Free isn’t really free, is it?

I got an email back from my college friend who writes fantasy novels for one of the “the majors.” I asked her why there seemed to be so much controversy about eBooks vs. print from established authors. Here’s what she told me:

I think publishing is threatened by far more than a new format. I think fear of piracy followed by fear of not getting paid are the two biggest reasons many writers react as you saw.  Although a print book can be pirated (as anyone who has dealt with Russia or China knows), it’s hard.  Breaking the code on an e-reader is much, much easier (and people hack calculators for fun, without profit).
As for paid…  Contracts usually base pay on a percentage of the cover price.  If a $25.00 book is sold for $5, even if there is a huge raise in percentage, well…  You can do the math.
Basically, I think you ran into a lot of fear over what may be a dying industry.  Fewer readers, more competition from writers past whose estates are delighted to sell for a pittance, more spin-offs.  And electronic books have added to that in a big way.  I’ve read numerous columns that basically boil down to, “why read a new book that will cost you, when you can get a free classic on Google?” I don’t know if I’ll be making a living in a few years…  

That’s an interesting bit of commentary from the trenches — especially in regards to the last part. The part about “free.” What is our obsession with “free”? I see this more and more, and it baffles me. Continue reading

e-Controversy abounds

Today’s panel at Orycon was a bit more civil, but that doesn’t mean the controversy over eBooks vs. print books was any less pronounced. The panel was titled Paper’s Place in the Future—Physical Books vs. eBooks. My co-panelists were Michael Briggs (husband of Patricia Briggs, the author GoH), author James F. David, Orycon webmaster Rick Lindsley and author Paul Guinan.

In the end, we all agreed that print books and eBooks each had their place and audience… but much is still undefined. Rick noted that for those of a certain generation, who grew up reading books only in print, there is a certain comfort level and familiarity with the format that leads to a marked preference for print books. However, most of the kids growing up today are accustomed to doing everything electronically, and they want to read books on their cell phones and eReader devices.

DRM (digital rights management) was a flash point today. James said that as an author, he truly appreciates DRM because it ensure that he will be compensated for each and every copy of his books that are sold. Michael, on the other hand, discussed how he had inadvertently purchased some eBooks using his wife’s Fictionwise account… and when he tried to open them on his own eReader, he was told that his device wasn’t authorized to view the files (because they weren’t purchased using his account Fictionwise notes the serial number of your eReader device and grants DRM access based on that information). Continue reading

Wringing of hands, gnashing of teeth

I just wrapped up my first panel at this year’s Orycon in Portland, Oregon, which was titled Twitter Novels, Kindle, eBooks, Podscast and the Market. I was one of three panelists; the other panelists were Dianna Rodger and Michael Briggs (husband of Patricia Briggs, the author GoH).

I brought my Sony eReader and my iPhone for “show and tell,” so to speak, and we launched into a surprisingly heated discussion. There were a good number of published authors in the audience, and many of them were venting about how the NY publishers are giving them a raw deal on eBook royalties. Many of them seemed quite angry, in fact. I suppose I didn’t help matters by saying that VT does not believe in charging the same price for print and eBook formats, because print requires the additional expense of printing, and eBooks don’t. Therefore, eBooks should cost less than print books.

One very passionate author immediately launched into a salvo about how the editor, the artist and the author deserve to be paid for their work, and it shouldn’t matter what the format is. And while I definitely agree that all the people who work on a title deserve to be paid for their efforts, I was merely pointing out the public perception of value. Continue reading