that some day
that will click over, probably as rapidly as the DVD took over. Right now ebook
sales are like 1% of all publishing sales (probably being generous). I’m not
taking a cautionary stance, but trying to pave the way so authors will feel
comfortable. One of their major concerns is piracy. So, I work to neutralize
the harms from piracy, and if anything, turn it into marketing. I don’t
oppose the new technology at all. I want it yesterday. I love all the
experiments going on in how to use it, but they’re doomed today, because the
general public doesn’t yet embrace reading digitally, because the devices to
read digitally just plain stink. Which will change; probably suddenly and
dramatically. Me, I wish it had already happened!
You’re misreading what I said. Look closely: at the latest. It could happen much sooner, and may well. Awesome. Bring it on. But if nothing else does it sooner, the cutover to digital reading will happen when we can produce an object that’s a paperback book in all
ways (including cost-effectiveness), but it’s digital. Have I clarified what I mean?
(And sorry for the funky linebreaks. I pasted that in from “vi”. :-)
(Boy, do I miss Usenet as the primary group communications structure. Blogs are such a devolution… ah, well.)
(Say, can’t someone write an NNTP interface for the most popular blog software? Now there’s a project that would advance the state of digital communication! :-)
To be on the record about it, I hate DRM. DRM bad. DRM Evil. Cory, if you’re reading this, I know we don’t agree on some things, but you’re dead on in your Microsoft talk about the evils of DRM. I hope they listen; I’ve told Rick Rashid (Microsoft’s head of research) the same thing. I’m also opposed to the anti-circumvention concept the DMCA introduced. Bad, evil, useless. Likewise, I view legislative attempts to stop piracy by limiting technology to be wrong.
I favor solutions like my Shades of Gray that turn piracy into marketing.
“John — sure. I can’t argue that some folks will do well that way. But that’s not the root of the question. Should those be the only ways authors can make money?”
This question and your answer following rather conveniently ignores my assertion that I rather deeply doubt the original writing will stop being profitable, and how you can miss that when it’s included in the portion of my post that you’ve quoted is beyond me. However, given that I don’t believe the source work will become unprofitable in the future, implicitly, the answer to your question is “no.”
But, you know, look. In the unlikely and doomsday scenario in which full digitization of book stocks causes rampant piracy to become the predominant form of bookshopping, then writers had damn well better develop alternate forms of monetization for their work, hadn’t they? In the wildly improbable society which has creators stripped of their ability to profit from their own work in now-conventional ways, how much time should one expend offering sympathy for these metaphorical buggywhip makers in a car-driven world? How much time did writers spend lamenting the collapse of the patronage system for writers once writers were able to sell their wares on the market? Did they spend time going, “Hmmmm… Dukes are getting thin on the ground,” or did they throw themselves into the new economic model?
I don’t think digital books will collapse the ability for people to make money directly from their writing — my own personal experience in this arena, at the very least, suggests otherwise. In the digital era I expect to make more off my writing, not less. However, if it does turn out that nothing we do allows writers to make money off their books directly, here’s my response: Oh, well.
I will find other ways to make my writing work for me, and while I will be happy to share my experiences with other writers and help them when I can. But I’m not going to spend too much time lamenting the income collapse of writers who can’t or won’t adapt to the change. There’s no point trying to save the man who’s drowning but insists on someone lowering the level of the ocean rather than hauling himself into the lifeboat.
I’m sure literature will flourish when ebook piracy forces writers to embrace great new business models like the ones suggested in this thread. Sell signed copies! Beg for donations! Use blogs to drive ebook sales when ebooks are already available for free! This is a step down for writers and therefore it is a step down for culture. But hey, why should you care? You think it is a big deal to make $4,000 in five years with a shareware novel. Sure the original writing will be “profitable”… but I doubt that anyone will be making a living or even supplementing their income with a “profit” of a few dollars a day.Oh well. If it happens, it happens. I will be sustained by the classics. In 50 years I will probably still be reading the same writers I am reading today. You will be forgotten. I rather doubt anyone will remember the guy who made 4,000 dollars writing “Agent to the Stars.” If the economics of piracy does what it threatens to do to writing, I am sure we will still have writers of little merit publishing shareware novels and the like. Ever since the internet, vanity fiction has never been so easy to publish. But I rather doubt that we will be better off as a culture.
