Writers Don’t Fear The Future: Publishers Do!

Internet book piracy will drive authors to stop writing

Book piracy on the internet will ultimately drive authors to stop writing unless radical methods are devised to compensate them for lost sales.

This is the bleak forecast of the Society of Authors, which represents more than 8,500 professional writers in the UK and believes that the havoc caused to the music business by illegal downloading is beginning to envelop the book trade.

Tracy Chevalier, the author of Girl with a Pearl Earring who also chairs the London-based organisation, said that her members were deeply concerned that the publishing industry was failing to adapt to the digital age.

Here’s something that really disgusts me:

She suggested four possible sources of income at an industry discussion on copyright law last week: the Government, business, rich patrons and the public. Government funding could take the form of an “academy” of salaried writers.

Oh really? And who gets to choose who those authors are? In England, will it mean Martin Amis and his pals? The “right kind” of “author”?

Goddammit, I can’t hold back, it has to be said: Fuck you!

I know too much about how writers from the past were ignored and spurned by their fellow writers. After the entire crowd turned to worm food, it was the author who was marginalized whose work turns out to be immortal. Those other strutting, pompous assholes have their works forgotten, unread, and never reprinted.

How many people even notice a book’s publisher? Go on, tell me what percentage of the books you have come from Publisher X, Y, or Z. You can’t. That’s because you read the name on the cover — the name of the writer. Books are bought to read the written word, not because it’s a product by some damned publisher.

Publisher brand names are even further removed from public consciousness when in the form of ebooks. I’m sure there are people out there who can mention the name of an ebook vendor they purchased from: Fictionwise, Sony Connect, eReader, etc. About the only print publisher known in ebooks is Baen Books — and that’s because Baen embraced the future without fear.

I’ll say it again because it’s true and needs repeating: Apple has to enter ebooks.

Apple has the millions of reading devices out there already: the iPhone. And I’m still damned certain Apple will release what I’ve been calling an iPod Air — a near-book-sized portable device running the iPhone OS (“mobile OS X”). When Apple enters, everything will change. Ebooks will gain the legitimacy and market clout they currently lack.

And no writer in his or her right mind would fear that.

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2 Comments on “Writers Don’t Fear The Future: Publishers Do!”

  1. Rob Preece Says:

    Agree that government funding is a scary solution. Perhaps we’d have a slew of novels about the triumph of FEMA during Katrina if only we had govenment funding.

    Naturally I disagree about publishers. I’ve bought hundreds of books because I trusted the publisher to provide a high-quality novel. Thousands of people subscribe to Harlequin lines because they trust Harlequin to deliver a predicatable product. If you say Elora’s Cave to the romance crowd, that means something. I’d hesitate to put BooksForABuck.com in the same category in terms of customer recognition, but that’s our goal as publishers–to deliver a reliably high-quality reading experience so that readers will trust us and check out new authors they haven’t experienced before. Certainly Fictionwise and Mobipocket don’t do that.

    Rob Preece
    Publisher, http://www.BooksForABuck.com

    P.S., I hope you’re right about the Apple product.

  2. mikecane Says:

    The Harlequin crowd is a cult unto itself.


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