“I’ll add that I’d love it if these experiments showed new ways that would work for all authors and earn them more $/hour. The more experiments and the more successful experiments, the better. But, Idealist though I am, I’m also a Realist, and in the end, what works is the traditional approach of pay-before-use, because of human nature. Except in limited cases, freebies don’t change the basic nature of the beast.” Andrew, I think it is funny and informative that the people here, who are ostensibily science and technology fans, have such a huge mental block preventing them from even aknowledging the potential effects of emerging ebook technologies. Maybe it is because as readers, or second or third tier novelists, their imaginations and critical thinking abilities are not very well developed.
“You think it is a big deal to make $4,000 in five years with a shareware novel.”
Golly, Fred, you sure have wounded me with your withering sarcasm.
Well, except for the minor fact that as I’ve sold ten books in five years to four different publishers and I’m doing quite nicely in the book income department, thank you kindly, I know from experience what is a big deal and what is not. And as it happens I do quite well in the writing income department aside of book writing, including a rather substantial percentage of my income coming from the online world — you know, the place where all the pirates hang out (arrrrr!).
Allow me to suggest that I know rather more about monetizing writing online than the vast majority of people, since I’ve been doing it for years, and most of the people bitching and moaning and waving their sad little hands about it have not. So if you want to discuss technological myopia, Fred, I suggest trying to apply it to a worldview that can’t imagine the opportunities digital media affords writers to augment and extend their revenue streams aside the ones available to them now.
Now, as regards my little shareware experiment, Fred, the average advance on a first-time science fiction novel from a major publisher is around $6,500, and most authors never see a penny after their advance. So when a no-name writer without a publishing deal garners $4,000 from willing readers by word of mouth at a time when his site was averaging 1,000 hits a day or less, yeah, that’s fairly significant.
Now that the site gets between 8 and 10 thousand hits a day and I’m a published SF author, I suspect that I would make even more off the shareware model, except that I made the novel freeware and told people to stop sending money. However, I’ll note that I’ve sold that novel to a conventional publisher to be published in traditional form on the strength of that shareware response, which adds even more money to my bottom line — more than enough to make it over the line for the average advance for a first-time novel in the science fiction genre.
So, what I’m really trying to say here, Fred, is that you can take your smug condescension and shove it square and hard right back up your ass.
Now run along now and let us third tier novelists get back to that boring and dreadful business of packing in the bucks in the various ways we choose to do so. Shoo, you silly man. Shoo!
The Stupidity of Worrying About Piracy
SF author John Scalzi (Old Man’s War) talks about piracy at his blog in a post called “The Stupidity of Worrying About Piracy”. He’s generated some interesting discussion in the comments section of that post. UPDATE #1: Tim O’Reilly has…
Coming in late, but what the hell — I really like the “Look in the Book” feature because it gives me the one thing I could always do at the brick-and-mortar store — browse through the book and see if it’s interesting enough to buy. If you have to have limits, I’d say make the first chapter available — if the reader isn’t hooked by that point, chances are they won’t buy the book even if they could read the whole thing.
Given the number of comments, I’m sure I’ll get lost in the mix. However, here it is.
DAMN GOOD POST!
I’ve never seen any indication that releasing e-books, even more freely than you do, has led to any loss of sales. I’ve got multiple books on the Baen Free Library (all paperbacks that have done their hardback run and paperback run in Webscriptions). But those books continue to sell from Amazon and book and mortar stores.
If anything, based on what publishing would probably characterize as research (hack! ptui! remind me to bitch sometime about how hard it is to research _anything_ in publishing) the indicators are that ebooks, especially ones that get any attention, increase sales not only of the dead tree but of the writer’s entire collection.
I constantly have to defend myself about the process at cons. Oh, writers don’t say I ‘shouldn’t’ post my books, they just snark about ‘piracy.’ Let me be clear: piracy is the seizure of a ship on the high seas, the killing of crew and passengers and the looting of goods from said ship. (LEt’s hear it for piracy!) OCRing a book and putting it on alt.ebooks isn’t piracy. In fact, with current books in print, it’s generally a political act as much as “stealing.”
Baen puts its stuff up online in Webscriptions (all of it, every tiddly dot that’s in electronic form) and older books in the Free Library as well as doing CDs with huge collections of ebooks _and_ audio books on MP3. We’ve _never_ seen that negatively impact sales.
The piracy Nazis shouldn’t be allowed to call themselves science fiction authors. What is this but a revolutionary technology? SF authors should know that you can’t fight the wave any more than King Canute, you have to ride it.
Sorry, /rant. Anyway, my take.
Author of…well a bunch of damned books, all of which are out there for free if you dig a little. Go for it.
PS: I can’t believe you write for Tor. You’re a Baen natural if I’ve ever seen one.
“PS: I can’t believe you write for Tor. You’re a Baen natural if I’ve ever seen one.”
Aw, shucks. I bet you say that to every boy with a military SF novel. But thanks.
Glad you came by and of course not at all surprised by your take on it. Baen’s definitely on the forefront with this stuff. And I’m not at all surprised it’s made a positive impact on sales; I’ve been known to browse the free library myself, to find authors I might want to buy.
John Scalzi cracks me up when he gets irritated. I’m going to try to work funcakes into casual conversation at least three times today. (He has a good point, too, about literary piracy, which makes more sense if you start here and continue here.)…
I agree with John’s essay.
My book is non-fiction for teens, called Mama’s In Heaven — But You Can Manage. I had it scanned into Amazon over the fall for the *text search* aspect of the scan. I think for nonfiction that feature is particularly neat.
For me, this means that anyone doing online research on Amazon will be able to find my book as the result of a keyword search, based on the text, not just the book title.
Also, the function has been upgraded. If one looks at the book’s page on Amazon, one can see a concordance, the bibliography, word count, and a few other things. I think it’s marvelous.
I’ve used the “look inside the book” as an Amazon customer, and never got the impression that I would be able to read the whole book. The book I viewed was *McTeague,* by Frank Norris. This is the book on which the silent movie *Greed* was based. I bought the book.
I love your straightforward, blunt style. If more people expressed themselves more honestly, we’d likely have a lot less misunderstandings.
I’m a faithful reader of your blog, although I have to keep up with it on weekends now because on business days I’m mostly restricted to acessing the web via a cell phone.
Anyway, I liked you take on the issue of online book piracy.
I’m a Brazilian lover of science fiction and fantasy, and it’s extremely difficult to find books in those genres down here. The Brazilian market for those genres is almost non-existent, and translated books are rare. That situation has changed a bit with the success of movies like Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings, but we still have a long way to go.
So fans have two options: used books and imported books.
Used books offer limited choices. Most of what you can find is Golden Age material, which is good but old. Sometimes you want the latest from Gaiman or Stephenson, of which you been reading lots of good in many blogs, but that’s is impossible to find as used books.
Imported books, on the other hand, are two expensive. Prices usually triple because of the dollar-local currency exchange ratio and import taxes. A hardcover trilogy like Stephenson’s The Baroque Cycle can cost a typical worker here a quarter of its monthly wages.
All considered, if you like SF&F down here, you will be pretty much always lagging the US market for a few years.
When I was a cash-strapped college student, I used to download books from the Internet. I didn’t like to do that, but sometimes the urge to read a specific books was just to big. I’ve kept a list of those books though, and have mostly bought them by now in e-books for or otherwise.
Today, I’m able to buy much more books than I used to, but I’m still limited by import costs. I’d love to read you books, for example, but since they don’t have e-books versions and they’re in a subset of the genre I read less, other books (fantasy mostly) end up getting prioritized.
A year ago, I found Fictionwise (e-book seller), and I love them because they have good prices and I don’t have to pay import costs. Most of the SF&F books I’ve read in the past years I’ve bought through them. Their offering is limited, but much better than what I would be able to buy otherwise.
Anyway, this is not a rant and I’m not trying to prove any point. It’s just a sad report of a fan who would like to read more of the books he loves but can’t afford to. I’d like to read more of Scalzi, Stross, Wolfe, Simmons, and others whose books I’m sure I’d love but since I don’t see myself moving to the US or Europe anytime soon, I’ll have to wait for the day when I get rich enough. :-)
So, next time don’t sell you online rights to Tor. Sell them to Fictionwise. I believe there will be a lot of people willing to sacrifice their eyes to the small screen of a handheld to read you.
I agree completely and because of that ill most likely buy your book asuming i can find it.
Also id like to point out that the dickheads who have the money and download your book with no intention of buying it probably wouldnt in any case even if the internet didnt exist, shoplifting is cheaper and in many cases easier then downloading especially with movies and games.
me again the following is the ranting of a lunitic and should not be read by … well anyone really
ive been reading the comments and ive noticed it repeatably mentioned a sort of vauge fear of “Piracy is manageable now but it might not be in the future as technology improves.” I dont think the posters of these comments realize how easy it is to get illegal copies of ebooks the technology is already good enough and has been for over a decade that the major hassle facing a person intent on being a buckeneer of the high seas of the internet is the scope of the availible material not any technological deficienties. IRC has been around forever, Bittorrent has been availible since 2001 even napster style networks are old technology on internet terms.
The things you need to remember in internet and software terms the useful life expectancy of any software is about 5-10 years you couldn’t use windows 98 on most modern computers leave alone 95 or 3.1.
Then there are mp3’s which have been availble since 90 or so i still have a copy of Tom’s Diner off Brandenburg’s site from around then.
that was off track a little
but what im saying is that you need no new technology to make piracy as easy as its going to get and as for the idea that scanning a book is harder then ripping it xerox has come out with a series of photocopiers which act as scanner cut off the binding and run them through and you dont even need to manually change the pages, since the photocopier even comes with the software to put the text into a word processor its easy.
Anouther line of thought that just came to me is that piracy is an increadibly bad word for it since that involves theft and to be honest waylaying ships at sea and killing the people and taking the spanish gold. Maybe if we required anyone who downloads media to have a parot and an eye patch. No wouldnt work when i hear music pirate is still get the image of a hmv truck going down the road and speeding up behind it is a ship no i think the buggies and cars from mad max large skull and crossbones flag flying from the lead vehicle. The crew is a bunch of computer nerds somwhat overweight dressed like punks (british punks i think spike mohawks and leather jackets) pocket prtectors in the jackets. The largest vehicle of the pirates is a school bus or the like i see the cannons protruding out the windows in the back, a britany spears figurehead on the front the pirate bus comes along side and fires a broadside into the truck causing it to slow at which point the nerd pirates on top of the bus swing across to the truck (no i dont know what the ropes are attached to) swords held in mouths. They fight with crew of the truck and take off with thier loot of music cd’s. Cut scene to a beach where they are burieng the cds and marking it down on a tattered parchement map.
okay i have no idea where that came from
Yesterday I posted regarding some changes in the publishing world. Today I want to post about one of the possible futures of publishing E-books. It seems that as soon as something is in electronic form or can be converted it…
Good points, John – the issue was raised recently on our SFF discussion site, and I had something of a rant there, too.
In case of interest: